Dresher Center Faculty & Graduate Student Works-in-Progress
Wednesday, November 6, 12-1:00 (Lunch served at 11:45, so please rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Kara Hunt, Post-doctoral Fellow, MCS and Rebecca Adelman, Assistant Professor, MCS
Kara Hunt: Grin and Bear It: Humor as an Economy of Being
The political and philosophical treatment of humor, as a matter of both function and prospect, has been restricted to empirical analyses. That is, in prioritizing the affective characteristics of humor in isolation much of the scholarship on the subject takes for granted its epistemic qualities. It is my position that the cognitive processes that inform and underscore humor are structural in nature and therefore have a profound connection to modern conceptualizations of human being. In considering a “sense” of humor as an economy of being through which jokes are exchanged as a matter of ontological security I argue, that certain bodies are restricted from presence via jest. To demonstrate this position, I will analyze the historical progression of humor alongside popular and accessible jokes about race, gender, and class in the immediate contemporary.
Rebecca Adelman: Beyond Representation: Approaching Violence and the Visual
For most scholars of the visual it is axiomatic that traumatic experiences—war, terrorist attacks, and other forms of violence—might resist visual representation or appear obliquely or incompletely. This does not mean, however, that these phenomena cannot be given a visible shape. Rather, that shape might be a shell, an outline, a reflection, an aurora, or a negative of itself, less apparent in a visual artifact than in its social, cultural, and political echoes, resonances, and functions. And so I want to think about how we might capture, account for, and analyze the visual cultures orbiting around these objects.
In this presentation, I’ll consider two methodological and conceptual
interventions that I’ve been endeavoring to develop in my recent work.
The first, which forms the foundation of my forthcoming book, Beyond
the Checkpoint: Visual Practices in America’s Global War on Terror (University
of Massachusetts Press, 2014), is a turn toward the study of individual and
institutional visual practices rather than textual analysis of visual
objects. This wider view facilitates an exploration of who is using the
visual, how, for what purposes, and with what material consequences.
Building from, rather than lamenting, the notion that war might not be fully
representable, this method transforms that impossibility from a constraint into
an essential element of knowledge production about how, precisely, visual
cultures of militarized violence organize themselves. The second, which I
am exploring in a series of collaborations with Wendy Kozol (Oberlin College),
is what we describe as an “asymptotic approach” to the study of images—and
related practices of image production and consumption—that get close to the
scene of war or violence, but never actually or fully depict it. We
adopt the notion of the asymptote from geometry, where it is employed to describe
a line that a curve approaches as it moves toward infinity, and use the figure
of the asymptote to model the relationship between the truths of war and images
that purport to document them. Rather than casting images that do not
provide graphic documentary records of war as failures, we argue that instead
they visualize unrepresentability itself, providing a record of the dynamic
relation between events and images, and querying what kinds of spectatorship
are possible in the gap that separates them. Ultimately, this scholarship
is intended as a response to the cultural, political, and ethical exigencies
that arise as militarized violence and visual technologies commingle in
increasingly intimate ways.