A photo of Professor Nidhi Mahajan, facing the camera and smiling.

May 1, 2019 — Nidhi Mahajan: “Moorings: Trade Networks and States in the Western Indian Ocean”

Sailing vessels or dhows have long connected different parts of the western Indian Ocean, transporting goods, and people across South Asia, the Middle East and East Africa. These dhows now function as an economy of arbitrage, servicing minor ports in times of conflict. This talk focuses on the contemporary dhow trade, centered in port cities such as Dubai and Sharjah that have “free trade” policies. I argue that these notions of free trade are entangled with war, conflict, and broader geopolitical concerns across the Indian Ocean region.

Nidhi Mahajan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at UCSC. She is also principal faculty in the Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Program. Her work examines how vernacular Indian Ocean trade networks articulate with regional and global circuits of capital.

Date/Time

May 1, 2019 | 12:00 PM
Free and open to the public

Venue/Location

Humanities Building 1, Room 210
University of California, Santa Cruz

A black and white photo of Professor Banu Bargu. She is looking to the right of the frame, and is standing in front of a brick wall.

May 8, 2019 — Banu Bargu: “Catching a Moving Train: Decolonizing Aleatory Materialism”

This paper analyzes Althusser’s proposal for an aleatory materialism through his engagement with historical materialism, and particularly with Marx on “primitive accumulation.” It identifies two different legacies of Marx’s reflections on the origins of capitalism and discusses how Althusser attempted to rework Marx to reach a non-teleological conception of history. At the same time, taking both thinkers to task on their approach to colonialism, and especially settler colonialism, the paper moves toward decolonizing the aleatory materialist imaginary.

Banu Bargu is associate professor of History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is a political theorist, with a focus on modern and contemporary political thought and critical theory. Bargu is the author of Starve and Immolate: The Politics of Human Weapons (Columbia UP, 2014), which received APSA’s First Book Prize given by the Foundations of Political Theory section and was named an Outstanding Academic Title by Choice. She is the editor of Turkey’s Necropolitical Laboratory: Democracy, Violence, and Resistance (Edinburgh UP, forthcoming in 2019) and co-editor of Feminism, Capitalism, and Critique (Palgrave, 2017). Her next book, Friends of the Earth: Althusser and the Critique of Teleological Reason, is forthcoming from Columbia University Press in 2020.

Date/Time

May 8, 2019 | 12:00 PM
Free and open to the public

Venue/Location

Humanities Building 1, Room 210
University of California, Santa Cruz

A photo of a mural depicting a man in profile.

May 15, 2019 — David Kazanjian: “‘I am he:’ Revising the Theory of Dispossession from Colonial Yucatán”

In this paper, Kazanjian examines a legal case involving an enslaved Afro-diasporan named Juan Patricio and a Mayan woman named Fabiana Pech from turn-of-the-eighteenth-century Yucatán. The case challenges a fundamental presupposition of many contemporary theories of dispossession: namely, that the dispossessed had prior possession over that which was stolen from them by their dispossessors. Like a number of other such cases Kazanjian has been examining from the 17th and 18th centuries, in this case those who were dispossessed do not make claims about prior possession. Rather, both Juan Patricio and Fabiana Pech seem to have lived dispossession outside the terms of possession as such, critiquing and countering their dispossession in ways that call for a revision of contemporary understandings of dispossession. Kazanjian suggests we read the archive of a case like this for alternative theories of dispossession as well as as-yet-unrealized anti-dispossessive politics.

David Kazanjian is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his PhD from the Rhetoric Department at the University of California, Berkeley, his M.A. in Critical Theory from the University of Sussex, and his B.A. in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University. His areas of specialization are transnational American literary and historical studies through the nineteenth century, Latin American studies (especially eighteenth and nineteenth-century Mexico), political philosophy, continental philosophy, colonial discourse studies, and Armenian diaspora studies. He is a member of the organizing collectives of the journal Social Text and of the Tepoztlán Institute for Transnational History of the Americas, and is co-director of the Tepoztlán Institute from 2017-2019. He is the author of The Colonizing Trick: National Culture and Imperial Citizenship in Early America (Minnesota) and The Brink of Freedom: Improvising Life in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World (Duke). He has co-edited (with David L. Eng) Loss: The Politics of Mourning (California), as well as (with Shay Brawn, Bonnie Dow, Lisa Maria Hogeland, Mary Klages, Deb Meem, and Rhonda Pettit) The Aunt Lute Anthology of U.S. Women Writers, Volume One: Seventeenth through Nineteenth Centuries (Aunt Lute Books). He is currently at work on two monographs. The first sets radical aesthetics in the contemporary Armenian diaspora against the diaspora’s melancholically nationalist understandings of genocide. The second finds anti-foundationalist critiques of dispossession in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth-century Afro-Indigenous Atlantic.

Date/Time

May 15, 2019 | 12:00 PM
Free and open to the public

Venue/Location

Humanities Building 1, Room 210
University of California, Santa Cruz

Co-sponsored by the Departments of Feminist Studies, History, Literature, Politics, the Program in Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, the Research Center for the Americas, and Associate Professor Gina Dent. 

An illustration featuring Don Quixote wearing armor and riding on a horse. His sidekick, Sancho Panza, rides a donkey next to him. Above his head is text in Arabic

May 22, 2019 — Shadi Rohana: “Cervantes and the Arabs: Don Quixote in Translation”

The modern Arab reader cannot be indifferent when reading a novel like Don Quixote. Through its geography, historical context, characters and language, the novel evokes to the modern reader one of the Arabs’ most splendorous historical episodes: Al Andalus. This talk traces the Arab and Andalusian presence in Cervantes’ Don Quixote from 1605, and how this presence was later translated into modern Arabic during the 20th century. The talk will also discuss the reception of Don Quixote in varios Arabic speaking contexts.

Shadi Rohana is a Mexico City-based literary translator, translating between Arabic, Spanish and English. He has introduced and translated a number of Latin American authors from Spanish to Arabic, as well as speeches and declarations from the EZLN in Chiapas. He pursued Latin American Studies in the United States (Swarthmore College) and Mexico (UNAM), and is currently a full-time faculty member at the Center for Asian and African Studies at El Colegio de México, where he teaches Arabic language and literature. The Arabic translation of José Emilio Pacheco’s Las batallas en el desierto (Palestine, 2016) was his first novel-length work.

Date/Time

May 22, 2019 | 12:00 PM
Free and open to the public

Venue/Location

Humanities Building 1, Room 210
University of California, Santa Cruz

Co-sponsored by the Humanities Institute

A photo of the Geneva UN building

May 29, 2019 — Ashwini Tambe: “Tropical Exceptions: Racial Logics in Twentieth Century Intergovernmental Age of Consent Debates”

Legal age standards for sexual maturity are challenging enough to devise at the state or national level, but they are especially contentious at the intergovernmental level. Efforts at setting common standards have often been marked by imperial logics on the part of those proposing common standards and misgivings on the part of those most affected. Tambe’s talk traces how intergovernmental efforts at setting common age standards for sexual consent and marriage occasioned elaborate posturing and coding of racial difference. In the two cases she discusses —League of Nations conventions on trafficking in the 1920s and United Nations conventions on marriage in the 1950s— she shows how the proceedings staged contests between competing imperialisms and foregrounded moral differences between parts of the world. In effect, seemingly neutral age categories became a means to express geopolitical hierarchies and undercut formal liberal relationships of equivalence.

Ashwini Tambe is Associate Professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland-College Park and affiliate faculty in the History department and Asian American Studies program. She is also the editorial director of Feminist Studies, the oldest US journal of feminist interdisciplinary scholarship. Her interests include transnational feminist theory, modern South Asian history, and sexuality studies. Her previous books are Codes of Misconduct:Regulating Prostitution in Late Colonial Bombay (2009, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press/New Delhi: Zubaan) and The Limits of Colonial Control in South Asia: Spaces of Disorder in the Indian Ocean (2008, London: Routledge) coedited with Harald Fischer-Tiné. Her recent articles have spanned topics such as population and age of marriage (Women’s Studies International Forum 2014), climatology in scientific racism (Theory, Culture and Society, 2011), interdisciplinary approaches to feminist state theory (Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 2010), economic liberalization and sexual liberalism in contemporary India (Economic and Political Weekly, 2010), and the long record of transnational approaches in feminist scholarship (New Global Studies, 2010). Her current work, supported by SSHRC and NEH grants, examines the legal paradoxes in age standards for sexual consent in India; her forthcoming book on the subject is Defining Girlhood in India: A Transnational History of Sexual Maturity Laws (2019, University of Illinois Press). She is also co-editing a volume on the history and future of transnational feminist theory with Millie Thayer titled Transnational Feminist Itineraries.

Date/Time

May 29, 2019 | 12:00 PM
Free and open to the public

Venue/Location

Humanities Building 1, Room 210
University of California, Santa Cruz

Co-sponsored by the Center for Emerging Worlds

A headshot of Professor Massimiliano Tomba wearing a scarf and glasses, standing in front of a building.

January 23, 2019 — Massimiliano Tomba: “Insurgent Universality. An Alternative Legacy of Modernity”

Insurgent Universality offers a new way of thinking political universality that radically differs from the legal universalism of human rights and cosmopolitanism. Assuming a conception of history that is not linear but articulated in a multiverse of historical temporalities, Insurgent Universality excavates an alternative trajectory of modernity, which originally bridges European and non-European political experiments.

Massimiliano Tomba is Professor of the History of Consciousness Department at University of California, Santa Cruz. His work aims at reconsidering predominant schemes of interpretation in political theory and universal history in order to open up political trajectories of modernity which constitute the terrain for an alternative canon. His publications include Krise und Kritik bei Bruno Bauer. Kategorien des Politischen im nachhegelschen Denken, trans. L. Schröder, Frankfurt am Main, Peter Lang, 2005; La vera politica. Kant e Benjamin: la possibilità della giustizia, Macerata, Quodlibet, 2006; Marx’s Temporalities, trans. Sara Farris and Peter Thomas, Leiden, Brill, 2013; Attraverso la piccola porta. Quattro studi su Walter Benjamin. Milano, Mimesis, 2017.


Date/Time

January 23, 2019 | 12:00 PM
Free and open to the public

Venue/Location

Humanities Building 1, Room 210
University of California, Santa Cruz

The cover of Leta Hong Fincher's book called Betraying Big Brother. The cover photo depicts three Chinese women protesting.

January 30, 2019 — Leta Hong Fincher: “The Feminist Awakening in China”

On the eve of International Women’s Day in 2015, the Chinese government arrested five feminist activists and jailed them for thirty-seven days. The Feminist Five became a global cause célèbre, with Hillary Clinton speaking out on their behalf and activists inundating social media with #FreetheFive messages. But the Five are only symbols of a much larger feminist movement of university students, labor activists, civil rights lawyers, performance artists, and online warriors prompting an unprecedented awakening among young Chinese women. In Betraying Big Brother, journalist and scholar Leta Hong Fincher argues that the popular, broad-based movement poses the greatest challenge to China’s authoritarian state today.

Through interviews with the Feminist Five and other leading Chinese activists, Hong Fincher illuminates both the difficulties they face and their “joy of betraying Big Brother,” as one of the Feminist Five wrote of the defiance she felt during her detention. Tracing the rise of a new feminist consciousness now finding expression through the #MeToo movement, and describing how the Communist Party has suppressed the history of its own feminist struggles, Betraying Big Brother is a story of how the movement against patriarchy could reconfigure China and the world.

Leta Hong Fincher is a journalist, scholar and author of Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in China (Verso 2018), which was named one of Vanity Fair‘s top eight political books of fall 2018. Dr. Hong Fincher has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, Dissent Magazine, Ms. Magazine and others. She won the Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award for her China reporting and is the first American to receive a Ph.D. from Tsinghua University’s Department of Sociology in Beijing. She also has a master’s degree from Stanford University and a bachelor’s degree with high honors from Harvard University. Her first book was the critically acclaimed Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China (Zed 2014). Hong Fincher was a Mellon Visiting Assistant Professor at Columbia University and recently moved to New York.


Date/Time

January 30, 2019 | 12:00 PM
Free and open to the public

Venue/Location

Humanities Building 1, Room 210
University of California, Santa Cruz

 

A photo of Prof Desmond Jagmohan

February 6, 2019 — Desmond Jagmohan: “Candor and Courage: Ida B. Wells and Fearless Speech”

This paper explicates Ida B. Wells’s argument that journalists and leaders have a moral obligation to speak fearlessly. To do so, Jagmohan unearths the normative relationship between candor, courage, and duty underlying Wells’ anti-lynching editorials and reporting during the Progressive Era. First, he recounts Wells’ argument that “yellow” and impartial journalism are, in different ways, responsible for the precipitous rise in the lynching of African Americans at the turn of the century. Yellow journalism uses sensationalism to fuel whites’ fear and anxiety and, at times, goes so far as to coordinate lynchings. The more fact-driven and impartial journalism of the New York Times does no such thing. But it substitutes cold facts for moral courage and thus shirks an important social responsibility. Second, and drawing on work by Michel Foucault, Jagmohan contends that her willingness to risk death to expose the true causes of lynching to help others see their way toward justice and away from injustice exemplifies fearless speech, or what the ancients called parrhesia. Third, he questions whether intrepid speech can be a moral obligation for journalists and leaders living under extreme persecution.

Desmond Jagmohan is an Assistant Professor in the Politics Department at Princeton University. He researches and teaches history of political theory, and he works primarily in the areas of American and African American political thought. He also has interests in slavery and modern political thought and historical methods. At the moment, he is completing his first book, which is titled Dark Virtues: Booker T. Washington’s Tragic Realism. Based on several years of archival research, the book recovers an unseen Booker T. Washington. It reconstructs his political ethics, including his moral defense of equivocation, concealment, and deception as political virtues under conditions of extremity. His second project takes up Harriet Jacobs’ slave narrative to look at the broader philosophical relationship between property, personhood, and moral agency in the context of nineteenth-century American slavery. His work has been published in Perspectives on Politics; Politics, Groups, and Identities; and Contemporary Political Theory.


Date/Time

February 6, 2019 | 12:00 PM
Free and open to the public

Venue/Location

Humanities Building 1, Room 210
University of California, Santa Cruz

A headshot of Professor Laurie Palmer

February 13, 2019 — A. Laurie Palmer: “Public Sun”

This talk traces connections between oil, sun, and distributed forms of power by discussing three in-process projects: a large-scale model of California, a book on lichen, and a public tribunal charging private property for crimes against the common.

A. Laurie Palmer ’s place-based work takes form as sculpture, public projects, and writing, and she collaborates on strategic actions in the contexts of social and environmental justice. Her book In the Aura of a Hole: Exploring Sites of Material Extraction (2014) investigates what happens to places where materials are removed from the ground, and how these materials, once liberated, move between the earth and our bodies. She is currently researching the shapes and structures of underground oil shale formations and continuing to develop work on The Lichen Museum, a massively distributed, inside-out institution that considers this slow, resistant, adaptive and collective organism as an anti-capitalist companion and climate change survivor.

Date/Time

February 13, 2019 | 12:00 PM
Free and open to the public

Venue/Location

Humanities Building 1, Room 210
University of California, Santa Cruz

A photo of sand dunes in the desert

February 20, 2019 — Jerry Zee: “Continent in Dust: China in Aerosol Phases”

This talk offers a political anthropology of strange weather. As Chinese deserts increasingly appear as latent dust storms, it tracks geo-meteorological phase shifts as they rework contemporary land and air into a substantial continuum. It tracks territorial governance as it shifts into experimental formations that draw into the choreographies of sand, wind, and dust that they seek to re-engineer.

Jerry Zee is an assistant professor at UCSC’s Anthropology Department. His work considers experiments in politics and environments in China’s meteorological contemporary.


Date/Time

February 20, 2019 | 12:00 PM
Free and open to the public

Venue/Location

Humanities Building 1, Room 210
University of California, Santa Cruz

Photo by Boris Ulzibat