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This seminar investigates the enduring interplay between speculation and Blackness. In recent years, speculation has emerged as a key term in Black and African American Studies with speculation emerging as the site where Blackness gets refracted, refined, and (re)imagined. Speculation, Saidiya Hartman reminds us, activates a methodological approach to reading and writing Black histories that both evade and are erased from the historical record. But speculation is also the economic engine of racial capitalism and a mode of creative dissent and art making. Taking up this capacious understanding of speculation and the speculative, this seminar will explore how writers, scholars, artists, and cultural producers across historic periods mobilize speculation as an analytic, a creative praxis, and an interventionist strategy. Over the course of this year-long seminar, we will investigate various iterations of speculation – creative, financial, economic, methodological – and the forms it takes. We will place questions of speculation at the center of our discussion of public policy, histories of racial capitalism, aesthetics, performance, and literary genre. How, we will ask, do those figures who are made to secure exploitative systems of economic and ideological values forecast alternative civic and social futures? And how has speculation emerged as extractive economic practice and an insurgent praxis? This series will bring together scholars, artists, and writers from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, all of whom think diversely about speculation in their work, their method, and their practice.
About the Speaker
Monica Huerta is an assistant professor of English and American Studies at Princeton University. Her research and teaching center comparative race and ethnicity approaches to literature and culture of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the United States, and especially of visual culture, photography, and legal studies. At their broadest, her multi-disciplinary work exposes and articulates the aesthetic life of power.
Her first manuscript, Magical Habits, is forthcoming in August 2021 from Duke University Press, as part of the new Writing Matters! series edited by Lauren Berlant, Saidiya Hartman, Erica Rand, and Kathleen Stewart. In Magical Habits Huerta draws on her experiences growing up in her family's Mexican restaurants and her life as a scholar of literature and culture to meditate on how relationships among self, place, race, and storytelling contend with both the afterlives of history and racial capitalism. Magical Habits is a Duke University Press Scholars of Color First Book Award recipient. You can pre-order the book here.
Her second manuscript, The Unintended: Photography, Property & the Aesthetics of Racial Capitalism, is forthcoming from New York University Press in Spring 2022 as part of the American and the Long 19th Century series edited by David Kazanjian, Elizabeth McHenry, and Priscilla Wald. The book follows the little-explored trajectory of photography through legal categories and cases in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries to make a broader argument about whiteness as an aesthetics of power over and against its role as a category of identity and as part of racial capitalism’s workings.
Her next evolving research project, Face Poetics, asks a series of seemingly simple questions of the multi-disciplinary archive of studying and reading faces: why do we think we are reading when we look at a face? Does what we think reading is draw on how we think about the legibility of a face? And how much does thinking faces/bodies are legible affect our notions of what it means for a text to be legible at all, of what literariness is, and how expression and communication are conceived over time? These questions will open out in the project to meditations on features as form, skin and face-surface as mediums, facial expressions as both an unstable system and as a first-poetics. Finally, Face Poetics will bring these analytics to bear on the prevalence and ethical quandaries surrounding facial recognition technologies, and the contemporary struggles against implementing them.
Alongside her research agenda, Dr. Huerta has built a series of networks and sustained communities on campus, through Women* of Color Student-Faculty Corners, organized through First College at Princeton but open to all WOC* students. Most recently, with Dr. Autumn Womack — a scholar of 19th century African American literature and culture, and an assistant professor of African-American Studies and English at Princeton — they co-founded and now co-direct the new initiative, “Organizing Stories: Toward a Scholarly-Activist Praxis.” Organizing Stories seeks to connect students with veteran organizers who use storytelling, broadly-conceived, in their organizing work. The project began in Fall 2020 through a series of organizing/storytelling workshops led by movement leaders from the Poor People’s Campaign(link is external): A National Call for Moral Revival and Southerners on New Ground (S.O.N.G.), which is a home for LGBTQ liberation across all lines of race, class, abilities, age, culture, gender, and sexuality in the South.
Dr. Huerta’s work has been generously supported by the Ford Foundation, the Mellon Mays Fellowship, the New York Public Library, the National Hispanic Cultural Center, the Social Science Research Council, among others. She has taught many courses, including, “We Out Here: An Introduction to Latino Literatures,” “Imagining Slavery & Gender,” “Translating America,” “Latinx Autobiography,” “About Faces: Case Studies in the History of Reading Faces,” “Historical Fiction / Fictional History,” and “Introduction to American Studies.”
Dr. Huerta received her Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley; she also holds an M.A. in History from Princeton University and a B.A. in History & Literature from Harvard University. She has been a Link-Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow at the Princeton Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts and a Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow at Duke University, where she was housed in the Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies. In addition to teaching at Duke and Princeton, she has taught at the University of California, Berkeley, Rutgers University, Pace University, and the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey in Guadalajara, Mexico.
For more information, please contact:
- Autumn M. Womack, Faculty Convener - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Salwa Halloway, Graduate Coordinator - email@example.com
The seminar is available to Princeton University faculty, students, and staff ONLY (Not open to the public). To attend, RSVP to Dionne Worthy.
PLEASE NOTE: Photographs and recordings taken at Department of African American Studies events by anyone authorized by Princeton University may be used in publications, both electronic and print, at the discretion of the University and the Department of African American Studies.
Any individual, including visitors to campus, who requires accommodation should contact Dionne Worthy (firstname.lastname@example.org) at least one week in advance of the event.