“Collaborations, Co-operatives, Coalition-building” Working Group

“Collaborations, Co-operatives, Coalition-building” Working Group

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About The 2017-18 Critical Theory Working Group “Collaborations, Co-Operatives, Coalition-Building”:

Composer, historian, and civil rights activist Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon once asserted, “if you’re in a coalition and you’re comfortable, you know it’s not a broad enough coalition.” Echoing Reagon’s sentiment, Judith Butler asserted in a recent public discussion at the BAMPFA that we do not have to have breakfast together, but we must try to find common interests across our divisionary lines. Taking Reagon’s and Butler’s words as a starting point, “Collaborations, Co-operatives, and Coalition-building,” seeks to offer a sustained engagement with the question: where do we go from here? If we are indeed living in a time of crises—crises of democracy, of communication, of critical media literacy—how can we imagine differently?

From this starting point the working group will develop over seven meetings, or “units,” which take up different, though certainly overlapping, keywords and frameworks that condition, contour, and constrain, our possibilities for imagining. Each working group has two invited co-facilitators (from both on and off the campus) who will assign readings, give informal introductions to the topics of the meetings, and, most importantly, bring different voices, perspectives, and stakes into the room. Alongside the working group organizer, Megan Hoetger, the co-facilitators will create a triangulated field of interests and investments for the working to engage with, rather than promoting a single voice that leads the conversation.

The Critical Theory Working Group is sponsored by the UC Berkeley Program in Critical Theory with generous co-sponsorships from the Maxine Elliot Chair of Comparative Literature; the Arts Research Center; the Berkeley Center for New Media; and the Departments of Rhetoric, and Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies.

For more information on access, location, dates, invited co-facilitators, and readings, visit:

Facebook: Collabs Coops Coalitions,
Or email us at collabcoopcoalition@gmail.com

Collaborations, Co-operatives, Coalition-building





SEPTEMBER 13, 2017 | Collaboration Thinking

Just two days after the sixteen-year anniversary of September 11th, which will be remembered on the UC Berkeley campus at the Art + Design Initiative’s “Public (Re)Assembly” panel discussion, the CTWG’s first meeting opens with a discussion of what collaboration is, is not, and can be (theoretically, practically, and politically). How is the working group itself a form of collaboration thinking, we have to first ask ourselves. And, next: what are the roles of collaboration in building communities? In protecting communities? In cultivating a collective consciousness?  And in developing different collective memories?


Erin Greer, UC Berkeley [PhD candidate in the Department of English, UC Berkeley; UAW 2865 Executive Board North Vice President]

Angela Marino [Assistant Professor in the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies, UC Berkeley; Faculty Advisor to the UC Berkeley Teatro Project]


OCTOBER 18, 2017 | Questions of State

Leading up to Michael Hardt’s campus visit at the end of the month, this working group meeting seeks to explore the different challenges and failures in performances of state formation, as well as in alternative models of social formation. How can we hold open space to imagine and engage different possible strategies for a future, while also always imagining new and ever more resilient ways of protecting each other in a dangerous present? Can we do both at once?


Jasper Bernes [UC Berkeley alumni from the Department of English; independent scholar and author of the forthcoming The Work of Art in the Age of Deindustrialization]

Seth Holmes [Professor in the School of Public Health and Department of Anthropology, UC Berkeley; Co-Chair Berkeley Center for Social Medicine]


NOVEMBER 15, 2017 | Global Networks

Following Michael Hardt’s campus visit, our November working group pans out from the contested form of nation-state to the flows and frictions of the international and transnational informe. The conversation this month is engaged with the politics of representing (making visible) the way in which labor, bodies, and information move through largely unregulated international distribution routes. What are the different choreographies of capital, across bodies, shipping containers, and seas? How and where is circulation visible? And what would it mean/what would it look like to circulate, or move, differently?


Christian Nagler [PhD candidate in the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies, UC Berkeley; Bay Area-based artist]

Elizabeth Sibilia [PhD candidate in the Department of Geography, CUNY Graduate Center; Lecturer in the Department of Geography, San Jose State University]


DECEMBER 6, 2017 | Life/Style after ’68

In anticipation of the fifty-year anniversary of “May ’68” in 2018, this final working group meeting of 2017 turns its attention towards the unlikely (coalitional) bedfellows tucked in to the intersectional and transnational histories of Leftist movements of the 1960s, as well as the connections between such movements and “the new spirit of capitalism.” Unfolding such connections, our discussion this month takes up the meanings of style, the polemics for and against violence, and the triangulations of race, class, and gender, which we have imagined and re-imagined ’68 as representing over the past fifty years ever since.




FEBRUARY 21, 2018 | Public Spheres

After the campus winter break the working group re-opens with a discussion of what the “public” in phrases like (digital) public sphere, (virtual) public space, (online) public discourse, and (networked) public good, is or might be. As issues of access and equity increasingly expand into new and diverse frames of communication technologies, how and where do classical formulations of “the citizen,” “the public,” and “the nation-state” still offer helpful sight lines for imagining? How and where do they reach their limits? And what can we envision beyond them?


Shannon Jackson [UC Berkeley Associate Vice Chancellor of Arts + Design; Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies]



MARCH 21, 2018 | Co-operative Models


On December 2, 2016, a fire destroyed an artist warehouse space in Oakland, California on the night of a queer experimental music show. The space was known as Ghost Ship. The heart-wrenching tragedy of the thirty-six lives lost was compounded with the tremors of fear the accident sent through underground communities across the United States. The fear of losing these spaces is always present in this country, but it was especially palpable after the fire: “For many of us,” as one commentator wrote, “these spaces are what have kept us alive. In a world that demands its inhabitants to be a certain way, think a certain way, or live a certain way, we gravitate to the spaces that say: Welcome. Be yourself. For the tormented queer, the bullied punk, the beaten trans, the spat-upon white trash, the disenfranchised immigrants and young people of color, these spaces are a haven of understanding in a world that doesn’t understand—or can’t, or doesn’t seem to want to try….”

Beginning at Ghost Ship, this second to last meeting of the working group is intended to orient us around different models of economic coalition formed across sectors since the 19th century—from the shadow economies of the ad hoc, the experimental, and the underground (where Ghost Ship operated); to the “cultural” economies and “creative” industries of the non-profit and the state-sponsored. Where can we imagine spaces of possibility within or alongside entrenched market forces? Could the co-operative model be a means by which to begin digging our way out of such entrenchments?


Olive Blackburn [PhD candidate in the Department of World Arts and Culture, UCLA; co-founder of the Oakland-based Salta Collective]



APRIL 18, 2018 | Coalition Histories

The working group’s final meeting is a culmination of sorts, intended to draw out the constellations we have been collaboratively building all along, between the contested and shifting terrains of “the state”, “the global”, and “the public sphere” and the ways in which bodies are represented in (or not) and circulated through (or not) such frameworks. If in December and March we began thinking about coalitions through their cultural and economic formations, then here we finish by out by thinking about them as scenes of protest, which bridge the gaps and fissures between activism and policy-making. What would mean, the final working group discussion asks, to build coalitional literacies—which is also to say: to build languages of coalition? And how might these kinds of literacies open up altogether new channels for imagining?


Julia Bryan-Wilson [Professor in the Department of the History of Art, UC Berkeley; Director of the Arts Research Center]

Özge Serin [Lecturer in Critical Studies, California College of the Arts; author of the forthcoming Writing of Death: Ethics and Politics of the Death Fast in Turkey]