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Critical/Liberal/Arts Symposia at UC-Irvine and The Graduate Center, CUNY

Critical/Liberal/Arts Symposia at UC-Irvine and The Graduate Center, CUNY

Figure 1. Berndnaut Smilde, from Nimbus series (2012)

The BABEL Working Group (a collective of scholars working in a variety of disciplines who have been working since 2004 to develop new co-disciplinary, nomadic, and convivial confraternities between the humanities, sciences, social sciences, and the fine arts in order to formulate and practice new critical humanisms and to also "build temporary shelters for intellectual vagabonds" -- the new open-access press punctum books: spontaneous acts of scholarly combustion is one of our projects) have dedicated their 2013 symposia series, "Critical/Liberal/Arts," to a subject that we feel will be of great interest to HASTAC members, as it is directed toward convergences (and also fissures) between modes of critique, creation, technology (esp. the digital humanities), and activism both within and outside the academy proper. There will be 2 events, one at UC-Irvine on April 19 and the other at The Graduate Center, CUNY on September 27, and both will feature speakers from a variety of fields within the literary and historical humanities, including digital humanists (such as David Shepard of HyperCities and Michael Witmore from the Folger Library), as well as media artists, in order to address the following set of prompts:

"We hazard that many of the categories used to distinguish modes of knowledge production are in practice overlapping or entwined: distance and involvement; criticism and aestheticism; sensation and reflection; detachment and attachment; interrogation and incorporation; interpretive qualification and quantified data; analysis and speculation; control and loss of control before the objects of our study. A survey of the humanities and social sciences at present turns up projects that transcend traditional rubrics and do not remain in their respective fields at all — but rather, cross out of academia and continue on to other planes of social practice. These projects represent serious commitments to tinkering, mapping, constructing, organizing, blogging, protesting, ornamenting, fantasizing, digitizing, occupying, and more. We invite accounts of practices from inside and outside of the university that might be counted among the new arts of critique, or new modes of critical creation.

What might happen if we work to avoid post-critical hype and anti-critique retrenchment? Polarizing these issues has helped generate powerful critiques-of-critique as well as strong defenses of traditional critical frameworks (such as Marxism, feminism, queer studies, race studies, postcolonial studies, post-structuralism, and the like). But we are interested in exploring theories and practices beyond the polemic. To wit: What are the new scenes or spaces of critical invention? What different faces might critique have? What does it feel like? What does it do? How does historical consciousness play a role in generating new forms, tools, or ideas? What does it mean to be “uncritical”? Is there an erotic hermeneutics, pace Sontag, or an eros of critique? How do we engage criticism and art and techne against the actuarial interests of the corporate university? Can we “afford” to nurture speculative creation, or pure science, in an age of austerity? Do delight, rapture, or the drift of daydreams have a role in criticism? Is there value in maintaining what separates the injunctions to critique and to create? How might our practices cross-pollinate the sciences and the fine arts? Or politics and aesthetics? Or the future and the past?"

Both symposia events are open to the public, although seating is limited (about 100 seats available in each venue), and you can pre-register, if interested, as well as see more about the speaker line-ups for each event, here:

Critical/Liberal/Arts: A BABEL Symposia Series: 2013

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