What I Am Thinking About Now: Fall 2013

Seminars will take place in the CSREA Conference Room, Room 303, Brown-RISD Hillel. Please RSVP as space is limited. 

Professor Eng-Beng Lim, TAPS
"The Other Harem: Photographing Brown Boys"
Tuesday, October 8, 2013, 4 p.m.

  • In this talk, Lim will explore the photographic troves of the ethnomusicologist, Colin McPhee and the artist, Walter Spies from the 1930s that focused on Balinese men and boys in recumbent poses that can be described as ethno-porn. The queer story of the white man/native boy, for which Lim accounts in his forthcoming book through Asian performance, is thrown asunder by these exotic snapshots, at once invoking and yet exceeding the visual representation of gendered power relations between the colonizer and the colonized. In the spirit of Malek Alloula's The Colonial Harem, Lim is interested in the kinds of questions that may be raised around these photographs as a way to think about transnational visuality, performance and sexuality. 

Professor Elizabeth Hoover, American Studies
"Stepping Back from the Colonizer’s Table: American Indian Food Sovereignty Movements"
Wednesday, October 23, 2013, 1 p.m.

  • Historically, horticulture served as the main source of food, a framework for the ceremonial cycle and ultimately the base of political power and strength among indigenous peoples like the Haudenosaunee Confederacy in present day New York. Today many of these communities exist on vastly reduced land holdings, and produce very little of their own food. But a movement to reclaim the cultivation of food is coalescing in many Native communities seeking to improve health statistics and reclaim a horticultural heritage.  Based on historical research, several years of fieldwork conducted in a Mohawk community, and participation in several indigenous food sovereignty conferences, this presentation explores contemporary American Indian food sovereignty projects that are based on efforts that look to the past (reconnecting with ceremonial cycles and speaking back to three centuries of colonization efforts), the present (combatting the current generation’s “Walmart mentality” about food), and the future (forward thinking concerns about a system destined to collapse). 

Professor Glenn Loury, Economics
Patricia Agupusi, Visiting Fellow in International Relations
"The Superficial Morality of Colorblindness: Comparing the US and South Africa"
Monday, October 28, 2013, 4 p.m.  

  • Loury and Agupusi argue that – in the presence of continued social segregation and significant human capital spillovers within social networks – the unequal consequences of past racial discrimination tend to persist absent a concerted effort to reverse them. They conclude that “color-blindness” – i.e. official indifference to race in the formulation of public policies – is not a coherent ethical principle. (Strict adherence to it would perpetuate the effects of its own past violation!) Considering the cases of the USA in the aftermath of Jim Crow and South Africa in the aftermath of Apartheid they note that, despite the emergence of formally non-discriminatory legal regimes in both societies, the ongoing racial exclusivity of social networks and informal communities has meant that in neither society do individuals in different racial groups enjoy equal developmental opportunity. However, due to their different histories, demographic profiles, socioeconomic structures and political institutions, the reasons to reject color-blindness and the best response to a history of racial exclusion are not the same in the USA and the RSA. We contrast “preferential” policies that increase immediate access to positions of influence and power with what we call “developmental” policies that focus on expanding long term productive capacities. Though these two policies are not mutually exclusive, Loury and Agupusi argue that when employed to reverse the present-day effects of historical racial discrimination they have very different practical implications, as can be seen by contrasting how they might be implemented in these two societies.

Professor Matthew Guterl, American Studies
"Josephine Baker and the Radical Imagination" 
Tuesday, November 5, 2013, 12 p.m. 

  • In the midst of the Cold War, Josephine Baker was not your typical radical. She lived in a castle. She wore the best clothes.  She operated a Disney-esque theme park. And she adopted a mixed race family.  So what, Guterl has been asking, is so radical about that?  And what does this story matter today?