Seminars

  • Founded
    1954
  • Seminar Number
    429

The concern of this seminar is the history, literature, and culture of the United States, focusing on the period from the nineteenth century to the present. Recent subjects have ranged from Margaret Fuller to the Hawaiian sovereignty movement, from Asian American fashion designers to letters from former slaves who settled in Liberia. A number of presentations have positioned the United States in transnational or comparative contexts. The seminar’s strength is the variety of fields represented by its intellectually active participants. The very lively discussion periods are one of the most appealing aspects of this seminar.


Co-Chairs
Professor Diane Detournay
ddetournay@fordham.edu

Professor Brandy Monk-Payton
bmonkpayton@fordham.edu

Professor Matt Sandler
mfs2001@columbia.edu

Rapporteur
Matt Cappetta
mc5056@columbia.edu

Meeting Schedule

10/19/2021 Online Meeting
7:00 PM
Making Allies and Affines: Rethinking Racialization
Elda Tsou, St. John's University
Abstract

Abstract

Studies of race have predominantly approached it as a mode of power that produces racial categories to justify exploitation, inequality, subordination and conquest. “Race-making,” as Michael Omi and Howard Winant define it in their seminal Racial Formation in the United States, “can also be understood as a process of ‘othering.’” Racialization therefore operates to exclude certain subjects from humanness, rights and belonging. Recently though scholars have begun to explore how race-making can also involve processes and practices of “inclusion.” This essay uses the Asian American subject, often represented as an “honorary white” to explore an unfamiliar modality of race-making its author calls “a politics of proximity.” In two different historical examples, the paper examines their formal similarity to explore how these Asian American subjects are racialized by claims of affinity rather than difference and alterity.





01/25/2022 Online Meeting
6:30 PM
Making Allies and Affines: Rethinking Racialization
Brandy Monk Payton, Fordham University
Abstract

Abstract

Studies of race have predominantly approached it as a mode of power that produces racial categories to justify exploitation, inequality, subordination and conquest. “Race-making,” as Michael Omi and Howard Winant define it in their seminal Racial Formation in the United States, “can also be understood as a process of ‘othering.’” Racialization therefore operates to exclude certain subjects from humanness, rights and belonging. Recently though scholars have begun to explore how race-making can also involve processes and practices of “inclusion.” This essay uses the Asian American subject, often represented as an “honorary white” to explore an unfamiliar modality of race-making its author calls “a politics of proximity.” In two different historical examples, the paper examines their formal similarity to explore how these Asian American subjects are racialized by claims of affinity rather than difference and alterity.





02/15/2022 Online Meeting
6:30 PM
Story in the Shadow of the Refugee Regime
Mai-linh Hong, University of California, Merced
Abstract

Abstract

When refugees tell stories, they create knowledge, memory, and power in spite of coercion. They must navigate a collective imaginary already populated by stories about them, many of which center refugee rescue to bolster an increasingly hostile global refugee regime. This talk explores story as a strategic resource, a way that refugees organize information and affect while living under duress. When story is viewed through this lens, refugee literature emerges as a social-political terrain on which refugees engage with the terms of their survival, challenging popular humanitarian narratives.





03/02/2022 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM
Empire and Environment: Ecological Ruin in the Transpacific
Jeff Santa Ana, SUNY Stony Brook
Abstract

Abstract

This talk will introduce my co-edited volume Empire and Environment: Ecological Ruin in the Transpacific. The volume argues that histories of imperialism, colonialism, militarism, and global capitalism are integral to understanding environmental violence in the transpacific region. The collection draws its rationale from the imbrication of imperialism and global environmental crisis, but its inspiration from the ecological work of activists, artists, and intellectuals across the transpacific. Taking a postcolonial, ecocritical approach to confronting ecological ruin in an age of ecological crises and environmental catastrophes on a global scale, the collection demonstrates how Asian North American, Asian diasporic, and Indigenous Pacific Island cultural expressions critique a de-historicized sense of place, attachment, and belonging. In addition to its thirteen body chapters from scholars who span the Pacific, each part of this volume begins with a poem by Craig Santos Perez. The volume also features a foreword by Macarena Gómez-Barris and an afterword by Priscilla Wald. The talk will include my chapter contribution “Transpacific Queer Ecologies: Ecological Ruin, Imperialist Nostalgia, and Indigenous Erasure in Han Ong’s The Disinherited.”





03/29/2022 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM
The Other Side of Terror: Black Women and the Culture of US Empire
Shana Redmond, Columbia University

Erica Edwards, Rutgers University



04/12/2022 Faculty House, Columbia University
4:00 PM
Proper Conduct, Proper Care: Gas Masks and the Habituation to Settler Militarism in Wartime Hawaiʻi
Sunny Xiang, Yale University
Abstract

Abstract

This talk examines a seemingly bizarre episode in American history: the years of U.S. martial law in the territory of Hawai‘i when all residents were required to carry a gas mask. I frame U.S. gas mask policies between 1941-1945 as a means of habituating civilians to militarized rule rather than as an aberration from “normal life.” Such policies employed the language of "proper care" and "proper conduct" to convey the importance of respecting the masks as pieces of government property. Gas masks, in other words, conditioned the body to an atmospherically pervasive mode of warfare that was not a Japanese gas attack (which never arrived) but American militarism (which permeated every crevice of daily life). Even though martial law in Hawai‘i technically ended eighty years ago, and even though no one today carries around a gas mask, my hypothesis is that the promotion of “gas consciousness” during this period helped produce a militarized settler subjectivity that was predicated on the defense of property.