After the canon? A conversation with Hal Foster

Foster_genzken_468wJohn Douglas Millar and Hal Foster at Eurozine:

Well the line that comes to mind first is an old statement by Edward Said from The Anti-Aesthetic where he said, “the humanities now represent human marginality or the marginality of the human”. That was over 30 years ago. In my own case it's complicated in the sense that modernism and the question of postmodernism could and were discussed in the remnants of the public sphere. Certainly in the States there once was such a thing as an independent intellectual and public sphere. That's really how October began and that's how I began too; I worked as a writer and editor for art magazines in that context. However, the art market came to dominate in the 1980s and with the triumph of neoliberalism came the deregulation of the art world and of art institutions in general. So, yes, we went to the academy for sanctuary only to discover that work is a commodity there too. Also, ironically that was the moment in the 1980s and into the early 1990s when critical theory had a special cache and itself became a prized commodity. Well that quickly ended when it turned out universities were not so keen to have this critical virus in their midst. The situation with the humanities now is complicated. Like you say, I work at an elite institution, on the other hand because Princeton is wealthy it has abundant scholarships so that if a young person is admitted to Princeton he or she does not have to pay, so it's actually quite economically diverse, if not sufficiently ethnically diverse, and so those kids are not quite so driven to become investment bankers. Ironically then, it's at the state universities that we see the crisis in the humanities where people are asked to develop as human capital, to develop their portfolio of skills to make them good grist for the neoliberal machine.

more here.