The Subaltern and the Popular 2:
Re-Visioning Analytic Frames
October 21 & 22, 2005
University of California, Santa Barbara
The objective of the 2-day symposium is to continue the
dialogue initiated by a symposium at UCSB during March 2004.
We began with the proposition that the precise relation between
the subaltern and the popular remains untheorized. Often,
no analytic distinction is made between the two terms: phrases
such as "history of the people" and "politics of the people"
are used indiscriminately and interchangeably with "history
of the subaltern classes," all presumably identified by their
resistance to or difference from "elite" politics, culture
Retaining our focus to the "subaltern" and the "popular"
as subjects and modes of inquiry into culture and politics,
we turn to some specific theoretical and evidentiary issues
connected to the role of visual culture and popular cultural
forms in constituting the relation between the subaltern and
the popular. These include a close rethinking of the Gramscian
assumption that the subaltern lacks access to modes of representation,
considering indigenous modes of knowledge and practice, as
well as the mass availability of audio-visual technologies
and communication networks. These are some of the questions
we invite the participants to address:
- Under what conditions do the subaltern and the popular
cross paths, collude, conflict? What ensues from these engagements?
- What are the sites of these engagements? To what degree
has mass media permeated the subaltern as a cultural entity?
- What are the roles of popular cultural forms, such as
popular art, film and music, in addressing and configuring
- What are the difficulties of configuring and analyzing
the subaltern through liberal political philosophy and constructs
of the state?
- What is gained from retaining the notions of community
and the state as ideal abstracts in imagining the political?
- Are there forms of community among subaltern groups that
elude our analytic gaze? Are there forms of political praxis
that engage a radically different notion of community?
- What changes in our conceptual and methodological approach
must we undertake in order to “learn to learn from
the subaltern?” What possible changes do we expect
this to bring about in our imaginations of culture, politics,
community, and theory?