Session Summary


Salah Khan, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain

“Resistance and the Info-sphere”

The generalized use of so-called smart phones, the remarkable speed of their development, and the importance of algorithms in enhancing the willingness of users to increase their dependence on “new and improved” products and services have, today, become the norm. Moving beyond traditional state censorship that targets certain races, religions, sexual orientations, cultural activities, etc., empire now not only allows but encourages individuals to construct and promote their self-image in the hyper-realm of social media. While it has indeed been used effectively to resist state power, the new technology appears to thrive at the expense of essential elements of our human experience: reflection and even daydreaming are being replaced by disincarnated chatter and surfing. The works of artists and social critics such as Rimbaud, Odell, the Situationists, and Agamben shed light on the dynamics of loss of agency that these powerful and ubiquitous tools of monetizing private information promote. Methods and limitations of today’s growing resistance to the info-sphere will be the topic of our discussion.

Kristin Bright, Middlebury College

“Strangers in Their Own Flesh: An intimate story about Trump and Modi”

At the height of the culture wars in 1980s America, the religious right put the policing of intimate acts at the center of a discourse about the health of the nation. Restoring national vitality was intertwined with stopping abortion, pornography, homosexuality, divorce, and the entry of women into the public sphere. This paper reads Donald Trump’s America and Narendra Modi’s India against the family values politics of earlier periods while pointing to the biopolitical shifts that give new wings to authoritarianism. Trump and Modi’s nationalisms are at once besieged and transformed by vile congresswomen, unholy carnivores, and crazy socialists, which is what gives them affective resonance. At the same time, recognizing the intimacy of abjection should not blind us to the force it authorizes.

Carly Thomsen, Middlebury College

“Mechanisms of Empire’s Reproduction: An analysis of crisis pregnancy centers”

Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) are non-profits that view themselves as the provider arm of the anti-abortion movement. Today, there are three times more CPCs in the U.S. than abortion clinics, a significant change from the 1980s when there were more abortion clinics than CPCs (Munson 2009). Despite rarely having medical professionals on staff and avoiding medical regulation due precisely to their not being medical facilities, CPCs often work to appear as if they are medical facilities—an approach that critics worry gives more credence to the false information about abortion that they spread. Feminist activists and filmmakers consistently note that CPCs’ deceptive practices are enabled through their opening CPCs near abortion clinics, an approach through which they intentionally confuse, and thus intercept, those seeking abortion. CPC supporters defend their approaches by claiming that CPCs offer resources to low-income women in need—women who might be seeking abortions because they have so few resources. This paper maps CPCs in the U.S. and examines the demographic make-ups of their locations in terms of race, class, and population density, as well as CPCs’ average distances from abortion clinics. It considers the racial, classed, geographic, and gendered anxieties that have informed the spread of CPCs, ultimately arguing that contemporary abortion politics in the U.S. extend prior scholarly analyses of “patriarchal imperialism” (hooks 2014; Kittell 2010) and serve as a fruitful site for examining empire more broadly.

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