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Reclaiming the Global Sphere


“Even though a poetic act may not appear to make much happen, it remains a potent model of a creative form that attends to the ethical call of otherness” (Miki 204)

At a time when commodification threatens to become the dominant mode of relation, what kinds of creative forms can model viable alternatives to the logic of the marketplace? Like Roy Miki, Charles Bernstein offers poetics as “the foundation for a realm of value that is neither scientistic nor moralistic,” arguing that “poetics is the ethical engagement with the shifting conditions of everyday life” (78). What might such forms of ethical engagement mean in our times? What forms might they take? Can literature make a difference in the world? If so, how? What kind of difference can it make? If it seems to make no difference within economic, social, or political spheres, then where does its value lie? Globalization involves a struggle over knowledge of global affairs, in which market place logics play a dominant role. Neither ‘narratives of difference’ nor postcolonial knowledge formations are exempt from the push and pull of global market forces. Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s critique of the long Western tradition of “trading the Other” and Graham Huggan’s analysis of “the postcolonial exotic” have identified some of the limitations of narratives of difference as currently employed. In search of alternatives, Gayatri Spivak directs attention to “planetarity”, a mode of thinking best approached through the precapitalist cultures of the planet; Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing advocates rethinking attitudes to “friction”; Francoise Lionnet and Shu-mei Shih find potential in the “creolization of theory;” Kuan-Hsing Chen proposes “Asia as Method.” This paper will survey the potential of such emergent approaches to reclaiming the global sphere as a site of ethical responsibility from a market place logic through which commodification is becoming the dominant form of relation.

Works Cited

Bernstein, Charles. “The Practice of Poetics.” In Attack of the Difficult Poems. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011. 73-80.

Chen, Kuan-Hsing. Asia as Method: Towards Deimperialization. Durham: Duke University Press, 2010.

Huggan, Graham. The Postcolonial Exotic. London: Routledge, 2001

Lionnet, Francoise and Shu-mei Shih. The Creolization of Theory. Durham: Duke University Prees, 2011.

Miki, Roy. “Are You Restless Too? Not to Worry, So is Rita Wong: Towards a Poetics of the Apprehensive.” In Flux: Transnational Shifts in Asian Canadian Writing. Edmonton: NeWest, 2011. 176-205.

Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. Decolonizing Methodologies. London: Zed, 1999.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. Death of a Discipline. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.

Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005.

Abstract for a keynote to be delivered at:

‘Narratives of Difference’ in the Global Marketplace 25-26 October 2012 School of the Arts, Avenue Campus, University of Northampton

The University of Northampton, UK and The University of Vigo, Spain

This conference reflects research interests shared between the University of Vigo, host to the international project, ‘Globalized Cultural Markets: The Production, Circulation and Reception of Culture in the Global Market Place’, and the Centre of Contemporary Narrative and Cultural Theory in the School of Arts at the University of Northampton. Its topic relates to these global, cultural and pedagogic contexts. The focus is on how ‘difference’ and ‘diversity’ are commodified in the production and reception of culture through narrative strategies and/or modes of narrativization.

In today’s age of unprecedented circulation of ideas, values and cultural practices across nation states and the technological flow of goods and financial capital across borders, we need urgently to consider new perspectives and possibilities for society. How are differences between peoples, cultures, minorities articulated and (re)produced for the circulation of cultural products in the global market place and what are the chief modes of resistance? With increasing mobilization of culture what are the checks and balances between justice and inequality?

We encourage work which addresses difference as a narrative construction and identifies ‘narratives of difference’ (e.g. racial, ethnic, gender, linguistic, sexual) that may also be strategies of resistance or dissent. In particular we ask how such narratives are constructed round cultural products and peoples that are circulated, exchanged and exploited in the global market place.

How are ‘narratives of difference’ articulated in the marketing of transnational products both from and within Europe, and other multicultural societies? How do they represent daily life practices of cultural products for global production and reception? Are existing constructions of difference reoriented and reconfigured by narrativisations for the global market place? In what ways do already existing narratives such as oral stories, fictions, urban myths, indigenous legends contribute to the articulation of difference and diversity in the selling of cultural products?

From the CFP now closed – Particular approaches might address the following:

  • What global narratives constructed by cultural agents create new representations of products, people and everyday practices?
  • How do media technologies rewrite and reformat existing narratives in mobilizing culture, and in whose interests?
  • How do urban narratives of cityscapes/ethnoscapes contribute to the production and reception of cultural difference in the globalised marketplace?
  • What new narratives articulate the movements of diasporic, migrant, transnational production?
  • How do new stories/ narratives contribute to and/or critique the transmission of cultural traditions in cyberspace?
  • How are policies and practices of cultural exception (language, economic investment, national culture) articulated and what products are protected?
  • How does narrative contribute to making ‘difference’ an asset in the cultural markets?
  • What marketing strategies of ‘difference’ are used for academic pedagogies of postcolonial, queer, citizenship and globalization studies?
  • How can postcolonial criticism respond to matters of literary economy?
  • How do visual technologies and new media define new narratives of difference for global audiences?
  • What paradigms of linguistic difference and resistance develop from narrativisation in translation studies?
  • What narrative strategies of dissent and/or resistance challenge the exploitation of difference in the cultural markets?
  • What impact do audience expectation and location have on creative acts in different modes (visual, performance, oral) and how can these be assessed?

Contact and

Image – Spheres representing all of Earth’s water, Earth’s liquid fresh water, and water in lakes and rivers

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