Stephen D. Snyder, Ph.D.
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Social Justice and its Metaphors in Art:

Aesthetics of the Public Sphere and Political Art

Snyder has written on the political and aesthetic repercussions of the Turkish language reform, which was part of the attempt to secularize the Turkish political and social infrastructure. His research on the imposition of secular modernism on Turkey focuses on the reformation of metaphor and the struggle to ‘articulate’ cultural identity in the public sphere. Having lived in Istanbul during the 2013 Gezi protests, he examines how the backlash against modernism was countered through the political art of the protesters.

  • In 2009, he published “False Negation or Critique of Modernism: Turkish Language Reform and the Rise of Islamic Political Identity” in The International Journal of the Humanities.

  • In 2014, his article “Gezi Park and the Transformative Power of Art” appeared in ROAR Magazine’s Symposium: Reflections on the Gezi Uprising.

  • In the summers of 2012-14, he was an Erasmus scholar at the Johannes Gutenberg University, Germany, where he conducted seminars on the aesthetic and political effects of the Turkish language reform.

  • In 2015 he was awarded a grant to travel to Berlin to interview artists active with social movements.

He made the following presentations on the topic:

  • “The Power of Naming: Nietzsche’s Aesthetic Transvaluation, Latife Tekin’s Magical Realism, and the Gezi Park Çapulcu,” co-presented with Angela Hamilton at a joint forum with the Philosophy and Turkish Studies departments at Johannes Gutenberg University.

  • “Nietzsche’s Theory of Transvaluation: Gezi Park and the Power of Political Art,” Sanart Turkish Aesthetics Congress in Mersin, Turkey.

  • “The Common Structures of Power and Art: Nietzsche’s Aesthetic Transvaluation, Latife Tekin’s Magical Realism, and the Gezi Park Çapulcu,” co-presented with Angela Hamilton in the Philosophy of Art Conference held at the Inter-University Centre, Dubrovnik, Croatia.

  • “Turkish Language Reform - Modernism and Islamic Political Identity,” Conference on the Transformation and the Dynamics of (Radical) Change: Insights from Political Theory and Philosophy, Queen's University, Belfast, Ireland.

  • “Habermas on the Incomplete Project of Modernity: Turkish Language Reform and Islamic Political Identity,” 6th International Conference on the Humanities, Istanbul

  • “Turkish Language Reform and the Rise of Islamic Political Identity,” invited speaker, Istanbul University

Justice in an Era of Pluralism and Conflict

Snyder has been researching the question of justice, focusing on what motivates individuals to act as moral members of a political community, given the differences in individual makeup and needs. The question ‘What is justice?’ is examined by looking at what obligates people to ‘be just’: what do they need to feel like full members of a social/political system?

  • He is currently co-editing the book Justice Beyond Consensus: Distributive Solutions to the Problems of Pluralism and Conflict, with Manuel Knoll and Nurdane Șimşek.
    The theme of this volume takes as its point of departure the well-established conviction that fundamental disagreements exist in our notions of social and political justice. The volume strives for a deeper understanding of the irreconcilable plurality of historical and contemporary conceptions of justice while investigating the reasons for the fundamental opposition of the existing moral intuitions and conceptions of justice. The volume’s aim is to question whether these reasons are social, cultural, psychological, historical, or even biological. De Gruyter Press will be publishing the volume in 2016.
    The conference starts with the question of whether consensus on justice is possible, focusing on the relation between conceptions of justice and images of humanity. In addressing these questions, the conference aimed at a fuller understanding of the concept of justice as well as the human ‘sense of justice’, which can be achieved beyond the idea of consensus.

He made the following presentations on the topic:

Worldview and Changing Perspectives in Art:

The End of Art – Changes in 20th Century Art

He has completed a manuscript, titled The End of Art and the Dialectic of Imagination, which is under review with Palgrave Macmillan Press.

The manuscript takes as its starting point the end-of-art theories of Hegel, Nietzsche and Danto. The point of the book is not to refute the end-of-art thesis. Rather, the text isolates reasons in the philosophies of the thinkers discussed pointing to the conclusion that art has ended. The cause is found in philosophy’s relationship to the aesthetic experience. The manuscript offers a solution, drawing on Habermas’ early critical hermeneutic engagement with Danto’s philosophy of history. Habermas, like Danto, was trying to salvage something useful in Hegel’s philosophy without adopting his problematic metaphysics. The argument concludes that Danto’s system does not work without some modification, and the problem can be traced to the narrative foundation of a basically Hegelian theory of embodied meaning. The conclusion, loosely following Habermas’ communicative turn, is that the problem can be resolved by showing that art’s philosophical nature is found in artist-beholder interaction, not its essence. Thus, art is a form of visual communication, a language of disclosure, which embodies at least some of the rational structures philosophy claims as its own.

Presentations summarizing the main themes of his ms were given at:

(See Conferences tab for details)

  • Boğaziçi University Faculty Colloquium in Istanbul

  • The National Gallery of Art in Amman, Jordan

  • Dubrovnik Inter-University Centre Philosophy of Art Conference

  • APA Central Division Meeting, Chicago

  • International Literary Criticism and Theory Conference Series: Style in Theory/Styling Theory, University of Malta

  • International Conference on the Aesthetic Dimensions of Visual Culture, Charles University, Prague

  • ASA Annual Meeting, Milwaukee & Los Angeles

  • International Congress for Aesthetics in Ankara, Turkey

  • Critical Issues Conference on Visual Literacy, Mansfield College, Oxford, UK

  • Online Conference in Aesthetics: Arthur Danto’s Transfiguration of the Commonplace - 25 Years Later

Late Antique Eastern Roman and Byzantine Art

The main focus of this work entails the application of his communicative theory of art to the morphological shift that occurred as Byzantine art emerged from the art of late antiquity. This research project has been funded by grants from Fatih University.

  • His research projects have taken him to Antakya, Gaziantep and Midyat in eastern Turkey to photograph mosaics, art and architecture of the second sophisticate and late antiquity. He has traveled often to Jordan to study late antique and early Byzantine art and architecture.
  • Specific topics include:

    • A study, using examples of art and sculpture found in the Eastern Orthodox and Roman world, of how artistic developments in the image of fortune from the 1st to 6th c. find parallels in the philosophical texts of Cicero and Boethius.

    • Accepting that the choice of a frontal style by the late antique Romans represented a rejection of classical paganism, I argue that for artists and viewers the use of stylistic perspectives linked to different eras articulated resistance in art. I apply this theory in the examination of a unique version of the icon of Saint George killing Emperor Diocletian.

    He has presented on the topic in the following conferences/forums:

    (See Conferences tab for details)

    • Annual Conference of the Society for Intercultural Philosophy, Vienna

    • Georgian National Centre of Manuscripts, Tbilisi

    • College Art Association Conference in Los Angeles in the Expanding the Boundaries of Rome: New Research in Early and Late Roman Art session

    • Philosophy of Art conference at the Inter-University Centre in Dubrovnik, Croatia (2012 and 2013)

    • International Congress for Aesthetics in Krakow, Poland

    • Co-presented with Graydon Snyder, Archaeology/American Schools of Oriental Research, a section of the Central States SBL Meeting, St. Louis

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