The Pastoral Hegemony: Innocence, Denial and Justice (ACLA, Los Angeles, 3/29-4/1/2018)
This call is for a seminar to be held at the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA) Convention, March 29-April 1, 2018 on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
The purpose is to re-think, re-tool and re-invigorate "versions of pastoral" as the medium of critique, and of the subsumption of the literal in particular. The supplementary purpose is to unearth a new series of pastoral figures, possibly beginning with that of a refugee.
In the wake of William Empson, Stanley Cohen and James Baldwin, this seminar invites papers interrogating the capture of Western imagination by the figure of innocence as an experiential, moral and psychic given. If we accept the notion that disavowal constitutes social agency (a problematic idea at work in Freud, Lacan, André Green and Bourdieu, for instance), what forms of transition or transmutation need to emerge in order to support or rescue the possibility of justice? Can the project of concrete utopia (as articulated in Ernst Bloch) be divorced from the pursuit of innocence, authenticity and dis-alienation? Do notions such as 'bare life' or 'vibrant matter' extend or disrupt the logic of pastoral figuration, i.e. the discovery of "true relations"? What limits does the pastoral hegemony place on the usefulness of identification and recognition to political imagination? How does the interplay between disowning and enacting power affect the rhetoric of emancipation? If innocence is not separable from avoidance, malevolence and dread, does the ethics of courage (as elaborated in Foucault's "courage of truth", Badiou's courage/anxiety couple, and Žižek's courage of hopelessness) break the charmed circle of guilty self-exoneration and self-exoneration through guilt?
The desire of the seminar is to assemble an array of conflicting views, thus signaling a need for a re-evaluation of the fundamental ethical concepts.