Spring 2020

Derrida’s Imagination
David Johnson
COL 720
A: 018452/23847
B: 018451/23846
Tuesdays 3:30-6:10
640 Clemens

Virtually no one writing on Derrida takes up his relation to the imagination and, to be sure, Derrida himself never wrote a book or even very many articles on the imagination. Yet, the imagination figures throughout his work, from the very early "Force and Signification" to the very late seminars on the death penalty. In this seminar we will try to "systematize" wha the imagination does or threatens to do, how it works in Derrida. We will read, at the very least, the following texts: "Force and Signification" (in Writing and Difference), Voice and Phenomena (selections), Of Grammatology (selections),  Margins of Philosophy (selections), "Economimesis" (in Diacritics), and  Truth in Painting (selections). There may be others. We will want to understand the place of the imagination in Derrida's understanding of life death, of time, of truth. In what way does the imagination, in all its duplicity, provide a resource for Derrida's thinking? The seminar may begin with a brief (one session, perhaps two) review of the imagination in Aristotle and Kant.

Requirements: attendance, participation, one research paper (15-20 pages). 

Walter Benjamin and the Origin of the German Trauerspiel
(Listed as Jewish Identity)

Noam Pines
COL 718
A: 018448/24287
B: 018447/24286
Wednesdays 5:00-7:40
708 Clemens

The course will explore the various aspects of Benjamin’s thought as they emerge from his celebrated Trauerspiel essay: constellation, melancholy and allegory, natural history, creature and sovereign, and more. We will conduct close readings of Benjamin’s text in conjunction with other thinkers such as Freud, Agamben, Kristeva, Gadamer, Schmitt, Scholem, and Taubes.

Race, Sex & Gender in Artificial Intelligence Regime
Ewa Ziarek
COL 719
A: 018450/23820
B: 018449/23821
Wednesdays 12:30-3:10
640 Clemens

More and more scholars, public policy organizations, political organizers and journalists argue that we are witnessing a computational turn as every day human activities, from dating, driving, shopping, labor, entertainment, news watching, judiciary decisions to profiling, ranking and hiring practices are organized by big data and algorithms. And as everyone also admits, the far-reaching implications of this turn – political, ethical, and epistemological – are hard to foresee.   Despite its claims to objectivity and impartiality, algorithmic decisions replacing human judgments not only reproduce but in fact produce new forms of cultural, social, and political inequalities and domination. As Arvind Narayanan, a computer scientist at the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton, argues, “the worry is that if machine learning is replicating human biases, it is also reflecting that back at us.”  And since the curatorial practices of big data and the so-called “governing” algorithms constitute what have been called the “black boxes” (Pasquale), they are not open to political contestation.

In this context, this course asks several fundamental questions:  what are the new forms of economic, gender and race domination emerging with the computational turn and the so-called “datafication” of power and knowledge? Are we witnessing new forms of governmentality and neocolonialism that further dispossess minoritarian subjects? How can feminist and race theories help us to diagnose and contest these new forms of domination?

This course does not presuppose any prior knowledge either in algorithmic culture or feminist/critical race theory. On the contrary, beginners willing to confront new intellectual, cultural, and political shifts are most welcome. I imagine this course is a collaboratory, which, building on the syllabus, will create new archives of knowledge and new modes of critical reflection.

Our readings will include, among others, Crenshaw, Deleuze, Foucault, Mignolo, Safiya Umoja Noble, Sylvia Wynter, and Joseph Weizenbaum, a brilliant computer scientist, who already in the seventies was writing against “the imperialism” of computational power.

Requirements: participation in class discussion, class presentations, and a conference format research paper, or an innovative alterative developed in consultation with the instructor.

Poetry, Technology & Avant Gardes
Krzysztof Ziarek
COL 721
A: 018454/23886
B: 018453/23887
Mondays 3:30-6:10
640 Clemens

While discourses about globalization focus predominantly on social, economic, and political issues, we will try to understand the significance of avant-garde art and literature for thinking critically about arts, technology, and the meaning of “world” in the age of globalization. We will interrogate the label “avant-garde” and the role of “the poetic” in its radicalism. To help us examine these issues, we will look at the continuing relevance of several radical artistic practices in the 20th and 21st centuries and discuss them side by side with theoretical material. Futurist texts will serve as the first example of a globally understood avant-garde. In the context of the early 20th century avant-gardes, we will examine the Dadaist work of Schwitters and Tzara, and the writings of Mina Loy, while more contemporary art and literature will likely include Arte Povera, Eduardo Kac, Bill Viola, as well as poetry (Erin Mouré, Myung Mi Kim, Paul Celan). The reading list will also comprise texts by Heidegger and Nancy, as well as essays on aesthetics, information arts and new media.