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. 

2018-19 Academic Year

Jessica Becking
5th year PhD candidate with the 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.

Kelly Egan
Assistant Professor
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.

Ewa Plonowska Ziarek
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).

Brent Bellamy
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).

Liam Mitchell
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.

Michael Morse
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

Katrina Keefer
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.

Jennifer Gabrys
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.

Joe Yang
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.

Hanjo Berressem, 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).


2017-18 Academic Year

Victoria de Zwaan
Professor, Cultural Studies Trent University
March 22, 2018, 7:30PM
Snow White-ness: Fairy-Tales, Adaptation, Metafiction

Drawing on adaptation studies, folklore studies, psychoanalysis, and narrative theory, Victoria de Zwaan will discuss her current project on the narrative territories explored and invoked by contemporary film and print adaptations of the “Snow White” fairy tale.

Dr. Victoria de Zwaan, Associate Professor of Cultural Studies at Trent, works in the field of literary cultural studies; teaches courses  in experimental fiction, adaptation theory, and narrative theory; and has written or given conference papers about a diverse, international range of experimental writers including Thomas Pynchon, Kathy Acker, Milorad Pavic, Milan Kundera, Salman Rushdie, Mark Danielewski, and Robert Coover.


Liam Young
Faculty, School of Journalism & Communication, Carleton University
March 15, 2018, 7:30PM
On Lists, Salt, Beavers and the Pursuit of Paradigms in Media Theory

In this seminar, we will consider media theory as a tradition that is primarily interested in the study of paradigms. I will test the proposition that the paradigm, as formulated by Foucault and extended by Agamben, offers a useful heuristic to understand, especially, certain of the conceptual, methodological, and stylistic approaches to studying culture and technology that are commonly associated with Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan, and others lumped together as the ’Toronto School’ of communication.

Liam Cole Young is a faculty member in the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University and a Research Fellow with the International Research Institute for Cultural Technologies and Media Philosophy (IKKM) at the Bauhaus University Weimar. He is the author of List Cultures: Knowledge and Poetics from Mesopotamia to BuzzFeed (Amsterdam University Press, 2017).

Rosemary Hennessy
L.H. Favrot Professor of Humanities and professor of English, Rice University, Houston, Texas
February 8, 2018, 7:30PM
Intimate Environments: Considering the Muriel Rukeyser Archive

Muriel Rukeyser (1913–1980) is most well-known as a poet who was loosely affiliated with Communist Party activities in her early twenties. Rukeyser travelled to West Virginia accompanied by a photographer friend to report on the deaths of hundreds of miners from silicosis, events she documented in her monumental poem, The Book of the Dead (1938). This work and her research on the history of physical chemistry, together with the archives of her lifelong loves, offer provocations for feminist theory to consider the scope of what we mean by environments and the intimacies they shelter.

Dr. Rosemary Hennessy is the L.H. Favrot Professor of Humanities and professor of English at Rice University in Houston, Texas, and is a faculty affiliate with the Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality which she directed from 2006-2015. Her current research project considers the work of women writers whose reportage and fiction of and about the 1930s challenges conventional understandings of time, labour, bio-regulation, and the erotic, and has much to teach us about maintaining life in the twenty-first century.

Presented by The Annual Elaine Stavro Distinguished Visiting Scholar in Theory, Politics & Gender


Suzanne Bailey
Professor, English, Director, M.A. English Literature (Public Texts) 
January 18, 2018, 7:30PM
​From 'Beer Street' to the 'Apocalypse': Intaglio Printmaking as New (Old) Media

Within the spaces of modernism and in modernist studies more broadly, the studio of Stanley William Hayter (1901-1988) had a crucial yet still under-recognized function as a site of experimentation centred on burin engraving and other forms of intaglio printmaking. Suzanne Bailey will discuss her current research on Hayter’s Paris studio and his Canadian students, focusing on Hayter’s reinvention of engraving as a medium of original artistic expression. Her talk will trace the history of engraving, from its role in early book illustration to Hayter’s modernist appropriation of this historical technique.

Suzanne Bailey is Professor in the Department of English at Trent. Her current research project is entitled “Lines: Atelier 17, the Art of the Print, and Canadian Modernism,” and focuses on the intaglio printmaking, print culture, and the travels of Canadian artists to Paris in the 1950s and 60s. 


Dr. David Fancy
Associate professor of the Department of Dramatic Arts at Brock University
November 23, 2017, 7:30PM
​‘I Scream the Body Electric’: Performance, Zombies, and Emergent Societies of Entrainment

This interdisciplinary presentation engages the notion of  ‘field bodies,’ ones that result from collective nodes of coherent electromagnetic and affective excitations. Using the paradigmatic figure of the 'cell phone zombie,' Dr. David Fancy thinks through some of the implications of dynamics of entrainment—or 'resonant manipulation'–for performance practices and for social control more widely. The work draws on philosophy, performance studies, cultural studies, political theory, as well as science and technology studies.

Image: Cellphone Zombies acrylic on "/20" canvas. Original Art. Jack Larson

Brent Ryan Bellamy
Canada Research Chair Postdoctoral Fellow in Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta
October 19, 2017, 7:30PM
The Post-Apocalyptic Mode in the Age of US Decline

The imaginary post-apocalyptic interregnum is the realm of historical and generic holdover. The apocalyptic event of such stories creates a new fictional plot line that branch off from reality towards imagined futures. Grasped as the defining characteristic of a post-apocalyptic mode, the post-apocalyptic storyworld provokes a doubled and emphatically political injunction to imagine both the consequences of the historical present—“this future is where we could end up if we continue to behave as we do today”—just as it asks us to imagine what might be possible, or foreclosed, were this world to be wiped away. The historical present extends into the storyworld even as the imagined apocalyptic event negates it. Judith Merril’s Shadows on the Heart (1950) offers a realistic look at human survival of the atomic bomb; Paul Auster’s In The Country of Last Things (1987) depicts the temporality of homelessness; Carola Dibbell’s The Only Ones (2015) imagines the future of reproductive rights.

The history of US post-apocalyptic novels tracks the emergence and development of a fantasy of the United States returning to its status as global hegemon. By imagining a future without enough material wealth to be shared among the survivors, despite massive reduction in population, post-apocalyptic novels describe a situation uncannily like the one that capital’s ideologues would have people believe they live in today. In the uncertain present, these novels offer a way of describing the management of anxiety—personal, corporate, and governmental—at the sunset of the long twentieth century. Post-apocalyptic novels treat crisis as opportunity and encourage an understanding of history that counter-intuitively valorizes the individual over the collective and a return to the way things were over change. The valorization of the individual and the desire for a return to the status quo resonate with both long-established tendencies in the American political imaginary and with the neoliberal ethos that emerged to become America’s most significant export after World War II.

James Penney

Department of Cultural Studies and Department of French and Francophone Studies

October 5, 2017, 7:30PM
Strangers on a Train: Genet and the Liquidity of Being

Towards the end of the 1950s, Jean Genet writes a series of experimental, deeply idiosyncratic essays that set his lived encounter with an ugly old man in a train carriage alongside suggestive evocations of artworks by Giacometti and Rembrandt. Scandalously (for art criticism), Genet pays no attention to the fact that the man is “real” and Rembrandt’s Jewish Bride, for example, is “only” a painting. In this salon presentation I begin to develop the significance of Genet’s unconcern for the medium. I argue that his strange essays set in motion the speculative description of an uncanny liquid being that estranges us from our own humanity; a being that hauntingly sets the terms for our engagement with the visible world as such.

2016-17 Academic Year

Dominic Pettman
Professor of Culture and Media at the New School for Social Research and Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs at Eugene Lang College (New York City)
November 3, 2016
Sonic Intimacy: Voice, Species, Technics

Roland Barthes famously discusses what he calls “the punctum”: the unexpected element of a photograph which pricks or wounds the viewer, thus creating an uncanny, authentic connection between people across very different moments in time. This talk introduces and explores a sonic analog to this concept – an “aural punctum” (first, as it relates to the gendered female voice, and then more generally across different species). This paper seeks to better understand how “the voice” might be a site of not only human communication, but also “creaturely” concern (whales, parrots, etc.). Indeed, it asks to what extent we can take seriously the possibility of a non-subjective expression of the elements themselves – a “voice of nature” – without succumbing to New Age delusions. Quite simply: who or what can rightly claim to have a voice? Is it a property or capacity that belongs to a subject, even a nonhuman subject (such as SIRI)? Or might “the voice” be located somewhere between beings of very different existential types (and thus potentially creating a sympathetic bridge between them)?
This year’s speaker is Dominic Pettman, Professor of Culture and Media, Chair of the Liberal Studies Program at the Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts in the New School for Social Research in New York. Professor Pettman has published books and essays on an impressive array of subjects, including, technology, love and the (post) human condition, the internationalization of Cultural Studies, the work of Jean Baudrillard, and contemporary media theory and media environments. The topic of his lecture draws on the work he has done for his forthcoming book Sonic Intimacy (Stanford UP, 2017). For more information about Dominic Pettman

Presented by the John Fekete Distinguished Lecture series

Diane Coole
Professor of Political and Social Theory, Birkbeck University of London
November 17, 2016
Dirt: A New Materialist Approach

The 2016 Elaine Stavro Distinguished Visiting Scholar in Theory, Politics & Gender welcomes Dr. Diana Coole, professor of Politics, Birkbeck College, London University.
In recent years there’s been a lot of interest in a new materialism. Central to this approach is its insistence that critical thinking needs to return to matter. But what does this mean? What sort of materiality is at stake here? How does this `new’ approach differ from older forms of materialism? This talk addressed such questions by focusing on a particular kind of matter: dirt. Dirt has become a topic of interdisciplinary fascination in its own right over recent years. But what do new materialist theories of and co-performances with dirt bring to the topic that is new? Inversely, what do their understanding and encounters with dirt reveal about a distinctively new materialist approach? By exploiting the ambiguous senses dirt carries - as soil and dust; as rubbish and waste; as an artistic resource that manifests `agency’ - my talk focuses on some key new materialist themes: the nature of material agency; the relationship between the human and the non-human; a critical theory of contemporary matter-flows from the perspective of their environmental harm.
Dr. Diana Coole is professor of Political and Social Theory, Birkbeck University of London. Her research interests include modern and contemporary political and social theory. Her work has focused primarily on the critical theory of the early Frankfurt School and its influences (Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Weber), existential phenomenology (Merleau-Ponty in particular), poststructuralism (especially Foucault) and feminism. Professor Coole is the author of several articles and books including, Merleau-Ponty and Modern Politics after Anti-Humanism. She completed her PhD at the University of Toronto.

Presented by The Annual Elaine Stavro Distinguished Visiting Scholar in Theory, Politics & Gender

2015-16 Academic Year

Colin Milburn
Professor: Gary Snyder Chair in Science and the Humanities
November 5, 2015
Science Fiction and the Project of Posthumanist Science

The 2015 Fekete lecturer was Colin Milburn, who holds the Gary Snyder Chair in Science and the Humanities at University of California, Davis.  A Professor in English, Science and Technology Studies, and Cinema and Technocultural Studies, Milburn's research and publications focus on the relations of literature (especially Science Fiction and Gothic Horror), science, and technology, with a particular emphasis on nanotechnologies.
This lecture addressed the curious relationship of science fiction to modern science and the production of high-tech futures. Focusing on a historical case study—the physicist Gerald Feinberg's theorization of tachyons—and then expanding to consider broader intersections of speculative fiction and experimental research in recent decades, Colin Milburn showed the extent to which science fiction as a narrative genre and a mode of discourse propagates a posthumanist way of doing science, disordering inherited distinctions between mythology and technology, present and future, the human subject and its alternatives.
For more information about Colin Milburn.

Presented by the John Fekete Distinguished Lecture series




Speakers from previous years