Glissant and Levinas: Thinking the Relation
1600 boulevard Maisonneuve West
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In recent years, the Martinican poet, writer, and thinker Édouard Glissant has attracted increased interest from English-language scholars in philosophical circles. His profound contributions to philosophical questions include the relationship between history and meaning, especially in the processes of decolonization and creolization, the importance of the materiality and singularity of place for concepts of totality and the whole, the relation between ethics and poetics, and other key themes in continental philosophy such as memory, trauma, trace, and world.
One of the unique features of Glissant’s thinking is his sustained and critical engagement with both Caribbean and European thought. Glissant always considered the Caribbean on its own terms—materially, historically, and linguistically. Yet he was also deeply connected to French intellectual circles. One of Glissant’s points of correspondence was the Lithuanian French thinker Emmanuel Levinas.
Levinas’s own relationship to European philosophy is complex, in large part due to the central role of Jewish tradition in his thought and practice. Levinas leveled a radical critique of Western philosophy by reversing the priority of being over the good. Specifically, his critique of liberalism, identity and individuality, and the relationship between responsibility, autonomy, and power, have all significantly contributed to contemporary ethics. At the same time, Levinas’s failure to grapple with the deep ethical challenges posed by struggles for decolonization is a major point of critique. One of the aims of this conference is accordingly to contribute to ongoing scholarly efforts to re-read Levinas’s approach to ethics, politics, and the relation between the two.
One of the key parallels between Glissant and Levinas is that they are responding to catastrophic historical events that continue to structure the modern world: the Middle Passage, colonialism, and the plantation, and the Second World War, respectively. Levinas’s emphasis on ethical responsibility to the Other and his interest in the meaning and future of Judaism, along with the universality of its teachings, should be read in that context. So too, Glissant’s thinking cannot be understood as divorced from the Caribbean, even as he argues it becomes a site of relation to the whole world.
This conference aims to think about Glissant and Levinas’s points of contact and divergence on key themes of contemporary debate. We invite submissions from wide-ranging topics in Caribbean, French, and Jewish philosophy, environmental philosophy, decolonial studies, and many others. We are especially interested in the following themes, though we welcome other proposals:
● Critiques of rootedness and their complex implications for Indigeneity
● The ethical motif in Glissant and its relation to Levinas, particularly considering Glissant’s foregrounding of poetics
● Ethnonationalism in both thinkers
● Errantry in the Jewish tradition and/or in Caribbean thought
● The Other and non-human others, especially in environmental philosophy, animal ethics, and land ethics
● Glissant’s tout-monde and Levinas on totality
● Opacity and critiques of representation
● The relationship between responsibility and history
● Futurity and temporality, especially in the aftermath of catastrophe
Participants should submit an abstract for blind review between 350-500 words via email to [email protected]. The presentation length will be around 25 minutes, with 20 minutes for questions. This will be a hybrid event, and a zoom link will be available for anyone interested in attending. There will also be a graduate fair designed for graduate students who wish to present their work in a conversational form instead of a full-length paper. We welcome proposals that have creative presentation formats, including the use of various media, as well as interdisciplinary and artistic works. Those interested in the fair should submit a 200-350 description of their project. The same authors can submit work for both the main conference and the fair.
Following the conference, presenters will be invited to submit their papers to the journal Levinas Studies for a special issue on Glissant and Levinas, edited by Robert Bernasconi and Nicolas de Warren.
The deadline for submissions is February 1st, 2023.
Mérédith Laferté-Coutu, Concordia University, [email protected]
Andrew Domzal, Pennsylvania State University, [email protected]
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