2010 - 2011 CRG Forum Series

2010 - 2011 CRG Forum Series

Bios reflect speakers' status at the time of their presentation at the Center for Race and Gender.


Flyer for 11-17-2010 CRG Forum

Postcolonial and Liberal Discourses of the Family in Secular Polities

11.16.2010 | 4:00 – 5:30 PM |  691 Barrows Hall

Secularism, Sexuality, and Religious Liberty: A Postcolonial Genealogy
Prof. Saba Mahmood, Social Cultural Anthropology

The relegation of religion and the family to the private sphere is widely regarded as a key feature of modern secular societies. While postcolonial states of South Asia and the Middle East are heir to this arrangement, they are also distinct in that they retain religious laws for the regulation of family affairs. As a result, both minority and majority religious communities of postcolonial polities continue to exert a fair degree of legal autonomy over family affairs based on their religious traditions. This paper tries to rethink the classical debate around “family law” and “minority rights” by parsing out the contradictions that attend the public-private distinction institutionalized by the modern state, particularly the complex ways in which sexuality, gender, and religious liberty have come to be intertwined under conditions of postcolonial secularism.

Is Equality Secular
Prof. Wendy Brown, Political Science

Within the widely held conviction that secularism stands for gender equality and that theocracy stands for gender subordination, there are a number of unexamined assumptions. Two of the most consequential may be the conviction that secularism entails a certain methodological individualism and that sacral values are the exclusive preserve of recognized religion. The (sacred) place of the family in U.S political culture constitutes a challenge to both of these assumptions. This talk traces, at a theoretical level, the complex circuitry among the terms of secularism that make religion a family matter, the sacralization of the family in liberal and neoliberal discourse, and naturalized gender inequality.

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Flyer for 10-5-2010 CRG Forum

Mixed Race/Mixed Space in Media Culture & Militarized Zones

10.05.2010 | 4:00 – 5:30 PM |  691 Barrows Hall

A Critical Race Theory Approach to Understanding Cinematic Representations of the Mixed Race Experience
Kevin Escudero, Ethnic Studies

This presentation focuses on the developmental trajectory of the portrayal of mixed race people in mainstream media.  Primarily looking at film, but also analyzing other media texts such as photography, stand-up comedy and particular sub-genres of film (Disney, television series, etc.) this presentation seeks to understand the ways in which different forms of media have portrayed mixed race people pre and post-Loving.  While much work has been done on the depiction of mixed race people in media post-Loving, there is a need for such work to be contextualized within the pre-Loving depictions of mixed race.  Furthermore, very little attention has been given to the ways in which pre-1967 depictions of mixed race characters (e.g. the tragic mulatto) oftentimes reflect as well as perpetuated racist stereotypes of mixed race people.  These depictions of mixed race people during the anti-miscegenation era are what I argue, has given rise to the utilization by mixed race people of multiple forms of self-expression available through various media in the post-Loving era.

Using a framework of “neutralizing the Other” in combination with a Critical Race Theory analysis I will also examine the ways in which post-1967 depictions of mixed race people in media have resulted in a neutralizing of the pre-1967 “threat” of miscegenation and the resulting mixed race offspring of these marriages.  Using pre-1967 depictions as a backdrop for post-Loving discourse, this paper also comments as to the self-perception and self-representation of mixed race youth today in film.  In this analysis, other forms of marginalization and subordination are prevalent, specifically gender.  Not to be overlooked in mixed race and miscegenation discourse, women of color are more often than not depicted as hypersexualized, super-fertile beings while mixed race men depending on their racial mixture are depicted as either hyper-masculine beings (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Vin Deisel) or associated with a more effeminate masculinity (e.g. Keanu Reeves who is half Asian and half Caucassian).  Tiger Woods, on the other hand, and the media portrayal of his marriage scandal at the end of 2009, has been cast as the ultimate playboy among men.

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Image for 9-22-2010 CRG Forum

Embodiments Of Memory: African American Remains & Representations 

09.22.2010 | 4:00 – 5:30 PM |  691 Barrows Hall

Brief History of Collecting, Researching, and Displaying African American Human Remains in the United States
Samuel J. Redman, History

Dozens of museums in the United States possess diverse collections of human remains. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century, anthropologists and medical scientists collected, researched, and displayed human bodies in an effort to create and disseminate ideas about race and human history. In North America, the vast majority of human remains collected for natural history museums were American Indians, but a significant number of African American human remains were collected by anthropologists as well as scholars based in medical schools and societies. This paper explores the strange history of gathering, studying, and exhibiting African American human remains in the United States.

Race, Class and Gender in Southern Heritage Tourism: Coin Coin, Cammie, Chopin and Clementine at Melrose Plantation, Natchitoches, Louisiana
Prof. Stephen Small
, African American Studies

There are hundreds of 21st century antebellum slave huts, houses and hovels currently incorporated into heritage tourism plantation sites across the US South.  Still juxtaposed physically against the mansions and
“Big Houses” once occupied by master-enslavers and mistress-enslavers, these slave cabins are the physical embodiment of willful social forgetting and collective social remembering.  An analysis of these sites provides insights into the dynamics of public history, and into the racialized, class and gendered struggles such dynamics reflect.  This presentation is based on research I’m conducting at three plantation museum sites (Oakland Plantation, Magnolia Plantation Complex and Melrose Plantation) that collectively incorporate 14 (or so!)  21st century antebellum slave cabins into heritage tourism in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana.  At Melrose Plantation, the lives of ‘exceptional women’ is one of the most prominent representational themes, where the lives and accomplishments of Marie Therese Coin Coin, Cammie Henry, Kate Chopin and Clementine Hunter take center stage.  I consider how Melrose Plantation thus succeeds in going against the  Southern grain in its representations of white and Black women on Plantations; and yet, I argue that it struggles to undermine more fundamental racialized and gendered conventions in representations of Southern history.  I also propose that examination of the life, and creative visions in the art and paintings, of one of these women – internationally recognized ‘primitive artist’ Clementine Hunter – provides opportunities for ‘reading between the lines’ and recovering alternate sources of data that challenge the symbolic annihilation of Black women in Southern heritage tourism.

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Flyer for 9-8-2010 CRG Forum

Violence, Gender, and The Construction Of Communities In The Twentieth Century Indian Novel: Some Case Studies

09.08.2010| 4:00 – 5:30 PM |  691 Barrows Hall

Caste, Gender and Sexuality: On the Figure of The Dalit Woman in P. Sivakami’s Fiction
Kiran Keshavamurthy, South and Southeast Asia Studies

The narratives of P. Sivakami’s novels The Grip Of Change(1989) and Author’s Notes: Gowri (1999) critique the sexualized and supposedly violable caste body of the dalit woman. In The Grip of Change the battered body of the dalit woman frames the opening scene; her past is constituted by her widowhood that in some sense makes her a ‘surplus’ or ‘sexually available’ woman subject to sexploitation by her caste Hindu landlord and harassment by her in-laws; the assault on her by caste Hindu men owing to her apparent sexual/social misdemeanor. Even her struggle for her husband’s share of land is linked to her body and fertility- she does not have children and so her brothers-in-law refuse to give her a share in the family land. When she is sheltered by Kathamuthu, a dalit patriarch and ex-panchayat leader, her vulnerability is exploited; she is forced to physically yield to his desires. Her oppressed and subjugated body, that she is unable to claim as her own is the only available option for her to acquire the power to gain ascendancy in Kattamuthu’s house that gives her dominance over his wives. Author’s Notes: Gowri written a decade later assumes the form of a critical reexamination of the earlier novel that explores the disjuncture between the fictional world of the earlier novel and the author’s social circumstances that enabled the creation of the novel. Author’s Notes: Gowri redraws our attention to the ideological tensions inherent in casteism and patriarchy. The novel shows how casteism is as endemic to the dalit community as dalits are perpetrators of caste violence. Further, through the autobiographical character of Gowri, she critiques her earlier representation of patriarchy as a monolithic system even as she questions and rejects the very structures of patriarchy- heterosexual, polygamous marriage, family and the village council of elders – that perpetuate misogyny and curtail female empowerment.

The Nationalist Male Subject: Agyeya’s Sekhar: A Life and Sarat’s Pather Dabi
Nikhil Govind, South and Southeast Asia Studies

The widely read Bengali novelist Sarat Chandra Chattopadhaya (1876-1938) serialized and then published an immensely popular novel Pather Dabi in 1926, one that was immediately proscribed by the British government “on the grounds that the said book contains words which brings or attempt to bring into contempt and excite disaffection towards the government established by law in British India.” This is odd because a strong critique of the central figure and his politics and values, especially regarding racial violence against the colonial oppressor, exists within the book itself in the form of a female “friend” whose argumentation is effectively twinned to that of the male figure.  Likewise, in the Hindi novelist Agyeya’s (1911-1987) novel Sekhar: A Life, the affective and ideological rhetorics of the protagonist Sekhar is often countered and mediated by a twinned female Indian protagonist, Sashi. The novel remains however named Sekhar though much of the latter half of the novel, and to many its most powerful sections, centre on the interrelationship of Sekhar with his distant cousin/friend/lover Sashi.  It is the unnameable nature of this unboundaried space between friendship, romance and filial love that make it difficult to demarcate the subjectivity of Sekhar from Sashi for a large part of the novel. After Sashi’s death at the end of the novel, it is as if the novel cannot go on, and indeed Agyeya never published the promised third volume in the remaining four decades of his life.

The paper will argue that the inaugural moment of modernist nationalist subjectivity in South Asian literatures as evidenced by these two novels is often marked by this inability to disentangle an isolable “Indian” male self from an inter-subjective, gendered otherness, an otherness that is both self confirming in certain forms of intimacy ( an intimacy consisting of all the contradictory tones of  romance,  filiality, friendship), but also self injurious in its irredeemable alterity, the inability to form stable socially sanctioned relationships to state or family. While the singular protagonist often seeks autonomy, and often  even grandeur, the gendered and racial (i.e. nationalist) element provides the counterpoints of skepticism, greater affective range, and a different sense of community, conscience and courage from, for example,  violence-conscientized racial nationalisms that the protagonists of Pather Dabi  and Sekhar articulate. The novels are thus produced and invested by this double engine of contradictory desires and political action.

Co-sponsored by the Center for South Asia Studies.

LISTEN - Click to hear "Violence, Gender, And The Construction Of Communities In The Twentieth Century Indian Novel"

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