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Mini-Seminar with Professor Kaushik Sunder Rajan (Multi-si(gh)ted: On Pharmocracy, Postcoloniality and Perception)

Department: Critical Theory at UCI

Date and Time: March 6, 2018 | 4:00 PM-6:00 PM

Event Location: HG 1010

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Multi-si(gh)ted: On Pharmocracy, Postcoloniality and Perception

In these talks, I argue that multi-sited ethnography is best thought of as a conceptual topology rather than a literalist methodology. i.e. multi-sited research is something other than simply proliferating the physical sites of one’s research; it is rather about the constitutive imbrication of questions of scale and perception in research design. A multi-sited sensibility is also necessarily a multi-sighted sensibility, requiring a proliferation of modes of sensory and conceptual perception.

I develop a second argument alongside, concerning the ways in which a multi-sited sensibility is postcolonial in its ethos. To elaborate this, I will turn to critiques of representation in the human sciences, in order to read them as promissory calls for proliferating the norms and forms of ethnographic practice in ways that are adequate to a contemporary globalizing moment. The hope is to develop an affirmatively deconstructive spirit of ethnographic perception and inquiry, in ways that problematize and re-conceptualize both site and sight.

In the first talk ("On Pharmocracy, and learning to do ethnography") I reflect on the trajectory of my own research, as published in my two books Biocapital and Pharmocracy, in order to elucidate how I was taught to conceptualize multi-sited research in my own research practice, and what the stakes of this have been for my intellectual and pedagogical interventions as a diasporic metropolitan academic. The second talk ("On Postcoloniality, and teaching ethnographic praxis") I elaborate my understanding of a multi-sited sensibility as postcolonial, by reading George Marcus and Michael Fischer's promissory call for a systemic anthropology in Anthropology as Cultural Critique through the work of Gayatri Spivak. In the third talk ("On Perception, or photography and the work of mourning"), I think about multi-sightedness, in order to explore a potential ethnographic ethos of intimacy through a meditation on photography as genre, practice and mode of attentiveness.