Events in Modern Languages & Cultures
Research Workshop: Plotting the Crisis - Ecologies, Commodities, and the Arts
The contemporary conjuncture is dominated by talk of crises: financial meltdown, food shortages, biospheric turbulence, ‘peak’ oil, debt bubbles, political instability, ‘freak’ weather, social turmoil, and so on. Are these crises to be understood as relatively independent processes, now converging in frighteningly new and uncontrollable ways? Or are they better understood as the manifold expressions of a singular crisis? And if so, what is the nature of this singular crisis? For Jason W. Moore, the current turbulence surrounding everything from finance markets to global fisheries represents a crisis of capitalism as a way of organizing nature – of capitalism as world-ecology, constituted through successive transformations in the accumulation of capital, the co-production of nature, and the pursuit of power.
In light of Moore’s analysis, this symposium seeks to interrogate the concept of “crisis”. How is the current crisis to be understood within the context of the long-run dynamics of the capitalist world-system? Is it developmental or epochal? How are we to understand the periodicity of crises within capitalism? What would it mean to grasp a diversity of hazards, risks, and disasters – from the risks associated with speculating on ever more complex financial derivatives to the growing hazard of extreme weather conditions – as manifold forms of a crisis in capitalism’s strategic relations of power, production, and nature?
The symposium is particularly interested in the relationship between the dynamics of crisis and aesthetic practice. How, for example, might the emergence of certain artistic or literary forms at specific historical junctures be related to the periodic crises through which the capitalist world-system unfolds? And how have the arts helped to conceptualize or critique crisis? In exploring these questions, the symposium will engage with recent scholarship on ‘world literature’, and in particular the efforts by materialist critics to reconstruct this concept in terms of its relationship to global capitalism. But it will seek to push these approaches further through cross-disciplinary encounters with scholars from fields such as environmental history and political economy.
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