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- SHUM 4666/6666 Specters of Latin America
- SHUM 4667/6667 Sonic Remains: Media, Performance, and Material Culture
- SHUM 4668/6668 Afro-Diasporic Afterlives: The Archive, Refusal, and the Disappeared
- SHUM 4669/6669 From Slavery to Mass Incarceration: A History of Policing in Black Communities
- SHUM 4670/6670 Race and Justice After DNA
Spring 2022 Course Offerings
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SHUM 4666/6666 Specters of Latin America
(also SPAN 4666/6666, LATA 4666/6666)
Spring. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
Imagine the following: Thousands of pieces of bones from hundreds of bodies disappeared during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship filling Chile’s 1,600 km Atacama Desert. 75 million pages of Guatemala's secret police files describing (and thus indisputably proving) the horrors of the civil war, and decomposing—like paper cadavers—in a forgotten archive. The always-multiplying eyes of Venezuela’s dead president, Hugo Chávez, watching people’s comings and goings in the city from walls, billboards, hats, and t-shirts.
Latin America is brimming with the remains of fifty years of bloody dictatorships, armed conflicts, civil wars, and unfulfilled revolutions. These remains however do not stay quiet, nor do they stay still; they stubbornly haunt the contemporary social, political, economic, and cultural landscape of countries such as Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Guatemala, Venezuela, and Mexico, challenging lineal temporalities, familiar spaces, and the comfort of stable and official narratives of memory.
In this course, we will explore the spectral afterlives of these remains by discussing a multi- and interdisciplinary corpus that includes fiction, film, performance, and photography, as well as graffiti, souvenirs, holograms and internet memes. We will analyze how, in these works and objects, the specters of Latin America’s recent and distant pasts acquire visibility and social and political power, and how they become compelling forces that, in some cases, unsettle and denounce the violence of the state, and in others, ground and strengthen it. We will also put these specters in dialogue with contemporary global phenomena such as the reemergence of populism and nationalism, the development and popularization of social media and new technologies, the migration crisis, and the urgency of climate change discourses. In the process, we will consider how spectrality brings not only times but also spaces and bodies together, and invites a reflection on the possibility of an ethics of global care and responsibility.
Irina R. Troconis is Assistant Professor of Latin American Studies in the Department of Romance Studies. She holds a PhD in Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literatures from NYU, and an MPhil Degree in Latin American Studies from the University of Cambridge (UK). Her areas of specialization include: Memory Studies, Venezuelan Studies, Politics and Performance, Affect Theory, and Digital Humanities. Her book project, Spectral Remains: Memory, Affect, and the State in the Afterglow of Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution, explores through the lens of spectrality the memory narratives and practices developed around the figure of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez in the seven years following his death. She is also working on two new research projects. The first examines the performance work of Venezuelan artists in the diaspora. The second explores how digital technologies shape and intervene in the articulation of narratives of memory in contemporary works of Latin American fiction, film, and performance. Her research has been published in Revista Iberoamericana, The Journal of Media Art Study and Theory, Trópico Absoluto, and Latin American Research Review. She is co-editor of the digital volume Deborah Castillo: Radical Disobedience (2019, HemiPress) and co-organizer of the virtual conversation series (Re)pensando a Venezuela.
SHUM 4667/6667 Sonic Remains: Media, Performance, and Material Culture
(also MUSIC 4667/6667, STS 4667/6667)
Spring. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
The course explores how music and sound are mobilized as tools for negotiating the passage of time, as well as how, by enduring and by being retrieved across time and through bodies, objects, and media, they seem to challenge the pastness of the past. Emphasis is placed on the materialities of musical and auditory practices as these implicate technologies and techniques, economy and culture, and ultimately participate in larger political ecologies in which we, too, are enmeshed.
This course familiarizes students with key aspects of the material culture of music and of sonic media, and questions that animate critical thinking about the presence and futurity of the past. Students will acquire critical tools to analyze a range of objects (instruments, LPs) from different perspectives (e.g., as cultural commodities, as artifacts, as loci for embedded and embodied memories, as waste) and will test these, and formulate their own questions in research/creative projects.
Case studies include Captive Songs, a digital archive compiling musical memories from Pinochet’s detention camps, and 9/11 practices of memorialization (e.g., The Sonic Memorial Project). What are the socio-affective dimensions animating these projects’ use of audio materials? What are the possibilities and limitations specific to the formats in which audio memories exist today? The course attends to the role of music in articulating non-hegemonic memories and identities, including the remembrance of Latinx icon Selena Quintanilla, and queer forms of commemoration and trans-historical affiliation.
We would consider the work of audio records and the human voice as evidence of the (recent) past, and how these become contested objects in asylum seekers tribunals and recent cases of police violence in the US, as well as sonic media’s contribution to electronic waste.
Assignments include producing theory-oriented (“revival”) and case-based entries for the course’s lexicon, and a material culture group project using Audacity.
María Edurne Zuazu works in music, sound, and media studies, and researches the intersections of material culture and sonic practices in relation to questions of cultural memory, social and environmental justice, and the production of knowledge in the West during the 20th and 21st centuries. María has presented on topics ranging from sound and multimedia art and obsolete musical instruments, to aircraft sound and popular music. Her essays on telenovela, militarized uses of sound, music and historical memory, and music videos have appeared in Latin American Music Review, Women & Music, and edited volumes about Spanish popular music and new audiovisual media. She received her undergraduate degree from the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya, Barcelona, and her PhD in Music from The Graduate Center, The City University of New York, where she also completed the Film Studies Certificate Program. María has been the recipient of Fulbright and Fundación La Caixa fellowships.
SHUM 4668/6668 Afro-Diasporic Afterlives: The Archive, Refusal, and the Disappeared
(also ASRC 4668/6668, FGSS 4668/6668, LSP 4668/6668)
Spring. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
This seminar will examine the theoretical, critical, and practical methods necessary for the identification and interpretation of archives through the lenses of Afro-Puerto Rican and Afro-diasporic afterlives. We will discuss traditional, nontraditional, and radical archives, the study and collection of alternative archival materials, and various forms of archival refusal and disappearance. This transdisciplinary seminar will traverse theory, poetics, photography, film, and digital cultures to bring fore the precarity and urgency of the quotidian in the wake of slavery, colonialism, and racialization. The course will engage Afro-Latinx/Afro-diasporic studies, decolonial feminisms, sexuality, and theories of the human that impact our approach to archives and often-overlooked histories. Students will curate an anthology and produce digital projects with the aim of communal outreach and engagement.
Yomaira C. Figueroa-Vásquez is an Afro-Puerto Rican writer, teacher, and scholar from Hoboken, NJ. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Comparative Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley and her B.A. in English, Puerto Rican and Hispanic Caribbean Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. She is Associate Professor of Afro-Diaspora Studies at Michigan State University and the author of Decolonizing Diasporas: Radical Mappings of Afro-Atlantic Literature (Northwestern, 2020). Her forthcoming book, Archive of Disappearances: Afterimages of Afro-Puerto Ricans at the Edges of Empire, examines the disappearances and excesses of Afro-Puerto Rican island and diasporic peoples through the study of archival histories, photography, visual art, and film from the late 19thcentury to the present. Her published work can be found in Hypatia, Decolonization, CENTRO, Small Axe, Frontiers, Hispanofilia, Post 45 Contemporaries, and SX Salon. She is a founder of the MSU Womxn of Color Initiative, #ProyectoPalabrasPR, and Electric Marronage and is a 2015-2017 Duke University Mellon Mays SITPA Fellow, a 2017-2018 Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, and a 2021-2022 Cornell University Society for the Humanities Fellow. A first-generation high-school and college graduate, Dr. Figueroa is passionate about mentoring underrepresented and first-generation students and leads the MSU Mentoring Underrepresented Scholars in English Program (MUSE) which seeks to advise and recruit promising prospective Ph.D. students in an effort to shift the discipline and study of English. Dr. Figueroa teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in the department of English and the African American & African Studies and Chicano/Latino Studies Programs.
SHUM 4669/6669 From Slavery to Mass Incarceration: A History of Policing in Black Communities
(also AMST 4669/6669, ASRC 4669/6669, HIST 4669/6669)
Spring. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
In recent years, there has been growing public awareness that mass incarceration has its roots in slavery and that racial bias infects all aspects of our criminal injustice system. However, our nation has yet to reckon with the reality that our systems of policing and mass criminalization have histories rooted in white fear—not merely of Black people, or even Black resistance, but of the very notion of Black freedom. Therefore, this course explores the legacy of slavery in modern-day policing and mass incarceration. More specifically, it examines how slave uprisings throughout the Americas led fearful and vengeful whites to terrorize Black people and to establish a network of laws, policies and social practices that laid a durable foundation for systems of racial and social control that continue to exist in modified forms today. Using an array of sources—including film, legal codes, government documents, oral histories, newspaper reports, and personal letters—this course explores the legacy of slavery in modern-day policing and mass incarceration.
The course begins in the colonial era, with a thorough exploration of early British laws regarding slavery and slave control. In particular, it examines the creation of legal codes that clearly equated whiteness with freedom and Blackness with “unfreedom.” It also discusses the early creation of slave patrols and the growing fear of slave rebellion throughout the colonies—a fear that substantially expanded after conspiracies in New York and South Carolina, and eventually led to horrific violence and repressive legal restrictions. The course then explores how the Haitian Revolution and the subsequent rebellions it inspired prompted widespread panic among whites in the United States and caused white governmental authorities to enact increasingly despotic laws. Creating a precedent for state policing and social control that would haunt future generations of Black people in America, state and federal authorities implemented a complex web of legal codes, patrols, and state militias that monitored and governed Black people’s lives in sickening detail, ensuring that whites were empowered to use all means—legal and extralegal—to control Black lives. The course concludes with a detailed examination of contemporary policing, surveillance, and mass incarceration.
Leslie Alexander is Associate Professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies and the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University. A specialist in early African American and African Diaspora history, she received her B.A. from Stanford University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Cornell University. Dr. Alexander’s research focuses on late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Black culture, political consciousness, and resistance movements. Her first monograph, entitled African or American?: Black Identity and Political Activism in New York City, 1784-1861, explores Black culture, identity, and political activism during the early national and antebellum eras. She is also the co-editor of “We Shall Independent Be:” African American Place-Making and the Struggle to Claim Space in the United States, the Encyclopedia of African American History, and is the author of the widely read op-ed piece, “The Birth of a Nation is an Epic Fail,” which appeared in The Nation. Dr. Alexander’s second monograph, “Fear of a Black Republic: African Americans, Haiti, and the Birth of Black Internationalism” is an exploration of African American foreign policy during the nineteenth century and it is forthcoming with the University of Illinois Press. Her newest research project, “How We Got Here: Slavery and the Making of the Modern Police State,” examines how surveillance of free and enslaved Black communities in the colonial and antebellum eras laid the foundation for modern-day policing. During her career, she has won several significant awards including the coveted University Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching and the University Distinguished Diversity Enhancement Award at Ohio State University.
SHUM 4670/6670 Race and Justice After DNA
(also ANTHR 4470/7470, ASRC 4670/6670, STS 4670/6670)
Spring. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
This course takes up a key feature of DNA: as a scientific object, a bodily object, a cultural object, a social object, a legal object, and a political object, it blends temporalities, inviting us to reimagine the proximity of past and future. The three key concepts that animate the course are race, justice, and afterlives. Our starting point is afterlives, which we will initially approach through the work of Saidiya Hartman, with additional readings by Stuart Hall, Christina Sharpe, Asli Zengin, and Ruha Benjamin. Here we will consider what afterlives opens up as a temporal space through which race and justice might converge. Next, carrying forward with how an attention to afterlives attunes us to questions of race and justice, we will consider the temporal work of DNA through three genetic temporalities: the past as imagined through ancestry and “genetic history”; the immediacies of colliding pasts and presents through humanitarian forensic genetics and criminal forensic genetics; and the possibilities and promises of genetic futures, with a focus on race and genetic medicine, ethics of genetic research, and decolonizing genetic knowledge.
Noah Tamarkin is an assistant professor of Anthropology and Science & Technology Studies at Cornell University and a research associate at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. His research examines how DNA transforms power and politics as it becomes unevenly part of everyday life through technologies like ancestry testing and criminal forensics. His book, Genetic Afterlives: Black Jewish Indigeneity in South Africa (Duke University Press 2020), ethnographically examines the politics of race, religion, and recognition among Lemba people, Black South Africans who were part of Jewish genetic ancestry studies in the 1980s and 1990s. The book asks how the stakes of genetic data change when approached from the perspective of research subjects rather than genetics researchers. His work has also appeared in Cultural Anthropology, American Anthropologist, History and Anthropology, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience. At Cornell, he teaches courses that explore race and religion; borders and belonging; policing, carcerality and abolition; biology and society; and the temporalities of genetics.