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Mike Cole



Afromodernisms 2

What’s really new? Blackness and Atlantic Modernism, 1907–61

Symposium: University of Liverpool, UK

Confirmed Keynote: Professor Tyler Stovall, University of California, Berkeley

30 June–2 July 2011

Afromodernisms 2 focuses on the relationship between the Afro-Atlantic and the modernist canon.  Specifically, the symposium seeks to address the ways in which current configurations of modernism—the art and literature of the new—may be inflected, expanded, or even called into question by either localized or transnational Africanist interventions into the politics and culture of the first half of the twentieth century.

Call for Papers:

* What constitutes a ‘modernist’ response to the experience of the modern? What categories underpin the aesthetic category ‘modernism’? 

* How might emphasis on black diapora subject positions, representations, and artistic and political interventions, inflect current canonical configurations of modernism?

* To what extent might black feminist positions revise or even reject the totalizing tendencies of the male voice in canonical works of black modernism, for example, Négritude?

The aims of the conference are the following:

* To debate the tenets of modernism (its newness, breaks with tradition, interest in the exotic and the primitive, its sense of fragmentation and displacement, and the way it conceives of the individual subject) in two contexts: first in terms of the work produced by African diaspora artists and writers; second, in relation to the symbolic presence of representations of blackness in the work of Anglo-American, Caribbean and European modernists.

* To consider the degree to which a variety of actors operating from what might be termed ‘alternative’ or ‘displaced’ metropoles interacted to produce, in Jameson’s terms, an ‘active sense’ of the history of modernity, one in which a black presence was of key aesthetic, political and cultural importance.

* To expand Perry Anderson’s claim, directed primarily at European modernist movements, that one of the indispensible co-ordinates for locating modernism is its ‘proximity to social revolution,’ to include a range of Afro-Atlantic revolutionary positions. We therefore welcome papers that consider the range of anti-colonial and/or feminist responses to the experience of modernity operating across the Atlantic in the inter- and post-war years.

*To reconsider the emergence of literary and artistic avant-gardes in the context of black anti-colonial, feminist, and (pan)nationalist movements, the two world wars, and, in the interwar period, against the backdrop of fascism and communism.

Individual papers and proposals for panels, in English, are invited, addressing, but not limited to the following circumatlantic themes:

* Gender
* Black performance/performance of blackness
* blackness and/in visual art
* modernism and primitivism
* modernist landscapes and/or the city
* science, technology and the machine
* narrative, subjectivity, psychoanalysis
* the politics of history
* blackness and genre
* island modernisms (e.g. Antillean, Irish, Cape Verdian)
* tradition and experimentation
* modernism, politics and the metropole (Paris, London, Mexico, Dublin, Marseille, Berlin, Hamburg, Moscow, DC, New York)
* modernist soundscapes
* black writers/artists in/and Europe
* modernism and ideology
* modernism and the canon, including the Harlem Renaissance, Négritude, and Paris Noir
* formal innovation/ the language of modernism
* informal networks
* the work of ‘high’ and not-so-high modernists, for example, Eliot, Faulkner, McKay, Beckett, Pound, Stevens, Williams, Hughes, Joyce, Hurston
* responses to revolution: Easter 1916, November 1918, Spain 1936

For individual papers, please send a working title, abstract of 250–350 words, and a biographical note to: Fionnghuala Sweeney:  or Kate Marsh:

Proposal for panels should contain a panel title, working titles for individual papers, with individual abstracts of 250 words each, and brief biographical notes on the chair and/or speakers to: Fionnghuala Sweeney: or Kate Marsh:

Proposals on teaching and curating are also welcomed, as are offers to act as chair or respondent.

Closing date for call: 11 April, 2011.

Kate Marsh
Fionnghuala Sweeney


Dr Kate Marsh
Senior Lecturer in French
School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies
University of Liverpool
L69 7ZR

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”This may be the most important and most surprising book on Zionism, Israel and Judaism written in the last fifty years. Nothing in the Middle East looks the same after reading it. To whet your desire to attend the talk, I’ve appended a brief sketch of some of the major themes in the book at the end of this announcement. I’ve also booked a large hall for Sand’s talk (SEE BELOW), so please pass this announcement on to friends, students and colleagues who are (or should be) interested in these subjects”–Bertell Ollman


DATE /  TIME  – THURSDAY,  OCTOBER 15  –  7:30 – 10:00 PM
(In Discussion with Professor Joel Kovel, Bard College, author of OVERCOMING ZIONISM)



DATE / TIME – FRIDAY, OCTOBER  16   –   4:15 – 6:15 PM
(Please note new date and later starting time)
PLACE  – MEYER HALL,  N.Y.U., 4 WASHINGTON PLACE (between West 4th Street and Waverly Place, just west of Broadway), Room 121. (Please note new place)

Sand is a much published professor in the Dept. of History at Tel Aviv University specializing in the history of ideas. His most recent book is THE INVENTION OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE.  It is an extremely scholarly, very original, and often shocking work – the title is meant literally – with profound implications for Zionism and the ongoing conflict between Israel and its neighbors. I can’t recall when last I – Bertell – learned so much about both nationalism and Zionism from any book. It was a best seller and caused a huge scandal when it appeared a couple of years ago in Israel and another scandal when the French edition appeared last year. Sand will be in the U.S. for a week promoting the English edition of the book. For more, see reviews and interviews in English at:      



*********MEDIA – Professor Sand has a few time slots available for interviews with the media during his stay in New York (Oct. 15 – 18). Those of you in the media (or who have contacts in the media) who are interested in interviewing him, should write to Julie McCarroll, his editor at Verso Books at



THE INVENTION OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE  is divided into two parts. The first is a long section on the theory of nationalism, whose main characteristic, according to Sand, is the tendency to invent a past that suits the current needs and goals of the people in question. This is not a new idea (Benedict Anderson and Ernest Gellner have presented versions of it), but this is the best account of it that I have read. Second, there follows a much longer section on Zionism, Judaism and Israel, in light of the earlier discussion of nationalism. Most of this long book is devoted to showing with a great deal of evidence and arguments from several different disciplines that most of Jewish history has been invented.

The turning point is the supposed expulsion of the Jews from Palestine by the Romans after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D. (apparently, there is no evidence for this; the Roman’s never engaged in such mass expulsions; and most of the Jews in Palestine at the time were peasants living in the countryside, who would not be directly affected by the destruction of Jerusalem).

This raises two key questions: 1) Where did the large Jewish populations that turn up later throughout the rest of the Middle East and Europe come from, if they were not descended from people who were expelled from Palestine by the Romans? Sand’s answer is that most of them came from mass conversions of peoples to Judaism that occurred in at least three different places and times between the destruction of the Second Temple and the early modern period. (He also shows that some mass conversions of people to Judaism took place in Palestine even before the destruction of the Second Temple. So the practice of converting people, even large groups of people, to Judaism is not as unknown to the history of Judaism as is commonly believed.)

Probably the biggest mass conversion took place in Khazaria, a Turkamen empire between the Caspian and the Black Sea between the 8th and 11th century A.D., which was destroyed in the 11th century by attacks from Russians, with most of its Jewish population migrating west into eastern Europe. Together with a somewhat later, smaller, more prosperous and more cultured Jewish migration from Western Europe through Germany, they became the future Jews of Poland, Russia, Hungary, etc.

A second mass conversion in the period after the destruction of the Second Temple took place among several Berber tribes in North Africa in the 6th century A.D., though many conversions to Judaism occurred in and around what had been Carthage and other coastal towns in North Africa before that. When the Arabs brought Islam to these lands a century later, they showed their typical respect for the “people of the book” by not forcing them to adopt their religion. Then, when North African Muslims (not Arabs from Arabia) invaded Spain in 711 A.D., Jewish Berbers made up a good part of their army, and included at least one general. Many of them settled in Spain, and became the core of what we call the Spanish Jews. The third big conversion(s) occurred in Yemen, on the southern tip of the Arabian 
peninsula, which had a large number of Jews from very early on, including at least one Jewish king in the 6th century A.D., who tried to convert  his subjects to Judaism.

Granted that some Jews already lived throughout the Middle East and Southern Europe before the destruction of the Second Temple – but if we add up all the mass conversions to Judaism that occurred after this event, it appears that the bulk of world Jewry from the early middle ages on were descended from people who never set foot in Palestine. Which raises, of course, the next key question – what happened to the Jews who were still in Palestine after the destruction of the Second Temple? Where did they go? Sand’s answer is that they didn’t go anywhere. They are today’s Palestinians, most of whom converted to Islam in the early years of Islam’s expansion into the rest of the Middle-East. These are not unsupported conjectures, for the great strength of Sand’s book lies in the enormous wealth of evidence and careful, scholarly argumentation he offers for each of his claims.

Where does all this leave the central idea that underlies the whole Zionist project: that Jews everywhere have not only a duty but a right to return to “their original homeland”, Palestine? I can’t think of a more fundamental critique of Zionism and therefore of Israel too than the one found in Sand’s book. No serious reader who is interested in Zionism or Israel – whatever their personal views  – can avoid being shaken up “big-time” by Sand’s impressive redrawing of the major religious and “racial” boundaries that are usually taken for granted in most discussion of these subjects.

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15th & 16th October 2009, Birkbeck College, University of London

This conference addresses the remarkable projects of groups in Gaza, Israel and the West Bank involved in joint resistance to ongoing military conflict and occupation. Working for mental health and human rights on the front lines of military aggression, internal group violence, systemic interference with basic human rights, brutalization on many fronts and deep pessimism on all sides, speakers will address any and all resources for combined resistance and shared hope, whether close to home or coming from abroad.

Themes include:
*Survival and Non-Violent Resistance in Gaza and the West Bank
*Psychoactive Political Resistance in Israel.
*Possibilities and Limitations of Therapeutic Approaches to Conflict Resolution.
*The Politics of Apology and other forms of Acknowledgement
*Denial in the Face of Atrocity
*Mental Attrition of Activists
*Diasporic and all other forms of Support for Peace from Afar.

Speakers Include: Mohamed Altawil; Nissim Avissar; Jessica Benjamin; Tova Buksbaum; Bea Campbell; Stan Cohen; Stephen Frosh; Uri Hadar; Seamas Heaney; Samah Jabr; Adah Kay; Ghada Karmi; Yehudit Keshit; Moshe Landsman; Tony Lerman; Sheila Melzak; Rateb Abu Rahmeh; Jacqueline Rose; Jihan Salem; Andrew Samuels; Eyad el Sarraj; Lynne Segal; Hassan Ziyada; Felicity de Zulueta.

Cost: Standard – £70 Birkbeck staff/All students/Unwaged/Hard-up/One day – £35

Registration & information: tba

Sponsored by: Barry Amiel & Norman Melburn Trust; FFIPP-UK; IJV.

Burning Memories: Sacrifice & the Unconscious in History

Wednesday 14th October 7.30pm Friends House, 173-177 Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ

Speakers: Uri Hadar, Stephen Frosh, Eyad El Saraj Chair: Lynne Segal

Memory of historical events is necessarily collective, but acquires personal characteristics that are of the same nature as individual memory in general. This idea is illustrated through memories of holocaust survivors as they construct themselves in a particular biography of an Israeli child. Holocaust memories are then connected to the ethos of military strength in Israeli society, which ethos undertakes to transform the historical marking of the Jews as victims, sacrificed by the nations on the altar of ethnic power. This is where the Palestinians enter the unconscious Israeli narrative, allowing the movement of the Jew away from the position of the sacrificed. The theme of sacrifice conversion marks itself in historical events such as the Naqba and the recent attack on Gaza. The talk examines the manner in which these themes feed into personal memory systems and reconstructs the workings of memory through the entire historical cycle.

£10 waged £5 unwaged

Please pay at the door.

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Call for Papers and Panels

A conference at the University of York, UK, 3-5 July 2010, in partnership with the University of Leeds and Manchester Metropolitan University

 Postcolonial Studies is firmly ensconced in the Anglophone metropolitan academy: the field has its own specialised journals, academic posts, postgraduate courses, and dedicated divisions within learned bodies. But how well have these configurations travelled to other locations, institutions and disciplines? What topics, questions and approaches remain unexplored? And what’s ‘theoretical’ about postcolonial theory anyway?

This conference will examine these and related questions through a set of interdisciplinary interventions aimed at assessing not only what postcolonial theory (still) doesn’t say, but also what we would like it to say: in other words, how we might best put the field’s cultural and institutional capital to use. Our intent, therefore, is not to repeat well-rehearsed debates about the field’s various failings, but rather to advance the discussion by identifying common goals and areas of enquiry. In order to promote a sense of coherence among the papers and interventions at the conference, applicants are encouraged to submit panel proposals, though paper proposals are also welcome. Possible subjects include, but are not limited to:

1. Institutional chronologies: the Reagan/Thatcher years and the rise of postcolonial studies.
2. Postcolonial theory as travelling theory: adoptions, adaptations, and critiques beyond the Anglophone metropole.
3. Neglected regions: East Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
4. Postcolonial theory and religion.
5. Postcolonial prospects: assets, liabilities and futures.
6. What’s left in/of postcolonial theory: activism, Marxism and globalisation.
7. What’s wrong with belonging? Rethinking diaspora, transnationalism and cosmopolitanism.
8. Postcolonial theory and the wars of the twenty-first century (Iraq, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe).
9. Postcolonial theory and the aesthetic: form, narrative, ‘Third World aesthetics’, the novel versus newer forms of cultural text (film, comics, graphic novels etc.)
10. Postcolonial contraband: secrets, silence and censorship.

Please send 20-minute paper proposals or panel proposals consisting of three papers, together with a brief bio, to by October 1, 2009.

Questions and queries can be sent to the organizing committee:
Ziad Elmarsafy (; Department of English, University of York
Anna Bernard ( ), Department of English, University of York
David Attwell ( ), Department of English, University of York
Stuart Murray ( , Department of English, University of Leeds
Eleanor Byrne ( , Department of English, Manchester Metropolitan University.

Ziad Elmarsafy
Department of English and Related Literature
University of York
Heslington, YO10 5DD

Tel: 01904 433342
Fax: 01904 433372

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Cultural Translation

11th December 2009, Cardiff University

Call for Papers


Etymologically, the word translation is linked, among other things, to “tradition” on the one hand and to “betrayal” on the other. … And yet the word tradition itself, linked in its roots to translation and betrayal, has to do with handing over. Tradition itself is nothing if it is not a transmission. How is tradition to be transmitted, to be passed on, if not through translation? (Rey Chow)


The process of “cultural translation” is inevitably enmeshed in conditions of power – professional, national, international. … Given that that is so, the interesting question for enquiry is … how power enters into the process of “cultural translation” (Talal Asad)



For this free interdisciplinary conference, we invite proposals on problematics of:

  • Intercultural encounters
  • Translation between cultures
  • Postcolonialism and the politics of translation
  • Diaspora, migration, mobility and cultural practices
  • Ethnicity, language, representation and cultural identity
  • Theories and practices of cultural translation
  • Tradition, transmission, translation and problems of origins
  • Re-examining the assumptions of translation
  • Questions of technology, mediation and the voice
  • Ethical and political problems in academic methodologies


Proposals: 400-word proposals for 20-minute papers.

Deadline: 1st September 2009



NB: This conference is free. Places are strictly limited. Papers will be selected by committee.


Organisation: The conference is organised by:

  • The Cardiff Humanities Research Institute Project, ‘Representing Migration and Mobility in European Cultures’ (Cardiff School of European Studies);
  • The Race, Representation and Cultural Identity Research Group (Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies).



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Neoliberalism and Global Cinema

Call for essays: Neoliberalism and Global Cinema

In the wake of the credit crisis, and subsequent Wall Street bailout in 2008, many consider neoliberalism an outmoded project, with even neoconservatives acknowledging the need for the nation state to play an increasingly interventionist role. However, why then, is it reasonable to say that theorizations of neoliberalism as a “historically produced dialogue and encounter between cultures” (Rofel, 2007) is yet to be an exhausted theme? We aim to move beyond the tendency to totalize neoliberalism as a monolithic template, because it has shown such a “pure” form of capitalism, it becomes especially valuable in understanding the culture and subjectivities capital produces. Particularly when neoliberalism is becoming less popular as an explanatory term for conservatives it is still important to use it as a lens to understand capitalism and its human consequences. Thus we wish to interpret how different subjects and subjectivities were formed and how neoliberalism re-imagined itself through different social and cultural compositions across the globe. Looking back over the last 30 years it seems clear that cinematic representations of a global variety can help to measure such compositions, and that cinema is a crucial medium in conceptualizing neoliberalism’s dubious legacy. Therefore many of the repercussions and immiserations that neoliberalism has caused is still ripe for analysis.

We seek essays for this anthology that address how not only national but diasporic cinemas that contest or comply with such mediated perspectives of culture through neoliberalism—what we might call anti-neoliberal or pro-neoliberal cinemas. Authors should consider how cinema can help to not only understand particular political economic challenges under neoliberalism, but how understanding these challenges can in turn articulate neoliberalism’s contradictory effects on culture. This approach, along with changes in national film industries and global markets, and other related ideas are welcomed How concepts of the nation state, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity were transformed are welcome.

We are interested in gathering work from the following geographical areas: India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Sudan, Senegal, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, Algeria, Israel, Palestine, Turkey, Egypt, Hong Kong, China, Spain, Italy, Chile, Sweden, Denmark, and the US and UK and comparative perspectives.

Dates and Submissions Policy:
All submissions should not exceed 8,000 words and will be independently peer reviewed. All essays should be sent for consideration to ( ). This anthology has early interest from a publisher and therefore the deadline for submissions is 25th August 2009.


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Power to the People?

…masses, proletariat, workers, soviets, nation, community, subalterns, multitude, commons…

Saturday 9th May 2009
Radical Philosophy Conference, Birkbeck College, Malet Street, London


£25/£10 unwaged

Registration and further details:

Cheques payable to `Radical Philosophy Ltd’ should be sent to: 
Radical Philosophy Conference, Peter Osborne, CRMEP, Middlesex University, Trent Park Campus, Bramley Road, London N14 4YZ



Plenary (chair: Peter Osborne, RP)
Gayatri Spivak (Columbia University, NY): ‘They, the People’


1. The General Will (chair: Peter Hallward, RP)

David Andress (Portsmouth): ‘The General Will on the Street: Parisian Activism, Sovereignty and Power, 1789–93’


Sophie Wahnich

(CNRS, Paris): ‘How Do the People Make Themselves Heard?’


2. Urban Collectivities (chair: David Cunningham, RP)

AbdouMaliq Simone (Goldsmiths): ‘Urban Intersections and the Politics of Anticipation’

Erik Swyngedouw (Manchester): ‘Reflections on the Post-Political City’


3. Population & Biopolitics (chair: Claudia Aradau, RP)

Couze Venn (Nottingham Trent): ‘Biopolitics, Diasporas and (Neo)Liberal Political Economy’

Encarnacion Gutierrez Rodriguez (Manchester): ‘Feminist Strategies Revisited – Sexopolitics, Multitude and Biopolitics’


4. Class, Commons & Multitude (chair: Esther Leslie, RP)


Massimo De Angelis

(UEL): ‘Crisis, Tragedies and the Commons’

Daniel Bensaid (University of Paris-VIII), ‘Can We (Still) Break the Vicious Circle of Domination?’



‘Power to the people!’ was once a revolutionary slogan, but reference to government by the people and for the people soon became an empty cliché of the post-revolutionary status quo. The people has become a notoriously ambiguous and contested term, for which numerous alternatives have been proposed: the proletariat, the workers, the masses, the soviets, the nation, the community, the multitude, the commons… And now? How might we assess the different  conceptions of political change embodied in these often conflicting ideas? What is the political and philosophical significance of `the people’ today?


£25/£10 unwaged

Registration and further details:

Cheques payable to `Radical Philosophy Ltd’ should be sent to: Radical Philosophy Conference, Peter Osborne, CRMEP, Middlesex University, Trent Park Campus, Bramley Road, London N14 4YZ

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