Global Ambivalence: On Culture and Barbarism

Part of The Phyllis Wattis Distinguished Lecture Series


Homi Bhabha

Founded in 1995 through the generosity of Phyllis Wattis, this series of lectures brings influential thinkers to SFMOMA. This spring’s distinguished lecturer is Homi Bhabha, Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. Bhabha is one of the most incisive and eloquent theorists of cultural identity working today. His books include The Location of Culture, Nation and Narration, and the new work A Measure of Dwelling, which addresses the history of cosmopolitanism. Okwui Enwezor, dean of academic affairs at the San Francisco Art Institute, will speak in response to the lecture, drawing on his experience as curator of numerous exhibitions on the global politics of contemporary art.

Why is it important to construct a narrative of global culture that starts with history’s most brutal events? Bhabha’s lecture reflects on the fine, fragile balance between “culture” and “barbarism” that provides an ethical and political measure of our times. The talk also explores diasporic artists and art forms around the world – with particular attention to the articulation of brutality and beauty, loss and revision, displacement and commitment, tradition and technology – and asks how such practices might serve a cosmopolitan future.