Book Chats

A lunchtime talk series, the DHI Brown Bag Book Chats provide a forum for UC Davis faculty to share their new publications, performances, or recordings with the Davis community. Our Brown Bag Book Chats celebrate the artistic and intellectual ventures of our UC Davis faculty. Through this series the Humanities Institute promotes the range and culmination of UC Davis’ collective work. (all events are in Voorhies 228 from 12-1 PM)


Past Events


November 7, 2017 Paraiso Suspeito: A Voragem Amazonica
by Leopoldo Bernucci
Leopoldo M. Bernucci revisita o romance La Vorágine, escrito por José Eustasio Rivera em 1924, examinando sua importância sociopolítica e sua recepção crítica. Bernucci mostra como o escritor colombiano empregou seu talento artístico para denunciar c orajosamente a tortura e o massacre de milhares de seringueiros índios, mestiços e brancos pelos barões da borracha. Mostra os pontos de contato com autores brasileiros, especialmente com Euclides da Cunha, um tópico novo na rica bibliografia de Rive ra. Para o autor, somente investigando o entrelaçamento dos aspectos artísticos e os sociopolíticos se pode reconhecer o papel de La Vorágine como um dos romances mais importantes e elaborados do século XX na América Latina.

Listen to the podcast!

December 5, 2017 Dancing the the Blood: Modern Dance and European Culture on the Eve of the First World War
by Edward Ross Dickinson
This is a remarkable account of the revolutionary impact of modern dance on European cultural life in the early twentieth century. Edward Ross Dickinson uncovers modern dance’s place in the emerging ‘mass’ culture of the modern metropolis, sufficiently ubiquitous and high-profile to spark media storms, parliamentary debates, and exasperated denunciations even from progressive art critics. He shows how modern dance spoke in multiple registers – as religious and as scientific; as redemptively chaste and scandalously sensual; as elitist and popular. He reveals the connections between modern dance and changing gender relations and family dynamics, imperialism, racism, and cultural exchanges with the wider non-European world, and new conceptions of selfhood. Ultimately the book finds in these complex and often contradictory connections a new way of understanding the power of modernism and modernity and their capacity to revolutionize and transform the modern world in the momentous, creative, violent middle decades of the twentieth century.

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February 6, 2018 Down the Up Staircase: Three Generations of a Harlem Family
by Bruce Haynes and Syma Solovitch
Down the Up Staircase traces the social history of Harlem through the lens of one family across three generations, connecting their journey to the historical and social forces that transformed Harlem. Haynes and Solovitch capture the tides of change that pushed blacks forward through the twentieth century and the forces that ravaged black communities. This story is told against the backdrop of a crumbling three-story brownstone in Sugar Hill that once hosted Harlem Renaissance elites and later became an embodiment of the family’s rise and demise.
March 6, 2018 Aerial Aftermaths: Wartime from Above
by Caren Kaplan

From the first vistas provided by flight in balloons in the eighteenth century to the most recent sensing operations performed by military drones, the history of aerial imagery has marked the transformation of how people perceived their world, better understood their past, and imagined their future. In Aerial Aftermaths Caren Kaplan traces this cultural history, showing how aerial views operate as a form of world-making tied to the times and places of war. Kaplan’s investigation of the aerial arts of war—painting, photography, and digital imaging—range from England’s surveys of Scotland following the defeat of the 1746 Jacobite rebellion and early twentieth-century photographic mapping of Iraq to images taken in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Throughout, Kaplan foregrounds aerial imagery’s importance to modern visual culture and its ability to enforce colonial power, demonstrating both the destructive force and the potential for political connection that come with viewing from above.

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April 4, 2018 Metagaming: Playing, Competing, Spectating, Cheating, Trading, Making, and Breaking Videogames
by Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux
The greatest trick the videogame industry ever pulled was convincing the world that videogames were games rather than a medium for making metagames. Elegantly defined as “games about games,” metagames implicate a diverse range of practices that stray outside the boundaries and bend the rules: from technical glitches and forbidden strategies to Renaissance painting, algorithmic trading, professional sports, and the War on Terror. In Metagaming, Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux demonstrate how games always extend beyond the screen, and how modders, mappers, streamers, spectators, analysts, and artists are changing the way we play.
Metagaming uncovers these alternative histories of play by exploring the strange experiences and unexpected effects that emerge in, on, around, and through videogames. Players puzzle through the problems of perspectival rendering in Portal, perform clandestine acts of electronic espionage in EVE Online, compete and commentate in Korean StarCraft, and speedrun The Legend of Zelda in record times (with or without the use of vision). Companies like Valve attempt to capture the metagame through international e-sports and online marketplaces while the corporate history of Super Mario Bros. is undermined by the endless levels of Infinite Mario, the frustrating pranks of Asshole Mario, and even Super Mario Butts, a ROM hack exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
One of the only books to include original software alongside each chapter, Metagaming transforms videogames from packaged products into instruments, equipment, tools, and toys for intervening in the sensory and political economies of everyday life. And although videogames conflate the creativity, criticality, and craft of play with the act of consumption, we don’t simply play videogames—we make metagames.
May 15, 2018 Coercion and Responsibility in Islam: A study in Ethics and Law
by Mairaj U. Syed

In Coercion and Responsibility in Islam, Mairaj Syed explores how classical Muslim theologians and jurists from four intellectual traditions argue about the thorny issues that coercion raises about responsibility for one’s action. This is done by assessing four ethical problems: whether the absence of coercion or compulsion is a condition for moral agency; how the law ought to define what is coercive; coercion’s effect on the legal validity of speech acts; and its effects on moral and legal responsibility in the cases of rape and murder.

Through a comparative and historical examination of these ethical problems, the book demonstrates the usefulness of a new model for analyzing ethical thought produced by intellectuals working within traditions in a competitive pluralistic environment. The book compares classical Muslim thought on coercion with that of modern Western thinkers on these issues and finds significant parallels between them. The finding suggests that a fruitful starting point for comparative ethical inquiry, especially inquiry aimed at the discovery of common ground for ethical action, may be found in an examination of how ethicists from different traditions considered concrete problems.


This page was last updated: November 26, 2018



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