Consensual Empires: Orientalism as the Economy of Sameness (3/15/2010; MLA, 1/6-9/2011)
With the alleged end of Cold War conflicts, an epistemological shift occurred within the discourse of Orientalism from the colonial-type rhetoric of essential difference to the global rhetoric of desirable sameness. Former communist countries ranging from China to Czech Republic to Russia are now seen as caught up in a halting but inevitable process of becoming-the-same as the West: liberal, modern, normal. The shift reflects the transition to an era of increasing globalization, marked no longer by overt exclusions of difference but rather by conditional inclusions into the global capitalist "family" based on a host of meritocratic criteria. This panel wishes to theorize the new trajectories of imperial power based on the discourse of enforced sameness, which reflects capital's force and logic of abstract equivalence. It also asks how the insistence on sameness is aided by the ubiquitous phenomenon of self-Orientalization (or internalization of the desire to become-the-same as the West) and by imperial regimes of consensus building.
We are interested in projects that explore historical and epistemological connections of this discourse to the (post)Cold War rhetoric of triumphalist capitalism and the re-education of formerly communist societies into liberal democracies. However, this is just one angle among many, and it by no means exhausts the wealth of possible perspectives on the topic. We welcome a range of approaches and lines of inquiry, including studies of literature, film, cultural-intellectual narratives, critical theory, and political discourses.