From peripheral to alternative and back: contemporary meanings of modernity

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Drawing on Giorgio Agamben’s understanding of the contemporary as that which inscribes itself in the present through a disjunction or anachronism, this essay discusses contemporary meanings of modernity by looking at the way in which non-synchrony and dis-placement can be used as instrumental ap proaches to rethinking the dominant Eurocentric approach to a progressive, Northern-based idea of the modern. Peripheral, alternative, global, transnational, and even “bad” modernities have been concepts wrangled by cultural theory to come to terms with the trials of hegemonic modernity. The paper will discuss some of these attempts at redefining the modern and ask what they mean, whose voice they convey, and from whence they are spoken. It will then argue in favour of a revision of the peripheral as a productive category to frame an aesthetics of the (in)actual, drawing attention to the disjunction at the heart of the contentious idea of the modern in a few Iberian examples (e.g. Fernando Pessoa and Amadeo Souza Cardoso). This is particularly important for rethinking an artistic-based epistemology of the South, particularly from the standpoint of Iberian discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe languages of world literature
EditorsAchim Hermann Hölter
Place of PublicationBerlin
PublisherDe Gruyter
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9783110645033
ISBN (Print)9783110574333
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2024


  • Modernity
  • Modernism
  • Peripheries


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