[Sugarman] Schedule of forthcoming workshops, themes, places

Daniel Herwitz herwitz at umich.edu
Thu May 29 17:22:37 SAST 2014

Dear Keith

Thank you for this. Of course I did not attend the second week of the
workshop and so was not privy to the organization of themes mandated by
participants. I do want to add one thing in the light of what the group
seems to have evolved. Namely we have lost the initial impetus for the
workshops, namely what we, with you in the lead, submitted to the Mellon
Foundation as the intellectual basis for the workshops. Now this is in
itself hardly catastrophic. Popular democracy is always about shifting
initial principles written by the few (call it constitutional amendment),
but the initial idea was a really fine one, and I think of great benefit to
serious work in the South African academy and also the American. I speak of
the initial intuition which those of us writing the Mellon text had, that
while historical studies, and not simply historical studies but also
literary studies in South Africa have suffered from an excessive case of
empiricism, minute attention to detail, provincialized by a lack of
cosmopolitan comparison, no doubt aided and abetted by the cultural
boycotts of the late Apartheid period, the American academy has suffered
the boundless projection and profiling of theory, which in response to the
marginalization of the humanities from public life (especially by the
media) in America, has foregrounded its best inheritance from the culture
wars of the 1980s, themselves the result of American identity politics (the
women's movement, black consciousness, anti-colonial/anti-military
industrial leftism, etc...), into a critique of representation which
generated a great deal of new and significant theory in the 1970s and 1980s
but has gradually morphed into a groundless, contextual-less, floating
brand which seldom lands in the robustness of context but rather at
airports, academic conferences and all too many humanities centers. This
bifurcation between American intellectual work and South Africa, is hardly
the only thing going in either humanities worlds, and there are many other
things happening. But it is central enough to warrant serious intellectual
scrutiny of actual writing/scholarship in both places, which was going to
be part of what would ground the workshops, or part of them. Now this
project might not appeal to all, but the rapprochment between branded
theory (with its particular history in America) and excessive empiricism
(with its British intellectual tradition in Southern Africa combined with a
strong sense of particular context, represents two kinds of provincialism,
which want breaking through (breaking bad?). The idea of the actual study
of texts, that is, work done in both countries, seemed a way of grounding
what can otherwise be an all-over-the-place conversation seeking all manner
of input into everythingness, an intellectual department store in the
American mode with the theory section over on the left, the technology on
the right, the discount empiricism at the back, the plastic containers in
the art department, etc... Call that theory in the south. Wiser has among
the most exciting breakthroughs going on already, I mean the edited volumes
Achille and Sarah have done on Johannesburg, which are at once highly
attentive to the details of context (the city of Joburg), and risk taking
in bringing in new kinds of ideas. I might also refer to a predecessor of
their fine work in the book edited by Ivan Vladislavic called Blank, which
Hilton Judin put together and in which I myself had a piece in 1998. In
turn it would be work identifying some really good books from America which
break out, retaining interest in context, I mean real interest, not passing
or superficial or trendy, and which take risks in the bringing in of new
ideas (or the remaking of old) to liven the story or analysis. And speaking
to the original theme of the Mellon Workshops, theory/empiricism, in the
light of these serious breakthrough books. I have the feeling, and please
tell me I'm wrong if I am, that Derek Peterson, and you yourself, would
appreciate at least one of the retinue of workshops to follow on this
theme. I certainly would, for what it's worth.



On Thu, May 29, 2014 at 3:44 AM, Keith Breckenridge <
keith at breckenridge.org.za> wrote:

> Dear all,
> My apologies for filling your mailboxes.
> At the end of the meeting on May 17 we discussed, at some interesting
> length, the plans for forthcoming workshops and their themes.   We agreed
> that it would be good to be able to support special issue concentrations
> that emerge from the main workshops, as one means of encourage tangible
> outputs.  That will obviously be budget dependent, and something we can
> discuss on this list.
> We also agreed on the following sequence.   The dates and names are still
> tentative.  Please do speak up, ideally on the list, if you can see a
> problem or would like a different arrangement.
> *Scheduled Workshops*
> 2.  Intellectual property and curatorship in the digital humanities
> * *Ann Arbor*, November 6 - 17, 2014
> 3.  Public spaces, informality and infrastructures in the desegregating
> city
> *Joburg*, Feb - May 2015, ideally to link with Antipode Workshop, last
> week of March (?),  and Coordinating with Capitalism from the South
> 4.  Legacies of the imperial archive in post-colonial history and museums
> * Linked to Social History after Edward Thompson, Sparks & Eley?, 2015.
> * & Toxicity in *Ann Arbor* in October, 2015.
> 5. Cultural studies of science and technology in Africa
> ** Joburg*, June - August 2016
> 6.  Narrative, visual forms and biopolitics in the medical humanities
> * *Ann Arbor*, April - May 2017.
> 7.  Textual analysis, performance, visual culture and the state in the
> making of African publics
> June - Oct 2017 -- Place?
> *Currently not scheduled:*
> * Interrogating Neoliberalism as idea and explanation
> * The politics of literacy, legibility and expert knowledges in Africa
> * Vernacular literatures in the making of transnational movements and
> subjects & Province and diaspora in African intellectual history
> *  The politics of heritage
> --
> Keith Breckenridge  *W I S E R* - The Wits Institute for Social and
> Economic Research, University of the Witwatersrand | Pbag 3, PO Wits,
>  Johannesburg, South Africa, 2050 | Tel: +27117174272  | Fax: 0867654213 |
> Web: wiser.wits.ac.za
>  This communication is intended for the addressee only. It is confidential. If you have received this communication in error, please notify us immediately and destroy the original message. You may not copy or disseminate this communication without the permission of the University. Only authorised signatories are competent to enter into agreements on behalf of the University and recipients are thus advised that the content of this message may not be legally binding on the University and may contain the personal views and opinions of the author, which are not necessarily the views and opinions of The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. All agreements between the University and outsiders are subject to South African Law unless the University agrees in writing to the contrary.
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Daniel Herwitz
Frederick G. L. Huetwell Professor
Department of Comparative Literature
University of Michigan
2012 Tisch Hall
435 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1003
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