Bruce Robbins

The DeRoy Lecture Series presents:

Bruce Robbins
“Chomsky and Cosmopolitanism”

Friday, January 23, 3pm
English Department Conference Room, 10302, 5057 Woodward
Detroit, Michigan
Wayne State University

Bruce Robbins is Old Dominion Foundation Professor of the Humanities in the department of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He has also taught at the universities of Geneva and Lausanne in Switzerland and at Rutgers University, New Brunswick and has held visiting positions at Harvard, Cornell, and NYU. His most recent book is Upward Mobility and the Common Good (Princeton 2007). He is also the author of Feeling Global: Internationalism in Distress (1999), The Servant’s Hand: English Fiction from Below (1986), and Secular Vocations: Intellectuals, Professionalism, Culture (1993) and is co-author of the Longman Anthology of World Literature (2003). He has edited Intellectuals: Aesthetics, Politics, Academics (1990) and The Phantom Public Sphere (1993) and co-edited (with Pheng Cheah) Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling beyond the Nation (1998). He was co-editor of the journal Social Text from 1991 to 2000 and is on the editorial board of boundary 2.

Beth Coleman

Hello Avatar

The DeRoy Lecture Series 2007-2008
and
The Digital Humanities Working Group

present

Beth Coleman
“Hello Avatar!: Virtual Communities and Networked Subjects”
Friday, April 18, 12 noon
English Dept seminar room, 10302 5057 Woodward, Detroit, MI

Dr. Beth Coleman is a professor in Writing and Humanistic Studies and Comparative Media Studies at MIT. Her research interests include virtual world design and use, networked subjectivity, global media emergence and practice in China, India and Africa, contemporary art and technology, and critical history of race and technology. For excerpts from her forthcoming book, Hello Avatar: A Virtual World Primer and other publications, see her website. She blogs on emergent media practices at Project Good Luck.

War and Media Symposium

WAR AND MEDIA SYMPOSIUM

Steven Shaviro
“I Got Soul But I’m Not A Soldier”: War, Terrorism, Media, and Subjectivity in Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales

Selmin Kara
Reassembling Iraq: Iraq in Fragments and the Acoustics of Occupation

Corey Creekmur
The Sound of the “War on Terror”

Rikke Shubart
What Enemy? “Us” and “Them” in Letters From Iwo Jima

Richard Grusin
Premediation and War

Robert Burgoyne
Memory, History, and the Uncanny in the War Film

MAR 18, 2008
1:00 – 4:00 pm
Room 10302
5057 Woodward
Detroit, Michigan
Department of English, Wayne State University

Virtual Citizenship and New Technologies Symposium

Virtual Citizenship and New Technologies Symposium
Friday 30 November 9:15AM
Undergraduate Library, Bernath Auditorium
Wayne State University, Detroit

Technologies such as text-messaging, Facebook, del.icio.us and Second Life are transforming our notions of community membership and the exercise of power. This symposium explores intersections between communications technologies and the practice of citizenship and asks how the new technologies might be used in the interests of social justice and civic engagement. To help us understand the transformation, the symposium will feature expertise from a wide range of inter-related fields: Russell Dalton’s studies of citizenship among young people, the Fred Stutzman’s research on Facebook and civic engagement, Wendy Chun’s studies of “imagined networks,” and the speculations of mathematics professor and noted science-fiction-writer Vernor Vinge on the future of political power. This event launches a broader research, teaching, and service project to help students, staff and faculty understand what citizenship means now and what it might mean in the future. Wayne State’s Center for the Study of Citizenship, Office for Teaching and Learning, Honors Program, and the DeRoy Lecture series are the event co-sponsors. To register or for more information, please visit: http://www.lib.wayne.edu/virship/.

Deleuze’s Aesthetics

I have been in Chicago the last few days, attending the annual meeting of SPEP (The Society for Phenomenological and Existential Philosophy). I gave a paper this afternoon as part of a panel on “Deleuze’s Aesthetics.” The talk will probably never be published as an article, since it is basically a patchwork, cobbled together from various passages taken from several chapters of my in-progress book on Kant, Whitehead, and Deleuze. But for what it’s worth, I am posting it here (pdf).

Lecture by Brian Rotman

The DeRoy Lecture Series, 2007-2008 presents
Brian Rotman
“Lettered Selves and Beyond”
Wednesday, October 24, 3pm
Wayne State University
English Department Conference Room (10302, 5057 Woodward, Detroit)

Brian Rotman is a Humanities Distinguished Professor at The Ohio State University in the Department of Comparative Studies. Articles and reviews by him have appeared in the Guardian Newspaper, the Times Literary Supplement, and the London Review of Books. He is the author of various stage plays, a play for radio, as well as six books, among which are “Signifying Nothing: the Semiotics of Zero” and “Ad Infinitum … the Ghost in Turing’s Machine” from Stanford University Press, and, forthcoming from Duke University Press, “Becoming Beside Ourselves: the Alphabet, Ghosts, and Distributed Human Being”.

Lecture by Erik Davis

The DeRoy Lecture Series, 2007-2008 presents
Erik Davis
“Down the Rabbit Hole: Cybernetic Subjectivity and Philip K. Dick”
Friday, October 5, 3pm
English Department Conference Room (10302, 5057 Woodward)
Wayne State University

Erik Davis is a writer and independent scholar, and the author, most recently, of The Visionary State: A Journey through California’s Spiritual Landscape. He also wrote the cult media studies classic TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Information Age, and a critical volume on Led Zeppelin’s fourth album. A frequent speaker and teacher at universities and festivals alike, Davis has contributed articles and essays to scores of books and publications, including the recent volumes AfterBurn: Reflections on Burning Man and Everything You Know About God is Wrong. He posts regularly at www.techgnosis.com.

Pop Conference

Since I had a great time at the EMP Pop Conference, I should probably say something about some of the talks and panels I enjoyed, in addition to my own.

The best panel I went to was called “Breaks in Time: Rethinking Hip Hop Roots.” It was really about the multiple genealogies of hip hop: the ways that various cultural elements (beats, musical motifs, dance moves, forms of presentation, attitudes, etc.), coming from disparate sources, mutated and coalesced in the South Bronx in the early 1970s to produce what we know now as hip hop. In other words, the panel was focused on how cultural innovation happens: how instances of sampling, recycling, and appropriation lead to the production of something new. This also meant showing the ways that cultural production and innovation come from “below” (rather than, as institutional art histories like to claim, from “above”), and how miscegenated, mixed, and hybrid such innovations nearly always are.

Oliver Wang started things off with a discussion of Boogaloo (aka Bugalu) a New York City Latino (and specifically Puerto Rican) dance craze or musical subgenre of the mid-1960s that is largely forgotten today (or written off as merely commercial exploitation), but that mixed Latin/Caribbean and African American funk rhythms in interesting ways, and that in turn influenced both salsa (which emerged a few years later, in the late 1960s) and early hip hop.

Second, Jeff Chang, author of the well-nigh definitive hip hop history Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, looked at the evolution of the break beat, that rhythmic moment that hip hop DJs would isolate and play over and over again — which is the musical characteristic that first marked hip hop as a distinct musical genre (and not only musical, of course; since the break beat was really for dancers, even more than for listeners). Chang found Latino as well as African American/soul/r&b/funk antecedents to the break beat.

Next was Garnette Cadogan, who extended these genealogies to Jamaica. He traced the ways in which reggae and its predecessors (like ska and rock steady) appropriated and reworked various strands in North American r&b, how reggae lyrics interacted with other Jamaican sources like the poetry of Louise Bennett-Coverley, how the reggae mix then returned to the United States starting in 1969, and how Jamaican music entered into hip hop both musically and via DJ Kool Herc’s famous adaptation of Jamaican sound systems to the South Bronx.

Finally, Joe Schloss looked at how the breakdancing of early hip hop was influenced by a dance form called uprock. Breakdancing was done mostly by African American youth in the Bronx in the early 1970s; uprock was mostly done by Puerto Rican youth in Brooklyn in the late 1960s. Once again hip hop culture was shown to have miscegenated roots, and to have coalesced from a multiplicity of sources.

All four speakers played copious samples in the course of their talks — which was great, as you could actually hear what they were talking about. Joe Schloss also demonstrated the dance moves he was talking about, which was great (not to mention impressive on the part of a guy who looked like he was in his 40s, rather than being 17 or so like the original dancers). All in all, this was an exciting panel, and also one from which I learned a lot. It reached a point where academic and non-academic (journalistic) modes of writing/research/scholarship become indistinguishable from one another, and where genealogical investigations fuse with the appreciation of, and active involvment within, living culture. The panel was exemplary — as was the conference as a whole — in the way it moved transversally between deep involvement in, and critical reflection upon, popular music — something that we could well emulate in the ways we approach film, video and new media, and other forms of living culture today.

PS: there were many other interesting talks I heard at the Pop Conference; but I will only mention one more: RJ Smith‘s discussion of Destroy All Monsters, the band formed in the 1970s by Jim Shaw, Mike Kelley, and Cary Loren, all of whom went on to become famous as Los Angeles conceptual artists. Smith moved between the times of the band and the murals that the group made for the Whitney Biennial of 2002, which presented a dazzling pop art monumentalization and mythologization of Detroit popular culture and the attitudes derived therefrom. It was weird, magnificent, and hilarious, and, as a Detroiter, I really appreciated it.

Wu-Tang Forever

This morning, at the Experience Music Project Pop Conference,, we had our panel on the Wu-Tang Clan, and I think it went rather well. First, Leonard Pierce spoke about the Wu-Tang’s, and particularly the RZa’s, embrace of Marvel comics, and how they turned the ultimate nerdy/fanboy obsession into something cool. Next, Nate Patrin gave a detailed account of the RZA’s use of southern soul samples, and how this helped change the sound of hip-hop. Then, my old friend Charles Tonderai Mudede pondered the politics of nostalgia, with particular reference to Killah Priest’s song “From Then Till Now.” Finally, I talked about Ghostface’s voice, and his use of soul samples, with particular reference to “Can Can,” a banned track that was originally supposed to appear on Fishscale. (You can find a rough, not entirely finished, draft of my paper here). The real reason the panel went so well was that we were really all addressing common questions: sampling as transformation, the relevance of the past, how soul relates to hip-hop, etc. The song that kept on coming up was “I Can’t Sleep,” from the Wu-Tang Clan album The W, featuring Ghostface and Isaac Hayes.

Pop Conference

I leave tomorrow for Seattle, for the Pop Conference at the Experience Music Project, which in past years has been one of the best conferences I have ever attended, mixing journalistic and academic writers on popular music. I still haven’t quite finished my own paper, on Ghostface Killah’s use of soul samples (file under: sonic hauntology) — it looks like I will be typing away on the airplane until my laptop’s battery runs out.