With Thomas Laqueur, University of California, Berkeley
Aura—the breath of enchantment—that makes the body of a saint or a unique masterwork of art special is said to be on the wane, done in by technology and secularization. But the bodies of the dead and even their ashes, indistinguishable one urn from other, have lost little of their potency. This lecture explores the ways in which the aura of mortal remains function to create sacrality in the absence of God and other worlds beyond our own.
With Thomas Laqueur (UC Berkeley) and Melinda Hunt (The Hart Island Project)
A century and a half ago, New York began burying unclaimed bodies in mass graves using prison labor. On Hart Island, in the Long Island Sound, more than one million such burials have taken place. Changes wrought by the Civil War account for a sustained para-military handling of the dead as well as an increased role for physicians and diminished religious presence. For this event, the historian Thomas Laqueur joins Melinda Hunt, President of the Hart Island Project, in conversation—about the history of the potter’s field, as well as the work of the Project to document the dead, and win visitation rights for families.
With Iftikhar Dadi, Cornell University
This lecture will look at two frameworks for situating the question of the secular in Pakistan and its diaspora. The first is exemplified by Rasheed Araeen, who has deployed “Islamicate” forms is his practice, along with his criticism of valorizing exoticized subjectivity and cultural difference. Araeen brings to the idea of “modern Islamic art,” a persistent practice of self-critique and social engagement. By contrast, another framework has emerged in Pakistan during the recent decades, in which social concerns are seemingly peripheral to emphasis on repetitive practice. What are possible terms for evaluating these intensive formalist procedures? This paper will offer tentative lines of inquiry into these developments, informed by recent theoretical debates on secularism.
A panel and roundtable with Daho Djerbal (University of Algiers), Mohamed Amer Meziane (Religion), Mamadou Diouf (MESAAS), Mahmood Mamdani (Anthropology), and Madeleine Dobie (French).
To the extent that they identify Africa to subsaharan Africa and the Arab world to the Middle East, predominant global geographies tend to marginalize North Africa. This workshop is part of a larger project which aims at questionning the geographic divides of Africa and the Middle East. The ‘‘North Africa in Africa’’ project questions the marginalization of North Africa in Western-centered global geographies. This specific workshop is focused on the Algerian case. It will address the following question: if one takes into account the centrality of both the colonization and the decolonization of Algeria in the colonization and the decolonization of Africa and the Third World, how might the postcolonial predicament of the African continent and the Third World be re-conceptualized? How are we to think about what is happening today in this country as something else than a simple extension of the ‘‘Arab Spring’’?
With Anya Bernstein (Harvard), Anton Vidokle (e-flux) and Adam Leeds (Slavic Languages).
As long as we have known death, we have dreamed of life without end. In The Future of Immortality, Anya Bernstein explores the contemporary Russian communities of visionaries and utopians who are pressing at the very limits of the human. The Future of Immortality profiles a diverse cast of characters, from the owners of a small cryonics outfit to scientists inaugurating the field of biogerontology, from grassroots neurotech enthusiasts to believers in the Cosmist ideas of the Russian Orthodox thinker Nikolai Fedorov. Bernstein puts their debates and polemics in the context of a long history of immortalist thought in Russia, with global implications that reach to Silicon Valley and beyond. If aging is a curable disease, do we have a moral obligation to end the suffering it causes? Could immortality be the foundation of a truly liberated utopian society extending beyond the confines of the earth—something that Russians, historically, have pondered more than most? If life without end requires radical genetic modification or separating consciousness from our biological selves, how does that affect what it means to be human?
A panel with Gerardo Marti (Davidson College), Wes Markofski (Carleton College), and Janelle Wong (University of Maryland).
Over the past several decades, the popular image of an evangelical Christian has become ever more rigid. From preaching personal salvation over hellfire and damnation, to pushing for conservative “family values,” to, most recently, lobbying for a certain vision of the US Supreme Court, the media has helped construct a very particular figure. But just how accurate is this understanding? What lies beneath the rhetoric of the mega-church congregation and a presidential “base?” In this panel discussion, leading experts in the social sciences present their research on “other evangelicals,” detailing the ways in which different configurations of theology, social engagement, race, sexuality, and other factors shape the evangelical fabric, and, by extension, the contested landscape of faith-based politics in America.
With Isabel Hofmeyr (University of the Witwatersrand and NYU).
This paper explores two functions of the Custom House: copyright and censorship. Drawing on southern African material, the paper explores the role of Customs on the colonial maritime boundary. The paper places the Custom House in the context of the ecology of the littoral and the port city, showing how these helped shaped the protocols and procedures of Customs officials and hence the way in which they formulated their hermeneutic strategies. The work is framed within a larger theoretical rubric, hydrocolonialism. For the purposes of this seminar series, the paper will highlight the ways in which the colonial maritime boundary offers an unusual and suggestive node for thinking about public religion.