Global Studies and the Humanities

Critical Theory

Global Studies and Critical Theory

Touchstone Passage:

We Euro-American cultural critics tell ourselves, and rightly, that we have committed an ethical and political injustice in excluding so much of the rest of the world from, say, the setting up and interpreting of canons, the choice of categories we apply when we compare cultural forms and social realities, and so on. The principle of democracy cries out for greater inclusiveness and conceptual reform. In any case, we are interested in the most vital and vibrant cultural expressions, and these increasingly emerge outside the old metropolitan centers. We are more or less happy to comply with the globalizing imperative, then, for these reasons and others, even if we are not quite sure what form the compliance should take, whether subtle or not so subtle varieties of exploitation may be built into it, whether non-European writers and thinkers ers will see themselves as benefitting or not, and so on. The uncertainties of literary critics are at least matched by those of historians. If history is to be written beyond the scale of the nation, as historians seem to agree that it must, should the result be called world history? global history? international history? transnational history? The competing names point toward disciplinary visions of planetarity that are perhaps not quite ready to compete, not yet having come into focus. A similar compound of confusion and expectancy can be detected in anthropology, ethnic studies, and other disciplines.  Mixed feelings? Yes. Gut feelings that can be confidently acted on? Perhaps not quite yet. The gravitational pull of the world scale is clear. What that scale ought to mean to us remains a conundrum. (David Palumbo-Liu, Bruce Robbins, Nirvana Tanoukhi, “Introduction: The Most Important Thing Happening” in Immanuel Wallerstein and the Problem of the World, 4).

Questions to Address:

1) Global Studies has tended to focus on how institutions manage and individuals experience the flow of goods, ideas, and artifacts across boundaries of various kinds, while Critical Theory tends to focus on the artifact and its communities of interpretation.  How might the leading insights of Global Studies influence the further development of Critical Theory, especially in the realms of Post-Colonial and Cultural Studies?  Can/should a humanities-inflected version of Global Studies act as a successor to Post-Colonial and Cultural Studies?

2) If we conceive the Enlightenment as a European project, what reformulations of fundamental assumptions about the arts that originated in that era does the translation of the humanities into a global context require?

3) If Global Studies exists in part to offer explanatory frameworks for global inequality (and formulate normative statements to redress that inequality), does it follow that a globally-inflected criticism of the arts will address and engage global inequality in access to artistic expression?  How might such a criticism employ the means of direct intervention in cultural activity afforded by online platforms?


Emily Bauman: Global Aesthetics: a Conundrum?

Pepe Karmel: The Challenge of Global Art History

Jan Nederveen Pieterse: Notes on Global Studies and Critical Theory

Luis Ramos: Reframing the Enlightenment in a Global Context: Raynal’s Histoire des Deux Indes

Robert Squillace: Identity, Audience, and Globalization

Mahnaz Yousefzadeh: The Enlightenment as Western Project