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Edgar Illas | Faculty

Director of Catalan

Edgar Illas

Assistant Professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese

Office: Ballantine Hall 875
TEL: 855-8907
Email: eillasat indiana dot edu

Education

Ph.D., 2007, Duke University
B.A., 1999, Universitat AutÚnoma de Barcelona

Specializations

Selected Publications

Book

Recent Articles

Creative Writing

Honors and Awards

Current Research Projects

My current project, Catalan Political Surfaces, examines some of the dominant narratives that have structured the social imaginary of modern Catalonia. While numerous studies have already analyzed the ideological problematics of Catalonia in terms of nationalism, my study investigates a set of related but different narratives that sometimes intersect with and sometimes deviate from the central political conflict between this nation and Spain. Through the examination of a variety of literary and political texts from the twentieth century, my project focuses on six foundational narratives: 1) the death of Catalan, or the anxiety produced by the supposedly imminent disappearance of the language; 2) Catalan philosemitism, or identification with the Jewish people, the construction of Israel, and the revitalization of Hebrew; 3) Catalan work ethic, or the premise that Catalans have survived as a cohesive collective thanks to their methodical accumulation of wealth; 4) Catalonia as city, or the conception of the region not as a stateless nation but as an entity articulated around Barcelona; 5) Catalan literature as national allegory, or the sense that literature is necessarily traversed by the country’s political problematic; and 6) landscape as motherland, or the identification of one’s most immediate surroundings as the real homeland.

My second project, tentatively called Traversing Marxism: The War Logic of Global Capitalism, is a theoretical reflection on some fundamental concepts of the Marxist tradition that are both indispensable and insufficient to understand the reality of global capitalism. My project builds on the hypothesis that the logic of global capitalism is no longer primarily cultural but is a logic of war. For this reason, Marxist political economy faces an impasse, namely that the economic categories that describe the system must contend with the political structure of war that organizes globalization. My book is an attempt to traverse this impasse by making different interventions in the dialectics between global capitalism and global war.

While examining the work of various Marxist and non-Marxist thinkers (Althusser, Jameson, Hardt and Negri, Zizek, Laclau, Schmitt, Galli), my project focuses on four specific notions: labor, class struggle, separation, and emancipation. First, the category of labor brings to light the production of value and the different modes of exploitation within the system, and yet it also reveals that the value of contemporary labor is no longer quantifiable; consequently, exploitation, which may be redefined as violence, lays bare in front of all of us and is nevertheless undetectable. Second, class struggle points at the central antagonism between capital and labor. But the present impossibility of differentiating the bourgeoisie from the proletariat undercuts the task of raising class consciousness and makes the content and direction of class struggle uncertain. Third, the notion of separation describes the atomizing logic of capitalism and also establishes that progressive politics must be based on the opposite move, namely unionizing and association. But in today’s fully commodified globe, it is unclear how new organizations can achieve some type of detachment from the fierce and unremitting logic of separation. Fourth, emancipation and the construction of a realm of freedom are connected to the overcoming of state power and national politics. But in the context of global war it is more palpable than ever that politics cannot operate without the constant positing of enemies, even if today these enemies are ubiquitous, pre-empted, and properly indefinable. Thus, the main dilemma of our present is how to devise forms of revolutionary politics that are not antagonistic like global war but are still political.