Empire & Modernity Archive (2017-2018)



March 9, 2018
3:00 – 4:30 PM

Professor Nathan Hensley, Georgetown University

” ‘The mystery of the cruelty of things’: Sovereignty and Form circa 1866″

In this talk, Professor Hensley will unpack the argument of his recent book, Forms of Empire: The Poetics of Victorian Sovereignty (Oxford 2016), showing how the modern state’s anguished relationship to violence pushed writers to expand the capacities of literary form. Drawing on two test cases — the Jamaica insurrection of 1865 and A.C. Swinburne’s Poems and Ballads, of 1866– Hensley will show how literary technologies like the lyric poem, the dramatic monologue, and  the heroic couplet helped Swinburne comprehend what John Stuart Mill and other commentators on the Governor Eyre controversy could not, namely the obscene violence at the heart of order:  “the mystery of the cruelty of things.” The talk concludes by reflecting on its own comparative or paratactic method, disclosing how our own habits of historical analysis bear the imprint, still, of the nineteenth century’s turbulent engagement with modernity’s intractable harm.

 Date(s): Friday, 3/9 3:00 PM to Friday, 3/9 4:30 PM
Address: 701 S. Morgan St.
Location: Chicago, IL, United States
Contact: Linda Vavra
Phone: (312) 996-6352


“Between Willing and Nonwilling freedom: Thinking religion with Gandhi”

October 18, 2017  from 12 – 2 PM

Professor Ajay Skaria, University of Minnesota

 A contrast between two senses of swaraj or freedom runs through Gandhi’s most famous book, Hind Swaraj. The first is a familiar one: the Reader seeks a swaraj centered around the will, exemplified for him by an Indian Parliament. The Editor vehemently rejects such willed or willing freedom: he senses that willing freedom works by domination, beginning with its domination over the self. He affirms instead a nonwilling freedom—the swaraj that he calls satyagraha or ‘passive resistance.’  He also thinks satyagraha as religion—not this or that religion, but the ‘religion that stays in all religions.’ Satyagrahis freely relinquish their will as a way of refusing to submit to the other’s will, of converting the other. This nonwilling freedom is a startlingly new way of doing politics even today, so new as to seem incomprehensible and even nonsensical within our existing vocabulary. What is this freedom without the will? and why must this freedom only be thought as religion? what is relation between the way religion is conceptualized here, and our usual concepts of religion and secularism? The talk will explore some of these questions.

Date(s): Wednesday, 10/18 12:00 PM to Wednesday, 10/18 2:00 PM

Address: 701 South Morgan
Location: Chicago, IL, USA
Contact: Linda Vavra
Phone: (312) 996-6352