Freedom in Quarantine

Message from Co-Directors of the Freedom Lab:

Would you like to learn more about the dramatic implications of the COVID-19 crisis for freedom? 

Incoming Arts and Humanities faculty member, Professor Zairong Xiang, has just published a short essay “Freedom in Quarantine” in the journal Critical Times, which explores this theme as well as many others, including xenophobia against Chinese nationals and people of Chinese origin, solidarity in our world, and environmental crisis. This illuminating essay can be read here:

The whole world is in lockdown. Or is it?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen some unprecedented measures imposed by governments across the world. These governments have closed down entire cities or even countries in order to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of the deadly virus, because, unlike us, the virus is free; it traverses social strata and national boundaries. We need to check its freedom by putting our own freedom to move and to gather in quarantine. This, historians have told us, is an ancient way of combating contagious diseases. We are also reminded, in different ways—some benevolent, some outright racist—that after all in liberal democracies “we are not like the Chinese,” who allegedly can only obey their government’s dictates. This Chinese exceptionalism obscures the fact that most of those who could afford to stay at home in China are not very different from those who are staying home in the “free world.” They are all in one way or another beneficiaries of an unequal distribution of freedom—the freedom to stay home. We do it because we care, we can, or we have to. But one thing is clear: this freedom to stay at home comes at a price. Continue reading “Freedom in Quarantine”

Arts and Humanities Division and Freedom Lab Presents | The Utopianism called Decolonization: Thinking with Tagore

Thursday June 11, 9am EST / 9pm China Time

Zoom Meeting ID: 2613304845

Speaker: Sandeep Banerjee, Associate Professor, Department of English, McGill University

Abstract:

In this talk I aim to situate decolonization as a kind of the utopianism. I contend that decolonization is not, as is typically understood, simply a set of political events from the twentieth century; not only a utopian desire that was actualized through the dismantling of European political regimes through the course of the twentieth century. Rather, the utopianism called decolonization is more processual in nature. It seeks to transcend the rule of capital that forms the condition of possibility of colonialism while also seeking to decolonize the minds of the colonized.

In this talk, I draw on the creative as well as critical corpus of colonial India’s pre-eminent literary figure and public intellectual, Rabindranath Tagore, to think about the imbrication of decolonization and utopianism. These works show not only the relentless attempt to imagine the lineaments of the postcolony freed from the depredations of capital and nationalism but also stress the cultural labor undergirding the process of decolonization. Tagore’s writings, then, gesture towards a materialist theorization of decolonization that aligns him with theorists of culture and colonialism such as Antonio Gramsci, Frantz Fanon, and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o.

Bio-note:

Sandeep Banerjee

Sandeep Banerjee is a literary critic, theorist, and translator and Associate Professor of English at McGill University, Canada. He is the author of Space, Utopia and Indian Decolonization: Literary Pre-figurations of the Postcolony (Routledge, 2019). His articles have appeared (or will appear) in Modern Fiction Studies, Utopian Studies, Modern Asian Studies, Victorian Literature and Culture, and Mediations, in addition to several anthologies. A General Editor of the Routledge Series in the Cultures of the Global Cold War, he is currently working on his book project that examines the question of aesthetics in an uneven world.

*This talk is co-sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Division and the Freedom Lab

Freedom Lab Event Report on “Gandhi, Vegetarianism, and Culinary Cosmopolitanism”

By Ruihan Wan

Class of 2022

On April 13, 2020, The Freedom Lab invited Professor Nico Slate from Carnegie Mellon University to lead a discussion on the topic of “Gandhi, Vegetarianism, and Culinary Cosmopolitanism.” The Freedom Lab co-directors, Professors Jesse Olsavsky and Selina Lai-Henderson hosted the discussion. Humanities Research Center co-director Professor James Miller, Lab Manager Tim Smith, Professor Titas Chakraborty, and around 25 students attended the discussion. Continue reading “Freedom Lab Event Report on “Gandhi, Vegetarianism, and Culinary Cosmopolitanism””

Freedom Lab: Launch Event

Date: March 26

Time: 9pm (China time) / 9am (US Eastern time)

Zoom Meeting ID: 344-318-9585

Hosted by the Lab’s faculty and student researchers, the launch will introduce the Lab, its objectives and research projects, as well as a series of exciting events for 2020.

The launch will conclude with a Keynote by Professor Geoffrey Harpham (Senior Fellow, Kenan Institute on Ethics, Duke University) on “Freedom and the Character of Scholarship,” followed by a Question and Answer session. This event will be recorded and posted on the Freedom Lab Website for all to view. Continue reading “Freedom Lab: Launch Event”

Gandhi, Vegetarianism, and Culinary Cosmopolitanism: A Discussion with Professor Nico Slate

April 13, 2020

8:30 PM (China Time) 8:30 AM (US Eastern Time)

Zoom Meeting ID: 261-330-4845

All in the DKU community are welcome to join in a discussion with Professor Nico Slate (Carnegie Mellon University) on the subject of vegetarianism and its relation to Gandhi’s political views on race, cosmopolitanism, and decolonization. Discussion will be based on two short pieces written by Professor Slate.

Nico Slate is a Professor of History at Carnegie Mellon University. He is author of 5 books, including Colored Cosmopolitanism: The Shared Struggle for Freedom in the United States and India. His most recent book is Gandhi’s Search for the Perfect Diet: Eating with the World in Mind.

Please contact Chi Zhang at cz129@duke.edu or Yifei Qi at yq65@duke.edu to get the readings.