2013 - 2014 CRG Forum Series

2013 - 2014 CRG Forum Series

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


Flyer for 4-19-2014 CRG Forum

Continuity and Change: The Contemporary Politics of Language and Cultural Revitalization for Indigenous Peoples in the U.S.

04.29.2014 | 4:00 – 5:30 PM |  691 Barrows Hall

A Case for Concern in Lakota Language Revitalization: A Glimpse at Who’s Learning Lakota Today and Why
Tasha Hauff, Ethnic Studies

Estimates from the 2000 Census show that only 15 percent of Lakota people ages 5 and over have Lakota speaking ability. In addition, these numbers show that most fluent Lakota speakers are over 65 years of age. In 2010 the Rapid City Journal ran a series of articles focusing on the array of efforts to revitalize the Lakota language on and off South Dakota’s Lakota reservations. One article entitled “Vanishing Words, Vanishing Worlds. ‘When we lose a culture the whole world loses’” focuses on the obstacles Lakota revitalization faces currently on the Pine Ridge Reservation and begins with the haunting memory of the Indian boarding schools. This particular article quotes Lakota elder Wilma Thin Elk who says: “ I can’t understand why in our time we got hit for speaking our native language, and now, they want us to teach it to them.” She continues by explaining that she only teaches Lakota to her grandson. “I’m stingy with my language,” she says. Thin Elk’s concern about who is learning the Lakota language is a common one in Lakota country. Even well known language activists like the late Albert White Hat Sr. noted this concern in his popular Lakota language-learning manual published in the 1990s. Yet, concerns about who learns an endangered language alongside being “stingy” with the language seem antithetical to the rhetoric of Lakota language revitalization organizations gaining popularity today. This paper seeks to take Thin Elk’s concern seriously and attempts to understand the shift in dominant society’s attitude toward the Lakota language. Who is learning Lakota today? Why do non-Natives want to learn the Lakota language? Further, how can we understand Lakota language revitalization within the larger context of concurrent settler colonialism? Using information gathered from a prominent online Lakota language-learning forum, this paper seeks to explicate who is learning Lakota and why. In addition, this paper shows how some efforts to grow the number of Lakota language speakers inadvertently contribute to a broader phenomenon of non-Indians “Going Native.” In this way, non-Natives learning Lakota today remains part and parcel to the conquest of indigenous peoples.

Carceral Constellations: Indigenous Educators and Frank Waln’s “Oil for Blood” in Deconstructing Deviance and Promoting Culturally-Relevant Education
Tria Andrews, Ethnic Studies

In contemporary, mainstream discourses surrounding the education of young people of color, the School-to-Prison Pipeline is a frequently evoked term meant to highlight the trend of students funneled from schools to the criminal justice system. Yet for Native American children in the U.S., education, since its inception, has been inextricably linked to the prison. Captain Richard Henry Pratt, who based his philosophy for assimilating Native American students on his experiences disciplining Native prisoners, founded the first boarding school, Carlisle Indian Industrial School, in 1879. Scholars in Native American Studies frequently recognize the boarding schools as a form of incarceration, which functioned to discipline and punish Native bodies through violence: “Kill the Indian, and Save the Man.” However, there is a dearth of research on the ways that American educators who followed Pratt employed more sophisticated methods and rhetoric in working to assimilate Indigenous youth in the U.S. and abroad.
This paper opens with “Oil for Blood,” a 2013 music video created by Lakota rap artist, Frank Waln, whose lyrics state, “Free all my people. / Get them out of prison. / Take them to Sundance. / Show them how we’re living.” Waln’s lyrics link Lakota imprisonment to cultural disconnect and propose reconnecting with Lakota spiritual practices as a source of positivity, strength, and a way of life. Waln’s writing and performance raise important questions that are central to this paper: Do Native administrators and educators in present day believe that learning about Indigenous cultures is important for Indigenous children, and if so, why? Where do educators propose that should children learn about Indigenous cultures and embodied practices, for instance, the home, the school, a tribally-run juvenile hall? And when appropriating colonial education paradigms to teach youth Indigenous practices and values, what elements from colonial curricula models have contemporary Indigenous educators adopted?
This paper focuses on a tribally-run detention center founded in 2005 on an Indian reservation in the U.S. to investigate the continuities and changes in pedagogies and curricula from colonial to contemporary day. This paper posits that American colonial educators associated Indigeneity with deviance; therefore, they understood assimilation as a necessary component of education and rehabilitation. Conversely, Indigenous educators in present day largely view reconnecting with cultural practices as integral to the education and rehabilitation of Indigenous youth.


Flyer for 4-19-2014 CRG Forum

Devalued Bodies in an Era of Neoliberal Choice

04.24.2014 | 4:00 – 5:30 PM |  691 Barrows Hall

Mary Susman, Gender Women’s Studies, Sociology
Ella Bastone, Gender Women’s Studies
Rachel Upton, Gender Women’s Studies

We exist during a changing landscape of U.S. “equality,” with certain once-outcast identities now seduced by the neoliberal, capitalist economy and assimilated into normative notions of belonging. While certain bodies become recognizable subjects, other bodies are narrowly constructed as internal enemies that fuel the illusion of equality; we witness dangerous boundary-shifting between legitimate subjects and illegitimate (non)subjects…

It is no secret that the U.S. has undergone massive penal expansion over the past several decades. California alone has the highest prison population among all 50 states. To no surprise, certain bodies have become channeled into the penal system amid this new backdrop of neoliberal insecurity in a nation-state of progressive equality. As transgender identities become an unarticulated threat against neoliberal belonging, intersections of their multifaceted identities and experiences (including race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status), make them extremely vulnerable to surveillance and interaction with the penal system and, furthermore, to harm within the system.

The intersection of fears around street safety and economic precarity of the 1970s and 1980s, led to a logic that values the protection of certain bodies and renders others disposable. Across the nation, devalued, racialized, and othered bodies experienced increased surveillance and violence for the sake of protection of some. This allowed for a multitude of anti-homeless legislation that is founded within a context of neoliberal paternalism, creating a class of people we understand as homeless, and asking them to manage themselves in accordance to normative lifestyles, and seeking to diagnose and fix themselves. How can we reimagine public space as a potential resource for marginalized identities?

Marginalized by historical, institutional, and societal ideologies of neoliberalism, capitalism, “universal citizenship,” bio-political power, and regulation, homeless women are perpetually denied the protection, rights, and access to services available to productive citizens. Restrictions on these women’s lives and bodies are imbedded in legislature, forcing an external “hierarchy of needs” that dictates an assimilationist pathway to societal reintegration. As members of a devalued, impoverished class, homeless women are conceptualized by the state as non-sexual bodies to justify the discouragement of their reproduction, which is reflected in the provision of sexual and reproductive health services that restrict autonomy.

… Through our various investments in empowering vulnerable populations, we have come to realize the interconnectedness of our struggles and the necessary coalitions we must build to achieve our liberation. Our projects demand we interrogate our own boundaries of belonging and end our complicity in upholding violent fantasies that especially harm the most marginalized among us.


Flyer for 4-3-2014 CRG Forum

Unsettling Sonic Space Through Indigenous Testimony

04.03.2014 | 4:00 – 5:30 PM |  691 Barrows Hall

Sonic Sovereignty in D’Arcy McNickle’s The Surrounded
Prof. Beth Piatote, Native American Studies

This presentation examines the employment of sound, particularly Salish singing and drumming, in articulating alternative boundaries of Flathead/Salish communities that extend beyond the reservation and the visual surveillance scope of the law. Drawing upon the context of the reservation as a legally “surrounded” site, and building on her previous work that understands D’Arcy McNickle’s novel as, in part, a critique of Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock, Piatote shows how the novel incorporates alternative forms of cultural expression, such as Indian music and drumming, to foreground the political aims of Indigenous cultural expression that reveal a politics of resistance to state power.

Narrativizing Trauma and the Trauma of Narration: A Commentary on Some Indigenous Writings of Northeast India
Cherrie Chhangte, Mizoram University, India

Northeast India is the eastern-most region of India connected to East India via a narrow corridor squeezed between Nepal and Bangladesh. It comprises the contiguous Seven Sister States—Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura—and the Himalayan state of Sikkim. Isolated not just geographically, but culturally and otherwise from the rest of India, this region has seen numerous struggles from its indigenous people which have been variously referred to as uprisings, insurgencies, revolutions, rebellions and so on in a bid for self preservation and autonomy, among other things.

For many of these states, trauma is a lived experience that often is not addressed or given validity. Under such circumstances, writing from the Northeast, especially creative writing in English, has become increasingly significant. This talk attempts to look at some of these narratives. Although the umbrella term “northeast writing” by no means suffices to capture the essence of the unique experiences that find articulation through the pens of writers from all the states of the northeast, their literatures do share some common qualities. The literature of Northeast India, although as diverse as the history of its people, has a recurrent feature of what Tilottoma Misra calls “an intense sense of awareness of cultural loss and recovery” especially in its contemporary works. When the landscape is beset with violence, the question of representation becomes a crucial and fundamental problem. The perceptions and experiences of the writer from the northeast often deals with themes such as attempts to find coherence in identity, a questioning of the very identity which is often multiple and overlapping, as well as issues of modernization and westernization amidst cultures that are deeply rooted in tradition and folk ways. Poets and novelists have addressed the love, the anger, the violence, and the ways in which people negotiate between such polarities through their writings. The art of writing quite literally often becomes the only way of hearing silenced voices; however, the problem of the writer whose voice speaks on behalf of so many others, the immense responsibility either foisted on him or taken up voluntarily by him, and whether one can vouch authenticity, is worth looking into. Silence hurts, but paradoxically, speaking out sometimes hurts too.


Flyer for 3-20-2014 CRG Forum

Eating Theory: The Racial Politics of Food Farming

03.20.2014| 4:00 – 5:30 PM |  691 Barrows Hall

Mediating an Intimate Public: Chino Latino Restaurants and Emergent Forms of Sociality
Prof. Lok Siu, Ethnic Studies

Chino Latino Restaurants in New York City represent the most prominent public cultural institutions that index the transnational migratory circuits of Chinese from Asia to Latin America to the United States. This migratory itinerary through different social-cultural systems informs the culinary expressions of these restaurants as well as the distinct publics they engage. This talk examines these restaurants as intimate publics that perform not only the disruptive work of challenging prevailing US notions of bounded raciality and the conflation of race, culture, and place, but also the production of an emergent sociality that facilitates intercultural exchange and social intimacy, which form the basis for a meaningful reworking of community and belonging.

“So God Made a Farmer”: Proximities of Empire and the Agrarian
Hossein Ayazi, Environmental Science, Policy, Management

In support of the National Future Farmers of America Association, founded in 1928, Ram Trucks announced 2013 to be the “Year of the Farmer.” Their commemorative Super Bowl advertisement, which featured excerpts from radio broadcaster Paul Harvey’s nostalgic 1978 speech, “So God Made a Farmer,” set against fifteen images of a primarily white male agrarian workforce, told a story of a farmer “with arms strong enough to wrestle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild.” This paper uses Harvey’s famed speech and its 2013 redeployment to elucidate the racial, gendered, and sexual subject positions produced, promoted, and excluded at the intersection of domesticity and American agrarianism. Central to my analysis is the relationship between the representational economy of food production in the United States, normative and queer formations of domesticity, and the environmental-spatial production of possibilities for the existence of settler colonial subjectivities. In my research, I use Harvey’s 1978 speech and the 2013 Ram Trucks commercial to ask how farming is framed as an act of domestication, and how agrarianism and domesticity together constitute settler subjectivities. Focusing upon the farmer that God made, my research elucidates the continued imbrication of Christianity within American agrarianism; the gendered and “family values” framing of domesticity; the linking of American farming with conservative popular media; and neoliberalism and consumer capitalism’s requirement for mobile subjectivities. For my work, I draw on Amy Kaplan’s notion of “domesticity” that imagines the nation as home, opposite a racially-demarcated foreign. I use Jafri’s concept of settler/colonial desire that tracks how settler coloniality becomes naturalized by relying upon the order of sexual difference, and how settlerhood is recognized primarily through racial difference. I also use Nayan Shah’s concept of “queer domesticities” to foreground social affiliations that counter normative gender roles and public and private binaries, and illuminate how normative expectations and representations of domesticity intersect with legacies of settler colonialism.


Flyer for 3-13-2014 CRG Forum

Shifting Fault Lines of Race Reproduction in Latin America

03.13.2014 | 4:00 – 5:30 PM |  691 Barrows Hall

Untangling Discursive Reproduction: Negras, Sterilization and Reproductive Rights in Brazil
Ugo F. Edu, Anthropology, History, Social Medicine

This paper takes the bodies of black women, particularly their fertility and reproductive system, as its primary focus to explore “the forms of violence and domination enabled by the recognition of humanity, licensed by the invocation of rights and justified on grounds of liberty and freedom”. I draw on 16 months of ethnographic qualitative fieldwork research in Brazil concerned with Brazilian women’s navigation of the health care system, to be able to control their fertility and secure a tubal ligation. Included in this navigation are a host of requirements set out by the 1996 law that legalized sterilization in Brazil. I examine the troubling ways that the invocation of human rights, humanity and freedom and a dependence on the law, can serve to further “tether, bind and oppress” black women in their efforts to end their reproductive careers. I narrate black women’s attempts to secure tubal ligations, highlighting the way that their female blackness makes them subject to the law in ways that hinder access to tubal ligations, in spite of the rhetoric of reproductive rights and choice. I draw attention to the disparity between women’s lived experiences and the efforts to legalize and regulate sterilization, thus theoretically alleviating women of doctors’ and politicians’ abusive practices.

Colombia’s 2006 Abortion Decision: Human Rights as Response to Anxieties about the Value of Human Life
Alisa Sánchez, Rhetoric

In a 2006 decision, the Colombian Constitutional Court legalized abortion in cases of rape, a grave threat to the woman’s health, or when the fetus would be unviable at birth. The decision is remarkable for decriminalizing abortion in Colombia, and also for the decisive role that a human rights framework plays in the decision. After thoroughly studying various human rights legal resources, the Court ultimately draws a distinction between a right to dignified life and an absolute right to life. The Court determines that the pregnant woman claims a human life in a way that the fetus cannot, which in some circumstances, entails that her life is worth greater constitutional protection than the fetus.

As Colombian scholars of abortion have noted, the value of life, and hence abortion, is a delicate topic in Colombia. A decades-long, ongoing internal conflict has generated a discourse within and outside the country that Colombians are accustomed to violence, and do not take human life as seriously as other, “civilized” and “modern,” countries. Sentiments of shame and grief about violence in Colombia pervade the country’s public discourse. This presentation analyzes how the Colombian Constitutional Court turns to a human rights framework in the 2006 abortion decision, to a) reason through and legitimate its decision to decriminalize abortion in select circumstances, and b) affirm that the Colombian Constitution and the state sincerely care about human life, simultaneously aligning the country with the “modern” countries who also embrace a human rights framework, and distancing the country from discourses that it does not value human life.


Flyer for 2-27-2014 CRG Forum

Military Optics and Bodies of Difference

02.27.2014 | 4:00 – 5:30 PM |  691 Barrows Hall

Reading Domestic Uses of Military Aerial Perspective: Domestic Abuse Photography and the Framing of Terror
Kelli Moore, Rhetoric

Our experience of the Iraq war is conditioned by frenzied production of documentary images of war on one hand and the rational, administrative suppression of images of gender and sexual violence by the U.S. government on the other. This paper contributes to work in feminist studies of surveillance technology that examines the discourse of empire by tracing specific incursions of military techniques and artifacts into everyday life. I inquire about the development of two overlapping bodies of institutional photography in the post-Cold War era: aerial photography taken by unmanned military aircraft and images of battered women taken by police investigating intimate partner or family violence claims. Both forms of photography use aerial perspective to establish control over geography and the body thereby tying together conceptually the adjudication of domestic violence and controlling the threat of global terror.

Photographs that document domestic abuse contribute to what Sally Engle Merry terms a new “regime of domestic violence governmentality.” Images of battered women, mandatory arrest, and no-drop prosecution policies are localized expressions of global anti-terrorism strategies that construct new behavioral standards of masculinity and femininity by establishing legally actionable evidence of violence. Images taken by unmanned aircraft provide central data points for war maneuvers actionable by the military. States increasingly use military technologies such as GPS tools to monitor “high risk” domestic violence offenders. By examining the rhetorical codes structuring both bodies of photography, I ask how categories of domestic and global terror are negotiated through hegemonic practices of seeing.

I focus on the development of post-Cold War interpretative practices surrounding images of battered women and drone aerial footage. I argue that the practice of judging the domestic abuse photograph in the U.S. courtroom is partially informed by the mechanical vision constitutive of unmanned military aerial reconnaissance photography. However, military aerial perspective can shift our attention away from asking more radical questions about the documentation of rape and other forms of gendered and racialized violence that are suppressed by the U.S. government in the interest of “good taste.”

Unmanning Politics: Aerial Surveillance 1960-1973
Katherine Chandler, Rhetoric

On May 1, 1960, Francis Gary Powers’ U-2 plane was shot down over the Soviet Union while on a secret reconnaissance mission. The ensuing diplomatic fallout caused the cancellation of the Paris Summit between Dwight Eisenhower and Nikita Khrushchev. Less well known, in April 1960, Robert Schwanhausser, an engineer for Ryan Aeronautical, briefed the United States Air Force on the possibility that its Firebee target drone, used at the time for air defense training, might be re-engineered as an unmanned reconnaissance plane. In the weeks following the Powers incident, the Air Force began wholesale negotiations with Ryan Aeronautical to develop a pilotless spy plane and, on July 8, 1960, the company was given funding to begin the project. Among the noted advantages were: “political risk is minimized due to the absence of a possible prisoner” (“Alternative Reconnaissance System,” 1960). I investigate the resulting Lightning Bugs, flown for three-thousand reconnaissance missions in Southeast Asia between 1964 and 1973.

Researching how aircraft were unmanned during the Cold War is instructive both in the ways they mimic contemporary unmanned combat aerial vehicles and trouble assumptions about them. I follow how unmanned systems operated within the logics of American Cold War politics and their perceived usefulness geopolitically – crossing borders as spy aircraft, collecting and jamming electronic signals, and gathering battlefield reconnaissance. I ask how conquest, and the ensuing assumptions of empire, colonialism and race, underlie the unmanning of military aircraft, even while these aspects were purposefully, although, unsuccessfully occluded through the idea that technologies could mitigate political risks. Moreover, unmanned reconnaissance projects were cancelled at the end of the Vietnam War and their failure provides clues about what might be left out of visions of aerial control and the ways politics, and human vulnerabilities, persisted in spite of efforts to engineer systems that would suggest otherwise.

The legitimacy of contemporary drone strikes relies on the ability of unmanned aircraft to “see” enemy targets. Yet, as Isabel Stengers has argued, any representation, gives value. Looking at the few available images from these early unmanned reconnaissance flights, I move between what is seen and unseen to examine how values, particularly, secrecy and control, are formed through unmanned reconnaissance. Claiming to produce a mechanical, rather than political, view of the territories surveyed, I show how the supposedly apolitical lens of the drone occludes how politics, industry and military come together to privilege certain positions and target others.

The Secret Sharers: Visual Culture and the Torture Archive

Anjali Nath
, American Studies, UC Davis

My paper examines the rendition of detainee bodies within documents procured through the Freedom of Information Act shared online by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Security Archives (NSA). Since the Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program began in 2002, torture and detention programs functioned efficiently specifically through the practice of nondisclosure. From within this context, calls for government transparency arose from human and civil rights organizations seeking to expose the torture unfolding in these dark geographies. These demands to disclose locations of black sites, data about extraordinarily rendered detainees, and interrogation practices in US government facilities were taken up by both the ACLU (and other civil liberties organizations like the Center for Constitutional Rights) and Wikileaks. Visual metaphor infuses the very language used to talk about accessing secret government document – often we hear about the transparency of different agencies, bringing information to light, allowing the public to see what is going on, and so forth. My goal is to undo the common sense that the archive is a naturalized site for knowledge about detention; I argue that it a site where differing kinds of visualities of the racialized detained body are produced.

Invoking Joseph Conrad’s eponymous story, I suggests that activist organizations are quite literally secret sharers, legally (and, at times illegally) sharing in state secrets with the public. I frame interrelation between the digital public sphere and the secret through the interaction between Conrad’s main characters in The Secret Sharer. After being released or leaked, secret ceases to remain in the interior exclusive spaces, and becomes exterior, visible, shared with the public. As such, this paper proposes several ways we necessarily must consider the reading the “revealed” documents for how they produce the detainee as a racial subject. Though the documents can be red within a legal framework in order to challenge detention, I argue that they should be understood within a framework of subalternity. This reading borrows from postcolonial scholar Edward Said the notion of a “contrapuntal” form of reading – that is, reading against the intended meaning of the text. If we bring a contrapuntal reading to the document, we are able to more fully reveal the complicated ways in which detainees’ visual subjectivities are constructed through various modalities of sight. Reading with redaction (as opposed to in spite of it) suggests the significance of the document exceeds written text and its biopolitical function.


Flyer for 2-13-2014 CRG Forum

Hacking Gender Performance: Fat Queer Bodies Negotiating the Politics of Marginality On/Offline

03.13.2014 | 4:00 – 5:30 PM |  691 Barrows Hall

Constructing Performing the ‘Fat Bitch’: Irreverence as Queer Cultural Production
Virgie Tovar, Independent Scholar

In Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity scholar Jose Munoz posits that “queer cultural production is both an acknowledgement of the lack that is endemic to any heteronormative rendering of the world and a building, a ‘world making,’ in the face of that lack.” Anthropologist Don Kulick writes that fat extends beyond a corporeal reality or “biological fact” into a greater cultural one, imbued with meaning. America scholar Amy Farrell explores contemporary and historical texts, and concludes that “fat denigration is intricately related to gender as well as racial hierarchies.” integral to being fat is the “acceptance” of “second-class, inferior status.” “inferior” fat status – and the ways that this performance is compounded by preexisting gender and racial hierarchies – has been given little scholarly consideration.
This paper engages the feminist methodology of autoethnography as well as digital content analysis of blogs by fat people of color to explore the resistance of fat shame and denigration through the creation and performance of the “fat bitch,” a popular culture archetype characterized by shameless impoliteness and irreverence expressed through a refusal to comply with relevant social codes. By deploying Munoz’ queer cultural production framework, I seek to position the “fat bitch” as a mode of political engagement, critique and visible disobedience in the face of a growing cultural presence of fatphobia. I position the “fat bitch” within the tradition of political resistance by queer people of color. I engage gender studies, fat studies and queer studies to examine affect and fashion among fat positive subjects; I include myself among them.

“The Digital as Drag”: Reconsidering Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, Asian American Drag Kings, and Queer Feminist Critique
Margaret Rhee, Ethnic Studies New Media Studies

Asian American author Frank Chin distinguishes authentic Asian American authors and cultural works through an articulation of “the Real” and “the Fake.” Specifically, Chin characterized Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior as “fake” in her “false” adaptation of the Chinese fairy tale Fu Mulan. The debate between Chin and Kingston is identified as a key theoretical quandary within the field of Asian American cultural critique. In response to Chin, numerous Asian American feminist and literary scholars argue Chin’s critique of Kingston is “fake,” gendered, and misogynist. On the contrary, feminist scholars argue Kingston’s work is “real,” as King Kok Cheung writes, “Kingston is accused of falsifying culture and of reinforcing stereotype in the name of feminism.”

This paper attempts to digitize the oscillation between “the real” and “the fake” by not disavowing “the fake” but the pointing out the transformative possibilities of “the fake,” “the drag king,” and “the digital.” Through a digital humanities lens, I argue a queer lens reveals how Kingston’s retelling insists on “the Fake” with the incorporation of Fu Mulan as drag king. Additionally, I trace the politics around The Woman Warrior with digital documentary by remapping the experience of identity when distributing my 2007 short film on Asian American drag kings. In my paper, I draw from queer, feminist, and Asian American literary studies to argue how our notions of inauthenticity have and must change in a time of technological transformation. In conversation with Joan Scott’s ‘The Evidence of Experience” and the politics of the anti-essentialist notions of identity, I revisit the debates between Chin and Asian American feminist theory. I argue it is not “the Real” but “the Fake,” the digital, and the drag king that offers us the potential for feminist liberation, imagination, and possibility.


Bodies of Difference and Desire

12.05.2013 | 4:00 – 5:30 PM |  691 Barrows Hall

Meditations on Mammy: Asexuality and Blackness
Ianna Hawkins Owen, African Diaspora Studies

The Asexual Visibility and Education Network functions simultaneously as a message board based community and as an advocacy organization advancing the claim that asexuals are “just like everybody else.” In this context, black asexuals on AVEN have created threads/posts seeking out other black asexual users. Non-POC responses in these threads have employed various color-blind strategies that reveal the trouble the black asexual poses to the campaign of fusing “asexual” with “everybody else.” After nearly ten years of isolated posts/threads, a permanent thread was created to centralize posts by asexual people of color. In light of this newly institutionalized nexus of black and asexual, this paper meditates on the oft-cited asexuality of the historical figure of the Mammy and asks how thinking through her constructed image might become valuable to the project of finding the black asexual. This paper intends to engage issues of temporality, relations of power, and the ethics of “using” the Mammy. Moreover, if asexuality is a kind of failure of a normative mode of desiring, of reproductivity, and if blackness is almost universally hypersexualized, how do we situate the black asexual via our memory of the Mammy figure? Her body acts as a site that demands conversation between Lee Edelman’s radical queer anti-futurity and Hortense Spillers’ impossible black gender/sexuality, confronting the questions: is black always already sexual? Is a black asexual possible? What is generated by the woman (slave and enslaved to nostalgia) remembered as non-generative?

Spectacular Visualizations of Abjection: Critical Practices of Diaspora and Queer

Jasminder Kaur, African American Studies

In this paper I engage in a close reading of a digital high fashion advertisement to interrogate ‘black’ difference and dispossession. For many scholars of race, gender, sexuality, high fashion is a locked down toxic site, a space often unharnessed due to stereotypical representations. I, however, reposition it and open it up to innovative theoretical uses for the analysis of difference by deconstructing an image that deploys tropes of abjection, and that simultaneously celebrates a body of difference, to sell. My larger project interrogates the source of material dispossession of black subjects – abjection. Abjection is the condition of being despised, degraded, and expunged from society. I propose that, if one wants to understand black dispossession, one needs to engage with the role that abjection plays in the production of difference. Abjection is the narrative that justifies and sustains the notion of ‘black’ difference.  I look at how the intersecting categories of difference (gender, race and sexuality) function to construct and exclude the ‘black’ subject from capital accumulation; from worth and value; from the realm of ethics, morals, beauty, and good; and ultimately from the realm of being ‘human’. In this paper by engaging in multiple interpretations of the same image, I demonstrate that at the same time that high fashion is a site of the production of categorical difference, that the space simultaneously disrupts these categories and as such may offer alternative possibilities. And as such I show what the space may offer for a study of abjection.


Remixing Black Pasts and Futures: Representation Belonging

11.21.2013| 4:00 – 5:30 PM |  691 Barrows Hall

Cotton Framed Revolutionaries: T-Shirt Culture and Black Power Iconography
Kimberly McNair, African American Studies
Over the past four decades Black Power iconography has been evoked within advertisements, posters, and apparel that appeals to consumers of political paraphernalia. I explore the histories of these images mediated across genres in American popular culture from the late 1960s and early 1970s to the present. Through examination of what I term t-shirt culture, I map the relations between contemporary media, social movements and culture, and the performance of leftist politics. I am concerned with the discourse surrounding Black radicalism and the ways appropriated images from the past informs historical memory in the present moment. Using media theory, remix theory, and performance theory, I investigate t-shirt culture as not only a form of commodity culture associated with the t-shirt industry but as a meaning making behavior. I contend that “wearing history” is a type of performance, and that individuals who don the symbols of African American protest tradition extend and enliven that tradition by and beyond aesthetic means. I explain how contemporary products remix and reimagine not only the images (both the physical image and the iconic, “public” image) of specific individuals and groups, but also their political philosophies and the overarching tenets of the Black radical tradition. T-shirt culture is another medium through which Black identity and representation has been contested. Our memory and understanding of Black radicalism is reconstituted each time it is enacted through these products. Stepping away from the “problem” of appropriating radical iconography and looking at t-shirt culture as a “practice” allows us to examine how Black subjectivity is created through visual discourse and performed through material practice. If we look at t-shirt culture in practice we find that cultural producers have found a middle ground that exists between appropriation and cooptation, where commodification serves a parallel mission of political education and personal style. My central concerns are how these t-shirts convey historical, cultural, and political meanings in the present moment, and how they relate to modern political struggles and communication within the African diaspora.

Historically Black
Whitney Pennington, video journalist, UC Berkeley alumna
In 2011, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, a non-profit offering support to public Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), revealed that nearly 18% of students at the nation’s 105 HBCUs identify as non-black; and at some institutions, black students no longer represent the majority. Historically Black, a half-hour documentary film, offers a glimpse into the recruitment efforts of HBCUs that have begun to set their sights on attracting nonblack students and chronicles the experiences of recruiters at a school where ethnic diversity is the vogue.

Through cinema verite scenes coupled with interviews from students and community members, the film explores the changing role of HBCUs in a post-segregated America and the cultural implications of this demographic shift. Texas Southern University (located in Houston, Texas) is one HBCU taking targeted steps to bring in nonblack students. Sigmund Gilbreath, a black recruiter for the university, says Texas Southern strives to bring in “the best and brightest students” regardless of race and has recently employed a Hispanic recruiter, Eduardo Garces, to perform outreach specifically to the Latino community. In the film, we hear conversations between recruiters and admissions administrators, observe recruiters pitch nonblack students to attend their university and hear from current students as they grapple with the changes happening on their campus. Historically Black provides a deeper understanding of what it means to be an HBCU in 2011 and sheds light on the arguments around the ethnic diversification of institutions where historical significance has largely stemmed from their racial profile.


Race and Social Movements: What Reproductive Justice Teaches Us

11.14.2014 | 4:00 – 5:30 PM |  691 Barrows Hall

Panelists will discuss race, gender and social movements based on their practical experience and research with the reproductive justice movement.

Impossible Conversations:  The Bottleneck of Race in the Pursuit of Reproductive Justice and Movement Building
Dr. Sujatha Jesudason, CoreAlign, UCSF

In every conversation that CoreAlign (a national sexual and reproductive justice movement building initiative) has hosted since 2012, the issue of race has emerged as a conversation stopper. Since before the emergence of the reproductive justice movement, reproductive health and rights advocates have been criticized for the lack of inclusion and visibility of women of color. In the last ten years, a whole cadre of women of color leaders has emerged, particularly as leaders of reproductive justice organizations. However, the ability to understand, discuss and integrate a nuanced analysis of race has continued to elude the leaders and rank and file members of this field. Now, with the creation of a new national network and space to innovate and envision a new movement, the issue of race has become a bottleneck in moving forward. The “right women of color” are never in the room, there are never “enough women of color” and white women and women of color are talked about as essentialized and blunt categories. In this presentation, I will talk about all the ways that race is used as a conversation stopper and an impossible barrier to work through in pursuit of justice. I will share the lessons that we’ve learned about race, gender and movement building, and the ways in which CoreAlign is designing experimenting with “Impossible Conversations” to create the possibilities of working through to more innovative, subtle, concrete and analytical understandings of race, class, gender, sexuality, disability and immigration.

Truly a Women of Color Organization: Race, Gender, and Production of Intersectional Organization Identity
Dr. Zakiya Luna, Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice

This presentation focuses on how intersectionality is claimed by movements and put into practice in movements. In many reproductive justice discussions, “intersectionality” becomes the way to signify how the movement makes space for participants’ multiple subordinated identities in ways that other movements cannot (subordinated intersectional politics). However, this can elide the way intersectional analysis is happening in other movements, romaticizes intersectionality and fails to engage thoroughly with whether the movement’s use of intersectionality has to go beyond providing alternatives to the privilege in other movements (e.g., in the “white women’s movement”) to internal analysis of how privilege is enacted within that movement (e.g. heterosexism in reproductive justice work). The implicit assumption in much (feminist sociological) literature is that women of ethnic /racial minorities can more easily work together in their spaces due to being able to avoid the conflicts that occur when doing “cross-racial” work with Whites. However, cross racial work also occurs when coming together as “women of color” because, like other identities, this category does not exist a priori. The women are of many colors, i.e., racial backgrounds, differing ethnic histories, varying class statuses and so on ultimately constituting a coalition. Enacting intersectionality relies on practical strategies of: explicit identification of “us” as women of color (who are we, difficulties we face);a “same difference” politics that highlights internal diversity to demonstrate similar pathways and same political goal, which often subsumes difference; emphasizing external difference from the “other” of Whites and invoking a metaphor of an idealized family. It is a complex practical effort to claim an organizational position of representing women of color by correcting the exclusionary tendencies of other movements while avoiding accusations of false promises and, perhaps most damagingly, of being little better than the organizations in the movements against which the organizational identity has been composed.


Performing Justice: Guatemalan Women Reconfiguring Resistance through Activism and Performance

10.24.2013| 4:00 – 5:30 PM |  691 Barrows Hall 

Tejiendo La Memoria: Guatemalan Women Contesting Violence during La Guerra Civil and its aftermath”
Carolyn Vera, Ethnic Studies, Chicano/a Studies

In this paper, I interrogate the performance art of two Guatemalan performance artists, Regina Jose Galindo and Maria Adela Diaz, emphasizing the ways they use performance art to intervene in Guatemala’s history of gendered violence. Focusing on the experience of the civil war (1960-1996) and its aftermath, I argue that this intervention summons silenced narratives of collective memory and trauma. In doing so, these artists chronicle a history of gendered violence systematically erased from the nation’s archives and sanctioned accounts of Guatemalan history. I propose that the performances reposition the marginalized memories of indigenous women in particular. Engaging Cecilia Menjívar’s conceptualization of ‘normalized violence’ in Guatemala and Diana Taylor’s theorizations of the ‘spectacles of gender and nationness,’ I assert that Diaz and Galindo push against the all too generalized belief that the violence of the Guatemalan Civil War does not permeate through the present. By centering marginalized memories of feminicide, military violence, and genocide, I propose that the artists perform acts of remembering and knowledge as forms of resistance.

“¿Desarollo Para Quienes?” Maya Women’s Resistance Against Megaprojects in Guatemala

Zully Juarez, Gender and Women’s Studies, Ethnic Studies

On June 23rd 2007, the community of Santa Cruz Barillas organized a referendum where approximately 50, 000 people voted, rejecting mining and other hydroelectric projects within their municipality. However, in 2009, Hidralia Energia, a Spanish owned hydroelectric company, arrived in Santa Cruz Barillas planning a series of dams, ultimately leading to protests rejecting the presence of this company in their lands.

This project explores how Maya women have defended both their land and bodies simultaneously, through the case of Hydro Santa Cruz. My methodology involves 6 qualitative interviews as well as participant observation at a local radio station. This research took place in Santa Cruz Barillas, a municipality in the northern department of Huehuetenango, Guatemala, with a population of 130,000, the majority of whom are Maya Q’anjob’al. Findings include a difference in gendered response to colonialism. When local residents received threats from Hydro Santa Cruz after refusing to sell or leave their land, men had more mobility to leave the home and go into hiding where as women who also received the same threats had less mobility because they had to secure the safety of their children and land. Women made a strong statement about the importance of defending mother earth and observed a connection between the Spanish hydroelectric company, the colonial invasion, and the 36-year Civil War (1960-1996), terming this megaproject as a “new invasion”.

By examining the conditions of indigenous women and their connection to the land, as Andrea Smith has observed, colonial sexual violence establishes the dominant colonial ideology that Native bodies are inherently violable, particularly women’s, and by extension, that Native lands are also inherently violable (Smith 2005: 12), one can analyze how indigenous communities are violated through a variety of state policies and sexual assault impacting the lives of women, as explored in this project.


Flyer for 10-10-2013 CRG Forum

Catalyzing Race Revolution: The Black Panthers and the Brown Berets

10.10.2013| 4:00 – 5:30 PM |  691 Barrows Hall

Presenters share findings from their recent publications on 1960s revolutionary US social movements for racial justice.

Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party
Prof. Waldo Martin
, History

Black against Empire is the first comprehensive overview and analysis of the history and politics of the Black Panther Party. The authors analyze key political questions, such as why so many young black people across the country risked their lives for the revolution, why the Party grew most rapidly during the height of repression, and why allies abandoned the Party at its peak of influence. Bold, engrossing, and richly detailed, this book cuts through the mythology and obfuscation, revealing the political dynamics that drove the explosive growth of this revolutionary movement, and its disastrous unraveling. Informed by twelve years of meticulous archival research, as well as familiarity with most of the former Party leadership and many rank-and-file members, this book is the definitive history of one of the greatest challenges ever posed to American state power.

Sancho’s Journal: Exploring the Political Edge with the Brown Berets
Prof. David Montejano, Ethnic Studies

How do people acquire political consciousness, and how does that consciousness transform their behavior? Sancho’s Journal presents a rich ethnography of daily life among the “batos locos” (crazy guys) as they joined the Brown Berets and became associated with the greater Chicano movement in the 1970s. Montejano describes the motivations that brought young men into the group and shows how they learned to link their individual troubles with the larger issues of social inequality and discrimination that the movement sought to redress. He also recounts his own journey as a scholar who came to realize that, before he could tell this street-level story, he had to understand the larger history of Mexican Americans and their struggle for a place in U.S. society. Sancho’s Journal completes that epic story.


Flyer for 9-26-2013 CRG Forum

Hearing and Queering Convergence Across Sound and Text

09.26.2013| 4:00 – 5:30 PM |  691 Barrows Hall

This panel explores the ways in which sound articulates race, nation, culture, and sexuality. Examining the work of several artists, we illustrate the varied aesthetic strategies they have used to pose alternative possibilities for the expression of marginalized identities in the sonic realm and beyond.

Sounding Unity: Paul Robeson’s Afro Asian Interruption
Prof. Tamara Roberts, Music

Tamara will look closely at Chee Lai: Songs of New China, an album on which Paul Robeson recorded several Chinese folksongs and articulated a “politics of affinity” between African American and Chinese struggles against domination. Robeson was a key artist who worked to create a sonic analog to the anti-colonial uprisings of the early and mid-20th century. For decades he performed and recorded folksongs from around the world, establishing an aesthetic vocabulary for Third World politics based on cultural pride, the voice of the working class, and intercultural, interracial, and international solidarity. In doing so, he presented a notion of cultural similarity based on the experience of oppression—rather than race or nation—as well as a conception of community that stretched beyond a singular racial or cultural label. Naturalizing racial and cultural juxtapositions in a way that was rarely seen prior on U.S. stages, Robeson’s “music of color” laid the groundwork for subsequent artists and exchanges.

Sounding Chicana/o Narratives: Feminist Affinities, Queer Sonorities
Wanda Alarcón, Ethnic Studies

Wanda’s talk explores the audible themes of feminist, queer, and cross-racial solidarity in the short stories, “Minnie Riperton Saved My Life” by Luis Alfaro and “Woman Hollering Creek” by Sandra Cisneros. The aural fields of meaning or what can be understood as “soundscapes” embedded in Chicana/o narratives have not been fully engaged in prior readings. Yet, literature is replete with references to sound, music, lyrics, noise, silence, and other aural traces that suggest other modes of analysis—that we “listen”. Thus, in sounding these Chicana/o narratives, the complex feminist solidarities, cross-racial affinities, and queer becomings enacted by the stories’ protagonists become productively amplified. This paper asks three related questions: What makes these stories “queer”? Can a story be a narrative, a map, a mix-tape? Is the reading and listening audience the same? Tuning into the richly sounded worlds in these stories may offer ways to understand something more about “queerness” in Chicano literature.


Flyer for 9-12-2013 CRG Forum

Genocide, Memory, and Testimony: Challenges in Guatemala and Commemorations in Chile

09.12.2013| 4:00 – 5:30 PM |  691 Barrows Hall

Prof. Beatriz Manz, Ethnic Studies, Chicano/Latino Studies
Respondent: Prof. Evelyn Nakano Glenn, Ethnic Studies, Gender Women’s Studies

This year marked a history-making trial when former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt was found guilty of the genocide of more than 1,700 indigenous Ixil Mayans by his own country’s judicial system. Prof. Beatriz Manz testified at the trial as an expert eyewitness, sharing critical evidence that she gathered in 1982 when she went into the Lacandon jungle in Mexico to take testimonies of refugees and document the military atrocities taking place. Her research focused specifically on the Ixil area in the highlands of Guatemala in March 1983 — the site of the charge of genocide committed on the Ixil Maya population.

Prof. Manz will discuss those testimonies, her experience at the trial, and the implications of Rios Montt’s conviction which was overturned and continues to be contested. She will also reflect on the 40th anniversary of “the other 9/11,” the date marking the US-backed coup by General Augusto Pinochet in Chile which resulted in the arrest, imprisonment, torture, and execution of tens of thousands of people.