Course Descriptions

Dr. David Eng, University of Pennsylvania

Lecture: Race As Relation (Open to the public);
Introduction by Dr. David Murray, York University
Master Class: Racial Dissociation

Dr. Amber Jamilla Musser, Washington University

Lecture: Carrie Mae Weems and the Question of Brown Jouissance (Open to the public)
Master Class: Black Aesthetics and Psychoanalysis

Dr. Trish Salah, Queen’s University

Lecture: Race as Kink: Reading Trans-Racial Fetishism (Open to the public);
Introduction by Dr. Jinthana Haritaworn, York University
Workshop: Uses of the Perverse: Perversity as Power/Knowledge

Dr. Aparna Mishra Tarc, York University

Lecture: Pedagogy and the perverse in Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child (Open to the public);
Introduction by Dr. John Greyson,York University
Master Class: Perverse Beginnings: The Queer Child

SISS curriculum includes public lectures, master classes, creative workshops, roundtables, a poster session, and a visit to FAG Feminist Art Gallery.

Dr. David EngUniversity of Pennsylvania

Lecture: Race As Relation

This lecture begins with the premise that race is not a “thing” as it is commonly understood—an unchanging biological trait, a bodily attribute, a difference of blood quantum or color, a static identity. Rather, race is a relation—a continuous, modulating relationship among subjects mediating processes of social inclusion and exclusion. This talk investigates “race as relation” in both law and psychoanalysis. It begins with an account of the idea of race as it emerged from the Transatlantic slave trade and the objectification of the slave as property. While property is conventionally thought of as a subject-object relationship, it might be better understood as a subject-subject relationship, a set of rights and privileges shaping histories of racial inclusion and exclusion in U.S. law and society among subjects. The lecture then turns to psychoanalytic theories on subject-object relations in order to consider how they rework fundamental assumptions about race and property in U.S. law and society and, in turn, how histories of race challenge ideas of the universal subject in psychoanalytic theory.

Master Class: Racial Dissociation

This master class will focus on the problem of “racial dissociation” to investigate the social and psychic structures of colorblindness for Asian millennials in the diaspora. We will start with a classic essay from Critical Race Theory on colorblindness by Neil Gotanda. In addition, we will discuss psychoanalytic essays by Freud, Winnicott, and Bromberg, along with three case histories that David Eng co-wrote with Shinhee Han, a practicing psychotherapist in New York City, on parachute children. (Parachute children are kids and adolescents as young as eight who migrate typically on their own from Asian countries to seek educational opportunities abroad in the West.) These case histories are part of a book that Han and Eng have co-written, A Dialogue on Racial Melancholia and Racial Dissociation (Duke University Press, forthcoming 2018).

Dr. Amber Jamilla Musser, Washington University

Lecture: Carrie Mae Weems and the Question of Brown Jouissance

Carrie Mae Weems’ 1995-1996 installation “From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried,” comprised of 34 photographic images from various archives (some of which were already in circulation) from the 19th and 20th centuries, provides an opportunity to meditate on the discourses of woundedness that permeate much thinking on race, affect, and masochism while also allowing us to theorize brown jouissance. Following Lacan, Amber Jamilla Musser takes jouissance to be the experience of being a body, what Nestor Braunstein describes as “positivity, […] ‘something’ lived by a body when pleasure stops being pleasure. It is a plus, a sensation that is beyond pleasure” (2003, 104). This lecture dwells on jouissance in order to retain the ambivalence of emotion that is provoked by Weems’ invocation of tears. Brown jouissance offers insight into thinking about this opacity as strategic, masochistic, and deeply connected to the flesh. Further, brown jouissance is not just adding race to Lacan’s concept, as Musser argues in her reading of Weems’ installation, it enables a rethinking of the relationship between psychoanalysis, femininity, and race.

Master Class: Black Aesthetics and Psychoanalysis

This seminar will teach students how to analyze contemporary art in order to think about race alongside psychoanalysis. Drawing on work from Mickalene Thomas, Kara Walker, Glenn Ligon, and Carrie Mae Weems that challenges concepts of surface, family, and affect, we will learn to put these disparate languages into conversation in order to rethink what constitutes interiority, perversion, and social structure. This seminar explores the aesthetic as a rich site of theoretical innovation for re-imagining the possibilities of psychoanalysis.

Dr. Trish Salah, Queen’s University

Lecture: Race as Kink:  Reading Trans- Racial Fetishism

In what sense might we speak or think about race as libidinally charged? How do we understand racial identity as erotically invested and in what ways do we see object choice as racially inflected? To what extent are such libidinal economies of identity formation and object choice both ubiquitously alluded to and routinely disavowed? And what are the circumstances under which they present themselves as an occasion for scandal, crisis and conflict?

Drawing upon Freud’s discussion of the place of disavowal in the constitution of desire, this talk is an attempt to think about the persistence, and affective charge, with which analogies between transgender identities and forms of racial passing or cross-identification, increasingly named as “transracialism,” are made. In the process it will also attempt to put these concerns into relation with a few other questions. What is the legacy of phobic constructions of transsexuality as deviant and predatory masculinity in early lesbian and cultural feminist thinking for our present moment? Are there ways in which thinking through racialized desire and disavowal allow us to interpret, interfere with and revise our understandings of racialization, gendering, sexuation as such?

Master Class: Uses of the Perverse: perversity as power/knowledge

Reading against the grain Audre Lorde’s classic text, “The Uses of the Erotic,” as well as a number of contemporary writings, in this creative writing workshop we will experiment with the staging of trans racial/national/gendered identifications, desires and affects in the register of critical perversity. That is, we will write through and think about the poeisis and libidinal play animating multiple, intersecting identifications, desires, and dis/identifications in terms of writing’s perverse share in, and capacity to display, enjoy, and rework shame, complicity, aggression, uncertainty, masochism and other ambivalent pleasure/knowledges.

Dr. Aparna Mishra Tarc

Lecture: Pedagogy and the perverse in Toni Morrison’s “God Help the Child”

This lecture is situated in recent queer scholarship celebrating and/or recuperating perversion from its pathological treatment in the social sciences (Edelman, De Lauretis). Aligned with these moves, Aparna Mishra Tarc takes a different tact to thinking the perverse in a turn to Melanie Klein’s treatment of Freud’s polymorphous perverse baby subject to the adult (m)other’s sexual drives. In infancy sexuality driving the subject formation of the baby is open to impression as intra subjectively experienced and inter subjectively engaged. The intra subjective drive of sexuality instantiated in infancy is fundamental to human existence and wholly dependent on the inter subjective response and care of the (m)other. To examine how infantile sexuality is expressed and repressed in sexual and racial markers of identity, Mishra Tarc conducts a psychoanalytic reading of Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child.  Morrison’s novel investigates personal, legal and societal responses to perverse expressions of the child’s sexuality generating, degenerating and regenerating the self. Subject to the other with sexual drives of their own, Morrison highlights the profound role of pedagogy in the care of the child’s polymorphous perverse existence.  The adult’s response (use, refuse, and abuse) of the child’s sexuality sets the conditions for her identity and relation to others.

Master Class: Perverse Beginnings: the Queer Child

Aparna Mishra Tarc’s master class revolves around Freud’s idea of infantile sexual orientation as undifferentiated and thus queer (Freud says the baby is bi-sexual—vocabulary was limited but this is radical for his time).  Theorization of queer in this class follows that of Melanie Klein as pre-Oedipal (sexuality in psychical formation thus before politics). Mishra Tarc will speak about the role of attachment (seduction), identification, and projection in the child’s sexual orientation and formation.  The class will provoke debate amongst students on the adult relation to and (non)support of queer sexuality of children in recent political debates featuring queer and trans kids.  We might view scenes from Ma Vie En Rose (cited in Britzman’s piece) to bring theory to social life.

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