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materia: Impolitical Critiques & Decolonial Grammars Recap


materia: Impolitical Critiques & Decolonial Grammars Recap

Nov 12, 2020

materia’s second event of the 2020-2021 academic term took place on November 5, 2020 via Zoom. Centered on Impolitical Critiques & Decolonial Grammars, the event featured talks by professors Timothy Campbell (Romance Languages, Cornell) and María del Rosario Acosta (Hispanic Studies, UC Riverside). 

In the first part of the session, professors Acosta and Campbell delivered their talks back to back. Prof. Acosta’s engaged in a self-critical reflection on the limits and decolonial potential of a new project entitled ‘grammars of listening.' The scholar explored the epistemological and ethical challenges that result from the task of listening to testimonies in working on historical memory.  Prof Campbell proposed that the current state of affairs, in which discussions of biopolitics dominate how we understand and talk about life during the pandemic, calls for critique. He proceeded to draw upon a 20th-century moment of Italian thought, referred to as the impolitical, in order to contest the hegemony of biopolitical reflection. 

The second part of the gathering consisted of a Q&A session and an open discussion about professors Campbell and Acosta’s talks. Questions tackled theoretical issues pertaining to concepts such as “grammar” and “impolitics,” as well as concerns peculiar to our contemporary conjuncture, marked by political and environmental crises and the COVID-19 spread. The meeting ended on a hopeful note, with encouraging remarks by both invited speakers and materia organizers. 

A video of the taik is available here.

materia is a DLCL Focal Group on anthropodecentric thinking. Since 2014, the group has served as a platform for graduate and faculty research. Our meetings combine reading discussion, student presentations, and guest speakers. Regular workshop meetings include some twenty-five participants from ILAC and Comp Lit (the pillars of the group), as well as from English, MTL, German, Anthropology, and Music, among others. We collaborate with several other groups on campus and correspond with similar projects in the Bay Area and elsewhere. Cognate courses, as well as completed and ongoing dissertation projects, speak to the continuing impact of the group. There have been sixteen workshops and an international conference to date. The former average twenty-five participants; the latter had over seventy. The convening theme for our sixth year of activities will be “Life and Transmission.”

Session formats alternate to include discussions of readings moderated by faculty and graduate students, presentations of works-in-progress, and talks by guest speakers. All readings will be pre-distributed by email and are available to download from our website,

For more information, please contact Romina Wainberg at