Critiques of Violence/Languages of Critique

Jeffrey Sacks
Comparative Literature and Languages
UC Riverside

This conference takes as a point of a departure modes of writing, thought, and artistic or literary or visual practice that emerge from or relate to the Arabic language, the Middle East, or its various contexts and sites of diasporic production, to ask: How does the tradition of critique—elaborated in the work of figures such as Walter Benjamin, Karl Marx, and Michel Foucault—travel across languages and contexts? What happens when the language one speaks, and in which one writes, is no longer a single language, and when it is no longer the English language—the language of the American academy and its pedagogical and publishing institutions? In what ways do the present contexts of critique and state violence compel an attention to language—and languages—in the practice of critique? How might those contexts afforded by the English language, in its American varieties, privilege an understanding of critique that obscures, and even multiplies, the forms of violence that such critique takes itself to oppose? We propose a return to critique, not to amplify the sense of the subject critique is taken to presume, but to ask how critique may be reinvented for our shared and divided, precarious times.