Prof. Deborah A. Thomas Lecture

The Department of Anthropology is pleased to present Prof. Deborah A. Thomas on Thursday, February 22 at 4:30pm, Kemeny 006.

"Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation: Affect, Witnessing, Repair"

Deborah A. Thomas
R. Jean Brownlee Term Professor of Anthropology
University of Pennsylvania

What does it mean to be human – politically – in the wake of the plantation?  How have people confronted the unpredictable afterlives of colonialism and slavery, nationalism and state formation, in ways that perform not only a material but also an affective transformation?  What does sovereignty feel like?  In this talk, I will draw from ethnographic and multi-media work in Tivoli Gardens, Kingston, Jamaica to think through the temporal regimes to which sovereignty projects are tethered, how these condition the hegemonic affective states through which they are enacted and experienced.  I will thus explore the constitution of the political subject not primarily through nationalism, nor through state- (and extra-state-) driven processes of subjectification, but through the cultivation of affects that are shaped by the particular temporal conjunctures in which they emerge.  I will argue that approaching sovereignty relationally, affectively, and transnationally allows us to gain greater insight into the following kinds of questions:  What new forms of community and expectation are produced by violence, and how are these expressed and mapped?  What are the broader entanglements that engender specific forms of violence at particular moments?  And finally, how do we develop archives of these entanglements, and what might their juxtapositions produce?