Cultural Studies Colloquium with Jaafar Aksikas, Sean Johnson Andrews and Pia Møller

Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 4:00pm

624 S. Michigan Ave., Collins Hall, Room 602 624 S. Michigan, Chicago, IL, 60605

Towards a Cultural Studies Of/And the Law: Culture, Law, and 'The Juridical Turn' in the Neoliberal Era

"Cultural Studies After 'The Juridical Turn': A Few Thoughts on Law, Culture, and the Neoliberal State Today"


Jaafar Aksikas

Associate Professor of Cultural Studies, Columbia College Chicago


Given the special significance and place of the law in the United States - where battles over larger social issues are increasingly and remarkably fought in courtrooms rather than in legislatures or the public sphere - it is critical that law and the legal be subjected to critical scholarly analysis and interrogation. Panics about gay marriage and sharia law, and controversies over torture, immigration, illegal rendition and wiretapping, corporate personhood, financial regulation, and intellectual property rights all point to areas of United States culture where the legal is seen as the primary - if not the dominant - field where political - hegemonic and counter-hegemonic - struggles are taking and should take place. The role of culture here is significant, and it is high time contemporary Cultural Studies developed a robust approach to what Aksikas calls here and elsewhere (with Sean Andrews) "the juridical turn" and the complex, dialectical nexus between culture, society, law, and the state. Aksikas seeks, among other things, to intervene into and help better define the emergent field of cultural studies of the law and also to interrogate the substantial role law plays in the production of our social and cultural worlds and our subjectivities.


Jaafar Aksikas is Associate Professor of Cultural Studies at Columbia College Chicago, where he was Director of the Cultural Studies Program from 2010 to 2013. He is also Vice President and President-Elect of the Cultural Studies Association (CSA). His books include Arab Modernities (2009) and The Sirah of Antar: An Interpretation of Arab and Islamic History (2002). He is also editor of a number of edited collections, including the co-edited volume, Cultural Studies of/and the Law, for the international journal, Cultural Studies (2014); the inaugural special issue on the culture and media industries, entitled Culture Industries: Critical Interventions (2011) and a special issue on engaged and community-based forms of cultural studies scholarship, entitled Critical Purchase in Neoliberal Times (2013), both for the Cultural Studies Association Journal Lateral. He is currently at work on a co-authored book (with Sean J. Andrews and Donald Hedrick) on the methodology and epistemology of research in Cultural Studies, entitled Practicing Cultural Studies (under review with Sage). He has taught, researched, and published widely in the fields of Cultural Studies, media and culture industry studies, critical legal and policy studies, American Studies, and Middle Eastern studies. He also serves on the editorial boards of Cultural Studies and Lateral journals. He has received numerous awards, including the George Mason University VISION Award. He is also a member of Phi Beta Delta Honor Society for International Scholars. He is the Founding and General Editor of Cultural Landscapes, the Founding Coordinator for Columbia College's Cultural Studies Colloquium Series, and serves as a member of the Illinois Network of Islam and Muslim Societies. He has also served as consultant for lawyers and media on issues relating to Middle Eastern and North African cultures and politics.


"Culture, Contract, Privatization, and the Law: A Cultural Studies Intervention"


Sean Johnson Andrews

Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies and Humanities, Columbia College Chicago


Sean Johnson Andrews begins his analysis of the law from within a neoliberal conjuncture. In this presentation, he will begin with the object of the bilateral contract, which has been elevated as the primary instance of democratic freedom by the Law and Economics movement, and move to the broader process of renewed primitive accumulation that this movement has been instrumental in generating. The latter intersects with a range of political attempts to privatize public services (including but not limited to public education) using the language of freedom and choice, and a limited, technocratic understanding of assessment and value. As this approach is elevated to the status of law, it begins to determine culture in a more comprehensive way, making future changes more difficult to implement.


Sean Johnson Andrews is Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies and the Humanities at Columbia College Chicago. His current research is at the intersection of the cultural production of intellectual property rights, digital humanities, culture and the law, and cultural research methods. He is co-editor (with Jaafar Aksikas) of Cultural Studies of/and the Law, a special journal issue for the international journal, Cultural Studies (2014). He is currently at work on a co-authored book (with Jaafar Aksikas and Donald Hedrick) on the methodology and epistemology of research in Cultural Studies, entitled Practicing Cultural Studies. He has just completed a two-year American Council of Learned Societies fellowship with the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education.


"Restoring Law and (Racial) Order: A Cultural Studies Analysis of Localized Anti-Immigration Legislation"


Pia Møller

Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


This presentation takes a cultural studies approach to the analysis of localized anti-immigration law-making. In 2006, when Congressional proposals to enact comprehensive immigration reform floundered, towns and counties across the United States began adopting "illegal immigration relief" ordinances. By restricting the access of undocumented residents to housing, jobs, and social services, these laws were devised to drive out undocumented immigrant residents who were cast as a fiscal and social burden. Despite their undeniably racial effects, anti-immigration ordinances are rarely treated as racist in any substantial sense. Racism is not a central topic in academic treatments of these laws, nor was racism cited as a factor in the legal challenges that helped overturn many of them. Troubled by what she sees as a problematic eschewal of race and racism, Møller brings the insights of critical race theory to bear on anti-immigration law-making. In her talk, she will discuss her case study of the anti-immigrant campaign in Prince William County, Virginia. Specifically, she will explicate how white property owners seek to erase their own material privileges as beneficiaries of the racial state by adopting a colorblind vocabulary and by rewriting U.S. history to conjure up images of a post-racial America. Based on her analysis, she proposes that localized anti-immigration politics are part of a larger (white) racial reaction to the gains of the civil rights movement and to the perceived decline of white supremacy.


Dr. Pia Møller is Visiting Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies at the Honors College, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she teaches U.S. immigration history, race and ethnic relations, globalization, gender, and representation. Her research is concerned with the criminalization and racialization of undocumented immigrants in present-day United States. Her work has appeared in the anthology The Politics, Economy, and Culture of Mexican-U.S. Migration: Both Sides of the Border (Palgrave Macmillan) and in ISLE (Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment).

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Class, Presentation, Talk


Humanities, History and Social Sciences, School of Liberal Arts and Sciences


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