Probability

In this episode of High Theory, Justin Joque talks with Júlia Irion Martins about Probability. This conversation is part of our High Theory in STEM series, which tackles topics in science, technology, engineering, and medicine from a highly theoretical perspective. If you want to learn more about the philosophical, technical, and economic implications of probability, check out Justin’s new book, Revolutionary Mathematics: Artificial Intelligence, Statistics, and the Logic of Capitalism (Verso, 2022).

Justin Joque is a visualization librarian at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Justin’s research focuses on philosophy, media, and technology and he is also the author of Deconstruction Machines: Writing in the Age of Cyberwar (University of Minnesota Press, 2018).

Image: © 2022 Saronik Bosu

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Melancholy

In this episode of High Theory, Laura Stokes talks about melancholy. One of the four humors in ancient humoral medicine, melancholy, or black bile, is a fluid substance and spiritual principle that was thought to move within the human body. A proper quantity of black bile allows one to be calm and contemplative, thoughtful and withdrawn. A superabundance produces sadness, indigestion, and a host of other evils. Research is a melancholy practice; scholars are prone to melancholic dispositions.

Throughout the episode Laura refers to Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholyan early modern text that describes the sources, symptoms, and treatments for a surplus of melancholy, in a rather meandering way, with an entire separate disquisition on love melancholy. It was published in multiple versions over Burton’s lifetime – people usually cite the 1638 edition.

Laura Stokes is an associate professor of history at Stanford University where they study Early Modern Europe. Their first book Demons of Urban Reform: Early European Witch Trials and Criminal Justice, 1430-1530 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) examines the origins of witchcraft prosecution in fifteenth-century Europe against the backdrop of a general rise in the prosecution of crime and other measures of social control. They are currently working on a microhistory of a murder conspiracy within the Basel butchers’ guild at the turn of the sixteenth century, which is really about Early Modern economic cultures. And they run pretty amazing summer reading groups.

Image: © 2022 Saronik Bosu

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100th Episode: Public Humanities

Saronik Bosu talks about humanities work engaging diverse communities and publics, misconceptions about what the ‘public’ in public humanities might mean as well as the recent attention paid to it by academic departments. In a longer version of the conversation, some individual instances of various digital humanities and archival projects are discussed. Here he speaks mainly from the perspective of his own work as a humanities podcaster and creator of humanities programming.

Saronik Bosu is a doctoral candidate at the Department of English, New York University. He researches literary rhetoric and economic thought in contexts of decolonization. He is co-host of this podcast and the 2022-23 NYU-Mellon Public Humanities Doctoral Fellow. His work has appeared on journals like Interventions and Movable Type, as well as Avidly and Post45. He also makes art and works together its integration with scholarship.

Image: © 2022 Saronik Bosu

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Red Cat

In this episode of High Theory, Leigh Claire La Berge talks about red cats: communist cats, revolutionary tigers, radical felines of all stripes. The red cat is a provocation, and an invitation to think differently about economic history. Leigh Claire continues our spooky theory of cat concepts for Halloween 2022. 

Her book Marx for Cats: A Radical Bestiary will be published by Duke University Press this coming summer. It takes seriously the premise that you can tell the history of capitalism through the figure of the cat. As a bestiary, it has a hundred pictures of cats, from a vast archive that spans the ninth century to the present. It began as a series of filmed conversations with cats on Marxist theory.  You can watch them at marxforcats.com 

In the episode she references The Social Contract by Jean Jacques Rousseau. Each of the two cover images from the initial publication depict cats.  One of them forms the cover image for this episode. In the longer conversation, she referenced Kate Evans’s Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg (Verso 2015) and Drew Pendergrass and Troy Vettese’s Half-Earth Socialism: A Plan to Save the Future from Extinction, Climate Change and Pandemics (Verso, 2022). 

Leigh Claire La Berge is an Associate Professor of English at BMCC CUNY, where she studies the intersection of contemporary cultural production and economic forms. Her prior books include Scandals and Abstraction: Financial Fiction of the Long 1980s (Oxford, 2014) and Wages Against Artwork: Decommodified Labor and the Claims of Socially Engaged Art (Duke, 2019). 

On Not Knowing

This episode of High Theory is an edited recording of a book launch event with Emily Ogden for her new book On Not Knowing: How to Love and Other Essays (U Chicago Press, 2022).

The online event took place on Thursday 7/14/22 at 1pm ET.

On Not Knowing is a suite of personal essays on the value of not knowing. Each begins with the phrase “How to” – “How to Catch a Minnow”; “How to Give Birth”; “How to Elude Your Captors.” Rather than the defensiveness of willful ignorance, this collection celebrates the defenselessness of not knowing yet—possibly of not knowing ever. Ultimately, this book shows how resisting the temptation of knowingness and embracing the position of not knowing becomes a form of love.

In the episode she talks about the psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott, David Russell’s book Tact: Aesthetic Liberalism and the Essay Form in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Princeton UP, 2019), Elizabeth Hardwick’s Sleepless NightsBrian Blanchfield’s Proxies (Nightboat Books, 2016), and the biblical Book of Revelations.

Image: © 2022 Saronik Bosu

Standpoint Theory

Soham Sen talks about standpoint theory, a method of understanding the ways in which individual and collective experience influence public discourses. He begins from its origins in the civil rights movement and in the innovations of feminist thought, and follows it up with a discussion of its efficacy in understanding contemporary media. 

Soham Sen is pursuing his Masters in the Department of Communication Studies and is the Assistant Course Director of Public Speaking at the College of Media & Communication. His area of research includes border rhetoric and negotiation of immigrant identity , postcolonialism, and performance studies.

Image: © 2022 Saronik Bosu

Digital Lethargy

In this episode of High Theory, Tung-Hui Hu talks with Júlia Irion Martins about Digital Lethargy, as part of our High Theory in STEM series. As a modern ailment, digital lethargy is a societal pathology, like earlier forms of acedia, otium, and neurasthenia, but also a disease of performing selfhood within the disposable identities of contemporary, digital service work. In this episode, Tung-Hui Hu makes the argument that digital lethargy helps us turn away from the demand to constantly “be ourselves” and see the potential of quieter, more ordinary forms of survival in the digital age such as collective inaction.

In the episode he discusses Heike Geissler’s Seasonal Associate (Semiotexte/Native Agents, 2018, trans. Katy Derbyshire). He also references the film Sleeping Beauty (dir. Julia Leigh, 2011), Douglas A. Blackmon’s Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II (Anchor, 2008), Heike Geissler’s Seasonal Associate (Semiotexte/Native Agents, 2018, trans. Katy Derbyshire), and Cathy Park Hong’s Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning (Penguin Random House, 2020). Other mentions include the artist Aria Dean and scholar Achille Mbembe.

Tung-Hui Hu is a poet and scholar. His new website has the best domain ending: tunghui.hu He is a 2022-23 Rome Prize Fellow in Literature at the American Academy in Rome and an associate professor of English at the University of Michigan. His book on this topic, Digital Lethargy: Dispatches from an Age of Disconnection (MIT Press, 2022), will be published on October 4

Image: © 2022 Saronik Bosu

Echo

An echo is a sonic reflection of an emission bouncing back to its origin, which if delayed long enough sounds like a response. The echo of one’s voice is constitutively not one’s voice, and therefore gives an uncanny impression. Amit Pinchevski talks about the myths, metaphors, and materialities of echoes, the subject of his recent book.

Amit Pinchevski is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Journalism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of By Way of Interruption: Levinas and the Ethics of Communication (Duquesne University Press, 2005) and Transmitted Wounds: Media and the Mediation of Trauma (Oxford University Press, 2019), and Echo (MIT Press, 2022).

Image: Echo Wall, Temple of Heaven, Beijing, 1987 by Nathan Hughes Hamilton, the original available here.

Finding Your Purpose

This episode is the edited version of a live event held on June 17 2022 to celebrate the launch of Finding Your Purpose: a Higher Calling Workbook for Justice-Oriented Scholars in an Unjust World.

Higher Calling is a project for everyone who decided to become a scholar because they believed in the mission of higher education, and specifically, for everyone who saw participating in and working for higher education as a way to turn the pursuit of justice into a career. It aims to help you understand how to better align a career in academia with your sense of purpose; how to recognize when your purposes are no longer served by academia; how to pursue scholarly purpose outside of an academic career; and when and how to fight back against the broken system which is higher education in the United States.

At times, one may wonder if the compromises are too great, the labor conditions untenable, or the barriers to doing meaningful work too high. This project aims to help you navigate these moments alone and in community through essays, exercises, and rituals.

You can download the workbook here.

Speakers:

Hannah Alpert-Abrams organizes the Visionary Futures Collective, and writes about labor, technology, and higher education.

Matt Cohen is a professor of English and scholar of Early American literature at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Sonya Donaldson is a professor of English and scholar of Africana studies at New Jersey City University.

Quinn Dombrowski is an academic technology specialist and digital humanist at Stanford University.

Carter Hogan is a writer and new trans folk musician based in Austin, Texas.

Image: © 2022 Saronik Bosu

Neoliberalism

In this episode of High Theory, Troy Vettese talks with us about neoliberalism.  It turns out the neoliberals aren’t actually a secret cabal of dastardly villains, but a group of right wing public intellectuals who want to be taken seriously by the academic establishment, and who have been remarkably successful in reshaping the world in their image. 

In the episode, Troy references the work of Quinn Slobodian, Philip Mirowski, and Dieter Plehwe on the history of neoliberalism. They have written a book together on the Nine Lives of Neoliberalism (Verso, 2020). He also points out that the Mont Pelerin Society, the “secret society” of the neoliberals, which isn’t so secret at all, has a website: www.montpelerin.org 

Troy recently co-authored a book with Drew Pendergrass called Half-Earth Socialism: A Plan to Save the Future from Extinction, Climate Change and Pandemics (Verso, 2022). They also made a game, in collaboration with some super cool game designers, where you can make your own plan to avoid ecological catastrophe. You can find it at play.half.earth

Eco-Marxists are a rare breed. Troy Vettese is an environmental historian, who writes about animal studies and energy history in addition to penning proposals to save the world. He received his PhD in 2019 from NYU and is currently a Max Weber Postdoctoral Fellow at the European University Institute. He also has very curly hair. 

This episode’s image is a figure in ISOTYPE, a picture language popularized by a socialist planner named Otto Neurath, who appears in the book and the episode. It is taken from a statistical world atlas made by Neurath, held by the David Rumsey Map Collection, David Rumsey Map Center, Stanford Libraries, and available in a digital form through archive.org.

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