Subjects of Modernity

Friday, April 28, 2017 - 3:00pm to 5:00pm

Claudia Cohen Hall, Room 392

249 South 36th Street
Philadelphia PA, 19104


Subjects of Modernity


Saurabh Dube

April 28th Friday

Room 392, Cohen Hall

3pm – 5pm


Abstract: This paper is based on wider considerations of modernity, the disciplines, and their margins – it draws upon a very recent book that works through critical considerations of time, space, and their enmeshments. Focussing on socio-spatial subjects and tousled temporalities, I attempt to unravel some of the oppositions and enchantments, the contradictions and contentions, and the identities and ambivalences spawned under modernity. At the same time, I do not approach such antinomies, enticements, and ambiguities as analytical errors or historical lacks, which patiently await their eventual overcoming. Rather, my attempt is to critically yet cautiously unfold these elements as constitutive of modern worlds. The affiliation of my work with distinct borderlands and its acknowledgement of the production of time and space by subjects, social and disciplinary, play a crucial role here. To adopt such an apparently oblique, ostensibly elliptical perspective on modernity is not only to interrupt the long-standing, straightforward storylines of the phenomena. It is also to query routine portrayals of homogeneous time (that yet entail inaugural, spatial ruptures), to question antinomian blueprints of social space (which nonetheless turn on a singular hierarchy of time). Here, as always, time and space bind each other. Such projections undergird the frequently formalist and often a priori representations of modernity that abound in our present. Together, on offer is an untangling of modernity, empire, and nation as acutely expressed by social/spatial and disciplinary subjects and as crucially defined by heterogeneous/coeval yet hierarchically-ordered temporalities. In the talk, I shall cull out some of the critical emphases of my wider work.


Saurabh Dube is Research Professor in History, Centre for Asian and African Studies, El Colegio de México and also holds the highest rank in the National System of Researchers (SNI), México. He has been Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, New York; the Institute of Advanced Study, University of Warwick; the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla; the Stellenbosch Institute of Advanced Study, South Africa; and the Max Weber Kolleg, Germany (summer 2017). Apart from around one hundred and twenty journal articles and book chapters, Dube’s authored books include Untouchable Pasts (State University of New York Press, 1998; Sage, 2001); Stitches on Time (Duke University Press, 2004; Oxford University Press [OUP], 2004); After Conversion (Yoda Press, 2010); Subjects of Modernity (Manchester University Press, 2017) as well as a quintet in historical anthropology in the Spanish language, published by El Colegio de México. Among his fifteen edited and co-edited volumes are Postcolonial Passages (OUP, 2004); Historical Anthropology (OUP, 2007); Enchantments of Modernity (Routledge, 2009); and Crime through Time (OUP, 2013). Dube has also been visiting professor several times at institutions such as Cornell University and the Johns Hopkins University.