Tag Archives: workshop

Decoloniality Workshop Series: “’What Is Past Is Prologue’: Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Empire Building(s) at the U.S. National Archives.

By Josué Rodriguez

On Wednesday, January 31, 2018, the Decoloniality Workshop Series continued with a discussion around Enmanuel Martinez’s dissertation chapter draft, “’What Is Past Is Prologue’: Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Empire Building(s) at the U.S. National Archives.” Enmanuel’s presentation examined the quote chiseled at the base of a statue named “Future” located at the entrance to the National Archives Building in Washington D.C., stating “WHAT IS PAST IS PROLOGUE.” In highlighting the archival space as a central node for concepts of empire, war, national identity, Cold War politics, and coloniality, Enmanuel’s paper asked us to consider several questions: “what is the context, [what] is the reason, for which Antonio’s fraught words are inscribed onto the physical surface of the National Archives Building; and conversely what content, which is to say resonance, does Antonio’s statement project onto our understanding of the history (and future) of the National Archives Building?”

As Enmanuel described effectively through the help of photos and videos, the enshrinement of the Charters of Freedom in the National Archives Building on December 15, 1952 through military escort exemplifies the crossing of colonial and archival powers in an expression of Cold War political theater. As he argues, “the space of the National Archives Building emerges as a national stage over which the U.S. American government rehearses and projects its global-imperial aspirations and anxieties, respectively. We must thus recognize the U.S. National Archives as a domestic archive whose arrangement is shaped no less by imperialism abroad than it is by nationalism at home.” Symbolic performativity and architectural place coalesce to reveal the archive as a key component in the construction of the same global project that allowed the US to solidify its continuing hold on several insular territories in the Pacific and Atlantic during 20th century, island territories such as the Philippines, Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

Comparative Literature PhD candidate Annabel We served as respondent. She considered the temporal resonances of the US’s pre-1952 imperial history as further ways of thinking through the Shakespearean quote and noted the difficulty of historians relying on the very archives they critique and examine, such as that of the US National Archives and Record Administration (NARA). Other attendees offered helpful suggestions on the paper’s structure. For example, one student asked that Enmanuel to further develop his analysis of Antonio, the power-usurping villain of Shakespeare’s play, through Rutgers University Professor Nelson Maldonado-Torres’ work on the “paradigm of war.”

In his responses to questions from the group of attendees, Enmanuel reminded us of the need to distinguish carefully between archive studies and library and information science. Enmanuel also helped us understand his own plans for the dissertation chapter moving forward. As he continues to develop his comparative analysis of the inscription on the statue “Future” and Shakespeare’s The Tempest, he hopes to draw upon Edward Said’s work on misreading, as well as Walter Benjamin’s writing on quotations as interruptions.

The Decoloniality Worshop (organized by Rafael Vizcaíno [Comparative Literature, Rutgers University]) is a space for junior scholars at Rutgers University to receive constructive feedback  in an intimate community setting. This workshop series builds upon recent graduate student–organized events at Rutgers University and is focused on decolonial thought and criticism. Most recently, the inaugural Decoloniality Roundtable took place in May 2017. In March 2016, the Urban (De)Coloniality and Literature conference was held as the Program in Comparative Literature Biennial Graduate Student Conference.

The Decoloniality Workshop has a complete lineup for the Spring 2018 semester and is in the plan of continuing through the 2018-19 academic year. For more information, visit the workshop’s website at https://decolonialityworkshop.wordpress.com

Decoloniality Workshop Series: “Decolonizing Nation-State Narratives in Angola and Mozambique”

By: Jeong Eun Annabel We

On December 4th, 2017, the Decoloniality Workshop series kicked off with Dionisio da Silva Pimenta’s (Sociology, Federal University of São Carlos) work in progress. Entitled “Decolonizing Nation-State Narratives in Angola and Mozambique,” the paper engaged the concept of coloniality and works of Frantz Fanon to think through the post-independence nation-state building struggles of Mozambique and Angola.

Pimenta posed the question of how cold war geopolitics materially shaped the long civil wars of party oppositions in Angola and Mozambique, and what examples of decolonizing practices can be found in people’s cultural resistance to the party focused nation-state projects. During the workshop discussion, participants proposed different approaches to thinking about how temporality and spatiality were crucial features of coloniality and nation border-drawing in Angola and Mozambique. By connecting the scramble for Africa with the economic hegemony of Cold War interventions, the discussion took a turn to probe colonial spatialization and ethnicization of nation-state politics that is emphasized in Pimenta’s engagement with coloniality and geopolitics. 

The workshop’s soundtrack was set to the work of rappers that Pimenta examined, MCK (Angola) and Azagaia (Mozambique).

The Decoloniality Worshop (organized by Rafael Vizcaíno [Comparative Literature, Rutgers University]) is a space for junior scholars to receive constructive feedback in a relaxed community setting. It builds upon recent graduate-student-organized events at Rutgers University around the project of the critique of modernity/coloniality. Most recently, the inaugural Decoloniality Roundtable took place in May 2017. In March 2016, the Urban (De)Coloniality and Literature conference was held as the Program in Comparative Literature Biennial Graduate Student Conference.

 The workshop has a complete lineup for the Spring 2018 semester and is in the plan of continuing in 2018-19. For more information, visit the workshop’s website at https://decolonialityworkshop.wordpress.com 

“Tri-University Junior Scholars Workshop” (Penn State, Cornell, and Rutgers) on Comparative Chinese Studies

(Symposium title: Peripheral Archives: The Past and Future of Sinophone Literature and Culture)

By: Coco XU

On Friday, October 6th, Rutgers comp lit/Asian studies graduate students Lina Qu, Virginia Conn, Penny Yeung and Coco Xu participated in a Tri-University symposium titled “Peripheral Archives: The Past and Future of Sinophone Literature and Culture.” Spearheaded by Prof. Xiaojue Wang from Rutgers Comp lit& Asian Languages and Cultures, Prof. Shuang Shen from Penn State Comp lit& Asian Studies, and Prof. Andrea Bachner from the Comp lit department at Cornell, graduate students, post-doc, exchange scholars and professors from three universities gathered in State College, PA for the very first of what is expected to be a series of annual workshops on Comparative Chinese Studies.

During the first half of the symposium, Lina gave a talk titled “From Bumming in the World to Homecoming to Faith: the Documented Path of Global Mobility and Displacement of Zhang Ci.” Using contemporary diasporic Chinese female independent filmmaker Zhang Ci as an example, she complicates our understanding of belongingness and offers a heterogeneous notion of home and homecoming through a close reading of three documentary films Bumming in Beijing: The Last Dreamers (1990), At Home in the World (1995), and The Faith of Ailao Mountain (2015). Her presentation received enthusiastic comments and suggestions from the audience and generated discussions on literary production and circulation processes, marginality and urban-rural interconnections as well as affective and the biopolitical controls of the body in diasporic experiences of global displacement.

Besides Lina, five other graduate students, post-docs and assistant professors from Penn State, Cornell, UPenn, and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore gave presentations on respective topics spanning from global Sinophone literature(s) to peripheral archival studies, with six faculty members from Rutgers, Cornell, and Penn State serving as discussants. Responding to existing scholarship on postcolonial studies as well as global Anglophone and Sinophone studies, discussions centered around the deconstruction and redefinition of concepts like “cultural China” and “Chineseness”. In order to complicate the understanding of national and cultural identity as well as making an intervention in broader scholarly conversations on the making of global imaginary, our discussion challenges the ethnocentric paradigm of center- peripheral thinking and seeks to reexamine “the peripheral” through lenses of non-linear temporality and inconsecutive spatiality. Also, an emphasis on archive is played out through inclusive studies of different medias, examinations on the production, circulation and consumption of cultural artifacts and media, as well as discussions on affective effects of interactions with multiple archives as part of the literary experience.

The one-day symposium took on a workshop format. Open to graduate students and scholars from comp lit and related fields from three aforementioned universities, the symposium seeks to provide a platform for inter-university exchange as well as academic community building. With pre-circulated papers inside the group, we were able to fit six short presentations followed by comments from designated discussants as well as extensive discussions among participants. The workshop format allows the presenters to reach out to an audience of similar academic interests and a wide range of expertise in order to collect critical comments from different perspectives. It also proves to be immensely productive in generating interactive and in-depth discussions between the presenter and the participants.

Looking forward, we expect to continue the conversation between comp lit and Asian studies departments across the three institutions through more tri-uni symposium/ workshops held by respective universities in a rotating manner. Sponsored by Asian Studies and Comp lit at Penn State this time, the next session is to be held at Cornell next fall with the following session at Rutgers in two years. We are looking forward to expanding and developing our conversation on comparative Chinese studies with more exciting projects in the coming meetings.

Connected Academics Workshop at Comp. Lit.

By: Gabriele Lazzari

On Thursday, March 30th, students and faculty from Comparative Literature gathered to attend a workshop, organized by Tara Coleman and Carolyn Ureña and titled “Becoming Connected Academics: Career Diversity and Comparative Literature.” Both Carolyn and Tara have recently defended their dissertations, and have been fellows of the MLA Connected Academics Proseminar, an initiative that this blog has been covering since its inception.

The purpose of the workshop was to discuss with students and faculty the valuable work that the Proseminar has done in the last two years of introducing Ph.D. students to various career paths after graduation. The first misconception that was addressed during the workshop is the negative connotation often attached to the label “Alt-Ac” (Alternative Academic), which some still perceive as the alternative (read, second) choice, unwillingly accepted by those who fail to land an (increasingly chimeric) tenure-track job. Tara and Carolyn stressed instead that students should think of other paths as leading to equally legitimate and potentially satisfying careers. Most importantly, they explained how the Connected Academics Proseminar has offered them instruments to reframe their academic and non-academic experience so as to be competitive in a wider job market, highlighting that the skills we usually associate only with a job involving teaching and research can be valuable assets also outside academia.

The workshop stimulated a lively conversation among its attendees. It was noticeable that Jerome Kukor (Dean of the Graduate School-New Brunswick) and Dorothy Hodgson (Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs) decided to participate. Their brief interventions emphasized the importance of an organic interaction between Rutgers administration and the graduate student body for the promotion of career diversity. More than anything else, support from the different Departments and the Graduate School is of vital importance to the success of graduate students, regardless of what career path they end up choosing.

During the workshop, effective ways of exploring jobs and entering the “alt-ac” conversation (as early as possible!) were discussed. Carolyn and Tara presented with great clarity and enthusiasm the objectives and structure of the Proseminar, offering students extremely valuable instruments to start exploring on their own, as well as practical suggestions. Among them: attending panels and networking events organized by the Proseminar each year at the MLA Convention; understanding the importance of social media (particularly LinkedIn and Twitter) in building an eclectic and appealing profile; reading job ads to assess what skills we might already have and which ones we would need to work on.

In this regard, Tara and Carolyn pointed out that each field a graduate student might be interested in (NGOs, publishing, not-for-profit agencies, foundations, administrative roles within academia, etc.) has different requirements and expectations; once again, getting acquainted to them early on is crucial. Realistically, this might require extra-work during our graduate years (volunteering, internships, collaborations etc.) but the payoff–being able to choose a career depending on one’s affective, economic, and intellectual needs–will be surely worth the effort.

Spring 2016 Workshop, Digital Lab Series: Exploring HathiTrust

Spring semester has started, and several extra-curricular activities and workshops are being launched at Rutgers. One that might be particularly interesting for graduate students in Comparative Literature  is the Digital Lab Series, hosted by Rutgers Libraries and sponsored by the Digital Humanities Initiative at Rutgers.

The first workshop was held on January 20, at Alexander Library. Titled “Exploring HathiTrust Digital Library” and conducted by Melissa Gasparotto, librarian at Rutgers specializing in African, Latin American Studies & LGBTQ Studies, Spanish & Portuguese, the workshop was meant to introduce students and scholars to HathiTrust, a repository of over 13 million digitized books. Launched in 2008, HathiTrust is a collaborative project involving several research institutions, libraries, and universities from North America, Australia, Spain, and Lebanon (Rutgers has recently joined it). Although English remains the most represented language, comparatists can find precious material in many other languages. Furthermore, the overall high-quality and precision of full-texts and metadata, as well as the immediate availability of books that used to be accessible only trough microfilms, make the collection a true gold mine of research material.

HathiTrust Languages

During the workshop, Melissa Gasparotto illustrated different search functionalities: HathiTrust offers basic full-text or catalogue searches and more advanced instruments of text retrieval. Language, format, time period are only few of the multiple categories available to users, who can combine them using Boolean expressions. Although some material is subject to copyright, hence not fully accessible (in these cases only metadata can be consulted), the possibility to download full-texts (when available) differentiates HathiTrust from similar projects, such as Google Books. Being able to download rare, if not unique texts, in PDF format, is not the only interesting functionality HathiTrust offers. Members can in fact build their own collections and eventually share them. They can also access collections built by other scholars who have decided to make them public.

HathiTrust, in fostering collaborative work by making available large collections of documents, can be a very powerful resource for literary scholars, both from a quantitative and a qualitative perspective. In the next workshop, on January 26, Francesca Giannetti will focus on how to develop more complex analyses of documents and will explain how to produce data visualizations by using the algorithms provided by the portal.