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The Roy A. Rappaport Lectures: “Technologies for Intuition”

Friday, January 22, 2016
5:00 AM
Rackham Assembly Hall, 4th Floor Rackham

The Roy A. Rappaport Lectures - Winter 2016 - “Communication and Enchantment” 

“Technologies for Intuition”

Not everyone masters technologies for intuition. This talk begins with the making of techniques to intuit whether “we have made contact,” with people learning to probe for qualities of communication and its media, for sensations of social connection. To focus on contact and media is to activate the “phatic function,” and I call those who specialize in this “phatic experts.” Their modes of tuning and testing contact leak between fields of activity, from the dramatic to the governmental to the scientific (and between states, witness Americans reading Stanislavsky, Russians reading Carnegie). Literary critics accuse telepaths of acting, actors draw from paranormal research, police profilers look to theater for clues. There is no single ontology of perspective or ideology of communication to be revealed here: instead, this talk theorizes divisions of meta-communicative labors and contests over phatic authority, and we ask what is at stake, for whom, in dividing and debating technologies for intuition? 


Alaina Lemon is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology, and serves as Director of the Interdepartmental Doctorate Program in Anthropology and History at the University of Michigan.  She received the PhD in Anthropology in 1996 from the University of Chicago, and has conducted archival and ethnographic fieldwork in Russia since 1988.  Her research asks how aesthetic and communicative techniques relate to political and social struggles.  She has conducted research in Romani villages and in Russian theaters, backstage and in directing schools, on film sets, and with journalists and press analysts, as well as in kitchens and in front of television sets, or on the Moscow Metro.  Her first book, Between Two Fires: Gypsy Performance and Romani Memory from Pushkin to Post-Socialism (Duke, 2000) received in 2001 the AAASS Wayne S. Vucinich Book Award, and the AAASS Heldt Book prize.  Recent publications include “MetroDogs: the Heart in the Machine,” (2015); “Touching the Gap: Social Qualia and Cold War Contact,” (2013); and “The Emotional Lives of Moscow Things,” (2009). A forthcoming book, Technologies of Intuition tracks ways that Cold War anxieties about mental influence and excessive contact continue to alternate with utopian dreams of communion.

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The Roy A. Rappaport Lectures are a series of open public lectures on a work in progress, concurrent with a special course for advanced students to work closely with a faculty member in the Department of Anthropology on a topic in which the instructor has an intensive current interest. As the description written by Professor Roy “Skip” Rappaport in 1976 states, “…it offers the opportunity for other students and faculty to hear a colleague in an extended discussion of their own work.”