CURRENT RESEARCH WORKING GROUPS
Academic Year 2023 - 2024
The Critical Aesthetics Working Group (CAWG) aims to create cross-disciplinary dialogue to explore the capacity of aesthetics as a geographic methodology reorganizing questions of time and intensifying sensibilities to space, matter, image, and sound. CAWG aims to support the creation of sensorially dynamic and immersive media, and theorize geography through experimental spatial engagements. CAWG hopes to cultivate critical digital literacy and facilitate workshops to engage with and theorize the race and gendered politics of media.
The Death of the Author (DotA) is an experimental reading and writing group that aims to foster a different relation with theoretical texts, both as its readers and as its writers. Our meetings encompass a long process of slow reading of each text, and encourage deep engagement and discussion over canonical works of critical theory. The goal of this process is to open-up new ways of understanding works whose meanings have been ossified through academic convention, and to do so not only at the content-level, but also the affective one. We approach slow reading as a decolonial process, one that destabilizes imposed structures of academic production. In reading texts that investigate not only intersecting systems of oppression but also the possibilities of alternative imaginaries, this group centers questions of race and gender as a critical site of theory for the past, present, and future. Our meetings serve as a space to bring together students and faculty across disciplines in an effort to rethink our relation to academic pressure, reconnect with different modes of textual engagement, and consider the criticality of our own writing processes.
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The Ecologies of Difference working group is a collaboration of place-based thinkers dedicated to employing the many lessons learned from critical black feminist ecology, political ecology, queer ecology, postcolonial theory, and indigenous criticism in order to develop fieldwork methods and modes of writing in line with these ruptures of Enlightenment epistemology. We approach various sites and landscapes as archives whose fragments and ruins tell of their violent production.
We find that landscape itself has been transformed into ecocidal infrastructure: for capital, for empire, for whiteness, for heteropatriarchy. This infrastructure gets mistaken for “Nature.” While we acknowledge the effort of recent scholarship to name it–the Anthropocene–this concept risks heightening forgetting by insisting that the recognition of global catastrophe obviates the need to redress particular instances of its violence. We seek to unearth the fragments that belie the production and forgetting of this infrastructure in order to highlight how ecologies become appropriated for the task of domination through their being gendered and racialized.
CONTACT: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
The Indigenous Sound Studies working group aims to highlight Indigenous politics in music and sound. Our members come from various backgrounds to create an Indigenous-centered dialogue on issues of anti-colonial practices, sovereignty, identity, and knowledge production in sound. Our discussion spaces are intended to be collaborative and constructive for understanding the multiple frictions of intersecting racialized and gendered histories of coloniality. In our conversations, we seek to find possibilities for Indigenous self-determination outside definitions confined to borders, nation-states, or authenticity, which often fail to engage differences within Indigenous experiences.
Central to our group, is the interrogation of colonial and Western-oriented investigations of Indigenous sound and music in fields such as anthropology, ethnomusicology, and sound studies. We consider how a cross-discipline approach is generative for projects in Critical Indigenous Studies and our related field of Indigenous Sound Studies. Our foundational questions seek to examine how notions of sound and music are transformed through the incorporations of: 1) Indigenous linguistics and voice; 2) aesthetics; 3) cultural practices; and 4) different conceptions of space and time.
As an interdisciplinary network of scholars and artists, the Performing Asian American & Diasporic Sexualities working group invites critical engagement with questions of race, gender, sexuality, disability, colonialism, and labor through the lens of performance studies and visual and media studies. We examine how performances of Asian America and diaspora on stage and in everyday life are impacted by histories of migration and imperialism. We use sexuality as a lens to understand connections between exclusionary policies of the past and the recent surge in anti-Asian violence.
Sessions include presentations of work-in-progress, reading groups, guest artist talks, film screenings, and workshops. The working group will also be an opportunity to collaborate on public programming, including a symposium and performance series. Coming from within and beyond Berkeley, our members represent a wide range of fields, including American Studies, Art History, Art Practice, English, Geography, Political Science, and Performance Studies.
Our central questions include:
How does the erotic enable us to navigate histories of pain and reappropriate narratives of violence?How do community and artistic archives offer counter-narratives to mainstream visual representations of Asian sexuality?How do Asian sex workers disrupt the binary notion of simply conforming to or resisting racial scripts?
The “Racialized-Gendered Organizations” working group aims to investigate the intersection of race, gender, and organizations. We ask how organizations are both products and generators of unequal power structures in society. Topics of focus include: how racialized and/or gendered norms are created, enforced, and mobilized; roles of identity and power relations within/across organizations as they (re)produce, co-mediate, and enact social networks, practices, interactions, opportunities, and relations; the relationship across organizations (i.e., meso-level social structures) and across leveled context (e.g. the macro- and micro-level social structures) for the reproduction and contestation of oppression; how organizations provide affordances and constraints for individuals and groups; and the processes, potential, and tensions of structural change.
Recent years brought a revival of social movements aimed at achieving racial and ethnic justice in both the United States and elsewhere around the world. Movements whose primary focus is not racial or ethnic justice, but focus on topics such as climate change, youth empowerment or gender and sexual equality also started to pay more attention to racial and ethnic inclusivity in both their agenda-setting and mobilization strategies. The research group aims to bring together graduate students and faculty interested in how race and ethnicity structures the formation, recruitment, agenda-setting and tactical choices of social movements, as well as how social movements shape, strengthen or challenge racial and ethnic categorizations via collective identity formation and social and political reform. The working group has an interdisciplinary approach welcoming scholars from any discipline, relying on qualitative, quantitative or mixed approaches, utilizing any kind of data collection methods (surveys, interviews, participant observation, archival research).
Transecological Imaginations is conceptualized as a working group that bridges spatial theory and transformative practices to imagine equitable futures. Transecological ethics is an embodied relation to place which is attuned to histories of difference in all its forms, especially the ones that challenge binaries such as nature/culture, female/male, etc. This framework aims to resist a planetary future centered on anthropic exceptionalism that hierarchizises life according to colonial, racial, and gendered forms of violence and perpetuates precarious life. We attempt to conjure a postanthropic vision to build a future where justice dwells.
We will focus on a building at the intersection of Turk and Taylor streets, in the Tenderloin neighborhood, San Francisco. This crossroads was the site of a queer grassroots uprising against police brutality, the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot of 1966. The riot at Compton’s was spearheaded by street youth and gender-nonconforming people three years before the Stonewall Riot in New York. Today, the three-story building is operated as a “halfway house” by GEO Group, a for-profit prison company. Our goal is to research the material necessary to collaboratively envision a speculative design proposal that decarcerates the historic building and resurfaces its legacy of resistance.
This working group aims to create a conceptual forum in the Bay Area for those interested in topics and questions in the fields of Asian American and transpacific art. In drawing together the terms “Transpacific” and “Asian American,” we aim to interrogate, challenge, and build from the conceptual assemblage of spatial relations, imperialism, racialization, and diaspora connoted by these disciplinary idioms. Inspired by the recent Asian American Art Initiative at Stanford, as well as drawing on long standing interest at Berkeley in Asian American Studies and transpacific cultural studies, and work done in the Bay Area by previous generations, the group will help build collaborative research and artistic networks, for graduate students and others, to further engagement with these important and still understudied areas of art. Topics of interest span a broad range, including art history, film & media studies, literary studies, diaspora studies, gender and sexuality, postcolonial theory and decolonial thought, and more. The group will meet roughly once a month, with additional meetings for field trips and talks with curators and artists. We seek members from academia, museums, the art world, and the community with interest in this topic.