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Staying With The Question - On Toxicity and Deliberative Ambiguity

Thursday Lecture Series, Ambivalence

dateApril 1, 2021 timeThursday, 12:30pm EDT locationVirtual Event

This event has been postponed at the request of the organizers and participants, in solidarity with the ongoing Graduate Workers Union/UAW strike at Columbia University. We hope to set a new date in the coming weeks.

  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
Monica Narula, Jeebesh Bagchi, and Shuddhabrata Sengupta standing in front of a wall with writing on it

This talk considers ambiguity, and ambiguousness as a default state, a baseline to think the questions of our time. It is to think on the embracing of difficult choices; a kind of epistemic intransigence built into the making of deliberations, with an acceptance of contingent choices and decisions. A careful examination of questions of contagion and the presence of toxicity - in the air, in water, in bodies, in food and in cure - shows that it is at the heart of living. Whether in the realm of the care of the self, or of fecal matter, or disease, or in ways of harnessing and using energy and matter, responses are marked by signs of ambiguity. Banishment and quarantine are clearly not the way to deal with toxicity. It cannot be evaded or ignored. The questions of extraction and residue cannot be addressed without thinking the ambiguity around the toxic.

Raqs Media Collective was formed in 1992 in Delhi, India by Monica Narula, Jeebesh Bagchi and Shuddhabrata Sengupta. The word “raqs” in several languages denotes an intensification of awareness and presence attained by whirling, turning, being in a state of revolution. Raqs Media Collective take this sense to mean ‘kinetic contemplation’ and a restless entanglement with the world, and with time. Raqs enlists objects such as an early-modern tiger-automata from Southern India, or a biscuit from the Paris Commune, or a cup salvaged from an ancient Mediterranean shipwreck, to turn them into devices to sniff and taste time. Devices are deployed thus in order to undertake historical subterfuge and philosophical queries. Raqs practices across several media; making installation, sculpture, video, performance, text, lexica and curation. The members of Raqs Media Collective live and work in Delhi, India. In 2001, they co-founded the Sarai program at CSDS New Delhi and ran it for a decade, where they also edited the Sarai Reader series. They were the Artistic Directors for the recently concluded Yokohama Triennale 2020, “Afterglow”, where they developed sources around toxicity, care, and the luminosity of friendship.

Please note that registering for this event will sign you up for the entire Thursday Lecture Series for the Spring 2021 semester.

Moderated by SOF Fellow Naeem Mohaiemen.

Talks in this series will be followed by discussion, including a Q&A session with the audience.

Please email [email protected] to request disability accommodations. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs.