This year’s PSL will be organized around three clusters, each of which will involve readings, watching/listening sessions and making workshops in preparation for the experiment. Each of the clusters of After/Lives contends in different, but interrelated, ways with the ongoingness and the unfolding of a past that is not past, in the wake of the unmourned and unrepaired loss and damage to human and non-human world in pandemic and (post)colonial-ravaged worlds.
Spectrality will center on the political status, ethical dilemmas and affective charges associated with the unmourned dead of contemporary necroviolence and the proliferation of the living dead: from migrants and refugees in camps to precarious workers in nomadlands, from the disposable-at-any-minute racialized victims of police and vigilante violence to the immunocompromised of the pandemic. Today violence continues to hemorrhage from every (un)exceptional death (femicides, queer/trans murders, drowned/missing migrants), punctuating the longer temporalities of environmental catastrophe (climate change, toxicities) and the seemingly endless uptick of the nameless dead of viral infections (Covid dashboards), with critical demands to decenter the human dead and consider the relentless histories of human exploitation of animal death, plants and non-animal ecologies. Unjust and untimely deaths tend to return in the form of lingering materialities, haunted spatialities and media effects. The liminality of the corpse as after/life (simultaneously human and nonhuman, present and absent, sacred and abject, here and there, silent and expressive) has rendered it historically a core figure for theorizing ethics and responsibility, ontology, technology and the image itself. Spectrality is above all about relationality: the ghost appears before the living. What then are the possibilities for critique, intervention and redress activated in witnessing, re-presenting, and dis-posing the human/animal/more-than-human dead today? Is spectropolitics the political idiom of our days or has it reached its limit of effectiveness in a posthuman age?
Ruination will explore the world-un/making powers of degradation, malfunction, fragmentation, dereliction, defacement, depletion, abandonment, and/or decay. Focus here is less on memorializing the ruins of monumental landscapes and more on interfacing the haunted quality of what people get left with: i.e., the afterlives of ruined structures, sensibilities, environments, and things. Consider how what is in the process of ruination remains, something unfinished. Ruination then is as much a generative and interactive process of re/making and becoming as it is an interruptive and deconstructive form of unmaking. Ruination so conceived bequeaths the building materials for revitalized sensibilities of re(-)collection, which work with (what/who) remains to trouble the positivity of the given (capitalist, racist, imperialist, settler colonial, anthropocentric) order by constellating the fragments of occluded histories left in the wake of ruination’s ever-shifting forms and durations. How might we attune our creative practices of re(-)collection to the haunting traces of human and more-than-human histories and ecologies of ruination? Can we think of ruination in the absence — as the absenting of – an anthropocentric monumentality?
Survivance – A concept inherited from the Anishinaabe critic and writer Gerald Vizenor, survivance conveys an active sense of presence and inheritance over historical absence and deracination. Survivance is not commensurate with survival as the individualistic neoliberal survival of the fittest, so glaringly celebrated in pandemic times. Survivance instead names a spectral form of existence that is neither life nor death but instead reroutes both through collective forms of heritability, memory, and haunting. Survivance names a general economy of afterness, in which the dead remain among the living as an uncertain inheritance that must be confronted but cannot be possessed. Survivance thus recalls us to a responsibility that imposes itself on us, if we let it, to learn how to inherit a more desirable future as a shared legacy that is nevertheless at odds with itself. Thus, the challenge of survivance as Povinelli (2021) has recently formulated is that it “forces us to think about alliances with others forged through histories of dispossession without forgetting that we do not all share the same sedimentations of the history of dispossessions.”
More details about the faculty involved in each cluster and the planned activities will be forthcoming.