Moving the Colour Line

Moving the Colour Line

Session #5 of the Race in Philosophy and Media Seminar* introduced by Sudeep Dasgupta. BG1 0.16, 5 April, 15.00 – 18.00. Contact:

What is “Blackness”? And who is asking? To answer the first question, one would also have to answer the second. Why? Because “Blackness” is and has been many things in different times and at different places: a target to be aimed at violently, for enslavement, exploitation and extermination; a weapon of political resistance crafted to combat those who target it; a moving resource of intellectual and political engagement exposing the lines of power that cleave social formations historically and geographically. Instead of an object of distanced academic contemplation, these three dimensions convert “Blackness” and the study of race into a disruptive force through which the prevalence of racist domination is considered intrinsic to both society and its study.
Keeping all three dimensions of “Blackness” in sight, this seminar session will argue that “movement” marks the political and intellectual force of the politics of race. The power of “Blackness” resides in how it has continually moved historically and geographically, and how every formulation exposed the politics of race, gender, sexuality, caste and nation. The three readings locate the politics of race at specific historical moments and in specific spaces to flesh out how “Blackness” was formulated, what it revealed about forms of power, and how it intervened in specific struggles.
W.E.B. Du Bois’ first formulation of the “Colour Line” exposed the impossible fit captured in the syncretic term “American Negro” after Emancipation. The assumption of equality in citizenship was undermined by the inequality maintained by a racist nation-state. What were the consequences for the “Souls of Black Folk” post-Emancipation and in the midst of Jim Crow? How did these Souls experientially live the contradictions of this failed transition from enslavement to emancipation? What did it say about progressive notions of historical development and the racialized bases for thinking the Nation? And how might it expose the continuing deformations of subjectively-felt identities in contemporary politics which demands assimilation, integration and the dissolution of alterity?

Saidiya Hartman’s poetic rendition of “Wayward Lives” defiantly articulates the lived realities of Black women in the U.S. to counter the ways they have been targeted in political, intellectual and media discourse. From being objects of sociological study, racist media discourse and political discourse of the U.S. state, Hartman makes them resistant subjects by voicing the affective, intellectual and political dimensions of gendered and raced subjects. Who decides what the “straight” line is from which these raced and gendered bodies drift? What queer trajectories of defiant speech and aesthetic invention do they draw, and how does this waywardness expose the racist assumptions dividing society and (en)gendering hate? Hazel Carby’s article situates the continuing necessity for the work Hartman produces by providing a genealogy of black women’s articulation of the intrinsic links between race, sexuality and imperialism within feminist thought.
Kamala Visweswaran emphatically reminds us that Un/common cultures were formed precisely through the transnational exchange of intellectual and political resistance to forms of racism. Tracing Du Bois’ dependence on caste theory from India in his conceptualization of race in the U.S., she tracks its repercussions today as Western racism, Indian caste oppression and sexist domination everywhere intersect in the relay between the U.S., South Africa and India.
The readings move the colour line between different geographical spaces and historical periods to flesh out the often-emaciated notions of “Blackness” which circulate in the academy. By giving substance to this term, both the political importance and intellectual wealth of anti-racist engagements outside and in the academy emerge as “Blackness” is understood as target, weapon and moving resource.


W.E.B. Du Bois, “Of Our Spiritual Strivings”, The Souls of Black Folk (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007); 7 – 14.
Saidiya Hartman, “The Terrible Beauty of the Slum”, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval (W.W. Norton & Co., London and New York, 2019).
Hazel Carby, “‘On the Threshold of Woman’s Era’: Lynching, Empire and Sexuality in Black Feminist Thought”, Critical Inquiry 12(1), 1985, pp: 262 – 277.
Kamala Visweswaran, Un/Common Cultures: Racism and the Rearticulation of Cultural Difference (Duke University Press, Durham, 2017) 68 – 72; 131 – 159.

*Change of Name of the Seminar to Race in Philosophy and Media.
The title of this year’s seminar is now changed to Race in Philosophy and Media. This results from the strong, but fair and convincing criticism we received from several colleagues including members of the University of Colour whose work we very much appreciate. We must admit that we have not been careful enough considering the name and the organization of the first half of the seminar, that therefore contributed to further marginalization of people of colour. This was not our intention, and we want to apologize for that. With the new title and the topics of the next meeting, we want to continue to engage in a much-needed discussion in a hopefully productive and inclusive manner.

Towards a Performative School — Performance Philosophy Biennial

Workshop by Silvia Bottiroli

Adopting the Twenty-four Terms for Examination proposed by Liam Gillick and his students at Columbia University, School of the Arts (2007) as a starting point and reference, this workshop aims to explore concrete strategies, tactics and choices that can make education in art performative, in the sense originally proposed by Austin (1979) and lately re-appropriated by Malzacher and Warsza (2017) in relation to the performing arts curation.

According to Austin, performative utterances are sentences which change the reality they are describing; for Malzacher and Warsza, performativity means “reality-making” and occurs when “theatre-like” techniques are applied to enable “reality-making” situations.

A “performative school” would then be a school that is capable to transform and produce reality, not only within itself but also in the larger field that it contributes to. What could be the features of such a school? To what extent can an art school change the artistic and social reality around it? How can it act both within its program and community, and towards the practices and discourses of the contemporary performing arts field, and their possible relation with overall societal and political themes?

This workshop is part of the biennial conference of the network of Performance Philosophy from 14-17 March 2019 at the University of Amsterdam and de Brakke Grond. The Biennial has as its topic Institutions and interventions into them. Debates and contributions are delivered by scholars and art practitioners alike, considering questions such as: How do artists and scholars wish to alter their institutions, schools and working places, how in fact might they already be doing so, and how is society altered through institutions? Before the workshop, from 09.30-10.30, Silvia Bottiroli will deliver a keynote lecture, the topic of which the workshop seeks to broaden.

Silvia Bottroli, PhD, is a curator, researcher, educator and writer in the field of performing arts.

She has directed Santarcangelo Festival (2012-2016) and curated the artistic and discursive programme ‘The May Events’ for KunstenFestivalDesArts and Vooruit (2018). She regularly co-curates discursive and educational platforms, collaborating a.o. with The School of Visual Theatre in Jerusalem, Homo Novus Festival in Riga, Gent University, Aleppo in Brussels and BUDA in Kortrijk. Since 2011 she teaches at Bocconi University in Milan. She has contributed to several publications, writing in particular about the political and ethical values of performance, the societal implication of artistic creation and spectatorship and in the issues of curating and rethinking the art institutions. Since September 2018 she is the artistic director of DAS Theatre in Amsterdam.

To participate in the workshop, we ask you to register in advance by submitting a short bio and answering the question: “What would you like from the art school of XXI century?”.

Preparatory reading:

– Malzacher, Florian, and Joanna Warsza. Empty Stages, Crowded Flats: Performativity as Curatorial Strategy. Live Art Development Agency, 2017.

Open to all. rMA Students can receive 3 EC for attending keynote, workshop specifically and the four days conference and subsequently writing a review of 1000 words.

Further information and sign-up via:

The number of participants is limited!

Friday, March 15th 2019,

10.45 – 12.15. Workshop Silvia Bottirolli

Location: De Brakke Grond, Rode Zaal

Performance Philosophy Biennial

The Challenge of Scaling: How Infrastructure is Lived

Lecture by Asher Boersma (Locating Media, Siegen University) ASCA Cities seminar Repairing Infrastructures, Thursday 14 March, 15:00-17:00 hrs., P.C. Hoofthuis (Spuistraat 134), Room 1.05.

Asher Boersma specialises in the history and practice of mediated control. His work connects media studies with historical anthropology, science and technology studies, workplace studies and sociology at large. In this lecture, he explores how West-European inland navigation infrastructure can be grasped synchronically, as a whole. A multisided ethnography of those who do the infrastructuring (Star 1999) revealed the isolation of key actors, like control room operators and skippers, while mobility also demands integration into larger sociomaterial constellations. How do they manage this situation, how do they gain overview? According to Latour and Hermant isolation is a prerequisite, as overview is found when one refrains from looking outside and instead focusses on sheets and screens, on the “view from nowhere,” which is the view from an “oligopticon,” from a “small whole” (Latour/Hermant 2006: 32, 45). Given that the mediated vision of steering huts increasingly resembles that of control rooms (Boersma 2018), we would only have to go to these places, zoom in and study technology in action (Heath/Luff 2004). Yet the actors living these infrastructures are constantly scaling, they oscillate between the micro (body, waterscape, fog), the meso (journey, traffic, water level) and the macro (market, network, climate). They do this from particular, embodied positions, as their ships are on the move and their control rooms are located at critical intersections. They prefer being able to look outside.

No registration necessary for this event, but please feel free to contact one of the organisers to gain access to the preparatory reading (Kasia Mika:, Jeff Diamanti:, Carolyn Birdsall:, or Simone Kalkman:

Screens and Screams, The Wild and the Weird

BG1 Turfdraagsterpad 9, room 0016 |  8 February, 3-6 pm.

Special ‘hors serie’ Seminar of the Film-Philosophy and Cross-Media Seminar on Media Ecologies, Ethics and Affect. Organized in collaboration with MIT, convened by Eugenie Brinkema. With Nadine Boljkovac and Julius Greve.

Professors Nadine Boljkovac of Falmouth University and Julius Greve of University of Oldenburg will present paired lectures exploring questions of media ecology, ethics, affect, and temporality. Professor Boljkovac’s lecture, “Screens and Screams: Post-Cinematic (Im)Materialities and Perception,” asks: In our perilous time of ‘post-truth,’ how are we to perceive of the cinema’s future? With respect to the cinema’s propensity to directly reveal time and its contact with the objects and subjects it exposes, via works including Michael Haneke’s Amour (2012), this talk contemplates how the medium might continue to expose ourselves to ourselves in ethical and affective modalities. Professor Greve’s lecture, “The Weird and the Wild: Media Ecologies of the Outré-Normative,” traces the conceptual affinities that the genre conception of “the weird” entertains in regard to earlier traditions, genres, and discourses in American literature and culture—chief of all, “the wild.” Examining the works of a diverse group of writers, theorists, and filmmakers, including Henry David Thoreau and Thomas Ligotti, H. P. Lovecraft and Wu Tsang, Greve will delineate the media-ecological and ethico-aesthetic conditions of the meeting between the weird and the wild in American artistic practices. These lectures are relevant for scholars working in film and media studies, cultural analysis, American studies, literary studies, gender studies, philosophy, and critical theory.

Nadine Boljkovac (PhD, Cambridge 2010) is Senior Lecturer in Film at Falmouth University. Her monograph examining affect and ethics via Chris Marker and Alain Resnais, Untimely Affects: Gilles Deleuze and an Ethics of Cinema (Edinburgh University Press 2013), was reissued in paperback in 2015. A second monograph in progress, Beyond Herself: Feminist (Auto)Portraiture and the Moving Image, assesses works by international filmmakers and media artists. Most recent peer-reviewed works appear in‘Materialising Absence in Film and Media,’ a Special Dossier (ed.s Saige Walton and Nadine Boljkovac) for Screening the Past: A Peer-Reviewed Journal of Screen History, Theory & Criticism (2018); The Anthem Handbook of Screen Theory (2018, ed.s Hunter Vaughan and Tom Conley); and On Style: Transdisciplinary Articulations (2018, ed. Björn Sonnenberg-Schrank).

Julius Greve is a lecturer and research associate at the Institute for English and American Studies, University of Oldenburg, Germany. He is the author ofShreds of Matter: Cormac McCarthy and the Concept of Nature (Dartmouth College Press, 2018), and of numerous articles on McCarthy, Mark Z. Danielewski, critical theory, and speculative realism. Greve has co-editedAmerica and the Musical Unconscious (Atropos, 2015), Superpositions: Laruelle and the Humanities (Rowman & Littlefield International, 2017), and “Cormac McCarthy Between Worlds” (2017), a special issue of EJAS:European Journal of American Studies.

Chinatown Invisible: Hybrid-Mapping and Making-Do

8 February, 3-5 pm. Room 1.01A, University Theatre (Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16-18)

Lecture by Liska Chan (University of Oregon) in ASCA Cities Seminar on Repairing Infrastructures

As a part of a larger conversation about landscape representation, this talk introduces and analyzes the hybrid-mapping I conducted in a creative research project about Manhattan’s Chinatown, entitled Chinatown Invisible. Hybrid-mapping is a type of image-making I have developed to interrogate the combined socio-cultural and biophysical legacies of a constantly changing landscape and expressly to facilitate a focused interpretation of the everyday lives of urban dwellers. In Chinatown Invisible I begin to interrogate a quotidian practice I call ‘making-do’, which I define as the act of using ordinary, readily available, and inexpensive materials to repair or adapt existing physical structures to suit the needs of immigrant occupants of urban neighborhoods. Capturing and understanding ‘making-do’, as I have defined it, is important because it is a practice that sheds light on the ways first-generation immigrant cultures informally claim space in new urban territories, and how those cultures shape the ongoing physical evolution of neighborhoods like Chinatown. At this time, when more people than ever are migrating, it is important to understand how immigrants shape their new landscapes, as well as how those landscapes shape immigrant cultures over time.

Liska Chan is Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Design at the University of Oregon. Her creative work, scholarship, and teaching pursue three intertwined lines of practice and thinking. The first is landscape palimpsests and involves research into historical patterns of human settlement and infrastructure that have left both social and physical legacies in contemporary landscapes. The second is landscape perception and the deep influences common perceptions and ideals have on how we build places. The third is a pursuit of new mapping methods combining both measurable and indeterminate aspects of landscape. Her creative practice and teaching reference phenomenology, visual studies, and perception theory while being grounded in techniques of drawing, art, and spatial design.

Preparatory reading for the seminar:
– Bustamente, Cesar Torres, “Crisis in Landscape Representation.” Kerb Journal of Landscape Architecture 17.1 (2009): 53-60.
– Boym, Svetlana. “On diasporic intimacy: Ilya Kabakov’s installations and immigrant homes.” Critical Inquiry 24.2 (1998): 498-524.
The readings are available via:

Please also note that the talk by Asher Boersma (University of Siegen), “The Challenge of Scaling: How Infrastructure is Lived” will take place on Thurs. 14 March, 3-5pm, in room 1.05, P.C. Hoofthuis (Spuistraat 134), 3-5pm. Our full second semester programme can be found at, and for other upcoming events/announcements, see the list below.