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Through the Prism of an Intellectual Life: Thinking through conversation in the ruins of empire

Instructor(s): Daragh Grant
Winter 2023

What is the place of conversation in political thought? What makes such conversations generative or fulfilling? What role do conversations about politics play in connecting our present to the past and in helping us to reimagine our futures? These are some of the questions that this course hopes to explore by following along the threads of a conversation that has united the aims, hopes, and disappointments of three generations of anti-colonial thinkers in the Afro-Atlantic world. Taking the intellectual life of the Jamaican-British social theorist, Stuart Hall, as an exemplary site for this investigation, students will engage with a variety of sources-recordings, interview transcripts, memoirs, scholarship, and political writings-in an effort to piece together one strand of conversation out of which Hall’s intellectual life took shape and through which he in turn shaped the intellectual lives of others. Of particular interest here is the intergenerational character of these conversations. Students will be encouraged to explore how people are shaped by intergenerational preoccupations and concerns, even as they come to take up these preoccupations in new ways that often mark a break from the past. Together, we will also examine how, in narrating their own preoccupations and intellectual lives to themselves, people lay claim to particular pasts and sketch out hoped-for futures.

PLSC 20928 | CCCT 20928 | CRES 26511