In a world that is transnationally connected through migration, markets, and media, our intellectual maps, cultural policies, and academic departmentalization still rely heavily on categories and labels of identification—defined not in terms of interdependence, but territorial fixation, national origin, and “authentic” heritage. Recent critiques suggest that our attempts to think beyond national borders and fixed social domains have been shaped by naïve notions of global and local, of flow and circulation, and of how cultural forms are produced, owned, and valued. When sites of production, translation, and reception are dispersed world wide, each shaped by global/local assemblages of language, interest, and capital, how do we adequately document the complex ways that objects that circulate between them?
Our discussions considered models of “circulation” and related concepts as they stand at the forefront of our respective fields. Rather than simply juxtaposing or defending them, however, we used the cross-disciplinary and theoretically-grounded nature of our discussions to explore the limitations of existing approaches. A common formulation is that the locus of capital and culture has shifted from production to circulation; this new emphasis on circulation in many disciplines, corporations, and states has, however, promoted fascinating reifications, such that "circulation" and "communicative technologies" themselves seem to have agency and to be responsible for societal and cultural transformations. We found, to our amazement, that they shared a number of problematic, undisclosed presuppositions in common. Transcending established boundary-work practices that promote the illusion of autonomy between disciplines and between “the academy” and “the real world” with intimate understandings of unequal exchanges of knowledge between social domains, thus enabled us to begin to generate new ways of enabling scholars to handle the complexities of the twenty-first century.