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.