Spring 2023 Course Offerings
SHUM 4677/6677 Freud in the Tropics: Psychoanalysis, Surrealism, and Colonialism
(also COML 4627, GOVT 6575)
Spring. 3 credits.
What is the role of the psyche in revolutionary politics? Can there be social revolution without psychic liberation? These questions were at the heart of anticolonial political thought in the twentieth century on both sides of the Atlantic. The pursuit of decolonization, whether territorial or cultural, was widely understood to be inseparable from the critique of psychological alienation, racial self-loathing, and internalized colonial complexes. This class surveys some of the ways Freud’s concepts were taken up by political radicals, artists, and writers to critique the global colonial order. Many twentieth century analysts used psychoanalytic language to justify a hierarchy of races and civilizations; just as many did the opposite. Freud’s argument in Civilization and its Discontents found its way into the hands of critics who found it an inspiration for their own challenges to theories of racial difference and civilizational hierarchy. The class begins with this text and then explores its permutations in authors ranging from surrealists like André Breton and Wifredo Lam, négritude poets like Aimé and Suzanne Césaire, ethnographers like Michel Leiris and Claude Lévi-Strauss, and psychiatrists and political theorists like Albert Memmi and Frantz Fanon. Analyzing the anticolonial itineraries of Freudian psychoanalysis brings into focus unexpected connections in twentieth century radical politics. It also deprovincializes psychoanalysis, revealing the surprising ways it offered an international lingua franca for anticolonial political thought.
Kevin Duong teaches political theory at the University of Virginia. He is the author of The Virtues of Violence: Democracy Against Disintegration in Modern France, and various articles on democratic theory, modern intellectual history, gender and sexuality, visual culture, and the history of the left. He received his PhD from Cornell in 2017, where he also organized for Cornell Graduate Students United (CGSU).
SHUM 4678/6678 Abolition. Justice. Reparations.
(also ANTHR 4464/7464, ASRC 4678/6678)
Spring. 3 credits.
This course is an elaboration of a course which I taught as an upper-level undergraduate course at UNC Asheville in Spring 2021 under the title Abolition: Activism and Social Justice. It is revised to better bring abolitionist thought to bear on questions of reparations, reparative justice, transformative justice, and migration. The course itself, focuses heavily on teaching students the genealogical importance of the abolition of slavery as an analytic framework to think with and beyond the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade into contemporary considerations of the prison industrial complex and policing in the US and abroad. This framing thus enables us to seriously consider and understand the case for reparations in the US and in postcolonial contexts around the world. The course also traces the resonances of these questions regarding contested legalities and sovereignties in Migration Studies and Indigenous Studies. It is an inherently interdisciplinary course drawing primarily from African American and African Diaspora Studies, Anthropology, Sociology, History, and Legal Studies with an eye to centering Black Feminist Scholarship. Furthermore, I intend to use self-grading techniques like contract and consultative grading in this course in order to embody the dehierarchization called for in some of the material we read into the pedagogic structure of the classroom itself. I think the majority of students last year found value in the process of reorienting toward personalizing their learning goals and articulating the value of taking this class for themselves. Assignments in the course are meant to provide students with opportunities to think through reflect on their own situatedness within these topics and encourage them to incorporate the material into their own lives. This is facilitated by engaging activist work on reparative justice and transformative justice techniques that can hold harm-doers accountable outside of a carceral model in order to better enable repair.
Carla Hung is an assistant professor of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina Asheville. She is a cultural anthropologist with research and teaching interests in the political economy of African migration to Europe and its thematic links to abolitionism in African diaspora studies. Specifically, her work analyzes the debt economies that enable Eritrean refugee movement and the diasporic politics of asylum seeking. Her current book project Trafficking in Hospitality: Misgivings over Communal Care Amongst Eritrean Refugees in Italy investigates the criminalization of community networks used by Eritrean refugees to seek asylum and advocate for political reform at home. The project is informed by her work as an expert witness in a trail where Eritrean refugees were accused of aiding and abetting human trafficking. Her multi-sited ethnographic research was funded by the National Science Foundation and Wenner Gren. She teaches courses entitled Abolitionism Activism Social Justice; Critical Humanitarianism; Indigenous Economies; Law and Culture; and Migrants and Refugees in a Global Context.
SHUM 4679/6679 Ethnographies of Brokenness and Repair
(also ANTHR 4469/7469)
Spring. 3 credits.
When things break down, we suddenly become aware of our vital dependence upon them. The breakdown thus gives rise to spaces, affects and practices of mending, fixing and repairing at least bits of broken objects. The sites of brokenness and repair can be found in many forms: repairing crumbling roads and gardens, fixing leaky water pipes, mending damaged electricity grids or reconstructing ruined houses and elevators. In all of these instances, attending to breakdown and repair make apparent the conditions of the contemporary world in which mending and fixing of broken infrastructures have become conditions for survival and for “new organization of life”(Berlant 2016). Yet infrastructures of repair do not always emerge in the sense of intentionality and built materiality. They can also occur in unintended ways in the form of natures and nonhuman species, such as goats, dogs, or rice fields, generating reparative spaces and affects in their own right. This reading seminar explores human and nonhuman infrastructures of brokenness and repair in the context of capitalist as well as socialist ruins. It delves into politics, economies, ecologies and aesthetics of infrastructural brokenness and repair as well as the ways in which researchers themselves can become ethical subjects to carry out “reparative reading” (Sedgwick 2004) of crumbling urban and peripheral landscapes.
Tamta Khalvashi is a professor of Anthropology and the Head of the PhD Program of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Ilia State University in Georgia. She obtained her PhD in Anthropology from Copenhagen University (2015). She has been awarded postdoctoral fellowships from Fulbright Program at New York University, Department of Anthropology (2016-2017) and Cornell University, the Society for the Humanities (2022-23). Her research interests are located in the overlap of experimental anthropology, the interdisciplinary field of affect theory, and cultural anthropology with a particular focus on postsocialist transformations, peripheral histories, marginal social identities, space and materiality. Her article Horizons of Medea: Economies and Cosmologies of Dispossession in Georgia (Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute, 2018) has been awarded Honorary Mention from Soyuz (Postsocialist Cultural Studies Research Network of the American Anthropological Association) in the Article Price Annual Competition (2018). Currently, Khalvashi is finalizing two books Peripheral Shame: Affective City and Politics on the Margins of Georgia and A Sea of Transience: Politics, Poetics and Aesthetics on the Black Sea Coast (with Martin Demant Frederiksen).
SHUM 4680/6680 Art and the Remapping of the World
(also ARTH 4620/6620, VISST 4680/6680)
Spring. 3 credits.
The history of Western cartography is a history of imperialist exploits and the violent overwriting of local geographies. Artists, however, have long proposed alternative cartographies and toyed with the structural limitations of the map to challenge its totalizing perspective. If mapping is both an act of worldmaking and an act of erasure, could remapping serve as a form of repair? Contemporary artists including David Wojnarowicz, Janet Cardiff, Alighiero Boetti, Mona Hatoum and many others have proposed creative interventions into the history and practice of mapping, opening space for new dialogues around how we chart our world. This class uses these artistic interventions as a point of departure for reconsidering the history and theory of the map.
Successfully critiquing cartography requires understanding some of the doubt and uncertainty of its early incarnations and analyzing the ways in which visual conventions allowed that doubt and uncertainty to be overcome. Maps were themselves efforts at repair, ways of suturing over gaps in knowledge and possession. European cartographers, further, often employed or coerced Indigenous collaborators—recovering these contributions helps to deconstruct Eurocentric notions of space. Taking advantage of Cornell’s extensive Map Collection, we will combine close looking at primary sources with theoretical texts on mapping and an introduction to GIS to develop a critical perspective on practices of cartography. Part of students’ final projects may involve the production of a map.
Kelly Presutti is Assistant Professor of History of Art and Visual Studies, where she teaches courses in modern Western art and the environmental humanities. Research interests include nineteenth-century art and visual culture, landscape, and ecocriticism. Her current book project, Terroir after the Terror: Landscape and Representation in Nineteenth-Century France, looks to four landscape typologies—forests, mountains, wetlands and coasts—as sites of negotiation and contestation between state power, local inhabitants, and the environment. Recent publications include “‘A Better Idea than the Best Constructed Charts’: Watercolor Views in Early British Hydrography,” (Grey Room, 2021), an analysis of a set of watercolor views of the French coastline commissioned by the British Admiralty, and “The Sèvres’ Service des Départements and the Anxiety of the Fragment,” (Word and Image, 2021), a study of a French porcelain service that attempted, and failed, to represent a reconfigured nation for a Restoration monarch. Prior to completing her PhD, Presutti held positions at the Getty, the Musée d’Orsay, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, among other arts organizations.
SHUM 4681/6681 Post-Conflict Justice and Resolution in Africa
(also ASRC 4681/6681, COML 4628, ROMS 4681/6681)
Spring. 3 credits.
In the global popular imagination, Africa is still primarily thought of today as a negative signifier, one usually associated with violence and scarcity. However, the multiple civil wars and anti-colonial struggles for liberation, which have shaken the continent throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, have also generated a number of social, political, and philosophical experiments in conflict mediation and resolution. This course aims to restore the continent as a site of political, social, and artistic innovation and experimentation, by exploring these African forms of collective repair.
By combining literature, film, and other forms of visual and performative arts, the course examines a multiplicity of historical moments in the 20th and 21st centuries, from the aftermath of anti-colonial armed struggle in Algeria and Ghana, to post-apartheid South Africa, to post-genocide Rwanda. Specifically, it looks at how aesthetic productions and state institutions generate different, and often competing, narratives about the past that allow for contradictory conceptions of justice to emerge, and offer distinctive venues for repair. For instance, while the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa is largely considered to have failed at effecting long-lasting structural equality, Desmond Tutu’s project of reconciliation, in its alliance of Christian theology, and ubuntu philosophy, can be seen as a feat of conceptual reconciliation between modes of knowledge that are traditionally cast as non-commensurable. By contrast, the indigenous Gacaca courts and reconciliation efforts in post-genocide Rwanda are commonly seen as a model of state-sanctioned transitional justice. However, post-genocide literature often portrays the limits and challenges of institutional reconciliation, through a haunting poetics of loss that short-circuits collective catharsis.
Alternately, performance-based artistic projects, such as dance and music festivals that have sprouted throughout the continent, offer examples of state-sanctioned art that, although it seemingly aligns a festive repair with state power, also divests from its institutional aims. Finally, filmic and literary adaptations will allow us to tease out the complex relationship that the concept of justice entertains with resolution, be it political or affective. We will explore how filmmakers such as Djibril Mambety Diop and Ousmane Sembene, and novelists such as Abdulrazak Gurnah, reflect on how affective forms of resolution, such as grieving, friendship, and forgiveness, become politicized, and to what extent they succeed or fail in bringing about collective repair.
Imane Terhmina is currently an Assistant Professor of Francophone Studies at Cornell University. She holds a PhD in French from Yale University. Her research lies at the intersection of aesthetics, ethics, and politics. Her areas of specialization include: Francophone African literature and culture, critical theory, political philosophy, petrofictions / eco-topias, and non-western modernities.
SHUM 6819 Urban Justice Lab
(also AMST 6809, ARCH 6308, ART 6419, ASRC 6819, ENGL 6919)
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Keith Obadike
Enrollment limited to fellowship recipients: apply by November 15.
Spring. 4 credits.
Topic for Spring 2023: Seeing to Be in the Aftermath
In this course we will look the ways that poems and songs have helped us develop theories of place. This seminar will be grounded in works by June Jordan, Gwendolyn Brooks, Nikki Finney, Sonia Sanchez and others. Lyrics from anthems, spirituals, and funk songs will also be explored as we think through how the realm of the imagined has intersected with architectural projects (by June Jordan & Buckminster Fuller, Julian Abele, and McKissack & McKissack) and the development of communities. How are emotional connections to place limned and how do poets help us see to be habitable worlds?
Our approach will be experimental, interdisciplinary, and emergent. Bring what you’re working on and let’s see how our projects intersect.
The course will include introduction to digital tools as well as integration of student research with collections available at the Rare and Distinctive Collections in Cornell Library and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum. Students will have the resources to develop innovative methodologies (curated collections, digital tools, video essays, etc.), and will be able to work on material or a location connected to their own interests as they investigate and imagine urban possibilities.
SHUM 6009 What is a Settler Text?
(also COML 6009, NES 6009)
Spring. 4 credits.
Though Indigenous literature or, more accurately, literatures are growing both in their production and criticism, we have yet to address the question of settler discourse and writings. Can we conceptualize a literary settler colonialism? What is a settler text? And what are the literary aspects and politics that bind this genre? This course approaches this question comparatively, looking into the United States and Israel as active settler colonialisms, and analyzes American nationalism, Zionism (as a European nationalist movement), and their overlap in American Zionist writings. The course begins with critical scholarship in the fields of American Indian and Indigenous studies, settler colonial studies, and Palestine studies, then moves into literary texts, canonical and lesser known, that we will read and hypothesize as settler texts.
Eman Ghanayem is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Society for the Humanities and the Department of Comparative Literature. Prior to coming to Cornell, Ghanayem was the 2020-2021 Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). She earned her Ph.D. in English, with minor degrees in American Indian Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies, from UIUC. Her research spans the areas of Indigenous studies, comparative ethnic studies, and transnational gender and women’s studies. Towards a global theory of belonging, and its confluences under colonial conditions, Ghanayem’s research addresses the relationship between natives, settlers, and refugees in both “new” and “old” world contexts. Her first book project, Nations without Nationalisms: On Palestinian and American Indian Literary Imaginations, argues that indigeneity, as expressed in American Indian and Palestinian literatures, offers a necessary critique of (settler) nationalism as a product of the colonial west, as well as represents an alternative form of homemaking that is land-oriented, relational, and can function without a state. Ghanayem authored a piece on Palestinian American Activist Rasmea Odeh in Women’s Studies Quarterly (2019) and co-edited a special issue in Transmotion titled “Native American Narratives in a Global Context” (2019). She is currently working on forthcoming publications in Amerasia and the Routledge Companion to Refugee Narratives. Ghanayem taught a wide range of courses in the Department of English at Birzeit University in the West Bank and the Departments of English, Gender and Women’s Studies, and Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Humanities Scholars Program Courses
SHUM 2750 Introduction to Humanities
Fall, Spring. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
This seminar offers an introduction to the humanities by exploring the historical, cultural, social and political stakes of the Society for the Humanities annual focal theme. Students will explore the theme in critical dialogue with a range of texts and media drawn from the arts, humanities, and/or humanistic social sciences. Guest speakers, including Cornell faculty and Society Fellows, will present from different disciplines and points of view. Students will consider local sites relevant to the theme, including Cornell special collections and archives. Students enrolled in this seminar will have the opportunity to participate in additional programming related to the Society’s theme and the Humanities Scholars Program for undergraduate humanities research.
(SP23) SHUM 2750 Introduction to Humanities: Subcultures and Archives (SEM 101)
The anarcho-punk musician Pat the Bunny once sang, “A punk rock song won’t ever change the world / but I can tell you about a couple that changed me.” Taking this tension between art and activism as a starting point, this course asks: how have underground and avant-garde artists historically sustained themselves outside of the mainstream? How have they documented their own histories? Is a truly anti-capitalist, “outsider” art or literature possible? We will explore these questions as a way of understanding the methodologies and broader stakes of humanist research. Our course materials will include both scholarly work and primary materials such as zines, modernist little magazines, literatures of the mimeograph revolution, and contemporary small press publications. A particular emphasis will be placed upon archival research, and we will work closely with Cornell’s Rare and Manuscript Collections.
(SP23) SHUM 2750 Introduction to Humanities: Literature and Knowing
TR 11:25am - 12:40pm
What might we find when we treat literature as a form of knowledge production, with its own methods, conventions, and histories? In this class, we will engage with literary texts that make claims about knowledge or knowing across literary genres, from the depiction of knowledge as dangerous in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, to the interrogation of how disciplines like botany produce knowledge in Jamaica Kincaid’s My Garden Book. By studying literary and non-literary modes of knowledge production, we will think through how we come to know concepts like the self, the world, the past and the future, emotion, violence, objectivity, memory, and more. In short, we will explore how we might know through our engagement with literary work and interrogate the potential and necessity of literary knowledge making. Texts for this course will include literary material such as graphic novels, poetry, non-fiction prose, and novels, as well as select works of art, exhibitions, films, and archival materials.
SHUM 3750 Humanities Research Methods
(also ANTHR 3950, ASIAN 3347, NES 3750)
Spring. 4 credits.
This course is a seminar studying the practice, theory, and methodology of humanities research, critical analysis, and communication through writing and oral presentation. The goal of the seminar is to teach and refine research methods (library research, note taking, organizing material, bibliographies, citation methods, proposals, outlines, etc.) as well as to guide students through the initial stages of a research project of your own design. See the full description on the Humanities Scholars Program website.