Against Autonomy: Global Dialectics of Cultural Exchange

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Stanford University Press, 2002 - Philosophy - 532 pages
This book investigates "cultural instruments," meaning normative forms of analysis and practice that are central to Western culture and in the course of their history came to be ways of understanding and controlling different cultures. Examples are: notions of autonomy and the division of intellectual, social, cultural, and aesthetic practices; ideas of otherness (taking forms like Gemeinschaft/Gesellschaft, négritude, and afrocentrism); cultural and aesthetic forms such as tragedy, mimesis, self, mind/body; certain modes of history and memory; and particular forms of discourse such as science, philosophy, and literature.

The book explores the interlocking histories of cultural instruments from antiquity to the early Enlightenment and their instrumental use and reworking by different cultures, moving from Europe to Africa and the Americas, especially the Caribbean. In the process, the author gives close readings of works by a wide range of authors: Balboa, Balbuena, Brathwaite, Calvino, Carpentier, Cervantes, Césaire, Depestre, Descartes, Eltit, Fanon, Freud, Gombrowicz, Harris, Kane, Kipling, Marshall, Walcott.

Many other authors' works become part of the book's general argument about how cultures are made, how they figure both themselves and other cultures, and how they mutually interact (when they do) through productions of what the author calls the "fictive imagination" what in the West is called "art" but in different cultures may take different names and serve different purposes.


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About the author (2002)

Timothy J. Reiss is Professor of Comparative Literature at New York University. He is the author, most recently, of Knowledge, Discovery, and Imagination in Early Modern Europe: The Rise of Aesthetic Rationalism.

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