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Humanities and a Borderless World

Sunday, May 19, 2013 - 10:00am - 5:00pm
Columbia University Morningside Campus School of Social Work 1255 Amsterdam Avenue Room C06 (Concourse Level)


The boundary 2 Editorial Collective and Columbia University Global Cultural Studies present:


 Humanities and a Borderless World 


Rachel Adams
Emily Apter
Rachel Adams
Emily Apter
Jonathan Arac
Charles Bernstein
Paul Bov
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Ronald Judy
Evan Mwangi
Donald Pease
Bruce Robbins
Richard Jean So
Jennifer Wenzel

PANEL I - Paul Bov, opening remarks and moderator


Charles Bernstein (Pennsylvania), "Recalculating"

A pataqe(e)rical performance: reading from new collection of poems from the University of Chicago Press, with special reference to borders, borderlines, borderlessness and the impossibility of humanity.  From Recalculating: "I love humanity; its people I cant bear ."  "I love people; humanity scares me."   "Breath is the door / from life to death / on the border of / hearing I hear not hearing / on the border of / death and life / hear not hearing?"


Jennifer Wenzel (Michigan), "Mountain, Poem, Planet: 'New" Criticism & Neoliberal Globalization"

This talk teases out historical and methodological affinities between Aldo Leopold's late 1940s articulation of a "land ethic"--what it means to "think like a mountain"--and Wimsatt and Beardsley's account of the poem as an autonomous object "detached from the author at birth [that] goes about the world beyond his power to intend about it or control it. I juxtapose these critics' personifications of mountains and poems in the early years of the Cold War in order to think anew about current attempts to "think like a planet" in the era of globalization.


Rachel Adams (Columbia), "Disability Studies in An Inaccessible World"

My talk will make two claims about disability studies.  The first is that DS alerts us to how far we are from living in a borderless world. Merging theory and politics, scholars of disability study how built and social environments function to discredit certain kinds of bodies, while also demanding the creation of a more accessible world.  The second claim is that, despite its universalizing impulses, DS continues to be strikingly unworldly, focusing primarily on the United States, Britain, and the Anglophone world, and remaining relatively untouched by the comparative, transnational perspectives that have transformed other fields within the humanities.




PANEL II - moderated by Jonathan Arac


Emily Apter (NYU), "Checkpoints & Sovereign States"

 Border-crossing has become such an all-purpose, ubiquitous trope of translation that its purchase on the politics of actual borderswhether linguistic or territorialhas arguably  been seriously attenuated. Prompted by recent work focusing on how sovereign legitimacy is tested by the architecture of walls, checkpoints, transit stations, and virtual barricades of surveillance Jeremy Hardings The Uninvited: Refugees at the Rich Mans Gate, Eyal Weizmans Hollow Land: Israels Architecture of Occupation and The Least of All Possible Evils, Wendy Browns Walled States, Waning SovereigntyI want to recall the force de frappe of the state in translation theory, and, with that, the physical borders of sovereignty more generally.  The paper will use the checkpoint to counter the overuse of border-speak, while at the same time acknowledging that, like borders, checkpoints involve an architecture of translation, especially in the context of wallfare" state function, and the deployment of matriel.


Bruce Robbins (Columbia), "Cosmopolitanism in Deep Time"

The cosmopolitanism with which we are familiar is geographical.  But geographical cosmopolitanism entails a temporal cosmopolitanism that is less familiar-- an expansion back in time to take in cultural texts and moments, like the classical canons of China and India, that are not merely non-European but also more or less untethered to Europe by any relation of unequal power.  This talk will explore some alternative but not mutually exclusive descriptions of this move into deep time.  Is it a depoliticizing shift from the postcolonial to world literature?  A necessary recalibration of the moral balance between our and their imperialisms?  A return of grand narrative in the name of ecology, or a new materialism, or evolutionary science?  An archaeological turn?  A long-delayed coming to terms with the unarticulated protocols of work in the humanities, which entails criticism in the negative sense but also forms of forgiveness and magnanimity that remain largely unmapped because the valuing and preserving of the past that demand them have seemed antithetical to the hyper-periodized historicism that now prevails?


Donald Pease (Dartmouth), Not Without Rights: the Politics of the No Borders! Movement

  In this presentation, I intend to analyze the declaration Not without rights articulated by participants in the No Borders! movement through a re-reading of the phrase the right to have rights in Hannah Arendts 1943 essay,  We Refugees.




PANEL III - moderated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak


Evan Mwangi (Northwestern), Ethnicity, Class, and New Borders of Language in Africa

How can indigenous languages be used to preserve a society from economic and cultural predators while allowing it to take advantage of cross-border exchanges? This paper uses 21st century East African literary texts that use a creole-like mixture of natural languages to examine borders as flashpoints of ethnic and class conflicts. I argue that the writers accept that most boundaries in Africa are fictional constructs and that these fault-lines should not be used as an excuse for senseless violence and economic dispossession. Yet boundaries become important in helping a marginalized society guard against predatory tendencies of dominant groups both within the nation-state and the larger neo-liberal global order.


Richard Jean So and Hoyt Long (Chicago), "Trade Imbalance in the World Republic of Letters: Transnational  Culture through the Lens of Big Data"

This paper examines the literary relations between the United States and East Asia (China and Japan, in particular) during the age of modernism (1915-1930) through the use of quantitative methods.  Specifically, we leverage large sets of data regarding publication records to produce network maps that reveal patterns of global textual circulation.  We are interested in revealing the larger structures that organize literary transactions between American and East Asian poets. And we are interested in how poets perceived and intervened within this structure.  Our paper deploys both macro-scale and close reading methods to explore the interplay between massive social structures and local articulations of literary style and form in the creation of transnational cultures.  We conclude by reflecting on the potential value of social-scientific methods (e.g. network analysis, text mining) for the practice of literary criticism and vice versa.


Ronald Judy (Pittsburgh), "Barking Dogs & Thinking in Disorder"

Taking up Plato's philosophical dog as an opening move in the long history of  philosophical reflection on the relationship between sustained cohesive thinking and social order, this talk describes a critter of another sort: al-hākīya, "the mimic," elaborated by al-Jāḥiẓ in his Book of Animals, in an effort to find a way past the crisis of the intellectual delineated, for instance, by Harold Cruse in his 1967 work The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual. The principal postulate is that, pace Fanon, global imperialism is constitutively disorderly, and so calls for a style of thinking and expression that is concordantly global.