I'm glad to announce the creation of a new web page of quite an old journal, "Prace Komisji Neofilologicznej PAU": http://pau.krakow.pl/index.php/pl/wydawnictwo/strony-czasopism/prace-komisji-neofilologicznej-pau/o-czasopismie. At a rhythm of one volume a year, it presents essentially the papers presented during the monthly reunions of the Modern Languages Committee of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences (sometimes translated in English as Polish Academy of Learning).
Just to explain, Polska Akademia Umiejętności is one thing, and Polska Akademia Nauk (Polish Academy of Sciences) is another. The dualism of these institutions is essentially the result of Poland's troubled history. Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences continues the traditions of Cracovian Learned Society created in 1815 and the first Academy of Learning founded in 1871 in the Austrian Partition.
The Committee on Modern Languages in its present form exists since 1997/1998 and meets regularly since 1999, gathering mainly the scholars in German, French, English and Iberian literature connected to both Cracovian universities (the Jagiellonian one as well as a smaller institution, Pedagogical University of Cracow). This is a short tradition in a long history, marked by many ups and downs, yet I'm personally determined to keep it alive. I know the journal may appear as not very conspicuous among much more dynamic and colourful initiatives all around, but I feel in it the appeal of tradition in an ever-shifting academic landscape of a country where intellectual continuity had (has?) been continually under strain.
"MIA COUTO - MOZAMBICKI SZAMAN SŁOWA", Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań.
Yet another of my weekly conferences that I find relaxing. I'm glad to say that finally I'm among friends in a Polish Lusophone studies context. It hasn't always been the case. The event was small, but down to the essential part of this academic milieu in Poland: that means me, Renata Diaz-Szmidt, Wojciech Charchalis and some younger people. Yet it was just enough to think about publishing a small shared volume on Mia Couto and planning for the next event of a similar kind.
Not a particular fan of Mia Couto, I spoke about just one novel, Um rio chamado tempo, uma casa chamada terra. I find it particularly interesting as it comes close to one of my topics: the emergence of transcolonial intellectual. I want to illustrate this topic by sketching a triangulation of three apparently distant writers: Couto in Mozambique, Azergui in Morocco and Masłowska in Poland. All of them deal with the discovery of writing (yes, even Masłowska, as she represents, in Paw królowej, the hip-hop orality of a working class marginalized by intelligentsia, a typically Polish social category monopolizing the written culture).
In all these cases, the young heroes use the writing to solve the problems generated by the imperfect freedom of the previous, post-colonial generation. They become intellectuals - yet beyond the definition of the intellectual as the central instance of modernity and modernization. They represent a paradoxical link of solidarity with everything that is ancestral, giving it a written expression.
3RD NATIONAL ORIENTALIST CONFERENCE "HISTORICAL MEMORY IN CULTURES OF AFRICA AND ASIA", University of Warsaw.
Participating in conferences weekly, as I've been doing these days, is perhaps an exaggeration. Yet I just can't stop. Oriental studies always bring about something fresh, and I find them relaxing. Also this time, even if my own presentation on al-Andalus might perhaps be judged as close to failure, I don't regret the time spent among people and books - as always, I brought home an overcharged bag, full of Hafiz and Hindi grammar.
I promise myself to elaborate my Andalusian topic much more. First of all, as I claim, it's not a territorialized "place of memory", but rather a symbolic space, rich in transcultural potential I'm keen to explore, even if perhaps it's not the central issue on this occasion. In my presentation, I did something I shouldn't have done as a self-respecting scholar - I mentioned a novel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, La piel del tambor, where the return of the Saracens (in guise of Saudi investors) is the primary cause of all the trouble. Yet my hypothesis is contrary to the message in this popular book. Al-Andalus has been remembered, as I argue, in a completely deterritorialized way, of which buying a Rolls-Royce Ghost Firnas, rather than a window upon the Giralda, might be the symbol. The Saracens have already brought it home.
There is much to be said about the contemporary reinvention of Abbas ibn Firnas as the icon of Andalusian glory. Yet the topic should be seen in even larger perspective: the tradition of presenting and remembering al-Andalus as a lost world, the very symbol of perishable greatness. This is why I believe I should go back as far as al-Rundi to see how and why al-Andalus became, both in Arabic and Jewish memory, the symbol of irretrievably lost, with no hotel window giving upon it.
"DELEUZE + ART", Trinity College, Dublin.
The conference went close to intellectual collapse, making me feel acutely the categories of time and anachronism in humanities. We are coming late, very late to anything that concerns Deleuze.
One of the highlights was the exposition of Francis Bacon's works in the Hugh Lane Gallery, accompanied by a keynote given by Dan Smith. The title of this post, in the meanwhile, is taken from Mieke Bal, whose presentation was undoubtedly the clue of the event. She was speaking on "Madame B", an art movie we saw in the Arts Technology Research Lab later on. In fact, her reflection on acculturation, inscribed in a free interpretation of Flaubert's Madame Bovary, went close to many things I might find useful for my own transcultural aspiration. And, in more personal terms, the conference as a social event was a great exercise of performing my un-belonging in a certain kind of academic life. As propaedeutics of wisdom and intellectual sovereignty - invaluable.
And finally, my own presentation that literally ended up in a riot about universalism - unforgettable.