"Cosmopolitanism and Collectivity" -- ACLA (April 1-4, 2010), November 13, 2009

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We are inviting paper proposals for an accepted seminar at the 2010
Annual Meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association (New
Orleans, April 1-4). Please do not submit proposals directly to the
organizers--see specific instructions for online submission below.
Note: seminars at the ACLA are typically held over the course of three
days--participants are expected to attend all meetings.

Session description:

"Cosmopolitanism and Collectivity: Cultural Representations vs. Theories of Community in the 20th and 21st Century"

This panel intends to interrogate the relationship between collectivity
and cosmopolitanism by studying the disjoints between the accounts of
both concepts produced by culture on the one hand and theory on the
other. The ultimate goal of this panel will be to complicate our
understanding of the possibilities and limitations of contemporary
forms of collectivity in relation to a renewed interest in the category
of the universal in general and concepts such as cosmopolitanism in
particular. Furthermore, this panel seeks to trace the historically and
materially concrete determinations that link current conceptions of
collectivity and cosmopolitanism. However, it strives to do so not by
focusing on the harmonic parallels but rather on the contestations and
differences between theoretical and cultural versions of
thinking/representing the collective.
Needless to say, cosmopolitanism has itself entailed a particular
conceptualization of social relations that marks a disconnection
between culture and theory. One need only recall here the manner in
which the relationship between First and Third World cultural
production, particularly with reference to literature, at various
moments bore witness to an importation of specific forms that, from the
perspective of a cosmopolitan elite, affords a means of achieving a
kind of modernization, but which nonetheless gives rise to a compromise
with -- or utterly deforms -- more local materials, including the
organization of society along the lines of a peripheral economy.
Questions of cultural as well as theoretical form and genre factor
heavily into such an examination, since, to give only one example,
theoretical accounts of collectivity have always tended to run into
limitations of cultural form and genre when attempting a transposition
from theory to culture (the reverse transposition is, of course, a
necessarily connected, yet in itself specific operation). And indeed,
this same tension can often be said to exist in individual texts
(whether literature, film, or music) that in many ways become the site
of competing conceptions of collectivity whose irreconcilability is
itself productive of literary form (so that this irreconcilability,
more often than not, emerges as the difference between a form of
collectivity on the model of cultural difference and a certain position
in the global economic order). How can we arrive at a more accurate
historicization and periodization of the dialectical development of the
concepts collectivity and cosmopolitanism by looking at the moments at
which cultural and theoretical production thinks and represents them
decidedly differently? What kinds of definitions do we find in culture
at a given point in history, what kinds in theory—and what might that

Proposals should not be submitted directly to the organizers but via the ACLA website prior to November 13, 2009:

submitting a proposal, be sure to select the correct title of the
seminar to which you are applying in the dropdown menu immediately
following the field for the proposal text.

General information about the conference topic and logistics can be found on the ACLA 2010 website: http://www.acla.org/acla2010/

Please feel free to contact us any time with questions or concerns--all best,

Emilio Sauri (University of Illinois at Chicago), esauri1@uic.edu
Mathias Nilges (St. Francis Xavier University, Canada), mnilges@stfx.ca

Mathias Nilges, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of English
St. Francis Xavier University
PO Box 5000
Antigonish, Nova Scotia
Canada, B2G 2W5