"Cultural Form, Spatial Dialectics, and the Question of Autonomy"

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ACLA, (03/31 - 04/03, 2011)
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Has the spatial dialectic that critics like Fredric Jameson ("Third-World Literature in the Age of Multinational Capital" and _Valences of the Dialectic_) and Franco Moretti ("Conjectures on World Literature") have recently described as fundamental to our understanding of cultural flows already exhausted itself? Much scholarship that attempts to trace the importation of literary forms in order to historicize the material and geopolitical history of transnational exchanges seems compelled to seek literary artifacts from earlier periods in order to illustrate the ways in which that history has been brought to bear on the relationship between specific literatures. What are we to make of the fact that theory seems to be experiencing a temporal lag, proclaiming with great urgency the need for a contemporary study of those cultural exchanges for which there no longer appear to be any examples in the present? Or, approaching the problem from a different angle, if the current geopolitical and material structures have made it impossible to maintain the distinction between cultural autonomy and subsumption — impossible, that is, to speak of more or less autonomous global spaces — then how does culture continue to function as a means of mapping (cognitively and otherwise) the differences between specific national and historical situations? What is the relationship between contemporary culture and the production of spatial difference itself?

This seminar intends to take the exhaustion of conceptual distinctions such as first-world/third-world and core/periphery as an occasion to launch an inquiry into the notion of a contemporary spatial dialectic. Consequently, we invite papers that explore contemporary examples of formal and generic manifestations of spatial cultural flows.