The focus of the workshop is the topic of succession: How are families, populations, hives, communities, and states renewed? What are the mechanisms for determining who succeeds to a position of authority, be it executive or reproductive? How are the procedures of succession established, and what happens when they do not work? We propose to take as the particular pivot point of our conversation a text that all of us, from our very different perspectives, will have in common: Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Obsessed with all that is rank and rotten in transitions between regimes, spouses, and generations—convinced that the act of generation is itself polluted—Hamlet teases out the violence latent in the familiar and inevitable replacement, at the interface of the public and private spheres, of one person or structure with another.
By juxtaposing temporally, methodologically, and philosophically distinct accounts of succession, we hope, as a group, to uncover points of mutual illumination among disciplines, identifying ways that the questions of one discipline may deepen or usefully estrange the questions of another. In equal measure, we anticipate and invite points of tension in the form of conflict over what constitutes a meaningful question and disagreement about the evidentiary standards of valuable answers.