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    Theory Talk: Jasbir Puar

    Scott Kepford
    Oct 26, '08 11:51 PM EST
    theorist Jasbir Puar spoke in Royce Hall on Wednesday

    I went to an afternoon lecture in the English department on Wednesday on recommendation from my ex, who is working on a PhD in the Rhetoric Department at Berkeley. It turned out to be a great suggestion as the lecture was incredibly engaging and brought me out of the M.Arch thought bubble, at least for a bit. The event was hosted by the Center for the Study of Women on campus, which I believe has been expanded, despite the name, since the days of early feminism to include gender and queer studies. The talk was given by Jasbir Puar from Rutgers, and was entitled “Prognosis Time: Towards a Geopolitics of Affect, Debility, and Capacity.” Her recently published book is entitled "Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times"; after this lecture, I’d really like to find time to read it.


    Puar is clearly operating at the cutting edge of critical theory; she often talked over my head, as I’m someone who’s barely given Deleuze and a couple others Puar draws from a cursory read. But what Puar brought up that I was able to get a grasp on was really fascinating and I even saw possible connections to work I’d like to do in architecture; though architectural design is clearly not a major interest for Puar. She covered a range of seemingly disjointed topics including perception of Muslim terrorists, the normalization of gay identities (for which she employs a great term, “homonationalism”), disability studies, surveillance technologies, and queer bodies as assemblages. All these she bridges and transitions between quite elegantly, using the interface between bodies and technology as a sort of common line. One of the most interesting threads she went into was the idea of the “queer body”, which she says has been limited problematically by queer theory to its “literal referent” - the physical extents of the actual body. Expanding the concept of the queer body beyond its physical borders she says is problematic because if queerness isn't limited by the body and its sexual practices, what then differentiates queer theory from poststructuralism more generally; but she has nonetheless reformulated the concept of the queer body into one of the body as an ‘assemblage’ - of both its physicality and surrounding conditions, which for me drew parallels to Deleuze’s concept of the “body without organs”. The assemblage theory is for me fertile ground because I’m interested in formulating an idea of queer space and spatiality, so Puar’s concept of an extension of the borders of the queer body is a really interesting place to start thinking about queer spatiality and an application of queer theory to architecture. Puar also brought up a lot of other interesting work she’s been doing – tracking developments in technologies involved in subjecting to body to increasing degrees of surveillance – including current technologies like GPS, bioinformatics, biometrics, stem cell research, and emerging technologies like "lifelogging" (participants apparently wear a walnut sized camera on their foreheads, which record everything they see and do, as well as surrounding environmental conditions), Skype (which is apparently poised to roll out lie-detecting software that will supposedly allow Skype users to tell if the person they’re talking to is lying), and new surveillance technology which allows identification of concealed drugs or weapons from a distance. At any rate, it was a very exciting lecture, and I’m glad to know that I can make use of the resources of a great research university surrounding Perloff and the AUD, despite it seeming like we’re all cloistered in a studio bubble.

    Boeri in the Decafe

    I also attended (barely) the Stefano Boeri lecture at the AUD on Monday. I say “barely” because at the time of the lecture I hadn’t slept for almost 36 hours trying to put together a board for studio (that didn’t even end up getting critiqued that day), so I’m ashamed to say I nodded off for most of the Boeri talk, after snapping the above image. It seems like he’s doing a great job as editor of Abitare, and in his practice and design think tank, so I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to stay awake for it! I was, however, awake for the funny award ceremony for Cini Boeri, given by the Italian Cultural Institute and I believe the Italian ambassador to the US, which was pomp and circumstance I'm not used to seeing at architecture lectures, or in spaces in which I have crits for studio projects. I had actually never heard of Cini Boeri before, but she gave a cute bilingual acceptance speech.

    I'm now looking forward to the Greg Lynn lecture tomorrow. Haven't decided if I'll buy his book so he can sign it at the booksigning following the lecture, ha ha.

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