Varieties of Transculture

DAI - Großer Saal

  • Prof. Gayatri Spivak (New York)
  • Vortrag

Eine gemeinsame Vortragsreihe von: Exzellenzcluster ?Asia and Europe? der Universität Heidelberg & Deutsch-Amerikanisches Institut Heidelberg

About the talk
Prof. Gayatri Spivak will speak as a Europeanist of Indian descent who for 43 years has taught full-time at US universities. She is renowned for her sustained efforts to establish an interdisciplinary approach between the humanities and the social sciences since 1986. This will be her general focus.

In the US, part of the task at a number of elite universities that have become National Resource Centers consists in using the interdisciplinary resources of Area Studies programs that were set up after the National Defence Education Act of 1958. After 1989, it seemed feasible that the US-centric policies of these programs could be swung round. After 9/11 and the ensuing general culture of fear, the very word „culture“ has sometimes become synonymous with political avoidance in various forms. The tradition of German Orientalism can be both a help and a hindrance in the face of xenophobia in the general culture.

Prof. Gayatri Spivak is intrigued by the phrase „structural sustainability.“ The suggestion she forwards for intellectual knowledge management at universities is to work toward the study of unconditional ethics through deep language-learning. But these ethics are precisely what often gets „de-sustained“ in the pursuit of a globalised curriculum. Prof. Spivak has suggested elsewhere that „sustainability“ may come to distract us from the responsibilities of a double bind.

Being a comparativist of European literatures, her relationship to her Asian context is one of activism and she will also be raising some questions from that perspective.

In conclusion, she will consider so-called „Asia-centric“ golden ageisms (Gunder Frank, Pieterse); philosophical attempts at inter-cultural communication through historicizing the transcendental (Prieto, Scarantino); and, finally, the irreducible spatio-temporal priority of reproductive hetero-normativity in the constitution of culture.

About the person

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is University Professor and Director of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University. She was educated at the University of Calcutta, and came to Cornell University in 1961 to finish doctoral work. Her books are Myself Must I Remake (1974), In Other Worlds (1987), The Post-Colonial Critic (1988), Outside in the Teaching Machine (1993), A Critique of Postcolonial Reason (1999), Death of a Discipline (2003), and the recently released Other Asias (2008). She has translated Jacques Derrida’s Of Grammatology (1976) and Mahasweta Devi’s Imaginary Maps (1994), Breast Stories (1997), Old Women (1999), and Chotti Munda and his Arrow (2002). She has received honorary doctorates from the University of Toronto, University of London, and Oberlin College. She is active in the international women’s movement, the struggle for ecological justice, and rural primary education. Her work has been translated into many languages. Her focus has remained education in the humanities as the best lasting weapon to combat varieties of evolving imperialisms.

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