Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Don't MIss Thinking Gender 2013!

The 23rd Annual Graduate Student Research Conference convenes on tomorrow, February 1, 2013, at the UCLA Faculty Center. Thinking Gender is a public conference highlighting graduate student research on women, sexuality and gender across all disciplines and historical periods.

View the Conference Program
This year's plenary session, titled SURPLUS LIFE: INFRASTRUCTURE, ARCHITECTURE, AND TEMPORALITY, will be moderated by Rachel Lee, CSW Interim Director, Associate Professor of English and Gender Studies. It takes place from 1 to 2:30 pm in the Sequoia Room, at the UCLA Faculty Center. It features:

Margaret Fink, University of Chicago, English,
Toenail Polish on a Prosthetic Limb: Salience and Intersectionality in Chris Ware’s Building Stories

Jacob Lau, UCLA, Gender Studies,
Which Child? Whose Queerness? On Situated Knowledges, Queer Embodiment and No Future

Krista Sigurdson, UCSF, Sociology,
Valuing Milk, Care and Technology: Human Milk Banking and Sharing

Thinking Gender is free and open to the public.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Superdiversity California Style

Inaugural Conference of The Institute of American Cultures at UCLA

Superdiversity California Style: New Approaches to Race, Civil Rights, Governance and Cultural Production

Los Angeles has come to epitomize the global phenomenon of dramatically increased ethnic, racial, linguistic, and religious diversity.  With intensified immigration from all parts of the world, new racial complexities, and the steady growth of Latino and Asian American populations, the entire state of California has become “majority-minority” as districts around the nation follow suit.  The resulting intercultural mélange has obscured some traditional boundaries, while encouraging new forms of production and being.  This new reality raises fundamental questions about the pursuit of equality, social justice, racialization, and the various ways that global pressures interact with and shape our responses to emerging geo-political dynamics. At the same time, ethnic and cultural fusions have launched an explosion of bold new musical, artistic, and even culinary forms.  What these changes mean for Los Angeles specifically and the United States remains under-examined and poorly understood.  Structured in the form of a one-day conference, with a preconference roundtable on the preceding evening, Superdiversity California Style seeks to initiate a conversation about the foregoing developments and identify the kind of research that is necessary to both understand and manage the changing face of our society.
Participants: Stephan Aron, Eric R. Avila, Asli Bali, Elise C. Boddie, Duane Champagne,  Mishuana R. Goeman, Laura E. Gomez, Cheryl Harris, Bill Ong Hing, Darnell M. Hunt, Jerry Kang, Kauanui J. Kēhaulani, Robin D.G. Kelley, Scott Kurashige,  Taeku Lee,  Chon Noriega, Michael Omi, Jemina Pierre, Karthick Ramakrishnan,  Angela R. Riley,  Addie C. Rolnick, Mark Sawyer, Brenda Stevenson, Rene Tajima-Pena, Rebecca Tsosie, M. Belinda Tucker, Abel Valenzuela, Jr.,  Allison Varzally,  and David K. Yoo
DATE: Thursday/Friday, February 28/March 1
TIME: Thursday: 4 pm to 8 pm; Friday: 9 am to 6 pm
PLACE: UCLA Faculty Center, California Room 
INFO:: (310) 825-6815,
The mission of the UCLA Institute of American Cultures (IAC) is to advance our understanding of the new social and cultural realities in America.  The unparalleled population shifts that have occurred in recent decades have transformed our sociocultural landscape, expanding both intra-group diversity as well as opportunities for intersectional exchanges.  Drawing on ethnic and American studies that serve as its intellectual core, the IAC is devoted to the study of this emerging America, with an emphasis on academic excellence, civic engagement, and diversity.  The IAC serves as the administrative hub for UCLA’s four ethnic studies centers:  the Asian American Studies Center, the American Indian Studies Center, the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, and the Chicano Studies Research Center.  It also initiates campus-wide programs and collaborations that support a wide range of disciplinary approaches to the study of ethnic and American cultures at UCLA. Located in Los Angeles – one of the most diverse and dynamic urban areas, and arguably a bellwether for the new demographic and sociocultural changes – the new IAC is well positioned to make innovative contributions to research on these developing trends.   Among other activities, the IAC both supports and initiates original research focused on emerging America, fosters a productive multidisciplinary intellectual environment on- and off-campus (through lectures, symposia, conferences, and workshops), links the research mission to professional development activities for faculty and students, and engages strategic partnerships with the broader community.  

Thursday, January 10, 2013

March 8th: International Women's Day, featuring a lecture by Vandana Shiva

“You are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder. It is good to remember that the planet is carrying you.”  - Vandana Shiva

To celebrate International Women's Day, CSW is hosting a lecture by Dr. Vandana Shiva, world-renowned philosopher, environmental activist, ecofeminist, and academic researcher on agricultural and women's empowerment issues.

Born in India in 1952, Vandana Shiva is a world-renowned environmental leader and theoretician. Director of the Research Foundation on Science, Technology, and Ecology, she is the author of many books, including Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development (South End Press, 2010) Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis (South End Press, 2008), Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace (South End Press, 2005), Water Wars: Pollution, Profits, and Privatization (South End Press, 2001), Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge (South End Press, 1997), Monocultures of the Mind (Zed, 1993), and The Violence of the Green Revolution (Zed, 1992).

Shiva is a leader in the International Forum on Globalization, along with Ralph Nader and Jeremy Rifkin. She addressed the World Trade Organization summit in Seattle, 1999, as well as the recent World Economic Forum in Melbourne, 2000. In 1993, Shiva won the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize (the Right Livelihood Award). In 2010, she was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize for her commitment to social justice. The founder of Navdanya ("nine seeds"), a movement promoting diversity and use of native seeds, she also set up the Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology in her mother’s cowshed in 1997. Its studies have validated the ecological value of traditional farming and been instrumental in fighting destructive development projects in India.

Before becoming an activist, Shiva was one of India’s leading physicists. She holds a master’s degree in the philosophy of science and a Ph.D. in particle physics.

Dr. Shiva's talk will also serve as keynote address for a conference titled "Global Ecologies: Nature/Narrative/Neoliberalism," organized by Elizabeth DeLoughrey, UCLA;  Jill Didur, Concordia University, Canada; and Anthony Carrigan, Keele University, UK, and will take place at UCLA on March 8 and 9, 2013.

Dr. Shiva's lecture will take place March 8, 2013, at 6 pm in Broad 2160 E. The event is free and open to the public. Tickets are required. They will be available starting on January 21, 2013. For more information, visit:

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Miscellaneous Comments: CSW Grad Student reviews new David Bowie Single, obliquely

A few years ago yesterday, I watched the singer from the classic 90's band Bongwater, Ann Magnuson (she also plays the bit part of 'young disco woman' alongside the vampires Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie in the 1983 film The Hunger, much recommended), sing a bunch of Bowie songs with a cover band at the Steve Allen Theater. I believe that was in celebration of his 63rd birthday.

His 66th was yesterday and he released a new single to accompany an album due later this year called The Next Day. The album cover is both lazy and brilliant, the classic Heroes cover with an oversize post-it across its face reading the album's title. Anyways, this release, for what it's worth, gives me (and by extension the CSW blog) the timely occasion to write about David Bowie, which these days is a rare occasion indeed. Bowie, after all, has an interesting relation to gender in American pop culture - a relation summarized rather well in the late Mike Kelley's concept of the "CrossGender/CrossGenre" phenomenon of 60s radical youth culture, which he explains as culminating in the mid-70s with the person of Bowie (the ultimate iguana of rock, both in style and 'gender').

Though perhaps only half-willing to supply much of a counter-argument on this, I would suggest, as I'm sure many would agree, that this sort of thing - Bowie's experimentation with 'queer iconography' - is not as essential nor as radical as Kelley's thesis of 'cultural abjection' might suggest.* Bowie's "Boys Keep Swingin'" video, for instance, does not represent some abject, gender-blurring 'dark night of the soul', nor does it hold some essential in-road to talk on sexual difference. Instead what's offered by the catwalk of cross-dressed Bowies to the song's playful lyrics concerning the primacy of boydom in Anglo society is rather the status of gender in the hyperreal exchange of images that is commercial pop culture, something mutable, reversible, meaningless… If, to use one relevant example, Klaus Nomi, in 1979, is the "real thing," the asexual German countertenor who alters himself to look like an exterrestrial to sing novelty pop songs, then Bowie, in his appearance on SNL that year (dressed like Nomi and actually supplying Nomi as back-up singer), is a copy of a copy.

The Scottish pop-singer and novelist Nick Currie (aka Momus, also highly recommended) did an interesting thing a few months ago on his blog, taking as case study the figure of David Bowie's father, Haywood Stenton Jones (who, if you're to follow my logic regarding Klaus Nomi, might be the image that best encapsulates the true 'concrete universal' - to misuse some Hegel-ese - from which the young David emerges - i.e. what Ziggy Stardust, as the Hegelian 'Beautiful Soul', is at once rebelling against and returning to).  Currie writes,

"I’m also interested in the paradox that although [Bowie] has portrayed extraterrestrials and aliens many times, his father does a much more convincing impression of one, in the sense that a British person pre-1960 is a strangely extraterrestrial being. He’s certainly out of the world that we recognise. There’s a sense of formality and distinctness about him (“the last truly British people you’ll ever know,” in Morrissey’s words) which hasn’t yet fallen into line with the mass global forms of the postmodern monoculture (denim, trainers, Coke, jets)."

Now, with David looking more and more like Haywood, we might envisage, in light of his newest video, Bowie the relic, the British flaneur walking the streets of his past Berlin - the once-pop capital and a city that decades prior witnessed this very singer consuming large mountains of cocaine while Krautrocker Connie Plank hurriedly finishes his album (I'm referring, of course, to the B-side of Low). A flaneur, or a "gatecrasher," if I were to recast it as a Momus lyric, would be an apt title, the master of plasticity. Posing the question to himself "Where Are We Now?" as he assumes a disembodied head amidst a cluttered art studio, has he not returned to the original question that haunts the great bulk of his songs, even some of his worst songs, the ramifications of 'loving the alien', et al? Is not this the same theme of his and Iggy Pop's "China Girl" (for which I must agree with E Hisama is less offensive than the John Cougar song of the same title), where the "authentic," albeit highly romanticized vision of the Orient (summarized somewhat unproblematically in an imaginary Chinese woman) is corrupted by these various forms of Westernized mass productions of culture, by television, magazines, etc.? ... Is not the disembodied Bowie head that floats before the flashing images of the chroma-keyed streets of Berlin, today, a teary-eyed, remorseful one?

- Michael Witte

Michael Witte is a Graduate Researcher at the UCLA Center for the Study of Women

*See Mike Kelley, "Cross Gender/Cross Genre" in PAJ: 
A Journal of Performance and Art, Vol. 22.1. (Jan., 2000), pp. 1-9.