Conveners: Karen Shimakawa and Joshua Chambers-Letson


This working group will consider political, aesthetic and everyday performances that refuse framings of collectivity as equivalent to consensus. The work of the group will focus on problems of unity and the various ways in which that discourse in art and politics obfuscates hard fought struggles within sociality. If, as Jacques Rancière suggests, democracy is made up of not only one given community, but those it excludes, the role of politics is to imagine a vaster world to come. Different social components do not become one through consensus, a process which reduces political space, but in dissensus, which is not mere difference of opinion or values, but a dispute over the very terms of our being-with, whose stakes are the perceptibility of various senses of the world. The writing that will be discussed in this working group will consider how multiple singular senses of the world are mediated through the aesthetic, understanding that friction, tension, strangeness, and discomfort are not obstacles, but, instead, useful paths towards a notion of plurality that holds on to the singular. To this end we will think about the ways in which historically specific “others” or minoritarian subjects are more often than not those who are shut out of democracy because of the tension, turbulence, and unease their particularity generates. Furthermore, we are interested in work that considers how the non-recognition of minoritarian subjects, in turn, generates new forms of being-with for those minoritarian subjects.


Participants will be asked to share papers of up to no more than twenty pages. Group members will read the papers before each session. Two to three papers will be discussed in each session.


Applicants should provide a 200 word abstract for the paper they intend to present and a curriculum vita. Materials should be uploaded via the online application form before October 9th, 2013.

This working group will be limited to 15 participants.

Convener Biographies:

Karen Shimakawa is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Performance Studies Department in Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, an Adjunct Instructor at the NYU School of Law and the author of National Abjection: The Asian American Body Onstage (on the intersection of racialization, citizenship, and performance in Asian American performance). Her new project is on discomfort in U.S. performance and race politics.

Joshua Chambers-Letson is assistant professor in the Department of Performance Studies at Northwestern University. He is the author of A Race So Different: Law and Performance in Asian America (NYU Press, 2013) and is currently working on a book titled  The Free Sea: The Oceanic Imaginary and Asian American Art. 

The Hemispheric Institute grieves the passing of our dear friend and colleague José Esteban Muñoz, who helped conceive this work group.

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