Reflections on the Politics and Location of Knowledge Making in a Time of Crisis

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Christopher L. Connery

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The politics of knowledge making in the humanities and humanistic social sciences were profoundly impacted by the social, political, and cultural movements of the 1960s. Disciplinary foundations, including the subjects and objects of knowledge, as well as the locations of knowledge, were questioned and shaken. The hegemony of "the West" was subject to sustained critique. New disciplinary and sub-disciplinary formations arose, including cultural studies, feminist studies, and various "identity"-based studies, and these were institutionalized in various ways in various locations. One such project that arose in the late 1980s, the World Literature and Cultural Studies program at the University of California, Santa Cruz, not only sought to intervene in disciplinary character, but also experimented with new approaches to pedagogy and intellectual authority. The fiscal crisis in US universities tempered many of these experiments, and over the course of those two decades universities increasingly adapted themselves to a more purely economic logic, greatly narrowing the imaginative and liberatory field of possibility that the earlier trajectory had unleashed. In the wake of massive student protests in recent years, however, new pedagogical practices are once more on the agenda. Greater attention to and participation in these developments might prove to be a useful response to the current crisis.