Upcoming Events Santa Barbara

Untying Things Together: Philosophy, Literature, and a Life in Theory 683 1024 Tom Carlson

Untying Things Together: Philosophy, Literature, and a Life in Theory

Monday, June 6, 2022 at 3PM.

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A

This seminar with Professor Santner will focus on themes from his most recent book, Untying Things Together: Philosophy, Literature, and a Life in Theory (University of Chicago Press, 2022), which takes up “the sexuality of theory–or, more exactly, the modes of enjoyment to be found in the kinds of critical thinking that, since the 1960s, have laid claim to that ancient word, ‘theory.” Santner unfolds his argument by tracking his own relationship with this tradition and the ways his intellectual and spiritual development have been informed by it.

If you would like access to the suggested reading for the seminar, please send an email request to tsnediker[at]ucsb.edu.

Eric Santner is the Philip and Ida Romberg Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Germanic Studies at The University of Chicago. He works at the intersection of literature, philosophy, psychoanalysis, political theory, and religious thought. He is author of numerous major works, including On the Psychotheology of Everyday Life: Reflections on Freud and Rosenzweig (University of Chicago Press, 2001); On Creaturely Life: Rilke, Benjamin, Sebald (University of Chicago Press, 2006); The Royal Remains: The People’s Two Bodies and the Endgames of Sovereignty (University of Chicago Press, 2011); The Weight of All Flesh: On the Subject-Matter of Political Economy [The Tanner Lectures in Human Values] (Oxford University Press, 2016); and Sovereignty, Inc.: Three Inquiries in Politics and Enjoyment (with William Mazzarella, Aaron Schuster) (University of Chicago Press, 2020).

Free and open to the public.

Gnosis and the Covert Theology of Antitheology: Heidegger, Apocalypticism, and Gnosticism in Susan and Jacob Taubes 864 631 Tom Carlson

Gnosis and the Covert Theology of Antitheology: Heidegger, Apocalypticism, and Gnosticism in Susan and Jacob Taubes

Friday, June 3, 3:00PM.

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A

This seminar discussion will treat central themes from Professor Wolfson’s recently completed manuscript on the writing and thought of Susan Taubes, focusing specifically on the readings of Martin Heidegger that may be elicited from her writings and those of her husband Jacob Taubes. While far more attention has been paid by scholars to the work of Jacob Taubes, Wolfson argues that Susan displayed an intellectual and spiritual depth that is well deserting of increased attention in its own right. Her gnostic interpretation of Heidegger, to be explored in this seminar, is, he contends, nuanced and innovative and not to be considered ancillary or subordinate.

Recommended readings can be found here.

The Marsha and Jay Glazer Endowed Chair in Jewish Studies at UCSB, Elliot Wolfson is a world renowned expert not only in Jewish mysticism from late antiquity through modernity and in medieval and modern Jewish philosophy but also in the comparative study of mysticism in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions, in the modern and contemporary European traditions of hermeneutic, phenomenological, and deconstructive philosophy; and in psychoanalytic theory, feminist theory, and critical theory. He has authored numerous major works including, most recently. The Duplicity of Philosophy’s Shadow: Heidegger, Nazism, and the Jewish Other (2018, Columbia U. Press) and Heidegger and Kabbalah: Hidden Gnosis and the Path of Poiesis (2019, Indiana U. Press).

Free and open to the public.

The Fetish as a Critical Term for Religious Studies 600 450 Tom Carlson

The Fetish as a Critical Term for Religious Studies

Monday, May 16, 2022
3:00-5:00PM
Robertson Gymnasium 1000A

Beginning from Jacques Derrida’s definition of the fetish as a ‘bad substitute,” Hammerschlag will moderate a seminar discussion in which she argues for the critical importance of the fetish to the study of religion by considering what its history tells us about the field, and what it might mean to reclaim it in light of that history. Beyond a historical review, she will consider with us its role in psychoanalysis, philosophy, Marxism, and contemporary anthropology, asking finally how the term might help us embrace the contingency of our existence as scholars and humans. 

Recommended reading: pp. 208-213 of Jacques Derrida, Glas, trans. John P. Leavey, Jr., and Richard Rand (University of Nebraska Press, 1986). You can find the reading here.

Sarah Hammerschlag is Professor of Religion and Literature, Philosophy of Religions, and History of Judaism at the University of Chicago, Sarah Hammerschlag is author of The Figural Jew: Politics and Identity in Postwar French Thought (University of Chicago Press, 2010), Broken Tablets: Levinas, Derrida and the Literary Afterlife of Religion (Columbia University Press, 2016), and, most recently, Devotion: Three Inquiries in Religion, Literature, and Political Imagination (University of Chicago Press, 2021), co-authored with Constance Fury and Amy Hollywood. Editor of Modern French Jewish Thought: Writings on Religion and Politics (Brandeis University Press, 2018), she has written essays on Jacques Derrida, Emmanuel Levinas and Maurice Blanchot which have appeared in Critical Inquiry, Jewish Quarterly Review and Shofar, among other places. She is currently working on a manuscript entitled “Sowers and Sages: The Renaissance of Judaism in Postwar Paris.”

This event is free and open to the public.

Neuromatic: Religion, Secularity, and the Techno-Scientific Today 1024 867 Tom Carlson

Neuromatic: Religion, Secularity, and the Techno-Scientific Today

Friday, May 13, 2022
Robertson Gymnasium 1000A

This one day conference will take up themes and questions at play within and surrounding John Lardas Modern’s recent book Neuromatic: or, A Particular History of Religion and the Brain (University of Chicago Press, 2021), which argues that our ostensibly secular turn to the brain is bound up at every turn with the religion it discounts, ignores, or actively dismisses.

Session I, 10:00AM-12:30 PM
A presentation by Elizabeth Wilson, entitled “Trapdoors,” followed by a seminar-style discussion

Session II, 2:00-4:30 PM
A presentation by Mayanthi Fernando, entitled “This is your brain on drugs: Psychedelic medicine and the problem of religion,” followed by a seminar-style discussion

*In case those who wish to attend the event want to do some reading ahead of time, please note that Professors Wilson and Fernando will be focusing their discussion on the Introduction, Chapter 4, and Conclusion of Neuromatic. The readings can be found here.

John Lardas Modern is Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin & Marshall College and author of Neuromatic; or, a Particular History of Religion and the Brain (2021), Secularism in Antebellum America (2011), and The Bop Apocalypse: The Religious Visions of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs (2001). University. 

Elizabeth A. Wilson is a Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor in the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Emory University. She is the author of Affect and Artificial Intelligence (2010, University of Washington Press) and Gut Feminism (2015, Duke University Press). Her most recent book, A Silvan Tomkins Handbook: Foundations For Affect Theory (2020 University of Minnesota Press), is co-authored with Adam Frank (University of British Columbia). 

Mayanthi L. Fernando is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she is also co-Director of the Center for Cultural Studies. Her research interests include secularism; Islam; multispecies ecologies; liberalism and law; and gender, sexuality, and the body. Her first book, The Republic Unsettled: Muslim French and the Contradictions of Secularism (2014), examined the intersection of religion and politics in France. She is currently working on a second book on nonsecular ecologies, the secularity of post-humanism, and the capacious possibilities of multi-species world-making.

This event is co-sponsored by UCSB’s Department of Religious Studies.

Religion<>Science: A Devolved Manifesto 1024 768 Tom Carlson

Religion<>Science: A Devolved Manifesto

Thursday, May 12, 2022
3:30 PM
Robertson Gym 1000A

In scientific laboratories around the world ecstatic acts of attention are taking place. And in each instance, regardless of what, exactly, is being studied, the reification of the secular category par excellence—religious difference—is being conjured over and over again. Rather than assume that religion and science are inevitably in conflict or independent from one another, or in dialogue with one another, or even potentially integrated, this talk argues that scholars must, first and foremost, reflexively account for the historicity of this categorical distinction. Drawing from the neuromatic archive as well as the post-punk art scenes of Akron, Ohio (Devo, Kent State Chemical Group, and New Wave Psychology) the talk will explore the production of the religion-scientific difference as a way to counter approaches that frame religion instrumentally, that is, in terms of what is valuable, therapeutic, or pathological about its practice.

John Lardas Modern is Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin & Marshall College; Modern is the author of Neuromatic; or, a Particular History of Religion and the Brain (2021), Secularism in Antebellum America (2011), and The Bop Apocalypse: The Religious Visions of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs (2001). He co-curated Frequencies and co-edits Class 200: New Studies in Religion at the University of Chicago Press (both with Kathryn Lofton). Modern is currently producing a multimedia project called Machines in Between.

This event is co-sponsored by UCSB’s Religious Studies Department.

Stolen Time: Time and Money in Medieval and Modern Imaginaries 1024 814 Tom Carlson

Stolen Time: Time and Money in Medieval and Modern Imaginaries

Friday, April 29th, 2022 at 3PM

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A

The medieval Mediterranean world saw widespread agreement that usury—the practice of lending money at interest, or pricing money in terms of itself—was a preeminent sin; but debate raged over the question of what, exactly, was wrong with it. According to one line of argument popular with Christian theologians in the 12th-13th centuries, the reason that usury is wrong is that the usurer is a thief. He sells, or claims to sell, time to the borrower. But time, the argument goes, is given by God alone, and so the usurer sells what he does not have, accepting money and giving nothing in return. Selling time, according to these Parisian theologians, is not only illicit; it is impossible. By claiming to sell it, lenders are engaged in an act of metaphysical fraud. Juxtaposing medieval theology against the modern conviction that ‘time is money,’ in this public lecture and discussion, Sean Capener asks about the costs and consequences of our claims to put a price on time.

Readings

Rei Terada, “The Racial Grammar of Kantian TimeEuropean Romantic Review 28:3 (2017), 267-278.

Immanuel Kant, “Transcendental Aesthetic, Section II,” in Critique of Pure Reason (excerpt).

Immanuel Kant, “Doctrine of Right, D,” in Metaphysics of Morals (excerpt).

Sean Capener is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the History of Religions at the University of Toronto, Mississauga. Straddling two eras of intellectual history, he studies the conjunction of race, religion, and economy in medieval and modern philosophy and theology. He is currently writing a monograph on conceptions of slavery and ‘selling’ time in 13th-century Parisian scholasticism and modern philosophy and political economy. His work has appeared in Rhizomes, Journal for Religious Ethics, and the Heythrop Journal.

Make Mars Beautiful: The Aesthetics of Sino-forming in the Chinese Century 1024 575 Tom Carlson

Make Mars Beautiful: The Aesthetics of Sino-forming in the Chinese Century

Wednesday, December 1, 2021 at 1:00 p.m.

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A 

China plans to send its first manned mission to Mars by 2033, and eventually establish a permanent colony on the planet. Many outside China see this ambitious turn towards space colonization as an attempt to establish global leadership in science and technology. But what is the cultural significance of Mars and Martian colonization for the Chinese? To form a better appreciation for Chinese conceptualizations of the relationship between nature and humanity that will shape the country’s interplanetary future, George Zhu urges us to begin with one of China’s most well known artistic treasures, the Meat Shaped Stone. Making connections across centuries of art, environmental management, and imperial ambition, Zhu outlines a possible future for Mars–and the Earth–in what portends to be the Chinese century.

Humanities and Social Change Scholar-in-Residence for December 2021, George Zhu received his master’s in English literature from the University of California Irvine. He is the co-founder of Double Bind Media, a production company specializing in experimental documentary film and other visual media based in Los Angeles and the Netherlands. Currently, he resides in the Netherlands where he develops and produces a range of multidisciplinary new media work. He is also a writer interested in contemporary Chinese culture, environmentalism, endangered species, climate change, and science studies.

This event is co-sponsored by UCSB’s Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion, and Public Life, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies, and Environmental Studies Program.

Rosewood: Endangered species conservation and the rise of global China 1024 681 Tom Carlson

Rosewood: Endangered species conservation and the rise of global China

Thursday, December 2, 2021 at 3:30 p.m.

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A

Rosewood is the world’s most trafficked endangered species by value, accounting for larger outlays than ivory, rhino horn, and big cats put together. Nearly all rosewood logs are sent to China, fueling a $26 billion market for classically styled furniture. Vast expeditions across Asia and Africa search for the majestic timber, and legions of Chinese ships sail for Madagascar, where rosewood is purchased straight from the forest. The international response has been to interdict the trade, but this misunderstands both the intent and effect of China’s appetite for rosewood, causing social and ecological damage in the process. Drawing on fieldwork in China and Madagascar, Annah Zhu upends the pieties of Western-led conservation, offering a glimpse of what environmentalism and biodiversity protection might look like in a world no longer ruled by the West.

Humanities and Social Change Scholar-in-Residence for December 2021, Annah Zhu is an Assistant Professor of environmental globalization at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. She received her PhD in society and environment from the University of California, Berkeley and her Masters in environmental management from Duke University. She is a veteran of the United Nations’ Environment Program in Geneva, and a former Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar. Her work has been published in Science, Geoforum, Political Geography, Environment International, and American Ethnologist.

This event is co-sponsored by UCSB’s Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion, and Public Life, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies, and Environmental Studies Program.

This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom 1024 766 Tom Carlson

This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom

Thursday, March 12, 2020 at 2 p.m.
Friday, March 13, 2020 at 10 a.m.
Friday, March 13, 2020 at 2 p.m.

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A

In these three seminar sessions, we will hold an extended discussion with the author of This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom (Pantheon, 2019), where Martin Hägglund challenges received notions of faith and freedom. The faith we need to cultivate, he argues, is not a religious faith in eternity but a secular faith devoted to our finite life together. He shows that all spiritual questions of freedom are inseparable from economic and material conditions. What ultimately matters is how we treat one another in this life, and what we do with our time together. Hägglund develops new existential and political principles while transforming our understanding of spiritual life. His critique of religion takes us to the heart of what it means to mourn our loved ones, be committed, and care about a sustainable world. His critique of capitalism aims to demonstrate that we fail to sustain our democratic values because our lives depend on wage labor. Explaining why capitalism is inimical to our freedom, the book argues that we should instead pursue novel forms of democratic socialism.

Reading

TBD

Professor of comparative literature and humanities at Yale University and a member of the Society of Fellows at Harvard University, Martin Hägglund is the author of three highly acclaimed books, and his work has been translated into eight languages. In his native Sweden, he published his first book, Chronophobia, at the age of twenty-five. His first book in English, Radical Atheism, was the subject of a conference at Cornell University and a colloquium at Oxford University. His most recent book, Dying for Time: Proust, Woolf, Nabokov, was hailed by the Los Angeles Review of Books as a “revolutionary” achievement. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2018.

This event is co-sponsored by UCSB’s Comparative Literature Program, Department of English, and Graduate Center for Literary Research.

Atmospheres and Affective Climate Change 1024 650 Tom Carlson

Atmospheres and Affective Climate Change

Friday, February 21, 2020 at 2 p.m.

Robertson Gymnasium 1000A

In recent years a growing number of thinkers from a variety of disciplines (e.g. philosophy, geography, anthropology, literary studies, cultural studies, and environmental humanities) have begun turning their attention to the phenomenon of atmosphere. Indicating the characteristic tone or pervading mood of a surrounding environment or object, atmospheres (e.g. of a room, a neighborhood, a party, or an artwork) are an ordinary feature of everyday life, even as their elusiveness poses a challenge to conceptualization. And in spite of their hazy immateriality, atmospheres can have very real effects. As forms of affective air condition, they prime us to act in particular ways, making some things sayable or thinkable while foreclosing other possibilities. Drawing on a range of theoretical perspectives, this seminar will consider what atmospheres are, what they can do, and what we can do with them. We will be particularly concerned with the question of how atmospheres are produced, the challenges they pose to our notions of causality and agency, and the political possibilities of what we might call “affective climate change.”

Reading

Dora Zhang, “Notes on AtmosphereQui Parle 27:1 (June 2018): 121-155.

Diana Coole, “Rethinking Agency: A Phenomenological Approach to Embodiment and Agentic Capacities,” Political Studies 53 (2005): 124-142.

Nigel Thrift, “Intensities of Feeling: Towards a Spatial Politics of Affect,” Geografiska Annaler 86 B (2004): 57-78.

Jonathan Flatley, “How a Revolutionary Counter-Mood Is Made,” New Literary History 43:3 (Summer 2012): 503-525.

Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley, Dora Zhang is author of Strange Likeness: Description and the Modernist Novel, which is forthcoming in 2020 from the University of Chicago Press, as part of the “Thinking Literature” series. She received her PhD in Comparative Literature from Princeton University and her BA in philosophy from the University of Toronto. With research interests in Anglo-American and European modernist fiction, literature and philosophy, novel theory, affect theory, visual cultures, aesthetics, and ecocriticism, she has published on topics including Proust and photography, Woolf and the philosophy of language, Roland Barthes’s travels to China, and the role of atmosphere in everyday life. Her work has appeared in Representations, New Literary History (where her article “Naming the indescribable” won the 2013 Ralph Cohen Prize), Modernism/modernity Print Plus, and Qui Parle, as well as Public Books, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

This event is co-sponsored by UCSB’s Comparative Literature Program, Department of English, and Graduate Center for Literary Research.