CARAM - Centre for Anthropological Research on Affect and Materiality

CARAM
Department(s) 
Department of Languages and Cultures

Tabgroup

Activities

Specialist doctoral course: How to Study Affect? Anthropological Engagements with Materiality

Organising committee

Prof. Dr. Rozita Dimova (Ghent Centre for Slavic and East-European Studies / Centre for Anthropological Research on Affect and Materiality)

Dr. Carine Plancke (Centre for Research on Culture and Gender / Centre for Anthropological Research on Affect and Materiality)

Dr. Marlene Schäfers (Middle East and North Africa Research Group / Centre for Anthropological Research on Affect and Materiality)

Prof. Dr. Koen Stroeken (Centre for Anthropological Research on Affect and Materiality)

Scientific committee

Prof. Dr. Ann Heirman (Ghent Centre for Buddhist Studies, Ghent University)

Prof. Dr. Iman Lechkar (Expertisecentrum Gender, Diversiteit en Intersectionaliteit, VUB)

Prof. Dr. Chia Longman (Centre for Research on Culture and Gender, Ghent University)

Prof. Dr. Sasha Newell (Laboratoire d’anthropologie des mondes contemporains, ULB)

Prof. Dr. Chris Parker (Middle East and North Africa Research Group, Ghent University)

Prof. Dr. Katrien Pype (Institute for Anthropological Research on Africa, KU Leuven)

Topic

Over the last two decades, affect has become a key concept in the humanities and social sciences in order to address experiences that defy capture through dominant modes of representation. The so-called ‘affective turn’ seeks to overcome dualistic divisions between body and mind, the social and the material, the human and the non-human by focusing on different bodies’ capacity to affect and be affected. The course will introduce PhD students to this cutting-edge scholarship, which opens new pathways for describing and theorizing the role of embodied feelings, sentiments and intensities in cultural, social, and political life. Affect theory has been critiqued, however, for being overly abstract and vague, remaining confined to a highly specific jargon. How, then, to study affect? This course proposes anthropological engagements with materiality through ethnographic research methods as a fruitful avenue for exploring the pathways and workings of affect in empirical and grounded ways.

Format

The course will consist of four public lectures and four masterclasses by prominent scholars who have extensively engaged with the topic of affect. Students will prepare reading assignments before each masterclass. During the masterclass, the lecturers will discuss the readings in exchange with students. Each student will choose one masterclass for giving a presentation on their own PhD research and on how they have dealt with or intend to deal with the topics of affect and materiality.

Level

The course is open to PhD students from a variety of disciplines (including anthropology, area studies, geography, history, economics, sociology, political studies, gender studies, education). No prior knowledge is requested.

Programme

Session 1: 8 November 2018 - Affect, landscape and the politics of heritage - Prof. Dr. Joost Fontein, Respondent: Prof. Dr. Katrien Pype (KU Leuven)

Venue: Faculty Room, Campus Boekentoren, Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent

Joost Fontein is a Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Johannesburg. He did his doctoral fieldwork in southern Zimbabwe, exploring the political materialities of land and water and the politics of heritage and landscape in the context of ongoing contests over sovereignty, belonging and the reconfiguration of postcolonial stateness. His thesis won the ASA UK Audrey Richards Prize and a monograph entitled The Silence of Great Zimbabwe: Contested Landscapes & the Power of Heritage was released by UCL Press in 2006. More recently, he published the book Remaking Mutirikwi: Landscape, Water and Belonging in Southern Zimbabwe (Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 2015). Currently, he is involved in collaborative research exploring the affective presence and emotive materiality of human remains. With Cara Krmpotich and John Harries, he edited a special issue on this topic in the Journal of Material Culture.

10.00-12.30: Masterclass: Bones, bodies and human substances: Towards an understanding of the politics of human corporeality

14:00-16:00: Public lecture: Damming Mutirikwi: Planning, perception and imagination in late Colonial Rhodesia

This lecture draws from a chapter in my 2015 book, Remaking Mutirikwi. It comes from archival research on the building of the Mutirikwi (Kyle) dam on the Mutirikwi river in Masvingo (then Victoria) district in the late 1950s. It begins by focusing on the debates of the 1950s about which dams (Popotekwe, Kyle and Bangala) to build on the Mutirikwi river system. Engaging with Ingold’s efforts to close the gap between imagining and perceiving landscape - what I term the materialities of imagination - it explores how minute material engagements with the affordances of soil, topography and hydrology were caught up in the divergent demands of local white Rhodesians (residents of Fort Victoria) and the lowveld sugar industries downstream in Chiredzi, who had all long been lobbying, for very different reasons, for a dam on that river system. 

Session 2: 17-18 January 2019 - Subjectivity, affect and the body - Prof. Dr. Lisa Blackman, Respondent: Prof. Dr. Koen Stroeken (UGent)

Venue: Room 160.015, Campus Boekentoren, Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent

Lisa Blackman is Co-Head of the Department of Media, Communications and Cultural Industry at the Goldsmiths, University of London. She works at the intersection of body studies and media and cultural theory and is particularly interested in subjectivity, affect, the body and embodiment. She has published four books in this area. The most recent is Immaterial Bodies: Affect, Embodiment, Mediation, (2012, Sage). Her work in the area of embodiment and voice hearing has been recognised and commended for its innovative approach to mental health research and it has been acclaimed by the Hearing Voices Network, Intervoice, and has been taken up in professional psychiatric contexts. She has also made a substantive contribution to the fields of critical psychology and body studies. In this context she co-edits the journal, Subjectivity (with Valerie Walkerdine, Palgrave) and edits the journal Body & Society (Sage). Her other books include Hearing Voices: Embodiment and Experience (2001, Free Association Books); Mass Hysteria: Critical Psychology and Media Studies (with Valerie Walkerdine; 2001, Palgrave); and The Body: The Key Concepts (2008, Berg). Lisa is also acts as a key advisor to the Hearing the Voice project, Durham University (funded by the Wellcome). Her new book, Haunted Data: Affect, Transmedia, Weird Science is out with Bloomsbury in January 2019.

17 January 14.00-16.00: Public lecture

18 January 10.00-12.30: Masterclass 

Session 3: 7-8 February 2019 - Decay and meaninglessness: Intersections of affect and temporality - Dr. Martin Demant Frederiksen, Respondent: Prof. Dr. Sasha Newell (ULB)

Venue: Room 160.015, Campus Boekentoren, Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent

Martin Demant Frederiksen is postdoctoral fellow at the Department for Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo. His research interests concern questions of disengagement among youth and the role of decay, meaninglessness and the existence of Nothing in social life. Related research interests and areas include nihilism, crime and corruption, urban development and infrastructures, time and materiality. He has conducted ethnographic research in the Republic of Georgia since 2006, mainly in the cities of Batumi, Ambrolauri and Tbilisi, and more recently in Bulgaria and Croatia. Currently he is working on a comparative monograph about vacancy and transcience in southeastern Europe. His book Young Men, Time, and Boredom in the Republic of Georgia was published in 2013 by Temple University Press.

7 February 14.00-16.00: Public lecture: Last Resorts – Secondhand Architecture and Uncanny Valleys in Southeastern Europe

The lecture will depart from Masahiro Mori’s (1970) description of human responses to robots in which he observed that people respond positively to robots that either look barely human or completely human. But when those humanoid objects come to appear almost but not quite real, they elicit feelings of a different sort: extreme eeriness and discomfort. This, in Jasia Reichardt’s (1978) rendering of Mori’s work, is the “uncanny valley,” the revulsion that people feel in looking at a human facsimile or look-alike. But how does this principle of uncanniness apply to subjective relations to and experiences of the built environment? Drawing on ethnographic examples from Armenia, Georgia and Croatia, I will examine how senses of eeriness come to surround architectural forms that are almost, but not quite, ruins. The cases in point concern the use and re-use of modernist resorts that over time have fluctuated between potentially falling into complete decay and potentially being re-used or renovated.

8 February 10.00-12.30: Masterclass: Decay, Surfaces and Temporality​

Session 4: 7 March 2019 – Affective states - Dr. Madeleine Reeves, Respondent: Prof. Dr. Rozita Dimova (UGent)

Venue: Faculty Room, Campus Boekentoren, Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent

Dr. Madeleine Reeves is Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology in the University of Manchester, UK, and the Editor of Central Asian Survey. Her research focuses on the way in which state space and state categories (of legal and illegal residence; of citizen and non-citizen; of ‘titular’ ethnic group and national minority) are produced and ruptured in everyday life. She has been particularly keen to explore these questions in sites where the authority of the state has been open to contestation. This has led her, since 1999, to conduct research in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and more recently with Kyrgyzstani migrant workers in Russia. In particular, her work has focused on the affective dimensions of bureaucratic encounters and in the relationship between political disillusion and state-desire. She is author of Border Work: Spatial Lives of the State in Rural Central Asia (Cornell University Press) and (co)editor of the volumes Movement, Power and Place in Central Asia and Beyond (Routledge 2012) and Ethnographies of the State in Central Asia: Performing Politics (Indiana University Press 2014). With Mateusz Laszczkowski she also edited a special issue in Social Analysis entitled Affective States: Entanglements, Suspensions, Suspicions. 

10.00-12.30: Masterclass: Beyond enchantment: On infrastructure, inequality, and affect

This masterclass explores debates around infrastructure, inequality and affect.  Infrastructural projects would seem to have an exceptional capacity to enchant through their capacity to transform and remake the social by bringing new relations into being.  But the very fragility of infrastructural forms can also make them liable to disillusion and critique, or the awareness of getting ‘stuck behind’.  How do infrastructural forms include and exclude?  And what consequences does this have for the way that we think about the relationship between infrastructure, politics and affect?

14:00-16:00: Public lecture: On Edge: Towards an Affective Geopolitcs of Bordering

Evaluation criteria

100% attendance to all sessions (lectures and masterclasses) is required. Students choose one Masterclass for giving a presentation.

Info and registration

For further information and registration, send an email to carine.plancke@ugent.be and marlene.schafers@ugent.be (before 1 November 2018)

Funding

The course is co-funded by the doctoral schools of UGent and KULeuven (Junior Researchers Support Platform - OJO).

 

About

CARAM - meaning ‘generosity’ (karam) in Arabic - brings together researchers in the humanities and social sciences who work in the fields of materiality, affect, the body, religion and/or ethnicity. Operating from the perspective of critical area studies and versed in anthropological theory, these researchers rely on historicized ethnographic fieldwork as one of their methods. To overcome classic divides (nature and culture, body and mind, matter and idea, technology and culture, politics and religion) CARAM opts for the complementary pair of materiality and affect as research thematic. The thematic is inclusively defined. Materiality, replacing the obsolete ‘material culture’, focuses on the relation between objects and users, in light of social and cultural dynamics. To account for agency and creativity in those dynamics, affect has emerged as an interdisciplinary concept. Affect and subjectivity are not only articulated in art, religion, and ritual, but also constitute the pivot in anthropological studies of cultural identity and ethnicity.

CARAM joins the postcolonial and post-imperialist turn in critical area studies, material culture studies, and the anthropology of practices at the nexus between materiality and affect. These practices comprise among others ritual, embodiment, medicine, sensory/sensual imaginaries, (digital) technology, and power. 

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