ACLA 2014 (NYU) Seminar - "Dictator Capital: Authoritarianism, Capitalism, and the Circulation of an Aesthetic"

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American Comparative Literature Association Annual Meeting - New York University March 2014
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In Gabriel García Márquez's Autumn of the Patriarch (1975), a dictator sells the Caribbean Sea to the U.S. In Augusto Roa Bastos's I the Supreme (1974), the dictator personally oversees the trickle of permitted trade. The Ruler in Ngugi wa Thiong'o's Wizard of the Crow (2004-2007; 2006) wants to grow money on trees, while also seeking loans from the "Global Bank." Following Ericka Beckman's recent observations in Capital Fictions (2013), such ostensibly comic details make visible the rationalized irrationality of modern capitalism as experienced on the periphery. As Achille Mbembe wrote of the Postcolony (2000): everything leads to excess yet real value is obscured.

This seminar will explore dictatorship in a variety of aesthetic forms and regions, analyzing the relationship between authoritarianism and capital—financial, political, and cultural. Artistic representations of dictatorship illuminate the networks of power that sustain authoritarian governments. But we must take into account that dictatorship also becomes an exportable trope in the aesthetic production of the global South. If the dictator can function as cultural capital, what do we make of the relationship between dictatorship and (financial, political) capital?

Possible topics:
- Global capital and authoritarian regimes—during and after the Cold War
- Dictatorship, violence, and the logic of accumulation
- The authoritarianism of forms of capital
- Authoritarian regimes, third world debt, and the rise of neoliberalism
- The dictator-novel as a hegemonic configuration
- The selection, translation, and circulation of these works on the international market
- The influence of authoritarianism on aesthetic forms that do not explicitly take up dictatorship

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Organizer: Magalí Armillas-Tiseyra (U. Mississippi) and Jini Kim Watson (NYU)