A Part Of or Apart From: A Symposium on Political Belonging

Saturday, November 7th, 2015
  • University of Arizona

The RelSec Initiative hosted a symposium to engage with the shifting understanding(s) of political belonging in the current political and global sphere. By placing thinkers from inside and outside the University of Arizona community in conversation with each other, the symposium provided new understandings of belonging and exclusion in the current century.

RelSec welcomed Timothy Melley, Professor of English and Director of the Humanities Center at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He is the author of Empire of Conspiracy: The Culture of Paranoia in Postwar America and The Covert Sphere: Secrecy, Fiction, and the National Security State. Professor Melley's talk on "The Problem of Belonging in a Security State" investigated "how allegory has become a primary way in which U.S. narrative interrogates problems of citizenship and belonging in a democratic security state.  The very idea of a "democratic security state” is already a contradiction in terms, and one of its many problems is the half-knowledge of a citizenry that has delegated “security operations” (and foreign policy more generally) to a massive, permanent, and semi-clandestine military-intelligence apparatus."

Keith P. Feldman is assistant professor of comparative ethnic studies and a core faculty member in the Program in Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also the assistant director of of Berkeley Connect for Ethnic Studies/African American Studies and the author of A Shadow over Palestine: The Imperial Life of Race in America. His talk, "The Incapacitating Scene: Framing Life in Guantánamo Bay," asked "how do liberal ways of war surface and suture antiblackness and Islamophobia? Taking as its point of departure the proliferation of new media projects about the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, this presentation investigates the centrality of the captive body as the locus for the interplay of procedure and performance."

Graduate students in the University of Arizona English Department also provided papers. Jose Cortez of the Rhetoric, Composition, and the Teaching of English program (RCTE) presented a paper entitled “Toward Political Belonging in the non-name of All: Latina/o Exceptionalism & The Biopolitics of Resistance at the U.S.-Mexico Border.” Pete Figler of the Literature program presented a paper entitled "A Cowboy Walks into a State Fantasy: The Historiography of Cormac McCarthy's Southwestern Arc." Anushka Peres (RCTE) presented “Sustaining Precarity: Photographs, Neoliberalism, and a Culture of Charity.” Housten Donham (Literature) spoke on "Imperial Formation and Whiteness in Post-9/11 Poetry."

RelSec is comprised of five partner sites situated in universities around the world. The participating centers conduct parallel research projects whose exact shape reflects the distinct missions of the centers and research profiles of the teams. All will include some combination of public presentations and events, faculty workshops, and/or curricular initiatives, such as the development of team-taught courses on secularism, religion, and political belonging.
Click on the icons below to link to each partner’s individual websites.