2011-12 Graduate Colloquium abstracts
“Performing under Pressure”
Coleman Nye and Eleanor Skimin (Theatre Arts and Performance Studies )
The aim of this colloquium is to foster a dialogue between local and international academics and artists about the pressures to perform and the pressures under which we perform in a historical moment that is defined by increasingly networked global flows of ideas, bodies, and capital; where risk is diffuse and deterritorialized, and where processes of production and consumption operate in more frantic, future-oriented modes propelled by the ever-present threat of political crisis, social instability, and economic insecurity. Performance – as a type of labor, a model of efficiency, a mode of action and speculation, a form of achievement, a process of creation, and an act of presentation that is given to both expire and endure – provides a compelling frame through which to think about the potentialities and problems of life under late capitalism across such diverse sites as the academy, the gallery, the courtroom, the laboratory, the theatre, the territory, the market, and the body politic. By reading performance through and as labor across these sites in a bimonthly graduate workshop culminating in a two-day multidisciplinary conference, this colloquium aims to think about the productive and prohibitive spaces of global encounter that emerge within the conditions of late capitalism. As certain products of laboring bodies and bodily labor such as commodities, media, art, biological materials, and technologies are given to travel within networks of capital and across national borders, the movement of bodies linked to these products, technologies, and ideas is often restricted by national boundaries and bounded by contradictory global and local systems of value and exchange. Thinking about how performance in its many guises is caught up in these global flows – both reinforcing and transgressing political and social boundaries – allows us to explore the stakes of affective and immaterial forms of labor within an increasingly networked world.
“The Classics Renewed”
Joseph Pucci and Matthew Wellenbach (Classics)
"The Classics Renewed" will bring to campus several dozen scholars with a professional interest in the Latin poetry of late antiquity. Simultaneously, Prof. Joseph Pucci will be offering a seminar in late Latin poetry (LATN 2080C), the readings of which will coincide precisely with the talks of five of the participants. In conjunction with the seminar, these five scholars will hold a colloquium, apart from their formal participation in the conference, so that they might meet with the seminar to talk about their current work, a discussion that will end over dinner. All five scholars are traveling from Europe and are widely respected in their fields of study: Gerard O'Daly (University College London), speaking on the late Latin poet Prudentius; Karla Pollmann (St. Andrews), speaking on modes of authority in Christian Latin poetry; Petra Schierl (Basel), speaking on Tityrus Christianus; Roger Green (Glasgow), speaking on Sidonius Apollonaris; and Catherine Ware (Maynooth), speaking on Claudian.
“Thinking in Public: Community and Cultural Institutions in Post-National Civic Space”
Elena Gonzales, Amy Johnson, and Robyn Schroeder (American Studies)
Archaeological practices, museum collections, and cultural memory have, at times, been put in the service of national politics. “Indigenous curation” provides an alternative to these more traditional (often nationalist), European museological practices by offering more culturally appropriate and ethically responsible methods for collecting, conserving, displaying, and interpreting indigenous art, artifacts, and forms of intangible heritage through active collaboration between institutions and communities. This inversion or transformation of relationships of power happens throughout the cultural landscape, however, not just in museums. This colloquium explores the new museum, as well as other public institutions and forms of knowledge production that reach beyond the hegemony of national identity. Indeed, the scholars, museum practitioners, and public humanists from various disciplines and professional fields who will come together around the work of history, memory, and culture at this event often question the role of the nation in cultural production. This scholarly conversation will examine the landscape of shifting power relations between indigenous and local communities and the institutions and organizations that claim to represent them.
Lindsay Goss (Theatre Arts and Performance Studies) and Helia Rabie (Literary Arts)
2011 marks the 1,000th anniversary of the completion of the Shahnameh (The Book of Kings) by the Persian poet Ferdowsi. Although relatively unknown in the United States, the Shahnameh is considered one of the world’s greatest works of literature. Consisting of some 60,000 verses, the Shahnameh tells the mythical and historical past of Iran, from the creation of the world to the Islamic conquest of Persia in the 7th century. Through a series of screenings, reading groups, presentations, and performances centered on the Shahnameh, this conference will highlight Iran’s rich and complex literary history. Ferdowsi’s epic is credited with preserving and reviving the Persian language, along with its myths and history, after centuries of Arab rule. This rule itself is an aspect of Iran’s history with which many are unfamiliar. By focusing on a text that has inspired much subsequent cultural production—its influences can be found in Iranian film, theater, music, literature, and the visual arts—these events will provide opportunities for scholars, students across disciplines, and community members to investigate a literary masterpiece in multiple contexts.
“Challenges for a Changing Brazil: Race, Citizenship and the Reconfiguration of the Nation”
Paula Dias (Anthropology), Thayse Lima (Portuguese and Brazilian Studies), and Marcelo Lotufo (Comparative Literature)
Bringing together graduate students and faculty from the social sciences and humanities, this colloquium focuses on the challenges Brazil faces as it attempts to establish itself on the global stage while grappling with domestic problems pertaining to citizenship, race, inequality, and nation building. More broadly, we aim to understand how this new “global role” affects Brazil’s representation of itself, both domestically and internationally. Some of the specific questions we will address include: How does the tension between Brazil’s exemplary role in some contexts and intractable inequalities in others affect its image on the global stage? How do notions of national identity, citizenship, and Brazil’s global role shape strategies against racial discrimination? Where does intellectual exchange between Brazil and other countries (whether North-South or South-South cooperation) fit within Brazil’s international agenda today? Taking Brazil as a unique, yet emblematic example of the increasing international importance of countries from the global South, we hope to contribute to an understanding of the new roles and the challenges faced by these emerging global players. Our external speakers, invited Brown faculty, and participating graduate students will foster dialogue across the social sciences and humanities about issues of citizenship, race, national identity, and international representation. This colloquium operates under the premise that a truly interdisciplinary approach to knowledge provides the soundest foundation for stronger scholarship and an enriched understanding not only of Brazil, but also of Latin America and the emerging global South.
“Workshop on African Climate and Ecosystems: Tools for Quantifying Changes in the Past, Present, and Future”
Bronwen Konecky and Shannon Loomis (Geological Sciences)
Throughout history, changing climates and weather extremes have heavily impacted human societies and ecosystems. In tropical Africa today, human populations are highly vulnerable to the regional impacts of global climate change. Unfortunately, the exact causes of these regional changes and their relationship to predicted global warming are poorly understood. Ongoing scientific research in Brown’s Geological Sciences Department works to better understand the regional climate system of tropical Africa, how these unique dynamics may have influenced the African environment in the past, and how they may impact the region in the future. This colloquium series will bring international experts in the fields of quantitative paleoclimatology and geospatial data analysis to Brown. Over the course of the workshop, students will learn the latest and most robust statistical techniques for analyzing African geological, climatological, and environmental data. These tools will be applied to real climate and ecological datasets to explore the particular dynamics of African climate and their connections to global phenomena. Students will gain international insights into strategies for addressing these research questions, while also gaining an understanding of how Brown’s research program fits into a larger global scientific discourse. Students will then apply these statistical techniques to their own data from Africa and from other data-poor regions of the world, enabling them to quantitatively address their own scientific research questions on regional and global climate change.
“Corresponding Landscapes: Religious and Cultural Exchange in the Post-Classical Mediterranean”
Scott DiGiulio, Byron MacDougall, Annie McDonald, Mitchell Parks, and Darya Resh (Classics); Rebecca Falcasantos and Laura Dingeldein (Religious Studies); Sarah Craft and Ian Randall (Archaeology and the Ancient World); and Sam Boss (History)
This colloquium will explore communication across linguistic, religious, and temporal frontiers in the post-Classical Mediterranean. The period offers a wealth of material for the study of how societies transmit their own cultural goods and how they receive and re-interpret those of their physical neighbors on the one hand and their own pasts on the other. Invited scholars hailing from across the globe and representing a variety of disciplines will offer a series of lectures and workshops devoted to themes of cultural exchange. Topics will include the interplay between Greek culture and Roman imperial rule during the Second Sophistic; intellectual cross-fertilization between pagan Neoplatonists and Christian Church Fathers in the 3rd-5th centuries; triangular translation movements involving Greek, Syriac, and Arabic texts; and encounters between medieval Byzantines and the legacy of their Classical and Late Antique pasts.
“Movement, Mediation, Liberation”
Andrew Lison, Michael Litwack, and Rijuta Mehta (Modern, Culture, and Media)
Over the past decade, the concept of the network has undergone a shift, becoming an increasingly significant framework for understanding cultural change in the digital age. Networks no longer represent simply a technological “other,” an arcane structure conditioning of our experience to the detriment of more "immediate" interaction; they also contribute to our sense of community, activity, and potentiality. This shift is in many ways the mirror image of a previous shift, from the protest movements of 1968 to the mid-1970s paranoia of the Watergate era, epitomized by the conspiracy films of the period. This colloquium aims to examine more closely the fluctuating valences of this term in the period from 1968 to the present day, and its prevalence for and applicability to contemporary studies of transnationalism, globalization, media, and political agency. Locating 1968 as a key moment in postmodern culture, our use of “post,” here, as its quotation marks indicate, is very much under pressure. In line with critiques that ask what it means to be “post”-modern, or “post”-colonial, we are asking: to what extent do contemporary network politics prove an extension of, or a retrenchment against, the revolutions, protests, and decolonization movements of ‘68? By bringing together scholars from a diverse range of disciplines, area studies, and specializations, we will ask how and why the network has emerged as a particularly compelling idiom for conceptualizing the relations between the global and the local, the private and the public, in the post-1968 contemporary.
"Raising the Undead: The Image of the Zombie in Transnational Popular Culture”
Amy Johnson, Brent Fujioka, and Erin Curtis (American Studies)
Representations of zombies are tied to images of monstrosity and imperialist conceptions of racialized peoples in global culture. Trapped between life and death, the zombie represents a liminal space. As a result, the monstrous body is a repository onto which various social and cultural anxieties are projected. The co-option of the zombie as a means of social, cultural, and political critique speaks to the power of redeploying hegemonic narratives in subversive ways. The fact that many of the countries currently involved in the production of zombie culture have had long histories of occupation, colonization, and resistance attests to the radical potential of the genre and illustrates the importance of analyzing it as a scholarly endeavor. This colloquium unpacks some of these complex, cross-cultural critiques by inviting leading figures in the field of zombie studies and monstrosity to Brown. In both a public event and reading group forum, we will engage the transnational representation of the zombie using an interdisciplinary methodology that draws from a variety of scholarly fields and mediums.
“Biology Talks about Religion”
Atilgan Yilmaz, Takahiro Ito, and Asli Sahin (BioMed)
This colloquium series, hosted by the graduate students of the Department of Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, & Biochemistry, intends to provide a platform for the university graduate community to ponder and exchange views on philosophical and existentialist topics within the realm of biology and psychology. The planned series of lectures by invited speakers and discussions amongst graduate students in these departments aim to address the following questions: 1) Whether and to what extent we may explain the existence of religious beliefs and religion by making use of biological and psychological observation; and 2) How evolutionary biology in particular deals with the idea of God and religion. Focusing on the age old fundamental questions will create the framework within which students and the academic community at Brown will have the opportunity to engage in thinking processes whereby scientific argumentation is used to explain the existence of dogma. By engineering this encounter between scientific thought and methodology, on the one hand, and philosophical questions, on the other, this colloquium series will give a rare opportunity to its audience for a highly interdisciplinary interaction.