Edgar Illas | Faculty
Director of Catalan
Assistant Professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Office: Ballantine Hall 875
Ph.D., 2007, Duke University
B.A., 1999, Universitat AutÚnoma de Barcelona
- Contemporary Catalan and Spanish Culture
- Theories of Architecture
- Post-Marxism and Deconstruction
- Thinking Barcelona. Ideologies of a Global City. Liverpool University Press, 2012.
"2013 North American Catalan Society Prize for Outstanding Work in Catalan Studies."
- "Is Catalan Separatism a Progressive Cause?" Dissidences 5.10 (2014).
- “From Elegies de Bierville to Separatism: Constituent Power or Global War?” Catalan Review 28 (2014): 3–17.
(Translation into Catalan: “De les Elegies de Bierville a l’independentisme: poder constituent o guerra global?” Tropelías 22 (2014): 45-57.)
- “Gaudí Gehry Barcelona.”Cultural Critique 87 (2014): 144-61.
- "The Procrustean Bed of Class Struggle." Décalages 1.3 (2013) (http://scholar.oxy.edu/decalages/vol1/iss3/2)
- “Eugenio Trías’s Reading of Joan Maragall: from Civil Catalunya-ciutat to Postcivil Catalunya-estat.” Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies 13.4 (2012): 323-38.
- “Pleasure against Ideology in Gabriel Ferrater.” Hispanic Review 80.3 (2012): 467-84.
- “Sketches of Contemporary Labor.” Discourse. Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture 33.1 (2011): 55-74.
- "On Universalist Particularism: the Catalans and the Jews." Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies. 12.1 (2011): 77-94.
- "Liberalisme i independentisme, o l'esperit treballador català." Catalan Review 24 (2010): 387-400.
- "The Great Novel of Barcelona." The Colorado Review of Hispanic Studies 6 (2008): 167-82.
- “Short Stories against Barcelona’s Urban Transformation.” Transtext(e)s Transcultures. Journal of Global Cultural Studies 3 (2007): 84-97. (http://transtexts.revues.org/142)
- “Visca la mort del català! Una proposta modesta per a les llengües minoritàries.” Dissidences 1.1 (2005).
- “Marià Vayreda: el carlisme reciclat i l’inconscient català.” El Contemporani13 (2004): 27-32. (Spanish version: “Marià Vayreda: el carlismo reciclado y el inconsciente catalán.” Res publica. Revista de filosofía política 13-14 (2004): 87-96.)
- Ball de bastons (novel) (Cabrera de Mar: Galerada, 2014).
- "Sandpaper Liquids." (short story) Trans. J.M. Sobrer. Web. October 9, 2013. (http://frankmattermag.com/2013/10/09/sandpaper-liquids-story-by-edgar-illas-translation-from-the-catalan-by-j-m-sobrer/)
- El gel de bany sobre l’esponja (novel) Barcelona: Columna, 2003. Literary Prize Finalist, “La primera columna.
Honors and Awards
- New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities, Office of the Vice Provost for Research, Indiana University (2012)
- Emergency Grant-in-Aid, Indiana University (2012)
- Travel Research Grant, College of Arts & Humanities Institute, Indiana University (2011).
- Summer Curriculum Development Grant, West European Studies, Indiana University (2010).
- West European Studies Conference Travel Grant (2010, 2011, 2012).
- Bass Instructorship, Graduate School, Duke University (2006-07).
- “Premi Extraordinari,” 1st in Class of 1999, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
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.