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Global Asias as Method

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Organizer: Alya Ansari

Co-Organizer: Chris Cañete Rodriguez Kelly

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Historically materialist procedures of reading have seemed remarkably preoccupied with the political, cultural, and economic rhythms of the Global North, and with the subjectivities produced by locating the extractive action of imperial enterprise elsewhere. This preoccupation seems increasingly out of date, given that the uneven location of labor-power—of working sinew and bone—is today neither straightforwardly mappable along cardinal developmental boundaries of “North” and “South,” nor along national cultural boundaries of “East” and “West.” Such a transformation has correlated in no small part to the contemporary dispersal of Anglo-American hegemony. Paying attention to cultural products that reflect upon these shifts ought to provide some insight into how the present conjuncture and its recent history is being understood by the people living in it. This is important not only because our understanding of the past is a site of political struggle—though it is—but also because politics’ proper object is the future.

This seminar asks: what becomes visible in considering the shifting centers of accumulation in the second half of the twentieth century—centers that are more properly situated in the economies of South, Southeast, and East Asia—alongside concomitant cultural, social, and political transformations within the world system? What can literary criticism tell us about what Christopher T. Fan, Paul Nadal, Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan, and Tina Chen have called the “Asian century,” and what can the “Asian century” teach literary criticism? What is gleaned by applying the analytical frames of a critique of political economy to Asia as a historical formation whose regional and inter-regional histories tend to be “area-studied” in national separation? How can critical and literary theory be mobilized in relationship to the shifting political imaginaries and world-making projects—reactionary and decolonial—that have been made possible by the end of the Cold War and the dramatic geopolitical transformations that have taken place with the economic ascendance of Asia? How can the complex and sometimes forgotten histories of Asian decolonization shed light on and transform categories of analysis in literary, postcolonial and critical race studies? How might we reassess the methodological tenets of historical materialism from the “majority world”?

We welcome paper abstracts that explicitly address the hermeneutic yield of deploying the framework of “Global Asias as Method.” This can be triangulated by linking specific literary forms with geopolitical or temporal contexts, or stressing the import of variously Asian frames of reference for issues of political-economic relevance. We also welcome paper abstracts that consider diverse manifestations of the “Asian century” more globally, such as those which take as their object the regional specificity of South America or Africa and their import for historical materialist analyses.

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