Questioning the Present


Overview

What is the nature of our present conjuncture? With what contradictions is it wrought? What possibilities does it open?

These questions were long the core of the humanities and social sciences, but over the last half century, their centrality has waned. Driven by a quest for precision, Braudel’s histoire de la longue durée gave way to l’histoire événementielle and even la microhistoire and, among more quantitative studies, narrower topics became increasingly dominant. As scholars across the humanities and social sciences turned their attention to more immediate concerns with discrete texts and narratives, the analysis of big framing concepts like modernity or global capitalism receded. Engagement with the big themes never vanished, but they are back at the center of attention. We live in an unsettled era and a present moment rife with transnational transformations and global challenges. New technologies call our attention to upheavals in capitalism and indeed in our understanding of the human itself. Shifiting political paradigms reflect increasing disorder within different polities and suggest that we might be on the verge of a reconstitution of the modern world-system. Building on the Center’s previous engagements, especially with “alternative modernities,” this forum seeks to explore not just what is going on now, but the significance of ‘now’ in macro-historical and global contexts.

The Center for Transcultural Studies, in collaboration with the Center for Global Culture and Communication (CGCC) at Northwestern University, is launching an online forum titled Questioning the Present. Every two months, we will congregate via a video conferencing service to address these questions and problems.

This is a hybrid forum, fostering dialogue among CTS members at the same time we invite the public to participate, via the co-sponsorship of the CGCC.

The inaugural session, on December 10, 2020, featured Dipesh Chakrabarty discussing his forthcoming book, The Climate of History in a Planetary Age.

Events

Souleymane Bachir Diagne

Postcolonial Bergson
June 3, 2021

Organizer: Dilip Gaonkar.
Presenter: Souleymane Bachir Diagne.
Discussants: Naveeda Khan, Charles Taylor, and Gary Wilder.

Postcolonial Bergson

Sianne Ngai

Theory of the Gimmick:
Aesthetic Judgment and Capitalist Form
April 29, 2021

Organizer: Dilip Gaonkar.
Presenter: Sianne Ngai.
Discussants: Mark Greif, Joseph Jonghyun Jeon, and Leigh Claire LaBerge.

Theory of the Gimmick

Partha Chatterjee

I Am the People: Refletions on Popular Sovereignty Today
April 8, 2021

Organizer: Dilip Gaonkar.
Presenter: Partha Chatterjee.
Discussants: Paulina Ochoa Espejo, Ritty Lukose, and Lars Tønder.

I Am the People

Jianying Zha

China's Heart of Darkness:
Prince Han Fei and Chairman Xi Jinping
February 25, 2021

Organizer: Dilip Gaonkar.
Presenter: Zha Jianying.
Discussants: Loubna El Amine, Geremie Barmé, and Pratap Bhanu Mehta.

China's Heart of Darkness

Dipesh Chakrabarty

The Climate of History in a Planetary Age
December 10, 2020

Organizer: Dilip Gaonkar.
Presenter: Dipesh Chakrabarty.
Discussants: Craig Calhoun, Hartmut Rosa, Michael Warner, and Mukulika Banerjee.

The Climate of History in a Planetary Age
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