Fall 2017 Course Offerings

SHUM 4613 Theorizing the Local and the Global: Corruption and the Indian Novel in English

(also ASIAN 4463, ENGL 4996) 
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students. 
A. Ben-Yishai
R: 12:20 – 2:15 p.m.

This course will survey the history of the novel in India in English over the past hundred years, from colonial rule, through the consolidation of the Indian nation, to the growing pressures of globalization. Focusing on realist fiction, we will address the ways that generic conventions change over time, and discuss the local and the global as formal concerns, modulating in relation to the world beyond India as well as in negotiation with its multiple locales, identities, languages, and cultures. Through this prism, we will focus our attention on the theme of corruption – of politics, of the nation, of language and literary form – that has been a constant (though often figured as crisis) in this literary tradition which simultaneously is and is not a national tradition.

Central to our theoretical discussion will be the meaning of Indian writing in English, and its relation to what has come to be called “world literature.” We will inquire into the stakes of categorizing our novels as “Indian,” “Anglophone,” “Postcolonial,” “World literature,” or various other generic and formal categories. What methodologies and ideologies do each of these categories imply? Are the theoretical frameworks determined by us (and our proclivities as readers or critics) or demanded by the texts themselves? Are the ways in which we read mutually exclusive or can we come up with an eclectic methodology?

Ayelet Ben-Yishai is a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in the English Department at the University of Haifa. She specializes in Victorian and postcolonial literature and culture, and in the history and theory of the novel, with particular focus on questions of realism, literary epistemology, and the novel. A comparatist by training, she has degrees in both law and literature and has written extensively on their intersections. Her more recent research and teaching interests include narrative theory, Indian Anglophone writing, and world literature. She is the author of a book, Common Precedents: The Presentness of the Past in Victorian Fiction and Law (Oxford, 2013) and articles in NOVELModern Fiction Studies, and the Journal of Commonwealth Literature, among others. She has been an Honorary Fellow at the IRH at UW-Madison, a recipient of an Israel Science Foundation grant for her research on realism in the postcolonial novel, and is the organizer of an interdisciplinary and comparative research group entitled, "Twentieth-century Partitions: Legacies of British Rule." In addition to her book on the Emergency, she is in the early stages of research of another on the ethical, political, and discursive problem of complicity.


SHUM 4614 Polluted Senses

(also ANTHR 4014)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
C. Casey 
M: 2:30 – 4:25 p.m.

Nothing is more essential to humans than everyday sensory experiencing. We see the red of a sign, feel the rain on our skin, or smell the stench of garbage, and decide what to do. Our senses clue us into a range of possibilities and potential dangers. But are our sensory experiences universal? No. We have ample evidence that what people consider as their senses varies widely across societies, cultures, national borders, and other geopolitical spaces, as do personal synesthetic experiences. Sensory experiences also change across time, with new technologies. This seminar engages the global diversity of sensory experiences and apprehension, honing in on multiple sensory forms of ‘pollution’ (aesthetic, political, ecological, religious, legal and cultural), and emerging conceptual and experiential approaches to “polluted senses”. Concepts and enactments of pollution affect what is communally sacred, social and environmental, but also what is degenerative, contaminated or corrupt such as health or moral crises and social, political conflicts.

Conerly Casey is Associate Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the Rochester Institute of Technology. She has extensive ethnographic experience with young Muslims in northern Nigeria and Kuwait in broad areas of health and healing, conflict and violence, and mediated affect and emotion. Her present research evaluates the sensory politics and mediated affects of violent sensorial, such as the sights, sounds, and movements of war, on memory and emotion. Recent publications include: “Remembering and Ill Health in Post-invasion Kuwait: Topographies, Collaborations, Mediations” in Genocide and Mass Violence: Memory, Symptom and Recovery, eds. Devon Emerson Hinton and Alexander Laban Hinton (Cambridge University Press, 2015), “The Art of Suffering: Postcolonial (Mis) Apprehensions of Nigerian Art” in Suffering, Art and Aesthetics, eds., Ratiba Hadj-Moussa and Michael Nijhawan (Palgrave Macmillan 2014), and “States of Emergency”: Armed Youths and Mediations of Islam in Northern Nigeria” in Journal of International and Global Studies 5 (February 2014), republished in Déjà Lu Journal (World Council of Anthropological Associations 2016). She also edited, with Robert B. Edgerton, Companion to Psychological Anthropology: Modernity and Psychocultural Change (Blackwell Publishers, 2005), which received a Choice Magazine Outstanding Book Award.


SHUM 4615 Artivism: Electronic Civil Disobedience

(also VISST 4615)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students. 
R. Dominguez
T: 10:10 a.m. – 12:05 p.m

This seminar will investigate the critical theories and practices by post contemporary artivist and activist networks to corrupt the protocols of networks across the arcs of the planet by focusing on the history and manifestation of a single formation: Electronic Civil Disobedience (ECD). By focusing on ECD as a specific practice the seminar will be able to open a politics of the question into the multiple trajectories and layers that are happening now under the sign of hacktivism.

We will also examine the trajectories of tactical media, digital zapatismo, hacktivism, cyberwar, cybercrime, cyberterrorism and social netwar that arose at the same time as ECD. Core questions for the seminar will be: is ECD a useful tactic for contemporary activism and if so how and when; and, to what degree have post 9/11 politics network containment e/affected the practice of ECD. What new tactics and strategies have emerged with social networking and distributed video models during this past decade. We will read sections from: The Electronic Disturbance and Electronic Civil Disobedience by Critical Art Ensemble; also, Hackitivism: network_art_activism by Electronic Disturbance Theater; and The Zapatista Social Netwar in Mexico by David Ronfeldt and John Arquilla, The Coming Swarm: DDOS Actions, Hacktivism, and Civil Disobedience on the Internet by Molly Sauter and also consider current hacktivist practices by Anonymous. As part of our reflections we will also investigate the use of “drones” in current wars and activism-and how artivist are activating “drones” as a platform for extending the concepts of ECD and hacktivism.

Ricardo Dominguez is a co-founder of The Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT), a group who developed virtual sit-in technologies in solidarity with the Zapatistas communities in Chiapas, Mexico, in 1998. His recent Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0/b.a.n.g. lab project (tbt.tome.press) with Brett Stalbaum, Micha Cardenas, Amy Sara Carroll, and Elle Mehrmand, the Transborder Immigrant Tool (a GPS cell phone safety net tool for crossing the Mexico/US border) was the winner of “Transnational Communities Award” (2008), an award funded by Cultural Contact, Endowment for Culture Mexico–US and handed out by the US Embassy in Mexico. It also was funded by CALIT2 and the UCSD Center for the Humanities. The Transborder Immigrant Tool has been exhibited at the 2010 California Biennial (OCMA), Toronto Free Gallery, Canada (2011), The Van Abbemuseum, Netherlands (2013), ZKM, Germany (2013), as well as a number of other national and international venues. The project was also under investigation by the US Congress in 2009-2010 and was reviewed by Glenn Beck in 2010 as a gesture that potentially “dissolved” the U.S. border with its poetry. Dominguez is Associate Professor of Visual Arts at the University of California, San Diego, a Hellman Fellow, and Principal/Principle Investigator at CALIT2/QI, UCSD. He also is co-founder of *particle group*, with artists Diane Ludin, Nina Waisman, Amy Sara Carroll, whose art project about nano-toxicology entitled *Particles of Interest: Tales of the Matter Market* has been presented at the House of World Cultures, Berlin (2007), the San Diego Museum of Art (2008), Oi Futuro, Brazil (2008), CAL NanoSystems Institute, UCLA (2009), Medialab-Prado, Madrid (2009), E-Poetry Festival, Barcelona, Spain (2009), Nanosférica, NYU (2010), and SOMA, Mexico City, Mexico (2012): hemisphericinstitute.org/hemi/en/particle-group-intro.


SHUM 4616 Corrupting Environmental Media

(also COML 4614, STS 4616) 
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students. 
R. Mukherjee
M: 12:20 – 2:15 p.m.

How are theories of viral media and microbial contagion related? What are the connections between capitalism, collaboration, corruption, and contamination, and why should such relationships be part of environmental mediations? What is the contribution of corruption to carbon footprints and the Anthropocene, and how can regulating corruption aid in controlling our quotidian precarity and averting the future apocalypse?

In this course, we will conceptualize media as environment (and the environment as media), and study the different ecologies (and geologies) of information and material flows, paying attention to proliferating scams, leaks, and copies. One might see the materialization of corruption in practices of nepotism and bribery fostered by vested interests, and corruption can also be discerned as a socio-material value related to ethical and physical decay and degradation. Here, corruption gets associated with contamination, and is seen to spread through the environment and body politic. Regarded in these ways, “Corrupting Environmental Media” becomes a course about the entangled epistemological and phenomenological dimensions of mediation and corruption.

The course begins with discussion of films and various other media (including artworks and literary texts) that deal with the adverse environmental effects of governmental and corporate corruption including the impact of mega-development projects on people’s livelihoods, water bodies, and the planet. We shall then move on to conceptualizing corruption as contagion understood at both biological (pandemics) and informational (computer viruses) levels. Reactions to corruption or contagion treat them as threatening diseases needing boundaries and borders, and yet corruption/contagion is a profoundly relational practice. Capitalism thrives not only on accumulation but also through collaboration, and such collaborations lead to contaminations. The final section of the course traces the circuits linking capital, corruption, and media.

Rahul Mukherjee is the Dick Wolf Assistant Professor of Television and New Media Studies in the Cinema and Media Studies program (Department of English) at University of Pennsylvania. His book project examines environmental controversies related to radiant infrastructures such as nuclear reactors and cell antennas, which irradiate promises of development and simultaneously generate intense fears of carcinogenic radiations. His writings have appeared in the journals Media, Culture & Society, BioScope, New Media & Society, and Science, Technology & Human Values and several other edited collections and online journals. Drawing on the conceptual lenses of infrastructure studies, media anthropology, and environmental humanities, he has been studying public cultures of uncertainty about disruptive technologies by attending to frameworks concerned with affect, media practices, and relational ontologies. Rahul has been part of a collaborative project exploring ICT usage in Zambia and more recently has embarked on another fieldwork researching the use of memory cards and memory sticks as part of mobile media assemblages affording circulation of vernacular music videos in India.

SHUM 4617 Seeing Corruption in Mexico

(also LATA 4617, VISST 4617) 
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students. 
L. Pérez León 
R: 2:30 – 4:25 p.m.

The seminar seeks to examine the relationships among three topics: (i) social vision (a form of collective intentionality), (ii) institutional corruption in Mexico, and (iii) artistic visual representations of institutional corruption in Mexico. Two questions will guide the seminar discussions: Can we see institutional corruption? And, are visual representations of institutional corruption a form of collective intentionality? To tackle them, our case study will be series of photographs, films, and documentaries depicting corruption within three institutional settings in Mexico: the government, the university, and the family. The seminar will be divided into three parts.

Part I. Social vision (a form of collective intentionality): Some of our mental states are directed at human individuals. Here, we will examine the idea that some of our visual experiences are also directed at human individuals, as well as standard visual properties and social affordances, posited to examine the various ways in which a human individual visually appears. Additionally, we will reflect on the claim that some of our visual experiences directed at human individuals are the kind of mental states that contribute to the constitution of social institutions.

Part II. Institutional corruption in Mexico: Social institutions aim to fulfill certain ends by means of particular processes. A social institution is sometimes understood as consisting in a structure of differentiated roles occupied by human persons. Role occupants are related, partly, by their contribution to the ends and the processes of the social institution. Here, we will discuss ends as well as structures of roles and tasks within three institutional settings in Mexico: the government, the university, and the family. In addition to this, we will examine some instances of role occupants who are corrupt or who have been corrupted within the mentioned social settings.

Part III. Artistic visual representations of institutional corruption in Mexico: Groups of contemporary photographers (particularly photojournalists), filmmakers and documentary makers have been interested in depicting corrupt settings in Mexico: in particular, the ways in which role occupants’ actions preclude the fulfillment of the ends of the government, the ends of the university, and the ends of the family. Here, we will analyze these artists’ shared understanding of what is depicted and of how depiction works.

To conclude, we will focus on the institutional affordances created by the artistic work of those photographers, filmmakers, and documentarians examined in our previous sessions.

Laura Pérez León received her Ph.D. in philosophy with a focus on cognitive sciences from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in 2013. Her current research focuses on the nature of social vision, and the role of social perception in the constitution of the social world. Before coming to Cornell she conducted research on the phenomenal character of social vision in the Philosophy Department at Harvard University (2014-2017), and before that for a project on the philosophy of perception at UAM-C in Mexico City, Mexico (2012-2014). In 2014 Laura founded MENTEINVESTIGACION, an organization of philosophers interested in topics in the philosophy of mind in Mexico. Laura’s research interests include Philosophy of mind, Philosophy of Cognitive Sciences, Social Philosophy, and Social Documentary Photography.

SHUM 4618 Data Corruption’s Deep History

(also ARKEO 4618, CLASS 4632, COML 4615, MEDVL 4718, STS 4618) 
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students. 
C. Roby
T: 2:30 – 4:25 p.m.

How can studying the deep past of information storage and transmission help us understand our current engagements with information and contemplate its future? This course is designed to encourage students to think critically about the material substrates and mechanisms of information storage and transmission, which are often taken for granted until they break down. We will consider mechanisms of storage and loss from ancient media like clay cuneiform tablets to digital media (whose veneer of immateriality and exact reproduction disguises the complexities of the material mechanisms of storage and translation). Crucial to this process will be a strong focus on the material media involved: the ecologies of papyrus, parchment, and paper; the production of linen paper from a bubbling fermentation driven by the microorganisms on the clothing rags used to make it; the nuts and bolts of electronic data storage and transmission, from the micro-scale of a solid-state hard drive to the macro-scale of the server farm. Compilations and remixes, selective archival storage, piracies and hacks, inscribed objects and their digital “surrogates”: the transformation and re-use of information is a force potentially constructive, potentially destructive, so we will think critically about valuing originals and copies, and what “original” and “surrogate” imply not just right now but over past centuries.

Courtney Roby is an Assistant Professor of Classics at Cornell University. Her research focuses on the literary aspects of scientific and technical texts from the ancient world. Her first book (Technical Ekphrasis in Ancient Science: The Written Machine between Alexandria and Rome, Cambridge University Press 2016) traced the literary techniques used in the textual representation of technological artifacts from Hellenistic Greece to late-ancient Rome. Her current interests include the construction of scientific models in antiquity, ancient approaches to what we now call “distributed cognition,” and the troubled textual tradition of Hero of Alexandria.

SHUM 6308 Expanded Practice Seminar: Migration and Discrimination

Fall.  4 credits.  
Limited to fellowship recipients.  
E. Akcan & I. Dadi
T: 2:30 – 4:25 p.m.

The College of Architecture, Art, and Planning and the Society for the Humanities announce an innovative graduate traveling seminar for students in the humanities and design disciplines. The Fall 2017 seminar is, “Migration and Discrimination” (ARCH 6308, SHUM 6308, ARTH 6308). Expanded Practice Seminars are offered under the auspices of Cornell University’s Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Collaborative Studies in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities grant. Selected students receive a $1,500 stipend and a funded, week-long travel program to Berlin in Fall 2017.

Expanded Practice Seminars bring students and faculty in the humanities and the design disciplines together around a common and pressing urban issue such as the cultural and material practices induced by national or ethnic divisions; the increasingly leaky taxonomy of the terra firma in areas where land/water boundaries are rapidly changing; and the inadequacy of static zoning models that fail to capture dynamic, urban economics and performance. The intent of the Expanded Practice Seminar is to study complex urban conditions using theoretical and analytic tools derived in equal part from the design disciplines and humanist studies. The Expanded Practice Seminar includes a site visit to experience the conditions under study and meet with local experts, designers, and authorities. This on-site component is a vital and novel aspect of these seminars. The seminar is open to selected students in a range of humanities and design disciplines. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the Expanded Practice Seminar, a wide range of skills and backgrounds are welcome. Advanced undergraduate students may apply, but preference will be given to students in their first three years of graduate study.

Materials to be submitted:
1. C.V. 
2. 500–700 word statement of interest describing your background interest in the seminar topic

No letters of recommendation are required.

Applications must be submitted via http://urbanismseminars.cornell.edu/apply/ by May 30, 2017. 

This seminar proposes to triangulate three cities from three different countries to understand the connections between migration and discrimination. Istanbul, Lahore, and Berlin, in the context of Turkey, Pakistan, and Germany, will be the foci of analysis through the perspective of urban humanities fields such as architecture, visual arts, urbanism, and literature.

This triangulation will allow for the de-essentialization of “Muslim countries” as homogenous and fixed places by observing the differences between Turkey and Pakistan. It will also enable critical examination of established perceptions of these places as being fundamentally different from the “West,” by identifying diasporas in Germany, and hybrid formations and translations taking place in between the three sites. Discrimination will be discussed both as a cause and a result of migration: internal problems that compel citizens to emigrate out of their countries will be analyzed in conjunction with ideological constructs that subject them to persistent discrimination in their countries of arrival. Immigration from and through these three cities will be discussed as emblematic of the wider problem of increased contemporary displacement from South and West Asia, and North Africa.

Students will travel to Berlin to pursue on-site research on the historical and current migrant and refugee settlements (such as Kreuzberg and the Tempelhof airport), unaffordable rents and recent gentrification of immigrant areas. This seminar will be held in conjunction with the Architecture option studio about Berlin taught by Werner Goehner (enrollment in the studio is not a requirement for the seminar). The seminar will also bring together scholars working in related fields to offer open lectures, as part of the AAP Critically Now series.

Course Instructors: Esra Akcan (Associate Professor of Architecture, College of Architecture, Art, and Planning) and Iftikhar Dadi (Associate Professor of History of Art, College of Arts & Sciences)