2017 Wellek Lectures (May 31, June 1, and June 2)

Department: Critical Theory at UCI

Date and Time: May 31, 2017 | 4:00 PM-6:00 PM

Event Location: HG 1030 (Reception to follow)

Event Details

AIJAZ AHMAD will deliver the 2017 Wellek Library Lectures. A renowned scholar of nationalism and an engaged intellectual, Professor Ahmad writes in English, Urdu, and occasionally Hindi. He is the author of numerous books, including the groundbreaking In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures, Lineages of the Present: Ideology and Politics in Contemporary South Asia, and On Communalism and Globalization: Offensives of the Far Right. He has taught at universities in the United States, India, and Canada. In India, he was Professorial Fellow at Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, held the Rajiv Gandhi Chair at Jawaharlal Nehru University and the Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan Chair at Jamia Millia University. In 2015, he joined the faculty at UCI, where he is Chancellor's Professor of Comparative Literature and an affiliate of UCI Critical Theory.

May 31, June 1 and June 2
4:00 - 6:00 p.m. Humanities Gateway 1030

Lecture one: A Cartography of Origins (May 31)
Lecture two: 20th-Century Nationalisms, Left and Right (June 1)
Lecture three: Repressions, Repetitions (June 2)

Under the title "The Return of the Repressed: Figurations of the National," Professor Ahmad will discuss the long history of nationalism and theories of nationalism in the context of the current political climate. If the right wing appears resurgent across the globe, this resurgence is tied to a variety of contexts and takes forms specific to these contexts. The narration of these forms similarly takes place under various headings: populism, authoritarianism, illiberal democracy, Islamo-fascism, alt-right, proto- or pre-fascism, and so forth. Still, the one word that gets used most frequently and applied to all sorts of forces and individuals—from Narendra Modi to Donald Trump, Recep Erdogan, Marine Le Pen, and even Vladimir Putin and his bloc of supporters—is "nationalism." An extraordinary consensus seems to have emerged in our time that regards nationalism as ipso facto reactionary if not always an evil. 

In these lectures, Professor Ahmad will reflect on the complicated history of "nationalism," which extends to the counterrevolutionary thought that emerged under the shadow of the Enlightenment and the contradictory movements of which include the revolutions of 1848 (the so-called "Spring of the Peoples") and the unifications of Germany and Italy. In parallel with the unfolding of nationalism in Europe and the United States, nationalism in the colonized zones, at least from the time of the Haitian Revolution, was perceived as a unifying force of liberation. This history includes a number of crucial intellectual engagements: the seminal theses of Marx and Lenin on colonialism and "the national question"; the work of German thinkers such as Carl Schmitt and Martin Heidegger; Antonio Gramsci's rethinking of socialist strategy through the concept of the national popular; Franz Fanon's reflections on the antinomies of nationalism in the Algerian context; debates on nation and nationalism with the Indian anti-colonial movement; and the complex discussions of nationalism in the 1990s by writers such as Eric Hobsbawm, Ernest Gellner, and Benedict Anderson. And now the repressed has returned...

For more information, contact Erica Yun at erica.yun@uci.edu