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Eric Cheyfitz, "The Disinformation Age: The Collapse of Liberal Democracy in the United States"

Tuesday, February 13, 2018 at 4:45pm

A.D. White House, Guerlac Room 29 East Ave, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA

Beginning in the present and going back to the American colonial period,  Dr. Eric Cheyfitz's ICM lecture proposes an historical explanation for the current political crisis and the reasons the two major political parties cannot address it effectively, if at all. Commentators inside and outside academia have described this crisis with various terms — income inequality, the disappearance of the middle-class, the collapse of the two-party system, the renewed rise of racism, and the emergence of a corporate oligarchy. While recognizing the aptness of such terminology, Cheyfitz offers an unifying explanation for the current state of the union by analyzing the seismic rupture of political rhetoric from political reality used within public discussion of these issues. In advancing his analysis, he provides a term for this rupture, “disinformation,” which he defines not as planned propaganda but as the inevitable failure of the language of American Exceptionalism to correspond to actual history, even as the two major political parties continue to deploy this language. We have reached, then, a political cul de sac, what Cheyfitz calls “the limits of capitalism’s imagination.” Cheyfitz proposes a way out of this dead end and the collapse of the climate it has engendered. This lecture, based on Cheyfitz’s recent book of the same name, urges us to start “thinking from a different place” that is located in the theory and practice of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, who offer us an alternative to nation-state capitalism.

This event is co-sponsored by the Society for the Humanities, American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program, English Department, and the American Studies program.

ERIC CHEYFITZ is the Ernest I. White Professor of American Studies and Humane letters at Cornell University, where he is a member of the English Department and the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program. His most recent book is The Disinformation Age: The Collapse of Liberal Democracy in the United States (Routledge, 2017). He is the co-editor of Sovereignty, Indigeneity, and the Law, a special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly which won the award for the best special issue of an academic journal in 2011 from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals; this issue was also acknowledged for "Outstanding Indigenous Scholarship" by the American Indian and Alaska Native Professors Association. He has published three other books, including The Poetics of Imperialism: Translation and Colonization from The Tempest to Tarzan, and over forty articles in journals, books, and other media, including such titles as “The Force of Exceptionalist Narratives in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict ”; “Native American Literature and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”; and “Reading Global Indigenous Resistance in Simon Ortiz’s Fight Back.

This event is free and open to the public. If you need accommodations to participate in this event, please contact as soon as possible.

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Institute for Comparative Modernities (ICM), American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program, English, American Studies Program, Society for the Humanities, Sustainability



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Catherine Clepper

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Eric Cheyfitz

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Cornell University

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