Seminar 3: Active Matter

Friday, December 4, 2015

Lunch – 12:00 - 12:30 PM
Seminar – 12:30 - 2:00 PM

Mortara Center | 3600 N St NW, Washington, DC 20007

Continual economic, ecological, and political crises—from financial crash to oil spill, earthquake to ebola—underscore a need to reflect on the active nature of matter in human affairs. Investigating material exchanges and the interventions of nature, artifacts, and apparatuses within global political economy and culture questions assumptions about what is human/humanity; it also challenges political orderings reliant upon personification, nationalization, immunity, or rights. This workshop considers the efficacy of material ecologies across different scales and arenas of social action, from international law or architecture, to everyday objects or the human body. How does a more “materials-oriented” arts and sciences prompt new ways of doing politics and ethics, and new understandings of participation and what constitutes a “public”? How might a (non-positivist) materials-focused approach to international affairs precipitate more worldly understandings of citizenship, security, harm, and intervention—from peacekeeping mission to environmental justice, biomedical vaccination to cultural diplomacy?

Featuring Distinguished Presenters:

Paul Jackson is Assistant Professor, Department of Geography at the University of Delaware. He investigates how scientists and experts grapple with the interaction between humans and the urban environment. He focuses on those experts who presume that this interaction produces populations that are deficient, disadvantaged, and/or diseased. He interrogates these relationships in a variety of time periods: how cholera and marshland was thought to make cities inherently unhealthy (1870s-1890s); how religious pilgrims were blamed global pandemics (1890s-1920s); how inner-city environments were feared to lower children’s IQ (1950s-1960s); and how environmental toxins are suspected to be the cause of the autism epidemic (1990s-present).  The basis of his book manuscript is around the concept ‘proliferating life’ that illustrates how experts feared the increase of unhealthy and deficient urban populations. His two new projects looks into biometric technology in India and social reproduction in the “other global health.” He has published in Cultural Geographies, Antipode, and Progress in Human Geography. 


Shiloh Krupar is Associate Professor and Field Chair of the Culture and Politics Program in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She is a geographer with teaching and research interests that span architecture, museum studies, medical humanities, and environmental justice issues. Her book Hot Spotter’s Report: Military Fables of Toxic Waste (University of Minnesota Press, 2013) examines “postnuclear” nature conservation and labor compensation issues. She is currently working on two co-authored volumes: Museum of Waste: Capital/Ecology/Sovereignty (with C. Greig Crysler, University of California-Berkeley), a creative museum catalog of recent environmental and financial disasters, and Enterprise of Life: Biocultures and the Ethics of Living On (with Nadine Ehlers, University of Wollongong), that explores the expansion of "soft" biomedical technologies, such as hope and security, and their impact on bodies, communities, and politics. Krupar also serves as Co-director of the National Toxic Land/Labor Conservation Service (with Sarah Kanouse, Northeastern University), an agency that works at the intersection of art, research, and government policy to address the toxicities of war.


A. Laurie Palmer is an artist, writer, and teacher living in Chicago and California. Her work is concerned with material explorations of matter’s active nature as it asserts itself on different scales and in different speeds, and with collaborating on strategic actions in the contexts of social and environmental justice. Her book In the Aura of a Hole: Exploring Sites of Material Extraction (Black Dog, London, 2014) investigates what happens to places where materials are removed from the ground, and, once liberated, how these materials move between the earth and our bodies. Based on observations from first-hand visits, the book refuses a strict separation between industrial materials and the embodied “I” that observes and experiences where and how they are produced. Palmer is a Professor in the Art Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and teaches in the Low-Residency MFA program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.



Mubbashir Rizvi is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Georgetown University. Dr. Rizvi’s research focus is on social movements, land rights and political ecology in rural Pakistan. His research brings together classic concerns of agrarian studies with contemporary debates in new materialism and infrastructure studies to examine political subjectivity in Pakistan. Dr. Rizvi is finishing a monograph on Anjuman Mazareen Punjab, a land rights movement that successfully challenged the Pakistan Army’s hold on vast agricultural estates in Pakistan. In addition to his work on land relations in Pakistan. Dr. Rizvi also works on the politics of race in the Muslim diaspora in Europe and in America. Dr. Rizvi has published an article “Multiple Lives of Black Islam in Hip Hop” that examines how Muslim youth relate to hip hop as they navigate through politics of race and belonging in Europe and America. At Georgetown, Dr. Rizvi teaches “Environmental Anthropology and the Politics of “Nature,” “South Asia and the World,” and “Doing Anthropological Fieldwork.” 


Click Here to download the audio file for the seminar.