"State Reason/University Thought" Conference

Department: Comparative Literature

Date and Time: November 3, 2017 - 8:00 AM

Event Location: HG 1030

Event Details

Hosted by University and State, a UC Irvine Humanities Commons Research.



“State Reason/University Thought” conference

November 2nd-3rd, 2017

University of California, Irvine, HG 1030
Call for Papers

“State Reason/University Thought” proposes to bring together disparate considerations of the historical and contemporary role of higher education in the reason of state. In distinction from many other contemporary investigations of the university, this event seeks to interrogate the intensity and complexity of the very relation between the university and the state; to ask about the university as a social, psychic and historiographic idea of state consolidation and rationalization.

The impetus for this undertaking comes from two very different contemporary concerns about the university. Currently, on the one hand, on every continent there is the discourse of criticism, increasingly strident and anxious among humanists, of the privatization of the university: an emptying out of what it was, could have been, or still could be, in favor of economic interests; the incursion of market rationality into the fragile autonomy of academic investigation. On the other hand, there is suspicion, formulated in tones ranging from celebratory to paranoiac, that modes of university-thinking may have always worked in service of processes and relations of domination implicated in settler-colonialism, the racializing projects of state and law, the sedimentation and transparency of white male eurocentric subjectivity, and the foreclosure of alternative ways of life—traditional or non-normative—as well as alternative imaginings of the future.

We propose that these discrepant approaches come together in a series of questions about the limits, borders, and modes of demarcation of speaking, writing, and thinking universitarily. When, where, how, and why does the university and its influence begin? Where does it end? And what is at stake in answering these questions with certitude? Central to our aim is to push discussion about the public university—as an institution, as an idea, as a model and symptom of various iterations of the state, and as varied histories of institutions and ideas, spanning geographic and intellectual traditions but never in obvious ways—by emphasizing questions about “thought,” writing, and discourse production. Could it be that disciplinary and systematizing mechanisms serve to reassure us that the order produced by a legitimate monopoly of violence is itself thinkable? To take up such questions requires interrogating the very axis that aligns the university and knowledge/power. Is the university still a privileged site of knowledge production? Was it ever? If so, where, when and for whom? And how is this privilege constituted and maintained? Is the university exemplary of modern institutionality? Could it also be the paragon neoliberal institution? We are particularly eager to reframe debates about the university and the university’s mission in crisis—including calls for the university’s demise—as questions about the psychic costs of the university in relation to state form as a fantasy of social order. How is the very idea of the university produced, reproduced, maintained, repaired, attached to, disavowed, repressed, and racialized?

Hosted by University and State, a UC Irvine Humanities Commons Research cluster, from 2-3 November 2017, the event will be a friendly and supportive conversation between established and emerging scholars. We invite panel and paper proposals from faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, unaffiliated scholars, and activists to accompany confirmed talks by Roderick Ferguson, Jennifer Doyle, Willy Thayer, Jacques Lezra, Erin Graff Zivin, Curtis Marez, Lenora Hanson, Erin Trapp, Jaime Rodriguez Matos, Dylan Rodriguez, John McCumber, Tiffany Willoughby-Herard, and Alicia Cox. Proposals that problematize and theorize disciplinary habits, familiar styles of theoretical or critical writing, the making of and investment in objects of knowledge, and reliable practices of adducing evidence and making legible are particularly welcome. Abstracts of no more than 300 words should be sent to universityandstateuci@gmail.com by July 15th, 2017. Applications for travel assistance will be arranged after acceptance.

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