Current Themes and Calls for Research Proposals

Our 2015-2016 Research Theme:


The 2015-16 American Communities Program theme is designed to deepen our understanding of the construction and perpetuation of American identities, cultures, and communities through humanities-based inquiry. In particular, this year’s theme asks us to consider how research in the humanities can help us analyze the artifacts, structures, practices, and ontologies that make various forms of relation possible and meaningful.  In other words, through what means are relations between bodies, species, objects, ideas, and/or communities mediated, managed, forged, and/or foreclosed? What bases for relations are relevant to particular American communities? How are relations imagined, manifested, and represented and to what effects?

We invite proposals from tenured and tenure-track faculty at Cal State L.A. that engage questions including, but not limited to, the following:

· material culture and the function of objects in mediating relations or rendering them visible/invisible
· the temporal and/or spatial dimensions of relations
· innovative methodologies that explore relations such as Border Studies, New Mobility Studies, and Food Studies, as well as evolving theories of relation in discourses such as aesthetics, ontology, and Marxist or psychoanalytic theory
· political treaties, contracts, gifts and promises, and other codified or informal acts of obligation; sovereignty, citizenship, privacy, treason, terror, and betrayal
· particular aesthetic forms and modes of representing affinities and connections whether material and embodied or linguistic and referential
· power relations, force, and violence; a-relationality
· pedagogical possibilities informed by the ethics of relation
· new conceptualizations of American communities in relation to global or hemispheric contexts
· intersubjectivity, permeability, attachment, and theories of the self



Our 2014-2015 Research Theme:  The Biological Century

Each year, the American Communities Program hosts a fellowship program and a year of thematic programming orbiting a set of central, grounding questions.  This year's theme, “The Biological Century,” explores some of the interfaces between science and technology, the body, social power, and economic and aesthetic productivity.  We wish to build on Michel Foucault’s account, now almost four decades old, of a modern world governed by converging technologies of biological and political control; these biopolitical mechanisms, he argued, were intended to regulate such concerns as birth and death rates, the spread and treatment of disease, and the life and vitality of entire populations.  Since Foucault’s initial inquiries, theorists of biopower have applied his concepts broadly to various ways in which forms of life themselves are governed, managed, stimulated, and even created by power.  Recently, the mapping of the human genome, the capitalization of affect, the haunting prospect of bioterrorism, and various crises in bioethics have led some thinkers to regard this as “the biological century.”  Our theme responds to that characterization, and to the imperative to understand the creative practices and critical discourses that address the biopolitical foundations of American identity and community.    

Tenured and tenure-track faculty at CSULA are welcome to submit proposals for humanities-based inquiry responding to questions including, but not limited to, the following:

  • How do contemporary understandings of the human body – and of larger collective bodies – reflect the application of political and cultural power? To what extent do new frontiers in reproductive rights, genomics, and medicine reflect biopolitical imperatives?
  • What forms of authority – medical, technical, managerial, legal, etc. – emerge as crucial for biopolitical regulation?  What interventions can such authority make in the name of life and health?
  • In what ways do metaphors such as those of immunity, pathology, addiction, vitality, and virality structure our existence?  Via what creative forms and genres might the arts represent and exploit contemporary biopolitical transformations?   
  • What are the impacts of new means of registering living memory through the interface between humans and digital technology?  How does living in a world of digital immediacy change our conceptions of memory, time, agency, and futurity?
  • How have categories of race, ethnicity, and gender been transformed by new kinds of biological belonging?  What conditions have enabled the appearance of new bio-social collectivities?  How might notions of the nation-state, or of “American community,” be transformed by these developments?
  • What explanatory force do philosophical accounts of biopolitics and biopower – such as the divergent understandings proffered by thinkers such as Agamben, Esposito, Hardt, and Negri – offer for contemporary cultural analysis? 
  • How have new biotechnological thresholds opened up possibilities for capitalism?  In what ways does our age of pharmacological or affective capitalism perpetuate, or deviate from, Fordist industrial models? 
  • How have new theories of the posthuman transformed both ways of life and ways of knowing our world?