SHUM 4627/6627 Disobedience, Resistance, Refusal
(also AMST 4626/6627, GOVT 4626, PHIL 4427/6427)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
T: 10:10 a.m. – 12:05 p.m.
This course will examine the idea of civil disobedience: its origins, its justification, its limits. Philosophers and legal scholars in the 1960s and 70s sought to defend civil rights and antiwar activism by developing a “theory” of morally-justified law breaking or civil disobedience. The liberal codification of civil disobedience offered a powerful language for justifying illegal protests at the cost of legitimating the idea of a consensual social order bound by a common American creed or constitutional morality. The result was a discourse of civil protest that tamed the radicalism of the civil rights and antiwar movements by obscuring the ways the era’s struggles against inequality, racism, and militarism challenged the very foundations of the American political order.
We will study political theories of civil disobedience in context to examine historical and contemporary perspectives on the meaning and justification of political protest, as well as how transformations in law, economy, and technology are challenging received ways of theorizing civil disobedience and redefining dissent in the twenty-first century. Questions to be considered will include: What are the grounds of legal obedience and when does its authority run out? Do acts of law-breaking undermine or stabilize law’s authority? Does disobedience need to be “civil” in order to be justified or can incivility be a vital expression of dissent? How is the distinction between violence and non-violence politically constructed and contested? How do narratives about the past, like the fables surrounding the civil rights movement, shape political judgments about protest in the present? Should civil disobedience still be the framework we use for theorizing contemporary modes of protest or are alternative idioms – like resistance or refusal – available for addressing dissent in an increasingly polarized, globalized, and digitalized world?
Topics to be discussed will include the terms of political obligation, the relationship between law-breaking and law-making, resistance and popular sovereignty, the politics of civility, violence and self-defense, public space and privatization, whistleblowing, the digitalization of protest, and deviance as dissent. Readings will include classical writings on disobedience as well as work by contemporary theorists including John Rawls, Hannah Arendt, Iris Marion Young, Tommie Shelby, William Scheuerman, Robin Celikates, Candice Delmas, Danielle Allen, Juliet Hooker, and Judith Butler.
Alexander Livingston is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Government. His research focuses on topics in American political thought, democratic theory, and political ethics. His first book, Damn Great Empires! William James and the Politics of Pragmatism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), examines William James’s role in debates about U.S. imperialism at the turn of the century to show how pragmatism developed as a political response to the crises of authority and sovereignty driving the expansion of American power. He is currently writing a book on the genealogy of civil disobedience and the politics of nonviolence in the civil rights and antiwar movements.
His writings have appeared or are forthcoming in journals such as American Political Science Review, Political Theory, Contemporary Political Theory, Theory & Event, Humanity, Contemporary Pragmatism, and Philosophy and Rhetoric, edited volumes including A Political Companion to W.E.B. Du Bois, as well as Jacobin Magazine. Livingston teaches courses in the areas of American political thought and philosophy, activism and disobedience, theories of nonviolence, contemporary critical theory, and the history of political thought. Before coming to Cornell, he was a Social Science and Humanities Research Council postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University (2011-2013). He received his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto.
SHUM 4630/6630 Recognition, Abjection, and State Ideology
(also ANTHR 4130/7130, GOVT 4645/6845)
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
R: 2:30 – 4:25 p.m.
“Recognition, Abjection, Ideology” introduces seminal theorizations of modern state power with reference to ethnographic texts that focus both on the formation of national subjectivity and social exclusion. While the course examines relations between capitalism, ideology, and the effectivity with which states today employ techniques of recognition to produce a body of national subjects, willing to give themselves for the nation, it likewise addresses the abjection of marginalized social groups and the ways in which such groups maintain their own socialities. On this note, there are two objectives to the course. On the one hand, it seeks to provide students with a set of theoretical tools with which to analyze and explicate the normative force of modern state ideologies. The course itself undertakes analyses of rituals and embodiments of state rhetoric, be they online or in the immediacy of the everyday. On the other hand, it seeks to enable an ethnographic imagination of socialities which contemporary state ideologies expel from general sociality. To this end, the course explores the relation of such marginalized socialities to the state, and considers the ways in which state ideologies, and particularly fascism, necessitates the expulsion of differences from the social body. Course assignments ask that students integrate theoretical and ethnographic readings with habitual writings, be it as a meditation on assigned texts or as an ethnographic application to our everyday lives. In the spirit of anthropology, the course is emphatically designed to enable the identification of similarity across difference, and thus asks students to apply readings to contexts close to home.
Klaus Yamamoto-Hammering’s research and ethnographic writing focuses on current issues relating to the effectivity and failures of statist discourse in the context of Japan. Among other topics, he have written of: the refusal by public school teachers to stand for and sing the national anthem; hate speech by the so-called “internet right-wing”; the demand for violent revolution by the “radical left”; the aftermath of “Fukushima,” social disintegration, and suicide; and the marginalization of construction workers in the vanishing day laborer district of Tokyo, Sanya. Using critical theory, he is invested both in explicating techniques through which the state produces obedient subjects, and in facilitating an ethnographic imagination of socialities expelled from general society.
SHUM 6308 Spatial Tensions: Mapping Global Spatio-politics Through China
(also ARCH 6408, ARCH 6509, ASIAN 6630, COML 6308, VISST 6308 )
Fall. 4 credits.
Limited to successful applicants.
A. Bachner and L. Lok.
T: 2:30 – 4:25 p.m.
China has become the exemplar of contemporary changes in how we imagine, manipulate, and construct space: an uncontested center of global signature architecture as well as a challenge to population management and urban planning, a forerunner in massive infrastructure projects as well as a battlefield against environmental problems on a planetary scale. Contemporary space is becoming increasingly subject to control—thanks to precise mapping, planning, and simulation technologies—even as it is traversed by forces that are increasingly difficult to control, such as massive migratory flows and environmental disasters. This course thinks through the spatial tensions inherent in contemporary Chinese cities through interdisciplinary lenses to study how urbanization transforms spatial and social structures in a context of globalization. It views space as an interface in which the lines between spatial imaginaries and ideologies on the one hand and the concrete policing, shaping, and construction of space on the other have become blurred.
As such, to reflect on the question of how to think spatio-politcally and how we can put concrete insights on-site and conceptual frameworks into critical and productive dialogue, we will move between different scales of analysis: between the material and the conceptual, between the global and the locally specific. Chongqing—the site of the week-long field trip that is part of the seminar—will serve as a case study. Built on mountains and situated at the confluence of two rivers, the Yangtze and the Jialing, Chongqing is a geographically compelling as well as an urbanistically complex city. One of the largest cities in the world with 30 million residents, Chongqing’s central core is a multi-ground city stratified into vertical urban layers while its metropolitan area is surrounded with mostly rural landscape. The region experienced massive spatial and demographic transformations shaped by large-scale infrastructural projects such as the Three Gorge Dam. Our exploration of the spatial tensions within the unique geographic, urban, infrastructural, and cultural context of Chongqing, in comparison with other Chinese (and global) cities will be framed by critically working through the poles of spatial tensions in play, such as urban/rural, surface/depth, water/land, virtual/material, infrastructure/fabric, global/local, construction/destruction, excess/precarity.
The class will travel to Chongqing, China, through a funded week-long field-trip in late September, during which students will get to experience some of the spatial tensions under investigation and meet with local scholars and cultural producers in related fields. In addition to participating in weekly discussions of a wide range of texts and media, students will develop a final project that brings the seminar’s theoretical and analytical tools into dialogue with concrete material in a combination of research and in situ observation.
Call for Applications:
The Fall 2018 Expanded Practice Seminar, “Spatial Tensions: Mapping Global Spatio-politics Through China,” is an innovative traveling seminar for graduate students in the humanities and design disciplines. 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 and are organized by the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning and the Society for the Humanities.
Selected students receive a $1,500 stipend and a funded, week-long travel program to Chongqing, China, in Fall 2018.
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. Applications require a recent CV and a 500 – 700-word statement of interest describing your background interest in the seminar topic. No letters of recommendation are required. Questions should be directed to Rebecca Elliott (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Applications must be submitted via http://urbanismseminars.cornell.edu/apply by May 30, 2018.