About the talk:
This talk presents a historical, material, and psychocultural re-examination of the concept of the fetish. Through a symptomatic reading of the term’s conventional deployment--as an accusation (i.e. of fetish-ism) by Europeans against Africans, including in the writing of modern architects like Hegel and Kant--Louis finds its fullest, though transfigured, expression on the plantation landscapes of the New World. In that context, the fetish emerges (by another name) as an instrument of domination adapted to the psychoaffective exigencies of slavery and colonialism. Also in that context, it proliferates, becoming the taken-for-granted helpmate of modernity’s hegemonic mode of being (human). The talk considers contemporary artistic productions for how they illuminate this dimension of slavery’s ongoing psychic hold--particularly in the registers of being and relation.

About the speaker:
Ellen Louis is a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow with the African American Studies Department at the University of California, Irvine. She received her Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University. Her current research concerns the psychoaffective structure of the world since the formation of modern slavery and colonialism.


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