ReadingRoom

ReadingRoom is a local Terra Critica practice in Utrecht with the collaboration of Casco Art Institute. It is open to anyone interested in careful close readings.

ReadingRoom is meant to create an open and inclusive space for substantial and meaningful conversations in the humanities, the arts and beyond.

ReadingRoom is open to anyone interested in careful close readings. It strives to create an open and inclusive space for substantial and meaningful conversations in the humanities, the arts and beyond. In the face of the current pressure for applied science and socio-economic profitability, reading and its crystallizing of critical questions are skills to refine in order to sharpen our understanding of and practicing in this world. We understand reading as an active intervention into our present, a shared practice that sharpens our senses and enables new affective communities.

ReadingRoom holds one thematic series per year, with 4-6 meetings per series. Each time we base our conversations on a few key texts from a wide range of disciplines.

Our sixth series started in October 2019. To register or for more information, please email info@terracritica.net.

series 6

It is Time…

The fifth series Reading Rosa, Pink & Other Colors looked critically at capitalism–patriarchy–colonialism (CPC) as the systemic weave shaping our current world-habitat. Our sixth series It is Time… takes up the thread of this troubling complexity rather than simply move elsewhere, to a new question or a different topic. But what does it mean to take up a thread? It means not just to continue with the same, but to continue and spin further, to involve another string. This image of working is inspired by the words of Bauhaus fabric artist Anni Albers, who writes in her book On Weaving (1965) that in weaving, as in study and thought, it is “possible to go from any place to any other, so also, starting from a defined and specialized field, can one arrive at a realization of ever-extending relationships” (xi).

ReadingRoom’s sixth series holds on to a focus on CPC as the fabric of our present, but also wants to interweave another string. CPC is not “simply” a global capitalist-patriarchal-colonial formation, but also lives off human exceptionalism and ecological devastation that affect “us” all, different humans and non-humans alike, yet in foundationally asymmetrical ways. It is Time…considers how we can thread a critique of the on-going environmental destruction into our critical understanding of CPC. It is Time… to re-imagine futurity (or temporality itself), to invent new languages to speak different ecologies of living. It is Time…

This ReadingRoom series is in resonance with Casco’s exhibition Het is of de stenen spreken (silence is a commons) (14 Sept – 3 Nov 2019).

 

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Upcoming sessions:

Session Four: Tuesday, 17 March 2020, 17.30-19.30

In our forth session, we want to read together Isabelle Stengers’ In Catastrophic Times. Resisting the Coming Barbarism (2015, Open Humanities Press/meson press). Stengers’ analysis of the times is as sharply speaking to us today as it was speaking to its readers in 2009 (its French publication) as it was to readers in 2015. If anything, the futurity of such a “coming” may feel less ahead of us in 2020; it may feel more present to us, around and with us. This makes it only more pressing to see how resisting the barbarism of the capitalist-patriarchal-colonial formation-cum-ecological-devastation we have dubbed CPC can be possible. The book – as Stengers writes at the opening – “was addressed and is still addressed to everyone who is struggling and experimenting today, to everyone who is a true contemporary of what I have dared to call ’the intrusion of Gaia,’ this ’nature’ that has left behind its traditional role and now has the power to question us all” (12). What might it mean to “think, invent, and act, to allow us to repopulate our devastated history” (114)?

 

Session Five: Tuesday, 12 May 2020, 17.30-19.30

Readings tba

 

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Past sessions:

Session One: Tuesday, 15 October 2019, 17.30-19.30

In our first session, we considered how the on-going environmental destruction is part and parcel of CPC, the systemic weave of capitalism–patriarchy–colonialism we studied last year. It is Time… intends to combine thinking about extinction and what ending something can mean, so this first session explored resonating conversations on water, sex/erotics, ongoingness and fugitivity.

We had dr. Eva Hayward (University of Arizona and Terra Critica researcher in residence 2019) as our guest and discussed these texts:

  • Eva Hayward, “Time of In/Difference. Extinction, Sexuality and Coral Science” (unpublished talk)
  • Eva Hayward, “FingeryEyes: Impressions of Cup Corals” Cultural Anthropology 25/4 (2010): 577-99.
  • Fred Moten, “Erotics of Fugitivity” in Stolen Life, Duke UP 2018, 241-267.
  • Koleka Putuma, “Water” https://pensouthafrica.co.za/water-by-koleka-putuma/

 

Guest session @ BAK, basis voor aktuele kunst, Utrecht: Saturday, 16 November 2019, 14.00-18.00
with Propositions #9: Deserting from the Culture Wars and BAK’s Program Trainings for the Not-Yet

Training with Terra Critica: ReadingRoom on Refuge, Refuse, Refrain

Desertion means to be disloyal and to abandon. Can we desert institutions of oppression, the constraints and expectations that dis/en/able us all, the futures we loathe? And can it also mean to join anew and train together how we might relate in unforeseen ways, within (para)institutions, struggling for futures we desire? In this training session, we were asking about the dynamics of refusal and refuge, a dynamic in which moves of desertion, but also moves of solidarity and alliance are caught up. What forms of politics must we invent to form coalitions among us, as diverse people of the earth, human and non-human? Is recognition the primary tool or must we devise other methods and desires to heal the wounds of war, whiteness and patriarchy? During the training session, we thought together about the text and also tried training modes of relating to those present and absent during the session. One main aim was to take account of the processes of refusal and refraining, of in/exclusion that have concretely also contributed to making our training session possible.

The session was based on a joint reading:

  • Fred Moten, “Refuge, Refuse, Refrain” The Universal Machine (Duke 2018), 65-139.

 

Session Two: Monday, 25 November 2019, 17.30-19.30

During our second regular session of ReadingRoom, we explored further the temporalities of climate change and its uneven and global effects. We welcomed dr. Anirban Das (Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata) as our guest and discussed these readings:

  • Déborah Danowski & Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, The Ends of the World (chs 1, 2 and 3), Polity 2017, pp. 1-27.
  • Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement. Climate Change and the Unthinkable (part 2: History), U of Chicago Press 2016, p. 85-116.
  • Dipesh Chakrabarty, “Anthropocene Time” History and Theory 57/1 (2018), p. 5-32.

 

Session Three: Tuesday, 21 January 2020, 17.30-19.30

It was Time… to read some fiction again and we returned in this session to a writer we had already engaged with in the first series of ReadingRoom: Octavia Butler. This time, we read Butler’s novel Parable of the Sower (1993), the dystopian sci-fi novel  set in the decade we entered in January: the 2020s. The novel speaks eerily well to the concerns of ReadingRoom with CPC, as a capitalist-patriarchal-colonial formation that also entails ecological devastation. The novel is set in California, when society has largely collapsed as a result of climate change and stark economic inequality. The main protagonist, Lauren Olamina, possesses what Butler calls “hyperempathy” or “sharing” – the ability to feel the pain and other sensations she witnesses in humans and non-humans alike. When forced to leave the remnants of a gated community close to Los Angeles, Lauren begins to travel north with a few other survivors. They come to develop a new belief system called “Earthseed,” whose teachings center on change and is given form in the short poetic pieces that head the novel’s chapters. Although Lauren believes it is humankind’s destiny to leave Earth and inhabit other planets, they are beginning this project by founding a first Earthseed community in Northern California.

 

For past series, please scroll down.

The fifth series of ReadingRoom was running from October 2018 to June 2019, entitled Reading Rosa, pink & other colors. It studied the interlocking systems of capitalism – patriarchy – colonialism, which we dubbed CPC. As this series coincided with the centennial of Rosa Luxemburg’s violent death in 1919, we started with her analysis of how a capitalist economy cannot sustain itself without simultaneous colonial expansion as well as a patriarchal societal foundation. Moving forward and backward in time, the series then looked into Black feminist critiques of CPC as well as “the family” as one of its incubators. Our fifth series resonated with Casco’s exhibition Terre Thaemlitz: Two Rubatos (8 March – 12 May 2019).

The fourth series of ReadingRoom was running from February to June 2018, discussing un/learning: the p/re/distribution of knowledge. This series asked how we host, organize and maintain knowledge and, more broadly, took up questions concerning access to, institutionalization of and the distribution of knowledge in its many forms. This series was in part inspired by the exhibition project The Library of Unread Books by Heman Chong and Renée Staal at Casco Art Institute (26 November 2017 – 25 February 2018).

The third series of ReadingRoom was running from September 2016 until May 2017, discussing WHO CARES? Politics and Poetics in the Affirmative. We studied feminist, decolonial and aesthetic interventions ‘in the affirmative’ into our contemporary planetary situation – especially looking at alternative spaces of education, activism and art and pursuing affirmation as a promising poetico-political tool to pass from mere opposition and negation to space-opening refusal.

The second series of ReadingRoom was running from September 2015 to February 2016, discussing relationality – envisioning new wor(l)dings. Relationality is one of the fundamental conditions of critical assessments and interventions today and has been very productively theorized in Caribbean thought and poetics. We engaged mainly with Fanon, Glissant and Wynter.

The first series of ReadingRoom was running from December 2014 to May 2015, discussing speculation & fabulation – critique in the SF mode. We looked at the theory and diverse forms of science fiction, reinvesting in imagination and speculation as crucial affective-critical tools for our present.

ReadingRoom participated in the exhibition @ Casco titled Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons, which ran from Friday 26 May 2017 and through until 16 July 2017. To learn more about this project please click here.

ReadingRoom has received financial supported from the national research schools of Gender Studies (NOG) and Literary Studies (OSL) and by Aspasiagelden Diversiteitsbeleid.

 

Symptoms of the
Planetary Condition

A Critical Vocabulary

 

ReadingRoom

co-organized with Casco Art Institute
sixth series runs fall 2019 to summer 2020

 

New Critical Humanities

Book Series
What does it mean for the humanities to be critical today?

 

New Publication

Will Johncock, Naturally Late
Part of the New Series: New Critical Humanities

 

Researcher in Residence
Eva Hayward

Eva Hayward was the first Terra Critica Researcher in Residence
(in collaboration with the Institute for Cultural Inquiry) at Utrecht University in October 2019.