Julia Ng Awarded Postdoctoral Fellowship at Harvard

ngJulia Ng, a Comparative Literary Studies doctoral candidate, has been awarded a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Harvard University's Mahindra Humanities Center for the 2012-2013 academic year. Julia's research is on the afterlives of late eighteenth-century thought, with an emphasis on literary and political theory and German-Jewish studies. Her dissertation, "Conditions of Impossibility: Failure and Fictions of Perpetual Peace," shows how Walter Benjamin's and Gershom Scholem's ideas of messianism in the milieu of the First World War issue from the insight that justice after Kant is realizable only under conditions deemed "impossible" given our psychical and physical organization as humans, and thus requires revision with a mathematically up-to-date concept of its formal possibility. Using archival findings from Jerusalem, Berlin and Paris, the dissertation reconstructs a "Benjaminian" theory of scientific cognition that requires us to rethink political agency in terms of an efficacy that precedes and exceeds what is deemed "possible" for the human body, physical force, and the scope of right. At Harvard, Julia will be revising her dissertation for publication as well as embarking on a second book project, "Body, Force, Right: Towards a Literary Theory of Posthumous Life," which will track a change in the conception of the barest minimum of "life" between 1800 and 1900 by analyzing the "posthumous work" of Kant's and Nietzsche's late writings.