The Scholars@Hallwalls Lecture Series Features New Research from the 2019-20 Faculty Fellows
Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, a space for experimental art, music, and film located in the heart of Buffalo at Delaware and Tupper, is the perfect setting for the ninth year of the Humanities Institute’s Scholars@Hallwalls lecture series. These presentations feature one fellow’s research in an engaging lecture with lively follow-up conversation. This year’s lineup highlights the interdisciplinary range of humanities research at UB.
Talks are on Friday afternoons at 4 pm and are free and open to the public. Complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres are served. Please join us for any or all of the Scholars@Hallwalls talks!
Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center
341 Delaware Avenue
“‘A fact was no less a fact because it was told by a crazy person’: Popular Responses to 19th Century Asylums.”
In this presentation, Rembis contemplates the role of mad people and their allies in protesting asylums in the 19th century United States. Historians and other scholars have been writing about the “patient turn” since the 1980s. Yet historians of madness and psychiatry remain reluctant to engage with much of the evidence left behind by mad people and their allies. Instead, they dismiss it as unrepresentative and unreliable. This presentation, and the larger project upon which it is based, uses the experiences and the writings of mad people and their allies to tell new stories and to rethink old ones.
“Choreographing History: Black Concert Dance and the Question of Genre”
This presentation asks if sentimentalism can be useful for contemporary black artists; if, as a set of aesthetic tactics, sentimentalism offers representational and experiential possibilities that usefully exceed or amend those canonized in black concert dance as the postmodern avant-garde. Nereson interprets choreographer Bill T. Jones’s works about Abraham Lincoln as an aesthetic-political project of (re)inventing black womanhood that reveals the radical potential of the sentimental for black artists, whose participation in the public sphere of the arts remains circumscribed in tandem with ongoing US political disenfranchisement.
“New Media at the End of History”
The late 1980s and early 1990s mark a transition away from a binary, Cold War geopolitics and toward the binary-based, digital media beginning to connect the planet. Initially welcomed, this shift has recently been viewed with skepticism against the backdrop of crises in the liberal-democratic order ranging from the fracturing of the European Union to debates over online speech. Revisiting artifacts from this political and technological turn, however—the software, hardware, and cultural products of the multimedia era—can help distinguish the beneficial, even utopian, aspects of the present-day information revolution from its negative outcomes.
“Global Returns and Festive Publics: Côte d’Ivoire’s Le Popo Carnaval as Practice of Revolting Subjects”
Carnival festivals, as in Cayenne, Port-au-Prince, Port of Spain, and Toronto, are known for black performance modes that gather and engage diverse publics. Artists, entrepreneurs, and spectators celebrate as they critique presumably American practices of revolting subjects, or the aesthetic and ethical intertwining of revulsion and revolt. Their publics expect grotesque, erotic, abject, and festive assemblages that follow as they disrupt Carnival’s paths to “getting your global diversity on.”
But what happens when Carnival practices, long informed by transatlantic black migrations, “return” to Africa, the continent of festivals? How and why might African artists, entrepreneurs, and spectators—long attuned to celebrations and critiques of global worldviews—re-assemble such performance modes for their publics? This talk points to answers that surface in Côte d’Ivoire’s rebranded New Yam Festival, le Popo Carnaval, and in particular its ritual parading, vestiary, and “homecoming” traditions, overlapped with masquerading, town-to-town Carnival parties.
“Radical Nonviolence, Interracial Utopias, and the Long Civil Rights Movement”
Historian Victoria Wolcott explores how utopian ideas and practices shaped the long civil rights movement. As early as the 1920s there were significant experiments in interracial communalism at labor colleges, folk schools, and urban and rural cooperatives. By the 1940s members of the Congress of Racial Equality and the Fellowship of Reconciliation living in interracial utopian communities began to actively train activists in radical nonviolence. By living cooperatively and communally activists envisioned a future with full racial equality and economic justice.
“Armored for the Arena? The Stoics on Social Engagement”
Modern technology allows us to lead much of our lives remotely, forcing us to consider anew how we socialize and conduct business with others. Surprisingly, the philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome have much to say on this question. In their discussions of the good life, they debated how we should engage with the social world so as to thrive and fulfill our obligations. This lecture focuses on the Stoics, who were famous for advocating a deep commitment to society, but often held positions that allowed for substantial disengagement.
“Black Humor and the Making of the Counterculture: Race, Madness, and American Literature in the 1960s”
This lecture addresses the role acts of identification across racial and ethnic lines played in the construction of countercultural subjectivities in the US in the postwar era. The figure of the “white Negro” has long been recognized as a constitutive element of the beat generation’s rejection in the 1950s of the status quo. Similarly, dissenting youth in the 60s coalesced into oppositional groups around the idealization of an array of exotic others. My question concerns the relation of the literary phenomenon known as black humor to such primitivist procedures. To what extent did comic writers critique the mystifications structuring the countercultural imaginary?
“Haunting the Stage: Dark Tourism, Lieux de Mémoire, and the Immortal Death of Abraham Lincoln at Washington D.C.’s Ford’s Theatre”
One of the most popular tourist destinations in Washington, D.C. is a historic crime scene. Ford’s Theatre, the location of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865, both typifies and complicates Pierre Nora’s notion of lieu de mémoire, a site of memory. Simultaneously operating as a history classroom, a patriotic pilgrimage site, and a dark tourism hotspot, Ford’s Theatre contains three interactive lieux de mémoire—a cluster of historic buildings, a museum installation, and a working theatre—all of which continuously reconstruct the site’s legendary past while keeping time with the ever-evolving present. Drawing upon the work of Nora and Marvin Carlson, as well as performance studies scholarship on dark tourism and living history museums, Meredith Conti considers the many macabre stagings that haunt Ford’s Theatre (onstage, in the museum, on the streets outside), including the fateful, interrupted 1865 production of Our American Cousin. As a lieu de mémoire and a multimodal theatre of the macabre, Ford’s Theatre’s continuous reproductions of Lincoln’s death serve to guarantee his immortality.