Since 2012, the AHCS Research Forum has served as a gathering point for McGill’s Department of Art History and Communication Studies. The format of our events varies, but our mandate abides. We bring together the diverse, interdisciplinary community of faculty, post-doctoral fellows, visiting scholars, sessional instructors, graduate students and others affiliates of AHCS into informal, research-driven conversation often over food and drink. Please see below for upcoming events, and an archive of past events.
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"What is Your Material?" (Nov. 4, 10:30-13:25, Arts 230)
This fall’s Forum will be organized around the question, “What is your material?”
Participants will be invited to reflect on this question in relation to their own research (5 minutes each). The question can be interpreted in many ways -- some might talk about the research materials they are working on; some might reflect on what “material,” “materiality” and “materialism” mean in relation to their work and/or recent scholarship. These themes have renewed currency in our fields, and will be prominent in AHCS and Media@McGill programming in Winter 2017.
"Reckoning with Neoliberalism" (Oct. 7, 9:30-11:30 AM, Arts 160)
In our contemporary moment, neoliberalism is a ubiquitous term. But, what exactly is neoliberalism? How should we trace its historical genealogies? Where might we apprehend its ramifications? And what, to paraphrase philosopher Catherine Malabou, can we do so that our patterns of thought and action do not simply coincide with the spirit of neoliberalism?
This reading group takes up such questions by engaging with the recent work of noted political theorist Wendy Brown who will be this year’s Media@McGill's Beaverbrook Lecturer. Please join us as we read two chapters of Brown's recent Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution (Zone, 2015): Chapter I: “Undoing Democracy: Neoliberalism’s Remaking of State and Subject" (17-45) and Chapter III: “Revising Foucault: Homo Politicus and Homo Oeconomicus” (79-111).
PDF available here.
"The Craft of Scholarship" (April 14, 2015; 12 - 2 PM, Arts W 220)
From the maker movement and Fab Labs to the "artisanal epistemologies" traced by recent historians of science, craft holds a prominent place in contemporary life. But, what are the crafts of scholarship? How might we understand the possibilities and challenges of thinking the practices of interdisciplinary research through the matrix of craft?
Organized in collaboration with Media@McGill, our upcoming meeting of the AHCS Research Forum will explore these questions as stimulated by papers from visiting faculty members Stephen Monteiro (American University of Paris) and Alessandra Renzi (Northeastern University). Please join us on Wednesday April 15 in Arts W 220 for lunch at 12 PM and papers by Profs. Monteiro and Renzi (whose abstracts and bios are below), which will open into questions and discussion of the craft and, perhaps, craftiness of scholarship in the present moment.
Stephen Monteiro (American University of Paris), “Patchwork Media and the Myth of Seamlessness”
Media design may aspire to fluidity, but fragmentation remains a dynamic component of everyday media practice. This talk considers the fundamental role fragmentation plays in contemporary participatory media and explores its ties to handicraft culture.
Stephen Monteiro is Assistant Professor of Global Communications at The American University of Paris and Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History & Communication Studies at McGill. He is the author of Screen Presence (Edinburgh University Press, 2015) and the editor of the Screen Media Reader, to be published by Bloomsbury in 2016.
Alessandra Renzi (Northeastern University), “Connecting media activism - From pirate TV to social networks”
This talk introduces results from a multi-year ethnographic study of the media collective insu^tv, a node in the Telestreet network of pirate community television channels active in Italy since 2002. This study traces the transformation of media activism from the peak of Indymedia to the present, detailing a shift in activist practices from producing counter-information to the use of collaborative media production as a catalyst to forge and strengthen ties among a variety of local and transnational communities. In fact, in their own words, insu^tv is not a collective; it is a connective. Yet, while insu^tv continues to perform this connective work, the rise of proprietary and corporate social media networks and platforms for user generated content, within activism, has presented considerable challenges to insu^tv’s community building work and, more generally, has weakened our grasp on the meaning, functions and potential of social connection in the web 2.0 era. Insu^tv’s case is by no means unique; in discussing the contemporary pressures it faces, this talk aims to stimulate a conversation about the implications of emerging technologies for social struggle that reaches beyond the problem of surveillance, corporate monopoly and the tyranny of prepackaged and black-boxed platform design. Indeed, in addition to discussing these very important issues, it is important that scholars and activists critically examine the modes of social connection, forms of self-awareness and political agency that are aided or made possible by emergent technologies.
Alessandra Renzi is Assistant Professor in Emergent Media at Northeastern University where she investigates the linkages between media, art and activism through ethnographic studies and media art projects. Her research interests led her to study pirate television networks in Italy and the surveillance of social movements in Canada. Her book Infrastructure Critical: Sacrifice at Toronto’s G8/G20 Summit, co-authored with Greg Elmer, was published in 2012. As part of her past research on surveillance, she co-produced the crowdsourced documentary Preempting Dissent: Policing the Crisis (2014). Dr. Renzi’s media art interventions interrogate and build upon the habits and practices emerging at the intersection of face-to-face and interface. Her work has been featured internationally in venues like the Transmediale Festival in Berlin, the Hemispheric Institute’s Encuentro in Sao Paulo (Brazil) and the Queens Museum of Art (NY). Her current research examines the design and socio-cultural impact of participatory platforms for collaboration and activism.
"Aesthetic Autonomy and Political Economy" (Oct. 15, 2014; 2:30-5:30 PM, MISC 201)
A master class with Prof. Walter Benn Michaels (University of Illinois, Chicago and Media@McGill Scholar, 2014-5), we will discuss Michaels’s vigorous defense of authorial intention and his recent critique of Michael Fried and Jacques Rancière as practitioners of "neoliberal aesthetics."
Walter Benn Michaels, “Neoliberal Aesthetics: Fried, Rancière and the Form of the Photograph,” Nonsite.org (Jan. 25, 2011): http://nonsite.org/issues/issue-1/neoliberal-aesthetics-fried-ranciere-a...
Walter Benn Michaels, “The Beauty of a Social Problem (e.g. Unemployment),” Twentieth Century Literature 57 (2011): 309-327
Jacques Rancière, “Notes on the Photographic Image,” Radical Philosophy 156 (2009): 8-15
Steven Knapp and Walter B. Michaels, “Against Theory,” Critical Inquiry 8, 4 (1982): 723-742
“Courting Controversy” September 16, 2014, 12:30-2 PM in MISC 201
What constitutes controversial work in your field? Who does it and why? Is controversy a professional risk, a marketable opportunity, or perhaps an ethical imperative of scholarly life? Since an aim of the AHCS Research Forum is to open trans-disciplinary conversation, we take our prompt from the provocative work of Glenn Greenwald, Walter Benn Michaels and other speakers who will be visiting campus this term.