Get Real

What is at stake in appeals to the exigency of the Real?  Imperatives such as “Get real!” urge us to recognize the emergencies of the present moment, as the Real asserts itself in ways impossible to ignore:  war, climate crisis, global pandemics, social inequality, mass migration, deportations, and political volatility, to name a few.  In Black queer ballroom culture, “Realness” is generally understood to be something other than mere verisimilitude, a kind of hyper-Real superlative, or glimmer of possibility.  Laying claim to the Real has a long history, and the paradigms through which such claims are made are multiple, mobilizing the signifying power of words and images to quite disparate political ends.  If such claims now seem ubiquitous and ever more urgent, it is also the case that the bedrock of the Real is ever more contested and difficult to discern in a “post-Truth” world, amid the haze of mis- and disinformation and fog of “fake news” and “alternative facts.”  Screens may distort, distance, or diminish our sense of the Real, leaving us vaguely detached and perennially wondering: “For real?”  What recourse to the Real remains when its rhetoric becomes weaponized?  When wars of aggression are rebranded “special military operations”? When the metaphorical claim of social justice movements that the “world is on fire” becomes realized as the planet burns around us?  Should a shared sense of the Real remain a desideratum? Or are there advantages to embracing the status of the Real as an asymptotic, ever-receding object of desire?  Or putting data and facts, and the materiality of archives, in service to the speculative or utopic? This semester’s theme welcomes scholarship on the imperatives of the Real and claims to realness past, present, and yet to come, from across the disciplines. 


All lectures begin at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted.  Locations vary by date.


The Invention of History in the African Novel

LILY SAINT • Wesleyan University • Russell House


Unreal States: Mapping the Imaginary After the USSR

ELIOT BORENSTEIN • New York University • Zoom


Facelessness: Two Scenes

TYRONE PALMER • Wesleyan University • Daniel Family Commons


Legislating Gender

PAISLEY CURRAH • Brooklyn College, CUNY Graduate Center • Daniel Family Commons


The Indexicality of the Real and the Political

ELENI COUNDOURIOTIS • University of Connecticut at Storrs • Daniel Family Commons


When is Fear Real? Foreclosed Narratives in U.S. Asylum Law

VALENTINA RAMIA • Stanford University • Daniel Family Commons


"Real" (Crazy) Love

GABRIELLE PONCE-HEGENAUER • Wesleyan University • Daniel Family Commons


Bathroom Publics: Debilitation, Belonging, and the Limits of Inclusion

VICTORIA PITTS-TAYLOR •  Wesleyan University • Daniel Family Commons


Outcasts: The Last Queer Soviet Generation

ROMAN UTKIN • Wesleyan University • Public Affairs Center 100


Doppelgänger: A Trip into the Mirror World

NAOMI KLEIN • University of British Columbia • Zoom


Carving the Vegetarian Brain: A Real Story

KALPANA SESHADRI • Boston College • Daniel Family Commons