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Literature Program, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, Environmental and Urban Studies Program, and Difference and Media Project present

Epistemology of the Lifeboat

Life of Pi and Queer Fabulation

Thursday, November 14, 2013

[Epistemology of the Lifeboat]
Presented by Tavia Nyong’o

Life of Pi (Yann Martel, 2001) is a widely acclaimed Canadian novel that purports to tell a story that will make the reader believe in God. Who could resist such a dare in a post-secular age like ours? This talk, however, does not focus on the spiritual propadeutics of the novel. Instead it takes up two matters Life of Pi attempts to push as far as possible to the margin: matters of race and matters of sexuality. How does this story — written by and told to a white man seeking Indian enlightenment — differ from its rightfully impugned colonial precursors? And why does a contemporary novel — written well after Stonewall and the long, dark reign of the closet — still repeat certain classically homophobic structures of disavowal and repudiation? And, finally, of what significance to the contemporary debates surrounding zoopolitics and queer posthumanism is the remarkable detail that these questions bob to the surface of the story about a teenager trapped at sea with a Bengal tiger?

Tavia Nyong’o is Associate Professor of Performance Studies at New York University. His areas of interest include black studies, queer studies, critical theory, popular music studies and cultural critique. His first book, The Amalgamation Waltz: Race, Performance, and the Ruses of Memory (Minnesota, 2009), won the Errol Hill Award for best book in African American theatre and performance studies. Nyong’o has published articles on punk, disco, viral media, the African diaspora, film, and performance art in venues such as Radical History Review, Criticism, TDR: The Journal of Performance Studies, Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, Women Studies Quarterly, The Nation, and n+1. He is co-editor of the journal Social Text.


For more information, call 845-758-7284, or e-mail abenson@bard.edu.

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Location: Reem-Kayden Center