Call for Graduate Student Applicants: Media Aesthetics IV
2022 Summer Institute in Rhetoric and Public Culture 
Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208 
In Person 
July 18–22, 2022 
The deadline for applications is Thursday June 9, 2022 

Media Aesthetics IV:  

The annual Rhetoric and Public Culture Summer Institute at Northwestern University is scheduled to be held on July 18-22, 2021 (with arrival July 17 and departure July 23).  
Institute conveners are Dilip Gaonkar (Rhetoric and Public Culture, Northwestern University) and James J. Hodge (English, Northwestern University). 
This year’s theme is Media Aesthetics.      
What does it mean to study and to theorize media today? What does it mean to study aesthetic texts and experience in a global media ecology no longer dominated by the long-standing paradigmatic forms of the disciplines of art history, literary studies, and cinema studies (painting, the novel, film) but rather by a panoply of multimedia forms (video games, digital art, social media, sound media)? What are the key sites of inquiry and the best theoretical resources for thinking through the saturation of contemporary life, politics and culture by media technologies? The challenges facing critical investigations into these questions are legion and daunting: from climate change and intense social inequities to divisive politics and more. Keeping these larger contexts and issues in mind, the summer institute will host a week of lecture and discussion on the topic of “media aesthetics.” In choosing “media aesthetics,” we affirm that big questions may be addressed at the levels of individual and collective experience and, moreover, as questions of mediation specific to a vast and uneven field of aesthetic forms circulating in global networks. Further, this seminar affirms the role of artworks and aesthetic experience more broadly as key sites of encounter. For the past several decades if not since at least the 1960s aesthetic production in its institutional manifestations has become more varied, less medium specific, and perhaps more fruitfully approached in a comparative manner. One key development here concerns the increasing and uneven ways in which the boundaries between more institutionally-sanctioned forms of aesthetic production and more ordinary vernaculars of experience have come to be understood as permeable and newly articulated and entangled. Taking aesthetics in its Greek sense of aisthesis (perception or feeling), we affirm the significance of methodologies and approaches such as affect theory, queer theory, phenomenology, Black studies, and psychoanalysis over and above approaches valorizing technology as such. Taking note of many local interventions in theoretical approaches to media studies, however, the summer institute asks what affinities and commonalities these often-disconnected discourses share.  

Institute Format and Application Process 

The institute will consist of five days of presentations and discussions led by visiting scholars and Northwestern faculty. This year’s visiting scholars include: Ramon Amaro (University College London), Bishnu Ghosh (University of California, Santa Barbara), Jean Ma (Stanford University), Bhaskar Sarkar (University of California, Santa Barbara), and Aarthi Vadde (Duke University). 
The institute is sponsored by the Center for Global Culture and Communication (CGCC), an interdisciplinary initiative of Northwestern University’s School of Communication. The CGCC will subsidize transportation (up to $250), lodging (double-occupancy), and some meals (breakfast and lunch every day and two group dinners) for admitted students. 
Applicants should send a brief letter of nomination from their academic advisor, along with a one-page statement explaining their interest in participating in this year’s institute, to the summer institute coordinator Vidura Bahadur ( will adopt a policy of rolling admissions. Priority will therefore be granted to strong applications that are submitted in a timely fashion, preferably by June 9, 2022. All inquiries should be directed to Vidura Bahadur. 
Faculty Bios: 

Ramon Amaro is Lecturer in Art and Visual Cultures of the Global South at University College London. His writing, research and practice emerge at the intersections of Black Study, psychopathology, digital culture, and the critique of computational reason. He draws on Frantz Fanon’s theory of sociogenic alienation to problematise the de-localisation of the Black psyché in contemporary computational systems, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence. Ramon’s research pulls away from notions of psychic negation, as set forth by the Fanonian model of representation, to investigate alternative modes of relation between race and technology. His ultimate aim is to develop new methodologies for the study of race and digital culture. Ramon is the author of The Black Technical Object: On Machine Learning and the Aspiration of Black Being (Sternberg/MIT Press, 2022). He is a founding member of the Queer Computing Consortium (QCC), which investigates the “languages” of computation in its role in shaping locally embedded community practices. 

Bishnupriya Ghosh is Professor of English and Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She teaches environmental media and global postcolonial studies. Much of her early scholarly work interrogated the relations between the global and the postcolonial; area studies and transnational cultural studies; popular, mass, and elite cultures. While publishing essays on literary, cinematic, and visual culture in several collections and journals such asboundary 2, Journal of Postcolonial Studies, Public Culture and Screen, in her first two books, Ghosh focused on contemporary elite and popular cultures of globalization: When Borne Across: Literary Cosmopolitics in the Contemporary Indian Novel (Rutgers UP, 2004)  and Global Icons: Apertures to the Popular (Duke UP, 2011). In the last decade, Ghosh turned to risk distributions and their relationship to media. She has written several essays on the subject and has co-edited collection (with Bhaskar Sarkar), The Routledge Companion to Media and Risk (2020). She is working now on a monograph entitled The Virus Touch: Theorizing Epidemic Media, which considers how mediatic processes detect and compose epidemics as crises events.  
Jean Ma is Professor in the Department of Art and Art History and the Denning Family Director of the Stanford Arts Institute at Stanford University. She has published books on the temporal poetics of Chinese cinema (Melancholy Drift: Marking Time in Chinese Cinema), singing women on film (Sounding the Modern Woman: The Songstress in Chinese Cinema), and the relationship of cinema and photography (Still Moving: Between Cinema and Photography). She is the coeditor of “Music, Sound, and Media,” a book series at the University of California Press. Her writing has appeared in Camera Obscura, Criticism, Film Quarterly, Grey Room, Journal of Chinese Cinemas, and October. Her forthcoming book At the Edges of Sleep: Moving Images and Somnolent Spectators was the recipient of an Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writer Book Grant.  
Bhaskar Sarkar is Professor of Film and Media Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of Mourning the Nation: Indian Cinema in the Wake of Partition (Duke University Press, 2009). He has coedited the collections Documentary Testimonies: Global Archives of Suffering (Routledge, 2009), Asian Video Cultures: In the Penumbra of the Global(Duke University Press, 2017), and The Routledge Handbook of Media and Risk (Routledge, 2020). He has also coedited two journal special issues: Postcolonial Studies (2005), on “The Subaltern and the Popular”; and BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies (2012), on “Indian Documentary Studies.” At present, he is completing a monograph titled “Cosmoplastics: Bollywood’s Global Gesture.” He has also begun work on two additional monographs: one about piratical practices in the Global South, and another on queer underground club cultures in millennial Los Angeles. 
Aarthi Vadde is Associate Professor of English at Duke University. She works in the field of 20th-21st century Anglophone literature. She looks at how literary history interfaces with theories of internationalism, the history of computation, and media studies more generally. Her book Chimeras of Form: Modernist Internationalism beyond Europe, 1914-2016 was published by Columbia UP in 2016 and won the ACLA’s 2018 Harry Levin Prize for outstanding first book in the field of comparative literature. Her book in progress is called “We the Platform: Contemporary Literature after Web 2.0.” In it, she considers how technical and rhetorical shifts in the formulation of the World Wide Web (from network to platform) are shaping contemporary literary culture and popular literacy practices. In addition to her monograph projects, Vadde is co-editor of a volume on the history of literary criticism entitled The Critic as Amateur (Bloomsbury Academic 2019), an open-access cluster of essays entitled Web 2.0 and Literary Criticism (Post45), and the Palgrave Handbook of 20th and 21st Century Literature and Science.  She is the co-host of Novel Dialogue, a podcast about how novels are made and what to make of them. Scholarly articles have appeared in Comparative Literature, Modernism/Modernity, New Literary History, NOVEL, and PMLA amongst others. 

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