Containment + Intimacy — presentation abstracts

Carceral Thresholds: The Necropolitics of Intimacy at the Border of the PrisonHarry Hvdson
Performing the Bride: Sexuality and the Environment in Kong Ning's Marriage SeriesAmelia Wong-Mersereau
Misinformation and the Platform-As-ContainerNina Morena
The History of the (Fossil) Record IndustryMike Sugarman
Reading a Reliquary as a Microcosm of Sacred GeographyJulia Heather Cross
Form Matters: The Private Interpretation of Public Infrastructure in The RoadJiaqi Wang
The Voice as A Transcending Power: The Female Singer, Body, and Political Discourse in 1930s Shanghai FilmsZiyang Li
Classifying the Experience of Poverty: The Use of Algorithmic Systems for Social Welfare in PeruDiego Cerna Aragon
Encapsulating Captivity: Granting and Denying Intimacy through Narratives of Wartime DetentionJessica Legare
The VTuber Assemblage: Understanding the Role of Glitches in the Production of Digital IntimacyJueling Hu
Material/Discursive Containment in the Nuclear Age and the Intimacies of ResistanceSonali Huria
Containment and Contention: Intra and Interspecies Relationships in the Colonization of the AmericasLidia Ponce de la Vega
Casted Masculinities Within the Global Punjabi Diaspora: Intergenerational Reproduction and ResistanceJasleen Bains
Asylum Seekers, Administrative Power and Racial Capitalism: An Analysis of the Dublin III Regulation and the EURODACRoda Siad
Parasitic Relations, Decolonial Futures: The Colonial Legacy of ParasiteMadeleine Han
Violence on the Surface: Painting and Flaying in Ribera's Martyrdom of St. BartholomewLeighton Fenske
Forging Intimacies Across Terrestrial and Marine Environments in Contemporary Sound InstallationsChanelle Lalonde
Cyber-Queer Utopia in the Digital Archive: Shu Lea Cheang's Brandon as Trans Digital SpaceBenji Nothwehr
Seed Banks as Architectures of Liminal Intimacy and ControlMarleen Boschen

Carceral Thresholds: The Necropolitics of Intimacy at the Border of the Prison

Harry Hvdson (University of Southern California)

According to media theorist Marshall McLuhan, "[t]he whole concept of enclosure as a means of constraint and as a means of classifying doesn't work as well in our electronic world" (McLuhan 1967). In this conference paper, I intervene in McLuhan's moment of technoutopianism, an ideological sensibility that permeates various strains of both cinema and media studies, and prison reform and anti-prison activism. This paper is animated by a discussion of and against the campaigns of United States local, state, and federal governments, departments of correction, and communications providers—a matrix that has been termed the prison-industrial complex—to replace in-person visitation programs, both contact and non-contact, exclusively with video visitation. This paper takes as its focus a needs assessment of the Dane County Jail in Madison, Wisconsin, submitted to the Dane County Board of Supervisors by architectural and engineering consulting firm Mead & Hunt, who in part promote the construction of a new jail because of outdated communications and security electronic infrastructures that could support video visitation platforms.

Through this case study, this paper follows the endeavors of other scholars and activists towards building a framework to think the entanglements and possibilities of media studies and abolitionist praxis. This paper thinks though how both U.S. Departments of Correction and prison reformers alike leverage an "intimate" mode of justice, figured in McLuhan's formulation of the global village, that buttresses the re-territorialization of the prison through digital and electronic infrastructures of captivity and confinement. I turn to Black feminist epistemologies and histories of abolitionist (anti)political practices to offer a thinking outside of the enduring atavism of U.S. prison reform and towards "the abolition of a society that could have prisons" (Harney and Moten 2013).

Harry Hvdson is a scholar, activist, and academic laborer living in Los Angeles. They are a Ph.D. student in the Division of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Southern California. Wielding media studies, abolitionist practices, Black feminist epistemologies, and critical race theory, their work concerns video visitation and the re/working of the prison's insides/outsides.

Performing the Bride: Sexuality and the Environment in Kong Ning's Marriage Series

Amelia Wong-Mersereau (Concordia University)

In the midst of an ecological crisis, artists and activists are attempting to inspire new approaches to life on Earth. As corporations continue to cause irreparable damage to the planet, and as the market for artificial intelligence explodes, there is an urgent need to address human relations with the non-human. The Beijing-based artist Kong Ning (b. 1958) responds to this climate in the form of an expression of love: a marriage to the sky. Since 2013, Kong has produced numerous large-scale wedding gowns made of various symbolic materials: eggs, leaves, face-masks, orange cones etc. She calls herself "the bride of the universe and a child of nature." The artist performs a peripatetic ritual in public sites, often significant monuments such as the Beijing National Stadium (2016) or more recently the Centre Pompidou in Paris (2017) and the Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland (2018). This presentation will explore the non-normative intimate relationship that Kong constructs through her embodiment of the bride in two specific examples: 1,000 Egg World Earth Day Dress (2016) and 100,000 Green Leaves Dress (2019). Through an aesthetic of excess and consumption, Kong's body disappears into her work, highlighting a conundrum of sexual and racial otherness that Yayoi Kusama, Atsuko Tanaka, and Yoko Ono have explored as Asian women artists facing the discrimination and exotification of the art world. With a resurgence of sexism in the People's Republic of China and a veritable panic around "leftover women," Kong's public performances challenge both heteronormative culture and gender expectations.

Born and raised in Montréal, Amelia Wong-Mersereau is currently pursuing an MA in art history at Concordia University. Her thesis examines the intersection of sexuality and the environment in the performance practice of Beijing-based artist and activist, Kong Ning. As a mixed-race second generation Chinese Canadian, she is particularly interested in critical discourses of culture, identity, and representation. Writing about art from a Western diasporic position poses a fascinating and complicated conundrum that inspires her to seek out alternative approaches and new avenues of thought. She is currently a member of the editorial board for esse arts + opinions.

Misinformation and the Platform-As-Container

Nina Morena (McGill University)

While the container is typically studied as a physical medium of shipment, I consider the container as the space in which knowledge and forms of knowing are both stored and circulated. Drawing on studies of logistics, containers, and platforms, I examine the relationship between the forms of the container and the social media platform (in this case, Facebook) and conclude that though the two are not synonymous, the platform may be posited as a type of container that shapes and potentially confines ways of knowing. Platforms themselves do not generate content; however, they do contain and circulate it, which holds implications for instances of hate speech, fake news, and misinformation that go undetected.

Both containers and platforms operate based on a disavowal of the materials they keep: containers are indifferent to the products they hold, and Facebook's structure is such that the company is not responsible for the user-generated content that gets shared on the platform. As this presentation will demonstrate, Facebook's "neutral" stance is not necessarily so: while there is a certain truth in Facebook's lack of control over content that users share, they are subject to a certain level of accountability. This accountability will be interrogated through the concept of throttling – the control and regulation of information flows – to demonstrate that platforms have a role in shaping the content they store. On platforms, throttling materializes in the form of community guidelines, processes of sharing and reporting posts, and content moderation. Users themselves also contribute to shaping information flows when they choose to share and like posts. Following Deborah Cowen's assertion that logistics are profoundly political, I argue it is necessary to consider Facebook's affordances as sites of potential political action rather than natural and neutral means of communication.

Nina Morena is a PhD student in Communication Studies at McGill University. She holds an MA in Media Studies from Concordia University and a BA in English Literature from McGill University. Her doctoral research explores the ways in which breast cancer patients seek and share health information on social media and how this impacts their disease management. Her research interests include the gendered politics and public discourses surrounding women's cancers and she is particularly interested in intersections of gender, illness, and social media use.

The History of the (Fossil) Record Industry

Mike Sugarman (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

In 1989 Manchester, UK, raves become a craze in a city that industry has fled and Thatcherite neo-liberalism has gutted. The dance floor vibrates with communal intimacy. Strangers dance together to tracks by Mr. Fingers and Lil Louis coursing through the air, amplified from a spinning vinyl record. This congealed disc of petrochemicals is central to the party, containing not just extracted fossil byproduct but the very music that drives a collective ecstatic experience. The rave is a unique exercise in anarchism, often transpiring in so–called illegal spaces with hierarchies of performer and audience typically inherent in the Western musical tradition obliterated, as DJ and dancer alike both perform to and obey by the communal beat. But if the party represents a break from what we consider the quotidien relations of capitalism, the vinyl record stands as a recapitulation. What do make of this object that commodifies music for cheap sale, that is manufactured in factories from the byproducts of the oil refining process, that travels through the global supply chain just like every other consumer good?

This paper documents the material history of the vinyl record, examining its emergence among a corporate radio monopoly, a post–World War II plastics boom, and the American and British neo–colonial imperial project to control oil supplies in the Middle East. The object is central to music as we know it today, whether that is RCA's 45 RPM record setting rules for the pop song that sustain to this day or the rise of vinyl–based music cultures woven around communal experience such as hip hop or rave music. I argue that these music cultural developments are inextricable from a corporate-imperial project to control supply of and create markets around global flows of radio waves and fossil fuel. Recorded music and capitalism as we know them today were not just born at the same moment, but tied up in these imperial machinations. When music becomes fossilized on the vinyl record, what happens when that record spin? Does it simply reproduce the power and exploitation structures inherent to capitalism?

Mike Sugarman is currently a master's student in the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT interested in how underground music communities use network technologies to organize events and distribute music, both in this era of corporate platform consolidation and before. He simultaneously pursues data science research in MIT's Center for Civic Media, analyzing the co-option of disparaging rhetoric—often originating on the far right—into news media. Outside of his studies, Mike runs the Groove Café project, an online tool for aggregating and disseminating safety material and other useful resources to underground and contingent music communities.

Reading a Reliquary as a Microcosm of Sacred Geography

Julia Heather Cross (Harvard University)

In a period when people believed Buddhist teachings were almost lost (Jp. mappō), possessing relics in medieval Japan allowed priests to argue their teachings were aligned with the teachings and body of the Buddha. Similar to the western churches that vied for relics in the middle ages, possessing relics in Japan showed that the teachings of a given priest drew on an authentic Buddhism of the past. In this period when people feared the world was ending, this was of utmost importance, as seen in the writings of monks, such as Eison (13th c.). Chronicles and histories about Eison's life are replete with stories of such relics—relics believed to come from India via China, which each carried great cultural value. Through these relics, bodies of the Buddha, Eison could associate his teachings and praxis with people and places who were, often, physically and temporally unaccessible to him. The sacred geography he created through such relics are central to my talk.

Specifically, I would like to propose that we can read the Five Reliquary Vases (Jp. gobyō shariyōki) of the temple Saidaiji, in Nara Japan, as a microcosm of the reaches and the complexity of Eison's relic faith. These vases combine thousands of relics from a handful of sites and people that were important to Eison's teachings and relic networks. This scantly studied reliquary set, a national treasure in Japan, and the sacred geographies that it encompasses will be the focus of this talk. These iconographically complex reliquaries display the intricate nature of Eison's relic faith, mapped through the vases onto various geographies. The stories and chronicles that document the gifting, magical appearance, and theft of relics, allowed Eison to craft this sacred geography, a microcosm of his lifework and teachings.

Form Matters: The Private Interpretation of Public Infrastructure in The Road

Jiaqi Wang (University of Colorado Boulder)

How does infrastructure influence the everyday life of workers, locals and users in contemporary China? And how is the historical development of infrastructure construction represented by film? The widespread road construction in China not only reveals its mediacy between environment and human, between economic base and superstructure, but also insinuates its symbolic meaning in the propaganda of war, socialist construction and modernization in post-socialist era. To form a trans-historical lineage of symbolic infrastructure, this paper firstly examines the cinematic representation of metaphorical infrastructure in a left-wing film The Big Road (1935) made before the second Sino-Japanese war and a documentary The Red Flag Canal (1970) made during the socialist construction period in 1960s. The Road, an independent documentary recording a massive highway construction in a small village, offers an alternative perspective of infrastructure by focusing on its material forms, spatial production and intimate social relations between workers, managers and Communist officials. Combining Larkin's "infrastructure aesthetics" and "forms of promise" with the representation of infrastructural form in The Road, the ubiquitous slogans propagandize the infrastructure construction as an affective form that arouses desire, fascination and makes promise towards future. These slogans and patriotic singing contest in contemporary China connotate another meaning of "formalism" in Chinese which suggests the criticism towards bureaucratism prioritizing form over content. The break between form and content reinforces the gap between symbolic power and material form of highway construction. If the left-wing films and socialist films on the public screens can be understood as an affective infrastructure, then the cinematic techniques in this independent documentary expose the dynamic between an individualized interpretation and the public-owned infrastructure. The private rendition of public infrastructure therefore allows us to reexamine the risk of metaphorical representation of infrastructure and reflect on the reciprocal social relations between human and material.

Jiaqi Wang is a master student in the Asian Language and Civilization program at University of Colorado Boulder. She holds a bachelor degree in Cultural Industry Management from Jinan University in Guangdong, China. She will be presenting on University of Colorado Boulder Asian Studies Graduate Conference in 2020. Her previous academic training includes modern literature, films studies, culture studies and media studies. She is interested in exploring diverse approaches such as eco-criticism and post-humanism into film studies and modern Chinese literature.

The Voice as A Transcending Power: The Female Singer, Body, and Political Discourse in 1930s Shanghai Films

Ziyang Li (Duke University)

After the introduction of the synchronized sound technology, China entered the sound-film era in the 1930s. This period features many female singers' cross-over performances in films. This paper mainly focuses on Two Stars in the Milky Way (银汉 双星 1931) and Street Angel (马路天使 1937) to analyze how the female voice engaged with film images, the foreign Hollywood mode, and the indigenous political discourse.

First, sound and visual technologies facilitate a Hollywood-style synchronization rule, which unites the female voice with the body and reduces the songstress to an object of male gazing and listening. However, this masculine rule of embodying voice is not immutably successful. Revisiting the singing skills and the various song-image-narration relations in films, the paper argues: 1) the narrative and camerawork occasionally detach the voice from the body, indicating a more fluctuating body-voice relationship; and 2) the technological mediation provides the female voice with more provocative and interpretative possibilities, turning the voice to an open site that accommodates different subjectivities and transcends the masculine aural and visual containment. In this way, the female singer finally gains self-reflexive consciousness.

Additionally, such multipotential qualities of the female voice moved beyond film and formed an ambiguous relationship with the official discourse: On one hand, as an intimate friend of the official power, the female voice was constructed as the vehicle of national salvation and the ideal of New Woman. One the other hand, because of some songs' foreign origin and emotive timbre, the voice was also regarded by domestic antiimperialism and nationalism as decadent noise that should be censored and banned. However, again, the voice's multipotentiality obscured its nature and ultimately escaped the censorship, dismantling the containment of the official knowledge framework.

In sum, combining visual studies, sound studies, musicology, psychoanalysis, gender and sexuality, nationalism, and anti-imperialism, this paper analyzes how the female voice in 1930s Shanghai films becomes an inclusive site containing traces of simultaneous intimacy and dichotomy with, obedience and resistance to patriarchal containment in film and the masculine political discourse off screen.

Ziyang Li received his B.A. degree at Zhejiang University in China, and he is now a second-year Master student in the Critical Asian Humanities program at Duke University. His research interests span modern Chinese and transnational cinemas, media technologies, and sound studies, with a specific focus on gender and sexuality. He pays extra attention to sonic elements, psychoanalysis, and visual culture to approach gender issues and queer thoughts.

Classifying the Experience of Poverty: The Use of Algorithmic Systems for Social Welfare in Peru

Diego Cerna Aragon (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

In recent efforts to modernize social welfare programs and to optimize public spending, the Peruvian neoliberal state created the House Targeting System (SISFOH): an algorithm-driven system that determines if a household is "poor enough" to receive welfare benefits from the state. Based on the information available in state-owned databases and households inspections, the system classifies the potential beneficiaries as extremely poor, poor, and not poor, categories that will finally determine if the members of a household will have access to services such as healthcare and higher education. It is precisely during these inspections that the conditions of their domestic sphere are translated into legible data for the system by street-level bureaucrats.

This presentation illustrates the complex process through which modern neoliberal states in developing countries try to build knowledge about their population in order to execute public policies. It also shows the two sides of the construction of this knowledge: while this knowledge is held publicly as objective by national government technocrats, it also relies on street-level local bureaucrats who frequently are part from the same communities they are inspecting. In this way, local bureaucrats are usually able to understand and empathize with the experience of poverty during the visits to the households, nonetheless, they are unable to convey their personal perceptions given the data-oriented nature of the system. This results in feelings of uneasiness and dissatisfaction with a system that paradoxically was designed for a more fair and rational distribution of resources. This presentation is based on a two years long multi-sited qualitative research conducted at different levels of the SISFOH: from national government offices in Lima, Peru's capital, to local governments in Andean highlands and Amazonian jungle.

Diego Cerna Aragon is a technology and media researcher from Peru. His work focuses on discourse analysis, expert knowledge and the uses of new technologies. He currently is a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the Comparative Media Studies program, and a research assistant at the Global Media Technologies and Cultures Lab (GMTaC).

Encapsulating Captivity: Granting and Denying Intimacy through Narratives of Wartime Detention

Jessica Legare (Princeton University)

"My scribblings from my time inside the [camp's] iron fences are now set in print." With this, the writer MIYANAGA Tsugio (b. 1910) succinctly moves us from his imprisonment in U.S. military detention to the capture of that POW experience in his 1949 Okinawa furyoki (Captivity in Okinawa). A year earlier, ŌOKA Shōhei (1909–1988) had already finished inscribing his own POW narrative with the publication of Furyoki (Taken Captive: A Japanese POW's Story; trans. 1996). Without question, Ōoka's account is the more celebrated and canonical contribution to the collection of works that treat war memory. In comparison, Miyanaga's narrative has been situated within a literary boom of the late-1940s wherein the 1945 Battle of Okinawa became a stage for centering the problematic perspectives of mainland Japanese memoirists. Where Ōoka's illustration of imprisonment reveals the unexpected human connections and sympathies that can arise during hostile warfare, Miyanaga's narrative reminds us of troubling separations—based on hierarchies, communities, nationalities, etc.—that structure the space of military engagement. While earlier critiques of these stories have mostly focused on the renderings of battlefield conflict, my examination will tackle the less-often-treated manifestations of confined bodies and sequestered experiences. As highlighted by Miyanaga's remark, the confinement of the body under detention yields experiences to be "set in print," confined, or contained through the act of writing. In addressing the appearance of physical confinement in Ōoka and Miyanaga's stories, we may better grasp how the narration of the confined body can condition the very sense of achieving/hampering intimacy and enforcing/dissolving the boundaries of containment on structural and individual levels. Such a comparative reading stands to answer the question of how and which postwar narratives in Japan drew notice for bringing together/holding apart people and eras while relating subjective experiences of war and its aftermath.

Jessica Legare is a PhD candidate researching modern Japanese literature in the Department of East Asian Studies at Princeton University. She is currently preparing a dissertation which explores the conditions and effects of literary and journalistic censorship in occupied Japan and Okinawa, particularly the collaborations between writers and censors to guide the effects of prohibitions on published outputs. In accounting for the divergent spaces of publishing and proscription across the mainland and Okinawa, she hopes to reexamine the prevailing themes attributed to writing about Okinawa, from both within and beyond the island.

The VTuber Assemblage: Understanding the Role of Glitches in the Production of Digital Intimacy

Jueling Hu (University of Amsterdam)

In this paper, I discuss the unique features of virtual YouTubers (VTubers) through examining the intimate relations between VTubers and their audience, with particular attention to the role of digital technology. Becoming popular since 2017 from Japan, the phenomenon of VTubers refers to those who upload videos and do live-streaming with anime figures, with their voices being offered by invisible actors and with their physical reactions being realised by tracking actors' movements via motion capture devices. I apply a Deleuzian approach to read a VTuber as an assemblage of three elements: the bod(ies) of actor(s), motion capture devices, and the image on screens. I argue that the intimate connections between audience and VTubers are, in fact, established on technical glitches on screens which exhibit that actors and virtual figures do not entirely match with each other and demonstrate materiality of both bodies and technologies. Through revolving around the productive glitches in producing intimacy between VTubers and the audience, I analyse that they (1) help to affirm the authenticity of VTuber and (2) open up spaces for the multidimensional relations between the VTubers and the audience. In doing so, I challenge Deleuze's idea of assemblage by asserting that not only the coherent forces from different elements but also the process of de-assemblage can be productive in creating relations.

Jueling Hu is a master student studying media studies at University of Amsterdam. Her research interests revolve around the relations between human and technologies, especially questioning how the conception of futuristic technologies will have impact on how people situate themselves and relate to each other. She applies an interdisciplinary approach and draws from fields such as media studies, critical theory and cultural history.

Material/Discursive Containment in the Nuclear Age and the Intimacies of Resistance

Sonali Huria (Jamia Millia Islamia University)

A uniquely obsessive containment lies at the heart of the nuclear age – containing the chain reaction, nuclear material, technology and knowhow, containing nuclear ambitions of nonwestern countries, containing nuclear proliferation and terrorism, and containing the global nuclear order – the discovery of uranium has unleashed an unending series of containments. Besides this inescapable material containment, containing the nuclear discourse, knowledge and information about radiation, nuclear accidents, test sites, mining, and containing/invisibilizing communities at the receiving end of the nuclear fuel cycle is also an inextricable part of the nuclear story.

On the other hand, whether it was the women who formed the Greenham Commons in Britain at the height of the nuclear arms race during the Cold War, the resilient mothers of Fukushima, or the massive agitation launched by the women of Koodankulam on the southernmost tip of India in the immediate aftermath of Fukushima – the intimacies of sisterhood have been at the core of the resistance against this nuclear containment. Even after the formal dissolution of the colonial order in the past century, the distribution of nuclear hierarchies has effectively perpetuated the old global order while also engendering internal colonizations of affected communities.

This paper will trace the contestations between strategic containments of the nuclear age and intimacies of ecological subjects using the Koodankulam anti-nuclear movement as its case study. The intimacies of shared community life and spaces of the women of Koodankulam, conventionally the site of communal child rearing, carrying out traditional livelihood practices of drying fish, making beedis, and cracking betel nuts, and undertaking other collective chores, transformed into sites of intense protests, when their communities were threatened by the imposition of nuclear energy. In the absence of any formal organizational structures, it is these informal networks of intimacy and solidarity which launched a historic and unprecedented civil disobedience against the Indian State.

Sonali Huria is a PhD research scholar at Jamia Millia Islamia Central University, India and her doctoral research focuses on the people's movement in India against nuclear energy, viewed through the lens of democracy and dissent. She has also worked as a researcher with the National Human Rights Commission of India, and writes a monthly column – "Nuclear Reaction", on the political, social, environmental, and human rights issues surrounding India's nuclear energy sector at She is also Co-Editor,, an online resource center on nuclear disarmament and nuclear energy issues, and has taught at the Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi. Her research interests include human rights, nuclear energy and its impact on local communities, particularly women, people's resistance movements, and democracy and dissent, among others.

Containment and Contention: Intra and Interspecies Relationships in the Colonization of the Americas

Lidia Ponce de la Vega (McGill University)

The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries constitute a period of global colonization that has traditionally been constructed through the lens of Western human subjects. In the Americas, European conquerors incorporated indigenous peoples, nonhuman animals, and plants into their own systems of knowledge by explaining, objectifying, and appropriating colonized groups and species through their descriptions in colonial chronicles, historical accounts, and natural histories.

My presentation is a critical examination of colonial representations of the natural world and indigenous peoples in the Americas that highlights the intersection of these plural colonized experiences. I will present preliminary results of a text mining analysis of nearly two hundred texts written between 1500 and 1799 in Spanish, English, French, Latin, Italian, and German. These texts were published in urban centers in Europe and the Americas and range from travel literature to botanical and zoological compendiums, natural and moral histories, catalogues of public and private collections, and scientific works. Additionally, I will compare the text mining results with qualitative analyses of selected texts, such as the Libellum Medicinalibus Indorum Herbis, an indigenous medical catalogue of Mexican plants.

On the one hand, I will discuss the power dynamics at play in the construction and representation of indigenous peoples and nonhuman species in the Americas, as well as the instrumentalization and scientific categorization of marginalized groups. On the other, I will highlight contending attitudes that open spaces for experiences of embodiment, agency, and haptic relations, and the creation of non-Western epistemic systems. While Nature and indigenous peoples are victims of oppression and exclusion and are contained through disciplines like taxonomy and natural history, the colonial texts in this corpus evidence moments of contention, often based on intimate, emotional, close relations between human and nonhuman subjects.

I am a PhD Candidate in Hispanic Studies at McGill University. I hold an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Hispanic Language and Literature from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and a Master of Arts in Hispanic Studies from McGill University. I have worked as Research Assistant in several paleographic editions of colonial texts edited by UNAM and as Spanish Instructor at McGill. I am currently teaching LLCU311: Digital Studies/Citizenry at McGill. My doctoral research is an ecocritical study of colonial texts through digital and text mining analyses of the representation of Nature and indigenous peoples in the Americas.

Casted Masculinities Within the Global Punjabi Diaspora: Intergenerational Reproduction and Resistance

Jasleen Bains (Simon Fraser University)

Through modes of social categorization and control, gender ideologies linked to the Indian caste system have been reproduced globally. In this sense, caste hierarchies, which often also relate to class status, have shaped key representations of hegemonic masculinity. Caste, a dominant feature of Indian society, is an institutionalized system that involves the hierarchical ordering of people by associating individuals with functional roles in society. Although outlawed, caste in India and abroad continues to be a significant identity marker for many Indians, including those from the state of Punjab. This research examines the reproduction of caste hierarchies by the Punjabi diaspora in their host countries, as well as the ways in which caste as an identity marker has been resisted by the Punjabi diaspora. For many young Punjabi men living in diasporic communities in the west, subject formation is multifaceted, as in addition to negotiate their ethnic identities, they are also trying to negotiate their masculine identities. Furthermore, due to the complexities of migration, caste in many cases has been integral in sustaining kinship overseas within migrant communities. This research explores how despite the reproduction of caste significance within the Punjabi diaspora, diasporic youth continue to push back against this hierarchal system of oppression and control. This paper advances knowledge about the extent to which hegemonic perceptions of masculinity relating to caste have travelled across borders, and the methods through which these categories are being deconstructed.

Jasleen Bains is a Master's student at Simon Fraser University in the School of Communication. Her research interests include theories of citizenship, migration, and the development of identity with a focus on the South Asian community in the City Surrey, one of Canada's largest South Asian settlements. As a resident of Surrey and a member of the South Asian community, Jasleen is working from a standpoint of situated knowledge.

Asylum Seekers, Administrative Power and Racial Capitalism: An Analysis of the Dublin III Regulation and the EURODAC

Roda Siad (McGill University)

Using the Dublin III Regulation and the EURODAC fingerprinting system as case studies, this paper will examine how European Union (EU) asylum policies and procedures perpetuate administrative violence against asylum seekers. To theorize how racial capitalism is implicated within EU asylum policies, I will draw on concepts such as: surplus populations (Marx, 1867), value (Marx, 1867; Sharpe 2016, Cacho, 2011; Williamson, 2016), social separateness (Melamed, 2015), differential inclusion and the illegal migrant figure (Mezzadra and Neilson, 2013). While this paper focuses on contemporary asylum policies, it is important to acknowledge that these policies are products of a colonial history of Europe that has not only defined its physical borders as places of exclusion, but also imaginary borders of differential human value rooted in racial logic. Using a racial capitalist lens allows us to see past the guise of policy language, which often presents itself as neutral and its flaws and deficiencies as accidental.

Parasitic Relations, Decolonial Futures: The Colonial Legacy of Parasite

Madeleine Han (Yale University)

In the opening scene of Bong Joon-ho's Parasite, the film's college-aged protagonist, Kim Kiwoo, and his sister Ki-jung roam their semi-basement home in Seoul searching for a stray wi-fi connection, finally latching onto a signal while crouched by an exposed toilet that serves as the family's bathroom. The Kims' semi-underground abode undermines narratives of South Korean economic "success" that have characterized the nation's post-WWII development, reminding that Korean café consumerism, pop culture imperialism, and incorporation into the postwar global economic order have been realized at the expense of emergent extractive economies that reproduce colonial racial, gendered, and territorial difference.

Bong's latest work offers a stark contrast to celebrations of economic ascendancy that have dominated narratives of South Korea's postwar development. My paper argues that Parasite thematizes the reliance of South Korea's economic ascendancy upon the sublation of interlocking imperialisms shaping what we know as the Pacific Arena. I situate the film within ongoing struggles for the post-WWII decolonization of East Asia, initially truncated by the Cold War, that have been potent in South Korea: a Japanese postcolony, a U.S. neocolony, and a rising subimperial power. Juxtaposing the film's three families—the wealthy Parks, the workingclass Kims, and the Parks' former housekeeper, Moon-gwang, and her husband—I illustrate how Parasite de-exceptionalizes South Korean "success" by articulating the bourgeois family as a vehicle for reproducing colonial difference. Drawing on critical Korean studies and U.S. settler colonial studies, I demonstrate how intimate encounters between the Parks and the Kims, who serve as the Parks' domestic laborers, facilitate the rise of suppressed wartime histories.

I conclude by turning to a pivotal encounter between Moon-gwang and the Kims to suggest that the film reframes regional decolonization as a problem of relation, as well as gestures toward alternative forms of relation forged through the shared memory of imperial violence.

Madeleine Han is a PhD student in American Studies at Yale University. Her work concerns contemporary Asian American and transpacific cultural production and overlapping imperialisms in and across the Pacific.

Violence on the Surface: Painting and Flaying in Ribera's Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew

Leighton Fenske (McGill University)

If, as Joris van Gastel suggests, Jusepe de Ribera's (2018) treatment of skin turns paint into flesh, then what is to be made of the artist who applies this "epidermis" to the canvas? As scholars such as Edward Payne, Itay Sapir, and Bogdan Cornea have noted, Ribera is unique in how he depicts his subject's skin, doing so with realism that transgresses the boundary of representation. His oil-painted canvases acquire a three dimensional quality—they appear to protrude with broken and wrinkled flesh, and this re-presentation of skin, as one scholar remarked, transubstantiates the materiality of paint into actual flesh as it is applied to the corporeal canvas.

Investigating this unique quality, my paper will explore how the actions of the artist are akin to those of the flayer in Ribera's images of St. Bartholomew's Martyrdom. Like the artist who transformed the surface of the canvas with his pigments, the flayer in turn transformed the bodily exterior of Bartholomew. I will examine how Ribera's violent technique parallels his subject matter; the paintbrush forcefully dragged across the canvas referencing the knife sliding through skin, and the scraping of paint referring metaphorically to the peeling of flesh. Drawing connections between painter and flayer will highlight the tensions between painting and the body, and between the surface and those who transform it. Through this physical comparison between painter and flayer, my paper seeks to offer a fresh perspective on Ribera and the efficacy of his Bartholomew paintings as captured in the materiality of paint.

Forging Intimacies Across Terrestrial and Marine Environments in Contemporary Sound Installations

Chanelle Lalonde (McGill University)

In this paper, I investigate artistic strategies that engage with modes of intimacy across geographically distant environments and bodies. While intimacy is most often thought of in terms of physical proximity, I consider how distributed sensors and sound technologies can amplify human and nonhuman entanglements, and the often-unperceived relations between terrestrial and marine environments. Attending to such intimacies is crucial if we are to remain attentive to how beings disparately experience the effects of climate change and environmental degradation.

More specifically, I examine two contemporary sound installations, namely Leah Barclay's WIRA (2015) [fig 1], a geolocated audio walk along the Noosa River, and Calder Harben's Bodies of Water (2017) [fig 2], a low-frequency audio installation that engages with the violence of ocean noise pollution. These immersive installations ask us to tune into unfamiliar soundscapes, and to embody marine species whose lives are dramatically disrupted by the noise produced by ships and vessels used for extractive activities, shipping commercial goods, and recreational purposes.

Drawing on Brandon LaBelle's Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art (2010) and Dominic Pettman's Sonic Intimacy: Voice, Species, Technics (2017), I argue that that these sound installations, by engaging viewers in acts of deep listening, help forge intimacies among humans and nonhumans that transcend seemingly enclosed environments and different modes of experiencing/sensing the world. I ask: How do we listen to what we have not been trained to acknowledge, understand, or interpret? How can listening to what we cannot understand still be productive in the context of ongoing ecological crisis? Finally, listening is elaborated as a productive sentient engagement with marine worlds that makes apparent our entanglement with soundscapes we do not inhabit and bodies that are not our own.

Chanelle Lalonde is a Ph.D. student in art history at McGill University. Prior to pursuing her doctoral studies, she obtained an MA in art history from Concordia University (2018), and a BFA in Painting and Drawing from the University of Ottawa (2016). Her research interests include ecological aesthetics, theories of posthumanism, as well as interand transdisciplinary creative practices. Her doctoral research, which is supported by a Joseph-Armand Bombardier CGS Doctoral Scholarship, explores the ways in which contemporary artists specifically concerned with threatened bodies of water have sought to rethink relationships between humans and nonhumans.


woman listening to sound recordings through mobile device and earphones

Figure 1a: Leah Barclay, WIRA (woman listening to sound recordings through mobile device and earphones), 2015.

map of geo-located sounds

Figure 1b: Leah Barclay, WIRA (map of geo-located sounds), 2015.

person with headphones sitting on bench in art gallery

Figure 2: Calder Harben, Bodies of Water, 2017, Xpace Cultural Centre, Toronto.

Cyber-Queer Utopia in the Digital Archive: Shu Lea Cheang's Brandon as Trans Digital Space

Benji Nothwehr (McGill University)

As one of the earliest examples of "web art," Shu Lea Cheang's Brandon (1998) houses a variety of historical artifacts related to trans man Brandon Teena's murder and other forms of transphobic violence enacted against trans figures from across time and space. At its core, Brandon embodies a cyber-queer utopianism rooted in an embrace of the complexity inherent to digitally networked worlds and to the individual bodies embedded within them. Situated between actual and virtual, Cheang's piece suggests critical potential precisely because it sits at this junction, creating a "trans digital space" that arises from and centers the historical, political, and material circumstances of trans identity, while offering transformative forms of socio-temporal entanglement and intimacy between divergent historical figures and present-day subjects.

I trace Brandon's cyber-queer utopianism through a close reading of the work, structured around three concepts: a digital trans archive, a spiraling narrative structure, and a cyber-spectral trans body. In contrast to traditional "material archives" that preserve the ephemeral in a suspended stasis, Brandon constitutes a fluid and open "digital archive" that produces an alternative cultural imaginary where new lines of identification and intimacy can be drawn between figures across time and space. This enables Brandon to give rise to non-linear historical narratives that diverge from the contained and prescriptive narratives typical of non-digital mediums. These speculative narratives are borne out of a spiraling complexity of temporal and spatial negotiations crucial to Brandon's potential in disrupting conventional notions of the archive. The ghosts of Brandon Teena and other trans figures linger in the site's algorithmic code, suggesting the internet as a contingent and dynamic space capable of housing a "trans digital body." Ultimately, Brandon's continuous movement across time and space links the virtual and the actual to present a technological understanding of gender that bridges the divide between imagination and concrete materiality.

Benji is a second-year Master’s student in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies whose research interests include queer/trans artistic and cultural production, archives and cultural curation, queer spectrality, and affect theory. Working from a reparative historiographical framework, their thesis explores how trans visual artists engage in acts of speculation, dreaming, and imagination in the archive to create alternative trans genealogies by rendering linear notions of time and space unstable.

Seed Banks as Architectures of Liminal Intimacy and Control

Marleen Boschen (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Seed banks globally operate as spaces of ‘cold optimism’ (Radin & Kowal, 2017), where frozen seeds are kept as insurance policies and genetic archives against the violent loss of biodiversity in the Anthropocene. Seeds can be kept dormant in a liminal state through infrastructures of conservation until they are needed in the scientific mastery of nature.

This paper analyses seed banks as models of containment in the context of Crop Science as a science of improvement, embedded in the colonial history of the botanical sciences.

Containment here is legal and architectural—who will have access to these seeds and the adaptation knowledges held in them in the future? How do seed vault architectures reproduce colonial systems of classification and systematisation of species and construct a nature/culture binary? I discuss how the organisations tasked with custodianship and care for seeds give image as producers of visual materials to these processes of freezing, which are often remote (such as the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the Norwegian Arctic) and inaccessible. Seeds that for biological reasons refuse to be successfully frozen (recalcitrant seeds), point towards different needs for containment and the inability to freeze the complex relations of violently dying life worlds.

I suggest that containment is reimagined from within these organisations, where according to my research the image of the seed bank as a heroic faultproof insurance is often questioned by plant scientists and agronomists who are directly caring for these seeds in intimate relationships of learning from vegetal processes and capacities for adaptation and resilience. Thinking of seed banks as living collections and forms of ‘memory banking’ (Nazarea, 2005), rather than genetic archives opens up questions about how ecological diversity can not only be contained but adapt to changing life worlds.

Marleen Boschen is a PhD student in Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is researching seed saving practices as forms of care for and control of biodiversity and cultivation knowledges. Asking what futures organisations that act as seed custodians are banking for, the research investigates seeds as biocultural carriers of adaptation and resilience. Marleen is an artist and curator and has recently co-curated ‘Soil is an Inscribed Body: On Sovereignty and Agropoetics’, an exhibition and events programme at SAVVY Contemporary, Berlin (2019).