This lecture casts the history of liberal modernity as a complex, braided project, which includes at once the universal promises of rights, emancipation, wage labor and free trade, as well as the global divisions and colonial asymmetries upon which those promises depend, and according to which such liberties are reserved for some and denied to others. A history of the present, which defamiliarizes given narratives of the present social formation, may reveal the subsumption of colonial difference in the history of modern progress, and query the assumptions regarding the continuity of the neoliberal present as either the apotheosis or betrayal of the liberal project.
Lisa Lowe is a scholar in the fields of comparative literature, and the cultural politics of race, colonialism, and diaspora at Tufts University. Before joining Tufts, she taught in the Literature Department at UC San Diego for over two decades. She is the recipient of awards and fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, the UC Humanities Research Institute, the American Council of Learned Societies, the School of Advanced Study-University of London, and the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. Lowe is the author of Critical Terrains: French and British Orientalisms (Cornell UP), Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics (Duke UP), and coauthor of The Politics of Culture in the Shadow of Capital (Duke UP). Her most recent project, The Intimacies of Four Continents, a study of the global conditions for liberal economy, knowledge, culture, and politics, is forthcoming from Duke UP in 2015. Lowe received her Ph.D. in Literature from UC Santa Cruz.