Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture at 25: Theories for the New Millennium: Lauren M. E. Goodlad's Opening Remarks

Monday, February 11, 2013

posted under , by Unit for Criticism
Welcome everyone to this wonderful celebration of a book that emerged from our campus 25 years ago and which, in turn, derived from a groundbreaking conference on our campus 30 years ago. I am speaking of course of Marxism & the Interpretation of Culture, a monumental volume edited by Cary Nelson & Lawrence Grossberg, collecting the ideas of luminaries such as Perry Anderson, Etienne Balibar, Fredric Jameson, Chantal Mouffe, Gayatri Spivak—the list goes on and on and on.

Marxism & the Interpretation of Culture did many things to reshape Marxist theory for a new century at a time when identity-based social movements and poststructuralist theory—with some help from twentieth-century history—were making clear that while Marxism’s grand rĂ©cit articulated a compelling responsibility to act, it did not yet incorporate a working theory of otherness: an account, that is, for how a politics of equality and mutually sustaining freedom and collectivity could appeal to--and be articulated through--a broad base of social actors while simultaneously contending with divisions along lines not only of class but also of race, nation, ethnicity, religious identity, gender, and sexuality. This is, to say the least, a tough nut to crack. In making this intervention Marxism & the Interpretation of Culture also proposed that culture was much more than a determined byproduct of economic and state power but also a social force in its own right.

Today we have gathered a terrific set of speakers who will discuss the legacy of that book, and of Marxist theory, while also offering their visions of the future of theory in the new millennium. You already have the program so I won’t thank our speakers by name but will close by making a few official announcements and thanking the many people who helped to make this symposium possible.

First, as I think some of you already know this is the first of two symposia the second of which will take place on September 6 of this year. So it is with less regret than I would otherwise express that I tell you that Nikhil Singh, whose great chapter on racial history was a highlight of last week’s seminar, was unable to join us today because of the snow storm in the Northeast. However, he has promised to join us in September. There are no changes in the schedule for today other than Singh’s absence from the panel preceding the closing roundtable.

A symposia like this one, like a good political movement, requires many, many, hands, and not a few hearts and heads as well. And it also requires financial support from many sources. You’ll soon meet my co-organizer Michael Rothberg who will be introducing the honorary opener of today’s symposium but, in addition to Michael, let me also thank our crucial co-sponsors for their generous funding: Center for Advanced Study; the IPRH, the Department of English; the Program in Jewish Culture & Society and the Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide & Memory Studies; the Social Dimensions of Environmental Policy Initiative; the Department of Spanish, Italian, & Portuguese; the Department of Anthropology; the International Forum on US Studies; the Department of History; and the Department of Political Science.

No words of thanks would be complete without expressing my gratitude to our speakers who braved some awful weather and airline snafus to be here today; to you, our audience, for joining us this morning; to the many colleagues who took part in the seminar and in moderating our program today; and finally to Graduate Assistants MC Anderson and Esti Ezkerra and undergrad assistant Sofiya Pershteyn – the multi-talented women behind the curtain of the Unit for Criticism. It’s now my pleasure to ask you to join me in thanking them as well as welcoming my co-organizer Michael Rothberg to the podium.

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