2018-19 Events

Fall Fellows' Workshop

October 5, 2018
Guerlac Room, A.D. White House


This year’s Authority workshop inverts the conventional conference format. Instead of coming with polished papers, participants will provide short, thesis-driven presentations to generate discussion around significant questions, examples, and problems.

10:30 – noon: Panel 1

  • Daniel Elam (Society Fellow; Comparative Literature, University of Hong Kong), Gandhi’s Lost Debates and the Disavowal of Authority
  • David Rojas (Society Fellow; Latin American Studies, Bucknell University), Economic Authorship and Authoritarian Populism

1:00 – 3:30: Panel 2

  • Aaron Schuster (Society Fellow), The Strange Case of Authority in Psychoanalysis
  • Joan Lubin (Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in English, Cornell University), Sexology, Science Fiction, and the Contested Authority of Expert Discourse

3:45 – 5:15: Panel 3

  • Andrew McKenzie-McHarg (Society Fellow; CRASSH, Cambridge University), Can Authority Be Invisible? The Case of the Unknown Superiors in Eighteenth-Century Europe
  • Avigail Eisenberg (Society Fellow; Political Science, University of Victoria, British Columbia), Relational Pluralism

Culler Lecture in Critical Theory

October 15, 2018, 4:30 p.m.
Guerlac Room, A.D. White House

Nahum Dimitri Chandler
Professor in the School of Humanities, UC Irvine

Paraontology: Or, Notes on the Practical Theoretical Politics of Thought

This presentation reflects upon the possibility and the necessity for theoretical work to cultivate an order of critical “theoretical fiction” as a fundamental dimension of its practice. If we take it as otherwise than a thought of the historial as oriented first of all or ultimately by existence as being, I propose to think of the concern of such practice as a paraontology. The discussion proposed takes first reference to W. E. B. Du Bois, but also to Hortense Spillers and Gayatri Chakaravorty Spivak, as well as Ralph Ellison and Edward Said, along with Cecil Taylor and Jacques Derrida, among several others.


CNY Humanities Corridor Lecture

October 22, 2018, 4:30 p.m.
Guerlac Room, A.D. White House

Dimitris Varadoulakis
Deputy Chair of Philosophy at Western Sydney University

Authority and Utility in Spinoza: From Epicureanism to Neoliberalism

Vardoulakis will argue that Spinoza is influenced by epicureanism. This is evident particularly in the conflict between authority—understood as the kind of figure that is impervious to argumentation—and the calculation of utility (phronesis) that is the precondition of action. This conflict is complex because in certain circumstances we may calculate that it is to our utility to allow a person in authority to calculate on our behalf. The paper indicates, in addition, that the way Spinoza constructs the relation between authority and utility can inform our political predicament today. Spinoza may offer an alternative to populism as to why we have political figures who lack authority. And his thinking on utility could help us reconsider instrumentality in the neoliberal age.

View: Humanities Corridor Lecture video

Invited Society Scholar: Bonnie Honig

October 25, 2018, 4:30 p.m.
Lewis Auditorium, Goldwin Smith Hall

Bonnie Honig
Nancy Duke Lewis Professor in Political Science and Modern Culture & Media at Brown University

Bartleby or the Bacchae? Toward a Feminist Politics of Refusal

“Where’s your spine?” we often say to those who seem to lack moral ‘backbone.’” How do such vertical metaphors limit and drive our imagination of refusal? Drawing on Adriana Cavarero’s work, Inclinations, this lecture develops a postural analysis of refusal in the Antigone, the Bacchae, Thoreau’s “Walking”, and Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the Madonna. Cavarero promotes inclination (leaning in) as the posture of maternal care for her ethics and politics. This lecture pluralizes the feminist subject position of inclination to include sorority, as well, and argues that the refusals we find in maternal and sororal care express not only love but rage, and promise not only the holding of community but also the dismemberment of revolution and new beginning.

Sustainable Futures Lecture

October 30, 2018, 4:30 p.m.
Guerlac Room, A.D. White House

Jennifer Carlson
2018-2019 Sustainability Fellow, Cornell Society for the Humanities
CENHS Visiting Scholar in the Energy Humanities, Rice University

Denial's Authority: Anti-Environmentalism and the Aesthetics of Negativity in Contemporary Climate Politics

Despite overwhelming evidence that climate genocide is unfolding more rapidly than previously imagined, many policymakers around the world are rolling back environmental protections while denying climate change. This talk considers how popular assent to—and sometimes embrace of— anti-environmentalism takes shape in the Global North, focusing on coastal areas of the United States and Germany where rising illiberalism coincides with ecological degradation. Here climate denial coheres through expressive culture, working simultaneously as a commentary on power and as a register of aesthetic immersion. These cases point toward the multi-sited making of denial as a cultural form and illuminate emergent forms of environmental authority with implications for climate action. 

Digital Humanities Lecture

Novmber 14, 2019, 4:30 p.m.
Guerlac Room, A.D. White House

Rachel Buurma
Associate Professor in the Department of English Literature and Co-Director of the Aydelotte Foundation at Swarthmore College

What Was Distant Reading

We tend to think of the quantitative analysis of literary texts as a very recent development, but literary critics – women in particular – have practiced distant reading for a long time. This lecture, which presents the collaborative work of Rachel Sagner Buurma and Laura Heffernan, will introduce some examples of distant reading from the first half of the twentieth century drawn from the first half of the twentieth century and place them in the context of current work in distant reading. What could a current practice of distant reading that remembers this history look like?

Future of Humanities Lecture

February 6, 2019, 4:30 p.m.
Guerlac Room, A.D. White House

Christopher Newfield
Professor of Literature & American Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara

What the Humanities Are For: Two Responses to Vulnerability

In recent decades, the U.S. university has gone from admired to distrusted institution. Public support is now conditional on falsifying what the university actually does—and on bad descriptions of what the humanities do. In this talk, Newfield suggests how to reframe a (decolonized) humanities so that they and the university can enjoy public support in the 2020s and beyond. 

Invited Society Scholar Lecture: Holly Hughes

March 12, 2019, 4:30 p.m.
Guerlac Room, A.D. White House

Holly Hughes
Professor of Theatre & Drama, University of Michigan

A Sapphic Sampler Platter

Holly Hughes’s “new and improved” autobiographical performances have centered queer feminist experience thru a patented blend of satire, poetry, and ribald humor. Her dog and pony show – please bring your OWN pony – teaches the entire family how to put the cunt back in country. Not a dry seat in the house or your money back.

Invited Society Scholar Lecture: Prasenjit Duara

March 23, 2019, 4:30pm
Guerlac Room, A.D. White House

Prasenjit Duara
Oscar Tang Chair of East Asian Studies, Duke University

The Art of Convergent Comparison—China and India in Modern Times

In this talk, Duara will argue that non-discursive modes of authorizing ‘foreign’ processes as home-grown are crucial to their acceptance, particularly since extra-national penetrations in the emergent national body need to take place below the discursive radar. They include visual, aural, olfactory and, in general, sensorial modes of vernacularizing circulatory processes. When we adopt this perspective, we begin to see the parallels among developments and forms which have until recently remained the ‘ground’ in relation to the ‘figure’ of unique developments within the nation or society. Recognizing this gestalt produces significant transformation of our view of history—how its ownership can or cannot be claimed—and the problem of national sovereignty.

Spring Fellows' Workshop

April 12, 2019
Guerlac Room, A.D. White House


This workshop departs from the conventional conference format. Instead of coming with polished papers, participants will provide short, thesis-driven presentations to generate discussion around significant questions, examples, and problems.


10:15 – 12:30: Panel 1

  • Alexander Livingston (Faculty Fellow; Government, Cornell), Violence and Nonviolence in Civil Disobedience.
  • Damián Fernández (Society Fellow; History, Northern Illinois University), History, Legitimacy, and Rebellion in the Visigothic Kingdom of Toledo
  • Dehanza Rogers (Faculty Fellow; PMA, Cornell), #BlackGirlhood: A short film about the criminalization of Black girls in schools

1:30 – 3:00: Panel 2

  • Jennifer Carlson (Sustainability Fellow; Energy Humanities, CENHS, Rice University), Deranged Democracy? Climate Ordinariness and its Provocations for Citizenship
  • Klaus Yamamoto-Hammering (Society Fellow; Anthropology), Purgatory Rituals: from Barbarism to Online Hate Speech

3:30 – 5:00: Panel 3

  • Asli Menevse (Mellon Graduate Fellow; History of Art, Cornell), The Pedestal of Authority: A Monument and its Critics (Paris, 1971)
  • A.R. Edlebi (Mellon Graduate Fellow; English, Cornell), Epilogue to the History of Capitalism