FYI, Against Recovery, an upcoming event at NYU!

Against Recovery?: Slavery, Freedom, and the Archive
Friday, November 30th – Saturday, December 1st
King Juan Carlos Center
New York University
53 Washington Square South

Against Recovery?: Slavery, Freedom, and the Archive is an interdisciplinary conference that aims to foster discussion and debate about how emerging methods and archival practices in the study of slavery and freedom can generate new ideas about black political narratives in the Americas. We bring together scholars whose work asks what happens if we do not look to the archive as merely a space of recovery and vindication, but as one in which we can glimpse the multiple ways our subjects might have fashioned blackness and imagined futures that do not sit easily with more common historical narratives of progress and continuity.

Space is limited. To register, email againstrecovery@gmail.com.  In your RSVP, please indicate if you will/will not be attending the works-in-progress seminar and/or Friday lunch.

Friday, November 30th

10:15 am – 10:45 am: Registration and Coffee

10:45 am – 11:00 am: Welcome and Opening Remarks

11:00 am – 1:00 pm: Archives and Methods in the Study of Slavery and Freedom: A Roundtable
Moderator: Jennifer Morgan, New York University
Thulani Davis, New York University
Martha Hodes, New York University
David Kazanjian, University of Pennsylvania
Ann Laura Stoler, The New School for Social Research

1:15 pm – 2:45 pm: Teaching Archivalism and African Americanist Scholarship: Luncheon and Discussion of Pedagogy
Lunch provided; space limited, RSVP required.
Phillip Brian Harper, New York University
Elizabeth McHenry, New York University

3:00 pm – 5:00 pm: Works-in-Progress Seminar
Papers will be pre-circulated; RSVP required.
Chair: Michael Ralph, New York University
Marisa Fuentes, Rutgers University
Thavolia Glymph, Duke University
Justin Leroy, New York University

5:00 pm – 5:30 pm: Coffee and Refreshments

5:30 pm – 7:00 pm: Keynote Address
Introduction: Shauna Sweeney, New York University
Vincent Brown, Harvard University

7:00 pm – 8:00 pm: Reception
Sponsored by the Humanities Initiative at New York University

Saturday, December 1st

9:30 am – 10:00 am: Coffee

10:00 am – 12:00 pm: Slavery and Freedom in Comparative Context
Chair: Samantha Seeley, New York University
Celia Naylor, Barnard College
Eve Troutt Powell, University of Pennsylvania
Mimi Sheller, Drexel University
Salamishah Tillet, University of Pennsylvania

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm: Lunch Independently

1:15 pm – 2:45 pm: Emergent Scholarship in the Study of Slavery and Freedom: New York University Alumni
Chair: Kim Hall, Barnard College
Peter Hudson, Vanderbilt University
Natasha Lightfoot, Columbia University
Dawn Peterson, American Antiquarian Society and Emory University

2:45 pm – 4:00 pm: Closing Remarks
Introduction: Max Mishler, New York University
Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Respondent: Laura Helton, New York University

Organized by Laura Helton, Justin Leroy, Max Mishler, Samantha Seeley, and Shauna Sweeney. Sponsored by New York University’s American History Workshop, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, the History Department, the English Department, the Humanities Initiative, the Workshop in Archival Practice, and CUNY Graduate Center.
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RevAmStudies in October 2012!

Dear Everyone:

A big thanks to Jack Halberstam and to all of you who came and made this year’s kick off events so fabulous!  It is only a few days into October and already so much has happened this year…

We were this week remembering the first RevAmStudies event just a few semesters ago, organized around Ruthie Gilmore and her book, Golden Gulag, as an occasion when the pink champagne was flowing and Neil Smith raised the first toast to welcome Ruthie to the Grad Center.  This isn’t meant to be maudlin sentimentality, but rather an acknowledgment that the kind of work we are collectively doing with this initiative, to think hard and generously together, is infused with the kind of energy and spirit so much associated with him — and with so many others of you, too!  It’s in that spirit of engaged openness that we invite you to the RevAmStudies events for October.

It is our privilege to host J. Kēhaulani Kauanui on Friday, 19 October.  An Associate Professor of American Studies and Anthropology at Wesleyan University, Kauanui earned her PhD in History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 2000. Kauanui is the author of Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Sovereignty and Indigeneity, published by Duke University Press, 2008. She is currently writing her second titled, Thy Kingdom Come? The Paradox of Hawaiian Sovereignty, which is a critical study on gender and sexual politics and the question of indigeneity in relation to state-centered Hawaiian nationalism. Kauanui is the sole producer and host of a public affairs radio program, “Indigenous Politics: From Native New England and Beyond,” which is syndicated through the Pacifica radio network. She is also a member of The Dream Committee, an anarchist radio collective that produces a radio program called Horizontal Power Hour. From 2005-2008, Kauanui was part of a six-person steering committee that worked to co-found the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) for which she also served as an acting council member, then as an elected member of the inaugural council from 2009-2012.

From 12:30-2p, in Room 8106 (PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS NOT OUR USUAL ROOM) Kauanui will engage us in our seminar discussion, around the following readings, which are available through the Center for the Humanities website (please remember to register for the seminar) — http://centerforthehumanities.org/seminars/revolutionizing-american-studies:

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, “Colonialism in Equality: Hawaiian Sovereignty and the Question of US Civil Rights,” South Atlantic Quarterly/ SAQ 107:4. October: 635-650 (2008)

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, “Hawaiian Nationhood, Self-Determination, and International Law,” Transforming the Tools of the Colonizer: Collaboration, Knowledge, and Language in Native Narratives, Ed. Florencia E. Mallon, Duke University Press, 2011

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui and Patrick Wolfe, “Settler Colonialism Then and Now: A conversation between J. Kēhaulani Kauanui and Patrick Wolfe,” special issue on settler colonialism for Politica & Società, guest editor: Michele Spanò, June 2012

At 4p, in room 9205 (AGAIN, PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS NOT OUR USUAL ROOM), Professor Kauanui will offer a lecture titled “Hawaiian Indigeneity and the Contradictory Politics of Self-Determination.”

As always, our events are free and open to the public.  We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Office of GC President Bill Kelly; the Advanced Research Collaborative; and the Center for the Humanities.

We wanted also to let you know of two GC events that may be of interest:

on Friday, 5 October at 4p, Professor Roderick A. Ferguson (a RevAmStudies alum!) will be offering a lecture titled “Eros and Diaspora: Black Queer Formations and the History of Neoliberalism” in the GC English Program Lounge (Room 4406).

on Wednesday, 10 October at 4p, the newly forming AsianAmericanists@CUNY, in co-sponsorship with NYU’s Asian/Pacific/American Research Institute, is pleased to host Professor Vijay Prashad, who will be offering a lecture titled “The Karma of ‘Uncle Swami'” in Room 9206.

And, a very early heads up that spring 2013 will feature Matthew Jacobsen, Fred Moten, and Elizabeth Maddock Dillon among our activities!  Details to follow.

Looking forward to seeing many of you at these events.

Best,
Kandice & Duncan

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Neil Smith, 1954 – 2012

Dear Friends,

It is with great sadness that we write to share the news that Neil Smith passed away earlier today. To say that Neil was an incredible source of intellectual energy and inspiration for the entire CUNY community would be a profound understatement; to say that his work, especially his mesmerizing American Empire: Roosevelt’s Geographer and the Prelude to Globalization, profoundly shaped the state of American Studies would also hardly do his generative brilliance justice. Neil’s passion for intellectual inquiry, his commitments to social justice, and his unwavering support for students and colleagues alike are irreplaceable losses. His encouraging presence touched more people than it is possible to recount, and he was taken from us far too soon. He will always be missed.

Please visit the Center for Place, Culture, and Power website for more information and to share your thoughts at http://pcp.gc.cuny.edu/2012/09/neil-smith/

With deep regret and continued love,

Duncan & Kandice

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Chris Eng’s incisive opening remarks — seminar with J. Jack Halberstam!

[Chris posted what is below; I snuck in to add photos and retitle the entry so that it better reflects the work he did…blog administrator’s prerogative.  KC]

J. Jack Halberstam’s work continually challenges us to imagine alternative ways of living, thinking, being, and wanting. This is no different in The Queer Art of Failure. Writing in his distinctive style that effortlessly combines elegance, humor, sophistication, passion, and intellectual generosity, Halberstam calls for a critical reconsideration of failure: as a queer art, as anti-disciplinary historiographical method, as a politics of disorientation, as struggle, and as a creation of alternative worlds. In a way, the various texts we have here today participate in this project.  In dialogue with one another, they manifest the formation of solidarity that the Invisible Committee articulates, one that coheres around points of resonance, opening up possibilities for thinking and strategizing through the generative multiplicity of failure.  Let us trace some of these resonances.

1) The Rhythms and Temporalities of Success and Failure

We are invited to explore how the order of things materializes through rhythms. The Invisible Committee reframes “Empire” as “a rhythm that imposes itself, a way of dispensing and dispersing reality. Less an order of the world than its sad, heavy and militaristic liquidation” (13). Halberstam illuminates how these rhythms—its concurrent ordering and liquidation of worlds—keep beat with the temporalities of success and failure, imposing narratives about ways of living, defining the parameters of what is possible or impossible, desirable and undesirable, good and bad.  “Practicing failure” then insistently questions how these temporalities work to uphold material conditions of inequity and construct arbitrary criteria for belongingness. As Halberstam proposes: “The queer art of failure turns on the impossible, the improbable, the unlikely, and the unremarkable. It quietly loses, and in losing it imagines other goals for life, for love, for art, and for being” (88).

2) Figurations of Failure and Conditions of (Un)belonging

Secondly, these texts connect the imperative to “imagine other goals” by mobilizing failure as a historiographical method.  Collectively exploring “an archive of failure,” they follow Halberstam’s provocative inquiry: “what happens when failure is productively linked to racial awareness, anticolonial struggle, gender variance, and different formulations of the temporality of success” (92). Seeing the capitalist economy as the producer of crisis, this archive refuses the criminalization and pathologization of the dispossessed, the poor, the racialized, and the unemployed as perpetuated under narratives of success and demands of individual responsibility. Fatima El-Tayeb challenges the myth of racelessness that constructs a “white” European identity, arguing that “ethnicization” is a tool of differentiation that figures Europeans of color as perpetually migrant and alien. For those figured as failure, performing citizenship is not enough when they are predetermined as those who do not belong, the foreign threat to a putatively raceless, white European identity. These forms of estrangement project them as the failures, the delinquents in opposition to citizenship that must be dealt with. How do we dismantle this fantasy projected by the lure of citizenship and belonging? How do we reject the desire to be the proper, good citizen when it is an ideal position of privilege secured against the chronic precariousness of others?

3) Negativity and the Antisocial— Politics versus the Political

These pieces caution against the dangers of concretizing identity in efforts to claim belonging and garner state recognition.  At a talk last March, professor Halberstam urged us to keep queerness within its disorientation by refusing to let it settle as a knowable identity based on sexuality. In re-examining the career of Gabriela Mistral, Licia Fiol-Matta precisely shows the dangers of a celebratory claiming of sexual difference, charting the unheroic histories in which queerness as identity becomes complicit with projects for state nationalism, which resonates with current discussions of homonormativity, homonationalism, and pinkwashing. We need to reject intelligibility, embrace failed citizenship, to keep queerness in disorientation, mobilizing it as not identity but politics. The task of negativity and the antisocial turn within queer theory then, Halberstam argues, is not to turn away from politics, but rather reject the terms by which politics has been and is sustained.  He argues: “Negativity might well constitute an antipolitics, but it should not register as apolitical” (108). In facing the rhetoric of austerity that demands that we all suffer, the demand for work and productivity until the body literally wears away, when precariousness is a systemic condition of being, how can we harness feelings of anger and rage to channel the practices of “self-shattering” and “other-shattering” as both political and ethical strategies for survival (110)?

4) Alternative Solidarities, Massive Experimentations

How can we allow for the openings and conditions for such shattering? El-Tayeb tracks how Europeans of color shatter the differentiating tool of ethnicization through a radical queering of identity that is postethnic.  Assembling through resonant experiences of alienation, these groups come together to make the uninhabitable spaces to which they are consigned livable. They participate in cultural practices and activist projects that challenge the structural conditions undergirding differential outcomes of success and failure. The thoughts and actions performed by these figures of failure— the delinquents, the protestors, rioters, scholars, and activists—are immensely threatening indeed, for they reveal “[t]hat an act could have made sense according to another consistency of the world than the deserted one of Empire” (17). Professor Halberstam illuminates how and why queer theory should be committed toward these other consistencies. In his words, a queer theory that foregrounds failure is one that chooses to reject the safety net of institutionality in favor of taking risks and creating openings. It acknowledges the need to fail to follow disciplinary protocols in order to make other rhythms possible. There is a need to reject politics proper and engage on our own terms, to protest the insufficiency and violence of “rhythms of life” orientated around empire, family, and work, and that measure individual success or failure based upon the ability to conform to these rhythms. These are the possibilities we see in alternative cultural and disciplinary practices, community formations, struggles, affinities, and spectacular inhabitations of failure. Collectively, these texts invite us to think through the following assertion behind The Coming Insurrection: “In reality, the decomposition of all social forms is a blessing. It is for us the ideal condition for a wild, massive experimentation with new arrangements, new fidelities” (42).  How can we use failure to collectively imagine new arrangements and fidelities both inside and outside academia?  How may the project of revolutionizing American Studies participate in creating the spaces for such “massive experimentation”?

 

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Sara Jane Stoner’s gorgeous introduction of J. Jack Halberstam

[It was such a crazy honor to introduce J. Jack Halberstam at the Revolutionizing American Studies talk she gave at the CUNY GC English Program. A big thanks to Kandice and Duncan for inviting me. What follows is the text, with a couple of edits.]

This summer, I simultaneously created and joined an imaginary collective called “Queer Damage.” The goal of this imaginary collective is to understand what kind of superpowers result from the will to less-power, the practice of illegibility, the acceptance of economic struggle, the taste for open perversion in literary, political, and physical forms, the experience of past and future as true darknesses, and the avoidance of recognition. I find myself running my covert make-art-teach-learn operation with the expectation that everyone is or will be queer in the “damage” of their lived lives. And while I might know a few of my reasons for these values, I am grateful to J. Jack Halberstam for elaborating my context.

There is something queer about lavishing one’s intellectual juices on the art and culture of the near present, and locating the grounds and the will for manifesto on just about anything. Jack has been laboring to image the queer in text since the beginning of her career. Female Masculinity is, for me and many other students of the queer, a book that influenced my living, thinking, and writing through its clear call for an understanding of the critical queer feminist problems, obligations, and energies produced by the desire for and disappearances of butch dykes past and present. I found a lot of lived damage and failure in this book, enough, arguably, to extend to every gender. If transfolk made plain the cultural refusal to allow for a third—and fourth, and fifth and so on—term, the dominant culture of cisgendered people (homos and heteros included) made the failed terms of their containment of their own explosive material more explicit.

Most recently, in The Queer Art of Failure, Jack proposes a number of important questions for we academics who are living and working in an ostensible twilight. For instance: How do antidisciplinarity and the conscious refusal of capitalist aesthetic/affective values suggest new avenues of work, new ways to expand the Venn between the intellectual and the public and to bridge activism and scholarship? How can we extend and make use of researches which explore how queer figures have
been implicated in fascist and nationalist projects? How does failure as a subject and a modality make a powerlessly powerful proposal for new freedoms of thought, for a re-envisioning of the purpose of education and a revitalization of the social contract? What kinds of aesthetic/affective fantasies sustain the passive politics of the nominally “progressive,” socially normative, working wealthy?

Jack’s scholarship has been actively involved in contributing to the creation of a contemporary queer archive and rolling theoretical framework that opens up the project of acknowledging the assumptions and exclusivities of those preexisting. His work demonstrates how affect theory has become the delivery system for cultural critique in a moment full of forces laboring to recognize both the continued need for and the limits of identity politics. Jack’s work also makes a case for the theoretical-performative ekphrasis and plot summary as ode and antidote to the capitalist intoxicities of popular media, film most recognizably. Her interdisciplinarity is an invocation of the sharpest and most humane kind of negative capability.

(Jack invites us to acknowledge the ways that in looking to invest our intellectual energies in mining the “culturally or historically significant” text or in locating our seat in the theater of a particular “canon,” academics are giving up the possibilities of the kinds of shifting micro-onto-epistemologies that might afford and proliferate the freedoms we desire.)

And now, we have Halberstam’s Gaga: the figure whose casting of the multitudes as monsters through her music, propaganda, and Facebook feed proposes fresh performance politics for self and relation.

It is difficult to imagine that it will ever be safe, let alone equally available to all as an option, to choose to be unprofessional and unsavvy, to refuse the tax benefits of marriage, to hang out of one’s blouse, to vibrate between pronouns, to be undisciplined in the face of insecure knowledges and knowledge practices whose temporary
stabilities are only ever fantasies, to revolt, court anarchy. But Jack is working hard to make sure that we know that we can and do anyway.

J. Jack Halberstam is Professor of English at the University of Southern California. Halberstam is the author of five books — Female Masculinity, The Drag King Book, Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters, In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives, and most recently The Queer Art of Failure and Gaga Feminism. Halberstam teaches in Gender Studies and American Studies and Ethnicity at USC and is currently writing and reading about new ways of unbeing human. 

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Starting again – Fall 2012!

[this is the text of an email message just distributed to our mailing lists; apologies for duplication!]

Dear Everyone:

We hope this message finds you enjoying the last bits of summer and transitioning into the new academic year restored and ready.  Our beginning of term happily includes getting RevAmStudies going for the year.  Since we last wrote, we were successfully able to articulate this initiative to the Advanced Research Collaborative, a new entity at the Graduate Center under which collective research projects are running.  We want to thank Professor Donald Robotham, the ARC’s director, as well as Provost Chase Robinson, for their support of this endeavor.  And, we remain indebted to the support of President William Kelly and his office (especially Sandy Robinson), and to the Center for the Humanities, whose director, Aoibheann Sweeney, and staff (especially Sam Starkweather) continue to be enormously helpful.  We are delighted that Christopher Eng and Cambridge Ridley-Lynch continue on as our graduate student collaborators.

We remain committed to the project of privileging Americanist inquiry as a critical site of engaged knowledge production and pedagogy, and we’ll continue to do our best to offer programming and support that will enhance your work and crystallize the intellectual communities invested in American studies.  We plan this year to make the blog more robust, and to find more ways of circulating the work of the initiative – your work! — through CUNY and well beyond.  As always, we welcome any suggestions or input of any kind in pushing this initiative forward.  We’ll be working on the spring programming soon and will make a “save the date” announcement as soon as the pieces are in place.

As you might’ve seen on facebook or the blog (https://revolutionizingamericanstudies.commons.gc.cuny.edu/), we are very pleased to be starting off this year’s programming by welcoming J. Jack Halberstam to the Graduate Center on Friday, 7 September.  He’ll be participating in a seminar at 12p on that date (in the President’s conference room, 8201.01), and offering a public lecture at 4p (in the English lounge — Room 4406).  Details are below, along with an overview of the rest of this semester’s programming.  Please note that on 14 September, Christopher Ianinni will be offering a public lecture (also at 4p, also in the English lounge — Room 4406).  So, two American studies events to get us going!  The rest of the semester will be fantastic, too, with J. Kēhaulani Kauanui joining us in October and Hester Blum in November.

Please remember to register for the seminar through the Center for Humanities site (http://centerforthehumanities.org/seminars) to access readings for seminar sessions.

Questions?  Give a holler!

Looking forward to seeing you at one of our events this fall!
Best,
Kandice & Duncan

RevAmStudies Fall 2012 Schedule of Events [as of 23-Aug-12]

7 September – J. Jack Halberstam
Jack Halberstam is Professor of English at the University of Southern California. Halberstam is the author of five books — Female Masculinity, The Drag King Book, Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters, In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives, and most recently The Queer Art of Failure (Duke UP, 2011) and Gaga Feminism (Beacon Press, 2012) — and numerous articles, and the editor of several volumes.  Halberstam teaches in Gender Studies and American Studies and Ethnicity at USC and is currently writing and reading about new ways of unbeing human.

Public Lecture: 4p, English Program Lounge, Room 4406
Title: GOING GAGA: ANARCHY, CHAOS AND THE WILD

In this talk, Halberstam pulls forward the idea of “Low Theory” from his book, The Queer Art of Failure, and use it to frame new work on feminism, revolt and Lady Gaga. Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender and the End of Normal offers some examples of Gaga Feminism from new political movements to eclectic animated films like Fantastic Mr. Fox and through odd, new forms of anarchistic and improvised rebellion. Throughout, Halberstam encourages the search for theory and politics in odd corners on behalf of a different way of thinking about knowledge, gender politics, culture and transformation.

Seminar:  12p, President’s Conference Room (8201.01), with Christopher Eng, respondent

Readings:  1) Introduction to European Others: Queering Ethnicity in Postnational Europe  by Fatima El Tayeb (Univ of Minnesota press, 2011).

2) Selections from The Coming Insurrection by The Invisible Committee (NY and Paris: Semiotexte, 2009).

3) Licia Fiol Matta, “Introduction” to A Queer Mother for the Nation: The State and Gabriel Mistral (U of Minnesota Press, 2002).

4) chapter 3, “The Queer Art of Failure” from Halberstam’s The Queer Art of Failure (Duke UP 2012).
————————————–

14 September – Christopher Ianinni
Christopher Iannini is an associate professor of English at Rutgers University.  He is a specialist in colonial and nineteenth century American literature, with strong interests in the history of science, Caribbean studies, and Atlantic studies.  Widely published in numerous critical journals, he is the author of Fatal Revolutions: Natural History, West Indian Slavery, and the Routes of American Literature (UNC Press, 2012).
Public Lecture: 4p, English Lounge (Room 4406.3)
“Bartram’s *Travels* and the Natural History of West Indian Slavery”

This talk is drawn from Iannini’s recently published book Fatal Revolutions: Natural History, West Indian Slavery, and the Routes of American Literature (UNC Press, 2012). Broadly described, the book traces the relationship between two dramatic transformations in the history of the eighteenth-century Atlantic world–the growth of the West Indian plantation as a new kind of social institution and economic engine, and the rise of natural history as a new scientific discipline, intellectual obsession, and literary form. Iannini argues that these transformations were inextricably linked and that together the established fundamental conditions for what we might call “the practice of letters” in the colonial Americas. This talk provides a case study within this longer history by focusing on William Bartrams *Travels through North and South
Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida* (1791), long considered a foundational text for early American nature discourse.
————————————-
19 October – J. Kēhaulani Kauanui

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui is an Associate Professor of American Studies and Anthropology at Wesleyan University.  She earned her PhD in History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 2000. Kauanui is the author of Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Sovereignty and Indigeneity, published by Duke University Press, 2008. She is currently writing her second titled, Thy Kingdom Come? The Paradox of Hawaiian Sovereignty, which is a critical study on gender and sexual politics and the question of indigeneity in relation to state-centered Hawaiian nationalism.  Kauanui is the sole producer and host of a public affairs radio program, “Indigenous Politics: From Native New England and Beyond,” which is syndicated through the Pacifica radio network. She is also a member of The Dream Committee, an anarchist radio collective that produces a radio program called Horizontal Power Hour.  From 2005-2008, Kauanui was part of a six-person steering committee that worked to co-found the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) for which she also served as an acting council member, then as an elected member of the inaugural council from 2009-2012.

Public Lecture:  4p, Location TBA
Title: Hawaiian Indigeneity and the Contradictory Politics of Self-Determination

This lecture will explore the contestation over indigeneity and self-determination in the controversy over the state-drive push for a federally recognized Native Hawaiian Governing Entity within US domestic policy, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as the Hawaiian Kingdom restoration movement.

Seminar:  Details TBA

——————————
30 November – Hester Blum
Hester Blum is Associate Professor of English at the Pennsylvania State University and Interim Associate Director for the Penn State Institute for the Arts and Humanities. Her first book,The View from the Mast-Head: Maritime Imagination and Antebellum American Sea Narratives (University of North Carolina Press, 2008), received the John Gardner Maritime Research Award; she has also published a critical edition of William Ray’s Barbary captivity narrative Horrors of Slavery (Rutgers University Press, 2008). A founder of C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, she is at work on a new book called Polar Imprints: The Print Culture of Arctic and Antarctic Exploration.

Public Lecture: 4p, President’s Conference Room (8201.01)
Title:  Oceanic American Studies

In the wake of the transnational or hemispheric “turn” in U.S. literary studies, we might ask what happens if our scholarly perspective is reoriented from the perspective of the sea. If methodologies of the nation and the post-nation have been land-locked, how would an oceanic turn allow us to explore new ways of thinking about familiar and unfamiliar texts in pre-1900 U.S. literature? “Oceanic American Studies” considers more specifically the unexplored possibilities that the Arctic and Antarctic regions offer to hemispheric or transnational conversations, as well as to more recent calls to reorganize critical thinking from a planetary perspective.

Seminar: 12p, President’s Conference Room (8201.01)
Readings: “The Prospect of Oceanic Studies,” PMLA 125.3; “John Cleves Symmes and the Planetary Reach of Polar Exploration” American Literature Vol. 84, No. 2 (June 2012); “The News at the Ends of the Earth: Polar Periodicals” (work in progress)

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RevAmStudies revving up for fall 2012!

Save the dates! RevAmStudies starts up again on 7 September; a terrific line up for the fall! We’ll update as more info rolls in. Happy end of summer, all!

RevAmStudies Fall 2012 Schedule of Events [as of 23-Aug-12]

7 September – J. Jack Halberstam
Public Lecture: 4p, English Program Lounge, Room 4406

Title: GOING GAGA: ANARCHY, CHAOS AND THE WILD

In this talk, Halberstam pulls forward the idea of “Low Theory” from his book, The Queer Art of Failure, and use it to frame new work on feminism, revolt and Lady Gaga. Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender and the End of Normal offers some examples of Gaga Feminism from new political movements to eclectic animated films like Fantastic Mr. Fox and through odd, new forms of anarchistic and improvised rebellion. Throughout, Halberstam encourages the search for theory and politics in odd corners on behalf of a different way of thinking about knowledge, gender politics, culture and transformation.

Seminar: 12p, President’s Conference Room (8201.01)
Readings: 1) Introduction to European Others: Queering Ethnicity in Postnational Europe  by Fatima El Tayeb (Univ of Minnesota press, 2011); 2) Selections from The Coming Insurrection by The Invisible Committee (NY and Paris: Semiotexte, 2009); 3) Licia Fiol Matta, “Introduction” to A Queer Mother for the Nation: The State and Gabriel Mistral (U of Minnesota Press, 2002); and, 4) chapter 3, “The Queer Art of Failure” from Halberstam’s The Queer Art of Failure (Duke UP 2012).

————————————–

14 September – Christopher Ianinni

Christopher Iannini is an associate professor of English at Rutgers University.  He is a specialist in colonial and nineteenth century American literature, with strong interests in the history of science, Caribbean studies, and Atlantic studies.  Widely published in numerous critical journals, he is the author of Fatal Revolutions: Natural History, West Indian Slavery, and the Routes of American Literature (UNC Press, 2012).

Public Lecture: 4p, English Lounge (Room 4406.3)

“Bartram’s *Travels* and the Natural History of West Indian Slavery”

This talk is drawn from Iannini’s recently published book Fatal Revolutions: Natural History, West Indian Slavery, and the Routes of American Literature (UNC Press, 2012). Broadly described, the book traces the relationship between two dramatic transformations in the history of the eighteenth-century Atlantic world–the growth of the West Indian plantation as a new kind of social institution and economic engine, and the rise of natural history as a new scientific discipline, intellectual obsession, and literary form. Iannini argues that these transformations were inextricably linked and that together the established fundamental conditions for what we might call “the practice of letters” in the colonial Americas. This talk provides a case study within this longer history by focusing on William Bartrams *Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida* (1791), long considered a foundational text for early American nature discourse.

————————————-
19 October – J. Kēhaulani Kauanui

Public Lecture: 4p, Location TBA
Title: Hawaiian Indigeneity and the Contradictory Politics of Self-Determination

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui is an Associate Professor of American Studies and Anthropology at Wesleyan University.  She earned her PhD in History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 2000. Kauanui is the author of Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Sovereignty and Indigeneity, published by Duke University Press, 2008. She is currently writing her second titled, Thy Kingdom Come? The Paradox of Hawaiian Sovereignty, which is a critical study on gender and sexual politics and the question of indigeneity in relation to state-centered Hawaiian nationalism.  Kauanui is the sole producer and host of a public affairs radio program, “Indigenous Politics: From Native New England and Beyond,” which is syndicated through the Pacifica radio network. She is also a member of The Dream Committee, an anarchist radio collective that produces a radio program called Horizontal Power Hour.  From 2005-2008, Kauanui was part of a six-person steering committee that worked to co-found the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) for which she also served as an acting council member, then as an elected member of the inaugural council from 2009-2012.

This lecture will explore the contestation over indigeneity and

self-determination in the controversy over the state-drive push for a
federally recognized Native Hawaiian Governing Entity within US domestic
policy, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as
the Hawaiian Kingdom restoration movement.

Seminar: Details TBA

——————————

30 November – Hester Blum

Public Lecture: 4p, President’s Conference Room (8201.01)

Title: Oceanic American Studies

In the wake of the transnational or hemispheric “turn” in U.S. literary studies, we might ask what happens if our scholarly perspective is reoriented from the perspective of the sea. If methodologies of the nation and the post-nation have been land-locked, how would an oceanic turn allow us to explore new ways of thinking about familiar and unfamiliar texts in pre-1900 U.S. literature? “Oceanic American Studies” considers more specifically the unexplored possibilities that the Arctic and Antarctic regions offer to hemispheric or transnational conversations, as well as to more recent calls to reorganize critical thinking from a planetary perspective.

Seminar: 12p, President’s Conference Room (8201.01)
Readings: “The Prospect of Oceanic Studies,” PMLA 125.3; “John Cleves Symmes and the Planetary Reach of Polar Exploration” American Literature Vol. 84, No. 2 (June 2012); “The News at the Ends of the Earth: Polar Periodicals” (work in progress)

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FYI, a CFP for the NY Metro American Studies Association conference

The New York Metro American Studies Association (NYMASA) announces a call for papers for our 2012 annual one-day conference:

MOVEMENT(S)

Saturday December 1st

9am-6pm

Location TBA

Inspired by such socially significant movements such as Occupy Wall Street and such spacially significant movements as the recent reclaiming by the new World Trade Center of the title of New York’s tallest building, the New York Metro Studies Association has chosen the theme of “Movement(s)” for our annual conference. The expansiveness of this topic opens up the possibility of multiple perspectives: what moves us? How do the social, political, and economic conditions at work in the U.S. empower or deter different kinds of movement? How do movements develop, disseminate, diffuse, and dissipate?

In imagining this conference, we invite participants to engage with any of the following issues (or any other this topic inspires):

• social movements
• political movements
• movements of capital or people through or from New York and beyond
• artistic and fashion movements
• the movements of bodies through immigration, urban flight, suburbification and gentrification
• transportation and commuting
• digital movement of information, images and data locally, globally, and in and out of networks
• historical movements
• critical and canonical movements in academia
• literary movements
• movements of leisure, sport or travel
• kinetic movement
• disabled and prosthetic movements
• movable type
• military and peace movements
• outsourcing and movements of labor
• social mobility and moving on up
• religious movements
• being moved and affective movement
• passing
• failed or stalled movements
• compulsive, obsessive, and repetitive movements

We welcome papers on any historical period in American Studies, as well as 21st century topics.  We particularly encourage presentations that circulate across historical and disciplinary borders, presentations that are non-traditional in form, and presentations that incorporate performance and/or visual art.  While we welcome proposals on any  element of American Studies, we will especially privilege presentations focusing on the New York area. Please note that we will accept abstracts for individual paper presentations only, not pre-constituted panels.

Please send abstracts to nymasamovements@gmail.com by June 15, 2012.

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Big Thanks!

Dear Everyone:

If you’re able to join us at Slattery’s (http://slatterysmidtownpub.com/) for a celebratory happy hour drink at 4p on Thursday, 10 May, we could thank you in person for your participation in the RevAmStudies initiative this year. And, realizing this message goes out all too late, we know you may not be able to take up this invitation, so we want to thank you all in this fashion as well.

We’ve had a remarkable year of collective hard thinking, infused with quite a bit of laughter and a great deal of generosity, to advance the work of thinking in and through American studies with an eye toward, as Eric Lott put it during his visit with us, deploying “revolution” as an intellectual strategy. Ten scholars representing vital lines of critical inquiry visited with us as part of this initiative in AY2011-12: Roderick Ferguson (U of Minnesota, American Studies); Priscilla Wald (Duke U, English, ASA President 2011-12); Leti Volpp (U of California Boalt College of Law; co-sponsored with the Mellon Committee on Globalization and Social Change); Anne McClintock (U Wisconsin, Madison, English); Jodi Melamed (Marquette U, English); Bruce Burgett (U Washington, Bothell, Interdisciplinary Studies); Glenn Hendler (Fordham U, English and American Studies); Nayan Shah (UC San Diego, History); Eric Lott (U Virginia, English); Chandan Reddy (U Washington, Seattle, English; co-sponsored with the Policed! seminar series of the Center for the Humanities). We also collaborated with the NYU Department of Social and Cultural Analysis on the “Multiple Futures of Gender and Sexuality Studies” panel, and sponsored student participation in the Baltimore American Studies Association Meeting. We have, in short, had a lively year.

Throughout the year, we have been appreciatively struck by the ways that the discussions at the seminars often focused on methodology and professionalization, and they modeled the kind of critical generosity that, in our view, characterizes the best ways of inhabiting the academy. This is, we know, not only a function of the visitors, but is also very much an indication of the openness of all who participated, and we are grateful.

We remain also deeply grateful to GC President William Kelly, whose substantive and material commitment to this effort has been important in ways that cannot be overstated; to Sandy Robinson in the President’s office, for her enormous patience and exceptional effectiveness in helping us realize the initiative programming, and to the President’s office more broadly as well; to the Center for the Humanities, and especially its director, Aoibheann Sweeney, for her engaged support of this endeavor, and the Center’s Sam Starkweather, who has been instrumental in keeping us going; and very much to Christopher Eng and Cambridge Ridley Lynch, our student collaborators, for their colleagiality and good humor.

As we look ahead to next year, we are still getting our proverbial ducks in a row. Among the different events we hope to offer include a session focused on critical pedagogies; one organized around the 20th anniversary of the publication of Paul Gilroy’s Black Atlantic; events that push us to reflect critically on the temporal and spatial protocols by which American studies are framed; and in concert with the American Studies Certificate Program, a session devoted to grant-writing. Though much remains to be planned, we are exceptionally pleased to be able to announce that our kick-off lecture and seminar session is scheduled for FRIDAY, 7 SEPTEMBER, and will feature Professor J. JACK HALBERSTAM — details to be announced toward summer’s end. Please save the date!

As always, we’re happy to hear from you as to suggestions for programming, both in content and kind.

We hope to see you on Thursday, and in any event, offer our best wishes for a smooth end of year and a terrific summer.

Best,
Kandice & Duncan

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Eric Lott at the Graduate Center

The Revolutionizing American Studies seminar was delighted to hear from Eric Lott, Professor of American Studies at the University of Virginia, on March 22nd. The following are some thoughts on the readings he provided for our discussion.

 

Professor Lott’s article, National Treasure, Global Value, and American Literary Studies considers the blockbuster 2004 film in order to think through critical histories and developments within American Studies. His call to “think carefully—politically—about the literary relationship of nation to globe” provides a generative inversion of much humanities training, in which a literary lens is applied to structures understood as fundamentally, and remotely, political. As an “impacted nexus of literary desire,” the National Treasure franchise explicitly charts the literariness of the nation’s symbolic and material position in and to the world; the trailer for National Treasure 2 visualizes this investment by spanning a three-dimensional atlas while zooming in and through the densely transposed script of a diary said to reveal “a conspiracy that crosses the globe.” Our chances for recovering productive, cross-global connectivity are thus foregrounded as textual, embedded in script, while the politics of the nation-state are seen to have long foreclosed possibilities of universal democratic alliance. The article suggests that it is especially important to think politically about these literary “input channels, kinship networks, and routes of transit,” to borrow from Wai Chee Dimock, so that the processes of textual decoding don’t become a kind of foundationalism, the Declaration (and the Bible) wielded to serve positivist ends and amounting to a national historical amnesia. As Lott’s analysis of the movie demonstrates, the desire for global alliance is ambivalent to begin with, hesitating, as it were, “between the tenses” of recto/verso, nation/globe, self and other, calling to mind the ambivalence of cross-racial desire and disavowal underpinning minstrelsy as proposed by Lott’s Love and Theft. Lott’s innovative handling of National Treasure prompts us to question the film’s hesitant investments, including those of Ben – who describes himself not as a treasure hunter but as a treasure protector – and of a post-9/11 U.S. – whose fantasy of seamlessly exporting democracy looks in practice much more like the razed National Library of Iraq. In pointing out how this ambivalence is indicative of the global economic and human rights crises we now face, Lott leads us to the troubling question of whether the material conditions of global cultural-capital accumulation and imperial dominance are in fact dependent on the literary fiction of a well meaning “treasure protector” to redistribute wealth “to the people.”

Considering the dialectic of “front” and “back” uses of the Declaration invoked by National Treasure, we might say that Back Door Man: Howlin’ Wolf and the Sound of Jim Crow offers a definitively recto brand of embodiment, that is, a sensitive inquiry into the self as formulated on the back of a precise intersection of social, cultural, and state production (and not its inverse, which here might look like the determination of a group or individual based on the “anodyne clutches of blues buffs and the normalizations of conventional musicology”). The article is an extremely useful demonstration of how the formal structures and aesthetic qualities of a single expressive moment can open a whole social world and affectively disseminate — via the swaying bodies of listeners in, say, an everyday public space — the revolutionary potential for invention and change. Thinking politically, Lott details the ways in which a midcentury postindustrial urban crisis produced new ways of “ignoring black selfhood, of denying the legitimacy of black claims to existence.” If the state’s constitution of blackness is that of non-beingness in the world understood through the categories of race, gender, and sexuality, the unsettling “weirdness” of Back Door Man asserts the visceral, full-bodied presence of African American being in Jim Crow space albeit of a necessarily queered temporality and form. The reclamation of back door invisibility, where one gains the vantage of seeing and being what white men “don’t know” nonetheless bespeaks a national paralysis wherein the inability to know communally inhibits movement past the ambivalent and hesitant forms of cross-racial alliance. Some things we might consider are the possibilities for engendering backdoorness without the compulsive returns and backward glances of a traumatized Jim Crow soundscape; how we might re-imagine, as this song prompts us to do and especially in light of the Occupy Wall Street movement, social relations and institutions without a purported center to which we must return.

 

-Jenny LeRoy

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