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Series Update: Provocations

Similar in its aim to the manifesto, the pamphlet, or the essay, the Provocations series takes a strong stand on contemporary debates and issues within the humanities. Rather than address a specific problem within a particular field, this series establishes a forum for the kind of cross-disciplinary theoretical experimentation that is the very essence of cutting-edge work in the humanities.

This series offers ambitious, polemical texts that exist outside the traditional formats of academic discourse (longer than an academic article and shorter than a monograph), and will concentrate on the broad philosophical and theoretical subjects involving the humanities. Seeking to fill a hole in the current publication market for the field of the theoretical humanities, books in the series will take a strong stand on a contemporary debate or issue within the humanities and propose a clearly formulated (even if controversial) intervention.

VenutiWritten by Lawrence Venuti, Contra Instrumentalism (July 2019) questions the long-accepted notion that translation reproduces or transfers an invariant contained in or caused by the source text. The book aims to end the dominance of instrumentalism by showing how it grossly oversimplifies translation practice and fosters an illusion of immediate access to source texts. Lawrence Venuti asserts that all translation is an interpretive act that necessarily entails ethical responsibilities and political commitments. Venuti argues that a hermeneutic model offers a more comprehensive and incisive understanding of translation that enables an appreciation of not only the creative and scholarly aspects of what a translator does but also the crucial role translation plays in the cultural and social institutions that shape human life.

Previously in Provocations, the series discussed popular music and its impact on society. In I’m Not Like Everybody Else (October 2018), Jeffery T. Nealon argues that popular music has not exactly been co-opted in the American capitalist present. Contemporary neoliberal capitalism has, in fact, found a central organizing use for the values of twentieth-century popular music: being authentic, being your own person, and being free. In short, not being like everybody else. Through a consideration of the shift in dominant modes of power in the American twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Nealon argues that the modes of musical “resistance” need to be completely rethought and that a commitment to musical authenticity or meaning—saying “no” to the mainstream—is no longer primarily where we might look for music to function against the grain. Rather, it is in the technological revolutions that allow biopolitical subjects to deploy music within an everyday set of practices that one might find a kind of ambient or ubiquitous answer to the “attention capitalism” that has come to organize neoliberalism in the American present. In short, Nealon stages the final confrontation between “keepin’ it real” and “sellin’ out.”

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