Speakers, Events, Announcements
The Cultural Studies Ph.D program sponsors an annual speakers' series providing an opportunity for our students to hear and meet some of the most exciting and innovative scholars in the humanities and social sciences. There are opportunities to socialize with our visitors afterwards. As always, these presentations are open to all members of the university community.
The annual John Fekete Distinguished Lecture series was established in November 2011 and inaugurated in November 2013, by the Cultural Studies PhD Program to honour John Fekete on his retirement from Trent in 2012. The idea of the lectureship is to invite distinguished visitors to the university to share their most recent or forthcoming publications that are influential and important in the field of cultural inquiry.
2020 - 2021 Academic Year
April 8, 2021
Masks and Masculinity
Ricky Varghese received his Ph.D. in Sociology of Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. He is presently the Tanis Doe Postdoctoral Fellow in Gender, Disability, and Social Justice at the School of Disability Studies at Ryerson University, where he is completing a book on the relationship between masculinity and the death instinct. He is also heading a SSHRC-funded speakers' series titled "Sex and the Pandemic: Convergences and Divergences in Queer Men's Sexual Health in the Midst of HIV/AIDS and COVID-19" which will run from May through to October of this year. Aside from his scholarly activities, he is also a psychotherapist in private practice and a candidate in the final stages of his training to become a psychoanalyst at the Toronto Institute of Psychoanalysis.
This presentation forms part of a larger book-length study on the relationship between masculinity, suicidality, and the death drive. This work is very much in its early stages and builds on earlier work that I have done with respect to HIV/AIDS, the practice of barebacking, and the question of risk. For this purpose, I will be returning to queer theory (by way of the work of Leo Bersani and Tim Dean) and psychoanalysis (by way of the work of Anne Dufourmantelle and Serge Leclaire) to develop a theory of death and dying as it makes sense to do so in the present socio-politcal and historical conjuncture.
February 25, 2021
The Cultural Life of Drones
Sara Matthews is Associate Professor in the Department of Global Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. Her research and teaching are interdisciplinary and consider the dynamics of conflict and social change. Working primarily in the field of research-creation, her projects explore the relations between visual culture and martial politics as well as how communities craft creative modes of relationality and survival in response to practices of state securitization.
What does it mean to think of drones as culture? The term drone refers to a diverse range of systems--from palm-sized quadrotors to solar-powered aircraft that fly at 70,000 ft. for weeks at a time. But drone systems are not just technologies. They also animate particular ways of knowing and being known. These orientations are evident in everything from the practiced gestures of the workers who produce them to the algorithmic applications that interpret the patterns by which drones see and apprehend. By exploring the vocabularies and social practices associated with drone systems in the Kitchener-Waterloo region of southern Ontario, I trace how drone cultures express the intimate ties between everyday life and the military-industrial complex. To do this I discuss a recent exhibition that employs social documentary practice as a way of making evident the perceptual regimes that underlie drone vision, itself a form of ethnographic looking
January 28, 2021
The Operative Moment of a Facial Recognition Technology: Data, Portrait, Moving Image
Aaron Tucker is currently a PhD candidate in the Cinema and Media Studies Department at York University where he is an Elia Scholar, a VISTA doctoral Scholar and a 2020 Joseph-Armand Bombardier doctoral fellow. He is currently studying the cinema of facial recognition software and its impacts on citizenship, mobility and crisis.
Facial recognition technologies' (FRTs) specific forms of biopolitical vision are dangerous due to the mechanisms of observation that lie at the centre of its operative moment. These multi-temporal combinations of storage, data transfer, and computation are present within other contemporary digital biometrics. But looking closer at FRTs in particular shows how the initial vision accomplished by the camera is complicated by, first, software aimed at face detection, then, second, the identification mechanisms that are augmented by AI and robust data practices. This layering of observation mediates the technology so that it can be operationalized as an effective tactic of governmentality and biopolitical management. Its deployment of biopolitical vision reduces those under its gaze to numerical and calculable materials which are more easily bureaucratically managed under the service of governmentality. Its alarming effectiveness is secured by its cooperation with other biopolitical visualities and the modes through which biopolitical reason is inscribed into the technology
Assistant Professor, Trent University
November 19, 2020
Climate Denial: A Cultural Studies Approach
Climate denialism is a difficult phenomenon to explain. Most studies of the topic emphasize the structural weight of funding from fossil capital, presuming in turn that skeptics and denialists have either been duped by bad ideology or otherwise lack the rational faculties to properly interpret environmental science. Cultural studies, by contrast, offers an opposite set of methods and politics for the study of interpretive communities, positioning audiences as active, evolving, and deeply social in their negotiations with discourses of both the powerful and the weak. This sensibility, however, is rarely extended to reactionary political subjects working to uphold existing social relations. This talk asks what gains might be made in such an attempt, focusing on how and why a particular section of the climate denialist community engages with the science and poetics of the carbon cycle to their own ends. Extending curiosity to the cultural worlds of our political opponents, it argues, helps suggest different modes of building more capacious political coalitions, while further underscoring the salience of feminist, queer, and critical race studies in the work of climate politics.
Associate Professor of Humanities at York University
October 15, 2020
Semio-Fantasy and Semio-Phobia: Placing Interpretation in Cultural Studies
Semio-Fantasy and Semio-Phobia: Placing Interpretation in Cultural Studies, Steve Bailey, York University In this highly speculative presentation, I examine the current state of interpretive practices, broadly construed, within cultural studies, and particularly contemporary media studies. In particular, I look at the twin poles of “semio-phobia” (a fear of meaning in favour of materialist, behaviourist, or holist tendencies) and “semio-fantasy” (a fantasy of transparent meaning) and the ways that they have come to dominate many discussions of the method within and beyond contemporary cultural studies. More provocatively, I will reflect on the intermingling of phobia and fantasy in a quest to find a place for interpretation that resists both poles and does so with a bit of “analytic nerve.”
Assistant Professor of Theory and Rhetoric, Brock University
October 8, 2020
Andrew Pendakis is an Assistant Professor of English at Brock University. His research takes as its focus the stories told by contemporary societies about their own political pasts and possibilities. Though his research is situated at the intersection of philosophy, critical theory, and discourse analysis, his origins methodologically lie in Hegel and in the line of thinking that passes through the proper names of Marx, Adorno, and Jameson. His salon seminar is drawn from a current writing project entitled "Living a Marxist Life." It is aimed at a wide audience extending beyond the academy.
2019 - 2020 Academic Year
PhD candidate with the Cultural Studies
March 5, 2019
I have curated these words, further these concepts and references to form this salon seminar
To curate—verb—is most notably used in the Art History, Visual Studies, and Curatorial Studies disciplines, referring to acts of selection, organization, and maintenance of art objects by a curator—noun—of a collection. Curation (curators curating), or what David Balzer calls curationism, occurs in and through all aspects of daily life, meaning it has transcended the Art History, Visual Studies, and Curatorial Studies disciplines.
Given the transdisciplinary acts of curation that Balzer’s curationism suggests, what does it mean if anyone can call themselves a curator? What does it mean for objects (art or otherwise) if they are curated as opposed to say, assembled?
Presenting the following utterance as the focal point of this salon seminar, I have curated these words, further these concepts and references to form this salon seminar, I aim to trace the transdisciplinary connotations of curation through a deconstructionist frame. With particular attention to Jacques Derrida’s work on citation and iteration, I argue that the transdisciplinary use of curation carries significant implications, that is, the ability to create and enforce cultural values and authorities.
PhD candidate with the Cultural Studies
January 16, 2019
Her Place: Behind the Camera and Steering Wheel
Meanings are formed by film, they do not simply reflect the ideas of society. Pre-World War I films such as An Auto Heroine (1908) often depicted female drivers as heroines and protagonist. While actresses on the silver screen were struggling to prove their abilities behind the wheel, female spectators at the cinema were fighting to prove they were capable of mastering the technicalities of voting. “The representation of gender by powerful social technologies such as cinema undoubtedly affects the way in which gender is internalized and constructed by individuals – but our individual self-representations of gender impact on the broader social construction of gender too (de Lauretis 1987: 9). Female capabilities with automobile technology was represented in film as an initial struggle followed by a mastering of skills equal or surpassing that of men. Not only were women in front of the camera, they were behind it as well, helping to shape the ideas a film would convey. However, after World War I, the role of women behind the camera and steering wheel changed and women found themselves being deterred from driving and making films by the pressures of a new patriarchal society. Representation of female drivers changed drastically in 1930s pre-code film and well into the mid-1960s. The woman driver of the silver screen was often depicted as someone who needed to pull over and let a man take over as seen in The Great Race (1965). This underlined the message that if women took a different route in life – one that did not center on marriage and motherhood, they were on the road to ruin. What occurred during World War I to bring about this shift? Was it the fear of death brought to a larger society by a protracted war; a change to technology by way of armouring the car and turning it into a weapon, thus changing ideas of whether women should operate motor vehicles? Or is the change to power relations that occurred as men returned from war to find women functioning in their jobs to blame? In the post-war films such as Female (1933) depicting a female automobile CEO “the movie heals the trauma by reassuring the average male subject that he is indispensable – no redundant, as feared – and adequate as paternal head of the family and leader of the community” (Silverman 2006: 113).
Assistant Professor of Composition, Michigan State University
November 28, 2019
Unseen and Otherworldly: Sounding out the Hidden World(s)
Lyn Goeringer’s research focuses on video/visual media and sound based interactive approaches to public space and site-specific art practices with a particular focus on the experience of the body in space. At the center of this research are questions about how we as individuals create and navigate space and the ways in which larger government infrastructures influence how we navigate public and private spheres. These questions drive her artistic practice and have led her to work within a variety of media, including video, body-centered cybernetic performance art that explores notions of privacy, wearable controllers, audio walks and public sound art. Her current body of work explores the mytho-poetic unseen, using histories of rebellion and magic to inform her practice. In addition to creative projects and video production, Goeringer’s writings focus primarily on the relationship of bodies under power and how bodies of power influence our daily lives. Currently, she is an assistant professor of composition at Michigan State University, where she teaches courses in electronic music, digitally mediated performance, improvisation and experimental film. She received her doctorate from Brown University in 2011, and a Master in Fine Arts from Bard College in 2005.
Associate Professor, University of Bergen
November 14, 2019
The term and concept “posthumanism,” emerging as it did in the late twentieth century, differs from earlier literary and historical periodizations. In part, that’s because our media of communication, which expanded exponentially around this time are themselves operating at scales that exceed human understanding. Like photography, film, and video before them, but at a different scale, digital media situate what we think and say within communicative networks that are larger than consciousness. And for this reason, arguably, scholars are no longer restricted to documenting our own eras of human inventiveness. Rather, as humanism itself becomes recognizable as a bounded and largely completed project, scholars are now more often resituating ourselves, and imagining again what it means to be human within networks and ecological environments that we might influence but cannot dominate and control. That these realities have been so well hidden for so long by economic expansion, rationalist explanations and cultural knowingness, gives us some reason to hope for more flexible and less restrictive cognitive frameworks in current literary practice. We might observe, in Neil Badmington’s account of the posthumanist turn, “a long-overdue rethinking of the dominant humanist (or anthropocentric) accounts of who ‘we’ are as human beings. In the light of posthumanist theory and culture, ‘we’ are not who ‘we’ once believed ourselves to be. And neither are ‘our’ others.” (Neil Badmington, “Posthumanism.” In Bruce Clarke and Manuela Rossini. The Routledge Companion to Literature and Science. 2011). From this posthumanist perspective, I will argue that we can begin to observe a revitalizing of contemporary literature and the arts. While at once limiting our expectations about human agency and design, a literary posthumanism offers opportunities to think differently, and to embrace alternative cultural and aesthetic imaginaries.
Professor Joseph Tabbi is an American literary theorist and critic who has recently moved to the University of Bergen in Norway, where he continues to work on experimental American fiction, electronic literature, and, more generally, the intersections of technology and the arts. In 1995, he co-founded, and is still Editor-in-Chief of the reputable scholarly journal Electronic Book Review.
Presented by the John Fekete Distinguished Lecture series
Dr. Lisa Guenther
Queen's University's National Scholar in Political Philosophy and Critical Prison Studies
November 7, 2019
On Dwelling in Fraught Places: Towards a Decolonial Abolitionist Ethics
All of Turtle Island is fraught terrain. The places where we live, work, study, and play are marked by settler colonialism, genocidal logics, and carceral structures designed to lock some people up and lock others into zones of privileged security. What would it mean to dwell ethically in such fraught places? And how might this ethics of dwelling support political movements for decolonization and prison abolition? This lecture reflects on the conditions for ethical dwelling in Kingston/Katarokwi: the site of Canada’s first penitentiary, prison farm, and federal prison for women—all constructed on the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee peoples. The work of Leanne Simpson, Glen Coulthard, and Alexis Pauline Gumbs offers insight for creating, reclaiming, and amplifying ethical alternatives to carceral-colonial power.
Dr. Lisa Guenther, Queen's University's National Scholar in Political Philosophy and Critical Prison Studies will deliver the annual Elaine Stavro Distinguished Visiting Scholar in Theory, Politics & Gender Studies. She is the author of Solitary Confinement: Social Death and its Afterlives (2013) and The Gift of the Other: Levinas and the Politics of Reproduction (2007), and co-editor of Death and Other Penalties: Philosophy in a Time of Mass Incarceration (2015) with Geoffrey Adelsberg and Scott Zeman. Her interests include Political Philosophy, Critical Prison Studies, Continental Philosophy, Feminism, Philosophy of Race
Presented by The Annual Elaine Stavro Distinguished Visiting Scholar in Theory, Politics & Gender
Dr. Sylvie Bérard
Associate Professor, Trent University
October 17, 2019
The Fourth Dimension of Literary Fields, Or Why Writers Live in Parallel Worlds
Literary research tends to remain insular: scholars often adopt a writer, a national literature, a genre, a form, and they tend to remain within the generally prescribed limits of their object. This is true especially when it comes to the study of genre vs. mainstream literature, except that, in highbrow culture, they are called specialists when, in lowbrow culture, they are sometimes dismissively called fans. Science-fiction writers and “mainstream” Québécois writers, for instance, are usually not studied in the same essays, even when their authors’ works intersect in a number of ways. The literary universe is a hypercube where parallel fields (to use Bourdieu’s concept), well, remain parallel worlds (to use a science fiction trope) that seldom meet. For example, Québec writers Élisabeth Vonarburg and Michel Tremblay may share an analogous approach to literary world building, and a similar way of drawing from historical and autobiographical sources, but because Vonarburg is known for her science fiction and fantasy while Tremblay is famous for his social plays and novels, they don’t usually find their works analyzed in the same books, courses, conferences. First, this talk will uncover some of the unexpected similarities between the two authors and focuses on Vonarburg’s works that clearly reference Québec and Tremblay’s texts with fantastic content. Second, it will offer a reflection on the effect of insularity of literary research and on the advantages of creating a dialogue between fields.
Born in Montreal in 1965, Sylvie Bérard has lived in Ontario for over two decades. She is an associate professor and chair of the Department of French and Francophone Studies at Trent University, where she teaches Quebec, Franco-Ontarian, and French-language Indigenous literatures, and is affiliated with the Cultural Studies Ph.D. Program. Her scholarly research, from a semiotical and queer perspective, focuses on Québec science fiction and Franco-Canadian literatures including Indigenous literatures. Her latest papers are “Holes Within and Bridges Beyond: The Transfictions of Élisabeth Vonarburg and Michel Tremblay” published in Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Bridging the Solitudes, edited by Amy J. Ransom and Dominick Grace and from which today’s talk draws, and “L’école des enseignantes dans Ces enfants de ma vie de Gabrielle Roy and Manikanetish de Naomi Fontaine”, published in October in Voix et images. She writes the monthly column “La page décentrée,” for the newsletter of CCWWP (Canadian Creative Writers and Writing Programs). Her published creative works include many short stories and two science fiction novels, both published by Alire (Terre des Autres was also published in English by Edge under the title Of Wind and Sand). She is also the author of a poetry book, Oubliez (Prise de parole, 2017) that received the Trillium Award 2018 for best French-language poetry, and a novel-essay, Une sorte de nitescence langoureuse (Alire, 2017).
2018 - 2019 Academic Year
PhD candidate with Cultural Studies
April 4, 2019
The Ecology of Language and the Language of Place: Language as Environmental Response in the Era of the Anthropocene
As humans, language is one of the most precious things we have. Language holds inside of itself all the things we hold dearest: memory, emotion, perception, experience, communication – life. Having the capacity for language is also what marks us out as unique, special, separate – exceptional, and it can serve to perpetuate the belief that we live outside of our environment: an audience member and not a player. This belief renders our attempts at conservation problematic. Conservation requires a protocol of action (or inaction) in relation to the world around us and, simply by virtue of our thinking that we can enact some kind of preservation of the natural world, automatically positions us as existing outside of, and exceptional to, our ecosystem.
In the era of the Anthropocene, language, particularly language for the land, is rapidly disappearing. Language also, arguably, comes to establish itself as an essential environmental response. As our least invasive means of conservation, language allows us to protect the land and nature, through our awareness of its existence, its biodiversity, the ways in which it changes over time and it furnishes us with the ability to share our experiences with others. This can only be achieved through the active use of language and naming and the pursuance of an active and persistent experiential engagement with the natural world around us. In this way, we will begin to see our place, our right here. As we adopt a parochial approach, and attune ourselves to the local distinctiveness, we will rediscover our place and our own place within it.
What is an appropriate response to the land in the face of the all-consuming Anthropocene? This seminar will attempt to provide a response.
Jessica Becking is a 5th year PhD candidate with the Cultural Studies department. Her work straddles the fields of landscape, contemporary art, language, ecology, and place studies and asks the question: what is an appropriate response to today’s environmental crises. She received her Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing and Publishing from Kingston University in the U.K. in 2012. Her ongoing doctoral work is supervised by Dr. J. Bordo.
March 14, 2019
How To Write a Successful Eulogy, Or, Re-Imagining Film After Its Death
The “death of film” has been a trope in recent scholarship in the field of film studies. This trope has flirted with apocalyptic rhetoric—like all other “death of…” media discourses (i.e., the death of the book, the death of television, the death of industrial/manual labour in developed nations)—pronouncing with nostalgia and sentimentality the collapse of “the world as we know it.” Within this rhetoric, the discourse of authenticity is often used to reify and edify the past, suggesting that there is something more “real” and “authentic” in that which has been “lost,” suggesting that celluloid-based cinema produces an inherently “true experience” that digital media is incapable of reproducing. While the language of this transition may seem extremist, there is no doubt that the shift from the celluloid-based filmic experience to digital cinema will have repercussions, specifically insofar as the modes of producing, recollecting and perceiving cinematic space through each medium differs based on the respective materiality they engender. Rather than focusing on the negative, polarizing and extremist rhetoric, this seminar will instead consider the material possibilities of analogue film after its commercial obsolescence. What can be found, freed or reimagined once a technology has been declared dead? Throughout this seminar, we will pursue this question by looking at my own body of work, as an artist who emerged only after film was already “dead.”
Kelly Egan’s academic and artistic practices probe the intersection of art and technology, specifically focusing on how artists engage and reimagine dead media through the lens of contemporary practices. She approaches her creative and critical work as a media archaeologist, combining critical histories and material analyses by considering the story of a medium outside of its hierarchal, canonical and linear history. Her dissertation “The Projector’s Noises: A Media Archaeology of Cinema Through the Film Projector” (2013) explores how twentieth century artists critically engaged with the film projector’s noises at moments of technological transition, and how this engagement challenges the dominant structures of the cinematic apparatus by drawing attention to the liveness and performativity of the cinematic event. An award-winning filmmaker, her films have screened internationally at major festivals including the Toronto International Film Festival, the Images Festival, the New York International Film Festival, the Rotterdam International Film Festival, Edinburgh International Film Festival, EXiS Experimental Film and Video Festival, and WNDX. Her film-based installations have been exhibited at the York Quays Gallery/Harbourfront Centre and the Gladstone in Toronto, L’espace virtuel in Chicoutimi, PQ, and Evans Contemporary in Peterborough, ON.
IMAGE: Still from Athyrium Filix-Femina (For Anna Atkins), handmade cyanotype on 35mm, colour, sound, 5 min., 2016.
Julian Park Professor of Comparative Literature at The State University of New York at Buffalo
March 7, 2019, 7:30PM
The Promise of Democratic Politics in Laclau’s Populism and Arendt’s Political Action
Ewa Plonowska Ziarek is Julian Park Professor of Comparative Literature, an affiliate faculty of Global Gender and Sexuality Studies, and the Founding Director of Humanities Institute at the State University of New York at Buffalo. She is also a Senior Research Fellow and Adjunct Professor of Continental Philosophy, at the College of Fellows at Western Sydney University, Australia, and, since 2007, a Visiting Faculty in the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts, University of Maine. In January 2016, she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy Degree from the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts, University of Maine.
Her interdisciplinary research interests include feminist political theory, literary modernism, feminist continental philosophy, gender and race studies, ethics, and critical theory. She is the author of Feminist Aesthetics and the Politics of Modernism (Columbia UP, Fall 2012); An Ethics of Dissensus: Feminism, Postmodernity, and the Politics of Radical Democracy (Stanford 2001); The Rhetoric of Failure: Deconstruction of Skepticism, Reinvention of Modernism (SUNY, 1995); the editor of Gombrowicz's Grimaces: Modernism, Gender, Nationality, (SUNY, 1998); and the co-editor of Revolt, Affect, Collectivity: The Unstable Boundaries of Kristeva's Polis (SUNY 2005) and Time for the Humanities: Praxis and the Limits of Autonomy (Fordham UP 2008) and Intermedialities: Philosophy, Art, Politics (Rowman &Littlefield 2010). She has published numerous articles on Kristeva, Irigaray, Derrida, Agamben, Foucault, Levinas, Fanon, feminist theory and literary modernism. Her work has been translated into Spanish, Italian, Hebrew, French, Polish, and Rumanian. Most recently she co-authored with Rosalyn Diprose Arendt, Natality and Biopolitics: Towards Democratic Plurality and Reproductive Justice (Edinburg UP, 2018).
Assistant Professor (LTA)
February 7, 2019
Materialism and the Critique of Energy
This seminar focuses on reading science fiction insofar as it pertains to ecology and environment. Beginning with the science-fictional process of world building, the seminar will investigate the contested narratives that surround human use and abuse of technology. It will look to marginalized voices in science-fiction writing and subgenres of science fiction itself. This exploration of the Anthropocene, ecology, and energy will take up science fiction’s capacity to imagine massive interrelated systems, to depict incredible timescales, and to comment on the politics of the human impacts on such systems and across such durations. This talk will feature classic science-fiction texts and emergent works.
Brent Ryan Bellamy is an Assistant Professor of Speculative Literature (LTA) at Trent University. His published work has appeared in Mediations, Paradoxa, Science Fiction Film and Television, English Studies in Canada, Western American Literature, The Cormac McCarthy Journal, Open Library of the Humanities, and Science Fiction Studies. He has co-edited a special issue of Science Fiction Studies on Climate Crisis (Nov 2018) and a forthcoming book titled Loanwords to Live With: An Ecotopian Lexicon Against the Anthropocene (University of Minnesota Press).
Associate Professor, Chair of the Department of Cultural Studies and the Coordinator of the Media Studies program
January 15, 2019
Ludopolitics: Videogames against Control
What can videogames tell us about the politics of contemporary technoculture, and how are designers and players responding to its impositions? To what extent do the technical and aesthetic features of videogames index our assumptions about the world and the social configuration they entail? And how can we use games to identify and shift those assumptions and configurations? In this talk, I respond to these questions by presenting some of the central arguments of my book, Ludopolitics: Videogames against Control – that videogames promise players the opportunity to map and master worlds; that they offer closed systems that are perfect and perfectible, in principle if not in practice; and that although they provide players with a means of escape from a world that can be unpredictable and unjust, they aren’t only escapism. Designers and players alike routinely engage in immanent, experimental, and effective critiques of the fantasy of control, and in this talk, I present a few of their playful results.
Associate Professor Liam Mitchell is the Chair of the Department of Cultural Studies and the Coordinator of the Media Studies program. His work theorizes the relationship between media, culture, and the political by paying close attention to particular technological artifacts, practices, and phenomena, particularly those objects associated with new or digital media. In doing so, it shows how digital media both drive and describe the order of things.
Music Director, Traill College
December 6, 2018
Musical Discourse and the History of Ideas
With the rise of the notion of discourse, the history of ideas has gained a new means to formulate its questions. Like “paradigm,” “discourse” is a model that inherently conceives the order of things in equally particular and connected ways, historically. Unlike events, things, or people, ideas cannot be understood in isolation, nor studied in this way without serious distortions. Save alas for some fashionable, superficial, and pointlessly literal invocations of Michel Foucault, however, the discursive conception has yet to find its way into the consideration of non-verbal discourses, such as visual art and music; equally important, the intelligences of these discursive forms have yet to inform the history of ideas. The present essay argues for the discursive particularity of musical ideas, and its potential contributions to intellectual history.
Musician, composer, teacher, and social music theorist Michael Morse has taught composition, world music, musicianship, and music sociology at Trent for fifteen years, as well as giving private lessons in bass, harmony, composition, singing, and music theory in Montréal and Toronto. Michael has been prominent in the music scene as a bassist in these cities, and of late in Peterborough, where he has concentrated his creative activity on the recently completed music drama Penelope, developed in collaboration with poet/dramatist Ian McLachlan, and on Projections, a collaborative jazz ensemble with pianist Biff Hannon and drummer Curtis Cronkwright. Michael is in his second year as Music Director for Traill College, striving to bring together the many creative musical elements of Trent’s campus cultures, and has recently joined the Graduate Faculty in Cultural Studies.
Samples of Michael’s music can be heard at https://soundcloud.com/michael-morse-4
Adjunct Professor, Trent University
November 15, 2018
Reconstructing Links from within Shackles: Using Scarification and Tattoo to Uncover Origins in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade
Spanning centuries, the trans-Atlantic slave trade forcibly exported 12.5 million Africans who were loaded aboard vessels bound for the Americas and for Europe. These men, women and children were renamed, separated from one another, and dispersed through a variety of plantation societies. A symbol of African origins which lingered upon faces and bodies was permanent body marking; never imported as a tradition into the Americas, the patterns which were applied by communities upon individuals held complex and nuanced meanings. Identities, origins, kin groups and personal achievements were all represented by varying patterns among various peoples. By using these marks, which were often described in the Americas as ‘country marks’ upon African-born slaves, modern scholars can begin to trace regional origins inscribed upon those who survived the Middle Passage. Major digital initiatives concerning enslaved origins analyze the recorded African names of slaves in the documents which preserve them, but these projects must contend with a variety of methodological issues in their ethnolinguistic approach. This paper describes and considers a complementary approach to identity which relies upon the identification of scarification and tattoos upon faces and bodies. Manumission records, ethnographic accounts, and runaway ads provide rich and often carefully drawn evidence of specific patterns which can be cross-referenced against a catalogue of known patterns. While this latter database is in its early stages, the approach is one which holds rich potential. Identities etched into the skin may prove the most precise record of men, women and children whose historical record was often obscured.
Katrina Keefer is an adjunct professor at Trent University, Ontario, Canada for both the History undergraduate and Cultural Studies graduate programs. She is a cultural historian who specializes in identity, body marking, slavery, and initiatory societies in West Africa. She is a contributor to the Liberated Africans Project and the Studies in the History of the African Diaspora – Documents (SHADD) projects, both of which engage with biography in the Atlantic world. Dr. Keefer is working on a large scale digital humanities project funded by SSHRC on using permanent body marks to better discern origins and birthplace, and is embarking upon related research. She has previously published on scarification, Poro, and identity in Sierra Leone.
Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge
November 1, 2018
Program Earth: From Environmental Sensing to Citizen Sensing
The drive to instrument the planet, to make the earth programmable not primarily from outer space but from within the contours of earthly space, has translated into a situation where there are now more “things” connected to the Internet than there are people. Sensors are such connected and intelligent devices that typically translate chemical and mechanical stimuli such as light, temperature, gas concentration, speed, and vibration across analogue and digital sensors into electrical resistors, that in turn generate voltage signals and data. By sensing environmental conditions as well as detecting changes in environmental patterns, sensors are generating remote stores of data that, through algorithmic parsing and processing, are meant to activate responses, whether automated or human-based, so that a more seamless, intelligent, efficient, and potentially profitable set of processes may unfold, especially within the contours of the smart city. Yet what are the implications for wiring up environments in these ways, and how does the sensor-actuator logic implicit in these technologies not only program environments but also program the sorts of citizens and collectives that might concretize through these processes? I take up these questions through a discussion of material from Program Earth and the Citizen Sense research project to examine the distinct environments, exchanges, and individuals that take hold through these sensorized projects.
Jennifer Gabrys is professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge. She was previously professor in the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is the principal investigator on two European Research Council funded projects, Citizen Sense and AirKit. She is the author of Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics (University of Michigan Press, 2011), and Program Earth: Environmental Sensing Technology and the Making of a Computational Planet (University of Minnesota Press, 2016), and co-editor of Accumulation: The Material Politics of Plastic (Routledge, 2013). Her forthcoming books include How to Do Things with Sensors and Citizens of Worlds: Open-Air Toolkits for Environmental Struggle. Her work can be found at citizensense.net and jennifergabrys.net.
Presented by the John Fekete Distinguished Lecture series
Cultural Studies PhD Student
October 11, 2018, 7:30PM
The Endless Everyday: How people fight and nourish apocalyptic thought
On July 6 2018 the former leader of doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo was executed by hanging. Aum Shinrikyo was responsible for releasing impure sarin gas on the Tokyo subway, leading to the deaths of 13 individuals and over a thousand injuries. As a response to the incident, sociologist Shinji Miyadai wrote the book Owarinaki Nichijo o ikiro! Oum kanzen kokufuku manyuaru (translated as “Living an endless everyday! A manual on how to defeat Aum”), where Shinji discusses the concept of everydayness. In this talk, I want to discuss how apocalypticism depends on a particular sense of everydayness. Drawing off the work of Frank Kermode, Ian Reader, and Benjamin Zeller, I look at how doomsday cults like Aum Shinrikyo and Heaven’s Gate understood the everyday and how they actively incorporated everydayness to legitimize group catastrophization. I also look at how everydayness as both a quasi-practice and an idea persists outside of organized doomsday cults, mainly in popular media. Specifically, I look at the Fukushima-Daiichi disaster, arguing that everydayness is not unique to cults, but rather is ingrained in general apocalyptic thought.
Joe is a PhD Cultural Studies student who completed is M.A. at the University of Waterloo. He is researching the subject of ideology through the apocalypse in games and is supervised by Professors Liam Mitchell and Michael Epp. His research interests include animation, ludology, eschatology, low art. He is also a video essayist of inconsistent quality.
University of Cologne
Economies of Greed in Late Pynchon: America and the Logic of Capital
This talk reads Pynchon’s late work Bleeding Edge as a dark allegory of the logic of infinite greed and entitlement that pervades 20th century America. In the light of Pynchon’s allegorical anger about how America has dealt with 9/11, this talk revisits the early assessment of Pynchon’s works as Jeremiads.
Hanjo Berressem teaches American Literature at the University of Cologne. In addition to over 100 articles on contemporary American fiction, media studies, the interfaces of art and science as well as ecology, he has published books on Thomas Pynchon (Pynchon’s Poetics: Interfacing Theory and Text, 1992), Witold Gombrowicz (Lines of Desire: Reading Gombrowicz’s Fiction with Lacan, 1998) and on the notion of Eigenvalue (Eigenvalue: On the Gradual Contraction of Media in Movement / Contemplating Media in Art [Sound | Image | Sense], 2018). Two new books, Gilles Deleuze’s Luminous Philosophy and Félix Guattari’s Schizoanalytic Ecology, will be published in 2019.
Nadine Boljkovac, Falmouth University
[Non]Style is Feeling: Direct Tenderness from Sirk and Fassbinder to Haynes
Style, or nonstyle as Gilles Deleuze suggests, exposes the foreign within the familiar. Douglas Sirk, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Todd Haynes reveal characters-cum-prisoners trapped within ‘normativity.’ At the same time, their films envision alternative trajectories for the women effecting lasting reverberations, a feelingof events for the characters and us.
Nadine Boljkovac (PhD, University of Cambridge) is a Falmouth University Senior Lecturer, a 2018 Visiting Fellow, Center for Transformative Media, Parsons School of Design, and a 2018-19 Research Fellow, Morphomata International Center for Advanced Studies, University of Cologne. Her monograph in progress, Beyond Herself: Feminist (Auto)Portraiture and the Moving Image, follows Untimely Affects: Gilles Deleuze and an Ethics of Cinema (2013). Recent peer-reviewed works appear in ‘Materialising Absence in Film and Media,’ a Screening the Past Special Dossier (co-edited with S. Walton, 2018), The Anthem Handbook of Screen Theory (eds Tom Conley & Hunter Vaughan, 2018) and Interdisciplinary Articulations (2018).