“Language, Literature, Culture and Politics: Marx’s Bicentenary Conference”
November 30-December 1, 2018
On the eve of German revolutionary and philosopher Karl Marx’s 200th birthday, we find ourselves surrounded by unfamiliar circumstances. A little more than 100 years ago, people in Russia were celebrating a revolution, while today a world ruled by common people seems like a distant idea. For about half a century since the Russian revolution, the idea of revolution had a real purchase in many parts of the world, especially among the people of Asia, Africa and Latin America, and helped nations to attain independence from European colonization. The century that marked the centenary of Karl Marx’s birth showed signs of hope. As we prepare to celebrate his 200th birth anniversary this year, we do so with a foreboding about history’s reversal. After the financial crises and stock market meltdown of 2007/2008, we were told that the power of the global elite class would diminish but what we witness today is its opposite. Oxfam report published in January 2017 revealed that the eight richest persons own more than what half of the entire world’s population does. Another report published in January 2018 shows that the top 1% bagged 84% of the wealth created last year, leaving two-thirds of the world population with nothing to cheer about. As the wealth of the wealthiest people multiplies through tax-cuts, expropriations and monopolies, famine ravages many parts of Africa and Asia, killing large numbers of children every single day. The ecological cost of capitalist economy has been gigantic; we are now faced with a planetary crisis that may lead towards human extinction. Racism, religious bigotry, fascism and oppression are on the rise again. Socialist revolution seems more like an image of a distant past, kept alive in the memories of a handful of idealists and on library shelves. Our era seems to have abandoned Marx, ignoring the desperate political and social realities that call for radical change in politics and world views. Is it, finally, time to bury Marx’s revolutionary dreams and accept the present reality as our future?
Yet, echoing Immanuel Wallerstein, shouldn’t we also respond to this question by saying that “there has never been a time when inequalities were unquestioned” and, that as long as capitalism exists as the dominant mode of production, Marx will be continuously consulted and summoned? This conference commemorating Karl Marx’s 200th birth anniversary seeks to ask and address a number of important questions about the relation between thought and politics; between language and culture; between literary works and the ideological content that underwrites the production of literature; and, between society and people. We ask: How are we to make sense of the relation between language, literature, culture and politics today? Is it possible to draw upon Marx’s works to understand and explain the relation between these overlapping fields? How do we address the challenges of the 21st century? What has Marx and Marxism to offer to our time and the pedagogical conditions we grapple with?
We invite papers that address, critique, historically and philosophically analyze, and re-formulate the questions raised above. Listed below are some broad topics which may work as a guideline:
—The relation between language, literature, culture and politics
—Language and ideology
—Literature and ideology
—Questions of Class, Gender, Race and Sexuality
—Culture, Media and Technology
—Knowledge production and its relationship with social change
—Revolutionary philosophy and praxis
—Ecology and planetary crisis
—Marxism and the questions of colonialism and imperialism
—Marx and the humanities
—Marx and science
—Marxism and the question of value
—Uneven Development and global/local dialectical relations
Conference Venue and Date
The conference will be held at University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) on November 30 (Friday) and December 1 (Saturday), 2018.
You are invited to submit an abstract of no more than 200 words along with a brief biography (in no more than 50 words) online to [email protected] by October 15, 2018. The Conference Committee will send out notifications of acceptance/rejection by email by October 20, 2018. Each presentation, except the keynote and plenary discussions, is for 20 minutes.
Multiple submissions are discouraged.
Local participants/presenters: 1500 taka
Local students: 1000 taka
SAARC participants/presenters: 100 USD
International participants/presenters: 200 USD
International students: 100 USD
Presenters and participants are requested to pay their fees by November 10, 2018 to ensure participation.
Bret Benjamin is Associate Professor at the State University of New York at Albany. He completed his PhD from University of Texas, Austin. He teaches in both the English Department and the Globalization Studies Program, with classes on Marxism, Globalization Studies, Cultural Studies and Postcolonial Studies. He is the author of Invested Interests: Culture, Capital and the World Bank published in 2007 by the University of Minnesota Press. He has also published articles on Marx, value theory and anti-colonial Marxism in peer reviewed journals. Benjamin serves as the president of the Albany Chapter of United University Professions (UUP)—the largest higher education union in the United States—and is a member of its New York State negotiating team. He is currently working on a second book that examines Marxist intellectuals of the decolonizing era, with a particular focus on CLR James, Frantz Fanon, and George Padmore.