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In Near Ruins

Cultural Theory at the End of the Century

1998

Nicholas B. Dirks, editor

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A group of leading scholars considers the current state of cultural analysis.

At a moment when culture’s traditional caretakers-humanism, philosophy, anthropology, and the nation-state-are undergoing crisis and mutation, this volume charts the tensions and contradictions in the development and deployment of the concept of culture.

Contributors: Lauren Berlant, E. Valentine Daniel, Marilyn Ivy, Robin D. G. Kelley, Laura Kipnis, Marjorie Levinson, Gyanendra Pandey, John Pemberton, Adela Pinch,and Michael Taussig.

This book is a stunning, masterful, much-needed collection of essays from anthropology and literary criticism which carefully articulates and powerfully performs a mode of cultural critique that is at once historical materialist and fundamentally engaged with the potential ‘liveness,’ magic, ‘enjoyment,’ and unspeakable violence of cultural-political acts. It makes a profound intervention in the often stymied debates over ‘representation’ and ‘reality’ by forcefully pushing cultural theory beyond the trite recitation of constructionism into a serious and sustained theory of the social and political basis of figuration.

Kathleen Stewart, University of Texas, Austin

If culture is suspect, what of cultural theory? At a moment when culture’s traditional caretakers-humanism, philosophy, anthropology, and the nation-state-are undergoing crisis and mutation, this volume charts the tensions and contradictions in the development and deployment of the concept of culture.

Skeptical of the concept of culture but fascinated with cultural forms, the authors take up diverse topics, from debates over sexuality in the contemporary United States to relations between empire, capitalism, and gender in nineteenth-century Britain; from poverty in U.S. inner cities to violence in war-torn Sri Lanka; from the operation of nostalgia on cultural practices in Japan to anthropological forms of state power in Indonesia and the writing of history in India.

Linked by a common urge to think through the aesthetics and politics of particular social relations amid a variety of globalizing forces-revolution, colonialism, nationalism, and the disciplinary institutions of the academy itself-these writers contribute to the ongoing work of remapping the terrain of cultural analysis and reevaluating the stakes in such a daunting effort.

Contributors: Lauren Berlant, U of Chicago; E. Valentine Daniel, Columbia U; Marilyn Ivy, Columbia U; Robin D. G. Kelley, New York U; Laura Kipnis, Northwestern U; Marjorie Levinson, U of Michigan; Gyanendra Pandey, U of Delhi; John Pemberton, Columbia U; Adela Pinch, U of Michigan; Michael Taussig, Columbia U.

ISBN 0-8166-3122-0 Cloth $49.95xx
ISBN 0-8166-3123-9 Paper $19.95x
320 pages 4 black-and-white photos, 3 figures 5 7/8 x 9 December
Translation inquiries: University of Minnesota Press

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Nicholas B. Dirks is chair of the Department of Anthropology at Columbia University, where he is professor of history and anthropology.

Book Default Image

This book is a stunning, masterful, much-needed collection of essays from anthropology and literary criticism which carefully articulates and powerfully performs a mode of cultural critique that is at once historical materialist and fundamentally engaged with the potential ‘liveness,’ magic, ‘enjoyment,’ and unspeakable violence of cultural-political acts. It makes a profound intervention in the often stymied debates over ‘representation’ and ‘reality’ by forcefully pushing cultural theory beyond the trite recitation of constructionism into a serious and sustained theory of the social and political basis of figuration.

Kathleen Stewart, University of Texas, Austin

These essays raise intimately related issues dealing with the concept of ‘culture’ at the edges of humanism, the poltics of critical inquiry amid the transformations wrought by capitalism and the nation-state, and the status and practices of historical knowledge in an age of ‘theory’, both high and low. The authors contribute to the ongoing work of remapping the terrain of cultural analysis and reevaluating the stakes in such seemingly far-flung and disparate projects.

Vincente L. Rafael, University of California, San Diego