2022-2023 Theme Descriptions

Fall 2022: Pay Attention! 

What does it mean to pay attention? To notice, bear witness, remain vigilant? How do we compose our embodied minds into states of attention? By watching, listening, expecting, awaiting, and/or following? What attracts, arrests, or fixes our attention?  Where do attentiveness, absorption, and focused immersion leave off and boredom, distraction, noise, hyper-saturation and overwhelm begin? Paying attention to attention reveals systems of valuation: what and whom do we choose to notice? How is our attention commoditized and marketed through contemporary screen- and browsing-time? What can be learned by tracking the historical forms through which attention has been theorized and practiced, and the technologies, cultural forms, and modes of production that have shaped it in the past and present? What forms of discipline does the compulsion to attend entail, and how is our capacity to recognize filtered and trained? How do new algorithmic techniques capture and monetize our attention? This theme invites scholarship on attention and attentiveness across the disciplines. Projects might include work on the political economy and commodification of attention; the attentive sensorium and our capacity to engage through various senses; cultural, critical and aesthetic forms of arresting attention; technologies and techniques of focus and honing attention; wanted and unwanted, undesired, or menacing attention; attention as a strategy of surveillance, governance, and policing; and attending as a form of tending to others.

Spring 2023: Take Care

As we continue to live through a global pandemic, a recognition of “care work" has entered our common lexicon. In the 1980s and 90s, social scientists turned attention to the lived experiences of workers in the care professions, coining phrases like “emotional labor” (Hochschild 1983) to describe the management of emotions necessary to perform certain kinds of “pink-collar” work. Scholarship in critical race studies has insisted that intimate labor (Parreñas 2015), rather than being limited to individual professions, is central to the functioning and sustenance of empire, and questioned notions of touch, service, domesticity and disposability associated with "care" in relation to slavery and its afterlives (Spillers). This theme invites reflections on contemporary theorizations of "care", including scholarship on caring relations of all kinds; the ethics and politics of care; and the historical modalities of care work. Who gives and receives care? How do we reconcile the ongoing racialized and gendered weight of care alongside new demands to "automate" care work?  How might caring relations enact their own forms of violence? How do demands to care or express solidarity elide differences and advance the interests of cultural hegemony?  What might a care ethics look like that considers the complexities of relational interdependency, rather than centering  individual rights? Topics may include ethnographies and histories of care professions; unwaged care labor; care robotics and AI; vulnerability and disability justice; critical theorizations of care and antiblackness; political, cultural, aesthetic, and archival economies of care.