Communication and Culture | Topics in Rhetoric and Public Culture (Topic: Inventing Collective Agency: Social Imaginaries and Social Change)
C611 | 26974 | Kaplan, M.

W, 9:30 AM-12:00 PM, SE 009

Open to Graduates Only!

Instructor: Michael Kaplan
Office: 800 E. 3rd St. – room 219
Phone: 856-1365

Over the past several decades, the concept of “social imaginary” has
become increasingly central to a variety of critical projects
concerned with collective belonging and political agency within a
pluralistic and globalizing context. Coined by Cornelius
Castoriadis, the term “social imaginary” aims to displace more
confining notions, such as “ideology,” “structure” or “rationality,”
so as to highlight the self-creating or “auto-poietic” character of
social life. More recent invocations of the imagination focus on its
constitutive role in generating figurative but obdurate and
politically salient social realities, such as nations, peoples,
markets, or publics—even “society” itself. Such entities exist by
virtue of their discursive representations and are indispensable for
sustaining economic, social, cultural, and political forms of
cooperation and agency. In this seminar, we will interrogate various
accounts of social imaginaries in an effort to understand the stakes
involved in focusing critical inquiry on these productive fictions.
Engaging with the work of such authors as Benedict Anderson, Arjun
Appadurai, Pierre Bourdieu, Jacques Derrida, J.K. Gibson-Graham,
Ernesto Laclau, Benjamin Lee, Charles Taylor, Michael Warner, Slavoj
Zizek, and others, we will ask: How do social imaginaries help
explain specific cultural and political phenomena, and how does
analysis of their distinctive discursive features help us understand
their efficacy?  How do social imaginaries work? What are their
social, cultural and political effects? What sorts of
transformations do they mediate, and how are they themselves
transformed? What are their implications for democratic projects in
global late modernity?