more options

2014-2015 GRADUATE READING GROUP GRANT RECIPIENTS:

ANTICOLONIAL, POSTCOLONIAL, DECOLONIAL: PASTS, PRESENTS, FUTURES

This reading group aims to assess the pasts, presents, and futures of anticolonial, decolonial, and postcolonial scholarship. At a moment when the end of postcolonial thought has been boldly declared in some circles of scholarship committed to challenging and dismantling the histories and structures of colonial modes of government, while other circles aim to study the ongoing contexts of settler colonialism and new imperialisms, a comprehensive and sustained inquiry into what is often broadly called Postcolonial Theory, Third World, or Global South Scholarship, and the like, seems urgent and necessary. Alongside the aforementioned debates pertaining to the state of studies concerning colonial structures and practices of authority, this group will situate the recent rise to academic prominence of so-called “South-South” studies that track and emphasize the importance of non-metropolitan circuits of archival and cultural connection, diasporic migration and creolization, intellectual traditions, and diplomatic relations between various colonized peoples and territories within the various contexts and strands of earlier anticolonial, decolonial, and postcolonial scholarship. Moreover, this group will aim to track the import, influence, and implications of these traditions on contemporary disciplinary and theoretical developments, including new materialisms, queer studies, postinternational thought, ecological politics, affect theory, and new social movement studies. We aim to not only celebrate an intellectual tradition broadly, but to interrogate its consequences for specific modes of thinking and theorizing the political, the social, the cultural, the historical, and the aesthetic in the present. The group’s rigorous engagement with the dense archive here broadly defined as anticolonial, postcolonial, and decolonial, is loosely organized by three historical moments: early anticolonial discourses, the emergence of “postcolonial” and “decolonial” thought as a field of concern and study, and the contemporary place as well as future horizons of anticolonial, postcolonial, and decolonial studies. As we are taking up the field of anticolonial thought and practice, we are keenly aware of the dangers of offering origin stories, strictly defined canons, and assimilationist engagements with discourses and practices defined according to colonialist epistemologies. The selection and organization of this group’s reading schedule is thus designed to be neither exhaustive nor capacious to strict definitions of “when,” “where,” or “what” marks the beginnings and the ends of the anticolonial, the postcolonial, or the decolonial. Rather, it aims to treat the wide variety of texts selected and categorized by rough geohistorical placements as a unitary, but not unified, field of intervention, response, and challenge to colonialism’s epistemological and structural legacies. The insurgency of thought that the anticolonial, the postcolonial, and the decolonial represent are for us neither simple and uniform, nor disaggregated and anarchic intellectual traditions. They are, instead, a singularly fundamental and varied challenge to what our disciplines take as the intellectual traditions that underpin their current stultifying organization as such. Consequently, they also offer an opportunity to rethink what distinct disciplines and intellectual traditions are for, and how they can be used to analyze political, social, cultural, and historical problems and the futures that these problems might entail.

MEMBERS
Vincent Burgess, Department of Asian Studies
Mehmet Ekinci, Department of Science and Technology Studies
Karlie Fox-Knudtsen, Department of Anthropology
Osama Siddiqui, Department of History
Timothy Vasko, Department of Government
Olajumoke Warritay, Department of Sociology

................................................................ page up

FEMINIST MODERNITIES: MULTIPLE GENEALOGIES OF FEMINIST THOUGHT

How have the transformations entailed in liberal, neoliberal, and post-neoliberal modernity shaped women’s movements and feminist thought across the world? What are the ways in which theories of gender and sexuality help us interrogate the continued hegemony of western (neo)liberal modernity and open up a space for understanding the multiplicity of historical and emerging modernities in the twentieth and early twenty first centuries? This graduate student reading group will trace the genealogies of feminisms and their global emergence and dispersion to critically consider future directions for analyses of gender. Our readings and discussions will be cross-continental and interdisciplinary, bridging the expansive range of geographical regions represented by the group’s participants: Latin America and the Caribbean (Chile, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico), North America (U.S., Canada), Asia (Burma, China, Thailand), Africa (Tanzania), the Middle East and North Africa (Egypt, Iran, Palestine), and Europe (Sweden). This spatial breadth allows us to consider how the study of feminism, gender and sexuality emerges in various spaces, as well as how communities in different sociopolitical contexts take up or contest prevailing theories. What commonalities can we identify between women’s movements in the global North and South, and what tensions and debates remain salient? How might classic texts in the history of modern feminism be reread in view of the critiques and challenges lodged by feminists of color in the US and third world feminisms? Our primary focus will be on feminist epistemologies and how diverse approaches to knowledge and positionality have contributed to and been developed through global women’s struggles. In doing so, the group will explore together what constitutes feminist research and feminist consciousness, and what it means to produce feminist knowledge about the world. Our exhaustive bibliography includes not only classical texts, but also thematic readings that encompass the members’ diverse geographical and political interests. This reading group originated primarily in response to the lack of graduate seminar offerings at Cornell in general, and the limited classroom engagement with theories produced by feminists of color and third world feminists in particular. In addition to examining what are now classic texts of women-of-color feminism and subaltern studies, including Patricia Hill Collins, Gayatri Spivak, and Trinh T. Minh-ha, our readings will also draw on popular conversations on gender, race and sexuality in order to interrogate the possibilities and limitations of future feminist theory and praxis. Through the reading group, we hope to broaden the informal dialogues on feminist, gender and sexuality studies (FGSS) that we have hitherto been engaging in with faculty members and other graduate students on campus. Several members of the group have initiated conversation with faculty members in Cornell’s FGSS, Development Sociology, and Anthropology programs to discuss the possibility of developing these readings into a syllabus for future graduate seminars on FGSS. Support from the ICM will contribute towards our efforts to foster interdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration on feminist scholarship and activism on campus and beyond.

MEMBERS
Diana Biller, Department of Anthropology
Youjin Brigitte Chung, Department of Development Sociology
Elena Guzman, Department of Anthropology
Emily Hong, Department of Anthropology
Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo, Department of Science and Technology Studies
Laura Menchaca Ruiz, Department of Anthropology
Natalie Nesvaderani, Department of Anthropology Tatiana Sverjensky, Department of Comparative Literature

................................................................ page up

HYPHENS: ASIAN AMERICA ACROSS TIME AND SPACE

How did Asian Americans transform from Yellow Peril to model minority? This reading group reads fundamental works of literature and criticism about and by Asian Americans that traces this dubious progression in the cultural imaginary and in lived experience. We are interested in interrogating the historical and present-day category of “Asian American”; while not disavowing the usefulness of identity politics, we wish to critically analyze the diasporic inclusivity of Asian America as well as the perennial issues of exclusivity that can marginalize female, queer, and otherwise disadvantaged voices. Likewise, while we want to be attentive to the complexities of the Asian American experience, our reading list will allow us to consider the positionality of Asian American identity in relation to the fraught schemas of comparative racialization that have attended the ascendance of Asian Americans from abject Orientals to idealized model minorities. Our theme is the spatial and temporal dimensions of Asian America, both connected and disconnected by hyphens. Through our primary and secondary readings, we will navigate the divisions and bridges between geographical “origins” and “destinations” as well as between generations. Significantly, this reading group is meant to give us perspective on the state of the field and the changes between generations of scholars and writers of Asian America. Our starting point for criticism is the 1971 Roots: An Asian American Reader that was the first book published by the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and reprinted twelve times. In relation to this volume we will examine more recent perspectives on the field, as in the extensive sociological study in Rosalind S. Chou and Joe R. Feagin’s The Myth of the Model Minority, as well as the Dragon Ladies essay collection that explores different facets of Asian American feminism and activism. Monisha Das Gupta’s Unruly Immigrants will allow us to consider the ongoing history of Asians in America as immigrants and the activist push beyond the image of the model minority. As for a focus on literature, Rey Chow’s Woman and Chinese Modernity: The Politics of Reading Between West and East will let us combine considerations of gender with the construction of literary history. In terms of theoretical approaches, David Eng’s Racial Castration will be an important reference for us in terms of thking about queerness alongside race, particularly through his discussion of how psychoanalysis bridges sexuality and race. Our final work will be Mel Chen’s 2012 Animacies that uses the Asian American cultural archive in order to advance a daring argument that combines queer theory, affect theory, and critical race theory that contextualizes all identities – animal, vegetable, mineral – into a hierarchy of animacy. We will pair these critical works with a broad range of primary readings, beginning with Frank Chin’s influential 1974 anthology Aiiieeeee! that promoted and recovered Asian American writing but also advanced a problematic heterosexist and masculinist stance. Poetry holds an important place for our group: we will read Li-Young Lee’s classic poetry collection Rose, tracing his unfolding of intergenerational connections, death, and desire, and Cathy Park Hong’s recent Dance Dance Revolution, a polyglot post-apocalyptic examination of fantasy and personal history in verse. The fantastic opens new ways of imagining Asian American issues: Charles Yu’s novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe adds the element of time travel to the familiar theme of intergenerational longing. Finally, we hope to add visual mediums to our heterogeneous list of materials: we will watch the Chinese-American lesbian film Saving Face as well as the Linsanity documentary about the titular phenomenon. We also look forward to Gene Luen Yang’s forthcoming graphic novel The Shadow Hero that reimagines the forgotten Asian American comic book superhero the Green Turtle as a story about the immigrant experience. In our interdisciplinary reading group we will attend to both the classics and the latest works in Asian American criticism and literature. In doing so, we hope to grasp the past of Asian American studies in order to orient ourselves to its future.

MEMBERS
Shelley Rao, Cornell Institute for Public Affairs
Mee-Ju Roh, Department of
English Yen Vu, Department of Romance Studies
Diane Wong, Department of Government
Christine “Xine” Yao, Department of English
E. Lily Yu, Department of English
Xing “Sherry” Zhang, Department of Policy Analysis and Management

................................................................ page up

NETWORKS, ASSEMBLAGES, AND SYSTEMS

We would like to extend our work from the reading group “Rethinking Multiplicity” to consider some of the more phenomenological, aesthetic, user-based repercussions of French poststructuralist theory as well as to source our theoretical concerns in more concrete examples by adopting an empirical approach and using case studies. We seek to give fleshy, furry form to Deleuze and Spinoza’s concept of the multitude and of multiplicity by examining the relational networks they constitute and construct from an aesthetic perspective. To this end, we are interested in systems aesthetics and relational aesthetics, which overcome the observer (subject) and the observed (object) distinction at the foundation of the construction of scientific knowledge. Art objects functioning as a system or a network leads us toward an understanding of the convergence of technology, modernity, and science. As a variety of disciplines that analyze the interdependence of science and technology have pointed out, the central role played by emerging technologies in the very practice of doing science shifts the focus from the content of knowledge to the media with which it is created. Therefore, analyzing the so called systems aesthetics via concrete artworks does not pertain only to the necessity of an integrated approach to the study of science but also identifies the necessity of aesthetic inquiry into new media technologies. The interdependence of science and aesthetics finds its expression in such new media technologies, which both determine and are determined by the confluence of social, economic, and political factors. Beginning with the foundational text Ethics, we will follow a genealogy of the multitude’s relationship to network theory and assemblages, moving into readings as diverse as Terrorist Assemblages, Digital Performance, Complexity and Postmodernism, Discourse Networks, Literature, Media, Information Systems, and The Social Construction of Technological Systems. Taking Thai, American, and German horror films, Chinese, American, and Guatemalan suburbs, Agamben’s camps, and global digital and new media arts as starting places and case studies, we will explore the ways in which network and assemblage theories manifest themselves in particular spaces and times as embodied multitudes of these ideas and more importantly as enactors of them. It is in these moments of action that theory shifts into practice, and where networks most fruitfully express their forms and functions. Careful attention will be paid to what it means to apply French poststructuralism to non-French and non-Western examples: we aim to test the limits of these theories in a globalized intellectual economy. Through considering theory’s boundaries, we hope to expand its horizons and to incorporate the un-theoretical into its folds. These are figurative networks of resistance whose more literal analogues we will explore as our genealogy reaches the present day in which they are mounted from Tahrir to Zucotti, Gezi to Athens. By examining these issues, we hope to elucidate how assemblages erect political, social, and economic histories and theories. MEMBERS Diana Garvin, Department of Romance Studies Özum Haptipoglu, Department of Performing and Media Arts Gökhan Kodalak, History of Architecture and Urban Development Stephen Low, Department of Performing and Media Arts Whitten Overby, History of Architecture and Urban Development Leroy Patterson, Department of Architecture Maayan Wayn, Department of Performing and Media Arts

................................................................ page up

RECLAIMING HEGEL

Whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not we are all Hegelians and very orthodox ones at that. Paul de Man, “Sign and Symbol in Hegel,” Aesthetic Ideology Man’s behavior is not only reactional. And there is always resentment in a reaction. Frantz Fanon, “Hegel and the Negro,” Black Skin, White Masks The in(ter)vention of this reading group is to begin a consideration of the ways in which the “phenomena” Hegel can be reclaimed and reappropriated for a project of ontological deconstruction from the vantage point of black, queer and postcolonial studies. Within this group we intend to consider the various ways in which this phenomena has lead to both the most radical thought and the most conservative. In what ways has the specter of Hegel trapped us into politically unproductive conceptions of freedom, oppression and political change? In what ways has the desiring subject in Hegel lead to some of the most radical theorizing present in contemporary philosophy? As we ask these questions we wish to place ourselves not simply in opposition to Hegel but to quote Fred Moten in “apposition and permeation”. How can we exhaust dialectical thinking? What spaces can we imagine outside of the dialectic? We are interested in the question of the history of slavery and the Lord and Bondsman dialectic. In a section entitled “Hegel and the Negro” in Black Skin White Masks Fanon writes about the ways in which the “unhappy state” that the Lord and Bondsman find themselves in does not apply to slavery. In the emancipation of the slave there was never a moment in which two independent forms of consciousness battled for freedom. Fanon writes “the white man, in the capacity of master, said to the Negro, ‘From now on you are free.” Therefore that freedom and that emancipated life cannot be understood within Hegel’s formulation of the dialectical relation between the Lord and Bondsman. We see a trajectory between this Fanonian point and the later work of theorists who claim that “blackness is prior to ontology.” We see a informative tension between de Man’s claim that we are “all Hegelians” and Fanon’s claim that we are not “only (dialectically) reactional.” How is it that we can imagine both the inheritance if the Hegelian formulation of the movement of dialectic (which is inherently reactional) and a consciousness that is not only reactional? How can these two history be read side by side? Another strand of thought that will be key to our thinking are contemporary readings —or to use Gayatri Spivak’s wonderful phrase ab-uses—of the universal that we find Susan Buck-Morss and Enrique Dussel. For Dussel reclaiming the universal history that is central to western modernity is a project that challenges Eurocentrism. In other words, it is necessary to rethink the way in which universal history has been claimed and by whom. Similarly Buck-Morss’s important work asks the question: how can we think of the universal as not simply belonging to the history of western modernity? Central to this rethinking is an interdisciplinary mode of reading which will include considerations of diverse sources such as: Mangelo’s globes, Toni Morrison’s fiction and Judith Butler’s dissertation on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. The diverse disciplinary training of our participates will facilitate reading these different textual productions in a useful and relevant manner.

MEMBERS
Bret Leraul
, Department of Comparative Literature
Gokhan Kodalak, History of Architecture and Urban Development
Liron Mor, Department of Comparative Literature
Nasrin Olla, Department of English Literature
Gustavo Quintero, Department of Romance Studies
Adam Schoene, Department of French Studies

................................................................ page up