2015 Spring Event Schedule

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Alice Campbell Alumni Center Ballroom

What Next? The Question of the Boycott

Join the Unit for Criticism & Interpretive Theory for a panel discussion and forum on the question of the ongoing academic boycott of the University of Illinois that was begun in response to the dehiring of Steven Salaita. Panel discussion featuring Ronald Bailey (African American Studies), Jodi Byrd (American Indian Studies/English), Lisa Cacho (Latina/o Studies/Asian American Studies), Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi (History/Sociology), Jessica Greenberg (Anthropology), Susan Koshy (English/Asian American Studies), and Anna Stenport (European Union Center/German).

For more information, please email Susan Koshy, Ted Faust, or John Moore.

Thursday, January 29
Knight Auditorium, Spulock Museum

The Black Death and Beyond: New Research at the Intersection of Science and the Humanities

A campus-wide discussion of Pandemic Disease in the Medieval World: Rethinking the Black Death (ed. Monica H. Green)~the inaugural issue of The Medieval Globe, a new journal from the Univeristy of Illinois.

Robert Hymes (Columbia) will be joined by Antoinette Burton (History), Craig Koslofsky (History/Medieval Studies), Benito J. Mariñas (Civil & Environmental Engineering), Gene E. Robinson (Institute for Genomic Biology), D. Fairchild Ruggles (Landscape Architecture/Medieval Studies), James M. Slauch (Medical Scholars Program/Microbiology), Rebecca Lee Smith (Epidemiology), Richard Trapping (Medical Microbiology).

Opening Remarks by Susan Koshy (director of The Unit for Criticism)

Moderated by Carol Symes (executive editor of The Medieval Globe)

Preceded by a talk by Robert Hymes (Columbia)
Lincoln Hall 1090

"Diagnosing Plague in 13th-Century China: Medical Practitioners, Medical Terminology, and the Problem of Identifying a New Disease"


Monday, February 23
Illini Union 407

"Racial Prescriptions: Pharmaceuticals, Difference, & the Politics of Life"

Spring 2015 Unit for Criticism Distinguished Faculty Lecture by Jonathan Xavier Inda (Latina/Latino Studies)

Introduction by Alejandro Lugo (Anthropology & Latina/Latino Studies)

Response by Monica McDermott (Sociology)


In the contemporary United States, matters of life and health have become key political concerns. Important to this politics of life is the desire to overcome racial inequalities in health; from heart disease to diabetes, the populations most afflicted by a range of illnesses are racialized minorities. The solutions generally proposed to the problem of racial health disparities have been social and environmental in nature, but in the wake of the mapping of the human genome, genetic thinking has come to have considerable influence on how such inequalities are problematized. In this talk, Dr. Inda explores the politics of dealing with health inequities through targeting pharmaceuticals at specific racial groups based on the idea that they are genetically different. Drawing on the introduction of BiDil to treat heart failure among African Americans, he contends that although racialized pharmaceuticals are ostensibly about fostering life, they also raise thorny questions concerning the biologization of race, the reproduction of inequality, and the economic exploitation of the racial body. 

MCT Lecture Series

Interrogating the Nonhuman Turn
Unit for Criticism & Interpretive Theory Spring Seminar

Session Co-Organizers: Jodi Byrd (American Indian Studies/English), Samantha Frost (Political Science/Gender & Women's Studies), Radhika Govindrajan (Anthropology), Susan Koshy (Unit for Criticism), and Trish Loughran (English/History)

Over the last three decades, scholars across the humanities, social sciences, and STEM disciplines have begun to question the ramifications of anthropocentrism within Western philosophy and to reconsider the role the nonhuman might play within conceptualizations of affect, being, and relationality. Work in this area includes posthumanism, speculative realism, object-oriented ontology, affect, new materialism, and interspecies relations, all of which have emerged to address the plasticities of systems and networks that inform how we think about the world in the 21st century. The readings for the seminar will explore these theories, examining how the category of the nonhuman addresses questions of ecology, animacy, matter, gender, and performativity from anthropology to videogame studies. Some of the questions we will discuss include: What is the non-human turn and how do its varieties relate to one another? How does this turn to the nonhuman reframe questions of the cultural and the political? What happens to issues of race, sexuality, gender, colonialism, and indigeneity when objects displace humans as the center of inquiry? And how do digital worlds, with their emphasis on the programmatic level of code, inform how objects, networks, and systems are theorized and experienced?

Graduate student participants are invited to submit, at the end of the seminar, brief position papers (2-4 double-spaced pages) that address a question, idea, or methodological approach related to the core readings. The goal of these papers will be to articulate the role that the turn from the human towards objects, things, networks, actors, code, animals, materialisms, etc. plays or might play in the participant's current research (dissertation, paper, etc.). A two-hour workshop will meet two weeks after the conclusion of seminar to discuss these position papers and will be led by Jodi Byrd, Sam Frost, Radhika Govindrajan, Susan Koshy, and Trish Loughran.

To register for the seminar, please email unit.tedfaust@gmail.com or unitrajohn@gmail.com.

Seminar Sessions
Fridays, April 3, April 10 & April 17
12:30 pm - 2:30 pm
Asian American Cultural Center Lounge
1210 W Nevada Street

Graduate Student Workshop
Friday, May 1
12:30 pm - 2:30 pm
Asian American Cultural Center Lounge
1210 W Nevada Street

Monday, April 20
Illini Union 210

"The Beast of America: Sovereignty and the Anarchy of Objects"

Spring 2015 Unit for Criticism Distinguished Faculty Lecture by Jodi Byrd (American Indian Studies/English)

Introduction by Trish Loughran (English/History)

Response by Kevin Hamilton (New Media)


Close-reading texts including Irrational Games's 2013 Bioshock Infinite, this talk will consider how sovereignty enacts its juridical violence in the spaces between beast and human, savage and civilized. With the rise of object-oriented theory within videogame studies, questions about the structures of settler colonial governance persist in the spaces between representation and play. Engaging some of the recent conversations in queer theory and critical indigenous studies, this talk will offer insights into the nature of sovereignty and the discourses of colonialism that continue to be inflected by the presence of indigenous peoples.