Episode 7

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Published on:

21st May 2021

Historical Racism and the Politics of Loss

How do we understand experiences of loss politically? And what role have accounts of loss played historically, from slavery through the Movement for Black Lives and the pandemic? Meeting Street host Amanda Anderson speaks with political scientist Juliet Hooker and historian Emily Owens about their teaching project across the humanities and social sciences. We discuss quantitative vs. qualitative frameworks; the significance of public feelings of grief, rage, and exhaustion; and the powerful role that both numbers and art can play in political movements.

Transcript

Transcript
Amanda Anderson:

From the Cogut Institute for the Humanities at Brown University, this is Meeting Street. I’m Amanda Anderson, the show’s host and director of the institute. In this episode, I speak with two Brown University faculty members, one from the history department and the other in political science, who partnered to teach a course entitled “Loss, Political Activism, and Public Feelings.” Conceived in advance of the pandemic and the powerful resurgence of the Movement for Black Lives, the course became urgently relevant as it was taught in the fall of 2020.

Amanda Anderson:

Let me introduce my two guests. Juliet Hooker is a political theorist specializing in racial justice, Black political thought, Latin American political thought, and Afro-descendant and Indigenous politics in Latin America. She is the author of “Race and the Politics of Solidarity” [2009] and “Theorizing Race in the Americas” [2017], both published by Oxford University Press. She is joined here today by her colleague, Emily Owens, a historian whose research focuses on the history of sexuality and slavery. Emily’s book, “Fantasies of Consent: Sex, Affect, and Commerce in 19th-Century New Orleans,” is forthcoming from the University of North Carolina Press. Emily holds appointments in the history department and at Brown’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice. Juliet and Emily, welcome to Meeting Street.

Juliet Hooker:

Thank you for having us. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Emily Owens:

Thanks, Amanda. I’m glad to be here.

Amanda Anderson:

So I’m really excited about talking to you about this course. It took up questions of racial justice that manifested intensifying urgency in the summer of 2020, and it did so in part by drawing out a longer perspective on political loss from the history and aftermath of Atlantic slavery to the civil rights movement and the movements around gender and sexuality, including ACT UP and other responses to the AIDS crisis. What does a historical and comparative perspective help us to see or understand about the current and ongoing crisis? Emily, as a historian, perhaps you could speak to this.

Emily Owens:

Yeah, I’d love to. Thanks for that introduction, Amanda, and for your enthusiasm about our course. I think that this class came together a little bit organically, I guess, because Juliet and I have some meaningful convergences in our work and thought it would be fun to work together. So I think that’s kind of at base where this came from. We’re both really interested in the ways that different kinds of political actors have mobilized emotions and particularly have dealt with loss, but also I think that there’s always this urgency among our students of “Okay, what do we do now?”

Emily Owens:

And I think as a historian, my sense of teaching histories of violence is often that it’s really demoralizing for students to see … you know, the ways that students are frequently saying, “History repeats” and “Nothing’s changed.” And so I think that working into the history and having a deep sense of the specificity of different kinds of moments and the ways that violence is really persistent and anti-Black racism is really persistent in United States contexts, but its forms and figurations really changed shape over time — I think that’s interesting.

Emily Owens

Not just theoretically interesting, but also really important for students to understand that if racism was simple, if it stuck around in exactly the same form for 400 years, it would be over because we would know the strategies to combat it. But instead that it’s shifting and that also the strategies that various kinds of political actors have mobilized to intervene are also changing, right? And that there’s a bit of a feedback loop. It’s not just that violence is always preempting Black life and then Black people are responding, but also that those responses then shape the next wave of violence.

Emily Owens:

And so I think that’s a really interesting pattern and process for students to understand. And I think it’s useful from a scholarly perspective also, not just a pedagogical one, to think about what those strategies are, what kinds of insurgent strategies exist, what kinds of things have worked in different kinds of moments, and why. And one of the things I’ve learned really — especially from you, Juliet — is at what cost, right? The ways that mobilizing loss in political space also comes at great personal intimate cost for Black political actors.

Amanda Anderson:

Thank you. That leads me to a question that I want to pose to Juliet about the centrality of loss in her research. I mean, your current research directly takes up the question of loss and from a distinctly political perspective, unlike those frameworks that depoliticize loss by invoking its universality or the need to pause politics in the face of grief or tragedy — one thinks in particular of certain responses to mass shootings in the U.S. Can you tell us a little bit about how a focus on loss helps us to see U.S. politics more clearly?

Juliet Hooker:

So one of the arguments that I’m making in the current book project that I’m working on is that there are two different forms of loss that are driving contemporary U.S. racial politics in particular, and politics more broadly, and having a really deep effect on democracy, and those are Black grief and white grievance. And a part of what struck me about the moment we’re in is precisely the conjunction of these two very important political forces that are really mobilized by perceived or real material loss.

Juliet Hooker:

So on the one hand, we have the very potent and justified mobilizations in the wake of continued killing of Black citizens by agents of the state and the huge multi-racial protests that were led by Black activists in the wake of the ongoing police killings. And then on the other hand, we have this real narrative of victimization on the right, the sense that there’s an ongoing loss, and a sort of prospective loss that is happening where particularly a certain sector of white voters feel like they are being overrun by these others who are taking control of the country and whom they see as illegitimate.

Juliet Hooker:

And I think that that is one of the things that this frame of thinking through loss helps us to see, that these, for example, efforts at voter suppression, or calling an election fraudulent that clearly was not, are really about the sense that any situation in which we lose is illegitimate by definition because we are not supposed to lose.

Juliet Hooker:

And so, thinking about the ways in which white supremacy in particular has shaped certain civic capacities, in particular the kind of central civic capacity to accept justified loss. And so, for me, I’m thinking about these questions in my research, but it was absolutely so great to be able to think through them in various forms with Emily and with our students because they really are shaping the way in which we’re all talking and thinking about politics in every aspect of our lives.

Amanda Anderson:

Thank you. I’d like to turn now for a moment to Emily’s research, which addresses questions of time and temporality with respect to forms of political life, in particular, around the figure of the lesbian in 20th-century feminist and queer contexts. How do you see your current research intersecting with, or complicating, or augmenting, the framework of loss that Juliet has just been describing?

Emily Owens:

Yeah, so I think that in some ways this new project that I’m working on — the figure of the lesbian in mostly 20th-century American feminist thought — takes loss with a bit of humor. I think I’m really interested in cultures of nostalgia and ideas about time that play out in feminist culture. Plenty of feminist theorists have thought and written about the ways that time and the ways that we tell stories about ourselves shape feminist cultures. And so, in a certain way, that’s kind of like a lighter side of some of the questions that we ended up grappling with in this class.

Emily Owens:

One of the things that’s happening in my research on lesbians that came up really prominently in our class was thinking about the way that loss and other affects change time. So in the middle section of our class, we did a lot of work on affect and on the felt life of loss — on grief, on rage, on exhaustion, and on the ways that living through those feelings or living through loss, really changes time, and the way that that shows up in narrative.

Emily Owens:

So that’s something that I’m really interested in my research, the ways that particular losses can be registered in public space or in counter-public space, and the ways that some losses don’t ever register, the ways that some losses that may or may not actually be material losses do become imagined as really powerful and profound losses or sites of nostalgia. So that’s the stuff that I’m working with in my second book project, but I also am really interested in the ways that ideas about left-behind-ness or being stuck in the past attach to particular kinds of bodies or identities.

Emily Owens:

So anyway, in class, we did a lot of interesting work on what happens in the moment of loss. We read a book by our colleague Rebecca Carter [“Prayers for the People: Homicide and Humanity in the Crescent City” (University of Chicago Press, 2019)] that was really a powerful, wonderful book and a really excellent teaching tool that really walked students through the long life of grief, and the persistence of grief, and the ways that loved ones who are lost don’t actually go away from a person’s life — they change shape — and the affective world around that and the persistence of presence even without someone’s material life being there. It was really interesting. And I think students really grappled with that in a complex and deep way.

Amanda Anderson:

That’s a beautiful answer. It leads me to another question I had about one concept that is central to your course, and that is the concept of public feelings. I would love to hear you reflect a little bit about that because it seems to me, I mean, of course, there’s an assumption sometimes that feelings are private, but I think there’s been a lot of work particularly in the humanities on the ways in which affect informs collective movements and historical transformations.

Emily Owens:

Yeah, so in some ways, “public feelings” is a riff on the Public Feelings Working Group which was really active in affect studies — I guess around 20 years ago was when they started, or early 2000s. And so in some ways we’re really informed, I think, in thinking about affect in a particular way through a genealogy of queer theory. And I think that that genealogy is suggestive of the ways that feelings are alive and well in public life, but also feelings are structured by public life, right, by the kinds of things that are possible because of various kinds of structures.

Emily Owens:

I think that it was a really interesting moment to also encounter the ways that some political actors have used and have expressed feeling in order to make political claims. This was true throughout the course, but I think particularly resonant for students was the real presence of rage as a powerful political tool in the current Movement for Black Lives alongside love and care and a sort of a sense of in-group community, but also being able to sort of reflect political rage in public space.

Emily Owens:

But also, I think, being able to encourage students to think on the other side about what kinds of feelings are not allowed to be public. One of the essays that we initially planned to assign but we didn’t have room for in the end is a wonderful essay by Jennifer Nash about Rachel Jeantel and her testimony after the killing of Trayvon Martin right at the beginning of the Movement for Black Lives [“Unwidowing: Rachel Jeantel, Black Death, and the ‘Problem’ of Black Intimacy,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 41, no. 4 (2016): 751–73]. And the ways that her felt experience — I think we’re actually seeing this play out again in the Derek Chauvin trial right now — the ways that her profound intimate felt experience was kind of made into a spectacle on the witness stand and utilized in particular ways by media, by the court. But the possibility of her tenderness and intimacy with a friend was something that was not legible in public space, even as it was so fully evidenced by her person.

Emily Owens:

And so I think that we were able to think about both of those things in this class, the kinds of feelings that are welcome, that are encouraged, that are imagined as useful, and the other kinds of feelings that are unwelcome, or even when they’re there, are unreadable by various kinds of publics and imagined to be nonexistent. We watched a handful of videos associated with the Movement for Black Lives — we called them the “Happy Birthday videos” — they’re a handful of videos that document the ways that families and community members and people who have been lost to police violence are celebrated in their absence on their birthday. And they’re such gorgeous videos that really, I think, document tenderness and in-community love and care, which is a side of Black life that is very rarely documented, and when it is documented is, I think, rendered illegible, right, because it’s not protest necessarily. It’s not being immediately mobilized to get something done politically. I think dwelling with those videos was, I found, really, really powerful as a scholar, and I think it was really powerful for students also. Again, thinking about the kind of slowness that can happen in grief and also the question of what it would look like for Black love to be something that could be felt in public and recognized in public, that was a really powerful moment in the class.

Amanda Anderson:

Thank you. I’d like to turn now to a larger question having to do with your collaboration, which one could say attempts to confront and work through a major tension between the humanities and the social sciences: that between qualitative and quantitative methods and forms of evidence. Can you talk a little bit about how this encounter shaped the inquiry of the course and how it is especially relevant to the central topic of political activism in the context of loss? Juliet, perhaps you could speak to that.

Juliet Hooker:

Sure. You know, one of the things that I think we were thinking about as we were designing the course is precisely this wanting to represent a range of responses to loss, and thinking in particular about the way in which loss has become politicized, right? So losses happen, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to become salient politically. And what was really striking for us was thinking about the way in which quantitative data and statistical, numerical enumeration of loss play such a big part often in these drives to make loss visible.

Juliet Hooker:

Here, we spent a lot of time thinking about, for example, Ida B. Wells’s [1862–1931] pioneering anti-lynching activism in which she literally counted the number of lynchings and produced all of this in “The Red Record” [1895], all the statistical data that made it clear that it was occurring regularly at really high rates throughout the country. And that kind of activism we see now being taken up in new sort of digital ways by efforts like the Mapping Police Violence initiative or the various counting sites that have been created — for example, The Washington Post — to count the number of people who have been killed by police because there was no federal database of those deaths.

Juliet Hooker:

And so there’s something that happens when you mobilize numbers in this way, and it reveals something — it reveals perhaps the depth of the problem, the scope — but what might it not allow you to do? And so we were also really interested in the way, for example, artists were trying to represent loss, and so actually we had our students read a couple of exhibit catalogs for museum shows that were really about grief and grievance and sort of rethinking loss. And so we were really trying to say, you know: what is the difference between approaches to loss that foreground affect and others that might foreground the statistical, numerical enumeration of the loss, and how are activists going between using one or using the other?

Juliet Hooker:

And often — back to the point that Emily was trying to make that there’s always a kind of tension in efforts at representing loss when you’re mobilizing politically year-round. I think the Happy Birthday videos for the victims of police violence are really important and interesting because of that, because they’re really also saying, you know, in these efforts to mobilize grief in order to create a public mourning that can foster solidarity, there is a cost, right? There’s a loss associated with that because we’re not allowed to simply grieve the passing of a family member. And so thinking about that and the efforts of people who have suffered loss to also have a personal affective response that’s not about the turn from grief to grievance necessarily, from loss to activism.

Amanda Anderson:

Mm-hmm, mm-hmm (affirmative). Emily, do you have any thoughts on this question of the quantitative versus the qualitative?

Emily Owens:

I think that my presumption walking into this class was that we were going to see quantitative responses to loss and qualitative responses to loss as fundamentally divergent and doing really different kinds of political work. And that’s true. But I think that I was really surprised by and interested in the moments when quantitative data is frequently mobilized to do what we would think of as kind of humanistic work, right: to kind of trigger an affective response, or a political response certainly, but to trigger public mourning and a sort of sense of collective loss, right?

Emily Owens:

So we began the class with The New York Times’ digital graphic that’s still ongoing that’s titled “An Incalculable Loss,” which is meant to convey the loss of lives in the context of the pandemic in the United States. It was a nice entry point for students because this is something that we’re all living through and all have experience with — all the different kinds of experiences with. And so it was a touch point into like, “Okay, what is loss? How does this happen in political space? And when and in what context does loss become collective as opposed to an intimate experience?” And I think that what’s happening in that digital graphic is really interesting because the Times is simultaneously mobilizing quantitative data and then using essentially visual artistry to compel an affective response from their readers.

Emily Owens:

And so the sense of the quantitative and the qualitative as modes of inquiry were just not nearly as separate as I would have expected coming into the class. I think the Wells work that Juliet has done in her research and that came into our class — and we paired Wells with W.E.B. Du Bois [1868–1963] who was really grappling with the question of how to make loss penetrate, how to make Black loss penetrate in public space — and I think reading those two who are contemporaries alongside one another, who are mobilizing these different kinds of strategies, one quantitative, one more qualitative in that instance, but also knowing that Du Bois was such a powerful quantitative thinker, it led us to a really interesting questions, really of strategy — sort of what one is trying to accomplish politically and how different kinds of data can do different kinds of work depending on context, and often simultaneous work, right, that they can do both kinds of work at the same time. So I found that really surprising in this class and useful.

Amanda Anderson:

That’s fascinating. The run-up to your course in summer 2020 was affected by the pandemic, the shift to online teaching, and the urgent crisis around Black lives. How did these conditions affect or change your planned approach to the class? Emily, would you like to start?

Emily Owens:

Sure. They completely blew it up! They totally changed our class. I think part of it was when we conceived the course, it was a year before we taught it. And then, when we sat down to really tighten up the syllabus and get things ready, it was really still before the summer and before the uprising had begun, and it was clear to us that we needed to incorporate COVID, although at that point, we didn’t really know what the pandemic was. It was, like, spring 2020. We had just pivoted off campus, and everything was confusing and chaotic, and we were all just trying to get through. And we thought, “Well, we’ve got to deal with this. And gosh, won’t these previous histories be helpful to help students grapple with this moment?”

Emily Owens:

But then the uprising started in the summer, and the sense of these twin crises that gained very different kinds of political traction in different communities, I think, made our collective sense as teachers about this content feel just so much more urgent, because it wasn’t just like, “Okay, how do we grapple with loss as a big universal concept?” but “Which losses matter, which losses are understood to be collective on their face, and which losses need to be argued for as part of the collective problem or project of democracy?”

Emily Owens:

So I think that — the other thing that was really important was we shifted to online learning. And I think that we probably could have run this seminar as a fairly traditional seminar, as a small group of students, and we could have run it with our ordinary three hours of discussion. But we were both pretty nervous about that because we had not been trained to teach on Zoom, and in our summer of trying to prepare, we learned about different kinds of teaching strategies that seem more effective in asynchronous space and in online space, so we really restructured the class.

Emily Owens:

The class was meant to be collaborative in terms of student collaboration, in addition to our own collaboration. The class was initially meant to involve field trips to see the exhibits that we ended up assigning gallery books for students to engage. So we had all these elements that were really important to take place in person, to have students working together, thinking together, producing together. And so we wanted to figure out how to create space for collaboration even though we couldn’t be in person. What that meant for us was we basically broke the class into three modules that would give students time to work in small groups in an intensive way for three weeks together and to sort of shift the responsibility of facilitating learning for the group from one group to the next. So that deepened their connection to the content and deepened their connection to one another.

Emily Owens:

Anyway, it ran as a core structure that neither of us had ever tried, so it was a big experiment. And I think it also ended up being an interesting opportunity to rethink what it meant to teach this material and to teach with a set of students who were just really hungry and really, I think, advanced and ready for the material, ready to learn with a lot of independence. Anyway, I’ll just say everything changed! The whole thing changed.

Amanda Anderson:

I’m curious, Juliet, if you have anything to add to that and also maybe if you might address the question as to whether anything happened during the course of the semester that particularly surprised you.

Juliet Hooker:

I want to echo everything that Emily said about how we had to rethink everything in light of the fact that this is a course about loss, and here we were in the middle of these twin crises. And knowing how much our students are activists and are grappling with these issues themselves, and would bring them in, it felt like the course needed to really be a space for them to do that.

Juliet Hooker:

And I think that the thing that surprised me the most about the course was how much community we were able to create. And I give them, our students who were fantastic, so much credit for this because I think that was one of our big worries going into it that, “Oh my God, it’s going to feel so impersonal. We’re going to be on Zoom. How are we going to talk about these really complex and difficult issues online? This is going to be very, very difficult.” And so, one of the things that I’m so grateful for and was so happily surprised by was how much I think the structure really helped create this sense of collaboration and community for the students because they were working together in a group in each module that was responsible for taking a lead role in the class for three weeks. And then, they were also reading each other’s work and giving feedback and getting feedback on their own work. I think this really helped them feel like the class was a space where there was really a sense of solidarity and community and really collaborative thinking, and that was so gratifying to hear them say at the end that they were going to miss this space that we had all created together.

Amanda Anderson:

Yeah, that’s wonderful. Can you share with our audience some of the student collaborations in the course that particularly stood out for you? Emily, would you like to speak to that?

Emily Owens:

So there were a lot of sites of collaboration in the class, and I think that was one of the great surprises, was that through structuring these writing workshops, that they were able to collaborate not just as, I think, we had initially intended on a final project production end thing, but also in a lot of the process space, which is not something I’ve done a lot of with students and which they really thrived in. I think it was nice because everyone felt so isolated in the fall that they had that touch point, but also I think intellectually, it was really fruitful because we were really intentional about admitting students into the classroom [with] really interdisciplinary backgrounds. We had students in a group who all said, “Okay, we’re really interested in this topic” — in representing loss, let’s say — and in that group might be one historian, one student from Modern Culture and Media Studies, one student from neuroscience, and one student from IBES [Institute at Brown for Environment and Society].

Emily Owens:

So really a dynamic intellectual space. So I think that they did really just a lot of collaborative thinking together. They looked at and they edited each other’s papers and their drafts and their outlines, and they collaborated on preparing the facilitation of the classes, and they also collaborated on using digital tools that were new to both me and Juliet. They were much, much more capable at using digital tools for teaching than I think either of us were.

Emily Owens:

I think the other thing that was really striking to me was the space of student-teacher collaboration that, frankly, I was pretty nervous about when we each assigned a piece of writing that we had written. We did that in part because we wanted students to see and to be able to ask questions about the process through which writing that looks pretty polished at the end — you know, that’s written by a professional scholar-type people — comes out of these rich spaces of really messy thinking. And so they would be writing and also reading our work, and then asking us about how an essay came to be, where it started, what kind of evidence we used.

Emily Owens:

I was really nervous, honestly, to share my own writing with students. I think it’s not something that I ever do. It felt like it made us, as thinkers, really vulnerable in the space, not just as teacher-experts, but also as people who are just muddling through and trying to figure this stuff out too. We both happened to use research and writing as our tools for figuring stuff out, but I think it was a really nice site for joining as thinkers with our students who, in this case, were — our students were extraordinary. They were so driven and smart and advanced in their own topic areas and just really capable. And so, it was really fun to collaborate with them as thinkers, and not just be their leaders in the space.

Amanda Anderson:

Thank you. Juliet, do you have anything to add to that?

Juliet Hooker:

I just want to say that I think one of the things that was really lovely to see was just the way in which they really — we were very open about what their final project would be, and they really ran with that, and we said it could be an individual project or it could be collaborative. And so, for example, one really lovely project that two of our students did was they wrote letters to each other to reflect on Black women’s activism, drawing on the sources in the class. And it was a series — you know, a kind of an epistolary conversation related to all these questions related to Black women’s activism. Another student planted a garden and kept a journal about the growth of her garden as a way to think about land and to think about questions of dispossession that she was writing on in her thesis. One student did a zine on the question of who counts as a Black icon. Another one did a really lovely project that was actually a video game that was meant to be a way to think about his relationship to his grandfather and the loss of his grandfather, and thinking about questions of familial loss and how you pass on cultural traditions. Sometimes you can do this using traditional versus new media, because the video game was actually about cooking and about how his grandfather taught him how to cook, and so, you progress through it by actually making a dish. So they did just use incredibly creative, wonderful things, and it was just so much fun to think with them.

Amanda Anderson:

Wow, thank you for those really rich examples. I mean, it sounds like it was a really sustaining environment. I guess, as a last question, if you were to teach this course again, what would you change — apart from, of course, moving it from Zoom to an in-person format?

Emily Owens:

It’s hard to imagine what this class would look like because I think, to the extent that we had to really change the class or change what we imagined as the class, because of the cultural context that we were living in while we were teaching it, and to the extent the time is moving really fast right now — I mean, even just thinking about the cultural moment we were in at the beginning of the class, versus at the end of the class, versus now, only four or five months later, it’s like things are changing so rapidly in our political landscape. So it’s really hard to imagine the class as it existed, the syllabus as it existed, the structure as it existed, even the readings that we read as having … as doing the same kind of work in another political moment.

Emily Owens:

So I think we would change a lot. I think that this class was a little bit of an exercise in being responsive to our political moment. And so maybe we would want to be responsive to a different moment, maybe it would be an opportunity to reflect on the moment that this class was initially taught in. I mean, I don’t know. It’s hard to know. It’s almost like we could teach this class as — we have a syllabus that preexisted the syllabus that we remade or that we revised and taught. So we could teach this class as though last year never happened in a certain way — we have a template for it — but that seems like it would be a really missed opportunity to reflect on the ways that we were working through the concept of loss in the context of these profound losses. Anyway, so I think we just have to think a lot about it.

Amanda Anderson:

Thank you. Any final thoughts, Juliet?

Juliet Hooker:

I think, on this question, I would just add that because of the racial justice protest, because of the pandemic, we ended up narrowing in some ways our topics much more than we intended to, so we really focused on those two questions in a way. And I think there are all these other issues that we had wanted to include in our conversations in the class that didn’t get the same amount of attention. So maybe, you know, when we go to do it again, that’ll be an opportunity to really expand some of those questions about different kinds of affects, for example, that we didn’t explore.

Juliet Hooker:

So in our original plan for the course, we were going to end on this — reading all these texts on indigenous resurgence, and we didn’t have space for that in this iteration. And we were going to do all this thinking around monuments and how we remember loss and the memorialization of loss. So I guess my sense is that if we were to go back to it, we would hopefully have more room to go back to some of those questions that we really wanted to grapple with that we just ended up not being able to because of the way we restructured to make it work in the context that we were in in the fall.

Emily Owens:

I would also just add that this class was so driven by each of our research agendas, which are moving along as time goes. And so I think this class started while I was working and continue to work deep in histories of violence in the 19th century, and Juliet’s been working on this project on grief and grievance. And so those questions were really at the heart of what we were up to. As our research moves, I think, both of us continue to be invested in and then thinking about questions that have to do with loss and with that which gets left behind. So I can imagine the shape of the class also just really changing shape based on our own interest.

Emily Owens:

I think as my work moves toward the 20th century and thinks about lesbian feminism, a lot of the work that we were planning to do on institutional life of women’s studies, and HIV and the AIDS epidemic, and a lot of things that fell out, or at least were minimized, I can imagine those really growing and being a really fruitful space, just depending on what we’re thinking about in our own work. I think part of what made this fun was that it was just really fruitful for our own research in addition to just being fun to teach.

Amanda Anderson:

Well, I do hope that you have the opportunity to teach it again, and one thing that I find so striking in both your answers to this question is the fact that for scholars who are as engaged and active as the two of you are, when you teach a course again, it’s never the same course because there’s always movement in the scholarship and in the commitments, and I think that’s just a wonderful testimony to your commitment to pedagogy and research at the same time. So thank you so much for being on the show today. It’s been a real pleasure talking with both of you.

Juliet Hooker:

Thank you, and thanks to the humanities institute for giving us the opportunity to teach the course together. It was really the highlight of my semester to get to co-teach with Emily, so it was really great to have the opportunity.

Emily Owens:

Yeah. Thank you so much, Amanda, for having us on the show and for facilitating this collaboration. It’s been a total joy. And I second what you said, Juliet. I’ve really missed our time working together.

Amanda Anderson:

The course taught by Juliet Hooker and Emily Owens in fall 2020 was supported through a Cogut Institute Collaborative Humanities Course Award, which supports the development of team-taught undergraduate courses on a research theme that has relevance across disciplines, divisions, or schools. The program seeks to show the indispensability of a humanities perspective in approaching larger social and global problems and in addressing complex research questions that seek to advance knowledge comprehensively. You can read more about the program and our other initiatives at the Cogut Institute website. Meeting Street is produced by the Cogut Institute for the Humanities. Our sound editor is Jake Sokolov-Gonzalez. You can find additional episodes of Meeting Street on our podcast page.

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Meeting Street
Conversations in the Humanities
Host Amanda Anderson explores topics of vital societal interest through conversations with scholars and writers whose voices have helped define issues and shape debates. Special focus on the forms of knowledge that characterize the humanities. Produced by the Cogut Institute for the Humanities at Brown University.
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Amanda Anderson

Amanda Anderson is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Humanities and English and Director of the Cogut Institute for the Humanities at Brown University. She has written a number of books on modern literature and culture as well as contemporary debates in the humanities. Her most recent books include Psyche and Ethos: Moral Life after Psychology (Oxford, 2018), Bleak Liberalism (Chicago, 2016), and The Way We Argue Now: A Study in the Cultures of Theory. She is currently leading an initiative at Brown that promotes collaborative teaching and research across and beyond the humanities disciplines.