The Universal and the Particular

2022–2023 Lunchtime Talk Series

“Universal” is a troubling word. While it is often used to dismiss thinking that oversteps its limits, it can also denote that which is inherent in any intellectual exercise—the very foundations of language, logic, and being. Over the past half-century, ostensible tensions between “the universal” and the “particular” have set the terms for an enormous range of heated debates in the humanities and social sciences. Students of postcolonial and decolonial theory, feminist and queer theory, critical theory, and post-structuralism have been wary of the ways in which the “universal” serves as a cypher for power, obfuscating and thus naturalizing the white, the Western, the masculine, the heterosexual, etc.

Yet, as Roy Dilley has pointed out, radical particularization, when pushed to its extreme, risks becoming its own form of universalist dogma. Moreover, Patricia Stuelke has argued that allegedly “humble” theoretical programs can serve as covers for the very regimes of power that they purport to oppose. In this series, we are interested in how contemporary thinkers are working within, around, and beyond “the universal and the particular.” Are these terms we must move beyond? Terms we cannot do without? What does it mean to think the universal from the particular (in this moment, from our varying locations)?

Book displayed with layered pages forming an anticline

Fault Lines, Doug Beube

2022-2023 Events

Shahzad Bashir
The World on a Lithograph Scroll from Meerut, 1849
Thu, Nov 3, 2022, 12:00 pm1:30 pm
Julis Romo Rabinowitz Building, Room 399
Colleen Lye
Value and Solidarity
Wed, Dec 7, 2022, 12:00 pm1:20 pm
Wallace Hall, room 300
Phil Chan
The Opposite of Cancel Culture: Shifting Opera and Ballet for a Multiracial Future
Wed, Feb 1, 2023, 12:00 pm1:30 pm
Elizabeth A. Povinelli
Political Imaginaries Unmoored: Beyond the Universal and Particular
Thu, Apr 6, 2023, 12:00 pm1:20 pm