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Cultural Studies Program

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Current Conference

Cultural Studies/American Studies Conference on "Neo-Nationalisms"

Saturday, February 16th, 2002
9:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Indiana Memorial Union - University Club
Organized by Eva Cherniavsky and Tom Foster

Cultural Studies is joining with the American Studies Program this year to co-organize a conference on "Neo-Nationalisms."  The topic of "Neo-Nationalisms" is meant to raise two related questions:  to what extent is nationalism still a significant explanatory framework for contemporary cultural, social, and economic practices, despite the pressures put on the idea of nation by globalization?  Second, how have these pressures transformed the idea of the nation-state?  In short, what are the values and limitations of nationalist frameworks?  To what extent do those frameworks contnue to inform academic inquiry in our various disciplines, and what alternate frameworks are emerging?  Invited speakers, Donald Pease, Avalon Professor of Humanities and Professor of English at Dartmouth College, and Rachel Lee, Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles, will join IU faculty and graduate students in addressing these issues.

The conference will be held on Saturday, February 16th from 9:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. at the University Club in the Indiana Memorial Union.  If you plan to attend, please complete the On-Line Registration linked to this web page, the registration form in the newsletter, or send an e-mail to indicating whether you plan to stay for lunch (12:00-1:30 p.m.).  With a format similar to previous Cultural Studies conferences, "Neo-Nationalisms" will be organized around two panels.  The conference schedule and a description of the two panels is included below. 

Conference Schedule

9:00 a.m.- 12:00 p.m.  Morning Panel - "Nation and State"

Moderator:  Eva Cherniavsky
Invited Speaker:  Donald Pease, Dartmouth College
Panelists:  Jeannine Bell (Law), Nick Cullather (History), Joan Hawkins (CMCL), Sarah Knott (History), 
Roopali Mukherjee (CMCL)

This panel will address this hyphenated formation with attention to the present and historical (dis)articulations of the nation (as imagined community) and the state (as administrative apparatus).  What are the conjugations of  nation and state in our own historical moment?  What forms and practices of dissent do they impose or enable?  Much of the U.S.-focused scholarship posits the abiding continuity of nation and state, so that, the agents of the state are identified through their reactionary articulations of nationalist sentiment while, conversely, alternative avenues of nationalist identification (alternate stylings of citizenship) are read as critical interventions in state power.  At the same time, the state comes to seem largely irrelevant to national life, displaced into the arena of commodity culture where matters of identity are mediated.  In the context of the present crisis, for example, one might argue that nationalist sentiment constitutes only the most cynical of diversionary tactics, a smokescreen for the operations of a freelance state, become service-provider for multinational capital.  To what extent does such an analysis hold in the U.S.? To what extent does it hold in the other regions, or "worlds," of an unevenly integrated global order?  More generally, can we still understand the workings of the state through the state where the national public sphere has become largely indistinguishable from the "infotainment" industry?  How do non-state nationalisms (both intra- and supra-state state neo-nationalisms, such as Aztlan, Queer Nation, or pan-Arab nationalism ) articulate with state power?

12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.  Buffet Lunch  (provided by Cultural Studies/American Studies)

1:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.  Afternoon Panel  - "Nation and Culture"

Moderator:  Tom Foster
Invited Speaker:  Rachel Lee, University of California, Los Angeles
Panelists: Bill Rasch (Germanic Studies),  Yeidy Rivero (CMCL/Latino Studies), Janet Sorensen (English), Daniel Walker (History)

Theorists like Benedict Anderson have defined how the rise of the modern nation-state in Europe and the U.S. coincided with and depended upon the emergence of vernacular cultures and the standardization of national languages, supported primarily by print technology and its dominant cultural forms:  the book and the newspaper.  In The University and Its Ruins, Bill Reading traced the crisis of the humanities to the increasing obsolescence of the nation-state as an organizing category for knowledge production, thereby emptying out the category of "culture," whose fortunes are inextricably linked to those of the nation.  For Readings, Cultural Studies only emerges as an academic formation when "culture" starts to lose its relevance within the late-capitalist world more generally.  At the same time, many of the challenges to the idea of the "nation" seem to define the boundaries of "culture" in a different way.  In The Nation and Its Fragments, Partha Chatterjee offers a concept of "bad" or resistant nationalisms, which use nationalist models against the universalizing aspirations of Western nation-states.  But these "bad" nationalisms distinguish themselves from the admininstrative structures of Western colonialism only by drawing upon indigenous cultural resources, including religion. Similarly, Paul Gilroy's model of the African diaspora, the black atlantic, defines a cultural formation that emerges within and against the dominant model of the nation-state. To what extent is the current crisis of the nation-state and the increasing shift to transnationalism or globalization also a crisis in the definition of "culture" as an object of study?  To what extent does Cultural Studies need the idea of the "nation," and in what ways does that idea limit the analysis of culture?  What alternatives to the nationalist framework emerge from Cultural Studies itself, and to what extent does Cultural Studies need to turn to work like Chatterjee and Gilroy's?  For instance, in what ways has the development of mass media disrupted the nationalist framework Anderson associates with print culture and the ideal of the public sphere? 

4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. Reception