Yousef K. Baker
Yousef K. Baker is an assistant professor in the International Studies Program at California State University, Long Beach and the co-director of the Global Middle East Studies Program.
Abstract: Imperial Crisis and Racialized Militarization: Reconceptualizing the invasion and occupation of Iraq
This paper argues that the 2003 war was not about Iraq but rather about American anxieties. In the post-Cold War era, the U.S. does not face any serious threats, but its politics are built on the specter of imminent existential threats. The specter functions to give cover for a neoliberal state that has backed away from social welfare as it ramps up its social control capabilities. This paper examines the policies of the occupation as well as how American policy makers and soldiers talked about the war to describe how racialized militarization as an economic circuit, political project, and a social affect is a central place around which the neoliberal state is organized.
Maria Bose is an assistant professor of media and cultural studies in the English department at Clemson University, where she also teaches in the World Cinema Program. Her book-in-progress, Cinema’s Hegemony, surveys twenty-first century imperial films emanating from the production centers of rising hegemons (China, India) and falling ones (the U.S., the U.K.). Maria’s essays have appeared in Studies in American Fiction, Textual Practice, Criticism, C21 Literature, and Critique. She currently serves as treasurer and board member for the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present (ASAP.)
Abstract: Cinema’s Hegemony: Imperial and cinematic futures at the start of the Asian century
This paper argues that cinema in the twenty-first century maintains cultural primacy in part because it remains a privileged site for the articulation of state power—and that cinema retains this privilege in part because of the self-consciousness and sophistication with which twenty-first century nationalist genres renew cinema’s material and ideological compacts with the hegemonic state. That renewal unfolds contrary to critical truism: rather than extend cinema’s didactic function as an “ideological state apparatus” charged with projecting the nation-state’s strengths and ideals, genres of twenty-first century nationalist film—from patriotic melodrama to wartime epic to superhero action-thriller—offer remarkably complex historical diagnoses of states’ developmental weaknesses and ideological incoherencies at a transitional moment of hegemonic rebalancing, as declining Western powers (the U.S., the U.K.) face the unravelling of neoliberal-imperialist agendas while rising state actors in Asia (China, India) strive for positions of greater centrality within the global political economy.
Kristin Bright is an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at Middlebury College and affiliated faculty with the Department of Anthropology Graduate Program at the University of Toronto. Her research is focused on practices of therapeutic knowledge production, biopolitics, and care in South Asia and North America. Since 2017, she has been directing an ethnographic lab called The Body Online, dedicated to student research and design in areas such as human machine relations of care, neurodiversity, and anti-authoritarianism.
Abstract: Strangers in Their Own Flesh: An intimate story about Trump and Modi
At the height of the culture wars in 1980s America, the religious right put the policing of intimate acts at the center of a discourse about the health of the nation. Restoring national vitality was intertwined with stopping abortion, pornography, homosexuality, divorce, and the entry of women into the public sphere. This paper reads Donald Trump’s America and Narendra Modi’s India against the family values politics of earlier periods while pointing to the biopolitical shifts that give new wings to authoritarianism. Trump and Modi’s nationalisms are at once besieged and transformed by vile congresswomen, unholy carnivores, and crazy socialists, which is what gives them affective resonance. At the same time, recognizing the intimacy of abjection should not blind us to the force it authorizes.
Arun Chaudhuri teaches in the Department of Anthropology at York University. His research interests include the anthropology of religion, critical race theory, nationalism, transnationalism, and the movements between South Asia and North America.
Abstract: The Prince and the Governors: The anxious locations of race, religion, and conversion in South Asian immigrant histories
This paper considers the convergences and divergences of race and religion in the histories of South Asian migration to America across the twentieth century. It examines past and present stories of how religious transformation plays a role in the perception and positioning of racialized immigrant minorities in American society. On the one hand, the paper will consider contemporary stories of “model minority” success, specifically around the figures of former governors Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley, and the role that religious conversion is seen to play in the legitimization of such figures in the eyes of the state and the public. On the other hand, this discussion turns to the case of the early twentieth century mystic “Prince” A.K. Mozumdar (1863-1953), to consider how his own particular story of religious transformation rendered his perceived racial-religious identity curiously ambiguous, particularly in the wake of a supreme court ruling that denied him citizenship on the basis of race. This paper examines these different South Asian immigrant stories, from two different historical contexts, to consider how religious conversion/transformation might situate racialized subjects on the perpetually uneasy terrain of a settler colonial society and its anxious attempts to regulate belonging via race, religion, citizenship, and national identity.
Max Clayton is a Ph.D. student in American studies at Yale University. He is a first-generation college student who graduated with a B.A. in religion in 2013 and an M.A. in religion from Yale Divinity School in 2019. His research interests include nineteenth century land allotments, race, religion, and U.S. empire, critical theory, and political economy.
Abstract: Empire’s Anxiety and Indigeneity: Recent American studies critiques of U.S. empire
“Anxieties of Empire” appears as a theme in recent American studies scholarship alongside a web of related concepts aimed at interrogating the contours of U.S. empire. This paper analyzes how the theme of imperial anxieties and its conceptual partners have been recently deployed by scholars working on settler colonialism and indigenous history, and critical theory to question the stability, completeness, and future(s) of U.S. empire. The paper then clarifies what is taken to be the historical and political stakes of this reframing of U.S. empire: it underscores the persistence of indigenous nations and their legal claims to sovereignty; it deflates capitalism’s overconfidence and undermines its unquestionableness; and it opens up new political and ethical alternatives to imperial forms of governance.
Jason Dittmer is a professor of political geography at University College London. His research is currently exploring the role of materiality in geopolitics. His recent book, Diplomatic Material: Affect, assemblage, and foreign policy (Duke, 2017), explores the world of diplomacy through the lens of assemblage, arguing that diplomacy ought to be understood as more-than-discursive, with material infrastructures underpinning the emergence of fields of power that shape political cognition among foreign policy elites. He is the author or co-author of Popular Culture, Geopolitics, and Identity, 2nd edition (Rowman and Littlefield, 2019) and Captain America and the Nationalist Superhero (Temple, 2013).
Abstract: Gibraltar and the Making and Re-making of Empire
This paper argues that the idea that Gibraltar is “strategic” is itself the product of a form of geopolitical thinking that pre-dates the origins of geopolitical discourse as traditionally understood in the historiography of the term. The occupation of Gibraltar in 1703 is the materialisation of that discourse, with the stones, cannons, and tunnels installed on the Rock a performance of imperial geopolitics. However, almost immediately that discourse was demonstrated to be exaggerated, and the British state has been anxious since then to justify the political and economic cost of keeping Gibraltar. The last century has seen rapid technological/military evolution, with Gibraltar’s contribution to empire shifting from a primarily naval function to one dominated by signals intelligence and the “special relationship” with the United States. This hints at a different kind of empire than the one Gibraltar originally sustained, in which power is exercised not through occupation but through the air.
Mariam Durrani is an assistant professor of anthropology at Hamilton College. Durrani’s current book project examines how the category of “Muslim youth” is shifting and being redefined in the current political terrain such that we have unexpected, headstrong, and disruptive forms of mobility that challenge scholarship on migration, Islam, and youth. Her scholarship on anti-Muslim racism includes ”The Gendered Muslim Subject: Language, Islamophobia, and Feminist Critique” in the Oxford Handbook of Language and Race (2020) and “Communicating and Contesting Islamophobia” in Language and Social Justice (2019). As a public scholar, Durrani has written for Anthropology News, Religion Dispatches, Chapati Mystery, and Twitter @mariamdurrani.
Abstract: Examining the Co-Production of “Imperial” Higher Education in Lahore and New York City
In the U.S., Pakistani-origin Muslim college students experience the domestic front of the “War on Terror” including law enforcement infiltrating and surveilling their mosques and college campuses and everyday discrimination and harassment. In Pakistan, one frontline for the War, youth have suffered the effects of the ground War and have raised their voices in dissent to the state. Based on a transnational ethnography, this paper examines student experiences at two self-proclaimed “global” universities in Lahore and New York City to argue that the college diversity talk and neoliberal political economy expose the co-production of an “imperial” higher education context. This paper historicizes the co-production of the imperial university in each context as a linked project through War and earlier political relations between the U.S. and Pakistan. This paper shows how the War racializes students and their educational trajectories in both contexts as they aspire to be recognized and included in global knowledge economies.
Tosin Gbogi is an assistant professor of English at Marquette University, specializing in popular cultures, Africana literatures, and critical race and ethnic studies. Before joining Marquette, he taught in the Department of English Studies at Adekunle Ajasin University, Nigeria, and in the Africana Studies Program and the School of Professional Advancement, both at Tulane University. He has also worked in the past as an arts editor with Nigeria’s foremost publisher, Kraft Books, Ibadan, and was the judge of the 2012 PEN-Nigeria/Saraba Poetry Prize. Gbogi is the author of two collections of poetry, the tongues of a shattered s-k-y (2012) and locomotifs and other songs (2018), and the co-editor of One Poem, Fifty Seasons (2013), the poetry anthology of the Association of Nigerian Authors (Ondo state chapter). His academic papers have appeared in Matatu: Journal for African Culture and Society, Pragmatics, and Neohelicon.
Abstract: Race and Migrant Bodies in Contemporary African Poetry
This paper argues that the predominant conceptions of the African/Black body that shaped the racist and sexual economies of slavery and colonialism are not only still being reproduced in a wide array of ways—ranging from popular culture to the micro-interactions of everyday life—but in fact constitute some of the most fundamental lenses through which we can comprehend the political dimensions and ramifications of globalization. Abjected as sites of sexual deviance and disproportion, olfactory grime and offensiveness, overweight and indiscipline, aggression and irrationality, as well as disposability, African migrant bodies in today’s world continually confront what Awad Ibrahim (1999) calls a Black “social imaginary—a discursive space in which they are already imagined, constructed, and thus treated as Blacks by hegemonic discourses and group” (p. 349). This paper considers the literary reimagining of these bodies in contemporary African poetry. Drawing on selected poems from Niyi Osundare’s City Without People: Katrina Poems, Amatoritsero Ede’s Globetrotters and Hitler’s Children, Gbenga Adeoba’s Exodus, Salfi Elhillo’s The January Children, and Tsitsi Jaji’s “On the Isle of Lesbos,” it considers the racialized contours of African migrants’ experiences in the West and how those experiences are overdetermined by essentialist conceptions of the African/Black body.
Maryam S. Griffin is an assistant professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences at University of Washington, Bothell. Broadly, her work examines people’s ordinary movements, both physical and political, and how they confront state power in quotidian and spectacular ways. She is the author of Vehicles of Decolonization: Public Transit in the Palestinian West Bank, under contract with Temple University Press.
Abstract: Imperial Anxieties of Colorblindness and Uneven Mobilities: The case of Trump’s Muslim ban
This paper considers the Trump administration’s “travel ban” and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold it as revealing a crisis in the U.S.’s global racial regime. Trump’s travel ban (aka the “Muslim ban”) features intertwined imperial anxieties about the failures of formal colorblindness and the unsustainability of uneven mobility. This paper argues that, first, the travel ban marks a fruitful moment to expose the dynamics of a racial regime heretofore falsely masquerading as race neutrality. Second, the travel ban exposes the unsustainability of a racialized mobility regime that brokers the “desirable” movement of the globally privileged at the expense of the “undesirable” movement of the globally dispossessed. As the connected anxieties about colorblindness and uneven mobility erupt, this paper uses an examination of the Muslim ban to ask: what changes, superficial or substantive, might befall the racial politics of empire as a new hegemonic compromise arises?
Salah J. Khan received degrees from the Universities of California at Berkeley and Irvine and is an associate professor at the Autonomous University of Madrid. He is the author of Revolución e ironía en la Francia del siglo XIX published by Anthropos in Barcelona, as well as, among other articles, “Sexual Commodification and Memory in L´éducation sentimentale” (Studi Francesi, Italy) “L’onomastique ouverte de Proust dans ‘Noms de pays: le nom’“ (French Forum, USA) and “`L’hallucination, cet hôte étrange´: les limites de la raison au Club des Hachichins” (Çédille, Spain). His research interests focus on experience and representation in the margins.
Abstract: Resistance and the Info-sphere
The generalized use of so-called smart phones, the remarkable speed of their development, and the importance of algorithms in enhancing the willingness of users to increase their dependence on “new and improved” products and services have, today, become the norm. Moving beyond traditional state censorship that targets certain races, religions, sexual orientations, cultural activities, etc., empire now not only allows but encourages individuals to construct and promote their self-image in the hyper-realm of social media. While it has indeed been used effectively to resist state power, the new technology appears to thrive at the expense of essential elements of our human experience: reflection and even daydreaming are being replaced by disincarnated chatter and surfing. The works of artists and social critics such as Rimbaud, Odell, the Situationists, and Agamben shed light on the dynamics of loss of agency that these powerful and ubiquitous tools of monetizing private information promote. Methods and limitations of today´s growing resistance to the info-sphere will be the topic of our discussion.
Galen Murton is an assistant professor in the Geographic Science Program in the School of Integrated Sciences at James Madison University (Harrisonburg, Virginia). He recently completed a Marie S. Curie fellowship at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich on the project Road Diplomacy. His current research examines the geopolitical dimensions of post-disaster infrastructure development, and especially that of Chinese road construction in Himalayan regions of Nepal and Tibet. He received his BA from Middlebury College in 2000.
Abstract: The Power of Blank Spaces: A critical cartography of China’s Belt and Road Initiative
A variety of maps depict a usefully approximate but inexact network of roads, rails, sea lanes, and other transport infrastructures to represent something called China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). And yet, for a global infrastructural program that reflects and advances Beijing’s ambition to become a leader of international development, BRI maps remain surprisingly imprecise and unofficial. Informed by previous “mappings of empire” (Edney 1999), I read BRI maps as “usefully fuzzy” (Nairn and Agnew 2019) texts of “cartographic silence” (Harley 2001) to show how they do work (Wood 2010) in the negative register of empty space. Examining the paradox between widespread Chinese developments across Highland Asia-Tibetan Plateau and the region’s conspicuous absence from many BRI maps, this paper highlights some fundamental connections between cartography and empire and underscores how mapping is both a strategic “state of the art” and an imperial “art of the state” (Mundy 1996).
Temitope Ogungbemi is a critical discourse analyst whose studies engage social theories in interpreting dimension of identity, power, class and contest in post-colonial Africa. His research highlights that patterns and politics of language in discursive contexts are representative of the complexities inherent in post-colonial Africa. Temitope was awarded a doctorate of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, in 2018. He was also a 2016-17 fellow of NextGen Social Science in Africa, Social Science Research Council, Brooklyn, N.Y., and 2018-19 Fulbright Scholar at Penn Language Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. He is currently a lecturer at McPherson University, Nigeria.
Abstract: The Populist West: Critical subjectivity and the politics of counter-terrorism in Nigeria
The upsurge of aggression and terrorism in post-colonial Africa continues to stimulate suspicion in the superordinate status of the colonialists and the imperialist politics of foreign interventions. In Nigeria, counter-terrorism measures to combat Boko Haram Islamist terrorist groups face daunting challenges imposed on the state by conditions in West-based interventions and politics of counter-terrorism. This development exposes the overarching subjectivity of the former colony under the imperial forces of the West in policy development and territorial control. Combining insights from Latin American populism and critical discourse analysis, foreign interventions in Nigerian counter-terrorism policies are qualitatively analyzed to establish how Boko Haram terrorism in the Northeast is discursively operationalized by the West to legitimize imperialism. Data for the study comprise a set of memoranda of understanding on security and counter-terrorism between Nigeria and foreign nations. The analysis unravels West imperialist politics and the strategic positioning of foreign interventions in the formation and formalization of new empire in Nigeria.
Yumna Siddiqi is an associate professor of English at Middlebury College, where she specializes in postcolonial literature and theory, diaspora and migration studies, and literary theory. Her book Anxieties of Empire and the Fiction of Intrigue (Columbia University Press, 2008) explores the contradictions of postcolonial modernity in turn of the nineteenth and turn of the twentieth century fiction of detection and espionage. She has published articles on postcolonial literature and culture in Cultural Critique, Victorian Literature and Culture, Renaissance Drama, Alif, South Asia Research, and Textual Practice. Her current research is on postcolonial literature, migrants, and the city.
Abstract: Borders and Anxieties of Empire
In its contemporary form, empire obsessively figures the terrorist and the migrant as threats, revealing its own political anxieties. In their book Empire, Hardt and Negri have argued for the need to think about empire in the late twentieth century as characterized by deterritorialized forms of sovereignty. As territorial and resource wars continue in the present era of empire, this emphasis on deterritorialization seems off the mark; instead it is more useful to think of “Empire” as a way of naming how power and sovereignty are re-territorialized in an age after formal decolonizaton. The operation of the border is crucial to this reterritorialization. This paper focuses on the border as a location, institution, and practice where contemporary anxieties of empire are cMenusoncentrated. Focusing on recent theorizations of the border by Mezzadra and Nielsen, Achille Mbembe, Edward Casey and others, the paper explores how the border operates and is figured in some of the Refugee Tales, a collaborative and ongoing project that has yielded three volumes edited by Derek Herd and Anna Pincus, comprising stories told to writers by detainees and those touched by the detention regime in the UK.
Molly Slavin is a Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow in the Writing and Communication Program, School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Institute of Technology. Her research interests include postcolonial literature, crime, cities, and narrative theory. She holds a PhD from Emory University’s English department.
Abstract: “Crime on the Border”: Locating imperial anxiety in narratives of crime
This paper argues that contemporary imperial nations, including the United States, United Kingdom, and Israel, register imperial anxiety via cultural rhetorics of crime, and that this particular anxiety is reflective of a fear about loss of power. This paper holds that we can locate contemporary empire by looking at how these nations talk about crime, specifically crimes that take place along borders or in liminal spaces, as these are the locations where imperial hegemony is most directly threatened. By considering texts like Don Winslow’s novels about the United States/Mexico border and the anthology This is Not a Border: Reportage & Reflection from the Palestine Festival of Literature, as well as political rhetoric like Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration speech and British politicians’ treatment of the North of Ireland and Brexit, “Crime on the Border” contends that contemporary Empire’s anxieties, tensions, and apprehensions may be located in narratives of crime.
Carly Thomsen is an assistant professor of gender, sexuality, and feminist studies at Middlebury College. She completed her PhD in feminist studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara and a postdoctoral fellowship at Rice University. Her work on reproductive justice, LGBTQ activism, queer rurality, and feminist pedagogy is published in Signs: A Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, Feminist Studies, Feminist Formations, Atlantis: Critical Studies in Gender, Culture, and Social Justice, Queering the Countryside: New Frontiers in Rural Queer Studies, The Legacies of Matthew Shepard: Twenty Years Later, and the Oxford Handbook of Feminist Theory.
Abstract: Mechanisms of Empire’s Reproduction: An analysis of crisis pregnancy centers
Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) are non-profits that view themselves as the provider arm of the anti-abortion movement. Today, there are three times more CPCs in the U.S. than abortion clinics, a significant change from the 1980s when there were more abortion clinics than CPCs (Munson 2009). Despite rarely having medical professionals on staff and avoiding medical regulation due precisely to their not being medical facilities, CPCs often work to appear as if they are medical facilities—an approach that critics worry gives more credence to the false information about abortion that they spread. Feminist activists and filmmakers consistently note that CPCs’ deceptive practices are enabled through their opening CPCs near abortion clinics, an approach through which they intentionally confuse, and thus intercept, those seeking abortion. CPC supporters defend their approaches by claiming that CPCs offer resources to low-income women in need—women who might be seeking abortions because they have so few resources. This paper maps CPCs in the U.S. and examines the demographic make-ups of their locations in terms of race, class, and population density, as well as CPCs’ average distances from abortion clinics. It considers the racial, classed, geographic, and gendered anxieties that have informed the spread of CPCs, ultimately arguing that contemporary abortion politics in the U.S. extend prior scholarly analyses of “patriarchal imperialism” (hooks 2014; Kittell 2010) and serve as a fruitful site for examining empire more broadly.
Kirsten Wesselhoeft is an assistant professor of religion at Vassar College, where she also teaches in Africana studies and women’s studies. She is an ethnographer of Muslim ethics and social change, currently focused on contemporary France. Her book manuscript, Fraternal Critique, describes the lively ethical debates that define the twenty-first century French Muslim scene, and locates these arguments in long Islamic and republican traditions of critical thought. Wesselhoeft received her PhD in religion from Harvard University. Her articles have appeared in Sociology of Islam, the Oxford Review of Education, and the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, among others.
Abstract: Islam, Anti-Racism, and the Anxieties of French Diversity Politics
Affirmative action and diversity politics are often framed as hallmarks of “Anglo-American multiculturalism” and anathema to French republican universalism, which supposedly ignores racial, ethnic, or religious difference. However, numerous programs to promote “diversity” have been established at top French universities. These programs largely rely on the spatialization of inequality in France, using zip code as an indicator of economic, racial, ethnic, and religious diversity, frequently collapsed in the hegemonic imaginary of “the banlieues.” At the same time, grassroots organizations are working to nurture elite academic and professional achievement among Muslim youth, both challenging and reproducing the elitism that undergirds the grandes écoles. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted with French Muslim youth organizations over the past decade, and a close reading of recent educational policies related to diversity, race, and Islam, this paper shows how both Muslim students and state actors negotiate the contradictions of representation, inclusion, and moral struggle for equality.
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