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Past Podcast: Fact and Artifact, Fall 2011

Wendy Bellion "What Statues Remember: Sculpture and Affect in Nineteenth-Century New York"

Speaker: Bellion, Wendy
What do statues remember? As inanimate, unthinking forms, statues may be said to remember nothing at all. But as objects that exert material presence within landscapes and elicit human interaction, statues actively remember (and misremember) place and history. Drawing from an ongoing book project that studies the relations of public monuments, iconoclasm, and historical memory in lower Manhattan, Professor Bellion will explore the cultural meanings of Henry Kirke Brown's equestrian statue of George Washington, which was installed in 1856 at New York's Union Square. Brown's statue positioned Washington spatially and temporally: facing south toward New York harbor, Washington hails the British forces departing the newly independent United States on "Evacuation Day" in 1783. If the statue remembered this momentous day in New York history, however, it was also a troubled surrogate for an equestrian statue of King George III that was partly destroyed at the war's outset in 1776, recovered in pieces during the nineteenth century, and represented in numerous paintings, prints, and texts. Relating Brown's Civil War-era monument to its Revolutionary War-era predecessor, Professor Bellion will examine affective, mnemonic, and performative functions of the Washington statue for local and national constituencies.

Neetu Khanna "Poetics of Progressive Feeling: Affects of Empire and the All-India Progressive Writers Association"

Speaker: Khanna, Neetu
From its very inception, the field of postcolonial studies has attempted to theorize the violence of colonialism as enacted on the mind and body of the colonized subject. While the enduring trauma of this violence remains an insistent preoccupation for theorists of race and empire, Professor Khanna will argue that what consistently evades scholarly inquiries into colonized subjectivities is the emotive interface between the psyche and the soma. She suggest that at the crux of this problem is the way in which postcolonial reading practices implicitly rest upon rationalist dichotomies of thinking and feeling, eclipsing an interrogation of colonial feeling as a constitutive dimension of colonized thinking. It is with this problematic in view that Professor Khanna turns to a neglected archive of anti-colonial writers whose literature aids us in excavating the emotive dimensions of colonial discipline. The lecture centers on the All-India Progressive Writers Association (PWA), a Marxist-oriented literary group that was central to shaping debates surrounding the decolonization of the national consciousness in India from the 1930s through the 1950s. It is part of a larger book project exploring the aesthetic modes through which this collective of authors imagined decolonization as a revolution of consciousness predicated on a radical transformation of the emotive life of the colonized subject.

Professor Leah M. Wright "Law, Order, and Social Justice? Black Republicans, Linked Fate, and the Pursuit of Power, 1965-1976"

Speaker: Wright, Leah M.
This paper examines the ways in which African American Republicans attempted to harness so-called "black urban rage" as a means of creating political change within the two-party system in the years 1967-1976. Black Republicans viewed their approach to black political independence as an alternative to the radicalism of the Black Power Movement. Drawing on the concept of "linked fate," black Republican politicians and officials appealed to powerful notions of history and shared heritage in an attempt to capture and channel the frustrations of many African Americans. The work and strategies of the caucus of Black Elected Republican Officials (BERO), Massachusetts Senator Ed Brooke, and civil rights activist and Jewel LaFontant, are of particular concern in Professor Wright's paper. Throughout the late 1960s through the 1970s, these black Republicans envisioned their program and policies as the next step in the black freedom struggle and in the larger movement for black independence. In this sense, black Republicans viewed conservatism as another solution - one that should be considered seriously in the struggle for black freedom. They attempted to influence the direction of conservatism - not to destroy it, but rather to expand the boundaries of the ideology in order to include African American interests.

Sonali Chakravarti "Anger and Justice after Mass Violence: Lessons from Adam Smith"

Speaker: Chakravarti, Sonali
Adam Smith is an important contributor to the discussion of the emotions in political thought because of his attention to the affective bonds between strangers which bolster the work of citizenship. In his Theory of Moral Sentiments he writes that resentment can be a legitimate and valuable part of political life and should not be excised for the sake of creating liberal judicial institutions. Resentment is, however, prone to be exaggerated, distorted, and directed to the wrong ends. While Smith sees resentment as only helpful for initiating an investigation of the injustice and then distancing oneself from the emotion to achieve the status of an "impartial spectator", the argument Professor Chakravarti presents is for a sustained engagement with anger. Such engagement can be the impetus for an investigation, but it can also provide insights missed in other analytic approaches. Thus, unlike Smith's stance, the argument for citizens to engage with anger is both instrumental and intrinsic. Anger is important for what it tells us in addition to what it does when it is vocalized in front of others.

Professor Colin Wayne Leach "Just Feeling? Emotion in Civic Life" Feb 27, 2012

Speaker: Leach, Colin Wayne;
In The Emotions, Sartre argued that "consciousness does not limit itself to projecting affective signification upon the world around it. It lives the new world which it has just established." In other words, emotion is not just feeling about the world, but being in the world. In this talk, Prof. Leach will discuss his social psychological research on emotions about two of the most important aspects of social and political being - status and morality. Of special interest are emotions such as shame, guilt, anger, and sympathy about societal inequality and injustice and their role in politicized being and doing.

Elizabeth Povinelli: "The Dwelling Science: Embodiment, Obligation, Knowledge" Feb 20, 2012

Speaker: Povinelli, Elizabeth;
In his 1922 Argonauts of the Western Pacific, the founder of modern social anthropology, Bronislaw Malinowski, introduced a heroic flourish into the emergent social science of anthropology's prolonged ethnographic fieldwork. For Malinowski, anthropology was in its very nature a "dwelling science." The epistemological breakthrough, or gambit, of modern anthropology was methodological and representational. The method was clear: all valid epistemological claims about social and cultural Others depended on a "mode" of dwelling in and with the Other. At the core of this method was the intimate, affective emergence in the "imponderabilia" of everyday life of the Other. But what if anthropology and the other human sciences shifted their attention from the Other to the otherwise, from a mode of being self-evidently manifest in the world to a mode of potential being-a subjunctive social possibility-the social as a set of affective and energetic thresholds whose futures depend on our willingness to capacitate them? In her talk, Povinelli engages these questions through a discussion of a graphic memoir she is currently completing. Presented from the point of view of an eight year old trying to make sense of her grandparents, who were forced from the edges of the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires after World War I, the memoir takes readers across the raveling, unraveling and re raveling of empire, nation-state, and global capital and the social otherwise that proliferate in their wake.

Fath Ruffins: "Do Objects Have Ethnicities? Race and Material Culture" Nov 21, 2011

Speaker: Ruffins, Fath;
Over the last 30 years, material culture studies have drawn from many sources, including the connoisseurship monographs of the decorative arts, which are resolutely "non-raced," as well as ethnographic scholarship which focuses on the tangible and intangible productions of various "folk" who are highly specified in terms of race, class, and other categories such as region, religion, and ethnicity. Yet most material culture studies, especially those that analyze 20th century production/consumption patterns, tend to elide any considerations of race or ethnicity when discussing the individually produced and mass-produced objects of modern and contemporary societies. Certainly, individuals and groups make and use objects to signify personal and group identities. In her lecture, Professor Ruffins will ask, Do specific uses then inscribe identities upon particular objects? Can object identities be multiple, malleable, and include racial or ethnic associations in production, distribution, and use? Are there race-neutral or generic objects? Do object identities change based on the context of collecting and/or display? What do we mean when we say that an object is Latino or African American, or any other racial/ethnic designation? Does that make all other objects Anglo or white? The lecture's aim is to raise questions and to stimulate both a theoretical and pragmatic conversation about race and material culture.

Steven Meyer: "The Free Water of Consciousness: Distinguishing Robust from Rigid Empiricisms", Nov 14th, 2011

Speaker: Free Water, Washington University, CHUM, Wesleyan
Professor Steven Meyer (Washington University, St. Louis): "The Free Water of Consciousness: Distinguishing Robust from Rigid Empiricisms": Nov. 14th, 2011

Stanley Fish: "What are the Humanities Worth?" Sept 21, 2011

Speaker: Fish, Stanley;
Author Stanley Fish spoke on "What are the Humanities Worth?" Sept. 21 in Memorial Chapel. Fish, a professor of law from Florida International University in Miami, addressed the status of the humanities in the academy and in today’s world. Fish has written more than 200 scholarly publications and books.

Specimens of Humanity: On Human Remains and the End of Natural History: Sept 12, 2011

Speaker: Fabian, Ann;
How did natural history change when men of science began to collect and catalogue human remains? When the great Swedish naturalist Carl Linneaus died in 1778, he left behind a collection that included nearly 20,000 sheets of pressed plants, thousands of insects and thousands of mineral specimens. When American craniologist Samuel George Morton died in 1851, he left behind a collection of more than 1500 human skulls. Although Dr. Morton described his specimens with a care and precision he learned from naturalist colleagues, his collection of human dead and his inquiry into human difference marked an important shift in the nature of natural history. Professor Fabian's talk builds on the work of her recent book, The Skull Collectors: Race, Science, and America's Unburied Dead, but focuses on recent well-publicized efforts by a group of biologists who set out to "restore" Morton's reputation as an objective man of science. Why does the work of this naturalist matter still? Why and how do human remains matter? How do facts extracted from dead human bodies circulate through communities of the living?