When we talk about the forms of social cooperation that we call the commons, where and how do we identify them? Do these forms appear prior to, outside of, or beyond capitalist social and material relations, in the spectral shape of what has been irrevocably lost in the ascendency of capitalism or of what we might have yet to gain in the midst of its crisis? Or, can we take a different approach, one that seeks the commons inside such relations, embedded and contoured within them, and yet irreducible to the smooth reproduction of capitalist economic power?
Alex Pittman’s dissertation, “Dispossessive Acts: Space, the Body, and Other Properties,” follows the latter course as it takes up the political, historical, and methodological issues that trail these questions. His work moves across a range of aesthetic objects, all of which mediate and index crises of gendered and sexual divisions labor, in order to chart a series of intersections between critiques of capitalism and critiques of subjectivity. His research approaches these intersections, however, not immediately in the commons but in its seeming negation, its late capitalist other, dispossession. He further contends that dispossession, which signals in a contradictory form both the stifling enclosures and opening possibilities of political mobilization on the commons, has functioned as a highly ambivalent trope within U.S. culture. “Dispossessive Acts” locates aesthetics as the place to theorize these dense intersections in all of the complex ways that art objects mediate crises of value and personhood in the precarious economic, social, and psychic milieu of late capitalism. In this work, Alex draws from and re-poses the insights of critical imaginaries like feminism, queer theory, and critical race theory, all of which help mediate the questions of pleasure and pain, domination and resistance, and exploitation and subversion that make up the problem of dispossession. How can the performance of dispossession disturb easy claims of access to the commons, at the same time that it traces collective, common practices inside of relations that otherwise function to subordinate bodies to economic productivity and discipline?
During the fall semester, Alex will teach “Senses of the Commons,” a course that will introduce students to a range of theories, practice, and aesthetics of social cooperation, with a particular focus on the contributions of feminist, queer, and anti-racist scholarship to field this field. He is currently completing his PhD in the Department of Performance Studies at New York University. Since 2008, he has been a member of the editorial collective of Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory.
In 2008, comic books are much more than the glossy flash bang that many think of when they hear the term. From comics to graphic novels to comic-inspired film and television series, the growing field of comics arts has evolved into an intricate crux of story writing, visual art and so much more.
This year, Hobart and William Smith will have its own expert to explore this complex and dynamic field. As a part of its 2008-2009 lecture series, titled "Animation," the Fisher Center for the Study of Women and Men welcomes its 2008-2009 Pre-Doctoral Fellow Jillian Burcar to campus.
After arriving at HWS, Burcar explains, "There were a couple of things that drew me to the Fisher Center and to apply for the fellowship: one was the equality in the study of gender in the Fisher Center; it's the Fisher Center for the Study of Women and Men, not just women. Also, the opportunity to create and teach my own course was a huge draw as well."
"It's exciting to be able to design my own course," Burcar said. "It's something that you're not typically able to do as a graduate student."
And Burcar has drawn up a course worth anticipating, titled "Zombies, Witches and Cyborgs: Animating Gender and Monstrosity," "In the course, we'll be looking at the root of various monsters and exploring them in their contemporary counterparts," she explained. "I'm looking forward to taking all of the ideas and mediums, from comic books to graphic novels to film, and creating a dialogue with my students about all of it."
"I hope that by the end of the course, my students are able to understand what they've learned about literature and comics arts in a creative as well as analytical way; I want them to be able to 'read between the panels,' so to speak, and not only for my class, but as a skill they'll be able to carry with them," Burcar said. "I don't want to divorce the creative side of teaching in this course, whether it's in assigning creative projects to my students or asking them to think uniquely and originally-I really want to animate their thinking in this area."
Burcar is a Ph.D. candidate in Literature and Creative Writing (Fiction) at the University of Southern California (USC). She is on track to complete both the Visual Studies and Gender Studies Graduate Certificates at USC. Burcar earned her B.A. in English with a concentration in literature and an extended writing minor. Throughout her academic career, she has also been honored with the Mildred Fox Hanson Award in 2007 and 2008, the 2006 Virginia Middleton Summer Award, the 2003 and 2004 Maryland State Academic Excellence Award as well as many others. Burcar has also worked as an assistant lecturer and writing center consultant at USC. Recently, she has given several talks on comics-related topics across the country.
"When you think about what technology is, cell phones, computers and other useful devices typically come to mind, says 2007-08 Fisher Center Pre-doctoral Fellow Cynthia Current. "But I'm beginning to explore technology in a much more broad sense with my students, Current explains, referring to her fall course offering, Technology, Gender and Memory. "We're also taking a more innovative and expansive look at gender and memory as well as the ways in which technology, gender and memory interrelate.
As pre-doctoral fellow, Current is responsible for adding her tech-savvy perspective outside of the classroom as well. "I am required to teach one course each semester centered around this year's Fisher Center theme of Gender and Memory, says Current. "However, there's a lot more to being a Fisher Center Pre-doctoral Fellow. I serve on the Fisher Center Steering Committee, which makes decisions on the speakers for this year and next year as well as next year's theme and pre-doctoral fellow. This is a wonderfully inter-disciplinary group of scholars involved in everything from the sciences to religious studies at HWS."
While enhancing the academic lives of others, Current and her academic work is simultaneously inspired. "Being included in the many experiences here at Hobart and William Smith is incredibly beneficial to my professional and scholarly growth, says Current, a doctoral candidate in English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Although I am busy with various committees and becoming an active member of the HWS community, I still have time for my own writing and research. What's amazing to me is how much my work in the Fisher Center relates directly to my dissertation. Current's thesis explores the impact of Darwinism on American literature between 1880 through 1910. Specifically, she studies the literary effects of Darwinism evolutionary theory and other technologies, such as that of identity, race and gender.
Odhiambo, a dancer, choreographer and researcher, defines dance as a point of contact through which ideas, inspiration, movement, and meaning can travel. Her dances address how barriers of difference may generate a sense of unfamiliarity and discomfort, weighting the body with histories of burdensome oppressions.
While on campus, she taught two courses and performed "Sand and Bone" as part of the Fisher Center series. “Moving Cultures: Dance, Identity and Belief,” focused on dance and writing as ways of learning about personal, social and cultural identities. Through “Contact Zone: Dancing Pluralism, Culture and Community,” a 300-level course, Odhiambo taught her dance technique, drawing relationships between experiences of people in Africa and in the United States.
Her choreography and research explores connections between dance as a physical/artistic expression and questions related to the study of culture. She has shown choreography and performed in dance works in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
With a master of arts in education and a bachelor of arts in women’s studies, both from the University of British Columbia, she has taught college-level dance studies, intercultural studies and literature since 2001. Previous to this, while a performance artist in Canada, she worked for aboriginal and other women’s activist organizations.
While at HWS, Yvonne C. Zimmerman taught a course titled "Gender and American Religion," which examined how gender is produced and performed through the belief and practice of religion in the United States. She also taught "Human Trafficking: Political Analysis and Religious Responses."
Zimmerman holds a bachelor's from Goshen College in Indiana, where she double-majored in Psychology and Bible, and Religion in Philosophy. She also holds a master of theological studies from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta and a doctorate in religious and theological studies from the University of Denver and Iliff School of Theology.
She has taught at Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood, Colo., and the Iliff School and is a contributing editor and pilot co-facilitator for The Tamar Project, a curriculum for faith communities wishing to address the needs of survivors of sexual abuse, at Washington Park United Church of Christ in Denver.
Todorova explores gender assumptions behind theories of public finance and money, as well as their consequences for policy formulation. Another area of expertise is the interrelation between household finances and activities such as unpaid labor, paid labor and consumption.
While at the Colleges, she taught two courses. The Political Economy of Globalization focused on contemporary topics in the context of gender and economic theory. The other, Gender Dimensions of Finance and Budgets, illustrated how gender affects micro- and macro-economic issues.
Todorova has a B.S. in agribusiness economics from Plovdiv University in Bulgaria, an M.A. in economics from UMKC and a Ph.D. from UMKC. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Economics at Wright State University.
Gao is a social and cultural historian of modern China and Japan. While on campus, she taught "Gender History in East Asia since Mid-19th Century: East Meets West," exploring how gender interacted with nation building, state construction, revolutions, culture, marriage and family, sports and medicine in the modernization of East Asian Nations. She also taught a course on Asian Film.
Gao holds a bachelor's degree from Inner Mongolian Normal University in China, and a master's degree from Peking University and a Ph.D from University of Iowa. She is currently an Assistant Professor of History at Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario.
The 2013-2014 Fisher Center Predoctoral Fellow application is available to download (PDF).