Comparative and interdisciplinary cultural studies of contemporary objects, visual or textual narratives (20th and 21st-century literatures, popular culture, cinema,television and new media);
specific focus on:
Amsterdam Research Centre for Gender and Sexuality (ARC-GS)
Amsterdam Center for Globalisation Studies
What’s Queer about Europe? examines how queer theory helps us initiate disorienting conjunctions and counterintuitive encounters for imagining historical and contemporary Europe. This book queers Europe and Europeanizes queer, forcing a reconsideration of both. Its contributors study Europe relationally, asking not so much what Europe is but what we do when we attempt to define it.
The topics discussed include: gay marriage in Renaissance Rome, Russian anarchism and gender politics in early-twentieth-century Switzerland, colonialism and sexuality in Italy, queer masculinities in European popular culture, queer national identities in French cinema, and gender theories and activism. What these apparently disparate topics have in common is the urgency of the political, legal, and cultural issues they tackle. Asking what is queer about Europe means probing the blind spots that continue to structure the long and discrepant process of Europeanization.
The authors studied in this book can be visualized as the islands that constitute an unknown, fragile and trembling literary and cultural Francophone archipelago. The archipelago does not appear on any map, in the middle of an ocean whose name we already know. No Francophone anthology would put these authors together as a matter of course because what connects them is a narrative grammar rather than a national origin or even a language. Yet, their writing techniques and their apprehension of the real (the ways in which they know and name the world) both reflect and actively participate in our evolving perception of what Gayatri Spivak calls the “planet”. The Reparative in Narratives argues that argue that they repair trauma through writing.
One description of these awe-inspiring, tender and sometimes horrifying tales is that their narrators are survivors who have experienced and sometimes inflicted unspeakable acts of violence. And yet, ultimately, despair, nihilism, cynicism or silence are never the consequences of their encounter with what some quickly call evil. The traumatic event has not killed them and has not killed their desire to write or perform, although the decidedly altered life that they live in the aftermath of the disaster forces them to become different types of storytellers. They are the first-person narrators of their story, and their narration reinvents them as speaking subjects. In turn, this requires that we accept new reading pacts. That pact is a temporal and geographical signature: the reparative narrative needs readers prepared to accept that healing belongs to the realm of possibilities and that exposure and denunciation do not exhaust the victim’s range of possibilities. Rosello contends that this context-specific yet repeating pattern constitutes a response to the contemporary figuration of both globalized and extremely localized types of traumatic memories.
In recent years, hospitality has emerged as a category in French thinking for addressing a range of issues associated with immigration and other types of journeys. Rosello's book concentrates primarily on France and its former colonies in North and sub-Saharan Africa and considers how hospitality and its dissidence are defined, practiced, and represented in European and African fictions, theories, and myths at the end of the twentieth century. Postcolonial Hospitality explores the ways in which Western superpowers rewrite ideals of hospitality that are borrowed from a variety of sources and that sometimes constitute an incompatible system of values.
Each chapter focuses on a problematic moment when hospitality is read either as excessive or lacking: when the host does not give what is ideally expected; when the guest is mistreated rather than protected; when the guest abuses the host rather than being grateful. In considering these issues, the author examines the relationship between ownership and generosity, focusing specifically on the connections among nationalism, immigration, and hospitality. Because the intersections between cultural differences and issues of gender often expose the fragility or arbitrariness of hospitable conventions, the author studies novels, films, and immigrant interviews that explore those moments of crisis when systems of hospitality clash.
Declining the Stereotype: Ethnicity and Representation in French Cultures. Dartmouth: University of New England Press, 1998.
Infiltrating Culture: Power and Identity in Contemporary Women's Writing. Manchester : Manchester University Press, 1996.
Littérature et identité créole aux Antilles. Paris: Karthala, 1992.
L'in-différence chez Michel Tournier : "L'un de ces types est le frère jumeau del'autre, lequel?" Paris : Corti, 1990.
L'Humour noir selon André Breton: "Après avoir assassiné mon pauvre père". Paris: Corti,1987.
1. Expressions Maghrébines . 6.1 (été 2007). Special Issue on Images, imagination: Algérie
2. Culture, Theory and Critique (Spring 2007): Themed issue: Creolization: Towards a Non-eurocentric Europe . Coedited by Mireille Rosello and Murray Pratt
(MA course 2018-2019)
The objective of this course is to think about how controversial words and concepts such as “race”, “sex” and “trans-” are used today; to gain a historical and theoretical knowledge of how such concepts may be used both in life-affirming but also in oppressive ways in various discourses (in literature and films, as well as in visual arts, the media and popular discourses).
The module asks to what extent one can or cannot perform the same political or cultural work with the aid of concepts such as “race”, “sex”, or “trans-”. What is the intersection between those concepts or at which point are they incompatible, or even in conflict with each other? We will compare the institutionalization of racism, transphobia and sexism and ask whether the intersection between the three concepts provides us with theoretical and political resources. What can one do with those concepts, what are their limitations, what are the possibilities of intersectionality, transsectionality, alliances, misalliances and misunderstandings?
We will examine how race, sex and trans- help us understand new forms of femininities, masculinities or non- binary identities, racialized or de-racialized identities by focusing on three main issues: embodiment, affects and rights. This will help us answer the question “how to do something with trans-, race or sex?” when we choose to reckon with such seemingly unrelated concepts/objects as Africa and Asia, Islam or Christianity, wealth or refugees, medicalization or cultural definitions of beauty, legal rights and activism, shame, mourning, hope and happiness.
(ASCA Theory Seminar 2014-2015)
The title could be read as a joke or an attempt to parody the idea of being theoretically cutting-edge. It may look like some Frankensteinian creature, the monstrous offspring of a science-fiction intercourse between Cultural Analysis (a recognizable and familiar body) and currently hegemonic post-everything elements, organs or actors. Here Bio- and Eco- have merged and morphed with cultural analysis and the result is a vaguely comprehensible yet unknown form.
The idea is that there is no incompatibility between thinking bio and eco (beyond the human, beyond the nation, beyond gender, beyond abilities, beyond species or even beyond globalization) and being committed to contemporary issues or precarity, disability, refugees, or violence. Learning to think with and against eco- and bio- is unavoidable because it helps us think about what dominant political and ideological regimes leave out as the unthought, the impolitical, and which precondition of thought make some grievable and others not, some human and some killable.
Bio-culture and Eco-analysis might be new knowledge, or perhaps a fashionable extravagance that will be last year’s flavour in a few months. But it is meant as an experiment, a challenge that will enable us to continue to think about the place of the “intellectual” today. At a time when the humanities are losing hope, prestige and the financial autonomy that guarantees some freedom from compromisions, the intellectual might have a chance if [unknown pronoun] becomes “Affective.”
The Return of the Political: Theorizing Contemporary Struggles
(ASCA Theory Seminar 2013-2014)
If critical thought is essentially, as the young Marx put it, “the self-clarification […] of the struggles and wishes of the age”, then the task to understand these struggles, their aims, dynamics, limitations, and risks, is of essential theoretical and practical importance. This year’s theory seminar will examine some of the political struggles of our age and interrogate the social and theoretical categories that have been developed to get an intellectual grip on them. We will discuss both classical and contemporary attempts to map the contested reality of struggle – especially at the intersection of struggles that have traditionally been categorized as separate – and investigate in how far different theoretical frameworks (Marxist, feminist, postcolonial, queer, poststructuralist etc.) can be seen as both complementary and interruptive. These different perspectives will be arranged according to three distinct and overlapping themes: the politics of contradiction, the politics of recognizing the difference, and the politics of populism.
In the second semester we will focus more specifically on the dialectical tension between politics and affect. We will consider how affects and emotions function in the context of recent political struggles (if the shape and form of mobilization changes due to globalized media and forms of communication, how is the relationship between commitment and affect changed at the level of the individual and the “crowd”). To think about such questions, we will focus on a number of keywords: indifference, indignation, love and terror. We will ask what happens when we consider some emotions as “naturally” political, a-political or more likely to be associated with a given political “side” (right or left, capitalist, anti-globalisation, revolutionary etc.)
(ASCA Theory Seminar 2011-2012)
The 2011-2012 theory seminar focuses on the articulation between change and mobility .
Is change always implicitly imagined as a form of mobility and vice-versa? To what extent is such a connection desirable or unavoidable?
The seminar proposes to explore the imaginary and political consequences of the waysin which various cultures establish links between, on the one hand, notions of progress, revolution, integration, economic development, ageing, healing and on the other hand nomadism, border-crossing, migration or commuting. Given that strong affective reactions are involved in the preference or mistrust of either movement of stasis, we interrogate the way in which concepts such loyalty or treachery, pain and pleasure, comedy or tragedy are woven into the politics of transformations and mobility.
Following up on this year's discussion of the relative benefits of slow and fast (reading) practices, we will try to establish what are the advantages or disadvantages of visualizing disciplines in terms of territories, of translation or language acquisition in terms of movement across languages, of class mobility as a journey but also of migration as a process of becoming (Dutch or woman or minority).
We will explore how each concept (change or mobility) contaminates the other and how they influence our definition of cultural norms and resistance, and our aesthetic and political assumptions.
(Theory Seminar 2010-2011)
The 2010-11 ASCA theory seminar focuses on the articulation between "closeness" and "slowness" in order to explore the cultural, political and aesthetic values that are implied when we celebrate or criticize speed (haste, fast food, race-pace, swiftness, quick on one's feet) or slowness (belatedness, boredom, tedium, laziness,thoroughness, meticulousness).The idea is not to search from "slowness" in a given past, a time when everything was always slower and when something that we call the quality of (human) life was not yet damagedby modernity. Instead, it is worth examining the value ascribed to slowness across historical periods and to ask whether each period turned to its own past as the golden age when a perfect balance between speed and slowness was possible. The desire to find slowness in one's own past may also be questioned as the mirror of spatial practices that confine "slowness" to the non-European or non-Western other. Slowness then becomes characteristic of the Exotic, whether he or she is idealized or not. Just as Gayatri Spivak suggests that many rural poor do not have to worry about choosing between being economic or intellectual migrants because they will never move at all, could it be that the celebration of slowness in non-Western spaces is a reading imposed by the other rather than by the self who gives an account of his/herself?
In the West, the current valorization of hyper-speed is historically linked to a globalized perspective that privileges the planet as the object of the gaze. In other words, distance (seeing from afar, seeing the "global picture") goes hand in hand with the privileging of speed. By crossing "slowness" and "closeness", we propose to trouble the implicit quadrangular system of meaning that opposes fast to slow and close to far. Why should we have to pit "slow" food against "fast" food, or why should fast and slow find themselves either in a position of mutual exclusion or in paradigms that make one concept always more desirable than the other.
To what extent is close reading an obsolete disciplinary tool or the answer to norms that deprive each reader of the right to take one's time, give the other place, accept rudimentariness, welcome intercultural confusionand the moments of silence and misunderstandings that they generate. To what extent does close reading represent qualitative different moments of "slowness": once identified, do they demand another aesthetics and therefore another politics of reading, interpretingand communication? Given thatspeed is a hegemonic mode through which muchcultural production is experienced, can deliberate strategies of slowness, stuttering and gentle circumlocutions be analyzed as counter-hegemonic forms of manifestation?
Each double session revolves around a critical theme that is closely related to the issue of speed and slowness, distance and closenes
(Theory Seminar 2009-2010)
We propose to work on the articulation between "theory" and "practice." The worry that theory and practice may be incompatible is a theory in itself. If we examine that theory, we are also practicing a type of critique that will change "Theory" (as supposedly different from practice) and "(that) theory" as the object that we now study.
Let us imagine that theory and practice are not fields or territories (spatial metaphor) that different agents claim and put borders around. Instead let us consider that they are ways of thinking, or more importantly ways of doing that are always both distinguishable and constantly interrupted by each other (Spivak 1986). Theories are discourses that we construct to create intelligible worlds but our discourses are limited and enabled by our historical situatedness, which limits the realms of what we can accept or even imagine as legible, intelligible and recognizable (think of the French word "partage," which means both share and divide, as used by Rancière in Le Partage du sensible or of Judith Butler's claim in Undoing Gender: "To be oppressed you must first become intelligible").
There are as many differences between types of practice and types of theory as they are between practice and theory. The type of thinking that opposes "practice"to "theory" erases internal differences. "Practicing," in thisseminar could refer to doing social work, doing political work, doing activist work but also teaching, writing a dissertation, presenting a conference paper, analyzing an object. Our hypothesis is that we cannot "practice" without theorizing but that "theory" is a practice. To what extent does cultural analysis help us conceptualize and practice at the same time without necessarily distinguishing between object and concept.
This year's theory seminar is entitled " Articulations ." This single word is one of the ways of describing the methodological and theoretical challenges that we face dueto the fact that we have chosen to work in an "in(ter)disciplinary," multilingual and multicultural context. Starting from"articulations" is a different way of thinking through related concepts such as hybridity, translation, globalization, which look at (and therefore create) similar objects of inquiry but through different metaphorical matrixes. At least two ofthe definitional fields of articulations will be kept in mind: we need to articulate so that others understand what we say, but articulations are also a type of joint that enables two entities to connect and move.
One of the goals of the seminar will be to use theory as a way to reflect on the research culture that we constitute, and on the type of theoretical language weneed to learn (or invent) as we attempt to work together: we all come to this seminar with our own uniqueresearch project and our originality is an asset but at the same time, evenoriginality falls within the category of the legibleand we all need to share our research with a community of researchers. What kind of articulation does such a situation require? The dissertation or its equivalent is apriority, the seminar will help you write it by addressing two specific types of issues: 1) by directly addressing issues of translatability, pedagogical presentations, methodological awareness, 2) by providing a community of listeners and readers who will take you where you had not planned to go, who will make you discover what you did not know you were looking for.
One of the ways in which it is supposed to have an effect is that the seminar is meant to openup a space that will give you the opportunity to reflecton the ways in which you can present your own work to a community of researchers that share some of your assumptions and not others. To do so, we will startfrom anumber of key words that manydisciplines (literary theory, mediastudies,musicology, philosophy, postcolonial studies, gender studies) articulate differently. They are presented here as four sets of paradigms that we will interrogate to see when they are constraining or enabling, when they are the preconditions of our thinking andwhen they help us articulate the relationship between our individual research and a body of collective work that is both different from and inseparable from ours.
PHD Seminar: "Critical Intimacy and Theoretical Discomfort"
(Theory Seminar 2007/8)
The ASCA Theory Seminar 2007-2008 on Critical Intimacy and Theoretical Discomfort will explore the intrinsic relationship between theory and whatever it is that we constitute as its object/subject, knowing that the temptation is always to define it as a border. The secret agenda is to dealwith something that Jacques Rancière calls politics-althoughwe cannotdefine that as soon as we accept that our position is intrinsically linked to the object we study and to the theory we use(politics comprisesboth theory and us as theoreticians aswe dealwith the object we secrete). "Intimacy"could be the name given to the type of relationship that "theoreticians" will shy away from and resist, there where theborder between theory, theoretician and theorized becomes blurred.
Oneof the main questions of this seminar is: Does this relationship call for tools that do not exist? Are we perhaps always misusing tools to make them more efficient? Is what de Certeau calls "poaching" or "smuggling" the result of the intimacy/theory paradigm? In nine sessions (descriptions ofwhich you will find below) wewill look into the problematic difference between uses and misuses of theory, and investigate at which moments 'misuse' may be strategically useful, or when a theoretical framework should be avoided. Is it the case that our paradigms make us ignore loving uses of theory ("critical intimacy" in Spivak's terms) in favour of a theory that protects,isolates, frames us/the object/our writing such that our jargon serves asa shield?
See the link below for details about each of the9 sessions
(Core course 1: Research MA Cultural Analysis)
Whatis cultural analysis? To whatextent does it bridge the gapbetween theory and practice? To what extent can it be botha discipline and interdisciplinary? How does it relate to cultural studies, literary analysis, comparative studies or object-based disciplines? Who can benefit from culturalanalysis and whatare the limits of this form of intellectual inquiry?
It is of course highly improbable that we will find the "right" answer to those questions and at the end of thiscourse, we may even decide that it is not so important to define the borders of thefield. Yet, the goal of spending timeon such questions is to allow us to move away from anxiety-producing attempts to define (what is cultural analysis?) to more freeing hermeneutic and creative practices (what do I do, what is my contribution to research, how to I define my own theoretical approach).
The "context" mentioned in the title of the course will consist of examples provided either by the syllabus or byyour own research projects. Wewillwonder why we need to talk about "culture" when we study objects usually subsumed under such concepts as art and politics, fiction and truth, ethics and ideology.
This semester, some of the keywords are postcolonial and migration studies , queer formations , and linguistic encounters . Some of the authors studied or recommended are Judith Butler, Mieke Bal, Patricia Williams, Jacques Rancière and Michel Serres.
Collaborative Book Project: 2012-
Keywords: global migrations, geopolitical borders, surveillance, community and the role of the arts.
A collaborative book consisting of 6 co-authored chapters by 12 authors from English, literary, classical, media studies as well as cultural anthropology and political geography. This study proposes to interrogate and explore the intersection of border studies and aesthetics. Critical approaches include ecocriticism, global studies, political theory and aesthetics, psychoanalysis, postcolonialism, migratory aesthetics, cultural analysis.
Border Aesthetics focuses on six key concepts: ecology (Mireille Rosello and Tim Saunders) imaginary (Lene Marite Johannessen & Ruben Moi), invisibility (Chiara Brambilla & Holger Pötzsch), palimpsests (Nadir Kinossian and Urban Wrakberg), sovereignty (Reinhold Goerling & Johan Shimanski) and waiting (Hen van Houten & Stephen Wolfe).
Editors: Shimanski and Wolfe
This book represents the research carried out as part of the “border aesthetics” project funded by the Research Council of Norway http://en.uit.no/prosjekter/prosjekt?p_document_id=344772.
Keywords: migration and refugee studies, orientalism; cinema, world literature, Pamuk, Boudjedra, De Quincey, Miéville.
This project on disorientation will turn into a special issue of the journal Culture, Theory and Critique. Each article treats disorientation as a productive theoretical node that can help us make sense of our globalized world. Due to increased mobility and intercultural exchanges, many subjects experience moments of disorientation, not only because they feel lost but because it has become impossible to reach consensual definitions of what constitute home and dwelling, borders or border crossing practices. As the contributors show, the concept of disorientation can provide a powerful device for enabling reflection on the practices and activities that develop around borders, and thus define borders in more nuanced and complex ways
Editors: Niall Martin & Mireille Rosello (UVA).