PITH — Politics in the Humanities

PITH — Politics in the Humanities hosts speakers studying politics at the humanistic ends of various social sciences and at the more social science ends of the humanities. PITH complements the work of the Political Concepts Initiative but aims specifically to open up dialogue on political questions across the humanities and the social sciences. In botanical terminology, pith refers to a spongy, central cylinder of tissue found inside the stems of most flowering plants. The pith of an argument is like the pith of a plant: pith is the central idea or essence of something.

The lecture series, which hosts two speakers a year, is supported by funds from the Cogut Institute and the Department of Political Science, and is convened by Bonnie Honig, Nancy Duke Lewis Professor of Modern Culture and Media and Political Science.

Upcoming Events

Details of future events will be displayed soon.

Previous Events

  • Feb
    14
    4:00pm - 5:30pm

    Lori Marso • “Dear Dick: A Feminist Politics of the Epistolary”

    Cogut Institute, Pembroke Hall

    Beginning with Laura Mulvey’s pioneering work on how narrative film replicates the male gaze by sexually objectifying women’s bodies, this talk charts the visibility of women’s bodies and the circulation of sexual desires to explore what happens when women’s desires are made public. Focusing on Jill Soloway’s 2017 television adaptation of Chris Kraus’s pioneering 1995 feminist memoir I Love Dick, Lori Marso suggests that the television show may be seen as a reception of the work of feminist filmmaker Catherine Breillat, specifically her 1999 film Romance. For Breillat, women’s sexual desire is female genitalia and fluids, ontological evidence presented as a challenge to male impotence. In Soloway’s I Love Dick, the body is shown as a less reliable indicator of desire, although it doesn’t disappear. Letters, circulated and read by others, make women’s desires public and their bodies visible. What if we all started writing love letters to Dick? Another way to ask this question: how can women’s desires be made visible?

    Lori Marso is the Doris Zemurray Stone Professor of Historical and Literary Studies and Professor of Political Science at Union College in Schenectady, NY. She is the author or editor of several books and articles. Her most recent book Politics with Beauvoir: Freedom in the Encounter (Duke University Press, 2017) won the inaugural Pamela Grande Jensen Book Award, presented by the Politics, Literature, and Film section of the American Political Science Association. Her articles have won the Susan Okin and Iris Marion Young Award for Feminist Political Theory (2013), the Marian Irish Award (2009), the Wilson Carey McWilliams Award (2018), the Betty Nesvold Award (2008), and the Contemporary Political Theory Award (2014). She is a Consulting Editor to the journal Political Theory.

    This event, presented as part of the PITH – Politics in the Humanities  lecture series, is free and open to the public.

    Humanities, Politics in the Humanities PITH, Social Sciences
  • Feb
    14
    12:30pm - 2:00pm

    PITH — Politics in the Humanities Seminar with Lori Marso

    Cogut Institute, Pembroke Hall

    Join Lori Marso, author of Politics with Beauvoir: Freedom in the Encounter (Duke University Press, 2017) and consulting editor to the journal Political Theory, for a conversation on political theory, literature, film, TV, and publishing.This PITH Seminar with Prof. Lori Marso, author of Politics with Beauvoir: Freedom in the Encounter (Duke University Press, 2017) is open to graduate students only. Information on the seminar’s location will accompany pre-circulated reading materials by Simone de Beauvoir (“Brigitte Bardot and the Lolita Syndrome”) and Hélène Cixous (“The Laugh of the Medusa”).

    To attend the PITH Seminar with Lori Marso please register at this link . Lunch will be provided.

    Lori Marso is the Doris Zemurray Stone Professor of Historical and Literary Studies and Professor of Political Science at Union College in Schenectady, NY. She is the author or editor of several books and articles. Her most recent book Politics with Beauvoir: Freedom in the Encounter (Duke University Press, 2017) won the inaugural Pamela Grande Jensen Book Award, presented by the Politics, Literature, and Film section of the American Political Science Association. Her articles have won the Susan Okin and Iris Marion Young Award for Feminist Political Theory (2013), the Marian Irish Award (2009), the Wilson Carey McWilliams Award (2018), the Betty Nesvold Award (2008), and the Contemporary Political Theory Award (2014). She is a Consulting Editor to the journal Political Theory.

    This event, presented as part of the PITH – Politics in the Humanities  lecture series, is limited to graduate students. Information about registration and location is forthcoming.

    Humanities, Politics in the Humanities PITH, Social Sciences
  • The paper situates the recent work of Fred Moten in two conversations. One conversation is focused on “the black radical tradition,” in which Moten places his “avowedly anti-political romance” with a fugitive black sociality radically opposed to any organized form of politics. How do other voices in this tradition validate — and problematize — his view of an inherent antagonism between black fugitivity, and a democratic politics inescapably tied to the unthought premises of anti-black, settler colonial modernity? A second conversation involves radically democratic voices in political theory, for Moten directly criticizes Hannah Arendt’s work, and his argument also suggests a fruitful engagement with Sheldon Wolin. Each offers a catastrophic account of modernity, criticizes politics as bio-political sovereignty, and defends a “revolutionary treasure” that each deems fugitive. Each also offers, however, contrasting accounts of pariah invisibility, natality, and public disclosure on the one hand, and of commonality, scale, and insurgency on the other hand. Whereas agonistic theorists typically modify how Arendt or Wolin conceive and conjure the political, as if to redeem it, Moten insists that any conception of the political — no matter how modified — necessarily entails “counter-insurgency” against the sociality he equates with blackness and maternity. Tracing intersections and tensions between voices of black radicalism and of radical democracy, we complicate figurations of fugitivity, natality, and commonality, and open inherited conceptions of the political to risk and reworking.

    George Shulman is Professor at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. His research interests lie in the fields of political thought and American studies. He teaches and writes on political thought in Europe and the United States, as well as on Greek and Hebrew—tragic and biblical—traditions. His teaching and writing emphasize the role of narrative in culture and politics. Professor Shulman is a recipient of the 2003 NYU Distinguished Teaching Award. He is the author of Radicalism and Reverence: Gerrard Winstanley and the English Revolution (University of California Press, 1989) and American Prophecy: Race and Redemption in American Political Culture (University of Minnesota Press, 2008), which won APSA’s David Easton Prize in political theory. Focusing on the language that great American critics have used to engage the racial domination at the center of American history, American Prophecy explores the relationship of prophecy and race to American nationalism and democratic politics. Professor Shulman edited Radical Future Pasts, which was released by The University Press of Kentucky in July 2014.

    George Shulman will also have a PITH Conversation with Brown graduate students on November 14, 2018 at 12:30PM in Pembroke Hall. These events are presented as part of the PITH — Politics in the Humanities series.

    Humanities, Politics in the Humanities PITH, Social Sciences
  • Nov
    14
    12:30pm - 2:30pm

    PITH — Politics in the Humanities Conversation with George Shulman

    Cogut Institute, Pembroke Hall

    This PITH Conversation with Prof. Shulman, author of American Prophecy: Race and Redemption in American Political Culture (University of Minnesota Press, 2008) and Winner of the APSA’s Easton Prize, is open to graduate students only.  The event location will be announced in the confirmation email to the registrants.  A light lunch will be served at this event.

    To attend the PITH Conversation with George Shulman please register at this link

    George Shulman is professor at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. His research interests lie in the fields of political thought and American studies. He teaches and writes on political thought in Europe and the United States, as well as on Greek and Hebrew — tragic and biblical — traditions. His teaching and writing emphasize the role of narrative in culture and politics. Professor Shulman is a recipient of the 2003 NYU Distinguished Teaching Award. He is the author of Radicalism and Reverence: Gerrard Winstanley and the English Revolution (University of California Press, 1989) and American Prophecy: Race and Redemption in American Political Culture (University of Minnesota Press, 2008), which won APSA’s David Easton Prize in political theory. Focusing on the language that great American critics have used to engage the racial domination at the center of American history, American Prophecy explores the relationship of prophecy and race to American nationalism and democratic politics. Professor Shulman edited Radical Future Pasts, which was released by The University Press of Kentucky in July 2014.

    George Shulman will also give a public lecture titled “Fred Moten’s Refusals and Consents: Maternity, Natality and the Politics of Fugitivity” on November 14, 2018 at 5:30PM in Pembroke Hall 305. These events are presented as part of the PITH — Politics in the Humanities series.

    Humanities, Politics in the Humanities PITH
  • Mar
    6
    5:30pm - 7:00pm

    Cornel West

    Salomon Center for Teaching, Deciccio Auditorium

    Presented as part of PITH (Politics in the Humanities) and co-sponsored by the Office of the President, the Office of the Provost, and the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America.
    Free and open to the public. Tickets are required. Doors will open at 5:00 pm. A standby line will be available. Please be advised that reserved tickets will be released to the standby line at 5:20 pm. At this time your seat will no longer be guaranteed. Please arrive between 5:00 pm and 5:20 pm to be guaranteed your seat.
    To request special services, accommodations or assistance, please contact the University Event and Conference Services Office at [email protected] or (401) 863-3100.

    Politics in the Humanities PITH
  • From 1954 until her death, Rachel Carson exchanged letters with her friend, Dorothy Freeman, that depict their love for each other as a wondrous multispecies achievement constituted through encounters with birds. Reading Silent Spring through the lens of these letters, speaker Lida Maxwell, Trinity College and Boston University, asks how our conceptions of love and environmentalism might be productively transformed by foregrounding the connections between inter-human affects and a vibrant multispecies world.

    Politics in the Humanities PITH
  • As Mario Savio famously said at Berkeley in 1964, “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part…you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. But how do we find the levers in a system that is globalized, financialized, and digitized? What power to we have and how can we use it?”


    This talk, by filmmaker and activist Astra Taylor (Examined Life, 2008), reflects on the lessons learned over five years of organizing around indebtedness and debt refusal while arguing that the task of devising new tactics and strategies to leverage social change is more important than ever.

    Politics in the Humanities PITH
  • Nov
    1
    5:30pm - 7:00pm

    Glen Coulthard • “Fanonian Antinomies”

    Pembroke Hall, Room 305

    Speaker is Glen Coulthard, First Nations and Indigenous Studies, University of British Columbia. He is the author of ‘Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition’ (University of Minnesota Press, 2014). This talk interrogates the reception and application of psychiatrist-turned-anti-colonial-revolutionary Frantz Fanon’s theoretical work in Canadian political thought and activism from the 1960s to the present. Fanon’s theoretical influence in the United States has been well noted. The profound mark that Fanon in particular and Third Worldism in general left on post-war US anti-colonial radicalism led cultural theorist Stuart Hall to declare The Wretched of the Earth nothing less than “The Bible of Decolonization.” Interestingly, however, Fanon’s influence is perhaps even more pronounced (although decidedly less discussed) in Canada. For example, Quebecois sovereigntists in the 1960s often borrowed the language of Fanonian anti-colonialism in their own struggles for national recognition, while largely ignoring both Fanon’s insights into the problem of recognition in colonial contexts and Quebec’s own problematic status as a settler-society actively complicit in the violent dispossession of Indigenous peoples in the province. Fanon’s work was also used by high-level federalists like Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau to critique Quebecois nationalism and by multiculturalists like Charles Taylor to chart a conciliatory path between both the claims of Quebec and Canada’s concerns about national unity. And, of course, truer to form, Fanon was also an inspiration to francophone Black intellectuals contesting the racism of Quebec and Canada and by “Fourth World” Indigenous nations in their struggles against the colonial state at both the provincial and federal levels.

    Co-sponsored by the Department of Political Science, the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women, and the Cogut Institute for the Humanities.

    Politics in the Humanities PITH
  • Mar
    15

    Clarence Thomas claims the economist Thomas Sowell as one of his formative influences. In Race and Economics, Sowell suggested that capitalism may have been one of the few forces, if not only the only force, that put some constraints upon the white slave-master. Speaker Corey Robin, Political Science, Brooklyn College, and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, traces the power and presence of this claim in Thomas’s thinking about capitalism, as evidenced in his Supreme Court opinions about the Commerce Clause, the Takings Clause, and the First Amendment (commercial speech and campaign finance).

    Politics in the Humanities PITH
  • Speaker Davina Cooper, Kent Law School, University of Kent, addresses the contemporary legal drama that has erupted in many jurisdictions in recent years as conservative Christians refuse to provide lesbians and gay men with goods, membership and services, arguing that their right to refuse is entitled by religious freedom and equality law.


    This is the first lecture in the PITH (Politics in the Humanities) lecture series, a pilot lecture series, inaugurated in 2015, that hosts speakers studying politics at the humanistic ends of various social sciences and at the more social science ends of the humanities. PITH complements the work of the Political Concepts Project but aims specifically to open up dialogue on political questions across the humanities and the social sciences. The series is supported by funds from the Cogut Institute and the Political Science Department, and is convened by Bonnie Honig, Nancy Duke Lewis Professor of MCM and Political Science.

    Politics in the Humanities PITH