Monday, August 06, 2007

Paris, c'est moi!

Well, I've been back from the University of East London's "Cultural Studies Now--An International Conference" for almost a couple of weeks. I'd intended to write sooner, but my head's just been dizzy trying to process the event--and getting caught up. Funny, isn't it, how you often need a break after returning from a trip?

Overall, the conference was a good show. Anything with a keynote by Stuart Hall is bound to be excellent, as far as I'm concerned. I also enjoyed the plenary sessions featuring Kuan-Hsing Chen, who talked about "Asia as Method," and Ien Ang, who offered a provocative reflection on where cultural studies might be headed. I regret having missed Rosi Braidotti, though I'd never been to London before and, well, London was calling. The panels I attended generally were quite good, and for my part I was pleased to present my work-in-progress on cultural studies and the politics of academic journal publishing. Gil "Revolution on Stick" Rodman and Melissa "Home Cooked Theory" Gregg have posted their thoughts on the conference, so you might want to check out their responses, too.

As you can see from the subject header, this post isn't really about London, or about "Cultural Studies Now." It's about the side-trip I made after the conference to Paris, France. It's an amazing city, and it's long been a dream of mine to go there. I wasn't disappointed. The art museums, the food, the architecture, the people, the language--it's just a remarkable place. I'll have to go back sometime soon...and maybe next time my near non-existent French will be a bit more existent.

Last year, when I traveled to Italy, I made a point of swinging by Rome's Protestant Cemetery, where the Marxist activist and political theorist Antonio Gramsci is interred. In the same spirit I tried tracking down the burial sites of some of my favorite French philosophers before heading to Paris. Unfortunately, I didn't get very far. Michel Foucault apparently is buried somewhere in northern France, Jacques Derrida in a Parisian suburb. FĂ©lix Guattari may be interred at La Borde Clinic, where he worked, and who knows where Gilles Deleuze is?

Anyway, I did discover that France, unlike the United States, cares a great deal about its intellectuals. As such, the country has a habit of naming public places after the most prominent among them. I visited two such spots. The first was the Place Sartre-Beauvoir, which is a good-sized square located off the Boulevard Saint-Germain. There I had coffee at Les Deux Magots, which, along with Cafe de Flore, was one of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir's favorite hangouts back in the day. I also dropped by the College de France, where I had the pleasure of stumbling across the Square Michel Foucault. I'm sure there must have been other, similar sites that I missed. Even so, it was a treat just to find these two. Both seemed to embody how people and their ideas can matter.

P.S. This is post #100 on Differences & Repetitions. Thanks to all for your readership, comments, and encouragement.

No comments: