- From the Editor: More than Global
We are interested in the migration and circulation of ideas and forms. We seek after unexpected resonances, impossible prefigurations, and significative anachronisms. We look for nondominant ways of considering the world(s) we inhabit, we try to invent or reinvent alternative modes of pluralism. We want something “more than global”: more than “globalization” in all its forms, and more than its academic companion once called “global studies.” Even the actual and contemporary limits of “the globe” may need to be transgressed. Some of us put our hope in a syncretic mode of thinking; others write connected histories in an attempt to decentralize the conventional narrative of modern “worlding.” There are still other options. I am not always sure of the paths we should take, but I would guess we do not want to walk a straight line here, so any methodological purism might be somewhat dubious. We then need to be aware of the historical and political dimensions of our task, and situate our research in a time that appears after the postcolonial. Reflecting on what is more than global also needs to be a collective endeavor, with contributors coming from and commenting on different languages and contexts. Some level of mutual intelligibility has to be reached, while heterogeneity needs to be maintained.
One challenge lies in the kind of multi-dimensional approach to the world(s) we want to adopt. The past should not be eluded, but it must not be turned into some quasi-transcendental fate under the guise of a univocal “memory” or “tradition.” Moreover, the problem is not so much to rediscover or rehabilitate the past as it is to reinvent its presence. Let me briefly allude to one (broad) example. The “Greek element” largely served the glorious legend of “the West” in modern times. In antiquity, among Hellenic cities, it also worked as a self-referential and performative myth of autochthony. But, especially after the demise of Alexander's imperialism, it also turned into a deterritorialized and deterritorializing Hellenism, which was largely promoted by Rome. Greek became at once post-Greek, and the so-called Greek element a ferment. The unity of “the Greeks” is even more visibly a fiction when viewed through the prism of what it allowed outside of historical Panhellenism. From Afghan sculpture to Arabic philosophy, from Alexandrian schools to Haitian neoclassicism, Greece exceeds Greece. Beyond the political coordinates of empires, the fact that classical Greece was, in itself and “from the start,” a very composite construct certainly explains the success of its discontinuous transformations. My late friend Martin Bernal, to whom this special issue is dedicated, would have spoken of the Afro-Asiatic roots of Greek culture. I would say that our main problem has little to do with our “roots,” or with a substitutive narrative for some translatio studii et imperii. Connecting the dots, bridging the gaps, or contemplating the intricate picture of the world do not strike me as the best solutions either. Our goal is rather to rethink the inherent contradictions of any local or global phenomenon, to understand the becoming of a practice or a text as one of its necessary dimensions (and not as a simple and detachable aftereffect), and to ultimately posit the possibility of some world signification.
I want to suggest an analogy. (We are always—and rightly—warned not to push analogies too far. Nonetheless, one of our concerns in telling the world beyond the confines of [End Page 4] the global is to see how the ana-logical is not—or not only—something a- or anti-logical, but is concurrently produced by the very defects of analogical progression.) The contemporary fragmentation of world dominance and the gradual relativization of the United States could make us feel more justly that the “American element” should not be reduced to the imperial standards of Americanization. American universities in particular, instead of being international shopping malls for ideas and degrees, could be the locus for some reinvention. At any rate, this journal, both an emanation of a particular structure within a geographical site (one that happens to be “in the middle of nowhere”) and an unaffiliated...