2022-2023 Grant Recipients


  • On Fanon
  • The Spectres and Futures of Post-Socialism
  • What Matters After-Worlds?: A (Post-)ontological Science Studies Reading Group
  • Space & Landscape



This spring professor Jean Khalfa, a scholar of Francophone and Caribbean literature gave a lecture at the Institute for Comparative Modernities, entitled “Fanon, Phenomenology and Psychiatry.” The lecture was born out of Khalfa’s impressive collaborative endeavor with Robert J.C. Young to recover, collect, and annotate Fanon’s published and unpublished, forgotten and lost writings into the 800-page three volume collection Écrits sur l’aliénation et la liberté (Alienation and Freedom) first published in 2015 with a revised and expanded edition appearing in 2019, and translated into English in 2020. In his lecture, Khalfa made the compelling argument that Fanon’s psychiatric training and practice formed the foundation for this political writings and activism. Khalfa’s lecture focused primarily in elucidating the connection between these two seemingly distinct fields in Fanon’s writings. As a result, there was not enough time to meditate on the implications, stakes, and paradoxes inherent in Fanon’s writings.

On Fanon, then, is a reading group that intends to explore these exciting volumes and investigate the promising lines of inquiry introduced in Professor Khalfa’s lecture. For instance, one of the questions we hope to pursue is the role of religion and tradition in Fanon’s political theory. In the lecture, Khalfa shared an excerpt of a letter Fanon sent to Ali Shariati, the Iranian sociologist and revolutionary in which he rejects the emancipatory potentiality of religious commitments. Fanon writes, “rekindling the sectarian and religious spirit impedes the necessary unification - already difficult to reach - and moves this nation still non-existent, at best a "nation in the making’, away from its ideal future, closer to its past!” The views expressed in this letter and elsewhere in Fanon’s writings contradict Fanon’s open curiosity towards and admiration of indigenous and local healing practices that are informed by religious beliefs. Another line of inquiry would be seriously contending with the subtle and complex gendered politics (of the lack thereof) in Fanon’s oeuvre. While gender appeared in sporadic and anecdotal instances in Khalfa’s lecture, it was not a major consideration in Khalfa’s lecture (neither is it for the majority of Fanon studies). This is somewhat surprising considering that the bulk of Fanon’s psychiatric practice and political activism took place in societies with stark conservative gender practices. How could we complicate Fanon’s seemingly romantic revolutionary explication of (un)veiled Muslim women in the Algerian war of independence?

The members of this reading group come to Fanon studies from varied perspective, each has a distinct investment in the history of anticolonial thought and the afterlives of colonialism. Ewa Niżałowska’s research, for example, focuses on the role of psychoanalytic ideas in political thought while Alexia’s dissertation project deals with the ways in which anticolonial activists of the early twentieth century were thinking about environmental preservation and ecological crises in the struggle for political independence. Jessica Ness and Catherine Cousins are interested intransnational transmission of Fanon’s writings and the role of translation therein. Interested in trauma studies as well as the question of temporality in twentieth-century African literature, Farah Bakaari is particularly animated by Fanon’s phenomenological work and his conceptualization of colonial alienation through the prism of mental disorders. And finally, Helena’s Crusius’s interests in drama and performance in the political arena positions her excitedly and profoundly to explore Fanon’s plays. We hope to explore the possibility of staging one of the plays, or at the very least organizing a public reading of one of the plays.


Farah Bakaari—Department of Literatures in English

Jessica Ness—Department of  Comparative Literature

Catherine Cousins—Institute for African Development

Alexia Alkadi-Barbaro—Political Theory

Helena Crusius­—Political Theory

Ewa Nizalowska—Political Theory

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What is post-socialism? After a series of collapses of socialist regimes marked by the dissolution of the Soviet Union (1989-1992), an epochal change in socio-economic structures, lifestyles, and cultures happened in the aftermath of the ideological shift with the integration of the neoliberal global market. As a term coined in the wake of the collapse of the socialist regimes, the trajectory of post-socialism, which captures a state of transformation following the radical political change, is still a near history rife with ambiguity ( Müller 2019). Scholars have argued that the conceptualization of post-socialism and the impacts of socialist legacies have proposed an alternative yet contested approach to modernity. Particularly, the discussion of post-socialism teases out the “negative supplement in the total truth-claim of capitalist globalization,” which is “qualitatively exogenous to capitalism but remains as the suppressed internal resources and energies of a diverse global condition defined in capitalist term” (Zhang 2008). Our reading group intends to understand better the conceptualization of post-socialism revolving around these three inquiries: What does post-socialism mean when authors engage with this concept? Why is post-socialism a helpful concept and an analytical anchor? How can we situate post-socialism in specific places and contexts? The readings are put into three groups in response to the three inquiries this reading group proposes. We use texts from multiple disciplines to approach an intellectual trajectory of post-socialism that goes beyond the scope of regional studies. Meanwhile, it showcases how different genres of scholarly works can enable different observations and reflections on post-socialism. In doing so, we seek to complicate the theorization of post-socialism by questioning the prefix “post-” and pluralizing the “post-socialist”. We recognize that post-socialism provokes various reactions that do not fall on a linear scale of time, such as a thorough embrace of capitalist logic, an adherence to a stringent form of state socialism, or a sense of nostalgia that animates ethnic nationalism. We also seek to problematize the conditions of post-socialism by going beyond former socialist and communist countries. For example, we trace the lineage and (after)lives of socialism in the Middle East, such as the Baath party in Iraq and Syria, which was anti-colonial, pan-Arabist, and socialist. Besides looking back at why socialism was a global mobilizing force in the past, we also examine how socialism is discussed today. In the 21st century, the notion of post-socialism characterizes both a condition of life enmeshed in political and economic hybridity and a foil for global capitalism and the ongoing global decolonization effort (Verdery 1996; Dirlik 2014; Tlostanova 2017). In her work on socialist buildings in urban Vietnam (2020), Schwenkel raises a central question concerning post-socialism studies: What formative qualities does post-socialism necessitate and give to the empirical subjects we work with? Particularly in a country where the rhythm of the everyday illustrates a bricolage of capitalist economic reform and state socialist governance? Our reading group ponders Schwenkel’s question in tandem with the proposal offered by Chari and Verdery (2009). In this vein, we seek to link the three posts (post-modernism, post-colonialism, and post-socialism) together without losing the specificity of post-socialism temporally and geographically.


Iman Ali—Department of Anthropology

Zhen Cheng—Department of Performing and Media Arts

Liting Ding— Department of Anthropology

Yunfei Du—Department of Asian Studies

Duncan Eaton—Department of History

Zhuang Han—Department of Global Development

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This reading group convenes with a shared curiosity for Paul Nadasdy’s (2021) provocation: “how many worlds are there?” While the question of reality is by no means novel, literature at the intersection of Native and Indigenous Studies, Anthropology, and Science & Technology Studies (STS) continues to generate interest in what has been dubbed the “ontological turn”. As contributions in these fields have shown that supposedly universal scientific truths are historically situated in Western realist frameworks, some scholars especially working in Amerindian contexts have claimed that conceptualizing the world as multiple offers a more accommodating alternative (e.g. de la Cadena 2010; Law 2011; Escobar 2018). However, critique has been voiced regarding the conceptual and political implications following from such a pluriversal proposal (e.g. Bessire and Bond 2014; Todd 2016; Nadasdy 2021; Seth forthcoming). Yet, if not worlds, then what better terms communicate this condition of living and dying in relations of ethical obligation? In this reading group, we will explore the philosophical underpinnings of the contemporary turn to ontology and chart out the conceptual, methodological and political stakes for our disciplines. Earlier attempts at opening up worlds in cultural anthropology (Obeysekere 1992; Sahlins 1994) have demonstrated disciplinary concerns with preserving radical alterity and how to deal with incommensurability. As Dipesh Chakrabarty (2000) has already problematized in the context of postcolonial historiography, science studies scholars wonder how to symmetrically account for actors whose very existence we do not all agree upon. Beyond political ontology and the pluriverse (de la Cadena and Blaser 2018), other approaches to apprehending what is in the world have been proposed in philosophy, the social sciences and humanities, such as historical ontology (Hacking 2002; Murphy 2006) and object-oriented ontology (Harman 1999; Morton 2012).Once we grasp the language that has been used for discussing these matters in the academy thus far, we will workshop our own contributions to the conversation as an interdisciplinary group of (more-than-)humanists and social scientists. Starting from a general inquiry into the ontological perspectives that have inspired this turn, we will work through the intellectual promises and challenges offered by the renewed interest in questions of what lies between the heavens and the earths: How might this kind of analysis hold productive tension or begin to fall apart? What happens to the study of the built environment and material culture when cosmopolitics becomes our object of study? What are the stakes of decoloniality outside of the Americas? How might we take seriously noninnocent partial connections? Is there something unique that the science studies literature offers to questions about the nature of being(s) in the world(s)?


Iman Ali—Department of Anthropology

Liting Ding—Department of Anthropology

Vishal Nyayapathi—Department of Science & Technology Studies

Ranya Perez—Department of Anthropology

Riccardo Samà—Department of Romance Studies

Andra Sonia Petrutiu—Department of Science & Technology Studies

Elexis Trinity Williams—Department of Science & Technology Studies

Asya Ece Uzmay—Department of Architecture

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The past half century has witnessed a thrilling history of imagination, theorization, and debates on space. But instead of dismissing space as a worn-out term, the members of this research group contend that nowadays it is more than urgent to bring space back on the stage in response to the emerging realities that have radically altered our modes of living in recent years. Social protests sweeping across the world, restrictions on local and global mobility inflected by changing geopolitical landscapes and health concerns, reconfiguration of planetary ecology and global economic systems- all these issues call for a re-evaluation of the established spatial thinking as well as a continuous pursuit of new approaches to space.

Bearing these concerns in mind, we formed our reading group in early 2022. In our meetings so far, we have engaged with readings from authors associated with the traditions of humanistic geography (Yi-Fu Tuan) and Marxist criticism (Henri Lefebvre, Doreen Massey), inquiring into topics such as the construction of subjectivity and place, representation and space, body and city. In the coming academic year, we seek to look at how theories and critiques from recent years, or from other critical genealogies, connect with, and simultaneously challenge those aforementioned conceptualizations of space that can now be dubbed “classical.” In particular, we will highlight propositions that foreground perception, senses, feelings, emotions, and affects as vital sources to understand space and spatial experience. Thus, we plan to revisit Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological project and his reflections on the “depth” of space in relation to the embodied and embedded being, which defy Cartesian space and subject. Also, we are interested in Peter Sloterdijk’s ambitious Spheres trilogy, in which he reworks Heideigger’s dwelling through an inventive employment of the topological lexicon (bubble, globe, and foam), providing insights into the relationality of being. Along the same vein, non-representational theory is also within our scope of consideration in view of its preoccupation with “the utter ubiquity of affect as a vital element of cities” (Nigel Thrift). In an effort to combine theoretical musings and empirical studies, we will also look into, among others, Beatriz Colomina’s investigation into “sick architecture,” and Jens Andermann’s reading of literary and artistic representations of landscape and nature at the intersection of biopolitics and ecocriticism, both of which deal with the disquieting and even pathological relationships that we form with space and environment, though from different perspectives and scales.

As a collective, we aim to build bridges across disciplines and embrace provocative methodologies in order to broaden our understanding about space. We will take the following questions as a guide for reflection: by what means the imbrications between space and experience can be read? How does the examination of affects, senses and perception expand and flourish the political and historical-materialist imagination of space? In what ways can these novel conceptions of space contribute to promoting spatial equality? In the end, we believe that thinking about space is not merely a theoretical rehearsal but also a fundamentally political act of social solidarity.


Roberto Ibáñez Ricouz, Department of Romance Studies, Spanish

Lu Han, Department of Romance Studies, Spanish

Rosamaría Durán, Department of Romance Studies, Spanish

Lillian Schaber, Department of Romance Studies, Spanish

Federico Giordano, Department of Romance Studies, Spanish

Alix Choinet, Department of Romance Studies, French

Sena Bergfalk, Department of Anthropology

Zou Xinying, Landscape Architecture

Hugh Peng, Landscape Architecture

Junbo Huang, Architecture, Art and Planning, Regional Science

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