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“World without a Center: The Dispersal of Knowledge and Culture in the Planetary Age”


“World without a Center: The Dispersal of Knowledge and Culture in the Planetary Age”

A tacit, and then explicit, understanding of globalization accompanied the emergence of modern science and culture. This worldview, based as much on secular experience and scientific reasoning as on the presumed superiority of European culture and polity, has provided the framework for both interpreting unprecedented technological advances and for justifying the gradual exploration, even exploitation of the globe. Above and beyond the practical aspects of this primary model of global understanding, such as its underwriting of the basic principles of colonialism, this interpretive mindset advances a fundamental assumption about global interaction; it rests on the unchallenged opposition between a center, which fuels economic development as well as new thinking and culture, and a periphery, which necessarily follows in the wake of that center in trying to emulate it and partake of its enforced advantages, even if belatedly.

In the epoch of globalization, this basic view has permeated virtually all domains of policy and intellectual interpretation, whether it be a matter of economic development, scientific and technological knowledge, or creativity in the realms of the arts, literature, and culture generally. Although current models of thinking globalism are still beholden to the idea of a center, in the contemporary global context it has become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to identify the center that serves, even metaphorically, as the dominating motor of historical progress. While the increasing obsolescence of this early view of globalism is most readily visible in the corporate and manufacturing sectors of the world economy, which no longer operate as nation-based industries, this situation equally applies to ongoing production of new knowledge and culture.

In the humanities and in the human sciences generally, the organization of knowledge, including the various disciplines and traditions constituting autonomous university departments, has been slow to examine the basic presuppositions about this truly global, decentralized knowledge economy. Growing awareness of the inadequacy of current models of globalism has spawned multifarious attempts to describe this transformed world dimension by creating new concepts, often relying on neologisms built around notions expressed in prefixes such as “inter-,” “multi-,” and “trans-” (“transnational,” “intercultural,” or “multidisciplinary,” for example) to describe the shift taking place. Yet the gradual falling away of an overarching center implies more than the emergence of new centers of gravity, an increasing number of centers vying for importance, or substituting one center for another, as in the shift from Europe, to the United States, and, in the immediate future, to Asia.

In the contemporary context, which suggests that what might be designated as a paradigm shift is under way, it has become imperative to rethink the fundamental categories that inform our understanding of the globe. This conference seeks to examine these large questions by inviting numerous specialists from around the world and representing a wide variety of disciplines. In a more concrete perspective, how might the global polity be thought without the notion of center, whether it takes the form of a nation-state imposing its global vision or a specific national culture setting the standard for global circulation? In this vein, what might be envisaged for the role of ongoing knowledge production in an integrated polity? In attempting to come to terms with a truly decentralized world in which the circulation of goods, ideas, and knowledge seep throughout the globe with no readily discernible pattern established beforehand, this conference aims to contribute to elaborating new modalities for interpreting and remapping an increasingly insistent global polity.


<!--[if !supportLists]-->¨         <!--[endif]-->Friday, 21 October 2011

10:00-22:00               Registration


    Lobby, Crowne Plaza* Shanghai, 400 Pan Yu Road, Shanghai, P.R.China


18:00                          Dinner

<!--[if !supportLists]-->¨         <!--[endif]-->Saturday, 22 October 2011

9:00-9:30                  Opening Remarks of the Conference

Zhang Jie, President, Shanghai Jiao Tong University

9:30-10:45                Narrative and Society

Chair: Liu Kang, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Duke University

"Market Sublime and Vernacular Sociology."  Tani Barlow, Rice University

“Les récits du soi mobiles: Montréal comme terrain d'investigation ”(Narrative of Mobile Self : Montreal as a Field of Investigation), Simon Harel, Université de  Montréal   

10:45-12:00              Chinese Modernity in the Global Context

Chair, Wang Jie, Shanghai Jiao Tong University

“Internationalization of Chinese Humanities and Social Science Studies Liu Kang, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Duke University

“Shanghai Modern: Deconstructing the Singular Modernity and Reconstructing an Alternative Oriental Modernity” Wang Ning,Shanghai Jiao Tong University


   12:00                                         Lunch                                                           

14:30-15:45            Architecture in the Global Context

Chair, Lu Tonglin, Université de Montréal


“Régional, national ou international? Le concours de projets comme indice de l'ouverture au monde de l'architecture canadienne”, (Regional, National, or International? Project Competition as an Index of the Ouverture of Canadian Architecture toward the World) Jean-Pierre Chupin, Université de Montréal

 “From the Contradictions of Universal Environmental Norms to theDecentralization Potential of the Precautionary Principle,”Carmela Cucuzzella, Concordia University

15:45-16:15               Coffee Break


16:15-17:30          Cinema and Globalization

Chair: Ge Yan, Shanghai Jiao Tong University

全国化与全球化中国电影的新想象, “Nationalization and Globalization : The New Imaginary of Chinese Cinema,”Zhang Yiwu, Peking University

Massive Migration as Still Life,” Lu Tonglin, Université de Montreal

    18:00                                                   Dinner

<!--[if !supportLists]-->¨         <!--[endif]-->Sunday, 23 October 2011

9:00-10:15    Religion, Ethics, and Theory

Chair: Tom Lamarre, McGill University

西方马克思主义宗教论说的六个问题领域 (Six Questions on Religion in Western Marxism) Yang Huilin, Beijing Renmin University  


"Reconciling Confucianism and Nationalism," Daniel A. Bell, Shanghai Jiao Tong University 

10:15-10:45     Coffee Break

10:45-12:00     A Changing World

Chair: Gary Xu, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and University of Illinois

“Literary Creation in the Age of Globalization” Catherine Mavrikakis,  Université de Montréal

" The State of the World after Auschwitz Terry Cochran, Université de Montréal

    12:00                                        Lunch                                                           

14:30-15:45                       China in New Form

Chair, Terry Cochran, Université de Montréal

 “Agamben and the Contemporaneity of Contemporary Chinese Art” Gary Xu, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and University of Illinois

“Internet Linking Literatures of China and the World,” Chen Jing, Shanghai Jiao Tong University

15:45-16:15                      Coffee Break


16:15-17:30               Technology and Epistemology in the New Era

Chair, Daniel A. Bell, Shanghai Jiao Tong University

"Region and Genre: Transnational and Transmedial Serialization” Tom Lamarre,  McGill University


"Unburdening the World of Atlas: Mapping Knowledge from the Urban Space," Benoit Faucher, Université de Montréal

Contact Information:

Lu Tonglin, Co-organizer, Tel: 862134202854E-mail: tonglin.lu@umontreal.ca

Liu Kang, Co-organizer, Tel: 862134202854E-mail: liukang@duke.edu

Chen Jing, contactor, Cell Phone: 86(21)139-1662-8574l Email: chenjing512@sjtu.edu.cn


Barlow, Tani, T. T. and W. F. Chao Chair Professor of Asian History; Director, Chao Center for Asian Studies, Rice University

Bell, Daniel, ZhiYuan Chair Professor of Institute of Arts and Humanities, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Professor of Political Philosophy at City University of Hongkong

Chen, Jing, Associate Researcher of Institute of Arts and Humanities

Chupin, Jean-Pierre, Professor of School of Architecture, Université de Montréal

Cochran, Terry, Professor of Comparative Literature, Université de Montréal

Cucuzzella, Carmela,  Assistant Professor, Concordia University; Researcher,  LEAP (Laboratoire d'étude de l'architecture potentielle) Université de Montréal

Faucher, Benoit, PhD candidate in Comparative Literature, Université de Montréal

Harel, Simon, Professor in the department of literary studies, Université de Montréal

Ge Yan, Pilot-Project Professor of Institute of Arts and Humanities, Shanghai Jiao Tong University

Lamarre, Thomas, Professor of East Asian Studies and of Art History & Communications Studies, McGill University

Liu Kang, ZhiYuan Chair Professor of Institute of Arts and Humanities, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Professor of Comparative Literature at Duke University

Lu Tonglin, Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Montreal  and ZhiYuan Chair Professor of Institute of Arts and Humanities, Shanghai Jiao Tong University

Mavrikakis, Catherine, Professor of Département des littératures de langue française, Université de Montréal

Wang Ning, ZhiYuan Chair Professor of Institute of Arts and Humanities, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Professor of Comparative Literature at Tsinghua University

Xu, Gary, Distinguished Visiting Professor, Professor of University of Illinois-Urbana

Yang Huilin, Professor of Religious Studies and Vice President of Beijing Renmin University

Zhang Yiwu, Professor of Chinese Literature, Peking University


Crowne Plaza* Shanghai  上海银星皇冠酒店


400 Pan Yu Road, Shanghai 200052, P.R.China

tel (86)21 6145 888 ext.14020

fax (86)21 6282 2014


China toll-free numbers

400 884 0888

Conference Room Location

Meeting Room

First Floor, Old Library

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