Cogut Institute for the Humanities

Collaborative Public Workshop

May 13 – May 14, 2022
Pembroke Hall 305

The Collaborative Public Workshop features 14 graduate students presenting papers developed over the course of the semester in the capstone seminar of the Doctoral Certificate in Collaborative Humanities.

Each panel will include commentaries from guests Webb Keane (Anthropology, University of Michigan), Mara Mills (Media, Culture and Communication, New York University), Kevin Quashie (English, Brown University), and Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg (Comparative Literature and Italian Studies, Brown University), as well as a Q&A period.

Free and open to the public. No registration is required. For questions or to request special services, accommodations, or assistance, please contact [email protected] or (401) 863-6120.

Schedule

All panels are moderated by Amanda Anderson and Shahzad Bashir.

Friday, May 13, 2022

8:30 am – 9:00 am

Coffee

9:00 am – 10:30 am

Introduction and Panel 1

  • Heather Lawrence, Modern Culture and Media • “Memes on Trial: From Permit Patty to Karen”
    Commentaries: Mara Mills, Kevin Quashie
  • Alberto Alcaraz Escarcega, Political Science • “Notes on Arendt’s Sensorium: Appearance, Metaphor, and Common Sense”
    Commentaries: Mara Mills, Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg
10:30 am – 10:45 am

Break

10:45 am – 12:15 pm

Panel 2

  • Lee Gilboa, Music • “Against the Odds: Listening for Vocality and Heardness in Oral Testimonies
    Commentaries: Mara Mills, Kevin Quashie
  • Stephen Woo, Modern Culture and Media • “Framing Carceral and Cinematic Time
    Commentaries: Mara Mills, Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg
1:30 pm – 3:00 pm

Panel 3

  • Tara Dhaliwal, Religious Studies • “Dulla Bhatti: Son of the Daughters of Punjab”
    Commentaries: Webb Keane, Kevin Quashie
  • Norman L. Frazier, History • “The Home of Heinrich Zille: Tenements in Working-Class Berlin, 1853–1926”
    Commentaries: Webb Keane, Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg
3:00 pm – 3:30 pm

Coffee

3:30 pm – 5:00 pm

Panel 4

  • Sherena Razek, Modern Culture and Media • “On Seeds and Soil: Palestinian Visual Cultures of the Subterranean”
    Commentaries: Mara Mills, Kevin Quashie
  • Mariam Abou-Kathir, Religious Studies • “‘An Ocean Without a Shore’: Wajd and Wujud in ‘A’ishah al-Ba‘uniyyah’s Principles of Sufism
    Commentaries: Webb Keane, Kevin Quashie
5:00 pm

Reception

Saturday, May 14, 2022

9:30 am – 10:00 am

Coffee

10:00 am – 11:30 am

Panel 5

  • Inga Chinilina, Music • “Teleology and Time in Music in North America in the 20th Century”
    Commentaries: Mara Mills, Kevin Quashie
  • Nabila Islam, Sociology • “In Search of Sociology’s Lost Times: The Possibilities for Decolonizing Time in Postcolonial Sociology”
    Commentaries: Webb Keane, Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg
12:30 pm – 2:00 pm

Panel 6

  • Mariz Kelada, Anthropology • “Media’s Extramoral Politics: Infrastructures of Filming in Cairo’s Streets”
    Commentaries: Webb Keane, Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg
  • Osama Ahmad, History • “Tarīkh Magazine, 1999–2019: (Re)Producing Knowledge in Lahore’s Urdu Bazaar”
    Commentaries: Webb Keane, Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg
2:00 pm – 2:15 pm

Coffee

2:15 pm – 3:45 pm

Panel 7

  • Julie Dind, Theater Arts and Performance Studies • “Voodling, Camérer: Image Is a(n Autistic) Verb”
    Commentaries: Mara Mills, Kevin Quashie
  • Isabel Farías Velasco, Comparative Literature • “Trilingual Hijacking: The Initial Encounter Between Latin, Nahuatl, and Spanish in Early Modern Mexico”
    Commentaries: Webb Keane, Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg

Speaker Abstracts and Bios

The Principles of Sufism by ‘A’ishah al-Ba‘uniyyah, a 15th-century writer and poet, is a guidebook intended to cultivate a particular kind of Sufi subject. The text is divided into five chapters: repentance, sincerity, recollection, and love, in addition to an epilogue on love. This paper focuses on the representation of love as an ecstatic experience (“wajd”) predicated on an imaginative mode of being (“wujud”) and expression. Current scholarship on al-Ba‘uniyyah relies on socio-historical and biographical material to reconstruct her as a product of the Arabic poetic tradition and Sufi thought. A close textual analysis of her poetic verses reveals an experiential and affective duality inherent in her thought. It is concerned with both the duality of human existence, as well as Sufism as a religious system that organizes human existence in relationship to the divine. Therefore, this paper utilizes her conceptualization of duality as the founding principle of ecstatic love, being, and expression, to examine al-Ba‘uniyyah as a figure that interacts with and reinvents both the Arabic and Sufi tradition.

Mariam Abou-Kathir is a fourth-year Ph.D. student at Brown University in the Islam, Society, and Culture track in the Department of Religious Studies. Born and raised in Cairo, Egypt, she holds an undergraduate degree in English and comparative literature from the American University in Cairo, along with a master’s degree in English from New York University. Her research focuses on the intersection between Sufi poetry and Islamic philosophy. She is interested in tracing a conceptual history of the terms “wajd” (ecstasy) and “wujud” (being), specifically how they connect yet differ across Sufism and Islamic philosophy and seek to cultivate a particular kind of Islamic subject. Her project for the Collaborative Public Workshop offers a reading of the representation of love as an ecstatic experience in The Principles of Sufism, a text by prolific writer ‘A’ishah al-Ba‘uniyyah. (Composed by Stephen Woo)

An old Mughal and colonial capital, Lahore — now a city of more than 11 million — is regarded as Pakistan’s cultural capital. Nestled in the heart of old Lahore, in between the gothic edifices of colonial educational institutions and the iconic Bhati Gate neighborhood, is the Urdu Bazaar, a characteristic feature of Lahore and a distinctive site of knowledge production. Consisting of a web of small squares and connected alleyways, this space is home to booksellers, printing presses, workshops, and warehouses. Fiction House is one of the many smaller independent publishers operating in Urdu Bazaar; under the tutelage of renowned local historian, Mubarak Ali, it has been publishing an Urdu historical magazine called Tarīkh (trans. “history”) since the mid-1990s. Composed mainly of translations of renowned academic works across various academic disciplines from English into Urdu, this magazine has more than 60 volumes in circulation and has changed editorial hands twice over the past two decades. By critically examining the change in editorial voices and content across these regime transitions, this paper seeks to highlight competing narratives about the nature of historical knowledge, the impetus behind knowledge production, and what such knowledge does for its intended audience.

Osama Ahmad is a third-year Ph.D. candidate in the history department at Brown University. His work focuses on questions of production, circulation, and transmission of knowledge, especially outside of the traditional academic sphere, in early modern and colonial South Asia. His workshop paper brings together his interest in examining the processes of knowledge production and his affinity with and knowledge of the city of Lahore, where he lived, studied, and taught. Through a critical analysis of Tarīkh, an Urdu historical magazine produced in Lahore’s Urdu Bazar, he reexamines existing conceptions about the figures behind and the social spaces involved in knowledge production in South Asia. Prior to coming to Brown, he earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Lahore University of Management Sciences, and a master of philosophy in modern South Asian studies from Cambridge University. (Composed by Julie Dind)

In this paper, I offer a reading of Hannah Arendt’s engagement with the sensorium. I argue that a reading of her sensorium enables us to theorize her account of politics as being predicated on what we might call an adequate functioning of our sense-perceptions. By “sense-perception” I mean the entwinement between our bodily sensorial apparatus and the historically situated and culturally specific web of intersubjective meaning-making that aids us in “making sense” out of our sensorial stimuli. The qualifier “adequate functioning” is a normative claim related to Arendt’s ontology of plurality. For Arendt, as Cecilia Sjöholm puts it, our senses function adequately if they “implicate, relate to, or sustain plurality.” A democratic politics, therefore, establishes the conditions for sensing plurality. To establish these, Arendt deploys a novel conception of the sensorium, which I call the six-sense sensorium. To the five senses we are familiar with, Arendt adds another: common sense. Common sense is precisely that which fits us for life in plurality by bringing together, on the one hand, our distinct individual senses and, on the other, a community of sensers that have, in Arendt’s terms, “a context in common.” In a modern world without the universal pillars that had previously secured its foundation, common sense might do the crucial task of world-making.

Alberto Alcaraz Escarcega is a third-year Ph.D. candidate in the political science department at Brown University, where he specializes in political theory. Prior to Brown, he received both a B.A. and an M.A. in political science from the University of British Columbia. His current research primarily focuses on the random processes that lead to the sedimentation of political subjectivity, and the multiple sites that lead to its conceptualization as essential and static within an actually plural and amorphous world. He has explored the vectors of these mechanisms through various topics, such as Mexican primary school textbooks and their role in the formulation of a hegemonic, nationalist identity; the language politics of hip-hop and its emancipatory potential; as well as the emanation of stimuli from the cellphone and their incorporation into the perception of the political self. For the collaborative humanities workshop, he is exploring Hannah Arendt’s six-sense sensorium, which includes the five senses and her idea of common sense, and how the latter predicates the political functionality of the self and of society. (Composed by Isabel Farías Velasco)

In tonal music familiar for a Western listener, syntax builds musical tension and establishes direction. This goal-oriented quality of music has been criticized, compared to the capitalist structure of society, and suggested to be eliminated by different composers and scholars. The condemnation of the goal-orientation model in tonal music is so prevalent that it may leave an impression that teleology and tonality are inextricably linked. Yet, these critiques are largely founded on a distinctly Western notion of teleology, one that is necessarily limited and leads to reductive analyses. As an alternative, I suggest a multilayered understanding of teleology where different parameters of music could be teleological or non-teleological within the same piece, allowing us to determine a piece’s legibility outside the limits of the Western conceptual framework. Additionally, I suggest expanding the notion of a musical goal from being solely cornered within musical syntax to including the perception of the listener, that is, viewing a goal as a state of being throughout the length of the musical piece rather than a conclusive moment. I will draw on sources such as creative works and writings by Julius Eastman, Morton Feldman, Tōru Takemitsu, and James Tenney.

Inga Chinilina is a composer and third-year Ph.D. student in the Music and Multimedia Composition program in the music department. Inga received an undergraduate degree in piano performance and composition from Berklee College of Music. She also received an MFA degree from Brandeis University in music theory and composition. As a composer, she works with live electronics to create interactive musical systems mostly with acoustic instruments. Her scholarly interests center around the relationship between music creation and society, particularly focused on how social practices and ideologies influence musical context, syntax, and form. Her collaborative humanities project disrupts the dichotomy between teleological and non-teleological temporalities in music. Instead, she argues for a multilayered approach where both teleologies can co-exist in a single composition. (Composed by Mariam Abou-Kathir)

This paper is an exploration of gender in the Punjabi folkloric story of Dulla Bhatti. The story is based on a figure who lived and rebelled against the Mughal empire, specifically the emperor Akbar. Dulla is often recalled as a Robin Hood-esque figure, who took from the authorities and gave to the needy. The focus of this paper is on the women in the story, such as Dulla’s mother, Laddi, and the way in which they are integral to the narrative. I also use the central character to think about masculinity and how that influences his actions within Punjabi society. As a Punjabi myself, I also engage with my own memories and interactions with the characters of this folkloric story.

Tara Dhaliwal is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Religious Studies in the Islam, Society, and Culture track. She earned her B.A. at New York University in Middle Eastern and Islamic studies and politics and her A.M. at Harvard University in Middle Eastern studies. Her research interests include folklore, non-human animals, and storytelling. Her project is a reading of the role of gender in the Punjabi story of Dulla Bhatti. She uses a methodology of reading against the grain to focus on the role of women and masculinity in the various iterations of the story of Dulla Bhatti. In addition to attempting to address the gaps regarding women in the historical archive, her reading also positions oral stories and folklore as alternative histories of place. (Composed by Heather Lawrence)

This paper offers an autistic reflection on what it means to film “autistically.” While mainstream cinema tends to center neurotypicality — cinematic language often amounting to neurotypical cinematic language — some experimental filmmakers have sought a cinematic language functioning otherwise, in and on autistic terms. My exploration of autistic filmmaking centers the filmic practice of autistic “voodler” Rolf Gerstlauer. My discussion also engages the camering (in French, “camérer”) work of French educator, filmmaker, and writer Fernand Deligny, who dedicated part of his life to living in the close presence of autistic individuals, as well as his writings on autism and the image. I attend to the resonances between camering and voodling and autistic ways of being, sensing, seeing, and perceiving. In Gerstlauer’s and in Deligny’s work, filming allows one to find closeness with autistic seeing. I propose that voodling, as it manifests in the work of Gerstlauer — as a form of autistic filmmaking — opens up a space for autistic ways of seeing, sensing, and being.

Julie Dind is a Ph.D. candidate in Theater Arts and Performance Studies (TAPS) at Brown University. She has a B.A. in psychology from Toulouse University, France, and an M.A. in international culture and communication studies from Waseda University, Japan. She attended Pratt Institute’s MFA in Performance and Performance Studies program as a Fulbright scholar. She also holds an advanced certificate in disability studies from CUNY. Her research is centered around being a neurodivergent (autistic) scholar in a neurotypical space. Through her work, she wants to reclaim and pay attention to autistic ways of being, moving, gesturing, and sensing. She is a butoh dancer, and her work also explores “butoh-ing” alongside “voodling” as some forms of expression that are not tied exclusively to language. She is concerned with the friction between language and the body, especially the autistic body. (Composed by Tara Dhaliwal)

Between 1530 and 1555, an anonymous Nahua scholar penned the Vocabulario trilingüe (Ayer M.S 1478), a pirated version of Antonio Elio de Nebrija’s Vocabulario de romance en latín, that contains over 10 thousand Spanish to Latin to Nahuatl entries. In 1541, Juan de Tlaxcala produced the first Nahuatl to Latin translation written by a native of Mexico for a legal case concerning 21 tracts of land in Tula, an “alepetl” (ethnic city-state) located in the modern-day state of Hidalgo. Together, these two texts present a unique opportunity to examine the reception of classics in colonial Latin America, an area of study that has commonly interpreted the transposition of Greco-Roman antiquity as an awkward imposition that could orient a European epistemology unsettled by the “discovery” of America. These multilingual documents display not only how the Nahuas wielded this imposition and decoded it in their own terms, but also how identities dangerously blended as different languages began to cross-pollinate with one another, both in the linguistic and cultural realms. This paper therefore aims to analyze the dynamics behind the approximation of these three languages, and argues that their imposed proximity created fertile ground for a restructured topography of antiquity that rendered the agents of the colonial encounter less foreign to one another, but simultaneously more foreign to themselves.

Isabel Farías Velasco is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Comparative Literature. Her research is primarily focused on Latin American literature, and among the themes that occupy it are reception studies, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, and (self) translation. She approaches these themes through a concentration on trilingual texts in Nahautl, Latin, and Spanish, and engages with the effects that these languages had on the linguistic, social, and spatiotemporal landscape in 16th- and 17th-century colonial Mexico. In her own words, she is interested in the hierarchy of language, and “how this hierarchy can be manipulated by different agents.” Her dissertation project, tentatively titled “Outlandish Tongues: Translation and the Rearticulation of Power in Early Modern Mexico,” engages with this question as well. Prior to her studies at Brown University, she earned a degree in ancient studies with a focus on Greek and Latin from Barnard College at Columbia University. (Composed by Lee Gilboa)

Working-class tenements in 19th-century Berlin were notoriously wretched. Sociological reports and surveys from the turn of the 20th century recalled economic miseries from mass evictions to the health crisis of rising infant mortality. Urban legends depicted the working-class home as a breeding ground for vice and, gradually, the deterioration of the family. The artist Heinrich Zille grew up in the tenements of Berlin’s eastern districts, and at the start of the 20th century, became one of the most prolific chroniclers of working-class life in the city. Affectionately titled the “Homeland Artist,” he depicted in his work not just the ills of life for the poor, but rather provided first-person perspectives to the intimate spaces, traditions, and joy he experienced in his childhood. Scholarship has largely highlighted his role in illustrating the development of a Berliner identity, but has given less attention to the role of spaces, particularly the home, in his milieu of the working-class world. “The Home of Heinrich Zille” outlines the artist’s multiple uses of the home — as site for care, cultural production, and discourse — providing a new shape to tenement narratives.

Norman L. Frazier is a Ph.D. student in the history department at Brown University. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in German studies from Loyola University, Chicago. While an undergraduate, he studied at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität in Freiburg, Germany. His research focuses on the history of nationalism and the politics of sound in 19th-century Germany. He examines spaces and built environments, particularly within cities, where notions of “Germanness” were negotiated along lines of class, region, and religion. His project “The Home of Heinrich Zille: Tenements in Working-Class Berlin, 1853–1926” considers nationhood within the acoustic world and everyday music practices of Berlin tenements in the late 19th century. This project seeks to explore the everyday experience of working-class tenement life in 19th-century Berlin. “The Home of Heinrich Zille” examines the role of the home in Zille’s work, not as just a place of misery and economic turmoil, but a site of cultural production and identity formation. (Composed by Inga Chinilina)

The insertion of the voice into the legal sphere dates back to the 18th century, during the days of the French Revolution. Yet, the role that vocality assumes in the act of transmitting an oral testimony is often overlooked, or falls unheard. In this essay, I engage with the work that the voice does in the scene of the oral testimony, as well as the ways in which the voice is heard within this scene. I approach this theme through the coerced confession of Central Park Five member Korey Wise, and bring myself to this essay as an active listener. Thinking with Fred Moten’s notion of the accompaniment, Giorgio Agamben’s work on the witness and the archive, and Adriana Cavarero’s work on vocal uniqueness, I offer a methodology for listening to and transcribing oral testimonies in a way that aims to be accountable both to the voice itself and to the language it uses in order to transmit the testimony. Through this methodology, I hope to think of the relationship between the language of speech and the nonlanguage of the voice.

Lee Gilboa is a U.S.-based Israeli composer, researcher, and audio engineer. In her work, she uses speech, audio spatialization, and vocal processing, and engages with different themes around the sonic identity such as naming, representation, collectivity, oppression, and self-expression. Her works have been presented at Roulette Intermedium, the Immersion Room in NYU, the Cube at Virginia Tech, Ars Electronica Forum Wallis Festival, and NYCEMF, among others, and in conferences such as the Audio Testimonies Symposium, Borderline Sonorities, and the Sound of Sound Studies. Her current project, “Against the Odds: Listening for Vocality and Heardness in Oral Testimonies,” considers the wide combination of ears and listening filters within the juridical sphere and the positionality of “listening from.” She holds degrees from Berklee College of Music and Columbia University and currently serves as an assistant professor of electronic production and design at Berklee College of Music. (Composed by Norman Frazier)

Conceptualizations of time have been one of the casualties of sociology’s “imperial entanglements” (to use George Steinmetz’s term) and racial capitalist underpinnings. Yet time is an essential part of our social life, was a key conceptual and disciplinary mechanism of European imperial rule by difference, and is still used to discipline and dispossess marginalized subjects. In this paper, I explore what decolonizing ideas of temporality may do to the study of migrants and refugees who cross borders, wait indefinitely at refugee camps and detention centers, and are evaluated by judges, asylum officials, and other bureaucratic and state officials as either potential forward-thinking citizen-workers or as backward-facing burdens. I do this by using three imagined examples based on case studies at the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, the world’s largest refugee complex housing more than a million people, that address birth rates and governmental contraceptive interventions, the disruption of “ancient” tracks elephants use to travel between watering holes, and the imagined future of Rohingya children living outside Bangladesh. I demonstrate that although the evaluation and valuation processes faced by the refugees are dictated by the Eurochronological spatio-temporal logics of racial capitalism, the refugees themselves occupy multiple temporal regimes in their everyday lives and envision futures that are markedly different from the one projected for them by the Bangladeshi state.

Nabila Islam is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology at Brown University. Previously, she received B.A.s from York University and an A.M. from Brown University. Her scholarly interests are wide-ranging, a reflection of her interdisciplinary background in political science, history, and sociology. Her research focuses on carcerality and abolition, the inextricable role South Asia has played in the making of the modern world and vice versa, and the entanglements of settler-colonialism and racial capitalism. Her project for the collaborative humanities workshop extends these concerns to the role that time plays in sociology as an academic discipline and connects them with her activism and dissertation work with migrant and refugee communities in the U.S. and Bangladesh. She argues that sociology, owing to the discipline’s racial capitalist underpinnings and through its self-definition as a science of modernity, reifies a conception of time as linear and developmental. A more capacious engagement with temporality, therefore, might serve to advance the ethical and intellectual agenda of post/decolonial sociology. (Composed by Alberto Alcaraz Escarcega)

The relationship between media, especially cinema, and cities is subject to anthropological and media studies inquiries alike. Based on two years of ethnographic research in Cairo’s media industry, this paper focuses on the labor relations of exterior filming in Cairo’s media industry which moves across different city geographies, from the slum to the elite gated community and everywhere in between. These labor relations defy the binaries of formal/informal as well as exploitation/resistance because they retain their communal dependencies while multiplying and growing substantially to factor in the media industry’s economy and simultaneously create alternative circuits of livelihood. The paper aims to further challenge and complicate dominant conceptions of resistance and politics by accounting for the nuances of urban labor precarity in its interface with neoliberalism, especially as they manifest in the condensed reality of media-making.

Mariz Kelada is a doctoral candidate in anthropology and an M.A. student in modern culture and media. She also has an M.A. in sociology and anthropology from the American University in Cairo. She has been a cultural worker in Cairo since 2010 and served in a range of roles in media production. Her interdisciplinary training and broad interests in the invisible labor of media workers, alternative forms of politics, and urban precarity inform her Cogut workshop project titled “Media’s Extramoral Politics: Infrastructures of Filming in Cairo’s Streets.” In her paper, she utilizes the hyper-condensed daily realities of exterior filming to give tangible recognition to the ways in which politics manifest in laboring lives, in terms of sensibilities and strategies of generating/co-opting the value of labor-power, calculation of contempt and compliance within communities, and the subversion of urban time and space, all in order to “make a living.” The paper aims to examine whether an understanding of precarious laborers’ tactics and mechanics can inform an alternative conception of politics that is more attuned to the ambivalences and contradictions of life within neoliberal capitalism. (Composed by Nabila Islam)

This paper argues that the late 2010s viral video trend of alliteratively nicknamed White women (“Permit Patty,” “Cornerstore Caroline,” etc.) calling the police on Black people and the current Karen meme share an origin as part of a Black project of complaint. This paper links these memes to Simone Browne’s concept of “dark sousveillance,” arguing that, rather than rendering Black people out of sight of the White gaze, the Karen and Permit Patty memes instead aim to make Whiteness visible in a society where Whiteness is perceived as default. This visibility is achieved by placing White women acting as agents of White supremacy “on trial” via the viral image. As a practice of Black complaint, the circulation of these memes seeks to legitimize the injuries of quotidian anti-Blackness and demand redress that is often denied by the American justice system. However, this analysis is further complicated by the shift in the Karen meme’s reception and use by non-Black publics, raising the question of how effectively these memes are heard as complaints. This paper asks, if we cannot rely on the logics of visibility, exposure, and injury to achieve justice for anti-Black violence, what is left for the project of Black complaint?

Heather Lawrence is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University. She holds a B.A. in English and sociology from the College of William and Mary in Virginia. Her work explores how the claim to injury and demand for redress circulate and shape the structures of new media, with a focus on how these claims and technologies operate within racial and gendered structures of meaning. She is interested in the media epistemologies of spectacle and event and the social formations that comprise a public and its literal and digital platforms. She takes as case study the rise of online conspiracy theories, mis/disinformation, and the dissemination of information on the internet. Her project for the Cogut workshop is titled “White Womanhood on Trial.” It is concerned with the mediated configurations of white woman/motherhood and the shifting gendered and racial registers in which the bad comportment of white women caught on camera harassing Black people is put on trial. (Composed by Sherena Razek)

This paper is concerned with the contemporary film, farming, and soil smuggling practices of Rana Nazzal, Larissa Sansour, and Vivien Sansour, three Palestinian women artists and activists whose chosen mediums and subjects are seeds and soil. Thinking elementally, as Denise Ferreira da Silva proposes in her short essay “On Heat,” the paper follows the land-oriented practices of the aforementioned artists into the subterranean. It is posited against the logic of consequential time, which has left Palestinians at a historical moment of impasse, abandoned in the space between their inevitable extinction and their denied existence. In the alternative temporalities invoked in the work of Nazzal, L. Sansour, and V. Sansour, the underground manifests as a material and metaphorical site of gestation for a nascent Palestinian future-oriented otherwise that is not yet able to survive on the surface of the earth where settlements and assemblages of racial capital continue to govern the globe. Seeds and soil become arbiters of a Palestinian visual culture postulated against the settler colonial complexes of violent visuality and hypersurveillance that suspend Palestine and the Palestinians in a state of impossibility.

Sherena Razek is a Ph.D candidate in the Department of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University, and holds a master’s degree in art history from the University of British Columbia. She is also an active organizer of the Graduate Student Labor Organization. Razek’s research continually focuses on the resistant potentialities of Palestinian arts and cultural production broadly. She centers the processes of decolonization and creatively sheds light on the intersections between Palestinian, Indigenous, and Black struggles. Her recent article “From Ongoing Nakba to a Palestinian Hydro-commons: Reading the Jordan River and the Dead Sea as Ecopolitical Refusal” is published in the edited volume Ephemeral Coast: Visualizing Coastal Climate Change (Vernon Press, 2022). The project that she developed for the Cogut workshop, “On Seeds and Soil,” continues to expand on the concept of ecopolitical refusal and challenging assumptions of universal time. The paper looks at the radical political possibilities that can be inspired and learned form a subterranean reading of the materiality of land in the contemporary film, farming, and soil smuggling practices of Larissa Sansour, Vivien Sansour, and Rana Nazzal, three Palestinian women artists and activists whose chosen mediums and subjects are seeds and soil. (Composed by Mariz Kelada)

Within abolitionist scholarship that charts and impugns the carceral state, there remains an ongoing aporia, namely the inability to fully comprehend or ever pinpoint what Ruth Wilson Gilmore describes as the “breath-taking structure” of mass incarceration and how its logic of “un-freedom” seeps into the everyday. At its base, this critical impasse denotes a problem of scale. Along with this incapacity to localize the entirety of what Gilmore terms “carceral geographies,” thinkers from Michel Foucault to Angela Y. Davis moreover understand incarceration in terms of vision or perception. These questions of both scale and visual perception motivate this paper, which analyzes the Garrett Bradley documentary Time (2020) and its spatial framing of carceral temporality via the filmic closeup. In dialogue with theories of the closeup, the essay interrogates cinema as a technology of scale, movement, vision, and time that informs or colludes with carceral capitalism. Theoretical links between carceral and cinematic time as such emerge with attention to the closeup, yet the argument contends that Bradley nonetheless reinvests in cinematic form — and that which lies beyond its framing — to imagine what Gilles Deleuze calls a “radical Elsewhere” that might cohere in the beyond of carceral geographies.

Stephen Woo is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University. He holds a bachelor’s degree in film studies and American studies from Cornell University. In 2021, he received the Albert Spaulding Cook Prize in the Department of Comparative Literature for a paper titled “Diciembres: Re-Documenting the U.S. Invasion of Panama Amidst the Contact Zone.” He works on film theory and global cinema, particularly regarding questions of trauma, race, colonialism, and sex. He aims to think critically about defining and deconstructing key concepts as well as the normative understandings that undergird them. For his workshop paper, he closely examines Garrett Bradley’s documentary film Time, focusing on theories of cinematic form and what form reveals about cinema as a technology in relation to the carceral state. (Composed by Osama Ahmad)

Moderator and Commentator Bios

Amanda Anderson is Director of the Cogut Institute for the Humanities and Andrew W. Mellon Professor of English and Humanities. Her research focuses on broad questions of intellectual history, disciplinary formation, and the relations among literature, moral life, and politics. She is the host of the podcast Meeting Street: Conversations in the Humanities, and her books include Character: Three Inquiries in Literary Studies (University of Chicago Press, TRIOS series, 2019; with Rita Felski and Toril Moi), Psyche and Ethos: Moral Life After Psychology (Oxford University Press, 2018), Bleak Liberalism (University of Chicago Press, 2016), The Way We Argue Now: A Study in the Cultures of Theory (Princeton University Press, 2006), The Powers of Distance: Cosmopolitanism and the Cultivation of Detachment (Princeton University Press, 2001), and Tainted Souls and Painted Faces: The Rhetoric of Fallenness in Victorian Culture (Cornell University Press, 1993). She is co-editor of George Eliot: A Companion (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013) and Disciplinarity at the Fin de Siècle (Princeton University Press, 2002).

Shahzad Bashir is Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Humanities and Professor of History and Religious Studies at Brown. He has worked on topics concerned with history and historiography, Persian poetry, the study of Sufism and Shi’ism, messianic movements originating in Islamic contexts, and religious representations of corporeality. His most recent publications include The Market in Poetry in the Persian World (Cambridge University Press, 2021) and the digital book A New Vision for Islamic Pasts and Futures (MIT Press, 2022). He is an associate editor of the journal History and Theory and edits the book series Islamic Humanities (University of California Press).

Webb Keane is the George Herbert Mead Collegiate Professor of social-cultural and linguistic anthropology at the University of Michigan, with additional affiliations with the Interdisciplinary Program in Anthropology and History and the Center for Southeast Asian Studies. His interests range across social and cultural theory; the philosophical foundations of the human sciences; religion and ethics; semiotics and language; material culture, exchange, and value theory; and Southeast Asian ethnography and history. He is author of Ethical Life: Its Natural and Social Histories (Princeton University Press, 2016), Christian Moderns: Freedom and Fetish in the Mission Encounter (University of California Press, 2007), and Signs of Recognition: Powers and Hazards of Representation in an Indonesian Society (University of California Press, 1997), and co-editor of The Handbook of Material Culture (SAGE Publications, 2013). He has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Study, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and has been a Visiting Fellow Commoner at Trinity College, Cambridge.

Mara Mills is Associate Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. She is a co-founder and editorial board member for the journal Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience. Most recently, she is the co-editor of Testing Hearing: The Making of Modern Aurality (Oxford University Press, 2020), Crip Authorship: Disability as Method (NYU Press, 2023), and a special issue of Osiris on “Disability and the History of Science” (2023). With Jonathan Sterne, she is writing a book on the history of time-stretching. She is co-founder and co-director of the NYU Center for Disability Studies, where she is currently PI for the NSF-funded project “How to be Disabled in a Pandemic” and co-PI (with PI Simi Linton) on the Ford and Mellon-funded "Proclaiming Disability Arts.”

Kevin Quashie teaches black cultural and literary studies and is Professor of English at Brown University. Primarily, he focuses on black feminism, queer studies, and aesthetics, especially poetics. He is the author or editor of four books, most recently The Sovereignty of Quiet: Beyond Resistance in Black Culture (Rutgers University Press, 2012) and Black Aliveness, or A Poetics of Being (Duke University Press, 2021). Currently, he is thinking about a book of black sentences and black ideas.

Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg works on the literature, culture, and politics of 19th- and 20th-century Italy and Germany. She received her B.A. (Hons.) from the University of Essex, Great Britain, her Ph.D. in political science from Yale University, and her M.A. in German studies from Cornell University. After teaching at Cornell University, she came to Brown in 2005. Her book Sublime Surrender: Male Masochism at the Fin-de-Siecle was published by Cornell University Press in 1998. Her second book on the construction of modern Italian identity in the post-Unification period, titled The Pinocchio Effect: On Making Italians (1860–1930), was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2007. The book was awarded the Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Best Manuscript in Italian Studies by the Modern Language Association. In Italy it was published to critical acclaim as L’effetto Pinocchio by Elliot Edizioni in October 2011. Her third book, titled Impious Fidelity: Anna Freud, Psychoanalysis, Politics, was published by Cornell University Press in 2012. She is currently working on a manuscript with the working title “Grounds for Reclamation: Fascism, Postfascism, and the Question of Consent.” This project has been supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship.