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The Nehru Memorial Museum & Library


‘Above Suspicion: How the humanities can leave critique behind and find their true voice’ , 30th January, 2015.


‘Above Suspicion: How the humanities can leave critique behind and find their true voice’


Dr. Michel Chaouli,
Indiana University, Bloomington, USA.


Ten years ago, Bruno Latour asked if critique had run out of steam. Taken empirically, as a description of what scholars in the humanities and social sciences do, the answer is “No”: critique continues to motivate much of the teaching and writing in these fields. But taken normatively, as an account of what humanists and social scientists should do, the answer, according to the speaker, is “Yes”: critique has depleted itself even as it marches on, and many scholars and researchers have grown tired of it. In the talk the speaker will say why critique has run out of steam (not for the reasons Latour gives) and what model he proposes in its stead. The humanities and perhaps the social sciences, the speaker suggests, finally matter when the insights they produce are understood to be not merely or even mainly about objects (artworks, cultural formations, historical configurations, etc.) but about the subjects bringing forth the insights. This is knowledge about the world to the extent that it brings about a change in the subject grappling with the world. This is a way of spelling out what Michel Foucault has called the “ethnopoetic” dimension of knowledge production.


Dr. Michel Chaouli teaches German and European literature and philosophy, mainly from the eighteenth century to the present, at Indiana University in Bloomington, USA, where he directs the Centre for Theoretical Inquiry in the Humanities. He is the author of The Laboratory of Poetry: Chemistry and Poetics in the Work of Friedrich Schlegel (2002; German translation 2004) as well as of essays on literature, media theory, and aesthetic theory from 1600 till 2000. He is completing a book on aesthetic theory entitled Thinking with Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgment.

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