[Sugarman] Schedule of forthcoming workshops, themes, places

Daniel Herwitz herwitz at umich.edu
Fri May 30 15:44:19 SAST 2014

Dear All

Were a single workshop to be devoted to the themes I've recited, and which
I think are transcribed (or jazz-riffed) from the original Mellon proposal,
I think it would be text based: a serious, careful, very critical study of
about five books and a couple of articles, maybe less, which illustrate the
theme. Off the top of my head and this is purely for conversation purposes
since the list would be equally carefully developed by interested parties,
we might carefully read Charles Van Onselen, Jeff Guy, Achille and Sara's
book on Johannesburg, Blank (ed. Hilton Judin), and a couple of other
things, including absolutely work by Keith himself, and Derek and a couple
of others. Around these books, and focused on them as materials, the
thematic could be developed. I am not sure what kind of writing component
might arise from this, whether it would be critically addressed (short
pieces) to the archive we read, or independent. That would have to be
discussed. But the point is, this would be a workshop devoted to a
specificly chosen archive. And lots of time would be spent on each book or
article, not one hour but four, if you see what I mean. That way, serious
discussion might slowly arise through the focus of the group involved.

Best Daniel

On Fri, May 30, 2014 at 9:15 AM, Keith Breckenridge <
keith at breckenridge.org.za> wrote:

> Hello Danny, all
> I do of course agree that there is a real tension now between the careful
> attention to context and the desire for globally significant theory.
> Sometimes the problem, as you say, can pull in the other direction, with an
> almost solipsistic focus on the  local.  I think that it's fair to say that
> the regional historiographies all work like that here.  My own view on this
> is that Johannesburg is a good place to write from to correct the sweeping
> claims of contemporary theory -- Latour, Scott, Foucault.   I'm sure that
> there is wide agreement that attention to detail, and to the locally
> determined meanings of the details, really matters.   And I think we all
> see the value in framing questions and analyses that address wide
> audiences.    What I'm not sure about is how we can frame this specific
> question in relation to the work that we've done already.   Perhaps it is
> simply a matter of asking each of the concentration areas to be attentive
> to the tension.   But others will have better ideas, I'm sure.
> K
> On Thu, May 29, 2014 at 5:22 PM, Daniel Herwitz <herwitz at umich.edu> wrote:
>> 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.
>> Best
>> Daniel
>> 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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>>> Sugarman at lists.wits.ac.za
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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
> --
> 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

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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