Matthew Frye Jacobson, next Friday! (8 February)

Dear Everyone:

Welcome to February 2013! We have a great semester coming up in RevAmStudies, one that started with yesterday’s lecture by Christopher Looby, and that continues next week with Matthew Frye Jacobson’s visit — please join us on Friday, 8 February! We will also look forward to seeing many of you at events we are cosponsoring on 14, 19 and 22 February. Please see below for further details on all of these events. The schedule for the remainder of the semester’s programming is also below, fyi. All events are free and open to the public.

As always, feel free to holler with queries or whatnot.

And as always, we gratefully acknowledge Graduate Center President William Kelly’s support as well as that of his office; the Advanced Research Collaborative, and the Center for the Humanities.

All best,
Kandice & Duncan

William Robertson Coe Professor of American Studies & History at Yale University, Matthew Frye Jacobson is the current president of the American Studies Association. He is the author of numerous books including What Have They Built You to Do?: The Manchurian Candidate and Cold War America (with Gaspar Gonzalex, 2006); Roots Too: White Ethnic Revival in Post-Civil Rights America (2005); Barbarian Virtues: The United States Encounters Foreign Peoples at Home and Abroad, 1876-1917 (2000); Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race (1998); and Special Sorrows: The Diasporic Imagination of Irish, Polish, and Jewish Immigrants in the United States (1995). His teaching interests are clustered under the general category of race in U.S. political culture 1790-present, including U.S. imperialism, immigration and migration, popular culture, and the juridical structures of U.S. citizenship.

The seminar will be from 12:30-2 in room 8201.01 (the president’s conference room). We will discuss “Where we Stand: US Empire at Street-Level and in the Archive,” Professor Jacobson’s Presidential Address to American Studies Association Annual Meeting, as well as the presidential addresses by past ASA presidents Amy Kaplan, Janice Radway, and Mary Helen Washington.  Cambridge Ridley Lynch, one of our RevAmStudies collaborators, will act as the discussant for this session.

At 4p in the same room, Professor Jacobson will be offering a lecture titled “The Historian’s Eye: Interpreting the ‘Post’ of ‘Post-Civil Rights’ in Obama’s America.” Historian’s Eye ( is a multimedia documentary project devoted to the peculiar compound of hope and despair that makes up the current political and social climate in Obama’s America. Beginning as a modest effort to capture in photographs and interviews the historic moment of our first black president’s inauguration in early 2009, the project has evolved into an expansive archive of some 4000+ photographs and an audio archive that would fill nearly two days of non-stop listening. Materials collected from across the country address the Obama presidency, the ’08 economic collapse and its fallout, two wars, the raucous politics of healthcare reform, the emergence of a new right-wing formation in opposition to Obama, the politics of immigration, Wall Street reform, street protests of every stripe, the BP oil spill, the Occupy movement, natural disasters in the south and northeast, and the controversy over a proposed Muslim community center in lower Manhattan and the escalation of anti-Muslim sentiment nationwide. The project seeks to trace out the fate of “our better history,” in Obama’s own phrase, in affecting and telling photographs and in the recorded voices of ordinary people, as the nation faces unprecedented challenges with a president at the helm who is inspirational to some, fully unnerving to others.


14 FEBRUARY — WEB DuBois, Slavery, and the Atlantic Imaginary (we happily co-sponsor this Center for the Humanities, Difference & the Humanities event)

Join professors Eric Lott, Jennifer Morgan, and Jeffrey Ferguson at 3p in the Skylight Room (9100) as they assess the impact of W.E.B. Du Bois’s work—including his seminal texts The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the U.S., 1638–1870 and Black Reconstruction—on the development of American studies, African American studies, and Atlantic studies. The panel will be followed by a roundtable discussion in which participants will explore “The General Strike,“ a chapter from Dubois’s Black Reconstruction. Please see for more information.


19 FEBRUARY: (we happily co-sponsor this Center for Place, Culture & Politics event)

At 6:30p, Professor Moon-ho Jung will present a talk titled “Subversive Histories: Race, National Security, and Empire Across the Pacific.” This lecture will critique standard narratives of Asian American and U.S. history that tend to treat Asian Americans as “immigrants” deserving or striving for inclusion (citizenship) in the U.S. nation-state. By exploring how Asians came to be racialized and radicalized subjects of the U.S. empire before World War II, it will seek to reframe our notions of movements across the Pacific. In particular, the talk will trace the historical origins of the national security state, the heart and soul of the U.S. empire, to a series of U.S. “foreign” and “domestic” policies targeting Asians on both sides of the Pacific.

Moon-Ho Jung is Associate Professor and the Walker Family Endowed Professor of History at the University of Washington. He is the author of Coolies and Cane: Race, Labor, and Sugar in the Age of Emancipation (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), which received the Merle Curti Award from the Organization of American Historians and the History Book Award from the Association for Asian American Studies.


22 FEBRUARY: (we happily co-sponsor this PhD Program in English, Friday Forum event)

Ivy Wilson, of Northwestern University, will be presenting a lecture titled “Hieroglyphs of the African Diaspora: Black Popular Culture and Nonce Transnationalism,” at 4p in Room 4406 (the English program lounge). While important strands of black diaspora theory privilege notions of translation or syncretism as an effort to locate the analogous points of convergence to correlate disparate experiences, this talk examines key moments in black cultural production where the correlative link between the U.S. and Africa can only be rendered legible through what might be called an associative ambience. More specifically, by tracing the traffic of Egyptian iconography from Frederick Douglass (in the nineteenth century) to Erykah Badu (in the early twentieth-first century), this talk seeks to limn the meanings of an ambient subjectivity as a form of a black transnational identification.



Elizabeth Maddock Dillon is Professor of English at Northeastern University where she teaches courses in the fields of early American literature, transatlantic print culture, and Atlantic theatre and performance. At Northeastern, she is also the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks. She is the author of The Gender of Freedom: Fictions of Liberalism and the Literary Public Sphere (Stanford University Press, 2004) which won the Heyman Prize for Outstanding Publication in the Humanities at Yale University. She has published widely in journals on topics from aesthetics, to the novel in the early Atlantic world, to Barbary pirates. She is the Co-Director of the Futures of American Studies Institute at Dartmouth College and the former the chair of the American Literature Section of the Modern Language Association. She currently serves on the editorial boards of Early American Literature and PMLA. Her new book, New World Drama: Performative Commons and the Atlantic Public Sphere, 1649-1849, is forthcoming from Duke University Press and she is co-editing, with Michael Drexler, a volume of essays on early American culture and the Haitian Revolution.

seminar, 12:30-2, 8201.01: “John Marrant Blows the French Horn,” from the collection Early African American Print Culture in Theory and Practice, ed. Lara Cohen and Jordan Stein (UPenn, 2012);
“Coloniality, Performance, Translation,” soon to appear in the forthcoming collection Transatlantic Traffic and (Mis)Translations, ed. Robin Peel and Daniel Maudlin (UPNE, 2013);
“Obi, Assemblage, Enchantment,” soon to appear in the inaugural issue of the journal J-19 in a roundtable on “enchanted criticism” that Nancy Bentley organized.

lecture, 4-6, 8201.01: “Pre-Occupation and the Performative Commons.”

This talk considers the long history of commoning as a mode of both occupying land—living in common—and achieving political representation as a people or political “commons.” Tracing a link between the enclosure of the commons in 16th-18th century England and the seizure of land from Native peoples in the Americas, the paper explores the history of the expropriation of common land from the people, and subsequent efforts to rematerialize the political force of the common people in acts of performance. Turning to theatrical performance, the paper considers the aesthetics of commoning in plays such as John Gay’s “The Beggar’s Opera” and concludes with discussion of the contemporary Occupy Movement as a performative commons.


8 April: The University Beyond Crisis, a daylong symposium featuring Tita Chico, Roderick Ferguson, Laura Hyun Yi Kang, and Siobhan Somerville among others — details TBA.



The Helen L. Bevington Professor of Modern Poetry at Duke University, Fred Moten works in black studies at the intersection of performance, poetry and critical theory. He is author of numerous books and articles including Arkansas (Pressed Wafer Press, 2000), Poems (with Jim Behrle) (Pressed Wafer Press, 2002), In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (University of Minnesota Press, 2003), I ran from it but was still in it. (Cusp Books, 2007), Hughson’s Tavern (Leon Works, 2008) and B Jenkins (Duke University Press, 2010).

seminar, 12:30-2, 8201.01: “The Touring Machine,” by Fred Moten; also, interview with Edouard Glissant (in conversation with Manthia Diawara); “Will Sovereignty Ever Be Deconstructed?” by Catherine Malabou; “New Spheres of Transnational Formations,” by Kamari Clarke; “Black in Time,” by Michelle Wright; “Response by Author,” by Kamari Clarke.

lecture, 4-6, 8201.01: “Notes on Passage: Anepistemology, Paraontology, Insovereignty”

In this talk, Fred Moten considers what the thought, or the mode of study, of the refugee might be able to teach us about life beyond or over the edge of personal/political sovereignty. More specifically, this lecture addresses his interest in what a kind of stateless thinking, a thinking that remains in (middle) passage, still has to offer Afro-diasporic studies and, more broadly, the study of modernity in the Atlantic World.

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