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Representation, Performance, Culture

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Members of this research axis are currently organizing,

“Making Contact: A Symposium on Affect, Sexuality and Power” for Oct 29-30

Research Axis: Representation, Performance, Culture

This axis clusters inter-disciplinary research that considers practices of representation and cultural life through a variety of frameworks that draw from feminist theory, gender studies, sexuality studies, and transnational cultural studies. The theme that links the research axis together is that of representation, and the diverse ways scholars approach its study and define it as a research object – from practices of depiction, expression and performance to that of political representation and the politics of representation (e.g. who speaks for whom and under what conditions) and the institutions and industries that produce, distribute and commodify representation in the form of media and other artistic and cultural works.

Representation, Performance, Culture will serve as an umbrella framework for a number of working groups that are forming among faculty from a broad array of disciplines. The particular research focus and membership of working groups will necessarily be open to change to reflect the research interests of the faculty involved.

Working Groups

Gender, Technologies, Bodies and Media: Studies in gender and technology query the reduction of technologies to tools in order to examine them as more fully social – that is, as broadly social processes and forms of instrumentation. Feminist work in technology studies probes questions of embodiment, knowledge, and agency in human/machine/animal interface, the intimate connections between “technology,” “media” and “the human,” and the macro levels of social organization in infrastructures of communication, commerce, and other movements. The spectrum of research in this area at McGill runs from technologies of augmented reality to querying the construction of “gender gaps” in ICTs, to the national imaginaries of technological infrastructures in Canada, and the gendered histories of medical science and the technologies of medical investigation and imaging.

Transnational Feminist Cultural Studies: In the early 1990s, former director of the Birmingham Centre for Cultural Studies, Stuart Hall, rewrote the history of its field by recognizing the long-unrecognized centrality of postcolonial and feminist frameworks to its inquiry. Today, Cultural Studies work extends transnational, postcolonial, and feminist frameworks to examine, by McGill scholars, the complex interplay among popular forms of expression, the movements of immigrant populations and the affective dimensions of transnational intimacies; and the work of translation in the transnational book markets for Lebanese women writers; and the interplay of immigration, music cultures and schooling within the Quebec classroom.

Gender, Race, Class and the Politics of Representation: Representation constitutes both the depiction of social lives and stands in for it; it is both portraiture and proxy as Gayatri Spivak argues. Feminist, postcolonial, and Marxist studies of representation have long probed this dual character of representation in order to understand representation according to its social and political labors. At McGill, this broad research framework is represented by work on the links between the racialized, gendered and classed dimensions of murder victim and death row inmate commemorative portraiture and claims making around the status of who can constitute the human in the politics of murder; the terrain of mainstream media representations of Islamic women and the threat construction of women’s covering practices in Quebec and France and their role in the creation of a political chasm between feminist and anti-racist movements; philosophical inquiries into Marxist and feminist theories of representation as a necessarily material practice; and studies of the classed, gendered, and raced dimensions of the film industry and its relation to US labor politics in white working class “men’s films” of the 1970s.

Gender, Sexuality and Performance Studies: From the sociology of performance in everyday life to current feminist and queer theorizing on performativity, perhaps no other concept has so profoundly re-defined inquiry in feminist and queer studies as performance. At McGill, performance studies has connected scholars working in the Faculty of Music with those working in the Faculty of Arts. Some McGill faculty are looking at the intersections of race, sexuality, and jazz cultural performances and practices of composition; queer musicology and a history of Joni Mitchell; and the ways Quebec theatrical practices and celebrity are reshaping North American cultural landscapes.

Studies in Girl Culture: The cultural study of girls and their lifeworlds is a burgeoning area of scholarship across the humanities, social sciences, and the field of education. Drawing on the great interest in the topic shown at the McGill book launch of Claudia Mitchell and Jaclyn Reid Walsh’s new encyclopedia of girl studies, this working group will bring together researchers interested in questions of schooling, popular music, the “bedroom cultures” of girl play and discourse, and the institutional barriers and possibilities that shape girls’ lives.

Faculty who have confirmed interest in joining this axis

Alia Al-Saji (Philosophy)
Lisa Barg (Music)
Karin Bauer (German Studies)
Danielle Bobker (English, Concordia)
Jenny Burman (Communication Studies)
Kenneth Borris (English)
Nathalie Cooke (English)
Marguerite Deslauriers (Philosophy)
Jennifer Fishman (Social Studies of Medicine)
Michelle Hartman (Islamic Studies)
Allan Hepburn (English)
Mary Hunter (Art History)
Erin Hurley (English)
Berkeley Kaite (English)
Roe-Min Kok (Music)
Eric Lewis (Philosophy)
Lisa Marie Lorenzino (Music)
Bronwen Low (Education)
Fiona Ritchie (English)
Carrie Rentschler (Communication Studies)
Christine Ross (Art History)
Hasana Sharp (Philosophy)
Jonathan Sterne (Communication Studies)
Alanna Thain (English)
Andrea Tone (Social Studies of Medicine)
Lloyd Whitesell (Music)
Elizabeth Wood (Education)