How should one conduct inquiry—today—into problems of broad scope and historical depth? How should one give form to participant-observation into problem spaces in which the specific site must be understood to be connected with multiple other sites and formations? In sum, how should one conduct contemporary inquiry?
In this keynote address, Paul Rabinow will argue that traditional modes of comparison have assumed that the parameters of comparison are known and/or stable. It follows that given that inquiry is focused on specific cases or examples. However, whilst terms such as culture or society or politics or history have functioned as the stable comparison units in the past (and continue to do so in much of the social sciences today), their status has come under sustained scrutiny in recent decades.
The challenge, then, is to conceptualize, narrate and give form to a mode of inquiry that would bring together diverse cases by Rabinow and his students and collaborators, such as: post-genomic forays into designing living organisms and systems; emergent forms of curatorial practices in the trans-national art market; the rise of right wing Hindu nationalist movements in India and the politics and representation of the border disputes in South Sudan. New modes of contemporary inquiry require conceptual innovation as well as a remediated practice of participant-observation that confronts and values the singularity of dimensions of such cases whilst refusing to abandon more general claims.
Sponsored by the Stanford Division of Literatures, Cultures and Languages (DLCL); the Stanford Humanities Center; and the Stanford Europe Center.