Fall 2009 Course Offerings

SHUM 4821 Mobility and Artistic Invention

(also VISST 4821, ARTH 4821)
Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
M. Fernández  
T 2:30 - 4:25

From the 1940’s to the present, numerous artists and intellectuals from various parts of the world emigrated or resided outside of their home countries for extended periods in large urban centers, especially in Europe and the United States. Many of these artists and intellectuals significantly contributed to the formation of new fields of knowledge and practice in the sciences and the arts. While the mobile figure of the migrant has been discussed at length in light of theories of hybridity, resistance and cosmopolitanism, scholars have paid little attention to the migrant as inventor or creator. Are there conditions specific to the experience of migration that foster the generation and actualizations of new ideas? In the study of mobility and invention how might one theorize the interplay among individual experiences and inclinations and social and political conditions in the home and adopted countries? Are theories of cosmopolitanism and translation sufficient to theorize immigrants’ creativity? This seminar will function as a transdisciplinary laboratory for the exploration of these questions. Students from diverse fields and schools are welcomed.

María Fernández is Associate Professor of Art History and Visual Studies at Cornell University.  She received her doctorate in art history from Columbia University in 1993. Her research interests include the history and theory of digital art, postcolonial studies, Latin American art and architecture and the intersections of these fields. She has published essays in multiple journals including Art JournalThird Textnparadoxa,  Architectural Design (AD), Fuse and Mute. Her work appears in several volumes including the Companion of Contemporary Art since 1945 edited by Amelia Jones (Blackwell 2006) and At a Distance: Precursors to Art and Activism on the Internet edited by Annmarie Chandler and Norie Neumark (MIT Press, 2005.) With Faith Wilding and Michelle Wright she edited the anthology Domain Errors: Cyberfeminist Practices published by Autonomedia in 2002.  Recently she completed a book on Mexican Cosmopolitanism in the Visual Artsunder contract with Texas University Press and now she is working on a book on the work of the British cybernetician, Gordon Pask.

SHUM 4822 Life as We Know It: Readings in the Biopolitical Paradigm

(also ITAL 4822, COML 4065) 
Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
T. Campbell
M 12:20 - 2:15

In this seminar we will examine the origins and contemporary iterations of the concept of biopolitics, that is the increasingly intense ways in which politics and biology come to be superimposed over one another in current conversations about life and what might constitute it (abortion, euthanasia, genetic engineering, and the war on terror to name only the most pressing). We will investigate the origins of the term in the work of Hannah Arendt and Herbert Marcuse, for there the negative and affirmative inflections of biopolitics as a power of life and a power over life are encapsulated. Next we turn to the most important elaboration of what we will call the biopolitical paradigm as it is developed in three of Michel Foucault’s seminars from the 1970s (“Society Must Be Defended,” Security, Territory, Population, and The Birth of Biopolitics) and we’ll attempt to mark where Foucault’s appropriation of the term diverges and converges with Arendt and Marcuse. In the second half of the seminar, we’ll sketch the contemporary horizon for thinking biopolitics and consider the possibility that the biopolitical paradigm itself is moving towards crisis. We’ll do so by reading the work of Giorgio Agamben, especially his two most forceful statements on biopolitics, Homo Sacer and Remnants of Auschwitz, devoting particular attention to the figure of homo sacer along side Agamben’s crossing of politics with thanatos. The opposite impression emerges from our next set of readings, centered around Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s Empire and Multitude. Their euphoric brand of biopolitics and biopower based on the notion of the network in the figure of the multitude appears to take up where Marcuse’s liberatory notion of biopower ends. In the final set of readings, we’ll turn to Roberto Esposito’s deconstruction of the biopolitical paradigm in Communitas: Origin and Destiny of Community and Bios: Biopolitics and Philosophy. What emerges most dramatically from Esposito’s analysis is the impression of a crises well underway in our understanding of biopolitics, one brought about by an intensification of the juridical and medical immunity that in Esposito’s view underpins biopolitics. 

Timothy Campbell is Associate Professor of Italian in the Department of Romance Studies. In addition to his translations of Roberto Esposito’s Bios: Biopolitics and Philosophy (Minnesota, 2008) and Communitas: The Origin and Destiny of Community (Stanford, 2009), he is the author of Wireless Writing in the Age of Marconi (Minnesota, 2006), winner of the Media Ecology Association’s 2007 Lewis Mumford Award for Outstanding Scholarship in the Ecology of Technics. He recently completed his second book, Tecnica e biopolitica, which is forthcoming from Guerini. His current projects include a study of biopolitics and post-colonialism and an examination of Italian political cinema and contemporary thought. At Cornell he teaches courses on contemporary Italian philosophy, Italian cinema, and core courses in the Italian major.

SHUM 4823 Secular Disaffections: On Islam and the Politics of Emotion

(also COML 4066, NES 4923, RELST 4823)
Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
R. Mas
W 2:30 - 4:25

This course takes as its focus the constitution of Islam by normative discourses of secular modernity in order to think about the categories of  “religion” and “the secular.” Beginning with an examination of the relationship of knowledge to power, it questions the employment of normative concepts associated with the rise of the modern nation-state, secularism, and liberal political rule to speak about Islam and Muslims in post-colonial and/or secular societies. Special attention will be placed on the politics of secular liberal governance and the impacts that these have on the constitution of Muslim subjects, their bodies and affects in the secular public sphere. More specifically, the course will examine the relationship of sentiments, feelings, emotions and affect to the structures of force associated with secular models of politics that purport to banish religion from their sphere. The role that emotions play in constituting secular Islamic subjectivities and how they are formulated to serve as the foundation of political concepts and projects is an important focus especially in terms of normative accounts and visceral reactions to Islam in contemporary Western liberal societies. As such, these issues will be explored through the different highly profiled contexts and controversies that take as their object Islam. They will also be read through the critical thought of Talal Asad, Charles Hirschkind, Michel Foucault, Saba Mahmood, Brian Massumi, Jean-Luc Nancy, Jacques Rancière, Ann Stoler and others whose work is increasingly important to the study of the impact of secularism on Islam as a religious tradition.  

Ruth Mas is Assistant Professor of Critical Theory and Contemporary Islam, Department of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Ruth’s research and teaching interests include Islamic intellectual and cultural traditions, continental philosophy, the politics of secular-liberal governance and Islam in France. Her current work focuses on the connections between secularism and affect and their implications for Muslim subjects. She is co-editor of Europe of Love: Re-Centring Intercultural AffairsSpecial Edited Essay Collection of the European Review of History and is completing a manuscript entitled Margins of Tawhid: Liberalism and the Discourse of Plurality in Contemporary Islamic Thought.


SHUM 4824 Medieval Translation in Motion

(also ENGL 4072, FREN 4824, DANCE 4384)
Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.   
S. Chaganti  
M 10:10 - 12:05

This seminar will use movement and movement studies to explore medieval traditions of translation. Etymologically a “carrying across,” translatio as word and concept always asks us to consider its foundations in both literal and figurative movement, as well as the meanings of those literal and figurative forms of movement relative to each other. The concepts of translatio studii and translatio imperii were central to medieval thought and relied deeply on a vision of culture in motion. By foregrounding the role of movement in a few particularly resonant networks of medieval texts, the class will investigate how we might understand translation in terms of spatial as well as textual materiality. In addition to literary readings, the syllabus will include a combination of historical and theoretical foundations. These will include classic studies of medieval translation theory, such as Copeland’sRhetoric, Hermeneutics and Translation; more recent work on translatio and cultural movement, such as Ingham and Warren’s Postcolonial Moves: Medieval through Modern; and critical theorists of space, translation and motion, such as Bachelard, Lefebvre, Benjamin, Derrida, Deleuze, Massumi, and Gil. In addition to providing medievalist students with a new perspective on some important texts, the course will also offer nonmedievalists a critically inflected view of early literary self-reflection on translation.  This course aims to help students find innovative ways to theorize historical material.

Seeta Chaganti is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of California, Davis. She teaches medieval European literature. Her first book, The Medieval Poetics of the Reliquary: Enshrinement, Inscription, Performance, was published in 2008 by Palgrave Macmillan. Her current project is tentatively entitled The Past in Motion: Dance, Memory, and the Middle Ages. It examines medieval literary and artistic depictions of dance, arguing that dance and movement practices give form to memory practice both within and of the Middle Ages.

SHUM 4825 African Port Cities: Empire and Crossroads

(also VISST 4825, ARTH 4825, ASRC 4607)
Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.   
P. Meier   
R 12:20 - 2:15

The coastal cities of the African continent have long been nodes of intercultural contact and diaspora. In such fluid borderlands, urban space and the built environment are a particularly fraught terrain, where boundaries of cultural belonging and identity are constantly being reworked. We will focus on the “Age of Empire” in order to consider Africa’s multiple positions in the global market and diverse experiences of imperial and colonial aggression. This seminar therefore will examine key questions regarding how we conceive of port cities as “networked” sites. How are intercultural encounters and transborder experiences enacted in the spaces of daily life? What is the relationship between empire and city building? How did African cultural worlds transform and create transcultural materials and knowledge systems? Most importantly, we will seek to move beyond traditional models focusing on “global” patterns of influence and exchange in order to understand the port city as a locally constituted sub-system. To this end we will seek to elucidate how the heterogeneous societies of coastal Africa transformed, fragmented and reconstituted diverse material sites (including architecture, public space, sculpture and the body) in order to assert local ways of being.

Prita Meier is an Africanist art historian, with a particular interest in the reciprocities between African, Indian Ocean and North Atlantic worlds during the colonial and postcolonial periods. Her current project focuses on the urban arts and architectures of coastal east Africa. She was a Mellon Postdoctural Fellow in the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University (2007-2009), having completed her Ph.D. at Harvard University in 2007. Selected publications include: “Building Global But Meaning Local: Reading Sultan Barghash’s Politics of Architecture,” /ZIFF Journal./ Guest Editor: Abdul Sheriff, University of Dar es Salaam (2005); “Veil: Veiling, Representation and Contemporary Art,” /African Arts, /book review (Summer 2004);  “Per/Forming African Identities: Sidi Communities and the ‘Transnational Moment,’” /Sidis and Scholars: Essays on African Indians/. Red Sea Press. Editor: Edward Alpers, UCLA. (2004); “Territorial Struggles: Cairo and Contemporary Art,” /Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art /(Spring/Summer 2003); “An/Sichten: Malerei aus dem Kongo, 1990-2000,” /African Arts/, book review (Spring 2003)

SHUM 4826 Extrastatecraft

(also ARCH 4408, VISST 4826, GOVT 4678)
Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
K. Easterling
T 10:10 - 12:05

This seminar researches global infrastructures—the substrate of networks, subroutines, management styles and standards that act as a medium of transnational polity. The seminar will read between several different fields. We will examine how socio-technical networks of trade, communication, tourism, labor, transportation, energy and finance have been theorized in terms of, for instance, militarization, rationalization, nation-building and cosmopolitanism (Bruno Latour, Armand Mattelart, Trevor Pinch, Wiebe E. Bijker, David E. Nye, Thomas J. Misa, Thomas P. Hughes, Manuel Castells, Aihwa Ong, Madeleine Akrich, Stephen Graham, Alfred Chandler). The material will also assemble a relational understanding of the political agency or disposition inherent in the organization, logic and arrangement of these networks, analyzing them for, for instance, their patency, redundancy, hierarchy, aggression, exclusion or collusion (Pierre Bourdieu, Erving Goffman, John W. Meyer, Gregory Bateson, Etienne Balibar, Giorgio Agamben). Given their aspirations to rationalization, their often casual but consequential absurdities and their power to multiply changes across a large field, infrastructure networks tutor alternative techniques for political leverage. Since resistance is often constructed as an epic story of enemies and innocents, the course will consider instead a dissensus that is less self-congratulatory and less automatically oppositional but potentially more effective as subterfuge (Jacques Rancière, Simon Critchley Nicolas Bourriaud, Peter Sloterdijk, James C. Scott, RETORT).

Keller Easterling is an architect, urbanist and associate professor at Yale University School of Architecture. Her book, Enduring Innocence: Global Architecture and its Political Masquerades (MIT, 2005) researches familiar spatial products that have landed in difficult or hyperbolic political situations around the world. A previous book Organization Space: Landscapes, Highways and Houses in Americaapplies network theory to a discussion of American infrastructure and development formats. A forthcoming book, Extrastatecraft, examines global infrastructure networks as a medium of polity. Easterling has lectured, published and exhibited design work in the United States and internationally. She teaches design studios, lecture courses and seminars on architecture and global politics, global infrastructure and activism.