Archives of Resistance: Cosmopolitanism, Memory and World Literature
Three-day International Conference
University of Leeds, June 20-22 2018
The rise to prominence of the field of ‘world literature’ is simultaneous with that of cosmopolitanism and memory studies. Often examined separately, they are in many ways connected. On the one hand, world literature might be understood as an archive of traumatic, world-historical transitions to capitalist modernity and its most violent (and continued) consequences; on the other, it might also be understood – more optimistically – as a repository of the cosmopolitan universality that has resisted capital’s predations. At the same time, these discourses are themselves imbricated in the very world-systemic violence they record and resist: world literature has been described by Franco Moretti as a system that is ‘one, and unequal’, part of the ‘struggle for symbolic hegemony across the world’; the theoretical universality of cosmopolitanism has been accused of violently eliding socio-cultural specificities in a manner akin to the indifferent universality of capital; meanwhile, memory and trauma studies tend towards an emphasis on finitude which philosophers such as Alain Badiou and Bruno Bosteels have provocatively argued is intrinsic to a new conservatism opposed to radical politics.
The aim of this three-day conference is thus to establish new critical positions in the burgeoning field of world literature, to provide critical interventions in current debates over the relation between world literature, cosmopolitanism, and memory studies, and to connect these debates to contemporary incarnations of capitalist modernity: refugee crises, neo-fascisms and environmental disaster. The conference proposes a four-part investigation:
- Resisting World Literature
How does world literature as literature resist? What is the relation between the global circulation of literature and the violent proliferation of walls, camps and borders across the world? How does world literature internalise, formalise or repress these borders? To what extent does a selective reduction of world literature to a melancholy archive of trauma and suffering reinforce contemporary exploitation and oppression? Is there common ground between theories of world literature inspired by world-systems theory and those more closely associated with cosmopolitanism and memory studies?
- Beyond (Liberal) Humanism
If the Bildungsroman is the archetypal ‘human rights’ form, which literary forms embody the experience of those who cannot actualise their human rights? If memory, cosmopolitanism and world literature are said to inculcate ‘empathy,’ what might be said for indifference, impersonality or impassivity? How have memory studies and trauma theory responded to accusations of Eurocentrism and anthropocentrism? What is the relation between liberalism and world literature?
How might the concept of world literature be related to periods of world-historical lateness (e.g., Erich Auerbach’s postwar lament over the demise of Weltliteratur through ‘standardisation’)? If ‘postmodernism’ is the cultural logic of ‘late’ capitalism, what is the cultural logic of ‘late fascism’ (Toscano)? How is Utopia imagined under conditions of ‘nostalgia for a post-utopian industrial modernity’ (Toscano)? What is the relation of cosmopolitanism and memory to lateness? Does there exist a ‘late style’ of world literature?
- Archives of the Future
How does world literature write the Anthropocene/ Capitalocene? How is the circulation of memories being shaped by diverse contemporary factors such as mass migration, refugee crises, environmental disaster and digital culture? How might world literature be reconceived as a counter-archive of resistant futurity? What is the role of collective memory in forging anti-capitalist solidarity?
By combining an investigation of resistance, the limits of liberalism, lateness and futurity, we aim to explore the idea of world literature as an archive of resistance.
Further topics may include, but are not limited to:
- Economic crisis
- Combined and uneven development
- Postcolonialism and decolonial struggles
- Animal studies
- Biopolitics/ necropolitics
- Settler colonialism
- Indigenous studies
- Literary sociology (e.g., print culture, book market, UNESCO)
Please send proposals (maximum 300 words) and short biographies for 20-minute papers to Dr Daniel Hartley (D.J.Hartley@leeds.ac.uk) by January 15th 2018.
Professor Stuart Taberner (University of Leeds)
Dr Daniel Hartley (University of Leeds)
Confirmed Keynote Speakers:
Professor Mariano Siskind (Harvard University)
Professor Lyndsey Stonebridge (University of East Anglia)
Professor Charles Forsdick (University of Liverpool)
Professor Janice Carruthers (Queens University Belfast)
Professor Ben Hutchinson (University of Kent)
This event is sponsored by Professor Stuart Taberner’s Leverhulme Project: “Traumatic Pasts, Cosmopolitanism, and Nation-Building in Contemporary World Literature.”