'Comparison' As a Mode of Inquiry in the Post-Comparative World

Comparison as a mode of scholarly inquiry has long been under question, be it as "cultural comparison" in the field of anthropology or the explicit nationalist frameworks of "comparative literature" and "comparative history." Thus the turn to the transnational, the global or world, and even the local seems to imply that scholarship has entered a "post-comparative" phase. In the spring semester of 2016, we return to comparison as a mode of inquiry, a method, or an analytic. We seek to interrogate the utility of a comparative logic uncoupled from the previous paradigms. But we also intend to investigate the ways in which the logic of comparison or its suppositions-implicit or explicit-might still guide analysis in a "post-comparative" moment.

Are comparisons a constitutive element of social order and of historical change? Have they always been so? Since at least the sixteenth century, worldwide comparisons have been interpreted as a form of imagined relations that produce the "world as a whole" by comparing heterogenic, seemingly non-commensurable, and formerly separate cultures and regions. But has a sense of "the global" been shaped by comparative descriptions? Is "comparison" necessarily linked to an insufficiently defined notion of a larger "whole" that predetermines the comparative framework and the results of such an analysis? Should we think of the world as a bundle of constitutive parts or discrete zones of comparison?

We will explore comparison as a mode of observing, defining, and creating parts and wholes through different patterns, media, and standards. We are interested in the use of comparison in specific disciplinary fields and in regard to specific topics (world literature of travel and exploration, comparisons of cultures or cultural forms, metaphors of trans- or cross-, comparisons of national forms of capitalism, global wars, narratives of progress, crimes against humanity) but also at the meta-level of imagining how "comparison" undergirds questions of heterogeneity and particularity, convergence and disjuncture, difference and hierarchy, self and other, commensurability, as well as temporality

All lectures begin at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted, and are held in the Daniel Family Commons, which is located in the Usdan University Center.

02/01/2016

Anthropocene: A New History 

Catherine Malabou • Kingston University London GO

02/08/2016

Canada, the Revolution, and Creating the United States 

Jeffers Lennox • Wesleyan University  GO

02/15/2016

We are not here to bring the love we bear to women … into comparison, nor rank it with [other forms of love]. Opportunities and limits of comparisons in premodern and modern times.

Franz-Josef Arlinghaus • Bielefeld University  

02/22/2016

Comparing Pictures. Comparative Practices and their Implications

Johannes Grave • Bielefeld University

02/29/2016

An Object of Comparison: The Orientalist Photographer

Ali Behdad • UCLA  

03/28/2016

Lying Comparatively: Ordered Times and Ruptured Worlds 

Jesse Torgerson • Wesleyan University 

04/04/2016

TBA

Lauren Berlant • University of Chicago

04/11/2016

TBA

Sheldon Pollock • Columbia University

04/18/2016

Beyond IslamChristianity, and Hinduism: The Quest for Compatible Categories of Comparison in the Academic Study of Religion 

Peter Gottschalk • Wesleyan University

04/25/2016

TBA

Rachel Ellis Neyra • Wesleyan University

05/02/2016

Beyond Comparative Philosophy

Stephen Angle • Wesleyan University