The panel invites scholars to reflect on the spectral nature of state power, to investigate how it both colonizes a population’s mind and limits its imaginative possibilities. The word “specters” now holds a place in critical vocabularies mostly because of Derrida’s anti-anti-Marxist intervention into the professed discussion of the end of Marxism. While this seminar agrees that the spectral world of capital creates a “phantom State” and evacuates public spaces, it departs from the “Cold War mentality” and sees the frequent traffic between the U.S. and China as evidence of the emergent neoconservative world of state power and imaginative deprivation. This seminar contends that the way forward for a comparative critical humanist is not to await Marxism’s “messianic affirmation.” It is, rather, to understand how state power, spectral and spectacular -- spectral because spectacular -- has now taken offense not, as during the cold war, at any one competing worldview but at the very root of the humanistic belief that the human’s imaginative power and desire responsibly to imagine and create alternative realities should know no limit. It seeks to understand how in the most global media events of the last decade, powerful states establish specters of their own insurmountable power to create new forms of subjectivity settled within consumerism, religion, and the passivity of the status quo. These specters (such as the bombing of Baghdad, the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, the military parades at the People’s Republic of China’s 60th anniversary) also threaten violence against any imaginable alternatives to their own domination of the norms of life.
Possible questions including but not limited to the following:
1. How does the notion “specters of power” illuminate comparatively the nature of such states as China and the U.S.?
2. How did state power manifest itself most powerfully and effectively vis-a-vis the ideology of mass consumption?
3. Given the advancement in media communications, how should we continue and complicate the Saidian project that sees, for example, the English Novel as evidence of the spectral presence of the British imperial state?
4. Is Islam a competing worldview or an example of alternative imaginings that cannot be allowed?
5. The spectrality of state power is aesthetic in form, kind, and practice. How do we critically theorize its aesthetics, its effect in producing new subject formations that would meet the state’s interests, and how do we account for its colonization and inhabiting of imagination so that what we might now call a crisis in thinking exists?
6. In which institutional elaborations, such as media, literature, and education, do we best see and can we best understand the spectrality of states that serve their
own interests through this spectrality?
If interested, please send a title and a 250-word abstract to Ruth Hung at by November 1, 2011.
Send comments and questions to H-Net
Webstaff. H-Net reproduces announcements that have been submitted to us as a
free service to the academic community. If you are interested in an announcement
listed here, please contact the organizers or patrons directly. Though we strive
to provide accurate information, H-Net cannot accept responsibility for the text of
announcements appearing in this service. (Administration)