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Many places in the world have been contending with experiences of defeat. Struggles for racial justice, revolutions, and uprisings are confronted with crushing powers. Colonial projects and military occupations continue to defeat emancipatory aspirations. And there is a global economic system that attacks and defeats local struggles for social and economic justice. One response has been to bracket “defeat” in the effort to strengthen the struggles to overcome it; another has been to recognize defeat but only in order to critically investigate the powers that engender it. Consequently, the particular political experience of defeat, and its unexpected consequences, is rarely given reflective consideration. This conversation between scholars of Cuba and the Arab world clears space for the critical theorization of defeat in its relationship to political action and the future. What political and ethical vocabularies and practices have been developed in the course of contending with experiences of defeat? And how are we to think a relationship to the future from the past and present of ongoing defeats?
Fadi A. Bardawil is assistant professor of contemporary Arab cultures in the Department of Asian Studies and Middle East Studies at Duke University. An anthropologist by training, his research investigates the international circulation of critical theory, the genealogies of post-colonial critique, and the traditions of intellectual inquiry and modalities of political engagement of contemporary Arab thinkers. His writings have appeared in boundary 2; Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East; The Journal for Palestine Studies (Arabic edition); Jadaliyya; al-Jumhuriya; The Immanent Frame; Kulturaustausch; Megaphone; and South Atlantic Quarterly. He is the author of Revolution and Disenchantment: Arab Marxism and the Binds of Emancipation (2020).
Paloma Duong is assistant professor of Latin American and media studies at MIT. Paloma researches and teaches modern and contemporary Latin American cultures at the intersection of cultural studies, media theory, and political philosophy. She works with social texts and emergent media cultures that speak to the exercise of cultural agencies and the formation of political subjectivities. She is currently writing Portable Postsocialisms: Cuban Mediascapes after the End of History, a book-length study of Cuba’s changing media and cultural landscape that is also an inquiry on the global postsocialist condition: a time when the death of socialism coexists with the rise of new anti-capitalist movements. Her articles have been published in the Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, Art Margins, Revista Hispánica Moderna, and Cuban Counterpoints: Public Scholarship about a Changing Cuba.
Nouri Gana is associate professor of comparative literature and Near Eastern languages and cultures at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has published numerous articles and chapters on the literatures and cultures of the Arab world and its diasporas in such scholarly venues as Cultural Politics, PMLA, Representations, and Social Text. He is the author of Signifying Loss: Toward a Poetics of Narrative Mourning (2011), and the editor of The Edinburgh Companion to the Arab Novel in English (2013) and The Making of the Tunisian Revolution: Contexts, Architects, Prospects (2013). He recently completed a book manuscript titled, Melancholy Acts: Defeat and Cultural Critique in the Arab World.
Samera Esmeir is associate professor in the Department of Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Juridical Humanity: A Colonial History (2012), a historical and theoretical study of how colonial juridical powers have reconfigured the concept of the human during the late-modern colonial era by bonding the human to the law. She is also the author of articles on such questions as memory, war, violence, coloniality, disaster, and internationalism. She is currently writing a second book, titled The Struggle that Remains: Between the World and the International. Esmeir is the senior editor of Critical Times: Interventions in Global Critical Theory.
Presented by the International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of California, Berkeley.
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