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Past Podcast: Temporality: Stasis, Repetition, Transformation, Fall 2012

Anne Cheng,"Law, Ornament and the Quotidian Body", 12/03/2012

Speaker: Cheng, Anne
Anne Cheng, Princeton University, discusses the relationship between law and ornament. In what ways can the law be said to decorate a body and, in doing so, distinguish it from its quotidian comings and goings? While Modernism is known for its minimalism and its zeal for de-ornamentation, this paper argues that the ornament not only continues to exert its seductions for Modernist aesthetics but also presents a lynchpin for what constitutes legal personhood and the making of modern civil rights. Tracing the surprisingly intimate relationship between ornament and socio-legal legibility, this paper suggests that the seemingly superfluous and often minute decorative detail offers the key to understanding how style and personhood are historically imbricated. Professor Cheng will explore the political implications of this connection. What are the risks and the gains of seeing a delegitimized person - someone made at once exceptional to yet instrumental for daily life - as a "decorated" subject? Can the ornament, especially the person-as-ornament, be capable of redressing the tension between worth and worthlessness? And how does the notion of a synthetic/ornamented person contest the very terms of our civil rights as they are envisioned today?

Tom Boellstorff, "A digital prelude: On overlay, indexicality, and being behind", 11/26/2012

Speaker: Boellstorff, Tom
In his talk, Tom Boellstorff, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine conducts a meta-analysis of his research in Indonesia and in virtual worlds, as well as the research of a number of other scholars, to address questions of temporality, repetition, and transformation. Drawing from a range of theoretical resources in queer studies, technology studies, linguistics, and other disciplines, he explores how the gap between the virtual and the actual provides a point of entre for considering how digital being - predicated on both constitutive discreteness and teleologies of locality, specificity, and difference - is powerfully shaping forms of everyday experience, community, and politics.

Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, "Latency as Origin of Our Present. Conjectures about a New Social Construction of Time", 11/19/2012

Speaker: Gumbrecht, Hans Ulrich
Contemporary [global] everyday life no longer takes place within the same "chronotope," within the same social construction of time [a legacy from the early nineteenth century] that had shaped what we call "historical culture." this is the main thesis the lecture will try to explain and to document. in doing so, it will trace the slow emergence of a new chronotope from mid-twentieth century on, i.e. a development first misunderstood as a strange deformation of traditional "historical time." "Latency" was the concept that often served to describe, in several western cultures, the early literary and philosophical reactions to this change. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht is a professor at Stanford University.

Joseph Rouse, "Temporality and Normativity", 11/13/2012

Speaker: Rouse, Joseph
A central problem of modern philosophy has been to understand normativity: how dealings with things can be correct or incorrect, meaningful, confused or senseless, justified or unjustified, appropriate or inappropriate, just or unjust, etc. within a broadly scientific or even naturalistic conception of the world. This issue becomes especially acute for philosophical naturalists, since the sciences themselves are conceptually, epistemically, and politically normative enterprises: it is incoherent to conceive a scientific or naturalistic understanding of the world in ways that render unintelligible how scientific understanding could have a place in that world. This talk responds to these classic issues with two significant reconceptions of how the issues are usually framed: first, by recognizing the role of niche construction, especially discursive niche construction, in the co-evolution of human beings with their developmental and selective environments, and second by re-conceiving normativity as a temporal dimension of the discursively articulated practices that are integral to our biological organism/environment relations.Joseph Rouse, is the Hedding Professor of Moral Science (Philosophy)at Wesleyan University

Lisa Cohen, "Minerals Alone Escape It: Mourning Time", 11/12/12

Speaker: Cohen, Lisa
Lisa Cohen reads from work in progress, a multi-genre project about the temporalities of friendship, illness, grief, and activism in the context of the AIDS crisis. A book in three parts and three genres, it also dramatizes three different historical moments, their echoes and discontinuities.

Amy Tang, "Racial Trauma and Triangulation in Susan Choi's The Foreign Student", 11/05/2012

Speaker: Tang, Amy
This talk explores the concept of trauma and the cultural work it performs in Asian American Studies. While trauma provides a powerful language for exploring how histories of colonialism, imperialism, and racism continue to impact contemporary racial subjects, the prevalence of this framework also threatens to privilege historical recovery over social transformation. To consider how trauma might function not only as a technology for recovering the past, but also as a way of reconfiguring the present, I turn to Susan Choi's 1999 novel The Foreign Student, where trauma helps to excavate the history of the Korean War but also offers suggestive insights into one of the most pressing concerns in contemporary critical race studies: the question of how to think race in comparative terms. The Center for the Humanities podcast series is brought to you by Wesleyan University's ITS New Media Lab.

Robyn Wiegman, "The Times We're In", 10/08/2012

Speaker: Wiegman, Robyn
This talk takes up the 2012 Wesleyan Humanities Center theme by surveying debates about temporality in contemporary scholarship. It begins by thinking about how the keywords-stasis, repetition, transformation---are loaded with both critical and political expectations, before exploring various contestations that collectively converge on a struggle over the definition and political character of the present: 1- queer theory's quest for queer time; postcolonial studies's engagement with "ruination"; and feminist theory's turn toward a "new materialism." Seeking less to decipher "the times we are in" than to wonder over our critical certainty that we have a grasp on the present, the talk parses the language, affects, and political investments that shape the circulation of temporality as an object of inquiry in the interpretative human sciences today. The Center for the Humanities podcast series is brought to you by the Wesleyan University ITS New Media Lab.

Elijah Huge, "Saving the City". 10/01/2012

Speaker: Huge, Elijah,
Industrialization introduced new threats to the city (electricity, speed, explosives, etc.) while also dramatically increasing the scale of historical perils (earthquake, deluge, conflagration, etc.). In turn, these threats gave rise to a field of new products, accessory to conventional building. Negotiating the thresholds between the developing infrastructures of the city and its private spaces, these emergency devices may be understood collectively as a crumple zone intended not to prevent urban disaster but to absorb, limit, and contain its effects. Drawing on a selection of architectural emergency devices, this talk will examine the ways in which disaster events have reshaped the conditions for architectural production, while exploring the mercurial relationships between prediction, projection, imagination, invention, and testing that characterize the invariably speculative activity of designing for the catastrophic moment.

Margot Weiss, "Cultural Trauma, National Memory: BDSM Play with Slavery and Fascism." 09/24/2012

Speaker: Weiss, Margot
This talk explores the temporality of desire—the relationships between erotics, cultural memory, and histories of national trauma. It draws on ethnographic fieldwork with BDSM practitioners in San Francisco and Berlin to focus on what practitioners call "cultural trauma play": play that re-performs real-world or historical trauma. I compare the eroticization of two emblematic national traumas—the Holocaust in Germany and chattel slavery in the United States- and contrast the political and national identifications at work in such play in order to explore what we might claim to know about the historicity of desire.

Lynn Hunt: "Globalization and Time". 9/10/12


Lynn Hunt, Distinguished Professor of History and Eugen Weber Endowed Chair in Modern European History, UCLA presents: Globalization and Time. It may be difficult to determine just how globalization has changed the experience of time, or even if it has changed that experience, but there is no question that the current debates about globalization raise new issues about historical conceptions of time. These include: why is globalization such an issue now? How did a universal scheme for time-keeping and calendars arise? Is historical time Eurocentric? Is modernity a problematic concept, and if so, how can we move beyond it?