Zizek, the contrarian, in Athens

Contrarian philosopher and globetrotting public intellectual, the Ljubljana-born Slavoj Zizek will be in Athens today for a single lecture at Panteion University. Zizek, feted as «the Elvis of cultural theory,» likes to blend heavyweights such as Marx, Hegel or Lacan with a seasoning of pop culture critique. The result is often interesting, sometimes controversial – but never boring. The bushy-bearded philosopher with the heavy Slovenian accent enjoys something of a cult status among the large audiences that cram-pack venues around the world to watch him expound on anything from religion and materialism to the relationship between toilet design and ideology. Zizek is a prolific writer of over 30 books and dozens of articles. A few years ago he switched his writing into English, thus enabling Anglophone publishers to catch up with the vast volume of his work. His thought is not just printed on paper but also captured on film. In a documentary called «The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema,» Zizek dissects some of his favorite movies from «Solaris» to «The Matrix,» while he recently starred in a film with the self-explanatory title «Zizek!» Although he comes from the left, the unconventional philosopher has not hesitated to attack «the nostalgic left» as well as the economic and political pragmatism of left-of-center parties. He has written about the US war in Iraq and the post-9/11 landscape, attacking religion as a «wellspring of murderous violence.» «The lesson of today’s terrorism is that if God exists, then everything, including blowing up thousands of innocent bystanders, is permitted,» he wrote in an editorial for the International Herald Tribune last year. Born in Yugoslavia in 1949, Zizek studied philosophy at the University of Ljubljana (a politically charged dissertation in the communist-run university allegedly cost him a senior post at the institution in the 1970s) before moving to Paris where he got a chance to delve into the work of Jacques Lacan. The controversial French psychoanalyst has served both as a prism and as a main theme of Zizek’s work ever since. Zizek is currently the international director of the Institute for the Humanities at Birkbeck, of the University of London. His most famous books include «Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle» (Verso, 2004), «Welcome to the Desert of the Real» (Verso 2002), «Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism?» (Verso, 2001), and the «The Sublime Object of Ideology» (Verso, 1989). Scripta has released a number of his books in Greek. Zizek will give a lecture at the old building of Panteion University (126 Syngrou Ave) at 7.30 p.m. under the title «A Plea for Ecology without Nature.» The event is organized by the university’s politics and history department in collaboration with Scripta.