The Chancellor Jackman Faculty Research Fellowships in the Humanities, 2016-2017
Jackman Humanities Institute Faculty Research Fellows -- 12 months
Research Fellows hold an office on the 10th floor of the Jackman Humanities Building and are central members of a Circle of Fellows. They are University of Toronto tenured faculty members by the time of their fellowship, chosen for their distinction in achievements relative to their career stage, the excellence of their proposed project, and its relation to the annual theme for 2016-2017, Time, Rhythm, and Pace.
2016-2017 Time, Rhythm, and Pace
The modern experience of time is often characterized by its “increasing speed,” its linearity, and its emphasis on “now.” But time does not have to be regarded as the flight of an arrow, a racetrack, or a forking path. If we consider the body, the planet, or the longue durée of history, it becomes clear that rhythm, cycle, pace and temporality pervade the human condition, now as they have always done. Occurring at multiple scales (neuronal firing, diurnal habits, menses, calendars, life cycles, the rise and fall of civilizations), rhythm is concrete, existential, and profound. How do rhythm and cycle, rather than velocity, characterize human life? What are the politics of chronology? How can a deeper understanding of time, rhythm, and pace -- from literary theorists, historians, phenomenologists, political scientists, and diverse other sectors of the academy -- provide us with guidance in an increasingly frantic and fast-paced world?
Rebecca Comay, Department of Philosophy and Centre for Comparative Literature (FAS)
Rebecca Comay (Ph.D. Toronto, 1986) is Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Literature, and a core member of the Program in Literature and Critical Theory; she is also an associate member of the Daniels Faculty of Landscape, Architecture & Design, the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, and the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies.She works at the intersection of philosophy, psychoanalysis, and art, with particular emphasis on Hegel and the post-Hegelian Marxist tradition (especially Benjamin and Adorno), Freud, Proust, and contemporary French philosophy and political theory.. She has published widely on nineteenth and twentieth continental philosophy, psychoanalysis, literature, and contemporary art. Her most recent books are Mourning Sickness: Hegel and the French Revolution (Stanford, 2011) and (co-authored with Frank Ruda), The Dash: The Other Side of Absolute Knowing (forthcoming MIT Press, 2016).
Arrhythmia of Spirit: Hegel and Interminable Analysis
This project will develop a line of inquiry begun in two previous studies of Hegel that explored the problem of anachronism from two different perspectives. The first, Mourning Sickness: Hegel and the French Revolution, explored the logic of traumatic Nachträglichkeit (sometimes translated as “afterwardness,” retroactivity, or belatedness) as the defining structure of historical experience. This belatedness was exemplified, for Hegel’s entire generation, by the perceived sluggishness of the German response to the French Revolution. I argued that Hegel’s interpretation of this delay was key to his philosophy of history--that the arrhythmia is structural. Lateness is not a contingent peculiarity of German history (the oft-cited Sonderweg or “special pathway” to modernity, notably its belated formation as a nation state); it rather expresses the temporal dissonance that defines historical consciousness. Modernity’s innovation is to make this structure explicit. The delay that defines the “German” experience of the “French” Revolution is an extreme case of the non-synchronicity that structures all historical experience and produces its peculiar latencies, regressions, and repetitions. The second book, The Dash—The Other Side of Absolute Knowing, is a collaborative project that focuses on the caesura between Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit and his Science of Logic. The perplexities of the notoriously difficult transition from the Phenomenology to the Logic suggest that the rhythmic disturbances afflicting experience resurface at the heart of Absolute Knowing – in other words, that there is a temporal discord at the very spot where one might expect this to have been finally rectified. There is a stuckness built into the structure of thought (and being) as such. This stuckness is signaled in the stammer of the opening sentence of the Logic (“Being, pure being,--”) – Hegel’s punctuation is peculiar --and it will exert a brake on the inferential momentum of the entire Logic.
The insights of psychoanalysis were fundamental to both these projects, as indeed to virtually all my work, but in these earlier works the theoretical scaffolding of psychoanalysis itself remained largely implicit. This project will make the psychoanalytic dimension of Hegel’s thought explicit. Using Freud’s controversial concept of “resistance” as my guiding concept, and Freud’s own case studies as a foil, I plan to explore the peculiar rhythm of the Phenomenology. I am particularly fascinated by the depth and vicissitudes of Spirit’s resistance to progress –its inextirpable tendency to regression, obliviousness, disavowal, postponement, backsliding. (This is not the standard way of reading Hegel.) All this stalling might suggest that the prospects of change are bleak. And of course they are. But then again: it’s only at moments of symbolic breakdown that history sheds its veneer as inexorable second nature. It is the experience of stuckness that forces us to reinvent the entire field. I would venture to say this strictly psychoanalytic insight remains the revolutionary kernel in the carapace of the dialectical method.
Elizabeth Harvey, Department of English (FAS)
Elizabeth Harvey (Ph.D. Johns Hopkins University 1984) is Professor of English. She specializes in early modern rhetoric, poetics and literature (Shakespeare, Donne, Spenser), the history of medicine and the body, and literary, feminist, and psychoanalytic theory. She maintains a small clinical practice in psychodynamic therapy and is in the final year of a five-year training program in clinical psychoanalysis with the Toronto Institute for Contemporary Psychoanalysis. She has published five books: Ventriloquized Voices: Feminist Theory and Renaissance Texts (1992), Women and Reason, co-editor (U of Michigan P, 1992), Soliciting Interpretation: Literary Theory and Seventeenth-Century English Poetry, co-editor (U of Chicago P, 1990), Luce Irigaray and Premodern Culture: Thresholds of History, co-editor (Routledge, 2004), and Sensible Flesh: On Touch in Early Modern Culture, editor (U of Pennsylvania P, 2003). Her 40+ essays have appeared in ELH, Word and Image, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Ars Medica, Shakespeare Studies, American Historical Review, and Spenser Studies, and she has contributed book chapters to numerous collections and handbooks. She is currently completing a co-authored book with Tim Harrison (from the University of Chicago) entitled John Donne’s Physics, and a single-authored book project on spirits in Shakespeare.
Time and the Rhythms of the Unconscious in the Poetry of Anne Carson
This project investigates the intersections of time, rhythm, and the unconscious in the writings of Anne Carson. Trained in classics with a PhD from the University of Toronto, Carson was steeped in the structures of ancient Greek poetry. She taught at McGill University, the University of Michigan, and Princeton University, and when she was 42, Carson began a career as one of the most successful North American poets currently writing. Her writing grapples not just with language but with its undercurrents, the sounds and configurations that shape the meanings that consistently defy logic. Her thought is saturated with scholarship even as it explores wildly idiosyncratic methods, mischievous humor, and constantly evolving generic categories. The book is divided into three interlaced sections—on time, rhythm, and the unconscious—and each topic takes us deep into the heart of Carson’s poetics. I draw on the writings of psychoanalysts—Nicolas Abraham, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Jean Laplanche, Thomas Ogden, Allan Schore—and theorists and literary scholars—Giorgio Agamben, Julia Kristeva, Shigehisa Kuriyama, Henri Meschonnic—as well as Carson’s own analytical and lyric essays to develop a philosophically and psychoanalytically inflected understanding of rhythm and temporality. Carson pervasively summons issues of time through her explorations of memory, dementia, sleep, mourning, prophecy, anachronism, and decomposition. I argue that her intertextual negotiations with classical authors radically reconfigure a conventional, linear experience of time in order to create a poetic domain akin to the psychoanalytic unconscious. This imaginary realm is dominated by the principle of rhythm, which Henri Meschonnic defines as “the organization in language of what has always been said to escape language” (90). Carson’s continual probing of the origins of language, the roots of words, and the way bodies and emotion are sedimented in, and excavated from, poetic traces yields insights into the rhythmic spaces between and around words. My study focuses on the work of a single author, my exploration of Carson’s thought aims to advance new theoretical understandings of intertextuality, affect, and the relationship between psychoanalysis and literature that will reverberate well beyond an explication of her writing.
Michelle Murphy, Department of History and Women and Gender Studies Institute (FAS)
Michelle Murphy (Ph.D. Harvard University, 1998) is Professor of History and Women & Gender Studies. She is a feminist technoscience studies scholar and historian of the recent past whose scholarship grapples with environmental, reproductive, and economic politics. Her current project Alterlife in the Aftermath of Industrial Chemicals is concerned with the future of life already altered by chemical histories of capitalism, racism, colonialism and gender with a focus on the Great Lakes region. She is the author of the forthcoming Economization of Life (with Duke University Press), Seizing the Means of Reproduction (Duke U P 2012) and Sick Building Syndrome and the Politics of Uncertainty (Duke UP 2006), which won the Fleck Prize from the Society for the Social Studies of Science. She serves as director of the Technoscience Research Unit and co-organizer (with Natasha Myers) of the Technoscience Salon. From 1997-2007 she was the editor of the RaceSci Website for the History of Race in Science, Medicine and Technology. Michelle Murphy has previously held a 12-month Faculty Research Fellowship at the Jackman Humanities Institute in 2009-2010, for a project titled Distributed Reproduction.
Alterlife: Futurity in the Aftermath of Industrial Chemicals
Global biomonitoring studies have failed to find a person alive who does not contain industrial chemicals in their blood or breast milk, suggesting that all humans, and perhaps most life forms, have been materially altered by the absorption of industrial chemicals released over the last half century.(UNEP 2009a; UNEP 2009b; Government of Canada 2010) This project historicizes and theorizes “reproduction” and “futures” through the complex temporalities of chemical exposures as they are materialized in emerging scientific research on endocrine disrupting chemicals and epigenetic transgenerational inheritance. It does so in a historic moment when life on earth shares the condition of already having been altered by such chemicals, a condition that might be called alterlife. In this project, the concept of alterlife is used to theorize temporalities of environmental violence, futurity, and the entanglements between reproduction and ecologies in light of this emerging scientific work. The project grounds its theorization of alterlife in the Canadian lower Great Lakes region, with a focus on Lake Ontario, where there is now several decades’ worth of ecotoxicological research about the presence and effects of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs). This project does not assume that we already understand what temporalities this historical investigation (attuned to speculative futures and new chronotopes of biology) will find at work in this emergent form of alterlife. The condition of alterlife, wrought in the multiplicity of way chemical entanglements loop between past, present, and future, unsettles the very frameworks for understanding life, ecology, racism, colonialism, reproduction, violence, and environmental politics.
Jennifer Nedelsky, Faculty of Law, Political Science (FAS)
Jennifer Nedelsky (Ph.D. Chicago, 1977) is Professor of Law and Political Science. She is a scholar of feminist theory, legal theory, American constitutional history and interpretation, and comparative Constitutionalism. In 2000 she was awarded the Bora Laskin National Fellowship In Human rights research. Her most recent book, Law’s Relations: A Relational Theory of Self, Autonomy, and Law (Oxford, 2011) won the C.B. Macpherson Prize, awarded by the Canadian Political Science Association. Her first book was Private Property and the Limits of American Constitutionalism. She is co-editor with Ronald Beiner of Judgment, Imagination and Politics: Themes From Kant and Arendt. She has two current research projects. The first, funded by SSHRC, is on “Judgment in Law and Life,” building on Hannah Arendt’s unfinished theory of judgment. The second is on shifting the norms around care and employment, so that everyone is expected to work part-time and do care work part-time.
(Part) Time for All: Generating New Norms of Work and Care
This project seeks to help people imagine alternatives to the current structures of work and care. The experience of time is central to the harms of existing norms governing these structures and thus to the transformations I propose. These transformations in the value of care and the conceptualization of work are, in turn, necessary for equality, democracy and the quality of people’s lives. The care of human beings often requires patient attention to the particular needs of the moment, as well as recognition that good care needs to be provided regularly, in ways that are both repetitive and attentive to the need for variation. To care well is to be present to the moment, over and over again, in tune with the rhythms of daily life, as well as of the seasons and the life cycle of both care giver and receiver. The puzzles of how to protect a 4 year old while fostering her autonomy differ from those for a teenager, or a 97 year old. The very meaning of autonomy is dependent on one’s place in the life cycle, just as the scope of reasonable freedom can shift with age and season. Care requires judgment attuned to time as well as time-consuming labour. But in the contemporary world of post-industrial economies, this attentive, repetitive work is not the sort that busy, important people have time for. Indeed, how little one does the work of care for oneself or others is a key indicator of how important one is. The kind of work that counts has a different relation to time: the efficiency of production (whether actually material, or the sale of bonds, or the publication of articles) that can be measured and the ratio of product to time increased. Efficiencies of care, while not impossible, are rarely what is most important for good care. In short, the denigration of care is closely related to the kind of time care requires. To reverse the denigration of care and recognize its role in satisfying work will require a transformation in the relation to time, and, conversely, as people shift their relation to care, their experience of time will change. I can contribute to this conversation by bringing not only a particularly urgent issue of social transformation of the relation to time, but a thoroughly interdisciplinary approach to the project. I address the relation between law and norms, the political theory of equality and democracy, the history and theory of care-work and employment and their relation to inequality, the changing structures of work and of family and the ways those two “spheres” are in fact entangled with one another as a matter of law and policy. The sources I use come from the disciplines of history, law, economics, political science, sociology, psychology, management, social work, and philosophy. The thread of time runs through them all.
Chancellor Jackman Research Fellowships in the Humanities
Six-Month Fellows, 2016-2017
Tenure-stream or tenured faculty at the University of Toronto, each receives a six-month leave from the normal teaching and administrative duties in order to undertake research (including travel) on the project proposed in their application, and are chosen for demonstrated excellence of their record of scholarship and the merit of the research proposal.
Ritu Birla, Department of History (FAS) and Richard Charles Lee Director of the Asian Institute (FAS and Munk School of Global Affairs)
Ritu Birla (Ph.D. Columbia University, 1999) is Associate Professor of History and Richard Charles Lee Director of the Asian Institute, Munk School of Global Affairs. Her research brings the empirical study of Indian economy to current questions in social, political and legal theory and has sought to build new conversations in the global study of capitalism, its cultures, and forms of governing. Her first book, Stages of Capital: Law, Culture, and Market Governance in Late Colonial India (Duke UP, 2009 and Orient Blackswan India, 2010), was winner of the 2010 Albion Book Prize in British Studies. She is co-editor of and author in special issues of Public Culture (23:2) on Gandhian thought and its global itineraries, and Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and Middle East (35:3) on Speculation: Futures and Capitalism in India. Her recent piece, "Jurisprudence of Emergence: Neoliberalism and the Public as Market in India" is an Editor's Choice selection for influential articles in South Asia: The Journal of South Asian Studies (38:3). Her broad range of articles and book chapters have addressed the gendered social and legal imaginaries of economic modernity; “embedded” value-systems and discourses on culture in processes of economization and financialization; non-western engagements with political and economic liberalism; and postcolonial intellectual history and theory.
Neoliberalism and Empire
This project will be a major monograph solicited Duke UP for its new series Transactions: Critical Studies in Finance, Economy, and Theory. The book will merge three strands of research: the imperial history of neoliberal market society and processes of ‘economization’; cultures of finance and global financialization as central to the study of global governance and law; and ‘speculation’ as a potent trope for understanding contemporary capitalism and its practices of profit and survival. It supplements a burst of recent research on the history of neoliberal thought located in the UK, Europe and the US, posing India as an especially dense condensation in the historical archive of neoliberal governing and as a key site for opening its globalized study. The project represents Birla's ongoing work at the intersection of the humanities and the social sciences. The methods of the humanities—especially attention to the lives and travels of economic and legal fictions, the contexts and social meanings of value, and the techniques of imagination—help to refresh and expand discussions of capitalism, empire and globality pursued in the social sciences.
Will Kwan, Department of Arts, Culture and Media (UTSC) and John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design
Will Kwan (MFA, Columbia University, 2004) is Associate Professor and Program Director of Studio art, Department of Arts, Culture, and Media at UTSC. He is a visual and media artist working primarily with media, photography, and installation. His artistic research examines how cultural and political authority is produced and regulated through diverse visual practices, with a particular focus on the iconography, architectonics, and social relations associated with neoliberalism, financial capitalism, and globalization. His work has been exhibited at museums and biennials internationally since 2004 and held in permanent collections including the M+ Museum for Visual Culture (Hong Kong SAR), Folkestone Artworks (UK), and the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery (Toronto).
Demos: Nail houses and creative activism in Chinese cities
This project is a mixed-media art installation and digital resource that will examine the phenomenon of “nail houses” (???) in China. Nail houses are spectacular monuments of resistance in the form of homes occupying tiny plots of land in the middle of massive construction sites when residents refuse to sell or vacate their property in the face of eviction. The fellowship will support the first stages of collecting primary research materials that includes travelling to and documenting the sites of selected nail houses that have appeared and disappeared throughout China in the past decade, interviewing area residents, and gathering local and international media coverage of the nail house phenomenon. The artwork I will create will offer an opportunity for audiences to encounter these disappeared monuments, to witness and consider their function as a statement of daring refusal by an individual citizen against powerful corporate and political interests. Discussions of activism and power structures aside, the project is also intended to have a memorial function. The appearance and disappearance of each nail house, was ultimately also the destruction of a home (and a neighborhood). This project is a critical accounting of the effects of urbanization on the lives of regular citizens.
Kevin O’Neill, Department for the Study of Religion and Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies (FAS)
Kevin O’Neill (Ph.D. Stanford University, 2007) is Associate Professor in the Department for the Study of Religion and the Centre for Diaspora and Transnational Studies. His work, deeply ethnographic, examines the moral dimensions of contemporary political practice. His first book, City of God (University of California Press, 2010), details Neo-Pentecostalism’s relationship to democratization at the level of citizenship in postwar Guatemala. His second book, Secure the Soul (University of California Press, 2015), tracks Christian piety’s entanglement with Central American security. His current book project looks at the concomitant rise of crack cocaine and Christian rehabilitation centers in Guatemala City. His work has been published in such journals as Public Culture (22:1), Comparative Studies in Society and History (52:1), Cultural Anthropology (28:2), Social Text (30:2 & 32:3), American Quarterly (63:2), Ethnography (13:4), Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (19:2), Journal of the American Academy of Religion (81:4), and History of Religions (51:4). He has edited or is in the process of editing five volumes in the following order: genocide, belief, security, the will, and the war on drugs.
For Christ’s Sake: Crack, Christianity, and Captivity in Guatemala City
In 2004, 10 percent of the cocaine produced in the Andes for the United States passed through Guatemala. Today, after a shift in US interdiction efforts, as much as 90 percent of it passes through this small country. One effect of this drastic increase is a spike in the use of crack cocaine: drug-trafficking countries, the literature notes, often become drug-consuming countries. Another effect is the proliferation of drug rehabilitation centers. Run by Pentecostal Christians, these informal centers warehouse users (against their will) in the name of rehabilitation, for the sake of salvation—to a growing extent. Today more Guatemalans find themselves literally tied up inside of these centers than locked up inside of maximum-security prisons. Given that Guatemala, a once overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country, is now as much as 60 percent Pentecostal, the religion involved proves critically important. It not only structures the practice of drug rehabilitation but also enacts a new genre of captivity. Locked up, tied up, and told to shape up, users come to confess, at times plead, that they want out and they want it now. Pastors, in response, assure them that captivity is itself liberation—that slavery is salvation. This double bind provokes a set of guiding questions. They are, at their most philosophical, how do openings become enclosures? How do lines of flight become absolute dead ends?
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