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Join us for "Afterlives," the 2020 Comparative Literature Conference at The Graduate Center, CUNY with Keynote speaker Dr. Nicholas Brown of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Long after an era, movement, or idea is declared over, its paradigms, resonances, influences and values live on in our social fabric. Whether we continue to let them act on us or we react against them, their afterlives extend into the future, echoing across our theoretical markers for their endings. Strict periodization is fraught and the ways in which we read and reread histories often result in puzzling networks of relations between historical legacies and our own position as readers. The afterlives of histories and cultures are always, then, practices of reading après-coup.

Afterlives is an alternative to thinking in explicitly marked eras. Instead of rushing to add “post-” to theory, modernity, national identity, slavery, the Cold War, capitalism, and colonialism, we might see these in their afterlives as spectres continuing to haunt our discourse. Some of these are treated as if clinically dead, others not quite past/post-, but none of them fail to influence our imaginings of the future. How have these informed alternative futures, such as queer utopia or afrofuturism? How do we renegotiate or reactivate the afterlives of ideas in the material world? What, for instance, do we do with fascist architecture or confederate monuments? How do we reactivate long-forgotten films, books, photographs, notes, marginalia, so alive in their contemporary moment? And to what end? What happens to afterlives in an era of climate change and extinction, when the very promise of future resonance is irrevocably threatened if not doomed?