Lauren Berlant is George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor and chair of the Lesbian and Gay Studies Project at the University of Chicago. She is the author of numerous monographs and edited volumes on affect, film, literature, and the political, the most recent of which include Desire/Love (Punctum 2012) and Sex, or the Unbearable (Duke 2013). The latter unfolds a dialogue in which Berlant and Lee Edelman explore how sex “unleashes contradictions that we nonetheless struggle to bear.” Berlant and Edelman show how the affective life of sex strips us down to fears of loss or rupture, or hopes for repair. Berlant is also a founding member of Feel Tank, a collective of activists, artists, and academics who strategically and playfully manipulate the affect saturating the public sphere. Feel Tank has sponsored projects like Depress-In (2007), a riff on the sit-in that invited onlookers to look beneath widespread self-medication to ask whether depression might not be political.
Abstract: Our theories of the historical event tend to take the shape of trauma and catastrophe. What if we saw in sex the kind of event that structures our relation to history, intimacy, and sociality? Reading with Last Tango in Paris (Bertolucci, 1972), thinking about sexual revolution, and contesting the desexualization of so much queer theory, Lauren Berlant's lecture, "In the Event of Happiness," poses questions about where the sexual revolution went awry and what's left for sexual optimism.
Ann Cvetkovich is the Ellen Clayton Garwood Centennial Professor of English and Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Cvetkovich has authored multiple articles as well as four books theorizing affect, including Depression: a Public Feeling (Duke 2012). This most recent project mixes a genre she calls “academic memoir” with theories of affective life under neoliberal capitalism to relate her experience of the professional pressures and creative anxiety that attended her completing her dissertation and writing her first book.
Abstract: "The Sovereignty of the Senses" will draw from a larger project that aims to articulate notions of sovereignty, democracy, and freedom in affective and sensory terms. It conceives of sovereignty as an embodied practice rather than an abstract concept and as something that must be learned and experienced collectively over time rather than as a fixed and final condition of a sovereign or discrete individual or nation. Focusing in particular on how my work on affect has been informed by art practice, the talk will develop the concept of the “sovereignty of the senses” through a discussion of Alison Bechdel’s graphic narrative memoir, Are You My Mother?; the work of Haisla/Hieltsuk First Nations writer Eden Robinson; and queer and feminist installation projects by Zoe Leonard, Rachael Shannon, and Karin Michalski that use built environments to transform affective, sensory, and social experience.
Jasbir Puar is Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers and author of Terrorist Assemblages (Duke 2007) as well as recent work on women, performance, ability, and technology. Her first book traced how “homonationalism” has framed U.S. imperialism as enlightened, secular and tolerant, as opposed to an imagined “Muslim sexuality” that is built on stereotypes of polygamy and Islamic sexual repression. Puar also writes for The Guardian and Bullybloggers, grappling with affect’s power in the public sphere in her work as an anti-racist, anti-imperialist, queer and feminist scholar-activist and teacher.
Abstract: This talk, "Conviviality: New Methods for No Future," examines the possible deployments of affect theory in relation to disability studies.
Kerry Ann Rockquemore is founder and director of the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity. Rockquemore left her tenured position at UIC in 2009 to work to improve conditions for academics by creating communities that support writing productivity and balance between academic labor and everyday life. Her award-winning work with under-represented faculty led to The Black Academic’s Guide to Winning Tenure Without Losing Your Soul. Rockquemore writes a column for Inside Higher Ed and will give a workshop at our symposium on the emotional and political economies attending perfectionism in the academy – and on what to do when one’s work gets “stuck."
Abstract: In her talk "Writing, Procrastination and Resistance: How to Identify Your Writing Blocks and Move Through Them," Rockquemore asks if you keep putting off your writing and waiting for large blocks of uninterrupted time to get it done? Do you regularly engage in procrastination and avoidance when it comes to your writing projects? Have you ever wondered why it is that you really want to write, but just don't do it until there's a looming external deadline? The workshop will explore what resistance is and why academic writers experience it in pursuit of work we want and need to complete, and how to identify what's holding you back from writing and completing your project.