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Democracies Redux: Resumptions, Resilience, Reconciliation, and Restoration (2021-22)

Published September 9, 2021

Organized by Sujane Wu, East Asian Languages and Cultures, and Payal Banerjee, Sociology

Project Description

Democracies Redux is an invitation to open up what democracies might mean, carry, and create, when reconsidered as ways of knowing and being that uphold inter-relationships, inclusivity, and the work of restitution and renewal. Moved out of the ballot box and the usual ambits of statecraft, democracies in this project centers itself in investigative commitments that reimagine democracies’ polyvalent manifestations and vital possibilities in the passageways of life, matter, ideas, and their mutuality. The titular insistence on the plural is not merely an accommodation of the variety of governmental institutions in operation worldwide. Democracies Redux demands a deliberate collective reappraisal of its many articulations or negations, unnamed genealogical confluences, and inclusive applications in the fields we study and inhabit across the local and the global.  It concentrates on those conceptions of democracies that prioritize ideas of resumption, resilience, reconciliation, and restoration.

How can questions about democracies and mutuality enrich and sustain research that revolves around people and planets, from plants to polymers, to pixels and poetry, or those that pore over cellular materials or pulverized rocks? How might media, musical, literary, artistic, historical, and computational work interact and evolve alongside plural interpretations and transnational expressions?  What are the embodied forms in which democracies’ relationship with the unsustainable hierarchies of race, gender, sexuality, (dis)abilities, legal status, and economic inequality are manifested? What sanctuaries—tangible and intellectual—are denied or conditionally disbursed in systems, enumerations, and spaces that are taken to be democratic? How do we reinstate the kinship democracies have with cooperation, equity, and restorative justice, while living through climate change, socio-economic dispossession, surveillance, containment technologies, and rapid expansions of biometric borders and digitized displacements, to say nothing of the swift, sweeping, violent change of life in and after the global pandemic?

Relatedly, this project seeks further to reckon with our own conditions, some made, and some heightened, by the global pandemic: unfathomable loss, isolation, and disruptions in our capacity to sustain our scholarship and other vital through-lines as faculty and students, offering fellows a grounded place to pause and reflect upon these ideas in the context of what we have coursed through since December 2019.  We envision this project as a place to contemplate how and where the work of repair and recovery of our individual research projects—and ourselves—might be carried out. Democracies Redux is both an intellectual project and a retreat, so that the work of reimagining democracies and our scholarship can be resumed from where we are, not from an irretrievable pre-pandemic past.

To sum up, Democracies Redux is a conspiracy against the cruelties of single stories, monologues, and origin narratives that discount and dismember. It is as much about generativity, as it is productivity.  In this vein, the project is also a physical address from which the work of resumptions and restoration can be carried out.

Project Fellows

  • Amrita Acharya '22, Architecture/Urbanism and Statistics and Data Science 
    Questioning how ethnographic practices can inform design interventions in the built environment, specifically among the unhoused populations of Northampton. 
  • Jeffrey Ahlman, History 
    Exploring the ways in which Ghanaians understood and articulated ideas of democracy and belonging during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. 
  • Chris Aiken, Dance 
  • Payal Banerjee, Sociology, Organizing Fellow 
  • Sadie Buerker '22, Sociology and Global South Development Studies 
    Exploring hip-hop subculture as a source of discursive, emotional, and performative power used in popular protest in contemporary Hong Kong.  
  • Charlie Diaz '22, Study of Women and Gender and American Studies 
    Exploring the form of the ideal student and how we make higher education an equitable and democratic experience for an increasingly diverse student population.  
  • Patty DiBartolo, Psychology 
  • Lucretia Knapp, Studio Art 
    Exploring mortality. Part of this consists of excising footage for two short videos. The body of work is a conversation between personal life events and a reverberation of the current political moment.  
  • Kim Kono, East Asian Languages and Literatures 
    Examining the writing of leftist Mochizuki Yuriko and how she negotiates the democratic ideals of women’s rights and education within the context of colonial Manchuria.  
  • Rick Millington, English 
  • Matlhabeli Molaoli '22, Biochemistry and Anthropology 
    Using anthropology and design to describe the experience of unemployment for Basotho women who are educated beyond high school. 
  • Andrea Moore, Music 
    Examining political commemoration, and the democratic – and anti-democratic – processes by which narratives are established and maintained in public imagination and memory.  
  • Frazer Ward, Art History 
  • Sujane Wu, East Asian Languages and Cultures, Organizing Fellow 
    Exploring how individuals – women in particular – and the choices they made helped shape the society around them. How do traditional ways of thinking impact our capacity of understanding different “voices”? 
  • Lynne Yamamoto, Studio Art 
    Considering mortality and the right, as well as choice, to be remembered or forgotten. 
  • Eugenia Yuan '23, Comparative World Literatures 
    Exploring how the images of "the West" or "western civilization" inform Chinese citizens' perceptions of democracy and the effects of occidentalism in Chinese discursive politics.