Ethics, Aesthetics, Politics, 2008

SCA Biannual Meeting

Ethics, Aesthetics, Politics

May 9-11, 2008

aboard the Queen Mary

Long Beach, CA

For more information, please contact organizers Bill Maurer (UC Irvine) and Saba Mahmood (UC Berkeley).

Recent work in the human sciences has made questions of ethics and aesthetics central to the analysis of politics once again. Part of the impetus for this work comes from dissatisfaction with older paradigms that have often treated ethics and aesthetics as an ideological byproduct of the workings of capital and power politics. Recent developments within domains as disparate as the media, the bio-sciences, religion, and finance have forced the human sciences to rethink this older logic of cause and effect, content and form. Scholarly explorations have increasingly focused on how ethical concerns have at times helped spawn new forms of governance (such as truth and reconciliation commissions, novel auditory practices, social networks) and at other moments been the basis of imagining new forms of intimacy, publicity, secrecy, and relationality. Similarly, emergent aesthetic forms have given rise to unique communication regimes, sensory experiences, and politics of deliberation, critique, and persuasion. It is not surprising that anthropologists are at the center of such explorations given our discipline’s focus on existing and emergent forms of human action.

The 2008 SCA annual meeting focused on recent work produced around the thematics of ethics, aesthetics, and politics. Some of the questions and issues explored are: What are the forms of critique implicit within contemporary ethical and aesthetic formations? How do these emergent practices reconfigure the classical schism between form and content so germane to the human sciences? How does the concept of “the political” needs to be rethought in light of the ethicization and aestheticization of contemporary politics? What, if anything, is left of culture in this debate? How do we rethink the notion of “practice” in this moment beyond the dual axis of structure and effect? How might reflection on contemporary stagings of deliberation and debate help us rethink the relationship between affect and reason?

Featured plenary speakers included: Charles Hirschkind, Hiro Miyazaki, Christopher Pinney, Hugh Raffles, Patricia Spyer,and Alexei Yurchak. The David Schneider Memorial Lecture was given by Talal Asad, with discussant comments by Liisa Malkki and David Scott.


Friday, May 9th

9:00 - 9:10 am 


Saba Mahmood (UC Berkeley) and Bill Maurer (UC Irvine)

9:10 am – 10:45 am

Plenary Session I: Hope, Utopia, and Appearance, Location: Britannia Salon

Hirokazu Miyazaki (Cornell) Personal Hope: From Barack Obama to Japanese ‘Hopology’

Christopher Pinney (Northwestern) The Rule of Appearances in 21st Century India

Alexei Yurchak (UC Berkeley) "Necro-Utopia: The Politics of Indistinction and the Aesthetics of the Non-Soviet."

Coffee and Tea Served in Britannia Salon from 10:45 am

Friday, May 9th

11:00 am – 12:45 pm

Performance and Politics, Location: Victoria

Chair: Peter Redfield (UNC)

Etian Wilf (Chicago) The Co-Production of New Aesthetic and Critical Practices in the Collegiate Jazz Program

Ari Singh Anand (U of Arizona) Ethical Selfhood and the Status of the Secular

Robin Balliger (San Francisco Art Institute) Mediating the Local: The Aesthetics and Politics of Media Expansion in Trinidad

Sonali Pahwa (UCLA) Revoicing the Folk in Egyptian Feminist Theatre

The Ethics, Aesthetics and Politics of Indigeneity, Location: Board

Chair: Marisol de la Cadena (UC Davis)

Petrouchka Alexieva (UCLA) Ethics and Political Hypocrisy in Solving the Roma Problem in Eastern Europe

G.G. Weix (Montana) Indian Education for All: Montana’s Public Mandate

Nelson Graburn (UC Berkeley) The Art of Colonial Governance: the Case of the Canadian Inuit

Alexis Celeste Bunten (UC Berkeley) Following or Leading the Tourist Gaze? Balancing Ethics, Commerce and Representation in Indigenous Tourism

Matthew Watson (U of Florida) Collaboration and its Consequences in Maya Historical Knowledge Production

Fashion, Aesthetics, Form, Location: Regent

Chair: Mary Murrell (UC Berkeley)

Arandjel Bojanovic (U of Belgrade) The Politics of the Diesel’s and the Diesel’s Policy

Annelies Moors (U of Amsterdam) ‘Islamic fashion’ in Western-Europe: contestations about ethics and aesthetics 

S. Chris Brown (U of Washington) Dress-up, Strip-tease, and X-ray vision: Three Aesthetics of Public Visibility

Brent Luvas (UCLA) Designing Youth: The Production of Style in Information-Age Indonesia

Simon Hawkins (Franklin and Marshall) Sitting on the Corner, Watching all the Girls Go By: Desire and Dress in Tunisia

Christina Moretti (Simon Frasier U) The Many Eyes of the City: Seeing, Concealing, and Appearing in Milan, Italy

Aesthetic Norms, Location: Britannia

Chair: Matthew Wolf-Meyer (Wayne State U) 

Tiffany Romain (Stanford U) “Fertility. Freedom. Finally.”: Abnormal strategies to build a normal family

Matthew Wolf-Meyer (Wayne State U) Erratic Rhythms: Sleep, Capitalism, Pharakological Lives

David Pedersen (UC San Diego) The Politics of Continuity: Joining the Logical with the Aesthetic and the Ethical

Deepa Reddy (U Houston – Clear Lake) Anonymous Intimacies: Narratives In the Solicitation of Corporeal Substances

Courtney Everts Mykytyn (USC) Nature and the Optimal in Anti-Aging Medicine

Friday, May 9th

12:45 pm – 2:00 pm


Cultural Anthropology editorial interns meeting, Location: Board Room, 12:45-2:00 pm

Friday, May 9th

2:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Christianity, Ethics, Subjectivity, Location: Victoria

Chair: Saba Mahmood (UCB)

Angie Heo (UC Berkeley) Examining the Ethics of Circulating Relics and Icons

Pamela Smart (Binghamton U) Collecting as a Vocation: The Aesthetic Project of Dominique and John de Menil

Shari Jacobson (Susquehanna U) Made in the Image of God: Bible-Believing Christians and the Politics of Life

Bruno Reinhardt (UC Berkeley) ‘Accusations of Religion’: controversies around secularization and material culture in contemporary Brazil

Nancy Gibson (Marylhurst U) “Junk for Jesus” to a Trust Based Giving: Changing the Paradigm

Democracy, Anti-Democracy: People’s Politics in the Global South, Location: Board

Chair: Ruchi Chaturvedi (Smith College)

Ruchi Chaturvedi (Smith College) ‘People’s Democracy:’ Ethics, Politics and Violence in Kerala, South India

Doreen Lee (Amherst College) The Iconography of Youth in Post-Suharto Indonesia

Antina von Schnitzler (Columbia U) Democracy’s Infrastructure: “Delivery Protests” and the Materiality of Politics in Contemporary South Africa

Karin Zitzewitz (U Chicago) Ethics against Politics: Truth in art in the age of political society

Joseph Manzella (Southern Connecticut) Media, Politics and Sociocultural Change in Chavez’s Venezuela

Enforcing Normalcy, Location: Regent

Chair: Gretchen Bakke (U Chicago)

Hadas Weiss (U Chicago) The Production and Maintenance of Normalcy in a West Bank Settlement

Denielle Elliott (Simon Fraser U) Managed Life: Pharmacotherapy, social disorder and the ordinary

Seth Messinger (U of Maryland, Baltimore) Reconfiguring Normal in the Aftermath of Traumatic Limb Loss among Military Patients

Sigal Gooldin (Hebrew U) “Subtle Madness”: Negotiating Anorexic Experiences in an Era of Elusive Normalcy

Discussant: Gretchen Bakke (U Chicago)

Aesthetics of Imitation: Science, Medicine, and the Politics of the Copy, Location: Britannia

Chair: Cori Hayden (UC Berkeley)

Helene Mialet (UC Berkeley) Hawking Meets Hawking

Katie Hendy (UC Berkeley) Ecstasy as Experiment: The informing of MDMA in experimental settings

Eric Plemons (UC Berkeley) Difference as Product or Process: bodily changes between ‘before’ and ‘after’

Cori Hayden (UC Berkeley) Simipolitics

Friday, May 9th

4:00 pm – 6:00 pm

David Schneider Memorial Lecture, Location: Britannia Salon

Talal Asad (CUNY) Freedom of Speech and Religious Limitations

Discussants: Liisa Malkki (Stanford U); David Scott (Columbia U)

Friday, May 9th

6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

Reception, Location: Verandah Grill

Saturday, May 10th

7:30 am – 9:00 am

Cultural Anthropology Board Meeting, Location: Board Room

Saturday, May 10th

9:00 am – 10:45 am

Plenary Session II: Death, Ethics, and Bugs, Location: Britannia Salon

Charles Hirschkind (UC Berkeley) Cultures of Death: Media, Religion, Bioethics

Hugh Raffles (New School) "Squish That Bug!"

Patricia Spyer (Leiden) About Face: Possession, Ethics, and the Neighbor in Postward Ambon

Coffee and Tea Served in Britannia Salon from 10:45 am

Saturday, May 10th

11:00 am – 12:45 pm

Relationality, Gender and Sexuality, Location: Victoria

Chair: Stacy Leigh Pigg (Simon Fraser U) 

Naisargi Dave (Toronto) Activism as Ethical Practice: Queer Politics in Contemporary India

Sofian Merabet (NYU) The Human Geography of Queer Identity Formations in Post-Civil-War Beirut, Lebanon

Jelene Veljic (U Belgrade) Cultural Effects of Artistic-activistic Works Aimed at Promotion of Women’s and Minorities’ Rights, Belgrade, Serbia 2003-2007

Filmmakers and Films: Screenings and Discussions, Location: Board

This session continues until 3pm.

Chair: Bruce Grant (NYU)

Aaron Glass “In Search of Hamat’sa” (33 mins) + discussion

Wazhmah Osman (NYU) The Politics of Playing the Native Informer in the Making of “Postcards from Tora Bora” (87 mins) + discussion (with producer/editor Stephen Jablonsky (Ramapo C)

Noelle Stout "Luchando" (55 mins) + discussion

Revolutionary Reformations: Aesthetics, Ethics, and Misrecognition in Contexts of Crisis, Location: Regent

Chair: Benjamin Eastman (U Chicago)

Benjamin Eastman (U Chicago) Souvenirs of Socialism: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Contemporary Cuban Political Transformation

Jeffrey Bennett (U Missouri, Kansas City) Revolutionary Reflections

Laura Roush (El Colegio de Michoacan) Crisis, Protection, and the Santa Muerte in Mexico City

Ivan Arenas (UC Berkeley) Walls and Images: Reworking Spatial Practices, Aesthetic Form, and Politics in Oaxaca

Paul Liffman (El Colegio de Michoacan) Discussant

Local Orientations, Location: King’s View

Chair: Bill Maurer (UC Irvine)

Sanjay Jayaswal (Cal State Los Angeles) Little India: Debating Spaces

Denise Lawrence-Zuniga (Cal Poly Pomona) Politicizing the Aesthetics of Historic Home and Neighborhood Preservation

Sarah Taylor (Cal State Long Beach) Gracias a los Gringos

Krystal Long and Cynthia Wilson (Cal State Long Beach) Dave in the Shade

New Interfaces: Cultural Anthropology's Public Advisory Board, Location: Britannia

Chair: Kim Fortun (RPI)

Discussion in this session will focus on the goals and strategies of Cultural Anthropology’s recently formed Public Advisory Board.

Saturday May 10th 

1:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Bodies Exhibited: Science Education and the Body as Property, Location: Victoria

Chair: Frayda Cohen (U Pittsburgh) 

Frayda Cohen (U Pittsburgh) (Dis)embodied Exhibitions: Chinese Persons and the Commodification of the Body

Amy Speier (Lawrence U) Body Worlds: the Display of Healthy Versus Unhealthy Bodies

Carlo Caduff (UC Berkeley) Deliberation Day. The Prioritization of Pandemic Vaccine and the Politics of Public Engagement in the United States

Abouali Farman (CUNY) From the Good Life to Life is Good

Andine Hennig (Institute for Plastination) 

Ron Loewe (Cal State Long Beach) Discussant

Filmmakers and Films: Screenings and Discussions, Location: Board

Continued from 11am.

Perilous Positions: Performing Critical Perspectives on Late Capital, Location: Regent

Chair: Vicki L. Brennan (U Vermont)

Marina L. Peterson (Ohio U) Artist/Homeless: Art and Urban Development in Downtown Los Angeles

Vicki L. Brennan (U Vermont) “Where do you fellowship?”: Gospel Music, Corruption and the Crisis of Christianity in contemporary Nigeria

Lorraine Plourde (Columbia U) Consuming Excess: Futurism and the Avant-Garde in Bubble-Era Japan

Mary Taylor (CUNY Graduate Center) Folk Dance as an Ethical Project of the Self; Cultural Management and the Spectre of Post Socialist Ethnonationalism in Hungary

Ravinder Kaur (Roskilde U) Open Secret: The Art of Humor and Dissent in Iranian Politics

Andrew Apter (UCLA) Discussant

War Stories, Secrets and Silences: Politics and Mediation in the Aftermath of Violence, Location: Britannia

Chair: Victoria Bernal (UC Irvine)

Susan Bibler Coutin (UC Irvine) Re/Membering the Nation

Christina Schwenkel (UC Riverside) Irreconciliation and Tales of Transnational Betrayal in Post-War Vietnam

Victoria Bernal (UC Irvine) The Many Meanings of ‘Martyr’ and the Afterlife of Violence

James Ellison (Dickenson C) Beads, Skirts, and Civilization: Politics and Critical Memories in Southern Ethiopia

Saturday, May 10th

3:00 pm – 5:00 pm

The Ethics of Neoliberal Secularity, Location: Victoria

Chairs: Mayanthi Fernando (Washington University in St. Louis) and Andrea Muehlebach (U Chicago)

Stephen J. Collier (The New School) The Calculus of Public Value

Andrea Muehlebach (U Chicago) The Moral Neoliberal: Welfare State and Ethical Citizenship in Contemporary Italy

Mayanthi Fernando (Washington University in St. Louis) Disciplining Freedom: French Secularism and the Problem of Religious Authority

Sherine Hamdy (Brown U) The Sacralization of the Body in Organ Transplantation

Mohammed Tabishat (Wissenschaftkolleg) Rewriting the Soul

Moral Topographies of New Media and Technology, Location: Board

Chair: Heather A. Horst (UC Berkeley)

Patricia G. Lange (USC) Pure and Dangerous Cyberspaces: When Semiotic Ideologies Collide Online

Jeffrey W. Mantz (George Mason) Digital Absolution and Penitent Trade: Corporate Imaginations and Congolese Coltan

Heather A. Horst (UC Berkeley) Landscapes of Capitalism: Discipline and Practice in Silicon Valley

James Smith (UC Davis) That Which You Have Eaten You Indeed Possess: Reflections on Time and Temporal Process in the Congo and California

The Ethics of Disconnection, Location: Regent

Chair: Ilana Gershon (Indiana U)

Ilana Gershon (Indiana U) Breaking Up is Hard To Do

Allison Alexy (Yale U) Balancing Disconnect in Contemporary Japanese Marriages

Karen Ho (U Minnesota) Wall Street’s Downsizing Ethic: Disconnection and the Formation of ‘Men (and Institutions) of Mettle’

Jeremy Campbell (UC Santa Cruz) Intimate Mobilities: Speculation along an Unpaved Amazonian Highway

Ernestine McHugh (U Rochester) A Cultural Aesthetic of Morality

Susan Coutin (UC Irvine) Discussant

Graduate Student Professionalization Workshops, Location: Brittania Salon

Chairs: Judith Farquhar (U Chicago), Stacy Leigh Pigg (Simon Fraser U), Tom Boellstorff (UC Irvine)

This workshop is open to all graduate students interested in learning more about the job market, preparing a job application, campus visits, and writing and publishing.

Saturday, May 10th

5:15 pm – 6:30 pm

Visibility and Contamination in the Making of Nature, Location: Victoria

Chairs: Stephanie C. Kane (Indiana U) and Kathleen Sullivan (Cal State Los Angeles)

Stephanie C. Kane (Indiana U) Politics of Assembly in Buenos Aires (or, who cares about dead fish?)

Anne Brydon (Wilfrid Laurier U) Whales to Waterfalls: Making Nature in Iceland

Philip E. Steinberg (Florida State U) Liquid Urbanity

Kathleen Sullivan (Cal State Los Angeles) Natures in the Currents of Memories

Sally Ann Ness (UC Riverside) Ethics, Aesthetics, Politics, and Yosemite National Park

Mixed Media/Short Takes, Location: Board

Chair: Mike Fortun

Hanna Ruckman (Cal State Long Beach) Community Theater: Lifting the Spirits, Patricios, Argentina

Sheila O’Rourke (UC Irvine) Keeping Up with ‘Realities’: On Empowered Aesthetic Expressions that Speak to New Politicized Convergences of Magic, Religion, and Science

Saydia Kamal (UNC Chapel Hill) Lightening Bug, Bashundhara City and Modernity in Bangladesh

Money, Value and Exchange, Location: Regent

Chair: Danilyn Rutherford (Chicago)

Mireille Abelin (Columbia) Subversions of Sincerity: The Argentine Debt Default as Gesture of Sovereign Refusal

Ariana Hernandez-Reguant (UC San Diego) The Pragmatic Imagination: Public and Private Utopias in Contemporary Cuba

Damla Isik (Western Connecticut State U) Secrets of Globalized Labor Relations and Habituation of Pious, Industrious Behavior: The Ethics of Doing Work in Konya s Carpet Weaving Industry

Julienne Obadia (New School) Volunteering Positions: The Shape of Help in the U.S. Imaginary

Allison Truitt (Tulane) Cash in the Machine: ATM Networks in Vietna

Pakistani Modalities: Emergencies, Publics, Hopes, Location: Britannia

Co-Chairs: Tania Ahmad and Lalaie Ameeriar (Stanford)

Tania Ahmad (Stanford) Regular Exceptions: Public Space, Security and Everyday Life in Karachi

Lalaie Ameeriar (Stanford) Mediating Globalization: Karachi Immigration Offices Selling the Promise of a Better Life

Tahir Naqvi (Reed C) Rule by Emergency and the Autonomy of Popular Urban Politics During the Third Dictatorship

Steven Gardiner (Lahore University of Management Studies) Emergency Times: The Public Sphere and the Aesthetics of Protest in the Pakistani Student Movement

Asad Ali Ahmed (Harvard) Discussant