MA/PhD Session Schedule
Fall 2020

FALL SESSION: October 2-24, 2020

MORNING SEMINARS: 3-4:30 pm, Central European Time (9-10:30 am Eastern Standard Time)

AFTERNOON SEMINARS: 7:00-8:30 pm, Central European Time (1-2:30 pm Eastern Standard Time)

We will hold question and answer sessions on the day between seminars at a time to be announced.

Fall 2020 - Schedule

Date

PAS Students

LMVT Students

Oct
2-4

Sha Xin Wei, Christopher Fynsk, and others

Alternative Economies Alternative Ecologies (Alter-Eco): Measure and Value

Manthia Diawara & Terri Geis

The Caribbean Discourse: Theory and Art

The Alter-Eco seminars propose that to rethink our economies reciprocally demands engaging with our ecosystems in an equally radical way.   Following on the symposium and seminar on alternative economies and ecologies in Malta in 2019, this seminar concerns the problem of measure and value. Considering what makes life possible, we ask how can technology, setting aside the anthropocene conceit that humans are the most significant beings in the world, also be humane?  Considering what makes life worth living, we ask, can there be art not made by humans and for humans alone?  Such questions inevitably lead to questions of value. Under the regime of quantification it seems that deciding value devolves to a matter of data: if only we had the right data about a person or a situation, and enough of it, then we could assess or even predict that person’s or situation’s value.   Data, however, are not plucked from a tree but constructed by measurement.  And since measurement is a decision about what is measurable, determining what is made legible versus what is made indiscernible, we realize that “ground truth” data are neither absolute ground nor absolute truth. Most fundamentally, the very openness of the ever-evolving, ontogenetic world implies that it will exceed every pre-given measure or category.   So what can we do in the face of indeterminacy? In this seminar, we start from a different perspective, turning from things and their predicates to processes and relations, from ontology to ontogeny, from metric to practices of sense-making, navigating, articulating dynamical experience.  Learning from vegetal life, metabolic experience, and the arts of improvisatory performance, we turn from an attempt to ground value in metrics to intercalating, calibrating, layering, refracting, and chorusing processes valuing a situation.

This seminar introduces Édouard Glissant’s Discours Antillais (Caribbean Discourse) as a post-Negritude theory of decolonial art in the Caribbean and beyond. Caribbean Discourse consolidates the critique of continental thinking as Eurocentric and colonialist, with a monolithic vision of world history, philosophy, and language. It repositions the meaning of Difference, not as oppositional, contradictory or “othering,” but as that which animates the world and guarantees creativity, beauty, and diversity. Caribbean Discourse as a theory of art and decolonial thinking introduces first the theme of Creolization, defined as a re-assembling of differences, with unpredictable outcomes. As Glissant states in Poétique de la Relation (Poetics of Relation) Creolization is the “Other of theory,” or that which escapes theorizing in the “theory of the Other.” We will argue in the seminar that, from Frantz Fanon to the present, much of our theorizing has emphasized the theory of the Other and remained blind to the Other of theory, which is less oppositional and more sensitive to art, the theory of the marvelous, the environment, humans, and our planetary survival. Some of the writers and artists discussed in Caribbean Discourse include: Kamau Brathwaite, Alejo Carpentier, Gabriel García Márquez, Wifredo Lam, Roberto Matta, Agustín Cárdenas, and Hector Hyppolite.

Our three-day seminar proposes first to examine Glissant’s theory of art in the Caribbean, after the manifesto of Légitime défense, Tropiques magazine, and the Negritude movement. What does Glissant mean by new arts and new humanities that he calls the New Baroque World (also known as Tout-monde or Chaos-monde) in Caribbean Discourse and Poetics of Relation? We will discuss the work and thought of modern and contemporary artists affiliated with and inspired by Glissant’s theories. Finally, we will look at the persisting challenges ahead and prophesized by Suzanne Césaire (“The Great Camouflage”), Sylvia Wynter (Rodney King and the concept of “No Humans Involved,”) and Angela Davis (on Black Lives Matter).

Oct
5

ASSESSMENT / BREAK

Oct
6-8

Achille Mbembe

Life Futures

Daniel Birnbaum

The Virtual

For a long time, the human race has been concerned with how life emerges, its spatial distribution, the conditions of its evolution and resilience. Increasingly, the core question is framed in terms of the struggle to sustain life under catastrophic conditions as well as those under which it ends and how it ends. Using Western and non-Western traditions of thought, this seminar will reflect on the relationship between technological escalation and life futures.

Will todays immersive media change the way we view art? Will they change art itself? Artists have always embraced new technologies. And yet one cannot say that the artworlds dominant attitude towards has been one of enthusiasm, even if the last century saw moments of techno-optimism, from Italian Futurism and Russian Constructivism to the 1960s movements Experiments in Art and Technology and more recent visionaries like Nam June Paik or Laurie Andersson. But key voices of critical theory, such as the Frankfurt Schools Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, established an attitude of techno-scepticism so fundamental that any form of affirmation, let alone enthusiasm, had to appear as at best naive. To get a better understanding of todays promises and challenges, we will look at the art & technology complex through the prisms of a number of key documents from the 20th as well as the 21st century.

Oct
9

ASSESSMENT / BREAK

Oct
10-12

Judith Butler

The Problem with our Laws

Judith Butler

The Problem with our Laws

This course will consider whether Kafka’s short works carry a theory of law, focusing on parables, fragments, and stories in relation to the idealization of law and legal violence.  We will also look at selected writings by Walter Benjamin, including an exchange between Benjamin on Scholem, on the relationship between law and life. We will ask whether Kafka’s writings can give rise to a theoretical understanding of law that does not override their figural and fragmented character. Further, we will ask why Kafka became the center of debates about the status of the law in 1934-38 as Scholem and others sought to understand whether law had abandoned human history or become irreversibly profane.

This course will consider whether Kafka’s short works carry a theory of law, focusing on parables, fragments, and stories in relation to the idealization of law and legal violence.  We will also look at selected writings by Walter Benjamin, including an exchange between Benjamin on Scholem, on the relationship between law and life. We will ask whether Kafka’s writings can give rise to a theoretical understanding of law that does not override their figural and fragmented character. Further, we will ask why Kafka became the center of debates about the status of the law in 1934-38 as Scholem and others sought to understand whether law had abandoned human history or become irreversibly profane.

Oct
13

ASSESSMENT / BREAK

Oct
14-16

Boris Groys

The End of History: Hegel, Kojeve and Beyond

Keller Easterling

No Normal

The biological agents of pandemic, the atmospheric agents of climate change or the ingrained insanities of racism confound the vestigial modern Enlightenment mind—a mind that maintains the myth of solutions, newness, freedom, universals or political ultimates. Without respect for nationalities, legal jurisdictions, or homo economicus, a tangle of problems strays across political, legal, and disciplinary boundaries. There is no redemptive revolution, and there are no equations of certainty expressed in any of the anointed digital or econometric languages.

The problems cannot be disentangled and segregated. Instead, the cultural forms to address them may be about further entangling them. As the word form moves through disciplines, it can describe everything from shapes and outlines to conceptual markers. Here, interplay is itself the form. A protocol of interplay is a different from a solution. It is different from designing a single object or building. It is a verb rather than a noun. It mixes different species of information from the scale of microns to the scale of territories. It mixes heavy physical spatial information with digital, quantitative, econometric expressions. It mixes epidemiological, ethnographic, demographic, economic, social, and cultural evidence. Beyond buildings and master plans, these lumpy and time-released organs of interplay are like bargains and chain reactions that inflect populations of objects or set up relative potentials within them.

Each session will feature protocols of interplay that deal with, among many other things, activism, automation, migration, police defunding, gentrification, cooperative land tenure, coastal retreat, reforestation, and compounding reparations. The course readings will also move through a discontinuous tradition of medium design. Beyond associations with communication technologies, medium, in this context means middle or milieu. Considering ground instead of figure, or field instead of object, medium design inverts some dominant cultural logics and offers additional aesthetic and political capacities for addressing intractable dilemmas.

Medium design is related to the focus on disposition/dispositif /disposition that fascinates Michele Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, or Gilbert Ryle. It refers to the tacit knowledge about which Michael Polanyi writes. It learns from the non-modern thinking that according to Bruno Latour steps away from hierarchies and ultimates. It is attuned to reverberations of aesthetic practices in cultural networks about which Jacques Rancière speculates. From J.J. Gibson, there is a sense of the affordances of things. From Gregory Bateson, there is a sense of temperament in the interplay of things. Media theorist John Durham Peters, literary critics Caroline Levine, or political scientist Jane Bennet are especially synthetic thinkers in this relay.

Oct
17

Academic Writing Workshop with Dean Christopher Fynsk and Dr Julia Hölzl

Oct
18-20

Peter Szendy

Imagining Debt

Carlos Amorales

How to Wear a Mask

“A debt is a work of imagination,” Balzac wrote in The Magic Skin. One is immediately tempted to protest: What is there to imagine about debt, when we know only too well what the dire consequences of indebtedness are? Indeed, we could argue that the condition of being indebted simply makes imagination shrink or die. But what if there was some truth in Balzac’s sentence? On the one hand, debt is a construct, it is a narrative, a performative fiction that organizes time by linking past, present, and future in a diegetic chain. As a narrative, it is also a negotiation with the very possibility of its ending (the Latin verb absolvere means both to pay off a debt and to complete a story). On the other hand, precisely because it shares the attributes of narrativity, debt cannot be cancelled in general: what we are left with in order to resist the neoliberal order governed by debt is the task of imagining—inventing—other forms of debts that we could call counterdebts (as one speaks of counternarratives). Reparations are one example; environmental debt is another. And what about indebtedness to the future, or to futurity?

“A kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and on the other to conceal the true nature of the individual”. The “persona” was for Carl Jung the social face an individual presented to the world. The act of creating a persona by masking oneself, will be analyzed as a distancing move that allows individuals vantage points from which to observe and interact in social situations. In this sense, the act of masking oneself, will ultimately be seen as an act of self-exile from a surveying society, in which the limits between public and private realms have become porous. Through a series of artistic examples, in which the act of masking is exercised at different levels (within the self, through visual images and in written and musical languages), the usefulness of masking and wearing masks will be explored and discussed. This seminar will be based on the text “The Rhetoric of the Mask” by Carlos Amorales, published on the occasion of his midcareer survey exhibition, held this year at the Stedelijk Museum, in Amsterdam.

Oct
21

Creative Writing Workshop with Lars Iyer: “Without Authority: The Solitude of Writing”

Oct
22-24

Gayatri Spivak

Race, Class, and Gender: Du Bois & Tillie Olsen

Gayatri Spivak

Race, Class, and Gender: Du Bois & Tillie Olsen
1.  The relevance of W.E.B Du Bois’s work for today’s world.
2.  How did he extend Marxism by calling large fugitive slave movements “a general strike?”
3.  How should we “read” the U.S. classics Souls of Black Folk and Black Reconstruction as performative political texts?
4.  A broad interpretation for the contemporary relevance of the failed exchange between Du Bois & Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the constitutional leader of the Dalit movement in India.
5.  Tillie Olsen’s Marxist feminism in a Rosa Luxemburg context, with special attention to her experimental prose.  A complement to Du Bois’s serious male feminism.
6. Can Lacan’s theorizing of the emergence of the “real” embrace these questions?
1.  The relevance of W.E.B Du Bois’s work for today’s world.
2.  How did he extend Marxism by calling large fugitive slave movements “a general strike?”
3.  How should we “read” the U.S. classics Souls of Black Folk and Black Reconstruction as performative political texts?
4.  A broad interpretation for the contemporary relevance of the failed exchange between Du Bois & Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the constitutional leader of the Dalit movement in India.
5.  Tillie Olsen’s Marxist feminism in a Rosa Luxemburg context, with special attention to her experimental prose.  A complement to Du Bois’s serious male feminism.
6. Can Lacan’s theorizing of the emergence of the “real” embrace these questions?