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Berlant’s America

Center of Global Culture and Communication

(An interdisciplinary initiative of Northwestern University’s School of Communication)

Department of English &
Center for Transcultural Studies

jointly present

A Lambert Conference

Berlant’s America

(A Symposium on the Legacies of Lauren Berlant)

October 26 & 27, 2023
9:30 am– 5:00 pm
Harris 108

Northwestern University, 1881 Sheridan Rd, Evanston, IL 60208

Participants include: Kris Cohen (Art History and Humanities, Reed College), Lee Edelman (English, Tufts University), Jonathan Flatley (English, Wayne State University), Michael Hardt (Literature, Duke University), Lauren Jackson (English, Northwestern University), E. Patrick Johnson (Black Studies & Performance Studies, Northwestern University), Benjamin Lee (Anthropology and Philosophy, New School), Heather Love (English, University of Pennsylvania), Sianne Ngai (English, University of Chicago), Jonathan Schroeder (American Studies, Brandeis University), Kathleen Stewart (Anthropology, University of Texas, Austin), Michael Warner (English, Yale University), & Ken Wissoker (Editor, Duke University Press)

Convenors: Dilip Gaonkar (Rhetoric, Media & Publics, Northwestern University) &
Laurie Shannon (English, Northwestern University)


While the range of Lauren Berlant’s work is capacious, the engagement with “America” — its history, politics, and culture (art and literature, popular and performative, and much else) — stands out as a gravitational center and the preferred archive for her/their critical meditations, theoretical innovations, and reading practices. “Berlant’s America” is a distinctive “America,” as distinctive as Tocqueville’s, or Emerson’s, or Whitman’s. This conference will test the shapes of that America and of what Berlant indelibly named its “cruel optimism,” prompting us to think — and think again.

Rhetoric, Media, Publics Summer Institute: Media Aesthetics V

Media Aesthetics V

The annual Rhetoric, Media, and Publics Summer Institute at Northwestern University is scheduled to be held on July 17-21, 2023 (with arrival July 16 and departure July 22).
Institute conveners are Dilip Gaonkar (Rhetoric, Media, and Publics, Northwestern University) and James J. Hodge (English, Northwestern University).
The theorization of media often begins with a story about the history of the senses and the sensorium and how that history might be understood in terms of the ways new technologies transform our individual and collective abilities to see, hear, and communicate. The 21st-century computational saturation of culture by mediated forms as the infrastructure of ordinary life poses new challenges to this project. While many projects emphasize the algorithmic and technical dimensions of the internet age, the media aesthetics project (now in its 5th year) is devoted to exploring ordinary experience. How, for instance, does the rise of internet culture into culture as such bring into being new forms of social belonging, personhood, and collective desire? What aesthetic forms — new or old — grant the most critical traction on grasping our historical present? What critical/interpretive languages do we need to devise to respond constructively to the politically vexed and culturally fragmented ethos of the present? In this project, we hope to explore and interrogate the mediated experience of the present as it mutates, propelled by the rapidly shifting dynamics of capitalist modernity, and while mutating both discloses and conceals the possibilities and perils before us.

Institute Format and Application Process

The institute will consist of five days of presentations and discussions led by visiting scholars and Northwestern faculty. This year’s visiting scholars include: Nico Baumbach (Columbia University), Shane Denson (Stanford University), Hannah Zeavin (Indiana University), and Chenshu Zhou (University of Pennsylvania). This year’s contributing Northwestern University faculty includes Dahye Kim (Asian Languages and Cultures).
The institute is sponsored by the Center for Global Culture and Communication (CGCC), an interdisciplinary initiative of Northwestern University’s School of Communication. The CGCC will subsidize transportation (up to $250), lodging (double-occupancy), and some meals (breakfast and lunch every day and two group dinners) for admitted students. Applicants should send a brief letter of nomination from their academic advisor, along with a one-page statement explaining their interest in participating in this year’s institute, to the summer institute coordinator Bipin Sebastian ( We will adopt a policy of rolling admissions. Priority will therefore be granted to strong applications that are submitted in a timely fashion, preferably by June 15, 2023. All inquiries should be directed to Bipin Sebastian.

Summer Institute Schedule (tentative):

Monday 7/17
Welcome and Introductions (am): Dilip Gaonkar & James J. Hodge
Shane Denson talk (pm): “Of Algorithms, Aesthetics, and Embodied Existences”

Tuesday 7/18
Denson workshop (am)
Chenshu Zhou talk (pm): “The Boredom and Excitement of Live Streaming”
Dahye Kim talk (pm): “Korean Writing in the Age of Multilingual Word Processing: Reterritorialization of Scripts and the Cultural Technique of Writing”

Wednesday 7/19
Zhou workshop (am)
Nico Baumbach talk (pm): “The Political Aesthetics of Conspiracy Theory: From the Feature Film to the Internet”

Thursday 7/20
Baumbach workshop (am)
Hannah Zeavin talk (pm): “Screening Mother, Coding Baby: Attachment, Deprivation, and the American Prison”

Friday 7/21
Zeavin workshop (am)

Faculty Bios:

Nico Baumbach is Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies at Columbia University. His research and teaching focus on critical theory, film and media theory, documentary, and the intersection of aesthetic and political philosophy. He is the author of Cinema/Politics/Philosophy (Columbia University Press, 2019) and The Anonymous Image: Cinema Against Control (Columbia University Press, Forthcoming). He is currently working on a book on the relationship between critical theory and conspiracy theory.

Shane Denson is Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies and, by Courtesy, of German Studies and of Communication at Stanford University, where he also serves as Director of the PhD Program in Modern Thought & Literature. His research interests span a variety of media and historical periods, including phenomenological and media-philosophical approaches to film, digital media, and serialized popular forms. He is the author of Post-Cinematic Bodies (2023), Discorrelated Images (2020), and Postnaturalism: Frankenstein, Film, and the Anthropotechnical Interface (2014). See for more information.

Dahye Kim is an Assistant Professor of Asian Languages and Cultures at Northwestern University. Her research and teaching focus on modern Korean literature and culture, critical approaches to media history, and the cultural dimensions of communication technologies in East Asia. Dahye is particularly interested in exploring the evolving significance and signification of literature and literacy in the digital age. Her current project, tentatively titled “Techno-fiction: Science Fictional Dreams of Linguistic Metamorphosis and the Informatization of Korean Writing,” delves into the radical transformation of writing and literature in the new technological environment of the 1980s and 1990s South Korea.

Hannah Zeavin is a scholar, writer, and editor. She is an Assistant Professor of the History of Science at the University of California at Berkeley (Department of History & The Berkeley Center for New Media). Zeavin is the author of The Distance Cure: A History of Teletherapy (2021) and Mother’s Little Helpers; Technology in the American Family (forthcoming), both from MIT Press. She is the Founding Editor of Parapraxis.

Chenshu Zhou (she/her) is Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies in the History of Art Department and the Cinema and Media Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her PhD from Stanford University. Zhou’s research explores a variety of questions related to the moving images, in particular spectatorship, exhibition, and temporality. She is the author of Cinema Off Screen: Moviegoing in Socialist China (University of California Press, 2021), which received the 2022 Best First Book Award from the Society of Cinema and Media Studies. Her second ongoing book project investigates the relationship between work and screen media consumption against China’s transition from socialism to neoliberal authoritarianism.

CEU Summer School: ‘It Takes a Movement’

Social Mobilization and Rebuilding Democracy


July 3-9, 2023


Organized by
The Center for Global Culture and Communication (CGCC),  
Central European University (CEU), and the 
Center of Transcultural Studies (CTS)

Around the world, democracies are breaking down. Many are being dismantled from within while others face attacks from without. In both cases, the issues underlying democracy’s erosion are not superficial but deeply entrenched and complex. As a result, democracies will not be renewed without considerable effort. Technical fixes imposed from above may slow democratic degeneration, but they cannot reverse it. Rebuilding democracy—fortifying its institutions and advancing its project—takes a movement from below.

Yet, when it comes to social mobilization, democratic societies tend to be apprehensive. A handful of exceptionally civil, organized, and focused social movements may serve as evidence of a dynamic public sphere and a healthy democratic culture. But far more often, democratic governments respond to social mobilization with less enthusiasm, treating it as anything from a nuisance to a threat. After all, what democratic purpose could social mobilization fulfill in a society with fair elections, democratic representation, and independent courts? Given the growing frequency, intensity, scale, and volatility of twenty-first century social mobilizations in democratic societies, it is difficult to see them simply as a confirmation of democratic flourishing or evidence of its undoing. Instead, from Indian farmers to Canadian truckers and Colombian taxpayers, from the Black Lives Matter movement to the Yellow Vests, these mobilizations index social, political, cultural, and economic crises that democratic governments have failed to address. In this context, what is the relationship between social mobilization and democracy? Do loosely networked local protests in disparate contexts share a global anatomy? When are social mobilizations a threat to democracy and when are they the foundation of its renewal?

The aim of It Takes a Movement is to re-examine the relationship between social mobilization and democracy by attending to the stunning complexity and diversity of twenty-first century protests and social movements. The course will employ a global perspective, comparing social mobilizations across different democratic contexts, tracing transnational connections and fissures, and establishing common features. To this end, the course will foster a robust dialogue among students, activists, and scholars assembled from all over the world. Students will leave the course with a deeper understanding of the fraught relationship between democracy and social mobilization as well as new questions and ideas about how it might be productively addressed.

The course will fund a minimum of twenty students and reserves one third of available spaces for applicants from Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

The application deadline is March 5, 2023. Once admitted, all costs related to participation will be covered by the organizers. For US based students, airfare and ground transportation will be covered only up to USD 500.
Given CGCC’s role in the Summer School, a minimum of three (possibly five) Northwestern graduate students will be admitted. Interested students should apply through the application portal on the Summer School’s page on the CEU website  and then email Dilip Gaonkar (d-gaonkar@northwestern.eduto indicate that they have applied.
For more information about the faculty, course directors, and course coordinator, please visit the Summer School’s page on the CEU website.

The Force of Non-Violence with Judith Butler

The Center of Global Culture and Communication (An interdisciplinary initiative of Northwestern University’s School of Communication)
& the Center for Transcultural Studies

Jointly present

Questioning the Present: An Online Public Forum on

The Force of Non-Violence

(Verso, 2020)

Judith Butler

(Distinguished Professor,
Department of Comparative Literature & Program of Critical Theory,
UC Berkeley)

Judith Butler’s recent book shows how an ethic of nonviolence must be connected to a broader political struggle for social equality. Further, it argues that nonviolence is often misunderstood as a passive practice that emanates from a calm region of the soul, or as an individualist ethical relation to existing forms of power. But, in fact, nonviolence is an ethical position found in the midst of the political field. An aggressive form of nonviolence accepts that hostility is part of our psychic constitution, but values ambivalence as a way of checking the conversion of aggression into violence. One contemporary challenge to a politics of nonviolence points out that there is a difference of opinion on what counts as violence and nonviolence. The distinction between them can be mobilized in the service of ratifying the state’s monopoly on violence.  Considering nonviolence as an ethical problem within a political philosophy requires a critique of individualism as well as an understanding of the psychosocial dimensions of violence. Butler draws upon Foucault, Fanon, Freud, and Benjamin to consider how the interdiction against violence fails to include lives regarded as ungrievable. By considering how “racial phantasms” inform justifications of state and administrative violence, Butler tracks how violence is often attributed to those who are most severely exposed to its lethal effects. The struggle for nonviolence is found in movements for social transformation that reframe the grievability of lives in light of social equality and whose ethical claims follow from an insight into the interdependency of life as the basis of social and political equality.


Jay Bernstein (Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, The New School)
Anne Boyer (Poet, Essayist, Writer, Kansas City Art Institute)
José Medina (Walter Dill Scott Professor of Philosophy, Northwestern University)

Friday, June 2, 10:00 am to 12:00 pm CST


An extract from The Force of Violence to review before the forum

Rhetoric and Politics of Protest and Social Mobilization II 

The Center for Global Culture and Communication
(An interdisciplinary initiative of Northwestern University’s School of Communication) 

 Invites you to an in-person conference on

Rhetoric and Politics of Protest and Social Mobilization II 


Friday, May 26, 2023
TGS Commons
2122 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60201
10 a.m. – 5 p.m.


Banu Bargu
(History of Consciousness, University of California, Santa Cruz)

Humberto Beck
(Center for International Studies, El Colegio de México)

Liam Olson-Mayes
(Communication, Tulane University)

Wendy Pearlman
(Political Science, Northeastern University)

 + Roundtable with graduate students!


Convened by Professors Dilip Gaonkar & José Maria Medina


Lunch and light refreshments will be served. 

Critical Theory in Critical Times 2023 Workshop

Critical Theory in Critical Times WORKSHOP

Focused on Professor José Medina’s The Epistemology of Protest: Silencing, Epistemic Activism, and the Communicative Life of Resistance

Friday, May 19, 2023


Harris Hall-108, 1881 Sheridan Rd, Evanston

Reception to Follow

A Discussion With


Invited Commentators:

Luvell Anderson Syracuse

Miguel Caballero Northwestern

Marcela Fuentes Northwestern

Nancy Tuana Penn State

This event is generously co-sponsored by The Center for Global Culture and Communication, the Critical Theory Cluster, and the Department of Philosophy

Symposium on Environmental Advocacy and Visual Culture

Symposium on Environmental Advocacy and Visual Culture
Friday, April 14, 2023
Northwestern University
Frances Searle Building 3-417
2240 Campus Drive, Evanston
Presenters include… 
9:30 am: Phaedra Pezzullo (University of Colorado)
11:00 am: Debra Hawhee (Penn State University)
1:30 pm: Finis Dunaway (Trent University)
3:00 pm: Ashley Cordes (University of Oregon)
Sponsors & Co-Sponsors: The Centre for Global Culture and Communication; The Graduate School; Buffett Institute for Global Affairs; Department of Communication Studies; Rhetoric and Public Culture; Rhetoric, Media, and Publics; Climate Crisis + Media Arts; Environment, Culture, and Society; and Environmental Policy and Culture

Equality: An American Dilemma, A Discussion with Charles Postel

As part of the Rhetoric & Politics of Protest & Social Mobilization Workshop Series,

The Center of Global Culture and Communication
(An interdisciplinary initiative of Northwestern University’s School of Communication) ,
the Department of Philosophy, and
Graduate Program in Rhetoric, Media, and Publics

jointly present a discussion of

Equality: An American Dilemma, 1866-1896


Charles Postel
(Professor of History, San Francisco State University)

Equality: An American Dilemma, 1866-1896, published in 2020, is an in-depth study of American social movements after the Civil War and their lessons for today by a prizewinning historian. The Civil War unleashed a torrent of claims for equality―in the chaotic years following the war, former slaves, women’s rights activists, farmhands, and factory workers all engaged in the pursuit of the meaning of equality in America. This contest resulted in experiments in collective action, as millions joined leagues and unions. In Equality: An American Dilemma, 1866-1896, Charles Postel demonstrates how taking stock of these movements forces us to rethink some of the central myths of American history. Despite, a nationwide push for equality, egalitarian impulses oftentimes clashed with one another. These dynamics get to the heart of the great paradox of the fifty years following the Civil War and of American history at large: Waves of agricultural, labor, and women’s rights movements were accompanied by the deepening of racial discrimination and oppression. Herculean efforts to overcome the economic inequality of the first Gilded Age and the sexual inequality of the late-Victorian social order emerged alongside Native American dispossession, Chinese exclusion, Jim Crow segregation, and lynch law. Now, as Postel argues, the twenty-first century has ushered in a second Gilded Age of savage socioeconomic inequalities. Convincing and learned, Equality explores the roots of these social fissures and speaks urgently to the need for expansive strides toward equality to meet our contemporary crisis.


William Keith (Professor of English, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)
Ashley Ferrell (Doctoral Candidate, Rhetoric & Public Culture, Northwestern University)
Ryan Bince (Doctoral Candidate, Rhetoric & Public Culture, Northwestern University)

Trienes Forum (Kresge 1515)
1880 Campus Drive

Monday, April 10
3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Elementary Aspects of the Political: Histories from the Global South with Prathama Banerjee

The Center of Global Culture and Communication (An interdisciplinary initiative of Northwestern University’s School of Communication)
Center for Transcultural Studies

jointly present

Questioning the Present: An Online Public Forum on
 Elementary Aspects of the Political: Histories from the Global South
(Duke University Press, 2020)

Prathama Banerjee
(History and Political Theory,
Center for the Study of Developing Societies-CSDS, New Delhi)

Humberto Beck
Center for International Studies, El Colegio de México
Murad Idris
Political Science, University of Michigan
Rochona Majumdar
South Asian Languages and Civilizations/ Cinema & Media Studies, University of Chicago

 ON ZOOM, Friday, February 3, 2023, 10:00 am to 12:00 pm CST


In Elementary Aspects of the Political Prathama Banerjee moves beyond postcolonial and decolonial critiques of European political philosophy to rethink modern conceptions of “the political ” from the perspective of the global South. Drawing on Indian and Bengali practices and philosophies from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Banerjee identifies four elements of the political: the self, action, the idea, and the people. She examines selfhood in light of precolonial Indic traditions of renunciation and realpolitik; action in the constitutive tension between traditional conceptions of karma and modern ideas of labor; the idea of equality as it emerges in the dialectic between spirituality and economics; and people in the friction between the structure of the political party and the atmospherics of fiction and theater. Throughout, Banerjee reasserts the historical specificity of political thought and challenges modern assumptions about the universality, primacy, and self-evidence of the political. In formulating a new theory of the political, Banerjee gestures toward a globally salient political philosophy that displaces prevailing Western notions of the political masquerading as universal.

Resisting Prison Injustice

The Center of Global Culture and Communication (An interdisciplinary initiative of Northwestern University’s School of Communication)
& the Northwestern University Department of Philosophy

jointly present

Resisting Prison Injustice


Lisa Guenther

(Queen’s National Scholar in Political Philosophy and Critical Prison Studies,
Queen’s University)

For as long as prisons have existed, people in prison have resisted carceral power.  This workshop reflects on two very different examples of prisoner resistance: the California Prison Hunger Strikes of 2011-2013, and a current movement to create a memorial garden at the former Prison for Women in Kingston, Canada.  While resistance to prison injustice takes many different forms, it also raises some common questions: How do people in situations of extreme isolation and control connect across systemic barriers to organize collective resistance?  What role do memory, imagination, and affect play in resisting carceral logics?  And how are networks of solidarity sustained across the prison walls?

Lisa Guenther is Queen’s National Scholar in Political Philosophy and Critical Prison Studies at Queen’s University in Canada. She is the author of Solitary Confinement: Social Death and its Afterlives (2013) and co-editor of Death and Other Penalties: Philosophy in a Time of Mass Incarceration (2015). From 2012-17, she facilitated a discussion group with men on death row in Tennessee called REACH Coalition, and she is a member of the P4W Memorial Collective Advisory Board.  She is currently working on a critical phenomenology of prison abolition and decolonization on Turtle Island.

Corey Barnes (Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Northwestern University)
Sooraj Saksena (Doctoral Student of Philosophy, Northwestern University)

Thursday, February 9
1:00 pm to 2:30 pm CST