Event Date: 5 February 2014
Management Building Lecture Theatre
University of London
Imperialism, Globalization, and Interdisciplinarity
Studies of imperialism are now contested by larger inter-imperialities, dialectical co-formations with horizontal contexts between empires and vertical struggles of class, caste, race, ethnicity, and gender within each of them. From the Islamic Abbasid and Ottoman, to the Persian, Byzantine, and Indian, to the Russian, Swedish, Polish, British, Spanish and Portuguese, to the Han, the Tang, and the Sung, all empires developed within processes of modernization, capitalization, and domination, trading goods, people, institutions, cultures, and sign systems, with credit, interlocking trade systems, and print money.
Not dissimilarly, academic disciplines today might best be viewed as inter-disciplines, co-dependent fields of interaction and friction. They maintain their disciplinary distinctions to serve purposes, whether these are scientific, pedagogical, socio-cultural, geopolitical, or material. And they are subject to constant definition and negotiation in consequence of new intellectual discoveries, paradigm shifts, political change and economic flux.
How can these two fields of mutability be examined today? What connections can we trace between them? What light do historical changes in empire and disciplinarity shed on our current concerns?
Professor Regenia Gagnier (Exeter) – Inter-imperialities and the Global Circulation of Actants and Ideas
Professor Gagnier’s lecture, Inter-imperialities and the Global Circulation of Actants and Ideas, will argue that the literature of Victorian Britain offers a valuable case study through which to examine questions of globalization, transculturation, and liberalization. The clashes and formal aporias of modern literatures often move between the poles of
progress/optimism/hope and nostalgia/resentment/melancholy, providing us unique insights into very broad transformations of the modern era.
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Professor Simon Schaffer (Cambridge) – Inter-disciplines and their Colonial Histories
Professor Schaffer’s lecture, Inter-disciplines and their Colonial Histories, connects current administrative enthusiasms for interdisciplinarity with aspects of disciplines’ history. This history suggests that disciplines have often emerged from interdisciplinary enterprise, and that such enterprise was frequently linked with colonial projects of knowledge and power. Such genealogies raise interesting questions about the current fate of interdisciplinarity.
The lectures are followed by discussion chaired by Professor Felix Driver (Royal Holloway, University of London).