James Baldwin’s Afro-Optimism

March 19, 2015
4:30 pm - 6:30 pm
Room 5109

Thursday, March 19th | 4:30–6:30pm | Room 5109

Baldwin15John E. Drabinski is Professor of Black Studies at Amherst College. In addition to authoring three books, including most recently Levinas and the Postcolonial: Race, Nation, Other (Edinburgh), he has written over three dozen articles in French philosophy and Africana theory, and has edited book and journal issues on Fanon, Godard, Levinas, Glissant, and the question of political reconciliation. He has just completed a book-length study of Glissant’s poetics entitled Abyssal Beginnings, a translation and critical introduction to Éloge de la créolité, and is currently drafting a book entitled ‘So Unimaginable a Price’: James Baldwin and the Black Atlantic.

“The Passages of Walter Benjamin” film screening and discussion

“The Passages of Walter Benjamin” film screening and discussion

March 30, 2015
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
CUNY Graduate Center, Skylight Room

Monday, March 30th | 6-8pm | Skylight Room

A film screening followed by lecture and discussion with director Judith Wechsler and Susan Buck-Morss (The Graduate Center, CUNY).

THE PASSAGES OF WALTER BENJAMIN. A documentary film. 55 min. 2014.
The Paris Arcades, known as Passages in French, were a principal focus of renowned literary and cultural critic Walter Benjamin. From 1927-1940 he worked on his study: “My book, Paris Arcades, is the theater of all my struggles and all my ideas.” Benjamin’s Arcades Project is the focus of this one hour documentary, set in the context of his life and times. The film includes documents, manuscripts and letters from the Benjamin archives, albums of prints and photographs at the Bibliothèque Nationale, interviews with leading Benjamin scholars, and archival film of Paris and Berlin in the 1920s and ’30s.

Judith Wechsler is an art historian primarily of 19th century French art, who has engaged in interdisciplinary studies: the intersection of art and theater, art and film, caricature and physiognomy, art and science. Her book, A Human Comedy: Physiognomy and Caricature in 19th Century Paris, focuses on Daumier in a political and historical context. She has published articles and catalogue essays on Daumier including “Gender and Gesture in Daumier,” “Movement in the Drawings of Daumier: Still and Still Moving,” and two films on Daumier, “Daumier Paris and the Spectator,” directed with Charles Eames and “Daumier. One Must be of One’s Time,” made for the Daumier exhibition in Paris and broadcast in France and the US. Her books, The Interpretation of Cézanne and Cézanne in Perspective (ed and intro) have been widely used. More recently she has written on “Sensation and Perception in Cézanne.” Wechsler’s interest in drawing is evident in her 1999 book Le Cabinet des dessins. Daumier, and a film commissioned by the Louvre, “Dessiner, la main qui pense,” “Drawing the Thinking Hand“ (in its English version.)

Symposium: The Enlightenment and its Other Trajectories

Symposium: The Enlightenment and its Other Trajectories

April 22, 2015
10:00 am - 5:30 pm
Graduate Center, Room 5109

Wednesday, April 22nd | 10am–5:30pm | Room 5307

A full day of discussions featuring Banu Bargu (The New School), Akeel Bilgrami (Columbia University), Massimiliano Tomba (The Graduate Center, CUNY), Uday Mehta (The Graduate Center, CUNY), Anne Norton (University of Pennsylvania), Marnia Lazreg (Hunter College), Uday Metha (The Graduate Center, CUNY) and Sanjay Reddy (The New School).

Reception to follow.

Co-sponsored by the Advanced Research Collaborative.



Event Schedule

9—9.30 am

9.30—10.30 am

Massimiliano Tomba (ARC Distinguished Visiting Fellow, The Graduate Center, CUNY)
“Reorienting the Enlightenment”

Uday Mehta (Department of Political Science, The Graduate Center, CUNY)
“Enlightenment without History and Politics”


11.05 am—12.05pm

Anne Norton (Political Science Department, School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pennsylvania)
“The People, Steering: Democracy Beyond the Enlightenment”

Sanjay Reddy (Department of Economics, The New School for Social Research)
“Political Economy: Science of Justification, Instrument of Liberation”

12.05—12.35pm Discussion

12.35—2pm Lunch Break


Banu Bargu (Department of Politics, The New School for Social Research)
“The Courage of Silence”

Marnia Lazreg (Sociology Department, Hunter College, CUNY)
“Tinkering with the Enlightenment:  Foucault’s Struggle with Kant”

3.05—3.35 pm

3.35–4 pm

4—4.30 pm

Akeel Bilgrami (Department of Philosophy, Columbia University)
“Rationality, Alienation, and the Ideals of the Enlightenment”

4.30—5 pm

5—6 pm

Symposium: Thinking Through Tradition, Politics, and Violence

April 24, 2015
1:00 pm - 7:00 pm
CUNY Graduate Center, Skylight Room

Friday, April 24th | 1–7pm | Skylight Room

Featuring Talal Asad (The Graduate Center, CUNY) in conversation with Veena Das (Johns Hopkins University) and Wael Hallaq (Columbia University) about Asad’s essay “Thinking about Tradition, Religion and Politics in Egypt Today” and a talk by Judith Butler (University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University): “Interpreting Non-Violence.”  Reception to Follow.

This event is co-sponsored with the Department of Anthropology.

Tentative Event Schedule

Part I: 1 – 3:30 pm

Opening remarks from Gary Wilder

Judith Butler “Interpreting Non-Violence”

Break: 3:30 – 4:15

Part II: 4:15 – 6:30 pm

Talal Asad in conversation with Veena Das and Wael Hallaq about the essay “Thinking about Tradition, Religion and Politics in Egypt Today”

Reception to follow in Room 5109

live streaming available here:

Marina Sitrin: Societies in Movement or Politics as Usual?

May 21, 2015
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Room 5109

Marina Sitrin will open a discussion on how we might understand many of the struggles that have been taking place around the world over the past few years – with a particular focus on Greece and Argentina, where she has spent time. Using the concept of societies in movement rather than social movements, the discussion will focus on those movements where people are looking to one another for power and transformation – and not formal institutions of power – while taking into consideration the rise of left political parties and governments. Examples to be discussed include struggles to defend the earth and the recuperation of workplaces, media and health care.


Marina Sitrin is a writer, activist and scholar. She is the co-author of They Can’t Represent US: Reinventing Democracy from Greece to Occupy (Verso Press, June 2014) as well as the author of Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina (AK Press, 2006) Everyday Revolutions: Horizontalism and Autonomy in Argentina (Zed Books: 2012). Her work focuses on social movements and justice, specifically looking at new forms of social organization, such as autogestión, horizontalidad, prefigurative politics and new affective social relationships. Her forthcoming book with UC Press argues for an expansion of social movement theory putting forward the argument of societies in movement.


Tuesday, August 18th 2015 – The Ruse of Reconciliation?

August 18, 2015
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
The Graduate Center, CUNY – Room 6304.01 (Psychology)

The Ruse of Reconciliation? Discursive Contours, Impossibilities, and Modes of Resistance in the South African ‘Reconciliation Project’

A public presentation featuring:

Garth Stevens, Brett Bowman, Gillian Eagle, & Kevin Whitehead

Department of Psychology | School of Human and Community Development |University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015, 3:00-5:00 pm | Room 6304.01 (Psychology)The Graduate Center, City University of New York is located at 365 Fifth Avenue at 34th St, New York City
 Abstract: In this symposium we interrogate the ‘reconciliation project’ in South Africa that has become embedded in the trope of the exceptional miracle and highlight the prospects and problematics of reconciliation. The symposium addresses three related arguments. We first explore forgiveness and reconciliation as a fluid discourse that has served varied socio-political functions across historical periods. Second, we examine the limitations of forgiveness and its circular impossibility, as the injunction to forgive calls on us to forgive that which is unforgiveable in the Derridean sense. Third, we argue that in the absence of social repair and with growing inequality, the historical and collective trauma of apartheid violence is drawn upon as a psychological and socio-political resource. The symposium concludes with a commentary on reconciliation as a discourse that is implicated in the constitution of relations of power, both at the level of its reproduction and resistance in South African life.Speakers: 

Garth Stevens is a Full Professor and Clinical Psychologist in the Department of Psychology, School of Human and Community Development, at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. His research focuses on race, racism and related social asymmetries; critical psychology, ideology, power and discourse; violence and its prevention; and historical/collective trauma and memory. He has published widely in these areas, including Race, memory and the apartheid archive: Towards a transformative psychosocial praxis (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).

Brett Bowman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, School of Human and Community Development, at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. His research is on the intersections of violence and social asymmetries in low-middle income countries. His current research examines how risks for violence translate into its enactments. He has published widely and contributed to the World Bank’s Diseases and mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa: Violence prevention in low- and middle income countries and the World Health Organization’s Violence and health in the WHO African region.

Gillian Eagle is a Full Professor of Psychology in the School of Human and Community Development at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, and a Clinical Psychologist. She conducts research on socio-cultural, historical and political aspects of trauma and violence, focusing on the inter-relationship between the socio-political and intra-individual domains of human experience. Her 2010 co-authored book, Traumatic stress in South Africa, has re-invigorated the construct, continuous traumatic stress, and she co-edited a 2013 special issue of Peace and Conflict: The Journal of Peace Psychology on this topic.

Kevin Whitehead is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, School of Human and Community Development, at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. His current research involves applying ethnomethodological and conversation analytic approaches to embodied action-in-interaction in order to examine how violent encounters unfold in situ. He has published methodological and empirical research articles in a range of international journals including Social Psychology Quarterly, British Journal of Social Psychology, Research on Language and Social Interaction, Discourse & Society, and Ethnic and Racial Studies, amongst many others.

Co-Sponsors: Critical Psychology Cluster (PhD Programs in Critical Social/Personality Psychology and Environmental Psychology); PhD Programs in Psychology, Sociology, and Geography; Africana Studies; The Center for Place, Culture, and Politics; Committee on Globalization and Social Change; The Public Science Project; The Center for Human Environments; and The Center for the Humanities



Conference: Global Fashion Capitals

October 13, 2015
1:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Proshansky Auditorium, CUNY Graduate Center

Tuesday, October 13th | 1:30–7:30PM
Proshansky Auditorium, CUNY Graduate Center
Visit the conference website for more information.


The multilayered identity of New York as a global fashion capital has long been defined by the history of the garment industry, fashion and labor. The cultures and economies of the fashion industry and the city of New York have been and continue to be intertwined. The cultural economic impact of the fashion industry on New York City cannot be overstated. New York City’s fashion industry employs 180,000 people and accounts for 6% of the city workforce, generating $10.9 billion a year in total wages, and tax revenues of $2 billion. An estimated 900 fashion companies are headquartered in the city. New York Fashion Week contributes about $850 million a year to the local economy—about twice the economic impact of the 2014 Super Bowl.

Fashion is more than ever part of a wider landscape that intersects with other creative industries (media, visual arts, design, film, craft). Fashion, its manufacturing and culture industry, and its complex media apparatus have contributed to the transformation and histories of several world cities. In many cases, as in New York City, women and immigrants were largely responsible for building the garment industry; and it was their work that intersected with social reforms, political activism, gradual urban transformation and processes of globalization and gentrification.

Some of the questions the conference will address are:

  1. How and why does a city become a Global Fashion Capital?
  2. What role do the social media and the post-digital experience of today play?
  3. How can labor, craft and design survive in the era of Instagram?
  4. How do new technologies and big data affect our ways of life, thinking and consuming the city in the city?
  5. Is there a new rhythm analysis that needs to be understood?
  6. And how can we strengthen our right to the city and allow a new humanitarian sensibility and politics?

This one-day symposium is presented by Fashion Studies at The Graduate Center and the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies, in collaboration with the School of Visual, Media & Performing Arts at Brooklyn College and The Museum at FIT, and the support of Women’s Studies Certificate Program, the Master in Women’s StudiesThe Committee on Globalization and Social ChangeData & Society, and The Futures Initiative.

Lisa Lowe: The Intimacies of Four Continents

October 15, 2015
4:30 pm - 6:30 pm
CUNY Graduate Center, Skylight Room

9780822358633A discussion of Lisa Lowe‘s The Intimacies of Four Continents (2015, Duke University Press), with Susan Buck-Morss, Kandice Chuh, and Eric Lott.

October 15 | 4:30–6:30pm
Skylight Room, CUNY Graduate Center

In this uniquely interdisciplinary work, Lisa Lowe examines the relationships between Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas in the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth- centuries, exploring the links between colonialism, slavery, imperial trades and Western liberalism. Reading across archives, canons, and continents, Lowe connects the liberal narrative of freedom overcoming slavery to the expansion of Anglo-American empire, observing that abstract promises of freedom often obscure their embeddedness within colonial conditions. Race and social difference, Lowe contends, are enduring remainders of colonial processes through which “the human” is universalized and “freed” by liberal forms, while the peoples who create the conditions of possibility for that freedom are assimilated or forgotten. Analyzing the archive of liberalism alongside the colonial state archives from which it has been separated, Lowe offers new methods for interpreting the past, examining events well documented in archives, and those matters absent, whether actively suppressed or merely deemed insignificant. Lowe invents a mode of reading intimately, which defies accepted national boundaries and disrupts given chronologies, complicating our conceptions of history, politics, economics, and culture, and ultimately, knowledge itself.

Lisa Lowe is Professor of English and American Studies at Tufts University, and a member of the Consortium for Studies in Race, Colonialism and Diaspora. She is the author and coeditor of books on orientalism, immigration and globalization, including Critical Terrains: French and British Orientalisms (Cornell UP, 1991), Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics (Duke UP, 1996), The Politics of Culture in the Shadow of Capital (Duke UP, 1997), and most recently, The Intimacies of Four Continents (Duke UP, 2015). 

Unthinking Sovereignty in the Postcolony: Yarimar Bonilla, Gregory Mann, Omar Dahbour, and Herman Bennett

November 10, 2015
4:30 pm - 7:00 pm

A presentation by Yarimar Bonilla (Rutgers) on  Non-Sovereign Futures: French Carribbean Politics in the Wake of Disenchantment (2015, University of Chicago Press) and Gregory Mann (Columbia) on From Empires to NGOs in the West African Sahel: The Road to Nongovernmentality (2014, Cambridge University Press), in conversation with Omar Dahbour (Hunter College) and Herman Bennett (The Graduate Center, CUNY).

Tuesday, November 10th, 4:30pm
Room 9204
The Graduate Center, CUNY

9780226283814Non-Sovereign Futures: French Caribbean Politics in the Wake of Disenchantment marks a significant intervention into debates about Caribbean pasts in the present. Focusing its historical and ethnographic lens on the 2009 labor upheaval in Guadeloupe, the book explores with methodological verve and seminal insight the paradoxical tension between the desire to resist continued dependence on France, and the difficulty of articulating a vocabulary that might embody the collective demand for an alternative mode of political self-determination. In short, the book aims to put into question whether sovereignty can continue to be imagined as the single normative good and ultimate value of modern political life.”

—David Scott, author of Omens of Adversity


41qAHLEKZPL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_“Gregory Mann gives us a thought-provoking, nuanced, deeply researched exposition of what sovereignty does and does not mean in the context of the decolonization of French West Africa and the inability of African states to meet the hopes of most of their citizens. He explores Africans’ immersion in different forms of connection across space, conflicting claims of African states and the French government to regulate cross-border migration within Africa, controversies over the rights of former citizens from Africa to work and live in France, and the effects of NGO interventions on how Africa is governed.”

—Frederick Cooper, author of Citizenship between Empire and Nation: Remaking France and French Africa, 1945–1960

Co-sponsored by the Mellon-Sawyer Seminar: Cultures & Histories of Freedom.

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