Liberal Studies Publications: 2015

Faculty in Liberal Studies shared thoughts about their recent work.

Dominic Pettman

Dominic Pettman, Chair of Liberal Studies at the New School for Social Research and Professor of Culture and Media at Eugene Lang College, recently published the book Infinite Distraction (Polity Press, 2015). Pettman shared thoughts about this project (excerpted from the book’s preface):

“This book began its life as a humble Facebook update. In terms of media ecology and technological evolution, this is a bit like starting with a bird and ending up with a dinosaur. Despite being a Professor of Culture and Media – that is, a professional skeptic of technological promises and practices – I certainly surrender an inordinate amount of my time interacting online in social media spaces. For fellow critic Jonathan Crary, this is no doubt in part because I – like everyone else – am obliged to submit to ‘mandatory techniques of digital personalization and self-administration.’ But I would be lying if I pretended that mediated socialization doesn’t bring me many micro-pleasures, along with generous infusions of exasperation, boredom, and spleen. Moreover, I would have trouble denying the fact that for every intellectual observation I post or link to, I upload several more frivolous or trivial info-morsels, designed more to distract than instruct or edify. If accused of wasting time or procrastinating, I can certainly use my job as an alibi. ‘Know your enemy.’ But the truth is that having a critical-theoretical perspective on something does not necessarily make you immune to it. An intellectual understanding of a problem does not prevent an affective investment in the same (as we all know, from our romantic histories, as much as our credit card receipts).

In short, this book explores some of the more troubling effects of what we might call ‘the digitalization of distraction,’ along with its luminous shadow: attention. It therefore touches upon some of the specific technological, cultural, social, and political constellations which solicit these two intimately connected phenomena.”

Other publications include the books Look at the Bunny: Totem, Taboo, Technology (Zero Books, 2013), In Divisible Cities (Punctum Books, 2013), and Human Error: Species-Being and Media Machines (University of Minnesota Press, 2011).

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Bio | Pettman is Professor of Culture and Media and Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs at Eugene Lang College, and Chair of Liberal Studies at the New School for Social Research. He received his PhD from the University of Melbourne. Pettman His work explores topics ranging from digital culture, new media, modern literature, visual culture, audio culture, popular and unpopular cultures, affect theory, libidinal economies, and the increasingly blurry boundaries between humans, animals, and machines.


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Philosophy Publications: 2015

Faculty in the Department of Philosophy shared thoughts about their recent work.

Zed Adams

Zed Adams, Associate Professor of Philosophy, recently published On the Genealogy of Color: A Case Study in Historicized Conceptual Analysis (Routledge, 2015). About this new book, Zed shared the following:

“In this book, I argue against the idea that philosophical problems are timeless and ahistorical. I do this by giving a detailed case study of the historically contingent presuppositions underlying one contemporary philosophical debate (namely, the problem of color realism). My ultimate goal is to challenge the assumption that philosophical concepts are ‘autonomous’ in the sense of being independent of broader developments in our knowledge of the world. The concept of color has seemed like something timeless and ahistorical to many philosophers, such that if I can show that it rests upon historically contingent presuppositions, we should be open to the possibility of that being more generally true.”

Other publications include “On the Ontology of Mechanically Reproduced Artworks” (Popular Music and Society, 2015) and “Against Moral Intellectualism” (Philosophical Investigations, 2014).

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Bio | Adams received his PhD from the University of Chicago. Adams’s work focuses on moral skepticism, the philosophy of color, and realism in art. He explores the relationship between variation in judgment or perception in different domains (moral, color, aesthetic) and the possibility of truth and knowledge in these domains. Currently he is working on a project about the significance of recording for how we make and appreciate music, with a special focus on the use of sampling in hip hop.


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Politics Publications: 2015

Faculty in the Department of Politics shared thoughts about their recent work.

Rafi Youatt

Rafi Youatt, Assistant Professor of Politics, recently published Counting Species: Biodiversity in Global Environmental Politics (University of Minnesota Press, 2015), which focuses on the environmental politics of global biodiversity. Youatt shared this summary about the work:

“We know that nonhuman species are going extinct at a rate that far exceeds the normal background rate of evolution due to the activities of some humans, and that this mass extinction event is affecting ecological and political webs of many different kinds. But politics does not and should not proceed smoothly from the invocation of crisis to technical solution, and so what interests me in the book is what comes in between those two steps.

Biodiversity loss as a political project has often involved a politics that either diverts attention from the underlying causes, or incorporates it into forms of governance that are perhaps as debilitating as the systems they need to change. I wrote this book to understand how it came to be that people might be committed to ecological and interspecies justice, yet be alienated from environmentalism, and what role the evolution of biodiversity governance has played in that split.

More broadly, work in global environmental politics has, strangely enough, often not put much stock in the kinds of agency that nonhuman life exerts in the world. Understanding political agency as exclusively human seemed to me to foreclose the conceptual grounds on which environmental issues could in fact be understood and addressed, in a politics beyond the human.”

Other publications include “Interspecies Relations, International Relations: Rethinking Anthropocentric Politics” (Millennium – Journal of International Studies, 2014) and “Pain, Power, and the Interspecies Politics of Foie Gras” (Political Research Quarterly, 2011).

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Bio | Youatt received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 2007. Youatt is interested in questions of agency and power in human-nonhuman relations as they relate to political life and thought. His current research explores the intersection of interspecies relations and international relations in American borderlands.


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Psychology Publications: 2015

Faculty in the Department of Psychology shared thoughts about their recent work.

Emanuele Castano

Emanuele Castano, Professor of Psychology, recently published On Social Death: Ostracism and the Accessibility of Death Thoughts (Death Studies, 2015). From Castano, on the article:

“I have been exploring the role that social inclusion plays in quelling existential anxiety for many years (possible links to several articles and chapters). I typically show that when primed with death individuals identify more strongly with groups they belong to, such as American, or Psychologists. Research in psychology also shows that when people are excluded from social groups, namely ostracized, they tend to act aggressively. In this article I put the two lines of research together: I made people feel ostracized (yes, horrible!) and showed that this enhances the salience of death thoughts. In other words, the experience of being ostracized enhances existential anxiety, which in turn may be responsible for increased aggression.”

Castano was also recently invited to speak at Stanford University’s School of Medicine about his recently celebrated article, co-authored with David Kidd, 2014 Psychology alumnus and current postdoctoral fellow (“Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind,“ Science Magazine, 2013). Watch the lecture below.

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Bio | Castano received his PhD from the Université Catholique de Louvain. His work revolves around three main areas, Collective Identity, Intergroup Relations and Morality; Social Identity, Ideology, and the Human Condition; and Empathy and Theory of Mind. He has authored more than 50 publications, mostly scientific articles in highly regarded journals, and consulted with international organizations, governments and other institutions. His recent work on the effects of literary fiction on Theory of Mind was published in Science and received media coverage worldwide. Currently, Castano serves as co-chair of the Psychology department, representing the Cognitive, Social, and Developmental area.


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Sociology Publications: 2015

Faculty in the Department of Sociology shared thoughts about their recent work.

Carlos Forment

Carlos Forment, Associate Professor of Sociology, recently published “Ordinary Ethics and the Emergence of Plebeian Democracy across the Global South: Buenos Aires’ La Salada Market” (Current Anthropology, 2015). He remarked about this new work:

“While working on this essay on South America’s largest informal market, after publishing recently a second essay on worker-occupied factories, and preparing myself to study urban scavengers in Buenos Aires, it dawned on me that these and the other cases-chapters of my next book are emblematic of a novel and heterodox form of democratic life that is emerging across the global south and which I now call plebeian citizenship.”

Other publications include Shifting Frontiers of Citizenship: The Latin American Experience (Brill, 2012) and Democracy in Latin America, 1760-1900: Volume 1, Civic Selfhood and Public Life in Mexico and Peru (University of Chicago Press, 2003).

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Bio | Forment received his PhD from Harvard University. His research interests include governmentalized populations and plebeian citizenship across the global South; neoliberalism and public life today; civil society across the post-colonial world; citizenship: ancient, modern and contemporary; and, nationhood and selfhood in 19th-century Latin America. Currently Forment serves as Director of the Janey Program in Latin American Studies.


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