Video / Audio  Terrance Hayes

From iPhones and clothing to jewelry and food, the products those of us in the developed world consume and enjoy exist only through the labor and suffering of countless others. In his new book, Bruce Robbins examines the implications of this dynamic for humanitarianism and social justice. He locates the figure of the "beneficiary" in the history of humanitarian thought, which asks the prosperous to help the poor without requiring them to recognize their causal role in the creation of the abhorrent conditions they seek to remedy. Tracing how the beneficiary has manifested itself in the work of George Orwell, Virginia Woolf, Jamaica Kincaid, Naomi Klein, and others, Robbins uncovers a hidden tradition of economic cosmopolitanism. There are no easy answers to the question of how to confront systematic inequality on a global scale. But the first step, Robbins suggests, is to acknowledge that we are, in fact, beneficiaries. Bruce Robbins is Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University and the author and editor of several books, including perpetual War: Cosmopolitanism from the Viewpoint of Violence, also published by Duke University Press, and Upward Mobility and the Common Good: Toward a Literary History of the Welfare State. Robbins has written for The Nation, n+1, and other publications.

In The Mediterranean Incarnate, anthropologist Naor Ben-Yehoyada takes us aboard the Naumachos for a thirty-seven-day voyage in the fishing grounds between Sicily and Tunisia. He also takes us on a historical exploration of the past eighty years to show how the Mediterranean has reemerged as a modern transnational region. From Sicilian poaching in North African territory to the construction of the TransMediterranean gas pipeline, Ben-Yehoyada examines the transformation of political action, imaginaries, and relations in the central Mediterranean while detailing the remarkable bonds that have formed between the Sicilians and Tunisians who live on its waters. The book centers on the town of Mazara del Vallo, located on the southwestern tip of Sicily some ninety nautical miles northeast of the African shore. Ben-Yehoyada intertwines the town’s recent turbulent history—which has been fraught with conflicts over fishing rights, development projects, and how the Mediterranean should figure in Italian politics at large—with deep accounts of life aboard the Naumacho, linking ethnography with historical anthropology and political-economic analysis. Through this sophisticated approach, he crafts a new viewpoint on the historical processes of transnational region formation, one offered by these moving ships as they weave together new social and political constellations.

Join Fintan O’Toole as he explores Shaw’s ambivalent relationship with Ireland and Irish nationalism. “George Bernard Shaw described Irish nationalist fervour in 1913 as ‘a burning fire shut up in the bones, a pain, a protest against shame and defeat, a morbid condition which a healthy man must shake off if he is to keep sane’. The only cure was national independence. Shaw always remained a paradoxical nationalist, arguing simultaneously that Irish freedom would do no good in itself and that it must be gained in order for the Irish to be able to think about other things.” Extracted from his new book Judging Shaw, Fintan O’Toole is a columnist and literary editor with The Irish Times and Leonard L. Milberg lecturer in Irish Letters at Princeton University. He has written books on Irish history, politics, society and culture. He has been awarded the European Press Prize 2017 and the Orwell Prize for Journalism 2017.

Shaw, Our Contemporary? George Bernard Shaw was the most famous Irishman in the world for much of his life – yet, for many, the prodigious nature and quality of his output is forgotten. As well as being a prolific writer and polymath, he was one of the first global celebrities who carefully created and managed his brand. With his passionate interest in social justice and poverty, in human rights, in public discourse and in entertainment, he was a man with much to say to our times. Join us for a panel discussion where academics, archivists, publishers, theatre makers debate the relevance of Shaw today on stage, in the classroom and in print. Speakers: Catriona Crowe, Ruth Hegarty, Barry Houlihan, Lucy McDiarmid, Adrian Paterson, and Keri Walsh.

This talk traces a genealogy of affect theory from the early modern era through to the present day, establishing the central significance of music for this history. It demonstrates that the theory of affect we have inherited today has its origins in eighteenth-century aesthetic debates concerning music’s capacity to function as a sign and to move its listeners. In the early modern era, the affects were important components of an elaborate semiotic system that sought to explain the impact of art. Today, by stark contrast, affect is often explicitly opposed to theories of the sign and of representation; theorists describe affect as corporeal and immediate, working on our autonomic systems. The genealogy elaborated in this paper shows how affect theories became separated from theories of representation, and it illustrates the central and surprising role that music played in this separation.

Celebrating Recent Work by Rebecca Woods, Matthew Jones, and William Deringer