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Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory
Spring 2007 Colloquium

Monday January 29, 8:00 pm
Gregory 100

Robert Rushing, Comparative Literature/Italian
“Gentlemen Prefer Hercules: Desire | Identification | Beefcake”

Pat Gill, Communications Research

Abstract: The Italian peplum film (also known as the sword-and-sandals film) enjoyed a brief but intense vogue from about 1957-1965. Over 300 of these films were made in which a body-building celebrity (Steve Reeves, Reg Park) was cast as a heroic muscleman (Hercules, Samson) in a mythical universe of dragons, witches and evil emperors. In this talk, I introduce the peplum generally, but largely to target a specific question: how the peplum handles the “problem” of its obvious non-heteronormative attractions: well oiled and scantily clad bodybuilders, whose bodies are constantly on display, and evidently eroticized. Despite their evident camp value, peplum films appear to have been principally aimed at, and consumed by, straight adolescent males. This talk aims at discoveringhow and why the peplum negotiates these more fraught lines of identification and desire for its typical viewers.

Monday February 5, 8:00 pm
Gregory 100

William Connolly, Political Science, Johns Hopkins University
“The Contingency of Capitalism”

Lauren Goodlad, English

Abstract:What concept of capitalism allows us to address the variations and moments of volatility that have accompanied it since its inception?  What is the connection today between evangelical Christianity and state capitalism?  Drawing upon Max Weber and Gilles Deleuze, this paper seeks to respond to the first question in a way that helps it to negotiate the second.  The paper forms the first chapter of a forthcoming book called Capitalism and Christianity, American Style.

Thursday February 15, 8:00 pm
Levis Faculty Center, 3rd Floor

Pheng Cheah, Rhetoric, U of California, Berkeley
“Crises of Money”

Introduction: Samantha Frost, Political Science
Respondent: Michael Rothberg, English/Unit for Criticism

This paper explores whether forms of power in contemporary globalization can be adequately understood as primarily psychical in their functioning.  It considers some of the central presuppositions of the application of the concept of trauma to the critique of colonialism in Frantz Fanon's work before testing these presuppositions through an examination of the financial crises that afflicted East and Southeast Asia in 1997.  It then concludes with a brief indication of some future directions for postcolonial cultural critique.

Pheng Cheah is Professor of Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley. One of the leading theorists of globalization and postcolonial nationalism, Cheah is the author of SPECTRAL NATIONALITY: PASSAGES OF FREEDOM FROM KANT TO POSTCOLONIAL LITERATURES OF LIBERATION (2003) and INHUMAN CONDITIONS: ON COSMOPOLITANISM AND HUMAN RIGHTS (2006). He is also co-editor of COSMOPOLITICS: THINKING AND FEELING BEYOND THE NATION (1998) and THINKING THROUGH THE BODY OF THE LAW (1996).

Monday March 12, 8:00 pm
English 160

Lisa Nakamura, Asian American Studies/Speech Communication
“Interfaces of Identity: Telematic Profiling and Cultural Difference in Digital Visual Media”

Respondent: Marc Perry, African American Studies/Anthropology

Images of biometric screens are becoming increasingly common in television and film, particularly in genres such as police procedurals, terror television like 24, and medical dramas.  This paper examines the use of digital informational surveillant screens as sites of authority and scientific truth within screen narratives that often work to question them.  Facial recognition technology in particular participates in earlier visual discourses of privileged facial imaging such as the close-up and links them with forms of machine envisioning such as automated rapid facial comparison and database matching that are engendered by current biometrics technologies.  These techniques of facial recognition evident in film and television dramas relating to the recognition of the pathologized body, the terrorist body, and the racialized body bring together modes of seeing that unsuccessfully seek to transfer the work of racialization onto neutral new media technologies.   The biometric screen exemplifies a new type of material screen culture that is both embedded in older forms and operates independently of it.  Just as John Tagg and Tom Gunning have noted the roles that photography and cinema played as part of the creation of modern forms of governmentality, biometric technologies such as facial recognition bring to a head the fusion of photography and cinema with the database, ushering in a new era of networked identity.  An examination of these newly ubiquitous screens of surveillance and recognition within the context of entertainment television and film enables a strong critique of the mythology of visual truthfulness and infallibility that surround them.

On E-reserves:

Monday April 9, 8:00 pm
English 160

Theorizing Indigenous Media: A Panel Discussion
Co-sponsored by the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Jodi Byrd, American Indian Studies/English
"Kohta Falaya: Chickasaw Nation Comic Books and the Formation of National Memory"

Luis Carcamo-Huechante, Romance Languages, Harvard University

Markus Schulz, Sociology