Area Special Events

These events include renowned speakers whose appearance is sponsored by the various areas of inquiry and caucuses represented by the organization.

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American & Diaspora Studies / Global Anglophone / Creative Writing Special Event

Catherine Adoyo, "RAIN: A Song for All and None"

Friday 11 March at 12 PM

Catherine Adoyo.

The first volume in a series that celebrates the culture and aesthetic of traditional storytelling, RAIN: A Song for All and None tells the story of Maya, a Dream Walker whose empathic abilities allow her to experience human history with atemporal immediacy. The Dante Today bulletin describes Adoyo’s RAIN as “an astonishing new genre-bending novel that channels Dante’s voice in its vision, passion, and scope. Rain dramatizes a transnational and trans-historic cross-temporal vision of human history, centering oral tradition to articulate an incisive interrogation of the Euro-centric narrative of history and myths of colonial conquest.” RAIN's transcultural and transhistorical song repudiates the whitewashed European myth of a beneficent “Age of Discovery” by unmasking the willful savagery and terror of colonizing invaders. The opening epigraph quotes Chinua Achebe — “Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter,” — and makes it clear that the story is conceived in the tradition of writers like Achebe and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o whose fiction and scholarship decenter and repudiate the epistemic injustice born of the colonizer’s paternalistic narratives about African history and culture.

Catherine Adoyo will be in conversation with Simona Wright and Mshai Mwangola to unpack how the author disrupts the fallacy of a monolithic “History” born of dominant epistemologies of ignorance exemplified by Hegel. The discussion will explore how, by dramatizing the dynamic memory of lived experience transmitted through song and Oral tradition, RAIN challenges the hermeneutic injustice imposed on the narrative agency of African cultures to tell their own stories. At the heart of the conversation, echoing the Great Lakes’ lore and inspired by the compositional praxis of Dante artifex, the storyteller’s song in RAIN decenters the hunter’s hegemonic myths and instead celebrates a phenomenological representation of history.

Catherine Adoyo is a literary scholar trained in music theory and composition, and piano performance. Adoyo studies the relationship between form and meaning in the aesthetics of Medieval and Early Modern poetry, analyzing the rational compositional methods in the poetics of literature, music, and visual art, and creating modes of structural and narrative visualization through drawing, painting and digital art based on her analytical work. Dr. Adoyo received her BA in Music and Italian Literature at UC Davis, and her masters and doctorate at Harvard University in Romance Languages and Literatures. Her dissertation, The Order of All Things: Mimetic Craft in Dante’s Commedia, is an examination of the textual architecture and design of Dante’s Commedia in the context of the poem’s ethical concerns. Dr. Adoyo is also a founding member of the Cosmopolitan Collective, a constellation of interdisciplinary, transnational, and public intellectuals who work together to actively promote and cultivate epistemic and hermeneutic justice.

This event is organized by the British & Global Anglophone Studies and Creative Writing, Editing & Publishing Areas.

French & Francophone / Diversity Caucus / American Studies Special Event

Tristan Cabello, "#LesViesNoiresComptent: A Short History of the French #BlackLivesMatter Movement"

Saturday 12 March at 6:30 PM

Tristan Cabello.

This talk will analyze the history of modern French anti-racist movements (#BlackLivesMatter, Le Comité Adama, and other grassroots organizations). Following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, the French uprisings, led by the Comité Adama, were regarded as responses to the American Black Lives Matter movement. In this talk, Tristan Cabello will discuss France's anti-racist movements' local developments, own political dynamics, contextual environments, and historical trajectories, which are not always connected to US anti-racist movements. This talk will also compare current anti-racist campaigns in France and in the United States. Finally, we will show how French anti-racist movements have fundamentally altered France's intellectual and political Left, opening new complex avenues for political discourses, in a country preparing for an upcoming presidential election, and struggling to define égalité and laicité in the 21st century.

Tristan Cabello is an historian of social movements in France and the United States. He is Associate Director of the Master of Liberal Arts at the Johns Hopkins University and has received his PhD in History from Northwestern University. Currently at work on a monograph on the history of the French Black Lives Matter movement, he regularly comments US political and social events in the French media (BFMTV, CNews, LCI and France 24). A native of France, Tristan Cabello currently resides in Harlem, New York City. For more information, visit www.tristancabello.com.

This event is organized by the French & Francophone Studies Area, the American & Diaspora Studies Area, and the Diversity Caucus.

Comparative Literature / Cultural Studies & Media Studies Special Event

Plenary: Lauren Berlant's Legacy

Saturday 12 March at 12 PM

Lauren Berlant.

We will be celebrating Professor Berlant's pathbreakting scholarship and legacy with this commemorative plenary.

LAUREN BERLANT was the George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago and a leading theorist whose impact stretched across disciplinary boundaries. In Cruel Optimism, they have coined perhaps the most influential concept in 21st century studies of political affect. In the words of one of our members, “Lauren Berlant is in all of our heads.” Deborah Nelson, their colleague in the Department of English Language and Literature, added: “Lauren Berlant had always confounded the supposed dichotomy between the academy and activism by demonstrating the degree to which ideas matter to activists and artists, and the importance of activist and artistic practice to the production of knowledge and to cultural change.”

This event is organized by the Comparative Literature Area and the Cultural Studies & Media Studies Area.

Women's & Gender Studies Caucus Special Event

Emily Parker, "The Body Figures the Denial of Matter of the Polis"

Saturday 12 March at 6:30 PM

Emily Parker.

Political hierarchies and ecological crises are generally expressed as parallel problems, even when they intersect. However, they are the same problem. The idealized body expressed in the very notion of "the body," a falsely generic reference to Man, serves both as the center of politics and at the helm in ecological decision-making. The contemporary notion of "the body" demonstrates a long-standing presupposition of the polis: that though the body is itself matter, it is nevertheless a perfect or complete state which is the right environment for masterful thought. The complete body alone is an indication of the triumph of thought. Departures from this complete body (blackness, darkness, blindness, penetrability, impregnability, dependence, for example) are vilified insofar as they are taken to be foreign to this complete body. Moreover, since the historically recent reinvention of sexual difference as a difference in kind and not in degree, the body is two-fold: a falsely generic Man and a falsely generic Woman. Both are now instances of the body, emblematic of a tradition that subordinates body to a so-called immaterial capacity for thinking. In this way the body figures a denial of matter which is characteristic of an ultimately earth-alienated polis.

Emily Anne Parker is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Towson University. She is the author of Elemental Difference and the Climate of the Body, Oxford University Press (2021), and with Anne van Leeuwen co-editor of Differences: Rereading Beauvoir and Irigaray (2017), also published by Oxford University Press. Her work explores the significance of the generic gesture of "the body" and the ecological gesture of the polis, and the relationship between them.

This event is organized by the Women's and Gender Studies Caucus.

German Studies Special Event

Hester Baer, "Nuclear Futures: Conceptualizing Care for the Post-Fukushima Age"

Saturday 12 March at 6:30 PM

Hester Baer.

This talk examines transnational cultural productions emerging in the wake of the 3.11 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, an event that resonated strongly in Germany. As a form of power, energy, and weaponry, and as an ecological threat, the nuclear defies containment within the borders of any nation state, just as it resists comprehension within human timescales. The works under consideration attend to the spatiotemporal challenges of representing the nuclear, making palpable what is invisible to the eye and imperceptible to the mind through interventions into aesthetic form. At the same time, they imagine an ethics of relationality, care, and repair, figuring coexistence—rather than survival—as an emergent response to environmental crisis. The talk draws on a collaborative research and teaching project that interrogates the concept of futurity in the context of environmental activism and artistic engagement with atomic issues from 1945 to the present, organized by Baer and her UMD colleague Michele M. Mason, an associate professor of Japanese cultural studies. With reference to this project, Baer considers the potential of care-based artistic, scholarly, and pedagogical frameworks for responding to the precarity of the present.

Hester Baer is Professor of German and Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she also serves as a core faculty member in the comparative literature program and an affiliate in the Harriet Tubman Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her research and teaching focus on gender and sexuality in film and media, historical and contemporary feminisms, German literature and culture in the 21st Century, and environmental humanities. Baer is the author of German Cinema in the Age of Neoliberalism (2021) and Dismantling the Dream Factory: Gender, German Cinema, and the Postwar Quest for a New Film Language (2009). Her monograph on West Germany's first feminist film, Ula Stöckl's The Cat Has Nine Lives (1968), will be published in Spring 2022. Baer previously served as co-editor of the journal Feminist German Studies, and she is a current co-editor of the German Quarterly. Together with Michele M. Mason, Baer is editing a volume in progress, Nuclear Futures in the Post-Fukushima Age.

This event is organized by the German Studies Area.

Details on other 2022 Area Special Events are forthcoming.