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THEM! The visual cultures of 'othering' in post-referendum UK and post-general-election USA
13 January 2017, 10.30am-5pm

THEM! The visual cultures of 'othering' in post-referendum UK and post-general-election USA

A study day at Middlesex University

Friday 13th January 2017

10:30-17:00, Grove building, room G230

Free event, but registration is recommended here.

Using the evocative power of the title ‘Them!’, drawn from the toxic horror of a 1950s ‘nuclear monster’ film, this study day will pose the question: who are the “subjects of abjection” (Imogen Tyler, 2013) in today’s social imaginary, those burdened with embodying the symbolic manifestation of current social fears? Through a series of short presentations and collective discussions, we want to track their fabrication and circulation across a variety of sites, including popular culture, viral memes, arts, news cycles, and everyday life. We will look at the visual cultures of stigmatisation and reactionary “discursive strategy of the stereotype” (Homi Bhabha, 1983), whilst also reflecting on alternative strategies of contestation and counter-representation.

In the present phase of the crisis, this task seems urgent for practitioners, theorists and educators alike.  We have seen the rise and multiplication of forms of intolerance both across official politics and the social body. Often directed at phantasmatic targets propagated through both mass and social media, the political consequences of such intolerance takes the form of invisible or marginal abandonments, persecution and harassment at a molecular social level. The transformation of welfare provision into a system which sanctions the most vulnerable constituencies has been implemented, despite intense challenges, in a climate marked by social scapegoating. In this context, it is important to ask what are the consequences of the widespread delegitimation of solidarity? Should the weak suffer what they must, as Yanis Varoufakis put it, or can a visual culture counter-strategy be constructed to intervene in how such figures of ‘others’ are produced and propagated?

Contributions by: Felicity Allen // Alberto Duman // Valeria Graziano // Anthony Iles // Alexandra Kokoli // Dimitra Kotouza // Mental Health Resistance Network // Nicholas Mirzoeff // Wail Qasim // Alison Scott-Baumann // Luke White.


10:30 – 10:45 Welcome/Intro by Valeria Graziano

10:45– 11:15 – Nicholas Mirzoeff

11:15 – 11:45 –  Wail Qasim

11:45 – 12:15 – Alison Scott-Baumann

12:15 – 13:15 – Lunch

13.15-13:45 – Dimitra Kotouza

13:45-14:15 – Mental Health Resistance Network

14:15 – 14:45 – Anthony Iles

14:45 – 15:00 –  Alberto Duman

15:00 – 15:30 – Coffee Break

15:30 – 16:00 – Alexandra Kokoli

16:00 – 16:30 – Felicity Allen

16:30 – 17:00 – Luke White



About the speakers

Felicity Allen is an artist and writer. She gained her PhD from Middlesex in 2016 and has previously been a guest scholar at the Getty Research Institute, Head of Learning at Tate Britain, undertaken residencies in day centres, hospitals, museums and a cathedral, and edited Education (Documents of Contemporary Art, MIT/Whitechapel).

Alberto Duman is a lecturer at Middlesex University. His artistic and academic practice has evolved in the last 10 years framed by the development of public art practice in UK and the fluctuating emphasis on ‘site-specificity’. He was the Leverhulme Trust 2016 Artist in Residence at University of East London (UEL) with the project Music for Masterplanning.

Valeria Graziano is a theorist, practitioner and educator with a background in visual culture and critical organization studies. Her research is primarily concerned with antiwork activism and inventing postwork alternatives.  She is currently a research fellow at ADRI, Middlesex University, London.

Anthony Iles is currently a doctoral candidate at the School of Art & Design, Middlesex University, a contributing editor with Mute / Metamute and Cesura // Acceso. He is the author, with Josephine Berry-Slater, of the book, No Room to Move: Art and the Regenerate City (Mute Books, London 2011), and contributing editor of the recent publication, Anguish Language: writing and crisis (Archive Books, Berlin, 2015).

Alexandra Kokoli’s research is situated within feminist art history, theory and practice, focusing particularly on the fraught but fertile relationship between feminism and psychoanalysis. She is the author of The Feminist Uncanny in Theory and Art Practice (Bloomsbury Academic, August 2016), which investigates the widely debated, deeply flawed yet influential concept of the uncanny through the lens of feminist theory and contemporary art practice.

Dimitra Kotouza is a lecturer in Sociology at Middlesex University and a contributing editor to Mute magazine. Her current research focuses on gendered and racialised abjection as crisis management.

The Mental Health Resistance Network was set up by people who live with mental distress in order to defend ourselves from the assault on us by a cruel government whose only constituents are the super rich and who value everyone else according to how much they serve the interests of this selfish minority.

Nicholas Mirzoeff is Professor of Media, Culture and Communication at New York University. Since 2013, he has been Visiting Professor of Visual Culture at Middlesex University, London. Currenty, he is working on a project entitled The Visual Commons #BlackLivesMatter. It looks at the formations of the visual commons from the Haitian Revolution, via Reconstruction and 1968 to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Wail Qasim is a writer, critic and activist based in London. They primarily take part in campaigns for racial justice. Amongst other things their work has covered philosophy, politics, art, culture, immigration, protest and deaths in custody. Their website wail.black features links to recent writing, video and podcasts.

Alison Scott-Baumann is Professor of Society and Belief in the Centre of Islamic Studies in the Near and Middle East Department at SOAS and her work has two interrelated and also distinct research strands, social justice and philosophy.

Luke White is Senior Lecturer in Visual Culture, at Middlesex University. His current research explores martial arts cinema genres, as they open an exploration of a number of broader stakes, including: the question of the possibly resistant functions of popular culture; forms of cultural (counter-)memory; the post-colonial experience; problems of violence, non-violence and social change.