King Intro for LGBT Series UMD: Contact: Spring 2012
ELIZABETH A. POVINELLIOn Social, and Other, Forms of Suicide4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 5, 2012Ulrich Recital Hall, Tawes HallElizabeth A. Povinelli is professor of anthropology at Columbia University. Povinelli is author of fourbooks, including, most recently, Economies of Abandonment: Social Belonging and Endurance in LateLiberalism. From 2000
2004, she edited the journal
As a big fan of Elizabeth Povinelli‟s work I am very pleased to have been asked to introduce her thisafternoon. In preparation I‟ve been practicing what nowadays is often called “transmedia storytelling.” This means I‟ve been hunting and
gathering stories and bits for stories across media platforms andvenues to see a tapestry of possible Povinelli entanglements that matter together.For myself, I think LGBT and Queer Studies need us all to do the kind of extending work this practicere
quires and rewards. “Contact,” the theme of this year‟s LGBT Series, asks us all to move among
disciplines and transdisciplinary connections, among infrastructures that alter worlds and circumscribethem, and to value the intellectual labors of those confronting their own abandonments or exhaustionsin ways that ethically require our attentive companionship and creative interest.Elizabeth Povinelli is quite a guide for such travels, a curator of experiences and yes we can wince abit at that way of putting it even, yet, such coinages of practices with uncomfortable kinships are at
the heart of various sorts of contact. So, I‟ve done my own weaving through transmedia inpreparation for today because Povinelli‟s work is
across so many worlds, so many forms of display, presentation, collaboration, technological experimentation, and
Nor have I been able to feel confident I have got it all somehow: Povinelli‟s energies are phenomenal,
her tasks and obligations to worlds prolific, her subtleties of insight painstaking, and her cares for
friending the social extraordinary. “Exhaustive” knowledge of her work is exactly not what is possible.But “exhaustion” is a key experience she opens up for us.
And in this context, social means more than just what humans do, as she says in the introduction toher new book,
Economies of Abandonment
. (7) The social, and social projects, are “dependent on
interlocking concepts, materials, and forces that include human and nonhuman agencies and
she uses the term “radical worlds” to include these.
What sort of academic and cultural critic can make such things happen, or befriend landscapes, cell phones, boat engines in bits, and their people in enfleshment and affective augmentation?
who asks “What worlds do you consider yourself obligated to?” Someone who is motivated
by a three generation long 28 year friendship entangled with a land claim in Anson Bay, NorthernTerritory, Australia. Indeed, one story says that while an undergrad at St. Johns College in Santa Fe inphilosophy and mathematics, she met these friends while on fellowship in Australia in the 80s, andwas persuaded to take up Anthropology at Yale, finishing in 1991, in order to be of use to them, astheir land claim required the authoritative assistance of either a lawyer or an anthropologist and shepreferred to become the latter. Currently she is Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies atColumbia University.
What on her Vita are called her “consultancies” –
t in other contexts she calls “friendship” –
trace the edges of only SOME of the worlds she demonstrates her obligations to: but they include workfor land claims, sea titles and assessments for sacred sites in various spots in Northern Territory.
Karrabing, Low Tide Turning
” is the 2012 prize
-winning film she and her friends of the Karrabing
Indigenous Corporation made about an extended family‟s searches for a missing member among
places and lands they work to inhabit in urban communities and outstations in Australia. The title, shesays in one interview, refers to the fabulous moment in which all kinds of paths open up in the wakeof the lowest possible tide, allowing one actually to walk to islands across reefs. The film itself is an