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Embodiments of Science: Evelyn Fox Keller on "Common Threads: Forging Parts from Wholes in Mathematical Biology, Feminist Theory, and Philosophy of Biology"

 

For the Embodiments of Science lecture series, the Institute for Research on Women and Gender and the Heyman Center for the Humanities present Evelyn Fox Keller: Common Threads: Forging Parts from Wholes in Mathematical Biology, Feminist Theory, and Philosophy of Biology.  

Professor Fox Keller is Professor Emerita of History and Philosophy of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Her research focuses on the history and philosophy of modern biology and on gender and science. She is the author of several books, including A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintockReflections on Gender and ScienceThe Century of the Gene, and Making Sense of Life: Explaining Biological Development with Models, Metaphors and Machines

Thinking Feminism at the Limits: Judith Butler's keynote address

Thinking Feminism at the Limits
March 7, 2013

Judith Butler's keynote address: Bodily Vulnerability, Alliances, and Street Politics

 

Karrabing: film-making as caring for country

 

Elizabeth Povinelli, Professor of Anthropology and Women's and Gender Studies, recently was featured on the ABC-Austrailia blog, writing about the film she recently co-directed, "Karrabing, Low Tide Turning."

The Karrabing transmedia project is raising interesting questions about how Indigenous filmmaking is finding ways not merely to be a representation of contemporary Indigenous life, but more importantly a contemporary way of caring for country.

The ABC 7.30 News-NT recently did a feature on “Karrabing, Low Tide Turning.”

You might remember from a previous post that the Karrabing Indigenous Corporation is exploring how digitally based storytelling might support their understanding of an ethical way of life.

For the Karrabing, people and places—what non-Indigenous people call life and geography—are constituted through mutual attention and obligation. The land in general, and specific places and geographically based beings in particular, pay attention to and assess human actions—and humans should do the same with regard to places and non-human beings.

The purpose of this mutual attention is not merely to learn something about something—the names of or stories about places—but to maintain an ongoing obligation to something. And this is what is key for the Karrabing—place-based learning demonstrates to the land that a group of people has on ongoing commitment to it.

“Low Tide Turning” is the first segment of a three part film that takes viewers on a journey into the ordinary lives of a group of Indigenous families and friends forced to juggle among competing demands and scarce resources as they try to create digitally based stories.

But the film raises interesting questions about how Karrabing consider filmmaking not merely to be a representation of contemporary Indigenous life, but more importantly a contemporary way of caring for country.

The best analogy is musical. The ancestors of the Karrabing were renowned song-men, who composed songs about their country, many of which Karrabing members still compose and sing. But it isn’t merely the content of the song—its lyrical or musical composition—that is key to its ethical nature. It is act of singing. In hearing people sing the land feels recognized—attended to. So now with film.

In other words, “Low Tide Turning” is not merely about the struggles that the Karrabing face as they work on their digital project. It is not merely a meta-narrative—a film about the creation of digitally based films. There’s certainly nothing wrong with such “postmodern” experiments. But focusing only on the film as a finished object would miss the film as the product of film-making.

We can glimpse what is at stake by turning to the second and third part of the film I directed with story and acting by the Karrabing, and shot this August with Tim Wood and the cinematographer Ian Jones (Rabbit Proof FenceTen Canoes). The second part of “Low Tide Turning” finds the family stranded in their traditional country and the adults negotiating among themselves whether they should continue working on their augmented reality project or take their boat to Darwin to continue their search for their missing relative. (Correction: Anson Bay not the Cox Peninsula, where members were born and raised and some currently live, as reported in the 7.30 Report.) In the cool shade of a mangrove line beach, they debate whether they should use their scarce resources to maintain a house in Palmerston—periodically overcrowded because of government policies forcing people into city without providing these new-comers with adequate housing—or they should gamble on creating a source of rural income in the wake of the governmental defunding of Indigenous bush. Meanwhile, deeper in the same mangrove their children listen to songs on the mobile phones, look for mangrove crabs, and talk among themselves about whether they want to participate in the digital story project—what it means to them to be caught on film acting our their ancestral stories; whether they would rather hang out on the beach and listen to rap. And penetrating all of these discussions is the land as an interpretive agent. What does it mean for the land to have a desire—a say in these generational deliberations—how to capture this on film?

The film is loosely scripted—the Karrabing collaboratively imagined the general plot and specific scenes and then ad-libbed how they would behave in these scenes. As the actors act out these scenes, they encounter and study their behaviors and desires—why they were likely to say this or that, do this or that, in relation to a problem they faced. As I noted in an earlier blog, the Brazilian theatre director, Augusto Boal, made this type of critical reflection the basis of the Theatre of the Oppressed.

But Karrabing think that they are doing something in addition to analyzing the structure and nature of existing social conflicts. They are keeping the country alive by acting on their country—not merely making a film representing their lives in the country, but paying attention to their country as they make a film in it.

As Karrabing members will tell you, acting is not as simple as it looks. Every scene one sees in a movie has been shot multiple times from various camera angles. An editor selects the best version of dozens and dozens of repeated performances or “takes.” This repetition is lost in the transition from acting to actor, from film-making to film. But this activity of repetition is not lost on the Karrabing. With every take, the Karrabing perform their obligation to each other and the land. Every time the director or one of the actors calls, “cut,” and says, “lets do that one more time,” the Karrabing have to decide whether retelling the story about their lives and the country is worth it.

In so far as they decide that continuing is important the Karrabing believe they are following in the footsteps of their parents and grandparents.

Take for instance exchange between the mother and son shown in the sneak previews above. After a long day shooting in the bush, no one wants to hear, “Cut, lets do it again.”  But take after take the same exchange was recorded. The son asking his mother, again and again, what is, at one level, a geographical and historical question. How far are we going to travel in the boat in order to make a film for the augmented reality project? The mother’s answer also seems simply factual. But in layering their current actions—their commitment to continuing to make the augmented reality project no matter they might loose government housing—on top of the historical actions of the boy’s grandmother, his mother creates a physical connection between the two times. She makes space hold the past and present in one framework. And she is making this space in the actual dusk of the impending Northern Territory build-up heat, actual sand flies and mosquitos beginning to bite, an actual stomach churning and headache in need of alleviation, worries about actual houses whose rent must be paid; as well as representing these ordinary conditions of carrying out ones obligation to others—people and country.

 

  • VIDEO CREDITS:

     Ian Jones, Cinematography; Featuring Linda Yarrowin & Shannon Sing

 

Girls Rock! at IRWAG

On Thursday, September 20th, musicians inspired by and celebrating the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls gathered in Avery Plaza to perform for Girls Rock! at IRWAG.  

Performers included:

Martha Redbone 
Still Saffire (Willie Mae Rock Camp alums)
Ajo
Olivia Harris
Lady Bits 

 

Discussion on Race, Gender and Music - Girls Rock! at IRWAG

 

September 20, 2012
Conversation on Race, Gender and Music, with guests:

Daphne Brooks, Board member at Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls and Professor of English and African-American Studies at Princeton
Maureen Mahon, Author of Right to Rock: The Black Rock Coalition and the Cultural Politics of Race and Associate Professor of Music at NYU
Martha Redbone, Singer, songwriter, producer, and artist
Karla Schickele,  Executive Director of Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls

The Columbia Democrats: "I Have a Say"

 

The Columbia Democrats - like Democrats, women, and sane people nationwide - are disappointed and disgusted by the GOP's extremist stance on contraception.  Major party leaders and presidential candidates such as Rick Santorum have come out against birth control's inclusion in preventative care under the Affordable Care Act, and even against birth control itself - saying that using it makes you a slut.  The Republican-controlled house jumped on the extremist bandwagon, holding hearings on contraception that failed to include a single woman. 

The bad news is that Republicans in Congress and in state legislatures are continuing to roll back women's access to reproductive healthcare.  The good news is that women, and plenty of men, are sick and tired of the GOP's attempts to make government just small enough to fit inside our uteri and have been pushing back.  Planned Parenthood's "I Have A Say" project is just one incarnation of this feminist outrage.  Started in response to the all-male Congressional hearing on contraception, Planned Parenthood encouraged women everywhere to explain to Congressional Republicans - who seem to be a bit slow on the uptake - why young women should be the ones making their own reproductive decisions. 

The Columbia Democrats have had a strong focus on women's rights throughout this academic year, and have been particularly involved in advocating for contraception's inclusion under the Affordable Care Act, so as both activists and young people, we feel strongly about expanding access to contraception.  Our contribution to Planned Parenthood's video campaign explains why.  

 

- Janine Balekdjian
Columbia College 2013
President, Columbia Democrats

The Columbia Democrats: "I Have a Say"

 

The Columbia Democrats - like Democrats, women, and sane people nationwide - are disappointed and disgusted by the GOP's extremist stance on contraception.  Major party leaders and presidential candidates such as Rick Santorum have come out against birth control's inclusion in preventative care under the Affordable Care Act, and even against birth control itself - saying that using it makes you a slut.  The Republican-controlled house jumped on the extremist bandwagon, holding hearings on contraception that failed to include a single woman. 

The bad news is that Republicans in Congress and in state legislatures are continuing to roll back women's access to reproductive healthcare.  The good news is that women, and plenty of men, are sick and tired of the GOP's attempts to make government just small enough to fit inside our uteri and have been pushing back.  Planned Parenthood's "I Have A Say" project is just one incarnation of this feminist outrage.  Started in response to the all-male Congressional hearing on contraception, Planned Parenthood encouraged women everywhere to explain to Congressional Republicans - who seem to be a bit slow on the uptake - why young women should be the ones making their own reproductive decisions. 

The Columbia Democrats have had a strong focus on women's rights throughout this academic year, and have been particularly involved in advocating for contraception's inclusion under the Affordable Care Act, so as both activists and young people, we feel strongly about expanding access to contraception.  Our contribution to Planned Parenthood's video campaign explains why.  

 

- Janine Balekdjian
Columbia College 2013
President, Columbia Democrats

Is Feminism Translatable? Panel, Part 1

“What is Feminist Politics Now? Local and Global” Conference (2009)

"Is Feminism Translatable?" Panel, Dorothy Ko, Barnard College, Moderator
How is feminism understood across cultural space and time – as a social movement and/or as a set of understandings about women’s experiences? Are models for achieving feminist aims movable across cultures?

Panelists:
Madhu Kishwar, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies
Lydia Liu, Columbia University
Afsaneh Najmabadi, Harvard University
Obioma Nnaemeka, Indiana University

Is Feminism Translatable? Panel, Part 2

“What is Feminist Politics Now? Local and Global” Conference (2009)

"Is Feminism Translatable?" Panel, Part 2, Dorothy Ko, Barnard College, Moderator
How is feminism understood across cultural space and time – as a social movement and/or as a set of understandings about women’s experiences? Are models for achieving feminist aims movable across cultures?

Panelists:
Madhu Kishwar, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies
Lydia Liu, Columbia University
Afsaneh Najmabadi, Harvard University
Obioma Nnaemeka, Indiana University

Genealogies of Feminist Politics, Part 1

“What is Feminist Politics Now? Local and Global” Conference (2009)
Genealogies of Feminist Politics

Welcome and Introduction to Conference with Lee C. Bollinger, President, Columbia University in the City of New York; Alice Kessler-Harris, Conference Coordinator; and Elizabeth Povinelli, Director, Institute for Research on Women and Gender