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Intersection of emotion, affect, space underscores mini seminars in SU Humanities Center
Kimerer LaMothe, a philosopher, dancer and religion scholar, will speak on “Missing in Action: The Fate of Bodily Movement in an Age of Affect,” on Friday, April 1, at 11 a.m. in the Killian Room (500) of the Hall of Languages. Her lecture is part of a daylong symposium titled “The Anatomy of Affect: Perspectives on Embodied Emotion.”
Asma Abbas, an expert in philosophical and cultural traditions, will lecture on Friday, April 8, at 9:30 a.m. in the SU Humanities Center Seminar Room (304) in the Tolley Building. Her lecture, “Love, Suffering, and the Unrequited: Some Initiations into a Materialist Politics of the Anticolonial Kind,” is co-sponsored by the English department and South Asia Center.
Both mini seminars are organized and presented by the SU Humanities Center. They are free and open to the public, but seating is limited. To reserve a space, call (315) 443-7192.
Common to both speakers is an interest in emotion, affect and space. “There has been a lot of debate over the role of feelings and affect in various spatial and social contexts,” says Gregg Lambert, Dean’s Professor of the Humanities and founding director of the SU Humanities Center. “Kimerer LaMothe writes about human relations, particularly our impulse to connect with other people and with our surroundings. Asma Abbas, in turn, looks at love, terror and life on the margins of times and spaces.”
An award-winning author and former professor at Brown and Harvard universities, LaMothe received fellowships for her work in dance and religion from the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study and from the Center for the Study of World Religions. A recent move to rural upstate New York inspired her to write the forthcoming memoir “Family Planting: A Farm-Fed Philosophy of Human Relations” (O Books).
“The turn to affect in contemporary theory is part of a larger effort to recuperate the sensory realm of living bodies as the enabling context for rational thought and action,” she writes. “Often motivated by ecological concerns, such projects seek to affirm the relational, relative place of human intelligence within an animate and affective more-than-human world.”
LaMothe stresses the importance of people trying to “discern and honor the agency and wisdom of human bodies.” Hence, one of her overall goals is to lay the groundwork for an ethics of planetary responsibility whose values, to paraphrase Nietzsche, “remain faithful to the Earth.”
Event organizer Donovan O. Schaefer, G’05, G’08, G’11 is one of the respondents to LaMothe’s presentation. He says her visit is timely because of recent developments in the study of embodiment and affect.
“Embodiment has shifted from the ‘representation’ of bodies to ‘living’ bodies, while affect is being addressed as a set of embodied processes rather than an artifact created by discourse,” says Schaefer, a Ph.D. candidate in religion. “Along with this shift have come new enterprises in interdisciplinarity, with scholars in the humanities drawing on a variety of fields to map the anatomy of affective bodies.”
Schaefer’s responses will be augmented by those of M. Gail Hamner, associate professor of religion at SU, and Karmen MacKendrick, the Joseph C. Georg Professor in the philosophy department at Le Moyne College. The responses will take place at 1:30 p.m. in 304 Tolley, as part of a roundtable discussion.
A week later, Abbas will continue LaMothe’s train of thought, using continental, historical and postcolonial perspectives to shed light on politics, ethics and aesthetics. An associate professor of political science and philosophy at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, Abbas is the author of “Liberalism and Human Suffering: Materalist Reflections on Politics, Ethics and Aesthetics” (Palgrave MacMillan, 2010).
“[The book] rethinks the subjectivity of sufferers, their health, their deaths and their hope,” writes the author. “Also, it offers ways of thinking about suffering and politics to counter liberalism’s distorting domestications of human suffering. Insisting that our experience of the world is not prior to, or outside of, justice, but constitutive of it, I recuperate a materialist politics that emphasizes sensuous activity, reclaims representation and honors ‘the labor of suffering.’”
Abbas’ current research project, “Politics of Love on the Verges: Rethinking the Margins Via Anticolonial Timescapes,” provides fresh insight into people marginalized by society. Firmly rooted in political theory and philosophy, the project draws on Abbas’ interests in literature and film; on her work on international anti-imperialist movements; and on literary, labor, ethnic and sectarian movements in South Asia and North Africa.
Abbas’ visit is coordinated by Tanushree Ghosh G’11, a Ph.D. candidate in English and a dissertation research fellow in the SU Humanities Center. “Dr. Abbas’ and my interests overlap, as my work revolves around representations of suffering and ethical spectatorship in late-Victorian Britain,” says Ghosh, who will serve as a respondent to Abbas’ presentation. “Through an analysis of the reformist discourse as it took shape in visual culture, New Journalism, and novels, I explore the spectatorial and affective constitution of the liberal subject.”
Dissertation research fellowships allow students to complete their dissertations within the interdisciplinary atmosphere of the SU Humanities Center, and encourage them to participate as colleagues in center-sponsored events. Each fellow is required to organize a symposium around his or her work that engages other graduate students, as well as faculty both in their field and from other disciplines.
“The purpose of the mini seminar series is to present renowned scholars in a seminar-style format, which is usually more intensive and conversational than a traditional lecture setting,” says Lambert. “Our goal is to create a dialogue about the public possibilities of humanistic inquiry, as they pertain to interdisciplinary thinking and real-world issues.”