Obszary niewiedzy. Lewicowa krytyka literacka

CfP 3/2024 - The Return of the Seventeenth Century - Political Thought and Imagination at the Margins of the Modern World


Mateusz Janik, Antonina Januszkiewicz

Issue language:


Abstracts submission date:

August 10, 2023

Manuscripts submission date:

December 31, 2023

Planned date of publication:


The early modern construction of the colonial world depended not only on military conquest and economic subjugation but also on a process of the “colonization of imagination” that excluded any possibility of existing outside the logic of the colonial/modernist world. This process entailed erasing possible worlds, modes of being and thinking, and ways of practicing social relations. Its history and genealogy can be traced back to the long Seventeenth Century, a time when the global horizon of the world was already visible, despite the obvious existence of a plethora of external worlds threatened by the colonial expansion of the West. At this point, European intellectual, political and economic practices were still largely confined to local contexts, yet they made unsubstantiated universalist claims to become the norm against which any other historical agencies were to be measured.

The emergence of global imagery was only one among many elements that constitute the exceptionality of the Seventeenth Century. On the local level, the early modern period is marked by a profound crisis that transformed the way people thought, acted and produced knowledge. Structural change that swept through European society at that time brought about the scientific revolution, the reinvention of political and religious institutions, the dissolution of feudal society, the collective trauma associated with the Thirty Years War, and economic breakdown induced partially by the climate change (“Little Ice Age”). Today’s world is undergoing a structural crisis not very different from the one that defined the early modern period.

The discursive imagery of the contemporary world as well as its conceptual and ideological framing are also deeply rooted in the early modern philosophical debates. The political imagination of the Seventeenth Century produced some of the main concepts through which political and social institutions are seen today. The very idea of a nation-state emerged in the early modern period, superseding many of the traditional conceptions of the political body. The questions of sovereignty, individual and collective agency, and the subject-citizen dilemma, were addressed in response to the political and economic crisis that culminated in the Thirty Years War. While all of the notions mentioned above are challenged today in one way or another, their erosion is also opening a new space for a reinvention of the ways in which body politics are organized. Together with the crisis of the state institutions and weakening of democratic legitimacy, we may observe the re-emergence of the global Outside, and the recovery of indigenous, non-Western, and grassroots ideas regarding political life initiated by the decolonial movement, which can be seen as series of major subversions of the universalist perspective.

Seventeenth-century Europe was also confronted with non-European ways of organizing politics, producing knowledge, and performing social relationships. Responses to these other modes of being oscillated between two polarities: the figure of the “Chinese Emperor” managing the superior state apparatus and the “Native” living an unconstrained life in the state of nature. These two figures (the imperial State and Nature) became frames animating the political thought of the leading early modern thinkers. But they resound in today’s intellectual debates as well, such as those concerning the climate crisis, where most of the responses are based on models of political ecology oscillating between primitivist preservationism and technocratic universalism.

Whether we look at the climate crisis, the Anthropocene, decoloniality or the emergence of the new polycentric system of political and economic power, we can trace all these issues back to early modern concerns. However, instead of following the evolution of the global world-system, we seek to investigate the world(s) appearing outside and at the margins of the global expansion of capitalism with its colonial/modernist discourses. While the critical and creative potential of the imagination is usually associated with the “accelerationist” projects of intensifying the process of capitalist expansion and its socio-technological development, it is primarily at the margins and wastelands of the global modernity that the more radical and vivid alternatives are often formulated. At the very center of this realm is the image of the world consisting of a multitude of entangled worlds and modes of being that exist below the logic of global universalism.

We invite submissions discussing the trans-historical entanglement of early modern and late modern visions of the world, as well as the peripheral and indigenous responses to the universalizing tendencies of colonial imperialism. We are particularly interested in papers that explore the way in which seventeenth-century political thought in Europe responded to or incorporated non-European visions of the world and the body politic. We also welcome authors who focus on the global/local encounters created by an exceptional network of marginalized and hybrid subjectivities, generating new images of the world and employing alternative modes of epistemic, cultural, political and economic production.

Examples of inquiry questions:

- Global early modernity;

- Early modern genealogies of late Capitalism;

- Non-European thought in early modern political discourse;

- Savages, natives, brutes and idolaters - the naturalization of indigenous social worlds;

- Invention and expansion of the modern state;

- Neo-baroque and neoliberalism;

- The concept of Nature as a political realm;

- Non-modern temporalities.