By Daniel Runnels and José Luis Suárez Morales
During our first semesters as graduate students in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, we remember participating in the Iberoamerican Imperial Histories Working Group organized by various faculty members. Along with other activities outside of our formal coursework, such as those organized by the Center for Theoretical Inquiry in the Humanities, this was a fantastic opportunity to incorporate our growing interest in critical theory with our studies of Latin American literature and culture.
In the fall of 2019, as we were both beginning to write dissertations, we decided to re-launch the group as a space to read and discuss theoretical texts that engage with key political, aesthetic, and philosophical concepts of modernity seen through the lens of Latin American and Iberian cultures. Specifically, we became highly interested in engaging with post-foundational approaches to critical theory and texts that explored the relationships between politics, technology, and globalization. Our group, which consists of graduate students and faculty members, meets once a month to read and discuss theoretical texts such as Martin Heidegger's "The Question Concerning Technology" and his "Letter on Humanism," as well as two books by Reiner Schürmann: Broken Hegemonies and Heidegger on Being and Acting: From Principles to Anarchy. Likewise, every semester we choose an academic book by scholars in our field, such as Orlando Bentancor's The Matter of Empire: Metaphysics and Mining in Colonial Peru and Erin Graff Zivin's Anarchaeologies: Reading as Misreading.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to move our meetings online. While we do miss our in-person gatherings, this situation has presented us with the opportunity to invite scholars from different institutions to discuss the spring 2021 semester's topic: infrapolitics. After our first meeting, which served as a sort of introduction to the topic, we were pleased to be joined by Professor Alberto Moreiras from Texas A&M University and Professor Gareth Williams from the University of Michigan for subsequent sessions. On March 5th, we discussed with Professor Moreiras fragments of his recent book Infrapolítica: Instrucciones de uso. On April 2nd and 30th, we had conversations with Professor Williams, who introduced us to his recently published Infrapolitical Passages: Global Turmoil, Narco-Accumulation, and the Post-Sovereign State. The discussions and reflections stemming from the Iberoamerican Imperial Histories Working Group have been a very enriching experience. The group has allowed us to engage with cutting-edge research in our field of study and many of us have incorporated these theoretical tools into our current research. We look forward to continuing to meet next academic year.