Knowledge, Capital, Critique: The University and the Humanities in the Ongoing Transformation of Capitalism (Nov. 15, 2013)

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American Comparative Literature Association
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ACLA 2014
March 20 – 23, 2014
New York University

DEADLINE: November 15, 2013

This seminar aims to periodize contemporary relations among capital, knowledge production, and social critique in the United States. It focuses on connections between concurrent transformations of global capitalism and of the public research university, with emphasis on the shifting status of the humanities within these processes. While remaining wary of rhetorics of crisis and decline, the purpose of this stock-taking—economic, institutional, disciplinary—is to assess conditions of existence and work within the university, and to outline possibilities for social critique in the present. Historicizing, comparative, and global perspectives welcome.

• How is the ongoing transformation of the U.S. research university as a site of knowledge production also transforming it as a site of social critique?

• How are more specific aspects of this transformation, e.g., the rapid rise of so-called digital humanities or an understandable pragmatic attitude among many undergraduates, placing particular pressure on the humanities?

• How was the economic and governance structure of the post-WWII research university a central condition of possibility for the emergence of postwar critical theory, and how is the transformation of one reshaping the legacy of the other?

• How have the contradictory dynamics of knowledge production and value creation—increasing specialization and disciplinary differentiation vs. deskilling and the standardization of intellectual labor—played themselves out within current social restructuring?

• To what extent have the humanities enabled an oppositional stance to capital, e.g., in Raymond Williams or Edward Said, and to what extent have they been complicit, e.g., as in William Spanos?

Please submit abstracts (max 250 words) through the ACLA website:

Seminar Keywords: Capital, Critique, University, Crisis, Humanities, Public Education, Intellectuals, Periodization