Crisis Ordinariness: Lauren Berlant’s Cruel Optimism in a Transnational Frame
a roundtable with Brinda Bose, María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo, & Alvin Wong; moderated by Gayatri Gopinath
November 12, Friday, 9 am ET (7:30 pm IT, 10 pm HK)
Register for this free Zoom webinar here.
“A relation of cruel optimism exists when something you desire is actually an obstacle to your flourishing.” So writes feminist/queer scholar Lauren Berlant in the opening of their groundbreaking book Cruel Optimism. On the tenth anniversary of its publication, and in the wake of Berlant’s untimely passing, this panel invites scholars from India, Hong Kong, the US, and the UK to reflect on the meaning and relevance of “cruel optimism” in a transnational frame. Berlant incisively analyzes the exhaustion of life under late capitalism within liberal democracies, and the toxic effects of “good life fantasies” within the context of precarity that marks the present moment. How do Berlant’s trenchant critiques of psychic attachments in the context of the ordinariness of crisis resonate today both within and beyond the borders of the US and Europe, in light of the devastations wrought by the multiple and converging crises of climate catastrophe, global pandemics, unfettered capitalism, and the entrenchment of authoritarian regimes?
Register for this free Zoom webinar here.
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Part of the Theory and Practice: Transnational Conversations on Gender and Sexuality webinar series — a collaboration between the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at New York University and the Centre for Studies of Gender and Sexuality at Ashoka University (New Delhi) — aimed at TAP-ping into critical and creative energies from around the world, to expand the intellectual and geographical ambit of our conversations around gender and sexuality in relation to politics, rhetoric, and history.
Organized by the Centre for Studies of Gender and Sexuality at Ashoka University and the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at New York University. Co-sponsored by the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University.
Brinda Bose teaches at the Centre for English Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her interests are in gender and sexualities, modernist and avant-garde literatures, film studies and humanities studies. She has now taught for over 25 years, first at Delhi University and now at JNU. Her edited collection, Humanities, Provocateur: Towards a Contemporary Political Aesthetics, came out in July this year, and her first chapbook of poems, Calcutta, Crow and Other Fragments, was published in July 2020. She has edited and co-edited collections like The Phobic and the Erotic, Gender and Censorship, Translating Desire, and Interventions; she has done critical editions of Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass; and edited a collection of critical writings on the early novels of Amitav Ghosh. Her monograph, The Audacity of Pleasure: Sexualities, Literature and Cinema in India, was published in 2017. She is currently working on putting together a 2-volume anthology of critical and archival material on Avant-Garde Aesthetics in India for Routledge, and also towards a monograph on global avant-garde traffics, conversations and reverberations.
Gayatri Gopinath is Professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, and the Director of the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at New York University. She works at the intersection of transnational feminist and queer studies, postcolonial studies, and diaspora studies, and is the author of two monographs: Impossible Desires: Queer Diasporas and South Asian Public Cultures (Duke University Press, 2005), and Unruly Visions: The Aesthetic Practices of Queer Diaspora (Duke University Press, 2018). She has published numerous essays on gender, sexuality, and queer diasporic visual art and culture in anthologies and journals such as Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, GLQ, and Social Text, as well as in art publications such as PIX: A Journal of Contemporary Indian Photography, Tribe: Photography and New Media from the Arab World, and ArtReview Asia.
Professor María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo is affiliated with the Social & Cultural Analysis Department & the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at NYU. Her most recent book, Indian Given: Racial Geographies across Mexico and the United States (Duke UP 2016), received the 2019 Casa de Las Americans Literary Prize Latino Studies; 2017 ASA John Hope Franklin Book Prize for best work in American Studies; and 2017 NACCS Book Award for best work in Chicanx Studies. In addition, she has published The Revolutionary Imagination in the Americas and the Age of Development (Duke UP, 2003) and over thirty articles on revolution, subaltern politics, indigenous peoples, racial formation, migration to the US, narco-economies and the use of gendered violence in Central America, and Latin American and Latino cultural studies. Dr. Saldaña-Portillo is the Chairwoman of the Coalición Mexicana, an immigrants’ rights organization, and an expert witness for Central American asylum cases with legal aid agencies internationally.
Alvin K. Wong is Assistant Professor in Comparative Literature at the University of Hong Kong. His research and teaching interests include Hong Kong culture, Chinese cultural studies, Sinophone studies, transnational feminism, and queer theory. Wong is writing a book titled Queer Hong Kong as Method. He has published in journals such as Journal of Lesbian Studies, Gender, Place & Culture, Culture, Theory, and Critique, Cultural Dynamics, Continuum, and Interventions and in edited volumes such as Transgender China, Queer Sinophone Cultures, and Fredric Jameson and Film Theory. He also coedited the volume Keywords in Queer Sinophone Studies (Routledge, 2020).
Image: Riva and Zora in Middle Age 2006, gouache on paper, 36″ x 24″; and Portrait of Lauren Berlant 2019 (photo credit Nathan Keay) by Riva Lehrer.