TCDS Presents: ‘What is an Event’ a Book Launch for Prof. Robin Wagner-Pacifici’s Latest Book

Join the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies, The Department of Sociology and the Historical Studies Department for the launch of Prof. Robin Wagner-Pacifici’s latest book: What is an Event?. Prof. Robin Wagner-Pacifi will teach a course with the same name at our upcoming Democracy & Diversity Institute in Wroclaw, Poland.

Thursday, April 6th 6-8PM

Sociology/Anthropology Common Area
9th Floor 6 E. 16th St.

Refreshments will be provided


We live in a world of breaking news, where at almost any moment our everyday routine can be interrupted by a faraway event. Events are central to the way that individuals and societies experience life. Even life’s inevitable moments—birth, death, love, and war—are almost always a surprise. Inspired by the cataclysmic events of September 11, Robin Wagner-Pacifici presents here a tour de force, an analysis of how events erupt and take off from the ground of ongoing, everyday life, and how they then move across time and landscape. What Is an Event? ranges across several disciplines, systematically analyzing the ways that events emerge, take shape, gain momentum, flow, and even get bogged down. As an exploration of how events are constructed out of ruptures, it provides a mechanism for understanding eventful forms and flows, from the micro-level of individual life events to the macro-level of historical revolutions, contemporary terrorist attacks, and financial crises. Wagner-Pacifici takes a close look at a number of cases, both real and imagined, through the reports, personal narratives, paintings, iconic images, political posters, sculptures, and novels they generate and through which they live on. What is ultimately at stake for individuals and societies in events, Wagner-Pacifici argues, are identities, loyalties, social relationships, and our very experiences of time and space.What Is an Event? provides a way for us all—as social and political beings living through events, and as analysts reflecting upon them—to better understand what is at stake in the formations and flows of the events that mark and shape our lives.

ROBIN WAGNER-PACIFICI is the University in Exile Professor of Sociology at the New School for Social Research after having taught at Swarthmore College for over two decades. She is the author of The Art of Surrender: Decomposing Sovereignty at Conflict’s EndTheorizing the Standoff: Contingency in ActionDiscourse and Destruction: The City of Philadelphia vs MOVE; and The Moro Morality Play: Terrorism as Social Drama. Among her published articles, she has co-authored (with Barry Schwartz), the AJS article “The Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial: Commemorating a Difficult Past” and authored the AJS article “Theorizing the Restlessness of Events”. An ongoing collaboration to analyze the official language of national security using computation textual analysis has generated the article, “Graphing the Grammar of Motives in U.S. National Security Strategies: Cultural Interpretation, Automated Text Analysis and the Drama of Global Politics,” (co-authored with several colleagues), in a special issue of Poetics. Finally, Wagner-Pacifici has just completed a book, to be published by the University of Chicago Press, titled What is an Event? The book tracks the eruptions, forms, and flows of events.