Media Theory at the Limits of Communication

By Aleksandra Kaminska

Alexander R. Galloway, Eugene Thacker and McKenzie Wark. Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation. University of Chicago Press, 2014. 210 pp.

“By being off the radar, you move in a different space, a jubilee zone of exception.”

—John Durham Peters, “Speaking Into the iPhone”

Like all such rare and catastrophic events, the disappearance of flight MH370 during a routine flight between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing in March 2014 spurred a frenzy of media coverage and public fascination.
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After the Aftermath

By Rob Coley

Siegfried Zielinski. […After the Media] News from the Slow-Fading Twentieth Century. Trans. Gloria Custance. Univocal, 2013. 276 pp.

Media theory has a problem with the new. The new is an obstacle, it is obsolete, it is yesterday’s news. Of the many responses to a late 20th century obsession with “new media,” current attempts to rethink the dominant historical narrative of media culture best encapsulate the problem.
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Realism After Postmodernism

By Sean Homer

Fredric Jameson. The Antinomies of Realism. Verso, 2013. 313 pp.

In his 1977 “Afterword” to the volume Aesthetics and Politics, Jameson observed that it was not only political history that was condemned to repeat the past but also literary history that experienced a certain “return of the repressed”:

Nowhere has this return of the repressed been more dramatic than in the aesthetic conflict between “Realism” and “Modernism”, whose navigation and renegotiation is still unavoidable for us today, even though we may feel that each position is in some sense right and yet neither is any longer wholly acceptable.
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Anthropocene Diplomacy, or How to Negotiate Ecologization

By Heather Davis

Bruno Latour. An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns. Trans. Catherine Porter. Harvard University Press, 2013. 489 pp.

In the wake of the terrifying fifth assessment report (AR5) issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Bruno Latour’s latest book, An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns, makes a rather odd request: he asks his readers to stop, slow down, and reconsider the values of modernity.
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Popular Media and the Rhetoric of Colorblindness

By Shui-yin Sharon Yam

Catherine Squires. The Post-Racial Mystique: Media and Race in the 21st Century. New York University Press: 2014. 243 pp. 

Written in a time when public deliberation is suffused with conflicting discourses and representations of race, Catherine Squires’s The Post-Racial Mystique: Media and Race in the 21st Century deftly interrogates how the increased popularity of the post-racial narrative of “colorblindness” intersects with the material conditions of systematic racism.
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Literature and Labor under Neoliberalism

By Walter Oliver Baker

Sarah Brouillette. Literature and the Creative Economy. Stanford University Press, 2014. 238 pp.

What is the difference between the worker and the artist under capitalism? Historically, the two can be distinguished by object of their labor: the artist works for the sake of work itself, a disinterested labor whose autonomy gives rise to creativity and self-expression, whereas the worker, compelled by the necessity, works for a wage whose function is merely to sustain and thus reproduce the worker’s life.
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Rethinking Political Practice as Continuous Insurrection

By Viren Murthy

Etienne Balibar. Equaliberty: Political Essays. Duke University Press, 2014. 365 pp.

The concepts of equality and liberty form the core of modern political culture. And yet, the definition of these terms changes depending on the qualifiers that are attached to them. For example, political theorists have long debated distinctions of positive or negative liberty, formal or real equality.
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The City Space of Asian Literature

By Cheryl Narumi Naruse

Jini Kim Watson. The New Asian City: Three-Dimensional Fictions of Space and Urban Form. University of Minnesota Press, 2011. 311 pp.

Jini Kim Watson’s The New Asian City is an exciting study of the dynamics between literary/cultural production and developing urban spaces in the context of East and Southeast Asia. Watson examines literary, filmic, and political representations of the capital cities of Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan—three of the “Four Asian Tigers,” as the “Newly Industrializing Countries” (NICs) of East Asia are popularly known—that emerge in the 1960s to 1980s, in the periods following independence (excepting Hong Kong, which is not independent nation).
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Breeding ‘Post-Imperial’ Nations

By Leslie Allin

Nadine Attewell. Better Britons: Reproduction, National Identity, and the Afterlife of Empire. University of Toronto Press, 2013. 324 pp. 

This work is a refreshing and timely intervention in the ongoing process that nation states formerly part of the British Empire use to determine who belongs within a political community. Nadine Attewell’s Better Britons: Reproduction, National Identity, and the Afterlife of Empire investigates how ideas about British and settler citizenship in the 20th and 21st centuries are forged through the policing and politics of reproduction.
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On the Uncertain Status of Text in the Digital Age: A Comparative Approach

By Marco Deseriis

N. Katherine Hayles and Jessica Pressman, Comparative Textual Media: Transforming the Humanities in the Postprint Era. University of Minnesota Press, 2013. 331 pp.

While comparative research is by no means new to the humanities and the social sciences, the field of media studies has been relatively untouched by explicitly comparative approaches. To be sure, influential strands of media studies such as the Toronto school of communication and the emerging field of media archeology are comparative in character.
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Framed

By Johanna Skibsrud

Catherine Zuromskis. Snapshot Photography: The Lives of Images. MIT Press, 2013. 264 pp.

Like its subject, Catherine Zuromskis’s Snapshot Photography: The Lives of Images straddles the realms of public and private, high and low art. She considers the “snapshot” within an American, middle-class context: those who bought the first Brownie cameras and, over the course of the latter half of the twentieth century, took the requisite photos.
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Straight Sense

By Andy Campbell

Jean-Luc Nancy. Corpus II. Trans. Anne O’Byrne. New York: Fordham University Press, 2013.

I often ask undergraduates encountering philosophical texts for the first time to initially read as though they were encountering poetry instead of philosophy. Not only does this tactic soften the array of feelings (overwhelmed indignation is perennially popular) that inevitably seem to arise when reading dense texts, but it also opens a student’s capabilities to understand and imagine alongside a text.
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