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Collectionism: From Life to Dust

February 11, 2019 │ 5:45 pm - 8:00 pm


We have the pleasure to announce that for our last event of this Winter series, we will be joined by Professors Samuel Frederick, Associate Professor of German at Penn State and Felipe Martínez-Pinzón, Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies at Brown University. They shared the following description of their talks:

Dust. Collecting. Glauser.

Particulate matter such as dust, ash, and powder make for intransigent collectables. In the first place, what value could such near-microscopic material possibly have, even to the most eccentric of collectors? Furthermore, dust exists on the threshold of tangibility. We struggle to dispose of it, let alone collect it. It is in fact dust itself that does the collecting (on our things); we merely contribute to its continued proliferation. Our futile attempts to rid our interiors of dust only lead to its re-distribution, its dispersal back into the environment. These tendencies of dust to gather and scatter make it an especially fruitful case study for the limits of collecting. This talk tests these limits by looking at how dust appears in the form of material evidence in the crime fiction of the Swiss modernist Friedrich Glauser (1896–1938). Here, what is so small and ubiquitous as to be immaterial (in both senses) suddenly takes on enormous significance. The detective’s attempted gathering and preservation of dust as evidence, however, ultimately calls into question what it means to collect—but in doing makes possible a renewed conceptualization of this paradoxical activity. (Samuel Frederick)

Patricians in Contention: Sketches of Manners and the Production of a People in Latin America

The so-called “costumbrismo” has been read as a genre that conveys post-war’s everyday life and boredom, and assembles national peoples in detailed series of laboring types. Critics of these collections of sketches have wondered at the “inexplicable contrast” between “the peaceful and inert” society represented by them and the “political violence that marks the [19th] century” (Terán Navas). However, when we read these sketches in the context of the State’s growing control over frontier zones during a time of liberal reforms and civil wars, sketches of manners emerge as a vehicle to produce everyday life for the sake of the writers’ political agendas. I read these visual and literary sketches, not as the product of a peaceful people, but as sites of contention in which Post-Independence elites –what I call Patricians– waged a war to legitimize themselves as the representatives of pacified populations. (Felipe Martínez-Pinzón)


February 11, 2019
5:45 pm - 8:00 pm