Saturday, April 24 – Sunday, April 25
Hosted virtually on Zoom from Queen’s University
Presented by the 2021 UnDisciplined Collective
“It is in collectivities that we find reservoirs of hope and optimism.”
Angela Y. Davis, Freedom is a Constant Struggle
UnDisciplined is a graduate student conference for scholars whose modes of inquiry intersect the humanities, social sciences, sciences, technology, activism, and the arts.The above quote from Angela Davis both guides our approach and animates our conference, which seeks to engage the broad ways in which collectives enact changes in society. Davis’ words are especially relevant in this troubling climate ruled by the isolation of academic work and rife with celebrations of white supremacy.
While our sixth annual conference will embrace the versatile and accessible opportunities generated by a virtual platform, we also acknowledge the limitations of such platforms in fulfilling our need for connections and collectivities within/ outside of /regardless of academia. Through moderated panels, we hope to not only theorize or describe collectivities, but also consider these convening spaces as potential grounds for forming new affinities.
The submissions this year truly transcend or crack disciplinary boundaries in theory and method, abstraction and enactment, so as to challenge, transform, and illuminate the world around us. We have brought together researchers focused on areas and fields, rather than disciplines and traditions, to advance research that poses problems and questions the disciplining of thought in academia.
There is quite a broad range of topics that students will present on over the course of the weekend, all of which fit well within larger conversations connected to our theme.We separated these conversations into six sessions over two days. Session 1 focuses on art practices that engage with the often erased relations between different human and more-than-human persons; Session 2 examines feminist and queer materialisms and embodiments through the work of filmmakers and artists; Session 3 considers anti-colonial and/or anti-capitalist literature; Session 4 brings together papers that discuss the possibilities and potential pitfalls of digital collectivities; Session 5 will put these possibilities of online connectivity into practice as we participate in an artist talk around a virtual kitchen table; and finally, in Session 6, we will consider the metaphysical and material challenges of making space and place. We sincerely hope that you join us for what promises to be an enriching weekend!
Day 1 – Saturday, April 24
CLICK HERE to access the Zoom meeting for Day 1.
This link will work for all Day 1 sessions.
10:00 – 10:30
10:30 – 12:00
13:00 – 14:30
15:30 – 17:00
Day 2 – Sunday, April 25
CLICK HERE to access the Zoom meeting for Day 2.
This link will work for all Day 2 sessions.
10:00 – 12:00
13:00 – 14:00
15:00 – 16:30
16:30 – 17:00
“Practices of Human and More-Than-Human Relations”
Saturday, April 24 – 10:30-12:00
Moderator: Anthony Lomax
Drinking a cup of tea, a seemingly mundane activity, can be engulfed with personal tensions and social conflicts. Tea: the three-letter word brews slavery, indentured labour, ancient rituals, coolies,class, taste, poverty, Zen Buddhism and consumerism in one pot. A cup of chai warms the privileged; but for many, it is a recurrent substitute for a meal. A Concoction of Dissonance is a creative collaboration between Geetha Sukumaran, Pa. Ahilan and Vaidheki that accentuates these disruptions and attempts to display tea as an everyday ritual of countless contests.
This paper examines what it means for white settlers to redress the altered and diminished ecology of sites that symbolize, honor and amplify colonial histories. Utilizing a series of eco-art case studies, decolonial theory by Indigenous scholars, scientific papers on climate change and research into the biological behaviour and capabilities of trees in conjunction with the political realities of social redress, reparation theory and non-representational theory, I outline a number of conceptual paradoxes and practical difficulties in continuing to pursue ecological research, remediation and presentation in public and academic spheres.
While scores are essentially understood to be instructional across many disciplines, they can also be invitations that call to performers at points of memory, experience, and feeling, moving in flux between the past and the present in the creation of the future. A score that operates as an invitation can become a living site that, especially in the case of music, supports reciprocity between all involved in the performance. In this paper, I consider gardens as scores: not only what is sown or cultivated, but also pollinators, pests, and weather systems. Expanding scores in this way embraces many practices left in the periphery of traditional compositional processes and brings them into the fold. Beyond imagining new sonic possibilities, this also lends itself to imagining new forms and rhythms for operating in our communities.
“Feminist and Queer Materialisms in Action”
Saturday, April 24 – 13:00-14:30
Moderator: Saira Chhibber
The speculum opened up the female body to the male gaze, medicalizing and pathologizing women’s bodies and behaviours. In this paper, I will consider questions of construct, progress, and resistance as I critique the work of Vanessa Dion Fletcher, Zoe Buckman, and Samira Daneshvar(with mention of Lindsey Beal, Cristin Millett, and subRosa, as well as earlier work such as Annie Sprinkle’s Public Cervix Announcement and Shannon Bell’s female ejaculation performances). I will suggest that a feminist materialist view of the speculum allows it transgress boundaries, imagine new meanings and reflect the body we possess and the body we perform.
Through a framework that combines haptic modality, embodiment and alternative listening strategies, I examine sound in Trinh T. Minh-ha’s first film, Reassemblage, and the ways in which aurality complicates conventional practices in ethnographic filmmaking. Using this work as a case study, I situate the essayistic as a space not only for contemplation and cognitive provocation, but as a mode of embodied knowledge formation that is emphatic in its insistence on the active and engaged spectator that it theorizes. I believe that by considering image and sound in unison,experimentation and sensitivity to the audio and visual elements alike construct multiplicities and complexities. This points to our own embodied and embedded placement in the world and reframes our encounter with difference.
Rituparno Ghosh’s seminal film Chitrangada introduces us to a conflicted, troubled queer individual named Rudro. The film’s use of Odissi dance movements and ancient aesthetics from the Indian subcontinent allows Rudro to engage with their material surroundings and reminds us of a pre-colonial past in India that encouraged gender fluidity. This paper foregrounds these human-material engagements as forms of emancipatory queer expression that deconstruct colonial heteronormativity.
“Anti-Colonial and Anti-Capitalist Literature”
Saturday, April 24 – 15:30 – 17:00
Moderator: Ky Pearce
Urdu short story writer Saadat Hasan Manto used his writing to emphasize Muslim women’s experiences of colonial trauma and sexual violence, for which he faced state censorship in Pakistan. This paper problematizes the male-authored English translations of Manto’s short stories “Open It” and “Colder Than Ice” and emphasizes the need to mediate these translations through a feminist lens. Doing so will allow global academic collectives to more accurately project the lost narratives of these Muslim women to a wider audience.
Through Jordan Abel’s Injun and M. Nourbese Philip’s Zong!, I consider the framework of “these Americas” as a relational space materially and symbolically organized by violence. This violence displaces Black and Indigenous communities, which allows for zones of subjective coherence and self-possessed presence to form via the state and civil society. I argue that Abel and Philip unleash a poetic force that exhausts the coherence of possession in order to proliferate a new distribution of agency and vulnerability. This allows me to consider how catastrophe is foundational to the material and symbolic reality of the Americas, and how poetry can work within this catastrophe to redirect its forces toward liberation and new configurations of human potentiality beyond regulation.
This paper puts Virginia Woolf’s The Waves in conversation with James Turrell’s Skyspaces,taking its impetus from these works’ erotic approaches to handling slow, natural light.Woolf wrote when street lighting endangered the darkness of night in favour of capitalist productivity. Turrell, a living artist, resides even more fully in the brightly-lit world of late capitalism, where light is used in advertising to spotlight commodities. For both, these forms of capitalist light are detrimental to desire. Using contemporary light as a context and focusing on its annihilation of the other, this paper finds repositories of desire in the work of Woolf and Turrell.
“Possibilities and Pitfalls of Digital Collectivities”
Sunday, April 25 – 10:00 – 12:00
Moderator: Sylvia Nowak
Through an evaluation of my experimental online work betweenspace, created during the COVID-19 pandemic, I ask how we may conceive of a performative “digital intimacy.” By courting a genealogy of theory and practice surrounding the concept, and by revisiting qualitative participant reflections on the practice, I suggest that a digital intimacy is not solely human-to-human but also human-to-object, involving all objects and technologies between the persons involved in dyadic communicative exchange. By exploring the practice’s blurring of boundaries between digital/physical and the intimacy of the human/computer interaction, I consider future potentialities for digitally intimate performance.
My work explores TikTok as a unique site of reparative artistic collaboration, even linking it to a DIY-aesthetic. Focusing on the recent phenomenon Ratatouille: The Musical, this paper will work to explore how TikTok’s DIY infrastructure provides a space for youth to disrupt traditional media industry channels, and instead collaboratively work in decentralized communities to produce art and affective response of joy, love and hope. Finally, this work concludes with the consideration of a reparative reading model of this trend that situates this unique cultural moment within unprecedented yet necessary processes of healing and artistic expression amidst a global pandemic.
This paper examines the tensions and contradictions made apparent when, in times of crisis, capitalist cultural producers co-opt sentiments of universal solidarity as marketing strategy. To illustrate this, I use the 90-second video campaign You Can’t Stop Us released in late July 2020 by Nike, which features split-screen editing that suggests equivalencies between celebrity athletes and hopeful underprivileged youth, a nostalgic archival footage aesthetic, and apparent progress in anti-racist and LGBTQ+ movements. I explore how the commercial promotes sport as germinating seeds of collectivist utopia, yet arguably smooths over the inequalities of not only global sport, but of COVID-19, eschewing any recognition of Nike’s material impact as a corporation.
The “digital panopticon” as described by philosopher Byung-Chul Han is a form of internalized surveillance that depends on the voluntary participation of users. The psychic coercion that online platforms employ to keep users constantly engaged prey on the pathological conditions of the neoliberal subject, who is driven by shame, guilt, and narcissism. Resistance movements organize on these same platforms, such as Instagram and Facebook, out of necessity. I question whether resistance organization can impact meaningful change while participating in the exploitative processes of platform capitalism – a system which weaponizes the activities that take place online to perpetuate a destructive economic system
“Around the Kitchen Table: Artist’s Talk”
Sunday, April 25 – 13:00 – 14:00
Facilitator: Michelle Wilson
Some of the best conversations about art don’t happen in critiques but around the kitchen table:hands busy with some little project, tea cooling in mugs, everyone in a generous mood. My research-production has been happening in a domestic space for years, but now so is everyone else’s. And while COVID-19 lockdowns have isolated us in many ways, it has challenged us to link our homes to one another’s. Over the past four years, I have been developing a series of fiber-based maps that reference past or present bison movements. The final piece in this series will incorporate conductive thread, which, when touched, will trigger audio narrative works chronicling a decades-long forced migration. Drawing on this work, I would like to invite participants to join me around the kitchen table with their supplies for making, whatever they may be, for an hour of performative story-telling and roundtable conversation.
“Metaphysical and Material Challenges of Making Space and Place”
Sunday, April 25 – 15:00 – 16:30
Moderator: Michelle MacQueen
In many conceptualizations of the sacred, the sacred requires an “other,” – the profane or an out-group. In ancient Israel, this group included people with disabilities, deemed “defected,” who were not allowed in the Israelite religious community’s sacred spaces. While some Christian circles still emphasize this “cursed” understanding of disability, there are other contemporary Christian theologians and disability advocacy groups that emphasize a liberatory theology of disability. Using Foucault’s concept of utopia and heterotopia, I demonstrate that these theologians and organizations offer the possibility of a sacred space that is inclusive rather than exclusive and other.
In this paper, I draw out the implications of Kierkegaard and Fanon’s responses to Hegel’s dialectic method so as to reflect on how collectivities themselves are formed through processes of self- and mutual recognition, not mutual conflict. I also consider how collectivities might fail or fall apart if their internal cohesion is formed less through mutual self-worth within than through negating, or in conflict with, often a menacing Other without. Lastly, I articulate Hegel and Kierkegaard’s concept of consciously un-particular identities. I also read two films, Calvary and Paterson, side-by-side to guide the discussion on how mutual recognition and collectivities are interdependent.
In the work I am presenting here, I engage with the contradictions that arise when Muslim Women attempt to create physical space for themselves in the Greater Toronto Area. This is a challenging endeavour both because institutional forces are historically characterized by racializing and gendering practices, and because patriarchal relations also effect Muslim women in their home and private lives. Incorporating knowledge from disciplines that include Urban Planning and Social and Political Theory, I demonstrate ways in which gendered Islamophobia manipulates/shapes physical space. In doing so, I connect broader discourses of gender and race to specific examples of challenges we face with regard to state-building and facilitating community cohesion.