Vancouver Institute for Social Research
Spring 2019 Session: CATASTROPHE
@ Or Gallery
7pm on Monday nights in March
March 4th – 7pm
Geoff Mann: Permanent Emergency
The effort to understand contemporary sovereignty (“rulership”) might best be pursued not through Schmitt’s influential characterization of sovereignty as inaugurated in the decision on the exception, but by concentrating on necessity. If, as has been said for a century, we are in a “permanent state of emergency”, the exception loses its critical grip. If the “exception” becomes the rule, what does the sovereign decide? Necessity points to a conception of sovereignty—which we might describe as the determination of the distribution of the burdens of life—able to help us grapple with crucial challenges to the modern state. The problems associated with accelerating climate change and inequality, for example, are no longer “exceptional”, but so unexceptional as to be paradigmatic of the current conjuncture. For the state, the problem is not the decisive act in the declaration of a state of emergency. Instead, the present calamity demands daily, almost mundane answers to the question of the distribution of life’s burdens. As the management of “permanent emergency” becomes more central to state function, the “exception” proves an increasingly inadequate conceptual tool. This gives new meaning to the “tragic” understanding of politics in liberal political theory and political economy.
Geoff Mann is a professor and undergraduate programs chair in the Department of Geography at Simon Fraser University, where he also directs the Centre for Global Political Economy. His most recent books are In the Long Run We Are All Dead: Keynesianism, Political Economy and Revolution (Verso, 2017) and Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future, co-authored with Joel Wainwright (Verso, 2018).
March 11th – 7pm
Christine Kim: Brutalist Imaginary – North Korea through a Minor Transpacific Lens
For audiences located in the West, and perhaps beyond, North Korea is a dystopic spectacle that appears ludicrous, terrifying, and tragic. This effect is created through periodic media coverage, films, memoirs, and other cultural representations that fashion North Korea as a cultural fantasy of the inhuman for the West. In this talk, I examine the film The Interview as well as the security concerns surrounding Sony Pictures in order to reflect upon perceptions of North Korea. Given that the film was shot in British Columbia, it also offers a useful opportunity to reflect upon Canada’s position in relation to North Korea and, more specifically, as part of what might be called a ‘minor transpacific’ in order to map the minor histories and cultural flows that connect locations in the Asia Pacific region. This paper takes a minor transpacific as a perspective and a methodology to complicate how North Korea invokes the Cold War for local audiences and to ask what is at stake in popular tendencies to write North Korea in terms that are simultaneously fascinating and horrifying.
Christine Kim is an Associate Professor in the English department at Simon Fraser University. Her teaching and research focus on Asian North American literature and theory, diaspora studies, and cultural studies. She is the author of The Minor Intimacies of Race (University of Illinois Press, 2016) and co-editor of Cultural Grammars of Nation, Diaspora and Indigeneity (Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2012). She has contributed chapters to essay collections on Asian Canadian literature and theatre and published articles in Interventions, Mosaic, Studies in Canadian Literature, and Journal of Intercultural Studies. Christine is co-director of SFU’s Institute of Transpacific Cultural Research. Currently she is working on a SSHRC funded book-length project on representations of North Korea, cultural fantasies, and Cold War legacies.
March 18th – 7pm
Transition and Identity in the Post-Yugoslav Environment
Nermin Gogalic in conversation with Jerry Zaslove
What was then seen as “The End of History” by Francis Fukuyama was actually the beginning of a long lasting catastrophe for many of us living in the former Yugoslavia. The turmoil of political transition, which in our case coincided with a civil war, brought upon a state of unrest and confusion.
What happened with identity in the midst of such radical changes? What strategies and techniques were employed to dismantle the pre-existing identity once it was deemed inadequate by those in the position of power, and what was offered instead?
This conversation will attempt to create a narrative that will inspect these questions within a specific geo-political period. It will attempt to show what happens to both common and individual identity, as well as that of the city. In doing so we will rely mostly on intimate personal recollection and reflections provided with the privilege of both geographical and temporal distance.
Nermin Gogalic is a Vancouver based writer from Rijeka (Croatia) with a special interest in identity politics and the city. He is currently a student in Graduate Liberal Studies at Simon Fraser University.
SFU Professor Emeritus Jerry Zaslove is a teacher and writer who studied Comparative Literature at Western Reserve University and the University of Washington. Since 1965 at Simon Fraser University he has taught Literature and Humanities, influenced but not limited by the traditions of the relationship of social radicalisms and the arts, the worlds of psychoanalysis and aesthetics. He is the Founding Director of the Institute for the Humanities and has published numerous essays and monographs on the subjects he loves and teaches. Currently Simons Fellow in Graduate Liberal Studies. A volume of his collected essays Untimely Passages: Dossiers from the Other Shore, 1965–2015 is in preparation.
March 25th – 7pm
Sasha Langford: “An Atmosphere of Certain Uncertainty”: Knowledge, Embodiment, and Ecology in Thick Time
Anthropocene discourse over the past decade has often framed global warming as a form of “certain uncertainty” that demands new empirical and speculative methodologies in order to be properly known. In this talk, I consider the “certain uncertainty” of climate science and ecological theory in relation to postcolonial and psychoanalytic accounts of embodiment that situate the body as an ambivalent site of knowledge. Accepting climate change as a process with roots in colonial history, I ask how concepts such as “weathering,” “atmosphere,” and “acclimatization” may blur the boundaries between social and meteorological forms of bodily duress. In doing so, I propose that thinking “certain uncertainty” as a mode of resilient embodiment to environmental conditions may serve to further politicize contemporary ecological theory.
Sasha J. Langford is an independent scholar, composer, and musician. Her recent research has considered the visual discourse of the Anthropocene, the placenta as a site of Marxist critique, and the symbolic role of the fee in psychoanalytic practice. Other recent work includes the 2017 essay and hybrid-writing collection Ephemeral Institutions, and performances at the International Noise Conference in Miami, FL; the Ende Tymes Festival of Noise and Experimental Liberation in Brooklyn, NY; and the Lines of Flight Festival of Experimental Music in Dunedin, New Zealand. She currently teaches media history and theory at Columbia College.
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The Vancouver Institute of Social Research takes place on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish Peoples; the Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.