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On the Desire for the Political
Thursday, April 29, 2010 - 7:00pm
Lauren Berlant, "On the Desire for the Political"
April 29, 7:00pm
Portland State University, Room 238

This event is free and open to the public.
Lauren Berlant is George M. Pullman Professor of English and Women's Studies, University of Chicago. Professor Berlant’s research focuses on the legal and normative production of personhood in the U.S. nineteenth and twentieth centuries—now the twenty-first: in particular, citizenship, formal and informal. By formal she designates state, juridical, and institutional practices of zoning and more abstract boundary drawing—between public and private, or white and non-white, or citizen and foreigner.
These days mass politics are emotional, exuding intensities that reveal desires for visceral immediacy to shape all kinds of encounter with power, even when it’s mass mediated or seems like a transaction that takes place over there, among elites.

“On the Desire for the Political” looks at some instances of contemporary art rooted in traditions of silent protest whose aim is to remobilize and redirect the normative noise that binds the public affectively to the political. Participants in contemporary political life witness this reticent aesthetic all the time, in genres of memorializing from self-immolation to the vigil:  what will interest us here is what performances of withdrawal from citizenship’s presumptively rational political speech can reveal about the state of popular politics in the contemporary U.S.
She has recently finished a trilogy of books on national sentimentality now—the first and third in the series The Anatomy of National Fantasy (1991), The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship (1997), and The Female Complaint: the Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture (2008). Her edited volumes include Intimacy (Chicago, 2000) and (with Lisa Duggan) Our Monica, Ourselves: Clinton and the Affairs of State (2001), and Compassion: the Culture and Politics of Emotion (2004).

“On the Desire for the Political” will be a lecture on ambient citizenship that involves thinking about scavanging and Katrina and the question of what the political has to do with the continuities of life.

See also the Workshop with Lauren Berlant, 10 am Friday, April 30. Neuberger 407.

If you have any questions about this event, please feel free to contact us at the Portland Center for Public Humanities: 503-725-9662 or