The End of Area: Biopolitics, Geopolitics and History

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Date(s) - 25/10/2019
11:00 am - 2:00 pm

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The End of Area: Biopolitics, Geopolitics and History

The Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto is proud to host an interdisciplinary talk and discussion on October 25, 2019, titled: “The End of Area: Biopolitics, Geopolitics, History”. Featuring talks by Professors Naoki Sakai (Cornell University) and Gavin Walker (McGill University), we will also hold a discussion facilitated by Professor Ken Kawashima.

The “cause” of the workshop and its title comes from the publication of “The End of Area,” Sakai and Walker’s co-edited special volume for positions: asia critique. 1

In this ground-breaking work, published in early 2019, Sakai and Walker pose fundamental problems for Area Studies, soberly confronting its political unconscious. If the Cold War era institutionalized and inherited epistemologies of 19th century colonialism and 20th century imperialism, giving them form and legitimacy in the disciplinary form of Area Studies; then with the end of the Cold War in 1991, the original and strategic impetus of Area Studies —i.e., its drive to produce knowledge of areas and populations outside of the so-called “West”—has largely been rendered superfluous and unnecessary. Yet, despite the geopolitical shift into the post-Cold War era, the old epistemologies of the “West and the Rest” have not only survived into our present; they have been reproduced and recreated anew on an expanding, “ultra-nationalist” and racist scale, albeit without ever interrogating its fundamental imperialist premises, methods, and desires. In our neoliberal, postcolonial times of capitalist crisis, Area Studies today still largely remains oblivious to its historical complicities with imperialist and colonial discourses of the 19th and 20th centuries that hold to the principle of “the West and the Rest” as a mode of world-governance and capitalist extraction and exploitation.

Sakai and Walker’s special volume on “The End of Area” asks new questions at the limits of Area Studies, interrogating the zones of instability and complicities between biopolitical power, imperialism, and the capitalist mode of production; between processes of bordering and translation; between expropriation and exploitation; and between capital, nation, and state. At the limits of Area Studies, the “End of Area” poses new questions for a New Internationalism, excavating new possibilities for a renewal of radical Left politics and research today.

  1. positions: asia critique, vol. 27, no. 1, 2019.
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