Knowing everything is easy and fun

I wish I could have been here. I’m excited that I can listen or watch now (although I’m not absolutely sure that I ever will, somehow), but that’s not quite the same.

The conference was organized by graduate students in the Department of Comparative Literature at UC Irvine. Participants were invited to address the term “state” and to consider the effect of the “global” on discourses of knowledge and power, literary analysis, and theories of subjectivity. The conference sought to reconceptualize the global by delineating states of sentiment, desire, and affect, and examining their deployment on – or relation to – the global scene of political and economic states. In their dialogue, Butler and Spivak discuss alternative subjectivities and state forms in a “global state.” In arguing for the possibilities afforded by forms of belonging that are unauthorized yet exist within the state, Judith Butler suggests that the “right” to rights arises in the form of social discourse – calling for freedom is already an exercise of freedom. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak disarticulates the identity of state and nation and develops the concept of critical regionalisms as a new analytics of power that rethinks territoriality and sovereignty.

Harmless enough; I know, I know. It’s just that – who cares what departments of comparative literature think about these huge subjects that they take on so lightly? Who cares what Judy Butler and Gayatri Spivak have to say about economics, politics, rights, globalization, state, nation, power, territory, sovereignty and so on? Who cares what comp lit teachers have to say about such things? And if comp lit teachers are busying themselves with omniscience on subjects that normally take whole teams of economists and political theorists to think about, then who is teaching actual comp lit? When did comp lit in fact become economics plus sociology plus political theory plus psychology plus philosophy plus law? Who are these people and how did they get to know everything? Who are the people who sit at their feet in the conviction that they know everything? What does it all mean?

I think I know, but I’ll keep it to myself.

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