Machete at the American Comparative Literature Association

Machete Group Members Avi Alpert and Gabriel Rockhill are organizing a panel at next year’s ACLA in New York. Description below. Interested parties should submit abstracts through the ACLA’s website.


The Times of Social Transformation: Narratives of Change and Changing Narratives

Seminar Organizer(s):

  • Gabriel Rockhill (Villanova University), Avram Alpert (University of Pennsylvania)

Some commentators say that the grand era of revolutionary social transformation began around 1776 and ended in 1989.  “Popular capitalism” then came to impose itself as the normative horizon of human time, if not the veritable end of history.  This historical narrative was quickly challenged, however, by the Zapatista Rebellion, the Bolivarian Revolution, the Seattle protests and other uprisings.  History was not following its proposed script.  More recent revolutionary activity around the world has further discredited the historical narrative that frames our current conjuncture as one that is beyond the pale of radical social transformation.

These practical contestations of the supposed framework of contemporary politics have given rise to important reflections on the temporality of social transformation, including renewed interest in categories such as prefiguration, untimeliness, belatedness, recuperation, revolutionary rupture and the longue durée.  In the context of the ACLA, we would like to open an inquiry into the narratives of change as well as these changing narratives.  This includes a preoccupation with contemporary social movements, a concern with their aesthetic and literary framing, and a consideration of how such framings relate to different notions of time.  We envision this seminar, therefore, as an opportunity to reflect on the variety of ways in which change becomes meaningful through social praxis and its narrative encoding (or decoding) in time.  Papers addressing these issues from theoretical, historical, practical, aesthetic or literary perspectives are all welcome.

SEMINAR KEYWORDS: Social transformation, revolution, historiography, Marxism, anarchism, critical theory, pluralism, cultural politics, aesthetics, the avantgarde, narratology

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