Keynote lecture by Prasenjit Duara

Prasenjit Duara is the Raffles Professor of Humanities and Director, Asia Research Institute at National University of Singapore. He was born and educated in India; received his PhD in Chinese history from Harvard University; and was previously Professor and Chair of the Dept of History and Chair of the Committee on Chinese Studies at the University of Chicago. As part of the 6th Intl. ADI Conference Intra-Asian Connections: Interactions, flows, landscapes he will be delivering a keynote lecture.

Circulatory and Competitive Histories: Temporal Foundations for Cosmopolitan Theory

Stories – narratives of the past – are necessary in all collectivities that seek to constitute and maintain themselves. Before the modern nation-state, these narratives not only embedded differences and contestations, they also bore a relationship to universal or cosmological time. In modern times, both of these characteristics have come under challenge. Our public life has become disenchanted abandoning the cosmological frame. And competitive states have sought to mobilize all resources and bio-power in their territory by adopting singular, linear histories of the state, nation and civilization. But, ironically, just as these singular stories were becoming dominant, the world was globalizing more actively than ever. The stories themselves have come to be shaped by global forces.

While the historical enterprise of collective formation – in which distinctive stories are developed within the framework of single states – remains important for the building of local, national or regional communities, these enterprises can no longer deny the cosmopolitan circulations that condition them. This is especially so now that planetary sustainability is at stake. And indeed, the most significant Eurasian historical developments have tended to be circulatory and shared. The early modern era is a particularly fruitful period to consider, because the distinction between the local and the universal was less pronounced; state territoriality and culture were not conflated. Can we recapture those kinds of stories? How might the theory of sovereignty look if our histories were not linear, exclusive accounts of nations and civilizations, but rather dispersed, cross-referenced, mutually shaping and shared histories?

Time: 10:45-11:45. 22 October 2014
Venue: University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Humanities. Auditorium 22.0.11. Njalsgade 134, 2300 CPH S.

Please visit the conference webpage for more information.