Upcoming Events

Thursday Lecture Series are open to Columbia faculty, students, and guests.
Special Events are open to the public, unless otherwise noted.

Thursday Lecture Series

Martial Love: Intimacy without Incorporation in the Military Occupation of the Moskitia

Full Title: Martial Love: Intimacy without Incorporation in the Military Occupation of the Moskitia (Nicaragua/Honduras) Nicaraguan and Honduran soldiers occupying Caribbean coastal villages in the Afro-Indigenous region of Moskitia habitually entangle themselves sexually or romantically with one or more local women during their three-month rotations. In addition to the economic, affective, and logistical conditions driving women and soldiers to initiate these affairs, the military character of their intimate relations remains an undertheorized aspect of soldier sexuality. This talk shows that what is properly martial in these affairs is not the straightforward weaponization or instrumentalization of intimacy, but something that pertains to the peculiar legality and sociality of the armed forces: their condition as intimately linked to the state, to capital, and to the social, but as impossible to fully appropriate by any of them. The extensive practice of intimacy with soldiers in the Moskitia does not lead to the military’s local “incorporation”, nor to a peaceful synthesis of soldier-resident cohabitation, but to a predatory relation of domination in which the military remains an awkward appendage to Miskitu villages, restricted to strategic but peripheral geographic and quotidian locations. This “intimacy without incorporation” is reflected in the kind of local knowledge soldiers acquire and produce, as well as in the kinds of value they extract from economies deemed legal or illegal. The talk fleshes out some of the implications of this analysis of “martial love” for the literatures on the War on Drugs, indigeneity and multiculturalism, and punitive prohibitionism. >>

Thursday Lecture Series

The Form of Forms: Tables, Information, and Nonsense in the Maoist Dossier

Beginning around 1945, the Chinese Communist Party drastically redesigned its dossier files. Replacing what had once been a collection of narrative evaluations and epistolary reports, the Party adopted a slew of new bureaucratic forms and templates. The new forms reorganized information on persons of interest into neat fields of questions and answers with headers, labels, and tables, all locked into the graphic device of the rectangular grid. The production of these new dossier templates was part of a broader process of formalization in the 1940s that transformed the paper instruments of bureaucratic work. These formal changes established a new and unmistakable visual style for Chinese paperwork that persists in official documents to this day. At the same time, the shift to fixed templates carried important implications for practices of information-collection and surveillance conducted through the dossier. Biographical facts and political histories of cadres and enemies alike had to be abstracted, simplified, and reconfigured to fit the parameters of grid-lined fields. In this talk, I revisit several examples of party personnel forms to show that even as these new forms were not inherently more efficient in capturing information, they served to communicate technocratic regularity as a distinct visual aesthetic. >>

Thursday Lecture Series

How Much Knowledge is Just Enough? Anatomy for Artists in Early Modern Italy

In an allegory of painting dating from 1679-80, the Roman painter Carlo Maratti depicted various pursuits he deemed suitable for the young art student, specifying that while there was no limit to how much students could engage with antique sculpture, anatomy they ought to study only “as much as it is necessary.” This qualification, visible under the plinth that holds an écorché figure, was a pointed criticism of Carlo Cesi, a contemporary painter who advocated a more ambitious investigation of anatomy, as it has rightly been argued. But what is more significant is that Cesi too, like Maratti and other artists of the period, was struggling with the same epistemic predicament: if there was some clarity about the fact that artists ought not to study human anatomy like proper anatomists and physicians, how could they determine how much knowledge of the subject was enough? This talk analyzes some Italian responses to this predicament during the sixteenth and seventeenth century and how the features of the fields artists navigated – that is, art and science – gave meaning and weight to those responses. At another more general level, it is a reflection on what could be said about qualities and states of knowledge beyond certainty or the lack of it. >>