This volume is derived from a conference convened and organized by
Nirvana Tanoukhi at Stanford and sponsored by the Program in Modern
Thought and Literature. The initial set of questions that guided the partici-
pants emerged from this statement:
“Globalization” has recently replaced “postcolonialism” and “diaspora”
as the buzzword in the humanities and humanistic social sciences, pre-
senting the disciplines with the challenge of describing “world-scale”
phenomena. However, this challenge has triggered a varied and uneven
response across the disciplines. For example, while history has moved
away from Braudelian historiography towards “comparative,” “migra-
tion,” and “border” studies, comparative literature has undergone a shift
away from traditional “influence” studies to most recently witness a revi-
val of the question of “world literature.” Each discipline has conducted its
own experiment with analytical frameworks espousing world-scale am-
bitions, among which has been Wallerstein’s influential world-systems
analysis. Are these experiments relevant to current methodological de-
bates? Does the globalization debate warrant a reconsideration of world-
scale analysis for the study of subjects like world literature, global envi-
ronmental ethics, or post-national governance? And if, in this enterprise
of “global” knowledge, “the world” cannot be taken as a tractable unit of
analysis, what can?
The essays that were originally presented addressed such questions, and
raised their own in turn, which has led to the reshaping and reconsideration
of our starting point, as was intended and hoped for.
Besides these participants, Tani Barlow, Gopal Balakrishnan, Neil Bren-
ner, Helen Stacy, and Kären Wigen kindly agreed to add their thoughts to
our conversation. Along with the authors of the essays contained here, we
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