Invited Speakers

Adrienne Brown

  • Assistant Professor, University of Chicago – Department of English
  • Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture
  • Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality

I specialize in American and African-American cultural production in the 20th century. I am currently exploring the influence of architecture and urban planning on literary form alongside the ways that narrative intervenes in our historical and experiential understandings of space. My work also considers a range of objects beyond the literary, considering the ways TV shows hear, journalists see, and class may be felt, and analyzing race’s sonic and spatial dimensions. I am working on a book recovering the skyscraper’s central role in structuring American social and aesthetic perception in the early twentieth century. Attending to both the skyscraper’s fraught presence in canonical texts as well as the structure’s remarkable presence at Modernism’s generic borders, this project explores how an array of writers approached the skyscraper as a radical instrument of perception that was transforming modernity’s modes of seeing.

Alyosha Goldstein

  • Associate Professor of American Studies, University of New Mexico

Goldstein’s research interests include the study of globalization, neoliberalism, and social movements; comparative histories of imperialism, colonialism, and nationalism; modern liberalism and twentieth-century political culture; critical race and indigenous studies; the history and politics of public health; and social and political theory.

Poverty in Common: The Politics of Community Action during the American Century (Duke University Press, 2012), Goldstein’s first book, examines mid-twentieth century community-based antipoverty initiatives in the United States within the context of the Cold War, decolonization movements worldwide, and grassroots struggles for self-determination. This study focuses on the ways in which the negotiation of boundaries—between foreign and domestic, empire and nation, violence and order, dependency and autonomy—were a vital part of racial and gendered struggles over the dynamics of governance and inequality in the United States.  This book analyzes the significance of the institutionalization of community development and efforts to involve poor people, indigenous peoples, and people of color in the planning and administration of programs on their behalf during the 1950s and 1960s.  Goldstein argues that the political utilities of poverty and the constitution of local community as the horizon of political transformation—partially as a surrogate for economic redistribution—were contingent upon tensions between models of self-help and self-determination, and were further catalyzed by the Cold War and the twilight of European colonial rule.  Initiatives such as the War on Poverty’s community action programs promoted self-government, self-improvement, and community development as a means to secure capitalist market relations and social order, even as the relative autonomy and collective action of poor people, communities of color, and indigenous peoples often proved more unruly and antagonistic than envisioned by liberal policymakers. Began as a dissertation in American Studies at NYU, it was awarded the American Studies Association’s Ralph Henry Gabriel Dissertation Prize in 2005.

Goldstein’s current research focuses on United States colonialism, the normative racial and gendered logics of neoliberalism, and economies of dispossession in the historical present.  He is working on a book manuscript entitled “Colonial Accumulations: Racial Capitalism and the Colonial Present” that uses recent legislation as a critical analytic lens through which to address current debates over racism, colonialism, and other modes ofexpropriation and devaluation, and to examine the jurisprudence of redress during our present era of economic crisis.

Michael Hardt

  • Professor of Literature, Duke University

Michael Hardt (b. 1960) is a political philosopher and literary theorist, best known for three books he co-authored with Antonio Negri: Empire (2000), Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (2004), and Commonwealth (2009). The trilogy, in particular its first volume—Empire—has often been hailed as the “Communist Manifesto of the 21st Century.” Michael Hardt is a professor of literature at Duke University and a professor of philosophy at The European Graduate School / EGS.

Hardt, however, did not begin either as a philosophy or literature student. Indeed, he began as an engineer, receiving a Bachelors of Science from Swarthmore College, in 1983. During this time, Hardt worked for solar energy companies, both in Italy and the USA. This was not an apolitical time in Hardt’s life; rather, he saw work in the field of alternative energy as political: “I thought that doing alternative energy engineering for third world countries would be a way of doing politics that would get out of all this campus political posing that I hated.” After his Bachelors, he turned his attention to comparative literature, and received an MA from the University of Washington, in 1986. Four years later, he would complete a PhD in comparative literature, also at the University of Washington.

Parallel to his studies throughout the 1980s, Hardt participated in the Sanctuary Movement—a political and religious campaign to provide a safe haven in the United States to Central American refugees fleeing civil conflict. The campaign was a response to the American government’s restrictive federal policies for asylum seekers. Later, Hardt would help to organize a project to furnish the University of El Salvador with donated computer hardware and software. During this time, Hardt was also involved in contesting US funded wars across Central America. By his own account, he became progressively more radical over the course of the decade. In the 1980s, he would meet the Italian political philosopher Antonio Negri and begin a collaboration that has lasted to this day.

In addition to Empire (2000), Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (2004), and Commonwealth (2009), Hardt and Negri have also written Labor of Dionysus: a Critique of the State-form (1994) and Declaration (2012). Aside from these works, Hardt has also written Gilles Deleuze: an Apprenticeship in Philosophy (1993), as well as numerous articles, including: The Withering of Civil Society (1995), Prison Time (1997), Affective Labour (1999), Jefferson and Democracy (2007), and How to Write with Four Hands (2013).

Walter Johnson

  • Winthrop Professor of History
  • Professor of African and African American Studies
  • Director, Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History
  • Harvard University

Johnson is a historian who has been on the Harvard faculty since 2006. Previously, he was at New York University, after earning a Bachelor’s degree from Amherst College (1988) and a Ph.D from Princeton in University (1995). Johnson’s books, Soul by Soul (1999) and River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom (2013), are the recipients of numerous awards, including the Francis B. Simkins Award from the Southern Historical Association, the John Hope Franklin Prize from the American Studies Association, the SHEAR Book Prize from the Society of Historians of the Early American Republic, and the Frederick Jackson Turner and the Avery O. Craven Prizes from the Organization of American Historians. He is currently writing a book about the central role of St. Louis in the imperialist and racial capitalist history of the United States, from Lewis and Clark to Michael Brown. Professor Johnson is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship; fellowships from the American Philosophical Society, the Radcliffe Institute, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences; and a Mellon Fellowship in Cultural Studies at Wesleyan University.

Robin D. G. Kelley

  • Distinguished Professor and Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in U.S. History, UCLA

My research has explored the history of social movements in the U.S., the African Diaspora, and Africa; black intellectuals; music; visual culture; contemporary urban studies; historiography and historical theory; poverty studies and ethnography; colonialism/imperialism; organized labor; constructions of race; Surrealism, Marxism, nationalism, among other things. My essays have appeared in a wide variety of professional journals as well as general publications, including the Journal of American History, American Historical Review, Black Music Research Journal, African Studies Review, New York Times (Arts and Leisure), New York Times Magazine, The Crisis, The Nation, The Voice Literary Supplement, Utne Reader, New Labor Forum, Counterpunch, to name a few.

Zenia Kish

  • Lecturer, Stanford Introductory Series – Thinking Matters
  • Stanford University

Zenia Kish works at the intersection of transnational American studies, economic anthropology, media studies, and critical development studies. With a Ph.D. in American studies from New York University and a background in media studies, she brings an interdisciplinary approach to changing articulations of value amidst contemporary crises of inequality and unsustainability. Her current book project is a transnational ethnography of impact investors, tracing the circulation of capital and ideas between investor communities in North America and investment sites in Ghana. She is also engaged in research on how the rise of big data technologies and modeling is reshaping the field of international food security. Her work has been recognized with fellowships and awards from the ACLS/Mellon Foundation, NYU Humanities Initiative, New York University, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. As a Thinking Matters teaching fellow, Zenia works collaboratively with senior faculty and other fellows in Stanford’s interdisciplinary introductory studies program.

Lisa Lowe

  • Distinguished Professor of English and Humanities – Tufts University
  • Consortium of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora
  • Director of the Center for the Humanities 

Prior to joining Tufts in 2012, Professor Lowe taught at Yale University and at the University of California, San DiegoFrom 1998 to 2001, she served as the chair of the Literature Department at UC San Diego. She began as a scholar of comparative literature, and her work has focused on literatures and cultures of encounter that emerge from histories of colonialism, immigration, and globalization. She is known especially for her work on French and British colonialisms and postcolonial literature, Asian immigration and Asian American studies, race and empire, and comparative global humanities.

Colleen Lye

  • Associate Professor of English – UC Berkeley

Professor Lye is the author of America’s Asia: Racial Form and American Literature, 1893-1945 (Princeton University Press, 2005), a study of the making of “Asiatic racial form” through the mutual influence of literary naturalism and U.S. immigration and foreign policy in an era of U.S. expansion across the Pacific. Her current book-in-progress is a literary history of the Asian American novel after 1968, wherein the novel is understood as both product of and lens onto left cultural politics and the new spirit of capitalism.

Professor Lye is a member of the editorial boards of Representations, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies and Verge. Her book America’s Asia was the recipient of the Cultural Studies Book Award (first prize) from the Association of Asian American Studies, a finalist for the John Hope Franklin Prize from the American Studies Association, and selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title. She is the coeditor of several special journal issues: Forms of Asia (with Christopher Bush, Representations, 2007) Financialization and the Culture Industry (with C.D. Blanton and Kent Puckett, Representations 2014), Peripheral Realisms (with Joseph Cleary and Jed Esty, MLQ 2012), The Humanities and the Crisis of the Public University (with Christopher Newfield and James Vernon, Representations 2011), and The Struggle for Public Education in California (with Christopher Newfield, SAQ 2011), which won the MLA’s Council of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ) Award for Best Special Issue of 2011.

Jodi Melamed

  • Associate Professor of English and Africana Studies – Marquette University

Jodi Melamed’s current research aims to provide an anti-racist critique of contemporary global capitalism and an anti-capitalist critique of historically dominant U.S. anti-racisms.  She is the author of Represent and Destroy: Rationalizing Violence in the New Racial Capitalism (University of Minnesota Press, 2011) and a contributor to Strange Affinities: The Sexual and Gender Politics of Comparative Racialization (Duke University Press, 2011) and Keywords for American Cultural Studies (NYU Press, forthcoming). Her next book project, Capital’s Metabolisms investigates representational and relational dimensions of ‘bio-financialization’ (the nexus linking life and financialization) in neoliberalism. Her areas of interest include critical race and ethnic studies, woman of color feminism and queer of color critique, political economy, and culture and globalization.  Her awards, fellowships, and grants include a Fulbright, a Woodrow Wilson Postdoctoral Fellowship, and grants from the American Studies Association, the Social Science Research Council, the Mellon Foundation and the Wisconsin Humanities Council.  Currently, she serves as Co-Chair of the American Studies Association’s Program Committee and as a member of the Modern Language Association’s executive committee for the division on sociological approaches to literature.

At Marquette University, Jodi Melamed regularly teaches courses in multiple contemporary U.S. literatures, race and ethnic studies, literary critical theory and practice, and gender and sexuality studies. Recent courses include “African American Literature: Thinking Justice and Inequality Beyond the State and Citizenship,” “Introduction to Critical Ethnic Studies and 20/21st Century U.S. Literature,” and “The Imagination as Social Practice.” Committed to the project of the public use of knowledge (an idea wholly coherent with the mission of MU as an private Jesuit institution), she constantly searches for ways to make research and teaching at MU useful for all of Milwaukee’s communities and to open what counts as “learning” at Marquette University to the formal and informal knowledge embedded in Milwaukee’s multiple publics.