Diagramming the Colonial Imagination: Black Subjectivity, Capitalism, and Modernity

By Jason Michelakos

Lindon Barrett. Racial Blackness and the Discontinuity of Western Modernity. University of Illinois Press, 2014. 264 pp.

Lindon Barrett (1961-2008) was a Professor of English and African American studies at the University of California, Irvine from 1990 to 2007 before moving to the University of California, Riverside. He was a distinguished scholar and the author of Blackness and Value: Seeing Double (2009), published by Cambridge University Press.
» Read the rest

Realism After Postmodernism

By Sean Homer

Fredric Jameson. The Antinomies of Realism. Verso, 2013. 313 pp.

In his 1977 “Afterword” to the volume Aesthetics and Politics, Jameson observed that it was not only political history that was condemned to repeat the past but also literary history that experienced a certain “return of the repressed”:

Nowhere has this return of the repressed been more dramatic than in the aesthetic conflict between “Realism” and “Modernism”, whose navigation and renegotiation is still unavoidable for us today, even though we may feel that each position is in some sense right and yet neither is any longer wholly acceptable.
» Read the rest

Anthropocene Diplomacy, or How to Negotiate Ecologization

By Heather Davis

Bruno Latour. An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns. Trans. Catherine Porter. Harvard University Press, 2013. 489 pp.

In the wake of the terrifying fifth assessment report (AR5) issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Bruno Latour’s latest book, An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns, makes a rather odd request: he asks his readers to stop, slow down, and reconsider the values of modernity.
» Read the rest

Colonial Trains, Postcolonial Tracks

By Nilak Datta

Marian Aguiar. Tracking Modernity: India’s Railway and the Culture of Mobility. University of Minnesota Press, 2011, xxiv +226 pp.

When I first heard Marian Aguiar discuss her book project on Indian Railways at an informal gathering of faculty and graduate students in the fall of 2005, I was excited, skeptical, and optimistic about her project all at once.
» Read the rest

Deconstructing the “Middle Class”; Constructing its Transnational History

By Mehita Iqani

A. Ricardo Lopez and Barbara Weinstein (eds.) The Making of the Middle Class: Toward a Transnational History. Duke University Press, 2012. 446pp.

The Making of the Middle Class is an edited collection that spans an impressive—almost intimidating—amount of material. Featuring chapters and commentaries by 21 writers, it provides a collection of historical analyses of the formation of the middle class in a variety of historical moments and geographical contexts, offering the resources through which a detailed and global picture of its formation can emerge.
» Read the rest

No Exit? Imagining Radical Refusal

By Erin Wunker

Simon During. Exit Capitalism: Literary Culture, Theory, and Post-Secular Modernity. Routledge, 2010. 280 pp.

How do we refuse capitalism? Should we? This is Simon During’s central question in his temporally vast and historically deep book Exit Capitalism: Literary Culture, Theory, and Post-Secular Modernity. The book begins with a reflection on his experience at the Sydney Museum of Modern Art’s 2008 Biennale exhibition.
» Read the rest

“Erring on the Side of Democracy”: Nations, Modernities and Disputations

By Hugh Charles O’Connell

Partha Chatterjee. Empire and Nation: Selected Essays. Columbia University Press, 2010. 384 pp.

In the introduction to this collection of Partha Chatterjee’s writings, Nivedita Menon states, “I am one of those whose engagement with the contemporary has been utterly transfigured by reading Partha Chatterjee’s work over the years” (1).
» Read the rest

Ruin Gazing with History’s Angels

By Carrie Smith-Prei

Julia Hell and Andreas Schönle, eds. Ruins of Modernity. Duke University Press, 2010. 528 pp.

The impressively expansive volume Ruins of Modernity, published in the Politics, History and Culture series of Duke University Press, takes an innovative approach to the modern condition through ruins. The introduction sets out the theoretical, temporal and spatial parameters from which the volume’s twenty-four masterful essays, written by major scholars representing a broad range of fields, view their ultimately diverse subject by interweaving the two complex terms of the volume’s compact title.
» Read the rest

Modernism’s Lost Causes

By Evan Mauro

Seth Moglen. Mourning Modernity: Literary Modernism and the Injuries of American Capitalism. Stanford University Press, 2007.

On its face a study of American literary modernism, Seth Moglen's Mourning Modernity opens onto an urgent question: how to remember and use histories of political radicalism. Moglen's book reanimates a turning point for American revolutionary movements in the 1920s and 1930s, tying that era's comprehensive state repression of the left into the development of a distinctly melancholic modernist sensibility.
» Read the rest

The Measures Taken

By Hunter Bivens

Benjamin Robinson. The Skin of the System: On Germany’s Socialist Modernity. Stanford University Press, 2009.

Twenty years after the opening of the Berlin Wall, a number of important thinkers (one thinks here, in differing registers, of Alain Badiou, Boris Groys, or Susan Buck-Morss’s 2000 Dreamworld and Catastrophe) have been reconsidering what to make of the twentieth century’s experience of really existing socialism.
» Read the rest