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Winter Quarter 2014


6. Theme: Economics and Globalization

Breakthroughs of the Young Marx

Date: March 13th, 12:00p-1:30p
Location: Humanities Center Board Room
Speaker: Gopal Balakrishnan (UC Santa Cruz, History of Consciousness)


  1. Louis Althusser, For Marx (Introduction, Chapter 1)
  2. Louis Althusser, "On the Young Marx"

Suggested Readings:

  1. Louis Althusser, "Marxism and Humanism"


This paper will present a new intellectual historical account of the phases of Marx's thought, from his dissertation on Greek philosophy to 'The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte'. I argue that crucial dimensions of his work from 1841-52 have remained opaque in the absence of an adequate account of the phases of his development across multiple dimensions: his repeated attempts to formulate a critique of Hegelian philosophy, entangled with the emergence of his initial critique of political economy, taking shape within an evolving problematic of a revolutionary politics aimed at both the Old Regime and nascent bourgeois society. After providing a new account of the pattern of continuities and ruptures within and across these dimensions, I then seek to explain why the emergent syntheses of this early Marx broke down in the aftermath of the failures of the revolutions of 1848. I conclude by claiming that posing and resolving these intellectual historical problems provides the basis for understanding the transformed premises of his later critique of political economy, making possible a systematic reconstruction of the latter.

5. Theme: Crisis and Rupture

Date: February 27th, 12:00p-1:30p
Location: Humanities Center Board Room
Moderator: Héctor Hoyos


  1. Jean Franco, Cruel Modernity (Selections)
  2. Jonathan Crary24/7 (Selections)

Initial Questions and Points of Departure:

  1. What to make of Franco's core claim that peripheries arrive to a common era by imposition? Relatedly, if cruelty is a feature of modernity, then what is the ethical, political role of the scholar vis-à-vis modernization narratives?
  2. Is 24/7 a top-down or a bottom-up phenomenon? Does it originate in the centers of world capital, or in its backwaters? In the interaction of these realms? Is time itself subject to primitive accumulation?


Fall Quarter 2013

1. Periodization, Temporality, and Historiography

Date: September 26th, 12:30p-1:30p
Click HERE for: Readings, Questions, and our Discussion Summary

2. Technology and Media

Date: October 17th, 12:30p-1:30p
Click HERE for: Readings, Questions, and our Discussion Summary

3. Language and Literature

Date: November 7th, 12:30p-1:30p
Location: Humanities Center Board Room
Moderator: Sianne Ngai

  1. Pedro Erber, "Contemporaneity and Its Disconents"

Suggested Readings (arranged chronologically by topic)

  1. Georgio Agamben"What is the Contemporary?"

Initial Questions and Points of Departure:

  1. What do we make of Erber’s summary of three commonly used definitions of the contemporary: 1) the historical period that succeeds the modern period and as the epoch that we happen to inhabit in the early twenty-first century; 2) a relationship between two events, persons, phenomena, etc. that are contemporaneous with each other; that is, they share the same time; and 3) that which is contemporary with us—whoever and whenever we are—and is in this sense synonymous with the present.
  2. Discuss the symptoms Erber uses to characterize the contemporary epoch as “globalization, not just as an economic phenomenon, but also as the generalized sharing of time, as the growing contemporanization of diversity […] the decentering of international political power, the emergence of formerly peripheral countries such as China, India, and Brazil as major economic and cultural players, the European economic cul-de-sac, and the recrudescence of conservative ideology in the United States and beyond are just a few of the most obvious symptoms of this political, economic, and cultural reorganization of the contemporary world” (36).
  3. Anthropologist Johannes Fabian uses “coevalness” to refer to shared time between people, particularly between the field researcher and his/her informants or subjects. Denying this shared time, Fabian and Erber argues, is essential for anthropology. Is this still the case, however, with the rise of co-produced ethnography and increasingly reflexive stances taken by anthropologists?
  4. There is a paradoxical definition of contemporariness Erber outlines between Agamben and Nietzsche: a true “contemporary” or scholar of the contemporary is at the same time fully in tune with the era but also doesn’t quite “fit,” is “untimely” in a way that grants them an anthropological distance to assess the contemporary as an outsider. How does this paradoxical stance play out in scholarship, theory, or methodology on the contemporary.
  5. Erber, following Fabian, argues, “The representation of knowledge in terms of vision, of aesthetic contemplation rather than linguistic communication, implies a specific mode of temporality” (31). In terms of fields and disciplines, can we draw a distinction between visual or observational methodology and how it engages with time in distinct ways from other textual or analytic methods?
  6. Useful terms: coevalness (time shared by human beings through action, interaction, and communication); allochronism (being distinct in time and space, separate); untimely (to be somewhat irrelevant and inadequate to one’s own present).


4. Theme: Institutions and Anthropology

Location: Humanities Center Board Room
Date: February 6th, 12:00p-1:30p
Moderator: Brian Johnsrud


  1. Paul Rabinow, Marking Time: On the Anthropology of the Contemporary

Suggested Readings

  1. Paul Rabinow, The Accompaninment: Assembling the Contemporary (intro)
  2. Paul Rabinow, Designs for an Anthropology of the Contemporary (intro)

Initial Questions and Points of Departure:

  1. Rabinow provides a few variations of definitions of the contemporary. The most basic question for scholars of the contemporary is: “‘What difference does today make with regard to yesterday?’ The position by no means rejects the use of older concepts; quite the contrary, but it does attempt to look at them anew, to refashion them in light of new elements and new problems” (Marking Time 24). How useful to members of the workshop find this focus for their own inquiries?
  2. Raymond William's terms “residual,” “dominant,” and “emergent” (from Marxism and Literature) are useful distinctions for Rabinow, whether he is discussing artistic, philosophical, or scientific phenomena. Do these terms need further clarification or modification when describing new cultural products, such as genomics, that weren't in William's perview when he first developed these classifications?
  3. Rabinow challenges us to rethink and uproot traditional anthropological questions, methods, and modes of inquiry to confront the unique challenges of the contemporary. This includes rethinking our roles as "participant-observers," paying attention to temporality of pauses and breaks in time, conducting collaborative research projects that co-produce knowledge, and more. These have obvious, direct application to fieldwork (which Brian will discuss using examples from his fieldwork). What potential do we see for this shift in other disciplines like literary, media, or historical studies?
  4. A goal of our interdisciplinary working group is to find concepts, methods, and ways of inquiry that can be applied in different fields and to various objects of analysis. Rabinow applies his notion of contemporary inquirty to fields and forms as diverse as art, genomic research, and television shows like The Wire. How do the modes of production in these various "contemporary" products provide new methods of inquiry that can be adopted to academic research?