Fall 2014 Course Offerings

SHUM 4990 Sense and Citizenship: Aesthetics in Political Theory

(also COMPL, GOVT) 
Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
M. Bhaumik
T 10:10 – 12:05

In this seminar, we will inquire into how questions of sensation cross between literature, aesthetics and political theory. Drawing from writings in continental philosophy and phenomenology, the challenge of the class will be to inquire into how sensation in particular broadens notions of citizenship and politics. How do accounts of sensation in political theory reconceive citizenship? What are possible conceptual practices for unraveling normative, colonial, and authoritarian definitions of the political subject? What is the place of sensation in theories of relationality? Students will also be asked to critique the terms under which citizenship is constrained, defined, and regulated. In addition, the course will examine how accounts of sensation delineate traces and figures excluded from the rights conferred by organized polities. 

In order to account for those excluded from citizenship, the seminar will also consider the role of sight, touch, and imagination in the public realm or, as Hannah Arendt writes, “namely...the faculty of seeing things not only from one’s own perspective but from that of all others who are present.” Facing the challenge of Arendt’s words, the course will reflect on the implications 

of critique, judgment, and phenomenology for democratic theory in general. Discussions may, for example, seek to uncouple the rhetoric of sovereignty and law from citizenship. Finally, we will ask what a study of sensation pro- vides for redressing and/or accounting for dispossession. As students will be encouraged to integrate their research interests with course reading, topics may include questions of how philosophies of anarchism, civil disobedience, feminism, queer theory, and decolonization broaden ideas of citizenship and political ethics.   

Munia Bhaumik is currently Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at Emory University where she is also affiliated with the Department of Philoso- phy and Studies in Sexuality Program. She received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley and M.A. from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. She has also been a Fellow of the Melville Society and of the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities at Berkeley. Focusing on writing in English, Spanish, French, and Bengali, her research interests include nineteenth-century literature and philosophy, political theory, phenomenology, as well as postcolonial and queer feminisms. Currently, she is at work on a book entitled Democracy and Dramatic Form: The Figure of the Non-Citizen in the American Renaissance.

SHUM 4994 Archiving Sensation

Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
A. Cvetkovich
T 12:20 – 2:15

This course will approach the theme of “sensation” through questions of method, focusing in particular on the interdisciplinary challenges of documenting and archiving sensation. Foundational for this inquiry will be theo- ries of the archive from both queer studies and postcolonial studies, including critiques of the archive as impossible or politically suspect, as well as efforts to transform archival and documentary practice in order to represent feeling and sensation. We will explore the challenges presented by “extreme” states, such as trauma, and ordinary or everyday experience, both of which inspire critiques of affective modes such as sentimentality and melodrama as well as traditional modes of realism. 

Central to the course will be the intersections of queer theory and affect theory that explore non-normative experiences of sensation, attachment, and intimacy. We will read in related areas of the “affective turn,” including queer phenomenology, new materialisms, and object-oriented ontologies that seek 

to redefine the human and its relation to objects and environments. In connection with my research project on “the sovereignty of the senses” and the feeling of radical democracy, the course will consider what kinds of radical practice, both creative and scholarly, might cultivate new forms of sensory experience as the foundation for new public cultures. 

Another key focus will be questions of genre and media, with particular emphasis on the limits and possibilities of “writing” sensation as opposed to representing it in other media, especially experimental and new media practices such as performance and art installation that are more explicitly embodied and/or material. We will consider how to use writing to produce an ethnography of the senses and to grapple with both the material and ephemeral aspects of sensation. We will also explore the tensions between realism and melodrama as modes of sensational representation. Of particular concern will be how artists have forged creative practices of documentation that can inform scholarly practice. 

In addition to providing conceptual resources that will help students to workshop their own research projects, the course will encourage them to experiment with their research and writing practices. In addition to a longer final seminar paper, there will be a number of short assignments or “exercises,” including a personal essay, archival research, ethnographic observation, and experimental writing. We will make use of the Cornell Libraries special collections, including the Human Sexuality Collection. 

Ann Cvetkovich is Ellen Clayton Garwood Centennial Professor of English and Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Mixed Feelings: Feminism, Mass Culture, and Victorian Sensationalism (Rutgers, 1992); An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures(Duke, 2003); and Depression: A Public Feeling (Duke, 2012). She co-edited (with Ann Pellegrini) “Public Sentiments,” a special issue of The Scholar and Feminist Online, and (with Janet Staiger and Ann Reynolds) Political Emotions (Routledge, 2010). She has been coeditor, with Annamarie Jagose, of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies.


SHUM 4876 Humanitarian Affects

Fall.  4 credits. 
Limited to 15 students. 
S. Hodzic
R 12:20 – 2:15

Liberal feminists and political theorists argue that sentiments such as compassion and empathy have the capacity to alert us to suffering, injustice, and oppression, and thus incite transformative political action. This interdisciplinary seminar explores the challenges to this theory by staging a conversation between postcolonial, feminist, and queer theories of affect, and anthropological critiques of humanitarian projects. We will focus on texts that show that sentiments have become an essential force in national and global politics: public sentiments are mobilized to defend borders, wage wars, grant asylum to refugees, provide medical care and disaster relief, inspire feminist humanitarianism, and galvanize oppositional activist movements and counterpublics. But how are these ethical projects and political regimes gendered, sexualized, and racialized? What kinds of power relations do they instantiate? How are militarization, violence, humanitarianism, and feminism co-constituted? We will use sentiment and affect as lenses for analyzing the intersections between post-colonial, neoliberal, and humanitarian regimes of governance, as theorized and critiqued by feminist scholars, and as explored in ethnographic and historical texts. We shall see that sentiments mediate access to resources and survival, as well as political agency, subjectivity, citizenship, and national belonging.

Saida Hodzic is a sociocultural and medical anthropologist with research and teaching interests that span several fields. Her research addresses the relationship between activism and governmentality in contemporary movements that take gender and violence as sites of intervention, focusing on mutual entailments of Ghanaian NGOs, global political economy, and humanitarian politics of knowledge and regimes of power. She is particularly interested in productive aspects of political formations whose effects are not simply salutary, the contingencies of governmental regimes, and the unintended consequences of NGOs’ tenuous successes. Regionally, she focuses on global connections and mutual entanglements of Africa, especially Ghana, with Europe and the United States.

SHUM 4992 Affective Ecologies

Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
D. Luciano
W 2:30 – 4:25

“Nature is a setting that equally well befits a comic or a mourning piece.”
--Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature (1836)

In what mood do we encounter “nature”? This seminar inflects this question in two ways, asking both how “we” feel in relation to non-human environments, and whether, and how, the non-human can be said to feel. We will consider the productive points of intersection between theories of affect, emotion, and sexuality, especially as they have been taken up in recent queer and feminist thought, and the diffuse wave of critical and cultural developments that has come to be called the “nonhuman turn.” We will examine the divergent threads contributing to the contemporary critical focus on the nonhuman, exploring their attention to the agential, sensory and cognitive capacities of the non-human, their reconfiguration of the relations between human and nonhuman worlds, and the more flexible and nuanced accounts of “nature” and “environments” that they make possible. We will critically examine the relationship between this body of thought and the emphasis on embodiment, feeling, and sensation in recent feminist and queer thought. At the same time, we will examine how the radically expanded ethos of being-in-common proposed by the non-human turn operates alongside the structures and histories of dehumanization to which and feminist, queer and critical race theory have drawn our attention. Readings will include work by Jane Bennett, Mel Y. Chen, Rob Nixon, Eduardo Kohn, Jasbir K. Puar. Timothy Morton, Sara Ahmed, Lauren Berlant, Heather Love; Sianne Ngai, and others.

Dana Luciano is an expert on nineteenth century American literature and culture, history of sexuality, LGBT and feminist studies and politics, queer theory and LGBT film and culture.


SHUM 4996 Perfection, Objectivity and Sensation in Philosophy of Art

Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
A. McGonigal
R 2:30 – 4:25

This course will be devoted to discussion of the relationships between objectivity, perfection and sensation in the philosophy of art. We’ll focus on three central questions. Can we make sense of objective properties that are constitutively related to merited aesthetic pleasure, and yet part of the culture-independent structure of the world? Might interpretative and artistic skill comprise a form of objective knowledge? Might reality itself objectively merit a distinctive kind of aesthetic response? We’ll discuss influential historical treatments of these topics within philosophy of art (including readings from Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Hume, Kant, Nietzsche and Heidegger) in the light of important contemporary discussion in metaphysics, theory of knowledge and philosophy of mind. (We’ll draw on material from Kwame Anthony Appiah, David Chalmers, Maudemarie Clark, Gilles Deleuze, Gail Fine, Sally Haslanger, Barbara Herman, David Lewis, Heather Logue, Susannah Siegel and Timothy Williamson).

Andrew McGonigal is a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Leeds. His current book project is entitled Duties to Art, and recent articles have appeared in The Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophical StudiesNew Waves in Aesthetics and The British Journal of Aesthetics. McGonigal is a co-editor of the Routledge Companion to Metaphysics, and was subject editor for the philosophy of mind at Thought. He has held visiting positions at the Sage School of Philosophy at Cornell, and the Centre for Consciousness at the Australian National University.

SHUM 4999 Transformations of Sense and Early Modern Thought

Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
B. Parris
R 10:10 – 12:05

Do principles of artistic production or theories of the aesthetic encounter suggest a trans-historical facet to literature, or even to the experience of reading it? This seminar responds to these questions through a study of sensation in classical and early modern literature and philosophy. Diverse and influential thinkers have found value in historicizing the early modern human and its capacities – from Karl Marx’s theory of primitive accumulation, to Jacob Burckhardt’s Renaissance individual, to A.O. Hirschman’s account of passions and interests, to Michel Foucault’s notion of a Cartesian ‘event in thought.’ Meanwhile, T.S. Eliot held that poetry of the 17th century reflects the “dissociation of sensibility,” or a historical division of thinking from feeling that fundamentally altered English poetics. But how might we engage early modern literature and philosophy in ways that suspend or defamiliarize such historicist accounts of human embodiment, activity and sensation? On the one hand, changing ideas of sensation may reflect significant shifts in western histories of physiology and selfhood, and the seminar will attend to these familiar themes. But on the other hand, the topic of sensation suggests ways of reading classical and early modern literature as works of art, following Deleuze and Guattari’s claim that “Art thinks no less than philosophy, but it thinks through affects and percepts” that form “compounds of sensations.” Deleuze and Guattari’s theory will thus steer our approach to works of literature as aesthetic, trans-historical compounds linking classical, early modern, and modern worlds of sensation. 

We begin with selections from classical texts that theorize sensation, embodiment and selfhood – Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s De Sensu and Nicomachean Ethics, Seneca’s On Anger and his tragedy, Hercules Furens, and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. For a modern theoretical orientation, we’ll read Deleuze’s responses to these philosophers and some of their problems in selections from The Logic of Sense and What is Philosophy? Meanwhile, Seneca’s drama and Ovid’s epic poem are key hinges between classical and early modern worlds of poetic representation – as well as sites of shared affective and perceptive energies among the early modern writers and works of literature we shall read. After readings in the classical tradition we turn to works of poetry, prose, and drama by Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, John Milton, and Thomas Nashe. We will also examine targeted selections from 17th century philosophical texts on sensation by Rene Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, Baruch Spinoza, and G.W.F. Leibniz. How and why do these philosophers appeal to concepts of sensation or ‘sense’ to establish anthropological, epistemological, or metaphysical grounds of investigation? As the class proceeds, supplemental readings on sensation in 20th century philosophy and theory by Martin Heidegger, Ernst Cassirer, Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, and Michel Foucault will help to conceptualize relevant transformations in western thought and material practices from the classical to the early modern to the modern. 

Benjamin Parris earned his Ph.D. in English from Johns Hopkins University, where he has taught courses in Shakespeare, early modern literature and culture, philosophy and critical theory. His research interests include the history of the passions and the care of the self, Marxism, Psychoanalysis, Aesthetics, and philosophy and literature. His essays have been published or are forthcoming in Shakespeare Studiesand Modern Philology. Parris is currently at work on a book project titled ‘Workes of Darkenes’: Sleep, Insomnia, and Early Modern Sensation. It traces a contradictory logic of care that emerges alongside images of sleep and sleeplessness in literature of the early modern period.

SHUM 6308 Flux Navigations: Biopolitics & Urban Aesthetics In The Contemporary SE Asian City

(also ARCH 6308, ASIAN 6682)
Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to fellowship recipients.  
J. Foster, A. Fuhrmann 
R 2:30 – 4:25

This course critically addresses accounts of Southeast Asia’s port and delta metropolises as sites of economic and cultural transformation as part of recent power shifts in the region. It focuses on the socio-spatial problematics associated with collision between old and new forms of labor, capital, and governance in urban environments where the impacts of climate change are increasingly evident.  The seminar will theoretically complement, and be pedagogically linked to, a parallel Expanded Practice Graduate Design Studio in Architecture whose goal is to explore meta-issues in global urbanism that challenge conventional modes of design practice.

To unpack the modes of sovereignty and personhood emerging in these globalized cityscapes, the seminar juxtaposes notions of bio-power (different forms of governmentality affecting both individual bodies and the social body) with notions of socio-nature (a hybrid of ‘nature,’ the cultural and the practiced). Socio-natures permeate cityscapes at multiple scales, but are especially present in their terrains vagues, peripheries, and interstices where the bio-power associated with conventional urban development weakens. They operate within as well as beyond the frameworks of Western historicism and capitalist modernity; their affective power can never be completely separated from indigenous ecologies and cosmologies, or the tendency for the innately undecidable rhythms of the bio-physical realm to serve as ‘alternatives to the present.’  This is heightened by the temporal logics and agencies at work amongst im/mobilized populations that seldom figure in official maps and records, but show up in the tactical ways urban actors engage the materialities of the cityscape to ‘make space’ for themselves.  This shifts geo-aesthetic ‘meaning’ away from historicist notions of belonging and symbolic representation, to more hermeneutic significations played out in terms of temporality, performativity, and spectrality.

Flux Navigations will draw on the new cinemas of the region to speculate about the ghostly as well as political and aesthetic effects engendered by emergent practices and interstitial spaces in these tropical cities.  The seminar will draw on literature in visual culture, cinema studies, and transnational Asian imaginaries, as well as urban studies and cultural geography, to understand how human/nonhuman relations are (or are not) being reconfigured by contemporary fluxes and unsettlings. In addition to participating in weekly discussions of readings and film screenings, students will develop a term project that brings the seminar’s theoretical and analytical tools to bear on a bio-social condition in one of the cities under investigation, using a combination of research and in situ observation. Articulation of seminar and studio will occur through discussions and critiques, and a funded, week-long travel program to Southeast Asia in late September, during which students will get to experience some of the urban settings under investigation, and meet with a variety of local informants and cultural producers.