What institutions of tertiary education in varieties of the metropole now have to think about is that globalization has introduced a kind of accessible contemporaneity to us, and placed us within it, which has not taken away, but rendered obsolete, the established ways of knowing the historical. Modernity/tradition methodologies, colonial/postcolonial methodologies remain appropriate in their own place, but are no longer useful to understand this new situation, which seems to lend itself more easily to a quantified, statisticalized, and, in a less rigorous way, simply arithmeticalized approach, democracy computed as supervised safe elections, epistemic claims without reality checks, going hand in hand with a collection of “global” curiosities as evidence.
Let us rather ask ourselves how we must change in response to this challenge to knowing, not how we can add more information and money to the spectacular alternative streams at the edges of disciplines. How can the mainstream of disciplines be rearranged so that we and our students learn to think differently, rather than separate rigorous history and method from the glamour of easy globality. Such challenges have come in history from time to time and intellectual historians as well as students of the history of consciousness have told us after the fact how these changes happened. To that extent, we too must give ourselves over to what we call the future anterior, what will have happened in spite of our best efforts. But at the university, we must also make these efforts — once again, to change ourselves, rather than simply to acquire more substantive knowledge.
This lecture was given at the Edward Said Memorial Conference, which focused on Edward Said’s legacy and paid tribute to the 10th anniversary of his passing. Each day of the conference featured renowned speakers and established academics on Edward Said’s work. Major attention was paid to cultural activities that resounded with Said’s vision in combining scholarship with the Arts so as to support the quest for justice, self-determination and equality.