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ASCA Theory Seminar: Urgent Matters

Convernors: Esther Peeren and Jaap Kooijman. Coordinator: Eloe Kingma | ​​​​​​ First session 1 October, 16:00-18:00. | Other sessions: 5 November 2020, 17 December 2020, 11 February 2021, 8 April 2021, 27 May 2021.

What are the urgent matters of our time and how can we address them as cultural analysts? This is the question that will be central to this year’s ASCA Theory Seminar. Starting with the Covid-19 pandemic, which is not only a pressing social, political and cultural matter on a global scale, but has also caused drastic changes in how we do research, we will come together (online and hopefully at some point in person again) to think through the different issues that are converging with particular urgency in the present, as well as activist and artistic responses to these issues, through the lens of a series of theoretical paradigms, from decoloniality and critical race theory to intersectionality, the Chthulucene and new materialism. These paradigms are not necessarily new, but seem promising in setting out to address urgent matters not with haste, cynicism or nostalgia, but with a patient diligence or what Donna Haraway calls a willingness to “stay with the trouble.” As she puts it, “staying with the trouble requires learning to be truly present, not as a vanishing pivot between awful or edenic pasts and apocalyptic or salvific futures, but as mortal critters entwined in a myriad unfinished configurations of places, times, matters, meanings” (Staying with the Trouble, p. 1). In addition, in their shared commitment to interdisciplinarity, these paradigms challenge the way in which, according to Daniel Fischlin, Ajay Heble and George Lipsitz in their 2013 book The Fierce Urgency of Now, “the scholarly categories favored by disciplinary knowledge teach us that there is a time and a place for everything – that people [and other lifeforms and materialities] need to be on time and stay in their place.”     

Session 1: COVID-19

selections from Los Angeles Review of Books, Quarantine Files (zie: en Critical Inquiry, Posts from the Pandemic (zie:

Session 2: Decoloniality

Sylvia Wynter, "The Ceremony Found"

Session 3: Critical Race Theory

Gloria Wekker, White Innocence (selection)
Saidiya Hartman, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments (selection)

Session 4: Queerness/Intersectionality

Kara Keeling, Queer Times, Black Futures (selection)
Cho, Crenshaw and McCall, "Toward a Field of Intersectionality Studies"

Session 5: Environmental Humanities/Chthulucene

Jennifer Wenzel, The Disposition of Nature: Environmental Crisis and World Literature (selection)
Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble (selection)

Session 6: New Materialism

Anna Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World (selection)
Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway (selection)

The aim of the ASCA Theory Seminar is twofold:

First, we propose to explore broad theoretical and methodological paradigms, and discuss influential texts in relation to ASCA PhD projects. Participants of the Theory Seminar will become acquainted with current practices in cultural analysis and learn how to integrate them in their own work.

The second important aim of the Theory Seminar is community building. The seminar aims to bring together PhD candidates from the diverse disciplines within ASCA to learn about each other’s research projects, struggles and joys, and to make new friends. To serve this latter purpose, each session will end in a café (now online) with (bring your own) drinks.

The ASCA Theory is a collective initiative of the PhD candidates and the ASCA directors. The ASCA directors, Esther Peeren and Jaap Kooijman, will be involved as ‘guides’, formulating a theme and selecting some of the readings. The sessions will be prepared and chaired by a team of (two to four) PhD candidates from different disciplines. They are expected to propose an additional reading and to show how the particular theoretical paradigm under discussion is of use to them in their project. 

We want to create a regular group for all six sessions, so if you register you are making a commitment to participate in all sessions. We recommend that all PhD candidates in their first and second year follow the ASCA Theory Seminar integrally. PhD candidates who are in their third year or further along are very welcome to join, too, as are ASCA staff members.

Please register for the ASCA Theory Seminar by sending an e-mail to Eloe ( with a short summary of your project (no more than 100 words) and a first and second preference for the session you would like to be part of preparing/chairing before 15 September 2020.