“To grow up on Guam”

To grow up on Guam is to grow up in a deeply militarized and colonized place. American bases occupy nearly 30 percent of the territory. Two of the main highways are “Marine Corps Drive” and “Army Drive.” The road from my grandma’s house to my former elementary school is “Purple Heart Highway.” Barbed wire fences with “No Trespassing Signs” snake across our island.

– Craig Santos Perez, Battleship Guam

Call for Papers: Visibilities and New Models of Policing

This Call for Papers seeks to expand upon emerging police-citizen relations. The Special Issue seeks to add new enquires and greater depth to discussions of how surveillance has enabled and empowered citizens to become more engaged with the task of policing. We are interested in how new abilities to digitally capture real-time events enable the public to support the task of policing, as well as encouraging citizens to work without or beyond the police.

Surveillance & Society

McKittrick on McKittrick

Glissant offers us a radical spatial politics that harnesses creative energy and the entanglements of world-wide relation engages the difficult project of honoring our collective inter-human lands without the mandate for conquest, without territorialization (Glissant, 1997, p 50, 31). So my ease unraveled into a terrible discursive burden with this old and aging book I wrote but have not read and a subtitle that erases black poetics. I have begun to forget parts of the book and in this have had to face the parts that are unforgettable. The auction blocks, for me, demand a kind of brutal unforgetting.

Katherine McKittrick, “Worn Out”

Las tareas de la violencia

Ahora bien, como la realidad admite intermedios, gracias a los cuales las contradicciones son posibles y se sostienen, sosteniendo a la realidad misma, hay que reconocer que no se da nunca ni un estado de cosas absolutamente constructivo y estable, ni una permanente actividad destructiva que anula toda posible estabilidad. El acto violento, es, entonces, un acto presente al interior de un cierto estado construido, establecido, que goza de una cierta permanencia. Por eso tiene siempre ese carácter irruptivo, sorprendente, “inusual” aunque sea cada vez más común. La violencia no es, por sí misma, buena o mala, pues hemos visto que incluso manifestaciones en pro de valores que nuestra sociedad actual occidental considera “buenos” (i.e. la libertad) son violentas: buscan destruir, mediante la acción, un orden establecido que se presenta como “malo” (porque viola los derechos fundamentales, etc.)

Cristina Pérez Díaz (2011), “Las tareas de la violencia”

Reading on spaces of the Afterblast

I was kindly invited by a creative group to join a reading/showing at E.M. Wolfman bookstore in Oakland, on Thursday May 25, 7-9pm (which cuts incredibly close to my bedtime for a school night!)

Readings and art for the human & nonhuman worlds w/ Elisabeth NiculaKate SchapiraMaya Weeks and myself. There will be projections and readings talking about (my sense so far) marine bioplastics, geologic time and representations, militancy, climate anxiety, logistics and all that.

I’ve been toying around with what I want to discuss that addresses “human and non-human” worlds, and I will probably read a few passages from my work-in-progress manuscript that deal with the spaces of the “afterblast” (after an explosion) and how such fleeting events are recorded by humans and landscapes.

Photo: US Navy, NPS Port Chicago Memorial

Explosive Cultures: Bombscapes and the Order of Law

I’m happy to mention I’ll be one of a cohort of 2018 DHI Faculty Fellows… Here’s a quick blurb of the project:

“Explosive Cultures: Bombscapes and the Order of Law”
Javier Arbona investigates the ordo: the shared spatial, imaginative, and cultural ties between the order of the explosive and the order of the law. Specifically, this project seeks to reveal the cultural landscapes—or “bombscapes”—produced by the seeming opposition, but actual co-evolution, of explosions and the legal attempts to control them.

AMS 5: Technology in American Lives, Winter 2017

Course Overview:

This course presents technology in several perspectives. Above all, the course asks students to go beyond grasping technologies as finished “things” in the world, emerging fully formed—as if by magic— delivered to a doorstep. Instead, we explore the ways in which technology is socially constructed, contested, and continually transformed. Furthermore, we will study the ways in which technology shapes—and is shaped—by culture. Students are expected to produce original writing on these processes. Technology in American Lives (TIAL) draws from interdisciplinary readings that will have several characteristics. More specifically, TIAL is informed by several bodies of scholarly work— including (but not limited to) critical race, cultural, and ethnic studies; feminist, women, gender, and sexuality studies; architectural and landscape history; and, militarization and infrastructure studies. The texts we will read and interpret together are situated in specific geographic, temporal (historical and contemporary), and material contexts. As an intro-level class, TIAL puts the messy world of technologies into an order that we can follow, tracing an arc from the earth to waste over the length of the quarter. Furthermore, we will traverse through many different spatial scales to better understand where technologies come from and how they are developed, drawing from feminist, Marxian, and environmentalist critiques of production. Students that wish to take this course should be aware that we do look critically at technologies, but it is not a rejection of technology; instead, it’s a course devised to begin to introduce students to an imagination of different socio-technical possibilities. TIAL AMS 5 2017 Syllabus

Drafting “Research Methods and Critical Writing for Design”

I had some time to begin to develop the graduate research course I will teach in Design, Winter quarter 2017. This is a draft (and only a draft):

Course Description

This graduate research seminar in Design intends to pose two interrelated challenges:

  • First, if one can identify something as a problem for designers to address, then how come the discipline has not addressed it? In other words, with an eye toward history and society, this course asks you to place your concerns as a designer into a context as to why those concerns come to matter (“matter,” as in a matter of concern, but also physical matter, i.e. become tangible).
  • Second, how can ‘research’ help elucidate why design has or has not resolved a certain ‘problem’? Put differently, through critical readings and discussion that address issues of (but not limited to) race, class, gender, disability, sexuality, and the past, we will explore what does (and, importantly, doesn’t) trouble the discipline of design. To do this, we will seek to theorize research itself in order to refine our methods of research.
NASA/Ames Research Center, 7/14/1989, Virtual Environment Reality workstation technology (helmet & gloves)

Explained in a different sense, this course sets up the proposition that the production of knowledge is not a linear progression, and thus the kinds of certainties we are convinced about are, in fact, contingent; these contingencies relate back to how we go about deciding what can—and cannot—constitute research.

Or, as somewhat elucidated in the infamous words of Donald Rumsfeld, “(…)as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” In his own perplexing imagination, what Rumsfeld accidentally was getting at was, at the core, that sensing an unknowability demands not only problematizing its other, knowability, but in effect, unknowability itself. He posed, in short, a puzzle about the nature of evidence or data, and how to go about collecting it.

A few additional key points… This course will also ask MFA students to think of design and research as two domains that continually co-make each other, never leaving one behind for the other, and thus, we will seek to trouble research through modes of thinking like designers, while also seeking to trouble design by subjecting it to research practices, understanding such practices in the broadest possible way we can.

To do this, we seek to look outwards; to research how designers have posed questions and sought answers, and in parallel, how different fields of knowledge go about performing research (and “perform” is another important keyword to think about, too). Students in the course will be expected to do both, such that they learn about the history of design and to read authors seeking clues to how they designed their research.


I don’t have the final readings for the course yet, but the long list includes an eclectic mix of theorists, historians, anthropologists, designers, artists, geographers, etc. The list includes Shannon Mattern, Reyner Banham, Stefano Harney and Fred Moten, Marisol de la Cadena, Hugh Gusterson, Minh Ha T. Pham, Alberto Corsín Jiménez, David Gissen, Anne Galloway, Arturo Escobar, Gilles Deleuze, Judith Butler, Sunaura Taylor, Anna Tsing, Alison Kafer, Orit Halpern, Natasha Dow Schüll, Keller Easterling, Shiloh Krupar, Simone Browne, Louise Amoore, Rashad Shabazz, Bruno Latour, Shannon Cram, Michelle Murphy, Mimi Thi Nguyen, Fred Turner, and Felicity Scott. Any suggestions for the long list are welcome.

My idea is to maybe assign two readings (or two modules of shorter readings, perhaps) and divide the class into two readings groups per week. We’ll have, then, two rounds of discussion and one group has to listen to the discussion of the other group, and take notes. Students will take turns submitting summaries and notes. The last segment of each week will be reserved for general questions and suggestions around the progress of student research projects.

The course will also include a workshop on human subjects protocols with someone from the Research office on campus. We will also discuss proposal writing. Students will develop their own projects and submit a final essay, which could be a draft section for their final thesis.

It is possible that there will be some field trips to research spaces on campus, but it is not a guarantee.