September 19 - 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. Steven H. Corey (HHSS Chair) and Jaafar Aksikas (Director, Program in Cultural Studies) will address questions about the department and the program respectively.
October 3 - 4:00 pmDon Hedrick
Professor of English and Cultural Studies, Director of the Cultural Studies Program, Kansas State University
“The Cultural Turn: Early Modern LasVegasization and the "Inner Vegas"
The discipline of contemporary Cultural Studies has made inroads in a variety of fields, including earlier historical ones. "Presentist" theory suggests that we can only know the past through our present interests and perspectives. Hedrick's current research rethinks the early London "entertainment industry" in its "Las Vegas" dimensions with cultural and Marxist tools, as a cultural revolution with an "entertainment unconscious" that one can unpack in William Shakespeare's works.
Don Hedrick is Professor of English and Cultural Studies and Director of the Cultural Studies Program at Kansas State University. He is the departmental Shakespearean, and has published in Shakespeare and Renaissance Studies, and teaches courses in Cultural Studies, film, popular culture, language, horror and violence, and gender. He is author of numerous works, including the original Shakespeare Without Class: Misappropriations of Cultural Capital with Bryan Reynolds (2000). He was founding director of the department's Program in Cultural Studies; has been a visiting professor at Cornell University, Colgate University, and Amherst College; was a recent Fulbright Scholar at Charles University in Prague; and has directed student tours to London and Prague. He is also a former elected member of the Executive Board of the Cultural Studies Association (CSA).
October 17 - 3:30 pm
Washington, DC Correspondent for The Nation magazine and Associate Editor of the Capital Times, Madison, WI
Robert W. McChesney
Gutgsell Endowed Professor, Department of Communication, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
“The Digital Disconnect and The Dollarocracy: Advocating for 21st Century Democracy and Democratic Media”
Robert McChesney and John Nichols are co-founders of Free Press, a non-profit group that advocates for universal and affordable Internet access, diverse media ownership, vibrant public media and quality journalism. Their research, writing, and advocacy are central to the national movement to reform our media in the service of democracy. They join us in this colloquium to explore their latest scholarship on two of the major trends in the U.S. “fourth estate:” the ambivalent promise of digital media and the growing threat of corporate money in media, elections, and politics. In Dollarocracy, political journalist John Nichols and media critic Robert W. McChesney blend reporting from the 2012 campaign trail and their perspectives from decades covering American and international media and politics, to reveal how big spending in recent elections has come to delude the democratic system. This, paired with the declining power of the news media, has made for an easy structure of manipulation in America. With reports and research on “money-and-media election complex” McChesney and Nichols argue that “money-power” does not just endanger electoral politics; it poses a challenge to the DNA of American democracy itself. In his latest book, Digital Disconnect, McChesney examines the relationship between economic power and the digital world. Capitalism’s colonization of the Internet has had unforeseen effects on the integrity of journalism and privacy rights. Authors Bob McChesney and John Nichols provide the tools and urge readers to reclaim the digital revolution - and combat the “money-power” in elections - while it is still possible. This colloquium event promises to be a poignant synthesis of rigorous research, politically-committed scholarship, and practical activist advice.
John Nichols is The Nation magazine’s Washington, DC correspondent. A pioneering political blogger, he has written the magazine’s “Online Beat” column since 1999. A contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times, he is also the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers and he is a frequent guest on radio and television programs as a commentator on politics and media issues. Of Nichols, author Gore Vidal said: “Of all the giant slayers now afoot in the great American desert John Nichols’s sword is the sharpest.”
Robert W. McChesney is the Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the author or editor of 23 books. His work has been translated into 30 languages. He is the co-founder of Free Press (http://www.freepress.net/) a national media reform organization. Trained at the University of Washington (Ph.D, 1989), McChesney hosts the program Media Matters on WILL-AM every Sunday afternoon from 1-2pm central time. In 2008, the Utne Reader listed McChesney among their “50 visionaries who are changing the world.”
October 24 - 4:00 pmSmita A. Rahman
Assistant Professor of Political Science, DePauw University
"Secular Time and the Politics of Renewal"
This presentation explores the question, to what extent is it possible to speak of secular time, of a homogeneous experience of time in which we can universally participate? Dr. Rahman begins by examining Charles Taylor’s account of secular time as “profane” time, as linear and sequential and emptied of its metaphysical connection to the divine. This image of time takes on an interesting hue when it is juxtaposed with the contemporary discourse of the West’s relationship with the Islamic world. In recent years, the Islamic world has been characterized as a monolithic whole, that is anti-modern by dint of what is perceived to be a broad rejection of secularism, that yearns for a fossilized past and remains hopelessly anachronistic in its refusal or inability to experience and inhabit secular time. In order to explore this temporal tension, Dr. Rahman examines the writings of Sayyid Qutb, who provides a complex temporal perspective by arguing for a renewal of the Islamic tradition and by mounting a critique of the idea of progress that sustains secular time, insisting instead on the revival of the past to energize the present in order to open up the possibility of a utopian future. By reading Qutb alongside Taylor’s account of homogeneous secular time, she aims to explore the insufficiency of such an image of time for a complex and interdependent world of difference.
Smita A. Rahman is Assistant Professor of Political Science at DePauw University, where she teaches courses in modern, contemporary, and Muslim Political Thought. She received her PhD in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University. Her work is at the intersection of contemporary and comparative political theory. In particular, Dr. Rahman is interested in exploring how foundational concepts in political theory rupture and become contested in a globalized world of difference. She is currently working on a book project entitled, Out of Joint: Time, Memory, and the Politics of Contingency that examines the role of time and memory in our understanding of contemporary politics. She is also conducting research in the area of Muslim Political Thought, focusing on the debates around secularism and modernity in Political Islam. Her articles and reviews have appeared in journals, such as Contemporary Political Theory, Theory and Event, and the Journal of Islamic Law and Culture.
November 7 - 4:00 pm
"Rethinking the Humanities: Reflections on the Future of the Humanities, Cultural Studies, and the Liberal Arts Today” A Roundtable
This roundtable, which brings together in one place a group of original and thoughtful leaders in contemporary cultural studies and humanities scholarship, seeks to invite critical reflections on the pasts(s), present(s), and future(s) of the humanities, liberal arts, the arts, and contemporary cultural studies in the context of the current historical conjuncture, one characterized by crises and uncertainties of all kinds: social, economic, political, cultural, institutional, educational, and intellectual.
Featured speakers include Walter Benn Michaels, Toby Miller, and Jaafar Aksikas.Walter Benn Michaels
“Good Riddance to the Humanities!"
In this presentation, well-known English Studies scholar Walter Benn Michaels argues that the significance of the debate over the future of the humanities has nothing to do with which side you're on; instead, it's all about the value of asking the wrong question as a way of making sure that no one gets the right answer. In this paper, Professor Benn Michaels will analyze the comfort we take in worrying about the humanities and discuss some of the problems that worry makes invisible.
Walter Benn Michaels is Professor of English and Literary Theory at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is known as one of the founders (with Stephen Greenblatt) of New Historicism. He is the author of several books, including The Gold Standard and the Logic of Naturalism: American Literature at the Turn of the Century (1987); Our America: Nativism, Modernism and Pluralism (1995); The Shape of the Signifier: 1967 to the End of History (2004); and The Trouble with Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality (2006). Michaels’s work has generated a set of arguments and questions around a host of issues that are central to the humanities, cultural studies: problems of culture and race, identities national and personal, the difference between memory and history, disagreement and difference, and meaning and intention in interpretation.Toby Miller
“Blow Up the Humanities!”
In his short, sharp, and provocative book, Blow Up the Humanities, esteemed scholar Toby Miller declares that there are two humanities in the United States. One is the venerable, powerful humanities of private universities; the other is the humanities of state schools, which focus mainly on job prospects. There is a class division between the two - both in terms of faculty research and student background - and it must end. Professor Miller critically lays waste to the system. He examines scholarly publishing, as well as media and cultural studies to show how to restructure the humanities by studying popular cultural phenomena, like video games. Miller ultimately insists that these two humanities must merge in order to survive and succeed in producing an aware and concerned citizenry.
Toby Miller is a British-Australian-US interdisciplinary social scientist. He is the author and editor of over 30 books, has published essays in more than 100 journals and edited collections, and is a frequent guest commentator on television and radio programs. His teaching and research cover the media, sports, labor, gender, race, citizenship, politics, and cultural policy. Miller's work has been translated into Chinese, Japanese, Swedish, German, Turkish, Spanish and Portuguese. Among his books, SportSex was a Choice Outstanding Title for 2002, A Companion to Film Theory a Choice Outstanding Title for 2004. His most recent are Greening the Media and Blow Up the Humanities (both 2012). Born in the United Kingdom and brought up in England, India, and Australia, Miller earned a B.A. in history and political science at the Australian National University in 1980 and a Ph.D. in philosophy and communication studies at Murdoch University in 1991. He taught at Murdoch, Griffith University, and the University of New South Wales and was a professor at New York University from 1993 to 2004, when he joined the University of California, Riverside. Miller is currently Distinguished Professor of Media & Cultural Studies at the University of California-Riverside.Jaafar Aksikas
“Higher Education Under Fire: On the Crisis of Public Intellectuals and the Future of Cultural Studies in the United States”
Was higher education ever “free of” or without crisis? If not, what is then specific about its current crises? What are some of the central tasks of educators and public intellectuals/scholarship today? Cultural Studies scholar and President Elect of the Cultural Studies Association Jaafar Aksikas, addresses these questions in the context of the current historical conjuncture, one that has been characterized by organic and conjunctural crises and uncertainties of all kinds: social, economic, political, cultural, institutional, educational, and intellectual. He argues that intellectual work matters and that progressive education cannot be reduced to mere “job training” and to the acquisition and mastery of a set of fixed skills and techniques. Nor can colleges and universities be reduced to being “investment opportunities,” where students are now called “customers,” and professors “academic entrepreneurs” and presidents “CEOs” respectively. For Aksikas, one of the primary tasks facing educators, community activists and artists, and students, among others, should center on developing new academic and intellectual projects and practices that provide students, among other things, with the educational opportunities and experiences to learn about and engage in the experience of substantive democracy and critical/global citizenship.
Jaafar Aksikas is Associate Professor in Humanities at Columbia College Chicago. He is also Vice-President and President Elect of the Cultural Studies Association (CSA). His books include Arab Modernities (2009) and The Sirah of Antar: An Interpretation of Arab and Islamic History (2002). Most recently, he has edited an inaugural special issue on the culture and media industries, entitled Culture Industries: Critical Interventions (2011), as well as a special issue on engaged and community-based forms of cultural studies scholarship, entitled Critical Purchase in Neoliberal Times, both for the Cultural Studies Association Journal Lateral. He is currently at work on a co-edited (with Sean J. Andrews) special issue, Cultural Studies of/and the Law, for the international journal, Cultural Studies, and completing a book project entitled Practicing Cultural Studies. He has taught, researched, and published widely in the fields of Cultural Studies, media and culture industry studies, critical legal and policy studies, American Studies, and Middle Eastern studies. He also serves on the editorial boards of Cultural Studies and Lateral journals. He has received numerous awards, including the GMU VISION Award (2003) and the Marquis Who is Who in America Honor (2009). He is also a member of Phi Beta Delta Honor Society for International Scholars. He is the Founding and General Editor of Cultural Landscapes, the Founding Coordinator for Columbia’s Cultural Studies Colloquium Series, and serves as a member of the Illinois Network on Islam and Muslim Societies. He has also served as consultant for lawyers and media on issues relating to Middle Eastern and North African cultures and politics.
November 14 - 4:00 pmSean Johnson Andrews
"Digital Humanities, Intellectual Labor, and the Dehumanization of U.S. Higher Education”
Our system of higher education in the United States is at a crossroads. On the one hand, serious scholars are using digital technology to enhance their ability to algorithmically analyze vast quantities of data, illuminating facets of the humanities that we couldn’t otherwise understand. Major projects are helping us understand the intellectual pedigree of the enlightenment, the patterns of slave emancipation during the civil war, and the broad interest among the public to be involved in our collective intellectual labors - through Wikipedia and crowd-sourced archive transcription, tagging, and digitization. Sincere pedagogues like George Siemens started the first MOOCs to connect their students with a broader community of learners - flipping the classroom so that the learning also happened in those interconnections, guided by the professor. But on the other hand, these emergent learning and research systems are being instrumentalized by venture capital firms bent on sopping up what is left of the education budgets at the federal, state, and family level - filling a vacuum left by economic crisis, the consequential collapse in that education spending, and the receding for-profit education sector. These firm’s involvement goes beyond simple investment, with the Gates Foundation leading the charge to “disrupt” higher education - largely by displacing unionized and/or tenured labor with precariously-employed independent contractors. This talk will adopt a Cultural Studies framework to look at the promise of some of these technologies and the threat of the way they are being implemented, with California as the prime example.
Sean Johnson Andrews is Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies and the Humanities at Columbia College Chicago. He teaches courses on Cultural Studies methods and methodologies, media studies, cyberculture, and the digital humanities. His dissertation research is on the cultural production of intellectual property rights. He has been on academic leave for two years, completing an American Council of Learned Societies fellowship with the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education. This talk is a synthesis of his academic background and fellowship experience.
November 21 - 4:00 pmRobert E. Watkins
“Politics and the Cinema of Precarity"
Films both reflect and construct social reality, especially in the way they employ, affirm and critique the discourses through which we grasp political and economic life. The discourse of precarity addresses how economic crisis becomes ordinary and uncertainty becomes inescapable for too many workers today. Examining the feature film Wendy and Lucy (2008), Watkins argues that the film is captivating for the way in which it addresses and makes visible some of the ways in which precarity is lived in today’s America -- where it’s hard enough just to stay afloat, much less get ahead.
Robert E. Watkins is Associate Professor of Political Science and Cultural Studies at Columbia College Chicago, where he teaches courses in political theory, international relations, and cultural studies. He earned his PhD and MA degrees in political science from the University of Pennsylvania and his BA in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University. He has presented numerous papers at the annual meetings of the American Political Science Association, the Western Political Science Association, and the Midwest Political Science Association. His work has appeared in journals such as Political Theory and History of the Human Sciences. His forthcoming book Freedom and Vengeance on Film uses contemporary films to explore the limits of the myth of American individualism—specifically focusing on how individuals are always seeking independence in a world inescapably built on dependence and perpetually exercising their free choice in circumstances not of their own choosing.
February 27 - 4:00 pmAdam Kotsko
“Creepiness and Culture"In recent years, Adam Kotsko has been tracing a path through popular culture guided by negative character traits, starting with Awkwardness and moving on to Why We Love Sociopaths. Now he intends to complete the trilogy by exploring the worst character trait of all -- creepiness. Bringing together Walter White, Lena Dunham, and Sigmund Freud, this talk will explore the ways we experience creepiness, in others and in ourselves.
Adam Kotsko is Assistant Professor of Humanities at Shimer College in Chicago. He is the author of Why We Love Sociopaths, Awkwardness, Politics of Redemption, and Zizek and Theology, as well as the translator of several works by Giorgio Agamben.
March 13 - 4:00 pm
"Of Dolls and Dogs: The 1990s, Japan's Fiscal Crisis and the Maternal Comforts of the Posthuman"
This talk explores how the social anxieties that accompanied Japan's economic crisis and unprecedented population decline have been mediated partly by (commodity) dolls and dogs. These latter have figured as important objects of pleasure and comfort partly because of the nature of the commodity form. Commodities are owned, a relational quality that affords the consumer material control over the life and meaning of the purchase. Dr. Nast begins by overviewing how Japan's fiscal crisis of the 1990s changed the impetus behind the nation's falling fertility rates. Whereas in the industrial past, declines were tied to the lessening need for (industrial) labor and the rise of a middle class, rates fell during and after the crisis for different reasons. The latter had largely to do with the demise of Japan's "salaryman" - a male worker guaranteed firm-based employment for life; it was around him that a plethora of normatively gendered and sexualized desires revolved; and it was through him that much of Japan's economic and cultural landscape assumed its discursive and material stability. His demise saw significant nested social dislocation and trauma, especially in relation to heteromasculinity. The remainder of the talk explores some of the most dramatic manifestations of male trauma that followed the crisis, including rising rates of male suicide and social withdrawal, as well as the rise of male-oriented doll cultures, of which there are many. Dr. Nast goes on to explore how the crisis comparatively improved women's economic lives and how their success led many to decide against a traditional home-bound life of marriage, husband, and children. Many women began engaging in recreational rather than procreational sex or abstained from sex altogether, with some young women dressing-up as, or becoming, asexual dolls. Many women likewise developed commodity-bound attachments to small dogs.
Heidi J. Nast is Professor of International Studies at DePaul University and a 2013-14 Fellow at DePaul's Humanities Center. She is interested in how the political and cultural economy of fertility varies across agrarian, industrial, and contemporary capitalist contexts and how these shape normative ontologies of difference and social relations. Her first singly authored book, Concubines and Power (2005) explores royal concubine life in the largest Islamic palace of West Africa from 1500 to 1900. It demonstrated that the agrarian state used (royal concubine) fertility to consolidate territory through the making of kinship-based marriage alliances with royal children. Her forthcoming book, Petifilia, explores how the 19th century standardization cum racialization of the modern pet body intersected the standardizing, racializing narratives and projects of industrialization and imperialism. It also surveys how falling fertility rates today have accompanied the regionally uneven burgeoning of multi-billion dollar pet industries worldwide, their rise tracking neoliberalism's heightening of local and global inequalities. She is currently working on the second volume of Petifilia, part of which explores the pet industry of four nation states, including Japan. She has published widely in African studies, psychoanalysis, political economy, animal-human relations, and critical race theory.
March 20 - 4:00 pmBhaskar Sunkara
"The Next Left"After being set back for a generation by the legacy of Stalinism, the collapse of European social democracy, and the ebbing of the social movements of the 1960s, the Left seems to once again have some life. The emergence of Occupy Wall Street, local electoral success for progressives, and poll after poll on attitudes towards economic inequality and redistribution shows that young people are, if not yet ready to embrace, more willing to entertain radical thought. In this talk, Bhaskar Sunkara will discuss the lineages of the emergent socialist sensibility, how it differs from those that came before it - such as the New Left of the U.S. and U.K. - and the role left-wing publications can play in this growth.
Bhaskar Sunkara is the founding editor of Jacobin magazine and a senior editor at In These Times. He contributes to The Nation, VICE, and The Guardian, among other outlets.
Pre-reading: "Beyond Social Democracy," by Ralph Miliband and Marcel Liebman
April 3 - 4:00 pm
Pia Møller with Sean Johnson Andrews and Jaafar Aksikas
"Towards a Cultural Studies Of/And the Law: Culture, Law, and 'The Juridical Turn' in the Neoliberal Era"
"Cultural Studies After 'The Juridical Turn': A Few Thoughts on Law, Culture, and the Neoliberal State Today"
Associate Professor of Cultural Studies, Columbia College Chicago
Given the special significance and place of the law in the United States - where battles over larger social issues are increasingly and remarkably fought in courtrooms rather than in legislatures or the public sphere - it is critical that law and the legal be subjected to critical scholarly analysis and interrogation. Panics about gay marriage and sharia law, and controversies over torture, immigration, illegal rendition and wiretapping, corporate personhood, financial regulation, and intellectual property rights all point to areas of United States culture where the legal is seen as the primary - if not the dominant - field where political - hegemonic and counter-hegemonic - struggles are taking and should take place. The role of culture here is significant, and it is high time contemporary Cultural Studies developed a robust approach to what Aksikas calls here and elsewhere (with Sean Andrews) "the juridical turn" and the complex, dialectical nexus between culture, society, law, and the state. Aksikas seeks, among other things, to intervene into and help better define the emergent field of cultural studies of the law and also to interrogate the substantial role law plays in the production of our social and cultural worlds and our subjectivities.
Jaafar Aksikas is Associate Professor of Cultural Studies at Columbia College Chicago, where he was Director of the Cultural Studies Program from 2010 to 2013. He is also Vice President and President-Elect of the Cultural Studies Association (CSA). His books include Arab Modernities (2009) and The Sirah of Antar: An Interpretation of Arab and Islamic History (2002). He is also editor of a number of edited collections, including the co-edited volume, Cultural Studies of/and the Law, for the international journal, Cultural Studies (2014); the inaugural special issue on the culture and media industries, entitled Culture Industries: Critical Interventions (2011) and a special issue on engaged and community-based forms of cultural studies scholarship, entitled Critical Purchase in Neoliberal Times (2013), both for the Cultural Studies Association Journal Lateral. He is currently at work on a co-authored book (with Sean J. Andrews and Donald Hedrick) on the methodology and epistemology of research in Cultural Studies, entitled Practicing Cultural Studies (under review with Sage). He has taught, researched, and published widely in the fields of Cultural Studies, media and culture industry studies, critical legal and policy studies, American Studies, and Middle Eastern studies. He also serves on the editorial boards of Cultural Studies and Lateral journals. He has received numerous awards, including the George Mason University VISION Award. He is also a member of Phi Beta Delta Honor Society for International Scholars. He is the Founding and General Editor of Cultural Landscapes, the Founding Coordinator for Columbia College's Cultural Studies Colloquium Series, and serves as a member of the Illinois Network of Islam and Muslim Societies. He has also served as consultant for lawyers and media on issues relating to Middle Eastern and North African cultures and politics.
"Culture, Contract, Privatization, and the Law: A Cultural Studies Intervention"Sean Johnson Andrews
Sean Johnson Andrews is Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies and the Humanities at Columbia College Chicago. His current research is at the intersection of the cultural production of intellectual property rights, digital humanities, culture and the law, and cultural research methods. He is co-editor (with Jaafar Aksikas) of Cultural Studies of/and the Law, a special journal issue for the international journal, Cultural Studies (2014). He is currently at work on a co-authored book (with Jaafar Aksikas and Donald Hedrick) on the methodology and epistemology of research in Cultural Studies, entitled Practicing Cultural Studies. He has just completed a two-year American Council of Learned Societies fellowship with the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education.
"Restoring Law and (Racial) Order: A Cultural Studies Analysis of Localized Anti-Immigration Legislation"
Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
This presentation takes a cultural studies approach to the analysis of localized anti-immigration law-making. In 2006, when Congressional proposals to enact comprehensive immigration reform floundered, towns and counties across the United States began adopting "illegal immigration relief" ordinances. By restricting the access of undocumented residents to housing, jobs, and social services, these laws were devised to drive out undocumented immigrant residents who were cast as a fiscal and social burden. Despite their undeniably racial effects, anti-immigration ordinances are rarely treated as racist in any substantial sense. Racism is not a central topic in academic treatments of these laws, nor was racism cited as a factor in the legal challenges that helped overturn many of them. Troubled by what she sees as a problematic eschewal of race and racism, Møller brings the insights of critical race theory to bear on anti-immigration law-making. In her talk, she will discuss her case study of the anti-immigrant campaign in Prince William County, Virginia. Specifically, she will explicate how white property owners seek to erase their own material privileges as beneficiaries of the racial state by adopting a colorblind vocabulary and by rewriting U.S. history to conjure up images of a post-racial America. Based on her analysis, she proposes that localized anti-immigration politics are part of a larger (white) racial reaction to the gains of the civil rights movement and to the perceived decline of white supremacy.
Dr. Pia Møller is Visiting Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies at the Honors College, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she teaches U.S. immigration history, race and ethnic relations, globalization, gender, and representation. Her research is concerned with the criminalization and racialization of undocumented immigrants in present-day United States. Her work has appeared in the anthology The Politics, Economy, and Culture of Mexican-U.S. Migration: Both Sides of the Border (Palgrave Macmillan) and in ISLE (Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment).
In 1907, Chicago became the first city in the country to adopt a motion picture censorship ordinance. The law required that any film screened in a commercial theater within the city limits first secure a permit from the chief of police. The police commissioner or his appointees could deny permits to movies that contained obscenity, endangered public order or that disparaged particular ethnic, racial or religious groups. They could also issue pink "adult only" permits for films deemed unfit for children. For much of the life of the ordinance, the police chief's censorship power was vested in a board of censors made up of widows of Chicago police officers and career politicians and chaired by a specially chosen police deputy. Over the course of its eight decade-long existence, the Chicago film censor board banned hundreds of films and ordered cuts of particular scenes or dialogue as a condition for receiving a permit to thousands more. Civil liberties groups, reform-minded alderman and defiant filmmakers from time to time fought back against the board's heavy-handed control over the city's movie screens. Yet, amazingly, the board continued to operate until the early 1980s, despite the fact that a series of unfavorable Supreme Court rulings in the 1950s and 1960s severely curtailed its legal authority to regulate movie exhibition in the city. Drawing on extensive archival research, this presentation traces the history of film censorship in the city, examines in detail the sorts of films that attracted the ire of the censors, details some of the more noteworthy political and legal battles fought over board's decisions and considers why film censorship persisted in Chicago as long as it did.
Steve Macek is Associate Professor of Speech Communication and Coordinator of Urban and Suburban Studies at North Central College in Naperville, IL. He is author of Urban Nightmares: The Media, the Right and the Moral Panic Over the City (University of Minnesota Press) and editor of Marxism and Communication: The Point is to Change It (Peter Lang). He is currently working on a critical history of media in Chicago.
Brian Failing is a senior at North Central College where he majors in Urban and Suburban Studies and History. He has served as a summer research assistant on Dr. Macek's project "Chicago Media: Newsreels, Movies and Censorship" and has conducted research across the disciplines of Speech Communication, History, and Sociology. Failing is also the curator of the Museums at Lisle Station Park in Lisle, IL.
The 2012 Chicago Teachers Union strike was America's most important domestic labor struggle in decades. The teachers took on the bipartisan, free market school reform agenda that is currently exacerbating inequality in education and waging war on teachers' livelihoods. In an age of austerity, when the public sector is under attack, Chicago teachers fought back on behalf of themselves and their students - and won. But the strike didn't happen spontaneously. As Micah Uetricht chronicles in his forthcoming book, Strike for America, Chicago teachers spent years building a grassroots movement to educate and organize the entire union membership alongside communities, and failed a time or two along the way. They stood up against hostile mayors, billionaire-backed reformers out to destroy unions, and even their own intransigent union leadership to take militant action.
Chicago teachers offer a model for how school reform can be led by teachers and communities - not by cooperating with the forces that want to see them destroyed, but taking those forces head-on while offering their own vision of what reform should look like. And the story of the CTU is an instructionary tale for those looking to create democratic, fighting unions. Strike for America is the story of this movement and how it triumphed. In this final colloquium, on May Day, Micah Uetricht will share this story with us, possibly joined by representatives of the CTU.
Micah Uetricht is a contributing editor at Jacobin magazine. He has written for The Nation, The Guardian, Dissent, Al Jazeera America, The Chicago Reader, and elsewhere, and is a contributing editor at In These Times. He worked as a labor organizer for three years in Chicago.