808 episodes

Interviews with Scholars of Critical Theory about their New Books
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New Books in Critical Theory Marshall Poe

    • Science

Interviews with Scholars of Critical Theory about their New Books
Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/critical-theory

    Neil Vallelly, "Futilitarianism: Neoliberalism and the Production of Uselessness" (MIT Press, 2021)

    Neil Vallelly, "Futilitarianism: Neoliberalism and the Production of Uselessness" (MIT Press, 2021)

    If maximizing utility leads to the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people, as utilitarianism has always proposed, then why is it that as many of us currently maximize our utility--by working endlessly, undertaking further education and training, relentlessly marketing and selling ourselves--we are met with the steady worsening of collective social and economic conditions? In Futilitarianism: Neoliberalism and the Production of Uselessness (MIT Press, 2021), social and political theorist Neil Vallelly eloquently tells the story of how neoliberalism transformed the relationship between utility maximization and the common good.
    Drawing on a vast array of contemporary examples, from self-help literature and marketing jargon to political speeches and governmental responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, Vallelly coins several terms--including the futilitarian condition, homo futilitus, and semio-futility--to demonstrate that in the neoliberal decades, the practice of utility maximization traps us in useless and repetitive behaviors that foreclose the possibility of collective happiness.
    This urgent and provocative book chimes with the mood of the time by at once mapping the historical relationship between utilitarianism and capitalism, developing an original framework for understanding neoliberalism, and recounting the lived experience of uselessness in the early twenty-first century. At a time of epoch-defining disasters, from climate emergencies to deadly pandemics, countering the futility of neoliberal existence is essential to building an egalitarian, sustainable, and hopeful future.
    Neil Vallelly is a political and social theorist based at the University of Otago, New Zealand. His research has appeared in journals such as Rethinking Marxism, Angelaki, and Poetics Today, and magazines, including New Internationalist and ROAR. In 2022, he will take up a two-year Rutherford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship at Otago, working on a history of capitalism and migrant detention. An Italian translation of Futilitarianism will be published in March 2022.
    Tom Discenna is Professor of Communication at Oakland University whose work examines issues of academic labor and communicative labor more broadly.
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    • 1 hr 1 min
    Sarah Jane Cervenak, "Black Gathering: Art, Ecology, Ungiven Life" (Duke UP, 2021)

    Sarah Jane Cervenak, "Black Gathering: Art, Ecology, Ungiven Life" (Duke UP, 2021)

    In Black Gathering: Art, Ecology, Ungiven Life (Duke UP, 2021), Dr. Sarah Jane Cervenak engages with Black artists and writers who create alternative spaces for Black people to gather free from interruption or regulation. Drawing together Black feminist theory, critical theories of ecology and ecoaesthetics, and Black aesthetics, Cervenak shows how novelists, poets, and visual artists such as Gayl Jones, Toni Morrison, Clementine Hunter, Samiya Bashir, and Leonardo Drew advance an ecological imagination that unsettles Western philosophical ideas of the earth as given to humans. In their aestheticization and conceptualization of gathering, these artists investigate the relationships among art, the environment, home, and forms of Black togetherness. Cervenak argues that by offering a formal and conceptual praxis of gathering, Black artists imagine liberation and alternative ways of being in the world that exist beyond those Enlightenment philosophies that presume Black people and earth as given to enclosure and ownership.
    Brittney Edmonds is an Assistant Professor of Afro-American Studies at UW-Madison. I specialize in 20th and 21st century African American Literature and Culture with a special interest in Black Humor Studies. Read more about my work at brittneymichelleedmonds.com.
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    • 1 hr 1 min
    Shani Orgad and Rosalind Gill, "Confidence Culture" (Duke UP, 2022)

    Shani Orgad and Rosalind Gill, "Confidence Culture" (Duke UP, 2022)

    In Confidence Culture (Duke UP, 2022), Shani Orgad and Rosalind Gill argue that imperatives directed at women to “love your body” and “believe in yourself” imply that psychological blocks rather than entrenched social injustices hold women back. Interrogating the prominence of confidence in contemporary discourse about body image, workplace, relationships, motherhood, and international development, Orgad and Gill draw on Foucault’s notion of technologies of self to demonstrate how “confidence culture” demands of women near-constant introspection and vigilance in the service of self-improvement. They argue that while confidence messaging may feel good, it does not address structural and systemic oppression. Rather, confidence culture suggests that women—along with people of color, the disabled, and other marginalized groups—are responsible for their own conditions. Rejecting confidence culture’s remaking of feminism along individualistic and neoliberal lines, Orgad and Gill explore alternative articulations of feminism that go beyond the confidence imperative.
    Louisa Hann recently attained a PhD in English and American studies from the University of Manchester, specialising in the political economy of HIV/AIDS theatres. She has published work on the memorialisation of HIV/AIDS on the contemporary stage and the use of documentary theatre as a neoliberal harm reduction tool. She is currently working on a monograph based on her doctoral thesis. You can get in touch with her at louisahann92@gmail.com.
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    • 1 hr
    Terri Givens, "Radical Empathy: Finding a Path to Bridging Racial Divides" (Policy Press, 2021)

    Terri Givens, "Radical Empathy: Finding a Path to Bridging Racial Divides" (Policy Press, 2021)

    Structural racism has impacted the lives of African Americans in the United States since before the country’s founding. Although the country has made some progress towards a more equal society, political developments in the 21st century have shown that deep divides remain. The persistence of inequality is an indicator of the stubborn resilience of the institutions that maintain white supremacy. To bridge our divides, renowned political scientist Terri Givens calls for ‘radical empathy’ - moving beyond an understanding of others’ lives and pain to understand the origins of our biases, including internalized oppression. In Radical Empathy: Finding a Path to Bridging Racial Divides (Policy Press, 2021), she offers practical steps to call out racism and bring about radical social change.
    Jill Massino is a scholar of modern Eastern Europe with a focus on Romania, gender, and everyday life.
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    • 1 hr 11 min
    Traci Brynne Voyles, "The Settler Sea: California's Salton Sea and the Consequences of Colonialism" (U Nebraska Press, 2021)

    Traci Brynne Voyles, "The Settler Sea: California's Salton Sea and the Consequences of Colonialism" (U Nebraska Press, 2021)

    The Salton Sea is a kaleidoscope. To some people, it's a waste land, a place of death only suitable for a dumping ground. For others, it's a clarion call, a warning for what humanity faces in our anthropogenically climate changed future. For still others, it's simply home. In The Settler Sea: California's Salton Sea and the Consequences of Colonialism (U Nebraska Press, 2021) Dr. Traci Brynne Voyles, associate professor of women's and gender studies at the University of Oklahoma, argues that the this place has defied people's expectations and attempts at control for hundreds of years, and that the key to understanding the Salton Sea (and indeed, all environments) is to recognize that they never just mean one thing. Part environmental history, part work of environmental justice studies, The Settler Sea tackles topics as diverse as damming, geology, and the history of birding in southern California - it is a book as wide ranging and hard to pin down as contentious sea at its center.
    Dr. Stephen R. Hausmann is an assistant professor of history at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.
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    • 1 hr 22 min
    Sanjukta Sunderason, "Partisan Aesthetics: Modern Art and India's Long Decolonization" (Stanford UP, 2020)

    Sanjukta Sunderason, "Partisan Aesthetics: Modern Art and India's Long Decolonization" (Stanford UP, 2020)

    In Partisan Aesthetics: Modern Art and India's Long Decolonization (Stanford UP, 2020), Sanjukta Sunderason explores art's entanglements with histories of war, famine, mass politics and displacements that marked late-colonial and postcolonial India. Introducing "partisan aesthetics" as a conceptual grid, the book identifies ways in which art became political through interactions with left-wing activism during the 1940s, and the afterlives of such interactions in post-independence India. Using an archive of artists and artist collectives working in Calcutta from these decades, she argues that artists became political not only as reporters, organizers and cadre of India's Communist Party, or socialist fellow travelers, but through shifting modes of political participations and dissociations. Unmooring questions of Indian modernism from its hitherto dominant harnesses to national or global affiliations, Sunderason activates, instead, distinctly locational histories that refract transnational currents.
    Holiday Powers is Assistant Professor of Art History at VCUarts Qatar. Her research focuses on modern and contemporary art in Africa and the Arab world, postcolonial theory, and gender studies.
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    • 1 hr 6 min

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