Seminar

Each year, The Committee on Globalization and Social Change selects a theme that provides an entrée to weekly seminar discussions and the invited speaker series. Listed below are current and past seminar themes and a brief description including the types of questions the Committee seeks to address.

2014–2015 Seminar: Humanity

2014–2015 Seminar: Humanity

The annual theme for the Committee on Globalization and Social Change (CGSC) at the Graduate Center CUNY for the academic year 2014-2015 will be “humanity.”

As in our previous years focused on “solidarity” and “temporality,” we will organize our seminar and public programming around this key concept that has variously enabled, shaped, and foreclosed a variety of social, political, ethical, cultural, and aesthetic traditions, processes, practices, and formations on various scales (with emancipatory and heteronomous valences).

The CGSC is a transdisciplinary group whose collective work is not driven by any specific theory or ideology. We begin with the observation that existing categories and analytic frameworks are inadequate to grasp the dynamics of our historical present. We are thus interested not only in questioning conventional assumptions in light of contemporary developments but also in the possibility of reclaiming, reworking, and refunctioning seemingly outmoded concepts in and for these times. Given our interest in reflecting on the relationship between inherited concepts, critical theory, the contemporary situation, and political futures, we believe it will be fruitful to think together about the question of “humanity” today, beyond the familiar debates between abstract universal humanism and concrete cultural particularism.

Scholars have long examined how a certain conception of both the human and humanity as a whole authorized modern scientific rationality, natural law, Enlightenment universality, liberal democracy and secularism as well as corresponding forms of imperial expansion, Atlantic slavery, and colonial racism. Many of these assumptions continue to inform contemporary practices of humanitarianism, human rights advocacy, and international law. Throughout the modern period critical conceptions of humanity have also subtended emancipatory currents of socialism, mutualism, anarchism, feminism, internationalism, and cosmopolitanism. This legacy may be recognized in differently coordinated international solidarity movements for insurgencies across the Global South, Occupy movements against capitalist globalization and neoliberal privatization and in defense of community commons, for a global public sphere or in the name of global democracy and justice. Far reaching questions about the human and humanity continue to fuel other arenas of debate across the disciplines concerning, for example: alternative modernities, non-Eurocentric epistemologies, world literature and translation, global universities, contemporary art, biopower and biopolitics, big science, genomics, and the so-called neuroscience revolution, trauma theory, environmental crisis and the anthropocene, and conventional divisions between humans and non-human animals.

2012–2013 Seminar: Temporality

2012–2013 Seminar: Temporality

We are interested in exploring the relationship between the processes referred to by “globalization” and the production, experience, and representation of time. How is time understood and shaped in globalization, and how do the processes of globalization shape time?  What is the time of globalization? How has globalization affected the social organization or subjective experience of time,across the social spectrum and across the world? What temporal dimensions of globalization demand critical attention? How may time and temporality serve as useful optics for the study of globalization? What dimensions of globalization are illuminated when we focus on the analytics and politics of time rather than, or in addition to, space? Are conventional temporal categories or modes of reckoning with time  (or change over time) adequate for grasping contemporary social transformations associated with globalization (or the temporal dimensions of globalization)? Do we need new temporal categories, schemas, and frameworks to grasp the relationship between time and society in our contemporary moment? In what ways have specific temporal figures or modalities been employed by scholars, critics, artists, and activists to understand present developments and possible futures (e.g., apocalypse, utopia, futurity, anticipation, hope, rupture, revolution, catastrophe, historicity, afterlives, legacies, spectrality, haunting, untimeliness)? We are not only interested in how globalization may influence our understandingof the past, present, and future, but how it might change the very categories ‘past,’ ‘present,’ and ‘future’  as well as the relations among them.

2011–2012 Seminar: Solidarities

2011–2012 Seminar: Solidarities

Solidarities: Politics and Ethics in a Global Age


The theme for the Committee on Globalization and Social Change (CGSC) at the CUNY Graduate Center for 2011-2012 is “Solidarities: Politics and Ethics in a Global Age.” The CGSC is an interdisciplinary working group of CUNY faculty committed to exploring the relationships among recent socioeconomic transformations associated with “globalization,” the political possibilities opened or obstructed by those transformations, and the intellectual frameworks through which to grasp these developments and relations. We are especially interested in examining the social and political implications of globalization, the possible worlds that are emerging or may be fashioned in the wake of this accelerating process of global restructuring. Doing so requires that we revisit inherited analytic categories and explanatory frameworks from the standpoint of these new historical conditions. One such category is “solidarity,” which is the focus of our program and discussions during 2011-2012.

In traditions of welfare socialism and worker self-management, “solidarity” has referred to the social bonds and forms of sociality that serve as the source and aim of politics. In social democracies the term came to signal the socialization of risk, responsibility, and wealth. The notion of “solidarity” has also been central to class consciousness and politics as well as to various forms of proletarian internationalism among an existing or imagined transnational working-class.

Now that the institutions and ideologies underpinning those traditions have been dismantled, does the category “solidarity” retain descriptive power or critical purchase? What might the relevant units or scale of solidarity today? Conversely, can a renewed conception of solidarity help us to grasp certain aspects of the contemporary situation? Do we need to conceptualize new forms or practices of (global) solidarity as part of a (global) political project that might be adequate to our current challenges? Can solidarity allow us to think creatively about coming together within or across social formations that transcends the limitations of inherited oppositions between universality and particularity, unity and fragmentation, general standards or shared norms and relativism? Could a concept or politics of solidarity point toward new ways of reconciling democracy and plurality? If so, what are the ethical implications of a renewed conception of solidarity in an age of global circulation and interdependence? Solidarity might also signal long-distance support for multiple struggles in different places. Does “globalization” require and enable, or perhaps foreclose, new types of networked linkages as well as the technical, organizational, and imaginative resources for pursuing them? How does the global visibility of citizens actions, most recently in the Arab world, inform the terms of politics solidarity?