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05 Jun
Zoom
Jun 5, 2021 | 11:00 AM-5:00 PM

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Alumni College 2021

Welcome to Gallatin's first-ever virtual Alumni College! We are thrilled to offer the engaging classes you have always known with the excellent Gallatin faculty you have always admired. Join us for a day of scholarship, conversations, and camaraderie that highlight all that Gallatin has to offer. Gallatin started the Alumni College in 2015 in response to requests from alumni who knew that the Gallatin seminar was a singular experience they wanted to enjoy again. Please note that Alumni College is open to NYU Gallatin alumni only.

This year, you will have the opportunity to attend virtual classes led by Gallatin faculty, including Professors Paula Chakravartty, Steve Duncombe, Karen Hornick, Nina Katchadourian, Moya Luckett, Ritty Lukose, Vasuki Nesiah, Peter Rajsingh, George Shulman, and Matt Stanley.

REGISTER HERE!

Explore the full schedule, class details, and course descriptions below.

After the discussions have ended, alumni are welcome to view the digital exhibitions offered by the Gallatin Galleries.

All Alumni College programming is complimentary, and registration is required. Out of respect for our faculty, please register only if you're intent on participating on June 5. Kindly let us know by May 28 if you have made a reservation that you can no longer honor.

 

SCHEDULE
All times are in Eastern Daylight Time.

Alumni Welcome, 11:00 am
with Dean Susanne L. Wofford

Session One, 11:15 am-12:45 pm
Nina Katchadourian, Humor and Contemporary Visual Art
George Shulman, What's in a Name? Assembly, Protest, Riot, and Insurrection as Democratic Practices
Ritty Lukose, What is Global Feminism?

Lunch Break, 1:00-2:00 pm

Session Two, 2:00-3:30 pm
Moya Luckett, Fallen Celebrity: Interrogating Failure and Misplaced Fame
Peter Rajsingh, Making Sense of Me: McGilchrist’s Divided Brain Thesis and the World as We Know It
Steve Duncombe, Double Consciousness: The Enduring Relevance of W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk
Paula Chakravartty, Disinformation and Democracy

Session Three, 3:30-5:00 pm
Matt Stanley, Science and the Imagination
Karen Hornick, Surprised by Beauty: Aesthetics and Personal Taste
Vasuki Nesiah, Critical Race Theory and the Law

 

Nina Katchadourian, Humor and Contemporary Visual Art

Humor often functions like a Trojan Horse, bypassing the guardians of the status quo and drawing laughter before it’s clear exactly what’s happened. What’s smuggled in under the guise of a joke may often be very serious, and funny and frivolous are far from being the same thing. Insightful and incendiary critiques have often been delivered through the complex strategies of humor, and we will consider both historical and recent examples. Humor and transgression often keep close company and what we repress often erupts through the societal bounds of taste and decorum. We will discuss some key concepts in humor theory, consider some examples from a few contemporary artists who use strategies of humor, and through close analysis and discussion, bring to light a few things about how “funny” works.

George Shulman, What's in a Name? Assembly, Protest, Riot, and Insurrection as Democratic Practices

This session explores the relationship between “democracy,” conceived as voting and “representative government,” and political practices (of assembly, protest, riot, and insurrection) that involve direct and embodied action, often extra-legal and sometimes violent. Such practices are not only “civic” in the sense of public, engaged, and rule-bound, but often foundational acts of world-building power that break some rules to make new ones. Such practices may make demands on the state, but also may embody a "constituent" power that is not goal-oriented but self-affirming, an assembly or collective action celebrating popular power and enjoying festive anger. Media condemn “the insurrection” on January 6 to defend the core principle of electoral democracy -peaceful transfer of power- but is democracy also endangered if we demonize insurrectionary assembly and extralegal violence? At issue is our vision of what "democracy" actually means and requires, how we define the illegitimate, what we count as anti- or un-democratic. I have assigned a set of readings, each only a few pages, discussing practices of assembly, riot, and insurrection from a range of perspectives. 

Ritty Lukose, What is Global Feminism?

Feminism in everyday life, in the functioning of institutions, in the media and on the street seems to have a new lease on life. From the Women’s Marches in the US and around the world, to the rise of the #MeToo movement that spread to 85 countries, to feminist mobilizations in Argentina that recently legalized abortion, now more than ever feminism as a universalizing horizon of justice and emancipation seems to have brought into being the idea that "the sisterhood is global." Yet, how do we think about the varied and interconnected histories of feminisms around the world that go back to the 19th century in light of this contemporary global sense of feminism? What is the relationship between imperialism and feminism in the 19th century and over the course of the 20th? What impact does this history have on this moment of "global feminism"? What has changed and what has stayed the same? Drawing on these histories and relating them to some examples of  contemporary feminist mobilizations, we will probe the changing meanings of the global as a horizon of possibility for feminisms today.

Moya Luckett, Fallen Celebrity: Interrogating Failure and Misplaced Fame

This session parses public fascination with fallen celebrities, focusing on the public judgment of those who seemingly squander their talents. Representing the other side of the social mobility so often annexed to celebrity, this session looks at how the media use fallen celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan, Jordyn Woods, Amanda Bynes, and Britney Spears to frame failure and decline in neoliberal terms—as personal shortcomings. In the process, their histories are used both to foreclose structural social, economic, or institutional critiques of failure in late capitalist society and to engender affective responses, such as the Free Britney movement, that individualize failure and foster affective “truths.” This session will consider how narratives and the spectacle of personal failure engage with questions of who deserves fame, both in terms of their work ethics and self-brands. Besides reflecting on the passionate policing of fame’s public sphere, we will examine the roles played by gender, race, and class, considering why young women’s declines are often the most vividly exploited by the public and media organizations. We will also consider how the broader cultural fascination with celebrity decline, and the emotive judgment it engenders, speaks to fame’s own irrational yet pivotal role in the way the public are encouraged to make sense of contemporary and modern culture, particularly in terms of social mobility and personal success.

Peter Rajsingh, Making Sense of Me: McGilchrist’s Divided Brain Thesis and the World as We Know It

“This above all: to thine own self be true.”
—William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3

What's the significance that our brains are divided in a skull that is symmetrical? People used to think the left hemisphere controlled reason and the right emotion. This dichotomy has been proven false. But we are, nevertheless, brain-divided creatures, a fact established by split-brain experiments, and from stroke patients where one hemisphere shuts down. The two parts of the brain definitively attend to the world in different ways. In light of this, how should we understand being “true to oneself” as Polonius admonished Laertes?

Thinkers over centuries have interrogated the self and subjectivity, and how what's in our heads contributes (or doesn't) to the way we engage with the world. Iain McGilchrist, who has guest lectured at Gallatin, presents a persuasive framework. His “Master and his Emissary” metaphor has been termed one of the most significant ideas of our time. This conversation explores its implications.

Steve Duncombe, Double Consciousness: The Enduring Relevance of W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk

Published in 1903, W.E.B. Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk was a magisterial mash-up of critical race theory, social psychology, community sociology, fiction, and personal memoir. Nothing less than a reconstruction of Black identity in the United States, the book laid out a political vision for a hybrid nation that still remains elusive. At the center of Du Bois's analysis is his theory of double consciousness: “this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others,” a condition which “yields . . . no true self-consciousness.” Although Du Bois is describing the condition of being Black within a white supremacist society, his insights can be applied more broadly, raising questions of whether everyone suffers a form of double consciousness (and whether this is always a detriment), whether anyone can attain true self-consciousness (and if this is even desirable), and how power and culture determine all forms of consciousness.

Paula Chakravartty, Disinformation and Democracy

Over the last decade, we have seen the emergence of anti-democratic political forces and the election of charismatic right-wing strong men fueled by  disinformation. How do we make sense of the algorithmic right-wing populism and social media-triggered fake news targeting minorities and migrants? In this class, we will take a historical and critical  perspective in our overview of normative theories of media freedom and democracy. We will focus on how the Cold War and the War on Terror has shaped global political imaginaries through  commercial media infrastructures. We will also consider how the struggle for anti-colonial freedom might offer us meaningful alternatives to our collective media freedom today.

Matt Stanley, Science and the Imagination

If science is about facts—things we’re sure are true, things that are real—then what role is there for the imagination? Scientists worry about the dangers of unchecked speculation, but how can we talk about ephemeral entities like dark matter and viruses without the power of the mind’s eye? The history of science has been a search for a fruitful balance of skepticism and creativity, opening up new avenues of thought even as fanciful ideas are trimmed away. We take as our departure the lecture “On the Scientific Use of the Imagination” by the Victorian physicist John Tyndall (a pioneer of global warming theory). There he grapples with atoms, germs, and Darwinian evolution—all of them require imagination, so what role should they play in science?  We will decide how to apply his guidelines to the ever-more-abstract (and powerful) science of our own day.

Karen Hornick, Surprised by Beauty: Aesthetics and Personal Taste

Beauty can take us by surprise, but it can also be fickle and quickly slip away. Over time, we may come to love a book we hated in college or fall out of love with a film that changed our lives in ninth grade. Sometimes we find ourselves lip-synching and foot-tapping to a Top 40 song we’d ignored a million times before at the drugstore. In this class, we will discuss such experiences and feelings in relation to Zadie Smith’s essay “Some Notes on Attunement,” about the transformation of taste that led her to appreciate the music of Joni Mitchell. We will connect her ideas to those of Susan Sontag and Sianne Ngai, two modern thinkers involved in this ancient question: is beauty in the eye of the beholder or does it reside in things themselves, perhaps even independently of human judgement? Students should come to class prepared with examples of their own personal experiences of taste-shifting, perhaps after listening to Mitchell’s album Blue, the record that moved Smith to change her mind. 

Vasuki Nesiah, Critical Race Theory and the Law

“The law does have a canon. It consists of terms like ‘just,’ ‘fair,’ ‘equal,’ ‘equal opportunity,’ ‘unfair to innocent whites,’ ‘nice,’ ‘deserving,’ and ‘meritorious,’ all with canonical meanings that reflect our sense of how things ought to be, namely much as they are.” —Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic

“To say that blacks never fully believed in rights is true. Yet it is also true that blacks believed in them so much and so hard that we gave them life where there was none before.” —Patricia Williams

In September 2020, Donald Trump denounced Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a memo instructing federal agencies to identify institutions receiving federal funds that were teaching CRT. Had Trump switched off cable news to read law review articles? Suddenly, thanks to Trump, in a bizarre turn of events, a tradition of scholarship that few outside the academy had encountered caught the national spotlight, provoking front page editorials and prime time segments on legal scholarship.  What is CRT? An approach to law that was birthed by legal scholars of color in the 1980s, CRT has offered both a critical assessment of the civil rights movement and an analysis of the role of law in the struggle against structural racism. On the one hand, CRT has argued that racism is knit into the fabric of American jurisprudence, including its celebrated constitutional promises; on the other, CRT has consistently pursued legal strategies to fight racial injustice. Our discussion will explore this vexed terrain of struggle that is not predicated on faith in America’s promises.