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Working Group on Iberoamerican Imperial Histories - Fall 2013

           The goal of this working group is to foster an ongoing conversation among faculty and graduate students in Hispanic Literatures and Portuguese concerning innovative ways of thinking about power relations and their histories in the Iberoamerican (Hispanic and Lusophone) worlds. The group seeks to identify and discuss novel approaches to empire and its critique in post-colonialism, subaltern studies, world-systems theory, deconstruction, and so on. While some of these critical perspectives already have well-established connections within the Hispanic and Lusophone contexts (post-colonial and subaltern studies), the group is also committed to examining perspectives and approaches taken from other contexts in order to gauge their relevance for the Spanish and Portuguese experiences. Possible examples include Wallerstein’s world-systems theory, Spengler’s and Freud’s critical discussions of “civilization,” Heidegger’s critical genealogy of imperium, and Foucault’s work on biopolitics.
            The working group aims to support innovative research among the department’s literature faculty and graduate students by creating a public forum for sharing ideas and working through challenging theoretical texts that have special relevance for Iberoamerican Studies. The group is open to any and all Hispanic Literatures faculty and graduate students, regardless of specific areas of research interest and expertise. Its primary activities will include a biweekly reading group as well as occasional invited speakers and conferences and colloquia. Readings will be determined at the beginning of each semester and will be organized, whenever possible, to coincide with visiting lectures and meetings.
           The theme of this semester is the question of sovereignty and the nation-state. We will read selections from volume 1 of Jacques Derrida’s posthumous book The Beast and the Sovereign, based on a series of seminars held during the last years of his life. In it, Derrida offers a radical critique of the power structures and conceptual vocabulary associated with the modern configuration of sovereignty and related notions, such as humanism, culture, biopolitics, and the phallus. We plan to discuss his text vis-à-vis other reflections on sovereignty (by Agamben, Heidegger, Lacan, and Foucault) with which he engages. If there is sufficient interest we will continue reading remaining sessions in the spring.
            These are the meeting times and readings for this semester:

September 6 - First Session (The Beast and the Sovereign, vol. 1)
October 11 - Second Session
November 1 - Fourth Session
December 6 - Twelfth Session

The meetings will be from 11AM to 12:30PM, WH 101.

To avoid possible copyright infringement, readings will be made available to participants only through a password protected Oncourse site. You may also choose to purchase the book yourself. If you plan to participate, please email me ( or Professor Dove ( and we will be happy to add you to the Oncourse site.

We hope that you can join us in this energizing adventure!

Edgar Illas and Patrick Dove

  If you have any questions, feel free to contact me ( or Patrick Dove (

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