[Note: The following is speculative and not meant to be part of anybody's culture wars. In particular, nothing pejorative about SPEP is intended. If it reads that way, then please point that out in the comments so I can have a chance to explain myself better. Likewise, if your sociological impressions differ from mine, I'd be interested. In particular, when pointing out similarities between European and Analytic philosophical styles, I don't point out that SPEP-type continental philosophy and European philosophy are similar in that both take the history of philosophy much more seriously. But I don't think this affects my main point about the distorting nature of getting philosophy primarily through book translations, as opposed to articles, discussions, and presentations in the original language.]
The Atelier de métaphysique et d'ontologie contemporaines at the École Normale Supérieure is one of the most interesting things going on now.
I think that this explains a lot the difference between traditional (this is changing) American SPEP style continental philosophy and philosophy done on the continent. Our students (and many teachers too) are in general not good enough in French or German to browse through and search French and German langauge philosophy journals for interesting articles that they can then present. This has created what one might call "author-oriented" philosophy (one is a Heideggerian, Derridean, Foucaultian, Deleuzian, etc.), the hallmark of traditional SPEP, even when this is not (or at least no longer) characteristic of academic philosophy on the Continent. There are clear reasons for this that stem from how we most naturally individuate sets of books, versus sets of articles, discussions, and presentations.
In commercial presses, the unit of translation is the book, not the journal, and we individuate sets of books first and foremost by their authors, not in general by the topics considered. When one is using articles in teaching though, one typically groups them by topic and dialectical interactions.
And I think this entirely explains why American continental philosophers tend to group around figures rather than issues and arguments. The vast majority of our students are effectively mono-lingual. So we don't follow dialectical progress of articles, but rather focus on translated books by great figures.
This is actually quite paradoxical. In the 1980s and early 90s it was almost mandatory in continental philosophy to endorse strong anti-humanist statements such as Foucault's "death of the author." But people endorsing this would have no problem self-identifying as Foucaultians or Derrideans!
So that's my first premise, that American infelicity with foreign languages explains much of the difference between analytic and SPEP type philosophy in the 1980s. Mono-lingual analytic philosophers just ignored non-English material, but as a result actually did philosophy which was more like what was being done on the continent. While mono-lingual SPEP philosophers read translations of favored figures under whom they established (virtual) schools of the sort not seen since ancient Greece.
My second premise concerns why we are starting to see the decline in author oriented schools. People who would have once been "Deleuzian" are now just likely to describe a set of positions and problems around which their projects orient (e.g. enactive, embodied, extended philosophy of mind, Dynamic Systems Theory, the problem of composition, etc.). Feminist continental philosophers have not established a virtual school of Butlerians in the same way that Derrideans, Heideggerians, and Foucaultians once did. And recent metaphysics such as Speculative Realism and Object-Oriented Philosophy just have none of the traditional author-oriented hagiography of, for example, high church Heideggerians.
By my first premise, the decline of author-oriented American Continental philosophy should be a result of increasing competence in other languages. I don't know if this is correct though. I think it's more likely that two things are going on. (1) Hostility to analytic philosophy less than it once was, so many continentals are more happy to engage with analytic philosophy and to use what works from the tradition, (2) in all three cases there has been more engagement with actual French, German, Polish, Slovenian, Italian, etc. academics which both lessens anxiety of influence issues and makes clearer the way that translation-via-book causes an almost Orientalist distorition of what's going on. In this second sense, I do know that Speculative Realism probably benefits greatly from being non-American in origin. There have been tons of symposia and workshops on Continental Europe (and no section at SPEP). I think this is the primary reason that Speculative Realists are in some ways more like analytic philosophers, even though many of the people working on the issues come out of American and British SPEP type programs. Also the founding role of University of Paris' Meillassoux, not as a saint, but as someone to be engaged with and criticized in the manner of the Atelier discussions, has made a huge difference.
In any case, I'm going to keep trudging along with my French lessons. The philosophers of the Atelier are my lodestone.