Upcoming Events

Thursday Lecture Series

The Ideological Obstruction of the Self-Provisioning City

Urban farming is an oxymoron. According to popular and scholarly understandings of urban history, cities increasingly become more urbanized, separated from the environmental resources and raw materials that support them. Cities as spaces for agricultural self-provisioning stand out as an ambiguous spike in urban history, despite the fact they are so common. City dwellers out of work or out of money grow their own food, scavenge materials to build structures on small patches of land. Most often, these municipalities—Detroit, Leningrad, Dar es Salaam, Havana—are taken as failed cities in failed polities; residents seen as not sufficiently urban, an object of pity. Unless, that is, urbanites choose to self-provision as a hobby, out of a political commitment or as charity, then they are exemplary citizens. Real estate values rise in a radiating circle around their gardens. Bi-polar views of urban self-provisioning point to the major challenge  hardy root vegetables growing from cracked cement present to ideological systems. Whether capitalist or socialist, economic systems work toward disarming people from their means of existence. The longer the supply chains, the more successful the system. >>

Thursday Lecture Series

Work & Water: Thinking Indigenous Labour With/In the Radical Tradition

“Work & Water” explores the absence of Indigenous labour in the black radical tradition. It stems from a larger project, Marxism, Method, and Sovereignty, that reframes the radical tradition in the Caribbean and its entanglement in Marxism’s genealogies through questions about Indigenous labour and sovereignty. Extant histories construct Indigenous peoples’ actions in the Caribbean as external to plantation work. Rather than surplus, they are instead beyond labour, an orientation that reinforces their complex position as extra-sovereigns and internal citizens, and their collective maintenance as an internal South. Excluded from labour histories, they are also denied claim to the postcolonial, Caribbean nation-state as workers in the same way as its Creole citizens. Jackson addresses this unthinkability of Indigenous labour by formulating a new understanding of labour history of the Caribbean, in which indigeneity is centrally figured. Through attention to the ways in which the complications or ambivalences around what is defined as productive work and unproductive labour inform labour history, Jackson argues that not only can the radical tradition be more capaciously rendered, but that we can shift from the limits of emancipatory politics to the possibilities of sovereign ones.   >>

Thursday Lecture Series

Portrait-Objects: Amoy Chinqua and the Early 18th Century Export Clay Portrait

Some of the more unusual artifacts to emerge from the flood of export products made in China for a vast foreign market, includes the painted unfired clay portraits of European merchants made by Chinese artisans. Produced from the beginning of the eighteenth century through the first half of the nineteenth century, these curious objects occupy a territory between throwaway novelty, polished craft, and purported portrait, between representation and simulacrum. The interesting ambiguity of these portrait-objects corresponds to their status as transnational products serving multiple purposes for their makers and customers. This talk will focus on the works of the earliest known maker of such portraits, the Chinese artisan Amoy Chinqua (active 1716-20), and the origins and logic of the export clay portrait. >>

Thursday Lecture Series

Staying With The Question - On Toxicity and Deliberative Ambiguity

This talk considers ambiguity, and ambiguousness as a default state, a baseline to think the questions of our time. It is to think on the embracing of difficult choices; a kind of epistemic intransigence built into the making of deliberations, with an acceptance of contingent choices and decisions. A careful examination of questions of contagion and the presence of toxicity - in the air, in water, in bodies, in food and in cure - shows that it is at the heart of living. Whether in the realm of the care of the self, or of fecal matter, or disease, or in ways of harnessing and using energy and matter, responses are marked by signs of ambiguity. Banishment and quarantine are clearly not the way to deal with toxicity.  It cannot be evaded or ignored. The questions of extraction and residue cannot be addressed without thinking the ambiguity around the toxic.  >>

Thursday Lecture Series

Black Anarchism: Anticipation and Ambivalence

Contemporary Anarchist politics are often framed as “prefigurative politics,” a denomination that enunciates a temporal logic of striving to reflect a desired future society. Tracing the racial lacunae of Anarchism’s praxis and political horizons, this talk addresses how black anarchism may instead be defined by its uncertainty of futurity, that is, its ambivalence, which serves to reconfigure our understanding of anarchism’s “spirit of revolt.” With an attention to practices of destruction, it asks: What does it mean to reckon with the unchosen, unforeseen, and unknown that exceed praxis’ ability and attempt to contain and prescribe? >>

Thursday Lecture Series

Wartime Order and Its Legacies

What happens to institutions in areas taken over by insurgent groups? While conventional wisdom portrays war zones as chaotic and anarchic, they are often orderly. Although fear and violence exist, chaos is seldom the norm. Rather, in many places a new order emerges: there is a sense of normality—even if different from that of peacetime—and people are able to form expectations about what may or may not happen on a daily basis. That new order varies substantially across time and space: even adjacent villages and neighborhoods controlled by the same armed actor often end up living under very different institutions—that is, formal or informal rules of conduct. This talk will discuss the origins of these distinct types of order and disorder in warzones as well as a research agenda on the legacies in the post-conflict period. >>

Thursday Lecture Series

The Dark Side of Collecting: A Very Short History

At what point in time did it become possible to look at a collection and imagine that one saw the inner life of an individual projected outwards? And at what point did it become possible to diagnose collections as manifestations of various ills -- political, social and psychological? This brief talk explores the long history of the collector in the cultural imagination. Is there something wrong with people who collect, what is the matter with them, and what is the meaning of what is wrong with them? >>