Category: Uncategorized

Winston Berg @ USL

“Knowing with the Enemy: Discernment Practices in Conspiracy Theory Research”

Winston Berg | PhD Candidate, Department of Political Science

Discussant: Anna Berg | PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology

 

Wednesday, May 18, 4:30pm – 6:00pm CST

Location: Haskell 101 and Zoom 

(Meeting ID: 995 2954 1260, Passcode: 959281)

To receive a copy of the pre-circulated paper or for the zoom link, please email zarrington@uchicago.edu 

Paper Abstract: 

In this chapter I discuss the formalized practices employed by anonymous researchers on 8chan’s /qresearch/ subforum as they monitor and interpret current events, share theories and produce conspiracy theory material for dissemination on other platforms. Based on computer-mediated ethnographic encounters with a range of “anons”, I suggest that participants’ motives and relationships to the claims of conspiracy theory vary with their institutional context. In support of this claim I examine the interplay of computerized, coded institutions with the formal “code” of conduct employed by research forum participants and the informal norms of anon forum culture, elaborating how these institutions enable decentralized conspiracy theorists to coordinate and collaborate while deferring questions of theory and belief. Specifically, I focus on two interrelated practices of discernment on the boards. First, anonymous participants socialize new users and enforce the limits of legitimate participation by teaching the skills necessary to discern authentic participants from “motivated agents” and other interlopers. Second, participants systematically identify information items as candidates for belief and doubt through practices of identification and provocation.


*This convening is open to all invitees regardless of vaccination status and, because of ongoing health risks to the unvaccinated, those who are unvaccinated are expected to adopt the risk mitigation measures advised by public health officials (masking and social distancing, etc.). Public convening may not be safe for all and carries a risk for contracting COVID-19, particularly for those unvaccinated. Participants will not know the vaccination status of others, including venue staff, and should follow appropriate risk mitigation measures.

Ali Feser @ USL

“Eastman Kodak and the Chemoaesthetics of Whiteness, or Film as a Material Fantasy of Race”

Ali Feser | Harper Schmidt Fellow & Collegiate Associate Professor

Discussant: Rebecca Journey | Teaching Fellow in the Social Sciences

*Wednesday, May 4, 5pm – 6:30pm CST

Location: Haskell 101 and Zoom 

*Please note the change in time.

To receive a copy of the pre-circulated paper or for the zoom link, please email zarrington@uchicago.edu

 

Paper Abstract: Founded in 1880 in Rochester, New York, Eastman Kodak was the second largest chemical company in the U.S., and it is said to have produced eighty percent of all the film stock in the world. Over the course of the twentieth century, however, Kodak produced much more than film; they also manufactured the American Dream of the white, middle class, heteronormative “good life.” Mass mediated images shot on Kodak film gave visual form to national fantasies with their archetypal subjects and landscapes. Through instruction manuals and advertisements, Kodak crafted photography into an essential practice for imaging and reproducing the family, and they made it possible for consumers to image themselves within these collective fantasies.

I argue that these fantasies of the capitalist good life issues from the chemical structure of film and the organizational forms of labor at Kodak’s factories in Rochester. There, Kodak’s social welfare programs–intended to dissuade workers from unionizing– shaped the life experiences and aesthetic dispositions of Kodak workers. Workers, in turn, applied this regime of sensuous knowledge to the design of photographic technologies; they inscribed into cameras and emulsion and reproduced in Kodak ads a morally saturated way of seeing that normalized whiteness as the color of the “good life.”

As such, this essay draws from forty months of ethnographic, archival, and visual research in Rochester to theorize how the chemoaesthetics of Kodak film became a normative template for how to see the world. It juxtaposes the history of the invention of Kodachrome film with the story of George Eastman’s support of eugenics research. It narrates how the dreamspace of film was shaped by the white homogeneity of Kodak’s workforce and the ideology of “family” that anchored Kodak’s paternalistic order of industrial capitalism.


*This convening is open to all invitees regardless of vaccination status and, because of ongoing health risks to the unvaccinated, those who are unvaccinated are expected to adopt the risk mitigation measures advised by public health officials (masking and social distancing, etc.). Public convening may not be safe for all and carries a risk for contracting COVID-19, particularly for those unvaccinated. Participants will not know the vaccination status of others, including venue staff, and should follow appropriate risk mitigation measures.

LaShaya Howie @ USL

“Death Work”

LaShaya Howie | PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology

Discussant: Zachary Lazarus | PhD Student, Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice

Wednesday, April 20, 4:30pm – 6:00pm CST

Location: Haskell 101 and Zoom

To receive a copy of the pre-circulated paper or for the zoom link, please email zarrington@uchicago.edu

Paper Abstract: “Death Work” follows the preceding chapter to document the material practices of death care aside from bodywork. It focuses on the bureaucratic duties (i.e. liaising with government agencies and insurance companies) and ceremonial components (i.e. arranging and conducting funerals and memorials). Moreover, this chapter brings together the varied ways that funeral professionals describe, understand, and perform their labor. Their insights ethnographically ground an elaboration of my concept of death work, which includes but exceeds “official” duties of death care while also accounting for modes of arguably specialized expertise, which practitioners often attribute to being Black and having a mostly Black customer base with specific needs. The chapter also asks, what kind of labor is death work? It argues that death work is multifaceted, embodied, somewhat obscure, professionalized care work.  


*This convening is open to all invitees regardless of vaccination status and, because of ongoing health risks to the unvaccinated, those who are unvaccinated are expected to adopt the risk mitigation measures advised by public health officials (masking and social distancing, etc.). Public convening may not be safe for all and carries a risk for contracting COVID-19, particularly for those unvaccinated. Participants will not know the vaccination status of others, including venue staff, and should follow appropriate risk mitigation measures.

Jolen Martinez @ USL

“Forged as Info: Cybernetics, Machine Learning, and an ‘Informational Form of Life’”

Jolen Martinez | PhD Student, Department of Anthropology

Discussant: Lily Ye | Teaching Fellow in the Social Sciences

Wednesday, April 6, 4:30pm – 6:00pm CST

Location: Haskell 101 and Zoom

To receive a copy of the pre-circulated paper or for the zoom link, please email zarrington@uchicago.edu 

Paper Abstract: In this paper, I interrogate the concept of “information” for its epistemic extractivism and dominating objectivity in contemporary data science by undertaking a digital ethnographic analysis of the Summer Institute for Computational Social Science (SICSS) in Chicago, and a subsequent machine learning project I participated in. From my participation in these data science spaces, I trace a genealogy of the concept of information from cybernetic epistemologies to its presupposed datafiability of the world and examine how contemporary machine learning processes reproduce violent informational discourses through their algorithmic transformations of data via processes like vectorization and diagramming. I contend that these informational discourses, and the machine learners (both human and algorithmic) that reproduce them, construct an image of the world as composed of ubiquitously extractable data, excluding race and settler colonialism from their image. Ultimately, I argue for “information” to be examined archaeologically, as a dominating series of discourses that have staked out an already-existent reality, a lens through which most types of machine learners see and forge the world. To confront this “informational form of life”, I suggest an effort at replacing this dominant image of extractable information with one of vibrancy and radiance.


*This convening is open to all invitees regardless of vaccination status and, because of ongoing health risks to the unvaccinated, those who are unvaccinated are expected to adopt the risk mitigation measures advised by public health officials (masking and social distancing, etc.). Public convening may not be safe for all and carries a risk for contracting COVID-19, particularly for those unvaccinated. Participants will not know the vaccination status of others, including venue staff, and should follow appropriate risk mitigation measures.

Briel Kobak @ USL

“Heaven on Earth in America”
 
Briel Kobak | PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology
 
Discussant: Alex Blanchette | Associate Professor
Anthropology & Environmental Studies, Tufts University
 
Wednesday, March 2, 4:30pm – 6:00pm CST
 
Location: Zoom
To receive a copy of the pre-circulated paper or for the zoom link, please email zarrington@uchicago.edu 
Paper Abstract: This chapter is a draft of the Introduction for my dissertation, Heaven on Earth in America. The dissertation itself is centered around the question: what constitutes an historic transformation in a town where so many have predicted either the end of the world or its radical new beginning? New Harmony has hosted not just one but three Utopian projects between 1814 and the mid twentieth century, which range from preparations for a Second Coming to a contemporary effort to act as a modern sanctuary. Despite outward appearances of peace and quiet and tranquility, this project charts the various fears, anxieties, and animosities that residents express in the time of my fieldwork between 2015 and 2020. Though there is no clear prophecy as to the end of times in the present, particular grievances as to the cost of maintaining infrastructure, the wealth of future generations, and the lack of appreciation for its particular version of United States history are telling manifestations of white middle class anxiety in a stage of liberalism variably described as late, ruinous, or failed.

*This convening is open to all invitees regardless of vaccination status and, because of ongoing health risks to the unvaccinated, those who are unvaccinated are expected to adopt the risk mitigation measures advised by public health officials (masking and social distancing, etc.). Public convening may not be safe for all and carries a risk for contracting COVID-19, particularly for those unvaccinated. Participants will not know the vaccination status of others, including venue staff, and should follow appropriate risk mitigation measures.

Hannah Norwood @ USL

“Being Seen by the State: Visibility and Counting the 2020 U.S. Census”
 
Hannah Norwood | PhD Candidate 
Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice
 
Discussant: Paula Martin | PhD Candidate 
Department of Comparative Human Development
 
Wednesday, February 16th, 4:00-5:30pm
 
Location: Zoom
To receive a copy of the pre-circulated paper or for the zoom link, please email zarrington@uchicago.edu 
Paper Abstract: The contradictory stakes of being seen by the state are at the very center of U.S. decennial census counting, which has historically weaponized both visibility and invisibility through counting. At the same time, it produces data that is relied on to enforce civil rights legislation and for the distribution of congressional power and federal resources. In the lead up to the 2020 Census, the Trump administration and new Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross made attempts to compile citizenship data, in the hopes of cutting immigrants out of the U.S. apportionment base and maintaining minority political power. As most of the pathways to citizenship data were legally blocked, the Trump administration took other, less overt, steps towards invisibilization through the count. My dissertation draws on ethnographic fieldwork that followed the broad coalition of organizers, elected officials, and policy workers that attempted to avert an undercount in Chicago and Illinois, and comprised a big part of 2020 enumeration before any census form reached the bureau. In this chapter, I argue that the federal actions around the 2020 Census were taken up as attempts by the state to not see. Instead of minimizing visibility due to concerns about surveillance, the counting campaign centered visibility, even promising to surveil the state. This chapter explores how visibility was scaled through counting as an act of resistance, of self-determination and truth-telling, and even the most elemental right of American democracy. Despite the private articulation of less lofty goals, a progressive narrative of a future where everyone is visible and everyone counts, if we could just get those questions right, pervaded census counting. Leaving room for critique of the census’ past and of the form today, this narrative still foreclosed substantive critique of political process.

*This convening is open to all invitees regardless of vaccination status and, because of ongoing health risks to the unvaccinated, those who are unvaccinated are expected to adopt the risk mitigation measures advised by public health officials (masking and social distancing, etc.). Public convening may not be safe for all and carries a risk for contracting COVID-19, particularly for those unvaccinated. Participants will not know the vaccination status of others, including venue staff, and should follow appropriate risk mitigation measures.

Abou Farman @ USL

Abou Farman | Associate Professor of Anthropology, The New School
Wednesday, February 2, 4:30-6:00pm CST
(Note: This session will be held remotely)
To receive a copy of the pre-circulated paper or for the zoom link, please email zarrington@uchicago.edu

*This convening is open to all invitees regardless of vaccination status and, because of ongoing health risks to the unvaccinated, those who are unvaccinated are expected to adopt the risk mitigation measures advised by public health officials (masking and social distancing, etc.). Public convening may not be safe for all and carries a risk for contracting COVID-19, particularly for those unvaccinated. Participants will not know the vaccination status of others, including venue staff, and should follow appropriate risk mitigation measures.

Talia Gordon @ USL

On ‘doing’: Discourses and Enactments of 
Civic Participation in Flint, MI
 
Talia Gordon | PhD Candidate, Comparative Human Development
 
Discussant: Ali Feser | Harper Schmidt Fellow and Collegiate Assistant Professor in the Social Sciences
 
Wednesday, January 19th, 4:30-6:00pm (Zoom)
To receive a copy of the pre-circulated paper or for the zoom link, please email zarrington@uchicago.edu
Paper Abstract: This chapter describes discourses and enactments of civic participation in Flint, MI, a community perpetually tasked with recovering from crisis. While crisis has been theorized as a context within which social and political formations are reconfigured, my dissertation focuses instead on recovery from crisis as an analytic frame through which to understand how people organize themselves in relation to one another, to place, to the state, and to other sites of institutional power. Drawing on 2 years of fieldwork in Flint from 2018-2020, this chapter theorizes “doing” as an expression of a cultural politics of civic participation shaped by the legacies and ongoing effects of government retrenchment, deindustrialization, and racial and political disenfranchisement.

*This convening is open to all invitees regardless of vaccination status and, because of ongoing health risks to the unvaccinated, those who are unvaccinated are expected to adopt the risk mitigation measures advised by public health officials (masking and social distancing, etc.). Public convening may not be safe for all and carries a risk for contracting COVID-19, particularly for those unvaccinated. Participants will not know the vaccination status of others, including venue staff, and should follow appropriate risk mitigation measures.

Paula Martin @ USL

“FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE: Risk, Regret, and Responsibility”

 
Paula Martin | PhD Candidate, Comparative Human Development
 

Discussant: Jade Wong | PhD Candidate, Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice

Wednesday, December 1st, 4:30-6:00pm
Location: Haskell Hall 101 & on Zoom
 

To receive a copy of the pre-circulated paper & for the Zoom link, please email: zarrington@uchicago.edu

Paper Abstract: This dissertation chapter investigates the framing of THE REST OF YOUR LIFE in order to explore the logics of risk, regret, and responsibility that structure how gender care is provided to youth after puberty. I argue that much of gender care is oriented around two major risks to be prevented: the risk of regret, and the risk of suicide. In the work of providing care that manages those risks, I show how parents, youth, providers, and the state distribute responsibility for the perpetually uncertain outcomes of interventions. Drawing attention to how youth are cultivated as in need of protection (from themselves and from others), as well as to the embedded privileging of cisgender embodiment, the chapter illustrates inherent instabilities within discourses of regret, and highlights the importance of care which attends to potential as well as prevention.

*This convening is open to all invitees regardless of vaccination status and, because of ongoing health risks to the unvaccinated, those who are unvaccinated are expected to adopt the risk mitigation measures advised by public health officials (masking and social distancing, etc.). Public convening may not be safe for all and carries a risk for contracting COVID-19, particularly for those unvaccinated. Participants will not know the vaccination status of others, including venue staff, and should follow appropriate risk mitigation measures.

Hannah Burnett @ USL

“Stabilizing State Waters’”
 
Hannah Eisler Burnett | PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology
 
Discussant: Rachel Howard | PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology
 
Wednesday, November 17th, 4:30-6:00pm
Location: Haskell Hall 101 & on Zoom
Hybrid Event: To receive a copy of the pre-circulated paper please email zarrington@uchicago.edu
Paper Abstract: In this early draft of the first chapter of my dissertation, I chart the history and stakes of distinguishing between land and water in Louisiana. To do so, I analyze recent historical moments in the state’s conceptualization of its coastline, from a series of Supreme Court cases—often referred to as the “Tidelands controversy”—to present day legislative efforts to adjudicate claims over newly submerged waterways by both the state and private landowners. Throughout the Tidelands controversy, Louisiana sought to maintain and extend its jurisdiction into federal waters at the height of anti-integration efforts in a gambit to secure revenues from offshore oil and gas production. Access to these revenues would have not only increased the state budget, it would have also helped to ensure the state’s relative independence from federal funds. I argue that contemporary innovations in the legal definition of Louisiana’s coastline have resulted in property claims that continue to reproduce patterns of inclusion and exclusion along lines of race and class in the region. By historicizing efforts to restore, map, and model Louisiana’s coast, this chapter elucidates the legacy of segregationist politics in contemporary coastal planning and property regimes.

*This convening is open to all invitees regardless of vaccination status and, because of ongoing health risks to the unvaccinated, those who are unvaccinated are expected to adopt the risk mitigation measures advised by public health officials (masking and social distancing, etc.). Public convening may not be safe for all and carries a risk for contracting COVID-19, particularly for those unvaccinated. Participants will not know the vaccination status of others, including venue staff, and should follow appropriate risk mitigation measures.