2008 CFP


The 10th Annual Conference of the Marxist Reading Group

Whither Culture?: Toward Histories, Theories, and Productions of the Social

Featuring: Michael Denning, Paula Rabinowitz, Andrew Ross, and Sergio Vega

March 27-29 at the University of Florida

Sponsored by the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere
Co-Sponsored by the University of Florida Department of English and Student Government

“Culture” is just as vexing today as it was in 1976 when Raymond Williams wrote that the term “is one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language.” Challenged by a disciplinary backlash in a literary field that turns from cultural orientations to aesthetics and formalism, in studies of history where the term is often perceived as ahistorical and reductive, in anthropology departments where it is frequently associated with Western biases, and in still other fields where it is perceived to be vague to the point of emptiness, “culture” now faces a future as uncertain as its definition is ambiguous.

The Tenth Annual Conference of the Marxist Reading Group investigates culture from a Marxist perspective and challenges Marxist scholars to clarify and explore such questions as: How might we, or do we want to, revive or refurbish “culture” after the turn away from it? How can we use cultural studies methodologies after the critique? What is the value of preserving “culture” in different disciplines? What are the consequences of mobilizing concepts of culture around discursive subjects? What are the limits of political agency in cultural productions?

This conference seeks papers that investigate “culture” from a Marxist perspective.

Michael Denning is William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of American Studies at Yale University. His 1996 book, The Cultural Front: The Laboring of American Culture in the Twentieth Century, argues for the centrality of the Popular Front in twentieth-century American culture. His most recent book, Culture in the Age of Three Worlds, studies the prominence of the culture concept as a symptom of the Cold War years. In addition to his scholarship and teaching, Denning works as a labor activist.

Paula Rabinowitz is the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Art’s Samuel Russell Chair in the Humanities. Her department affiliations include English, Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature, American Studies, and Feminist Studies departments. Her research and teaching interests consistently combine film, literature, painting and photography. Rabinowitz’s Labor and Desire: Women’s Revolutionary Fiction in Depression America reconsiders the role and production of women during an era famous for its male actors in the radical left. Her current projects include an analysis of pulp fiction and American modernism, modernist women painters, and women’s time-based art since the 1970s.

Andrew Ross chairs the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University. His work on popular culture and technology has established him as one of the leading figures in cultural studies in the U.S. More recently, his work has focused on class and labor in the context of globalization, notably in No Collar: The Humane Workplace and Its Hidden Costs (2002); Low Pay, High Profile: The Global Push for Fair Labor (2004); and Fast Boat to China: Corporate Flight and the Consequences of Free Trade—Lessons from Shanghai (2006).

Sergio Vega received an MFA in sculpture from Yale University in 1996. He has been a professor at the University of Florida since 1999 and currently teaches in the photography and sculpture departments. He has participated in numerous international exhibitions, including the 51st Biennale di Venezia, the 5th Biennal de Lyon, Soonsbeek 9, Arnhem, the 5th Gwangju Biennial, the 1st Yokohama Triennale, and the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale. Vega's artistic project involves a range of media, including text, photographs, videos, sculpture-objects, dioramas, scale models and installations.

Possible topics include but are not limited to the following:

Histories and theories of the culture wars
Culture and globalization
Culture and commodities
Appropriation of radical culture by the mainstream publics
Interdisciplinarity after the backlash against cultural studies
Disciplinarity and boundaries of “culture”
Culture in the context of literature, film, and other media
Culture and new media
Immigration, migration, and culture
National identity and culture
The politics of cultural actors
Studies of popular culture
Studies of subculture
The culture industry in the age of globalization
Rhetoric of culture in electoral politics
The Subversive
Hegemony and culture
Academic cultures