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Columbia College Chicago
2012/2013 Series
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2012/2013 Series

 

All events are free, open to the public, and take place at 624 S Michigan Ave., Collins Hall, Room 602 

2012

September 20 - 4:00 pm

Cultural Studies Students, Faculty, and Staff

Meet and Greet Reception

The Cultural Studies Program will host a "Meet and Greet Reception" to welcome new and current Cultural Studies majors, minors, faculty, and staff. This gives all the members of the Cultural Studies community the opportunity to meet, learn more about, and connect with each other and the program. This will also be a great opportunity to meet the new Chair of the HHSS Department, Dr. Steven Corey, and hear his vision for the Department and the Cultural Studies Program. Steven Corey (HHSS Chair) and Jaafar Aksikas (Director, Cultural Studies Program) will address questions about the department and the program, respectively. 

 

September 27 - 4:00 pm

Michelle Yates

Lecturer in Cultural Studies, Columbia College Chicago

"WALL-E, Waste, and Environmentalism in the Popular Imagination"

This paper uses an approach I call green Marxist cultural studies as a way of understanding and critiquing the dominant discourses embodied in a particular critically acclaimed film, WALL-E (2008). WALL-Eoffers a myth characteristic of mainstream environmentalism, what Carolyn Merchant (2004, 1996), calls an "Edenic recovery narrative" that ultimately embraces, even takes for granted and naturalizes, two of the fundamental capitalist social categories that I argue are at the root of contemporary environmental crisis: labor and the commodity form. While critics and scholars argue that the film contains a powerful environmentalist message, I show that WALL-E's environmentalism is powerful because it mirrors popular and mainstream environmental discourses that are ineffective at getting at the root cause of contemporary environmental degradation. Though WALL-Eseemingly offers a dystopian, post-apocalyptic vision of what will happen if humans continue to consume and waste at our current rates, the film's narrative structure ultimately points us toward continuing to live our lives just the way we currently are. Thus, WALL-E (and other films like WALL-E) functions as an ideological tool that masks both the character of contemporary ecological crisis and any kind of radical politics that might critique the roots of this crisis.

Michelle Yates received her Ph.D. in Cultural Studies from the University of California, Davis in June 2012. Dr. Yates' dissertation, titled "Ecological Crisis: Nature, Labor, and the Historical Specificity of Capitalism," draws on a methodology she calls green Marxist cultural studies in order to demonstrate how the ecological is intimately linked to the political, economic, and cultural aspects of American social life. She is currently a Lecturer in Cultural Studies at Columbia College Chicago.

Pre-reading article: "The Politics of the Natural in U.S. History and Popular Culture"

Optional reading: "Reinventing Eden: Western Culture as a Recovery Narrative" by Carolyn Merchant

 

October 4 - 4:00 pm

Jamil Khoury
Founding Artistic Director, Silk Road Rising

"Not Quite White: Arabs, Slavs, and the Contours of Contested Whiteness: Screening and Discussion"

Not Quite White: Arabs, Slavs, and the Contours of Contested Whitenessis a film directed by Jamil Khoury and Stephen Combs, dedicated to a vision of whiteness that is anti-racist and rooted in economic justice. Not Quite Whiteexpands the American conversation on race by zeroing in on whiteness as a constructed social and political category, a slippery slope that historically played favorites, advantaging Northern and Western European immigrants over immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe and the Middle East. Inspired by Jamil Khoury's short play WASP: White Arab Slovak Pole, Not Quite White integrates scenes from WASP alongside interviews with Arab American and Polish American academics who reflect upon contested and probationary categories of whiteness and the use of anti-Black racism as a "whitening" dye. In Not Quite White, Silk Road Rising Artistic Director Jamil Khoury draws upon his own Arab (Syrian) and Slavic (Polish and Slovak) heritage as the lens through which to investigate the broader issue of immigrants achieving whiteness and hence qualifying as "fully American." The film advances society's ongoing conversations about the meaning of whiteness and efforts at redefining whiteness.

Jamil Khoury is Founding Artistic Director of Silk Road Rising (www.silkroadrising.org). Khoury's plays focus on Middle Eastern themes and questions of Diaspora. He is particularly interested in the intersections of culture, national identity, sexuality, and class. Silk Road Rising (formerly known as Silk Road Theatre Project) creates live theatre and online videos that tell stories through primarily Asian American and Middle Eastern American lenses. In representing communities that intersect and overlap, we advance a polycultural worldview. Khoury holds a M.A. degree in Religious Studies from the University of Chicago Divinity School and a B.S. degree in International Relations from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. He is a Kellogg Executive Scholar (Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University) and has been awarded a Certificate of Professional Achievement in Nonprofit Management. Khoury is the 2010 recipient of the 3Arts Artist Award for Playwriting.

Pre-reading articles: "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" by Peggy McIntosh and David T. Roediger on How Race Survived U.S. History" by Seth Sandronsky

 

October 11 - 4:00 pm

Carmelo Esterrich
Associate Professor of Spanish, Humanities, and Cultural Studies, Columbia College Chicago 

"Singing the City, Documenting Modernization: Cortijo y su combo and the Insertion of the Urban in 1950s Puerto Rican Culture"

From the late 1940s to the early 1960s, Puerto Rico was swept by a hurricane of changes that transformed the island from a predominantly rural society to an unavoidably urban one. A curious paradox, however, ensued: while the island underwent breakneck-speed urbanization, and the rhetoric of modernization and economic development reigned over official discourses of the time, the insular government and some academic circles, even media spaces like radio and television, promoted and sponsored, constructed and naturalized a certain Puerto Rican culture based on rural subjects, practices, and spaces. But some popular music of the time placed itself dramatically opposed to these rural images: the music of one band, perhaps THE band of the 1950s, Cortijo y su combo, with Ismael Rivera as lead singer, documented the conundrums and contradictions of the city. Not only do these recordings alluded directly to San Juan working-class neighborhoods and slums, but they also musicalized the clash caused by the fast modernization of Puerto Rico, including the pressing issues of urban migration. All this, packaged within the deceivingly inoffensive dance popular music of the time: in guaracha, in plena, in mambo, in bomba. The music of Cortijo y su combo is, moreover, a fascinating register of urban Afro-Puerto Rican life, something almost totally absent in the rhetoric and imagery of these years. Their visibility and popularity in these momentous 1950s was vitally important: taking full advantage of the arrival of television, the presence of a predominately black band in this new medium opened the possibility for a redefinition of national culture. If in government rhetoric the slums and the poor citizen were threat and fear-and citizens in erasure-in Cortijo y su combo they are central to the life of a new, urbanizing Puerto Rican culture.

Carmelo Esterrich is Associate Professor of Spanish, Humanities, and Cultural Studies in the Department of Humanities, History, and Social Sciences at Columbia College Chicago, where he regularly teaches "Introduction to Cultural Studies," "Puerto Rican Culture: Negotiation and Resistance," "Cultural Theories," "Post-Colonial Studies," "Revolution and Art: Latin America," and "Latin American Women in the Arts." His research focuses on the cultural and artistic production in Latin America - especially film, literature, and music. Dr. Esterrich is currently finishing the manuscript for a book on the arts produced, distributed, sponsored, and consumed in Puerto Rico during the 1950s. The project, entitled "The Persistence of the Countryside," looks at the complex (and many times contradictory) representations of the rural and urban landscapes of the island - the plantations and the slums, the mountains and the factory, the peasants and the new urbanites - and delves into the national/cultural negotiations between film, literature, and music.

Pre-reading article: "White Riot: Punk Rock and the Politics of Race"

 

October 25 - 4:00 pm

David G. Embrick
Associate Professor of Sociology, Loyola University, Chicago

"Pluralism, Multiculturalism, Diversity, and Inclusion: What's It All Mean in the Post-Civil Rights Era?"

"Diversity" has become one of the most commonly used words in today's U.S. institutions. Indeed, many businesses claim that they have spent millions, sometimes billions of dollars to create an egalitarian workplace for all workers. Given the amount of money spent and the increased amount of research that corporations have done on the issue of diversity, we should expect some progress in terms of equality or equal rights for minority and female workers. However, while there has been a substantial increase in the rise of institutional and social philosophy espousing diversity, there is also overwhelming data that suggests minorities and women are still unable to obtain opportunities or to achieve success at the same rates as their male counterparts. How can we explain the apparent contradictions? Furthermore, why are many institutions that have historically barred minorities and women from their workplace now publicizing their support for racial and gender integration? I suggest that the term "diversity" is used to create an illusion of greater access while in reality protecting white male power. The concept of diversity as used today is a cover for the continuing oppression of racial minorities and females - diversity ideology hides that fact that no change is actually occurring.

Dr. David G. Embrick is an Associate Professor in the Sociology Department at Loyola University, Chicago. He received his Ph.D. from Texas A&M University in 2006. Dr. Embrick has published in a number of journals including Race and Society and Critical Sociology, and is the author of three books, Globalization and America: Race, Human Rights & Inequality, Utopic Dreams and Apocalyptic Fantasies, and Critical Social Policy and Video Game Play. Dr. Embrick's publication has centered largely on the issue of the impact of contemporary forms of racism on people of color. He is the past-chair of the American Sociological Association's Section on Race and Ethnic Minorities and currently the secretary/treasurer of the American Sociological Association's Sociology of Latino/as Section. He is also the current Chair of the Society for the Study of Social Problem's Racial/Ethnic Minorities Division, as well as the Vice President of Publications for the Association of Humanist Sociology and the Vice President of the Southwestern Sociological Association. He has been invited to give talks on his work in a wide range of international and national venues, both academic and public.

Pre-reading article: "The Diversity Ideology: Keeping Major Transnational Corporations White and Male in an Era of Globalization"

 

November 8 - 4:00 pm - PLEASE NOTE: THIS PRESENTATION HAS BEEN CANCELLED

Madhurima Chakraborty
Assistant Professor of English, Columbia College Chicago

"The Shifting Allegiances of the Indian Diaspora: Jhumpa Lahiri's and Mira Nair's The Namesake(s)"

While ostensibly narrating the same story, Lahiri's novel The Namesakeand its film adaptation demonstrate the heterogeneity in Indian diasporic cultural production. The two namesakes present audiences with a discussion of the relationship between cultural authenticity and nostalgia that, beyond being different, are the very reverse of one another's. On the one hand, Lahiri's novel identifies a set of geographically specific Bengali immigrant practices, which might be inflected by a nostalgia for the "home country" but are nonetheless localized linguistically and regionally, as the place where migrants might find respite from rootlessness. On the other hand, Nair's film furthers a nationalistic understanding of traditional roots that is at once more familiar and more elastic, stretching to focalize rituals that are more easily recognizable to cosmopolitan audiences as being generally Indian, rather than specifically Bengali American. Considered together, the novel The Namesake and the film The Namesakeprovide evidence of the ways in which discussions regarding authenticity, tradition, nostalgia, and home persist but are unresolved in the diasporic imagination.  

Madhurima Chakraborty is Assistant Professor of English at Columbia College Chicago, where she teaches a variety of writing and postcolonial literature courses. Her research interests include postcolonial theory and literature, cultural studies, critical theory, and 19th and 20th century British literature. Madhurima got her M.A. from the University of Florida, and her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. She was awarded the Ruth Drake Fellowship for her dissertation, "Resistance Literature and Social Justice: Postcolonial Writing and the 'Idea at the Back of It,'" in which she focuses on postcolonial literatures and their shifting relationships to independence movements. Her essays have been published in South Asian Review and Contemporary Literature.

 

November 29 - 4:00 pm - PLEASE NOTE: THIS PRESENTATION HAS BEEN CANCELLED

Patricia Clough
Professor of Sociology, Women's Studies, and Intercultural Studies, Queen's College and the Graduate School of City University of New York

"Returning Home: The Cultural, the Philosophical and the Psychoanalytic"

In this talk, Professor Clough tells of her project in Corona, Queens New York, a multi-ethnic community, where she grew up. In the past six years, with a team of graduate students and multimedia artists, Clough has been returning to Corona. In those same years, she has been engaged in psychoanalysis, both as an analyst and more recently as a training analyst. At the same time, she also has taken a new turn in critical theory toward a speculative realism. Clough talks about each of her pursuits, how they come together and don't, and in what ways Cultural Studies is a supportive framework with which to manage the tensions and joys of creativity.

Patricia Ticineto Clough is Professor of Sociology and Women's Studies at the Graduate Center and Queens College of the City University of New York. She is the former President of the National Cultural Studies Association. She is author of Autoaffection: Unconscious Thought in the Age of Teletechnology (2000); Feminist Thought: Desire, Power and Academic Discourse (1994) and The End(s) of Ethnography: From Realism to Social Criticism (1998). She is editor of The Affective Turn: Theorizing the Social(2007), and with Craig Willse, editor of Beyond Biopolitics: Essays on the Governance of Life and Death (2011). Clough's work has drawn on theoretical traditions concerned with technology, affect, unconscious processes, timespace and political economy. More recently, she has been creating performance pieces bringing together sound and images with theoretical and autobiographical discourses. Her ongoing research project, Ecstatic Corona: Philosophy and Family Violence, is an ethnographic and historically researched experimental writing project about where she grew up in Queens, New York.

 

December 6 - 4:00 pm

Faculty Research Symposium

The Faculty Research Symposium provides an opportunity for faculty in the Cultural Studies Program and the college to talk about their research and pedagogical practices to colleagues and students.  It is also an opportunity for students to learn more about and connect with faculty in the program and the college.  Faculty presenters will include: Jaafar Aksikas (Cultural Studies), Debra Parr (Fashion Studies and Art History), and Doug Reichert Powell (English and Cultural Studies), and Evin Rodkey (Anthropology).  The speakers will present exciting work that is representative of the depth and breadth, the interdisciplinarity and rigor of our research and pedagogical portfolio.  So please join us as we share our intellectual capital, strengthen our intellectual community, and celebrate some of our faculty’s research accomplishments.

 

2013

February 7 - 4:00 pm

Cultural Studies Students, Faculty, and Staff

Meet and Greet Reception

The Cultural Studies Program will host a "Meet and Greet Reception" to welcome new and current Cultural Studies majors, minors, faculty, and staff. This gives all the members of the Cultural Studies community the opportunity to meet, learn more about, and connect with each other and the program. 

 

February 14 - 4:00 pm

David J. Gunkel
Presidential Teaching Professor, Department of Communication, Northern Illinois University

"Citizen Robot: A Vindication of the Rights of Machines"

Whether we recognize it or not, we are in the midst of a robot invasion. Machines are now everywhere and doing everything. They manufacture our automobiles and other consumer products. They make decisions concerning finances and manage our retirement savings. They play match maker, connecting us to our one true love. And they effectively select the books we read, the music we hear, and the films we watch. As these artifacts increasingly come to occupy influential positions in contemporary culture—positions where they are not just tools or instruments of human action but legitimate social actors in their own right—we will need to ask ourselves some rather difficult questions: At what point might a robot or algorithm be held responsible for the decisions it makes or the actions it deploys? When, in other words, would it make sense to say “It’s the computer’s fault?” Likewise, at what point might we have to seriously consider extending rights—civil, moral and legal standing—to these socially active devices? When, in other words, would it no longer be considered non-sense to suggest something like “equal rights for machines?” Although these questions are a staple in science fiction, we have already passed the tipping point. And this presentation will demonstrate why it not only makes sense to speak of the vindication of the rights of machines but also why avoiding this subject could be considered immoral.

David J. Gunkel is an award winning author and teacher specializing in information technology and ethics. He holds the position of Presidential Teaching Professor in the Department of Communication at Northern Illinois University and is the author of Hacking Cyberspace (Westview, 2001); Thinking Otherwise: Philosophy, Communication, Technology (Purdue University Press, 2007); and The Machine Question: Critical Perspectives on AI, Robots and Ethics (MIT Press, 2012). He is also the founding co-editor of the International Journal of Žižek Studies, co-editor of the book Transgression 2.0: Media, Culture, and the Politics of a Digital Age (Continuum, 2011), and the founding co-editor of the Indiana University Press book series in Digital Game Studies. More information available at http://gunkelweb.com/

 

March 7 - 4:00 pm

Rami Gabriel
Assistant Professor of Psychology, Columbia College Chicago

"Why I Buy: Self, Taste, and Consumer Society in America"

Why do we buy? How do our acts of—and ideas about—consumption impact our selves, our institutions, and our societies? An incisive response to these questions, Why I Buy explains how consumption came to give meaning and value to social and personal life. Balancing psychological, conceptual, and historical analyses with examples drawn from popular culture and mass media, Rami Gabriel traces the ways in which beliefs about the self—including dualism, individualism, and expressivism— influence consumer behavior. These understandings of the self, Gabriel argues, structure the values that Americans seek and find in consumer society; they therefore have structural consequences for our cultural, political, and economic lives. For example, Gabriel describes how imbalances in the institutions of participatory politics have directly resulted from a consumer society centered on powerful nongovernmental institutions and a scattered body of disengaged citizens whose social and individual needs are not primarily satisfied through civic involvement. By exploring the relationship between our individual needs and our institutions, Gabriel ultimately points the way toward transformations that could lead to a more sustaining and sustainable society.

Rami Gabriel is Assistant Professor of Psychology in the Department of Humanities, History, and Social Sciences at Columbia College Chicago.  He holds a PhD and MA from the Cognitive and Perceptual Sciences Psychology Program at University of California, Santa Barbara and a Bachelor’s degree from University of California, Irvine in Psychology. His dissertation was on unconscious emotion in a Prosopagnosic patient. Current research interests include consciousness, the self, affective neuroscience, the philosophy of psychology, nonverbal social communication, and consumer society. His first book, Why I Buy: Self, Taste, and Consumer Society in America, has recently been published by Intellect Press UK and is being distributed in America by University of Chicago Press.  Dr. Gabriel is also a founding fellow at the Columbia College Chicago Liberal Arts and Sciences Research Group in Mind, Science, and Culture (mindscienceculture.com). The group is currently focusing on the evolution of emotion, the philosophy of affective neuroscience, and the evolution of social intelligence.  Rami teaches some well-sought after courses, including “Self and Identity: the Mind–Body Question,” “The Psychology of Consciousness,” “Freud and His Legacy in Twentieth Century Arts,” "Drugs and the Brain," and “Evolution of the Mind” and "Emotions."  Rami is also a  professional musician; he performs locally and nationally on the oud and the guitar. His musical interests center on Middle Eastern classical and folk music, early American jazz and Blues, and musique concrete.

 

March 21 - 4:00 pm

Madhurima Chakraborty
Assistant Professor of English, Columbia College Chicago 

"The Shifting Allegiances of the Indian Diaspora: Jhumpa Lahiri's and Mira Nair's *The Namesake*(s)"

While ostensibly narrating the same story, Lahiri’s novel The Namesake and its film adaptation demonstrate the heterogeneity in Indian diasporic cultural production. The two namesakes present audiences with a discussion of the relationship between cultural authenticity and nostalgia that, beyond being different, are the very reverse of one another’s. On the one hand, Lahiri’s novel identifies a set of geographically specific Bengali immigrant practices, which might be inflected by a nostalgia for the “home country” but are nonetheless localized linguistically and regionally, as the place where migrants might find respite from rootlessness. On the other hand, Nair’s film furthers a nationalistic understanding of traditional roots that is at once more familiar and more elastic, stretching to focalize rituals that are more easily recognizable to cosmopolitan audiences as being generally Indian, rather than specifically Bengali American. Considered together, the novel The Namesake and the film The Namesake provide evidence of the ways in which discussions regarding authenticity, tradition, nostalgia, and home persist but are unresolved in the diasporic imagination.

Madhurima Chakraborty is Assistant Professor of English at Columbia College Chicago, where she teaches a variety of writing, postcolonial literature, and cultural studies courses.   Her research interests include postcolonial theory and literature, cultural studies, critical theory, and 19th and 20th century British literature. Madhurima got her M.A from the University of Florida, and her PhD from the University of Minnesota. She was awarded the Ruth Drake fellowship for her dissertation Resistance Literature and Social Justice: Postcolonial Writing and the 'Idea at the Back of It' in which she focuses on postcolonial literatures and their shifting relationships to independence movements. Her essays have been published in South Asian Review and Contemporary Literature.


 

April 4 - 4:00 pm

Janice Radway
Walter Dill Scott Professor of Communication and Professor of American Studies and Gender Studies, Northwestern University

"Legacies of Dissent:  Making Sense of Girl-Related Zines in the 1990s"

In the 1990s, a number of female punk musicians named themselves “Riot Grrrls” as a way of articulating their anger at the misogyny within the punk scene and beyond. They explored the meaning of their self-styled moniker in lyrics and through deliberately provocative modes of musical performance but also in hand-made, self-published, pamphlets familiarly known now as “girl zines.” When this underground form of publication caught the attention of the mainstream media, many more - often younger - girls took up the form as a way of dealing with their own alienation from normative constructions of femininity then circulating redundantly within family, high school, college, and popular culture contexts. Others openly contested the racialized and class-based assumptions that underwrote some of these self-styled “alternative” publications.  In giving material form to their varying dis-identifications with forms of normativity in the 1990s, these young women created a dissident yet non-homogeneous print culture that brought into being new reading and writing subjects who lived their lives differently not only in the short term but, in the case of many, over the long term as well. Through oral history interviews with former girl zinesters, this presentation seeks to explore the possibilities and problems in inherent categorizing a certain set of zines simply as “girl zines.” Offering the admittedly less felicitous term, “girl-related zines” as something of a substitute, the presentation seeks to explore the significance of that fact that young zinesters traveled a number of different routes and itineraries as they intersected with the world of Riot Grrrl. In doing so, they subjected different forms of identification and identity constructing to searching inquiry and asked quite deliberately about how gender-based “feminist” activism might need to be transformed for the twenty-first century. In effect, this presentation will trace how girl zinesters remade themselves and, in the process, both extended the legacy of feminist activism and altered its relationship to other social and political formations.

Janice Radway is the Walter Dill Scott Professor of Communication and Professor of American Studies and Gender Studies at Northwestern University. Previously, she taught at the University of Pennsylvania in the American Civilization Department and at Duke University in the Literature Program. She received her Ph.D. in English and American Studies from Michigan State University and is past President of the American Studies Association and former editor of American Quarterly. She also received an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree from Uppsala University in Uppsala, Sweden. She is the author of Reading the Romance:  Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature and A Feeling for Books: The Book-of-the-Month Club, Literary Taste and Middle Class Desire. She is co-editor (with Carl Kaestle) of Volume 4 of A History of the Book in America, Print in Motion: The Expansion of Publishing and Reading in the United States, 1880-1940, and, with Kevin Gaines, Barry Shank and Penny Von Eschen, co-editor of American Studies: An Anthology. She is currently working on a book about girl zines, subjectivity, community formation, and the shape of activism in the twenty-first century.

 

April 18 - 4:00 pm

Steven H. Corey
Professor and Chair, Department of Humanities, History, and Social Sciences, Columbia College Chicago

“What is Urban? Tales from the Front-lines”

The question of what defines and characterizes people, places, or things as “urban” underscores the field of urban studies.  Dr. Steven Corey will provide an overview of how assumptions and understandings of “urban” shape contemporary scholarship and political discourse in the United States.  He will highlight theoretical and pedagogical approaches with the work of students and colleagues here at Columbia and his previous institution of Worcester State University as they seek to understand contemporary urban forms and processes, as well as construct and reconfigure innovative academic programs of the field of urban studies.

Steven H. Corey is Professor and Chair of the Department of Humanities, History, and Social Sciences at Columbia College Chicago.  He is co-editor (with Dr. Lisa Krissoff Boehm) of The American Urban Reader: History and Theory (Routledge, 2011), and co-author (with Dr. Elizabeth Fee) of Garbage! The History of Politics and Trash in New York City (New York Public Library, 1994), which won the Katherine Kyes Leab & Daniel J. Leab Exhibition Catalogue Award for Excellence from the American Library Association in 1996. He is currently working with Dr. Krissoff Boehm on a new volume tentatively entitled American’s Urban History (Routledge, forthcoming).  Dr. Corey’s research and teaching interests are in urban, environmental, and cultural studies, public history, social history, and public policy.   Prior to joining Columbia, Dr. Corey served as Professor and Chair of the Department of Urban Studies at Worcester State University, where he earned a reputation for innovative, student-centered pedagogy, receiving that institution’s highest faculty honor, the George I. Alden Award for Excellence in Teaching, in May of 2012. His scholarship on inquiry-based education was also recognized by the American Historical Association in 2011 when it awarded him with the William Gilbert Award for the Best Article on Teaching History for “Pedagogy and Place: Merging Urban and Environmental History with Active Learning,” published in the January, 2010 edition of the Journal of Urban History.

 

May 2 - 4:00 pm

Stephanie Frank
Lecturer in Humanities, Columbia College Chicago

“The 'Force in the Thing': Mauss' Vision of Sociality Without Authority in 'The Gift'”

"What force is there in the thing given that makes the recipient reciprocate it?" Mauss famously asks at the beginning of The Gift. Readings of Mauss' classic have, since Claude Lévi-Strauss' introduction, centered on Mauss' purported answer in hau, a 'spirit' meant to inhabit things given in Polynesian cultures. Frank argues that this represents a dramatic misreading of Mauss' text, which instead is concerned to retrieve paradigms from Roman law to imagine a society that envisions relationships between persons unmediated by authority.

Stephanie Frank is Lecturer in the Humanities at Columbia College Chicago, where she teaches courses in the theory of religion, religion and violence, religion and politics, and world religions.  She is currently completing a Ph.D. in the History of Religions at the University of Chicago.  The title of her dissertation is, “Secularity in Durkheim’s and Mauss’ Imaginings of Sociality and Sociology.”  She also holds an Master's of Philosophy in Philosophical Theology and a Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Political Theory from Oxford University and Williams College respectively.  Her work centers on the intellectual historical valence of secularization and more particularly on the problem of the persistence of theological tropes and arguments in discourse that codes itself as ‘secular.’  She has published on topics from the theological antecedents of Abbé Sieyès’ political theory in the French Revolution to Carl Schmitt’s reading of Hamlet, in journals from Telos to History of European Ideas. She has presented her research at national and international conferences, including Oxford, Frankfurt, Montréal, and Antwerp.  Stephanie is currently at work on a book project considering the methodological divergences between Durkheim and Mauss as they took shape over the first years of the twentieth century as exemplifying two different critiques of religion. It is part of a broader project considering the disciplinarization of the French social sciences as the institutionalization of a secularization narrative--and the implication of the category of secularization in disciplinarity more generally.  Last but not least, Stephanie is a trained classical pianist and a published short fiction writer.