The Between: Couple Forms, Performing Together — A Symposium in Two
April 13+14, 2018

Dept. of Performance Studies
Tisch School of the Arts
721 Broadway, 6th floor
New York, NY 10003

Keeping Casual Time Together
-in close collaboration with Leticia Robles-Moreno-

“The time that passes, interrupts or connects
(and which has no doubt never been thought) is not programmed time.”
–Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (1984, 203)

How can our (a couple’s?) shared acknowledgement of unprogrammed time—“casual time,” per de Certeau’s own designation—allow us to think about such temporal brackets? More specifically, what does the mutual engagement in casual time reveal about production as the measure of time in our technocratic moment, and what possibilities manifest when the limits to production and productivity are thus inevitably exposed?

         To delve into these questions, we start this co-written essay where de Certeau concludes his seminal text on the practical modes of subversive sense-making in everyday existences imbued with institutional codes and norms for consumptive behavior and productive functionality. With his final subtitle, “Casual time,” de Certeau nods to the actual discourse of the practices of the city as narrations which unfold in unforeseen time. As friends and more, our concern is for everyday practices of friendship and chosen kinship that almost always play out in casual time, and can even turn programmed time into stolen time: time that sounds off as lazy and leisurely as it passes, interrupts or connects. We explore the dynamic nature of casual time as it gets tangled up with the tempos of mediated and unmediated communication—a text interrupts, an air kiss connects, a coffee run passes time—to make the case for the imperative to keep casual time together. Our own imperative: a response against the oppressiveness of being "productive," i.e., transforming time into capital for others. And an effort to reclaim our own time, which is not only our casual time, but also that time that is constantly being taken away from us, as Rep. Maxine Waters's "reclaiming my time" and intersectional feminisms remind us. Keeping casual time together—sharing it between us but also keeping such accidental time intact—is itself an intimate practice in how our two-by-two friendships can sustain us as we sustain another: precarious, indeterminate time.

Visualizing Theory: An Interdisciplinary Conference on Critical Theory
May 10+11, 2018

The Center for the Humanities
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10016

Postrevolutionary Retrojection:
“Seeing History Rather than Knowing It”

To imagine and practice another future, critical and historical resources are needed. For Iranians, one such resource was dramatized in conceptual artist Azadeh Akhlaghi’s spectacular 2013 series, By an Eye-Witness. A collection of 17 photographic reconstructions of historic 20th century deaths in Iran, the series offers up a set of visibilities previously inaccessible to Iranians by introducing microhistories of doubt into the foundational nation-building practice of public mourning.[i] Akhlaghi (b. 1978) flirts with the documented and undocumented to create pensive images around the intolerability of collective trauma; images that signal the ambivalent area between art and non-art, defined by Jacques Rancière as that “zone of indeterminacy” that inserts itself between two conceptions of an image: a duplication or an artistic operation.[ii]

         Looking at this liminal space in which the series performs and the narrative doubt it illuminates in its wake, I elaborate how Akhlaghi inserts herself into a past she could not have personally witnessed—herself posing in the recreations, looking at the past—to ask the important question: Who gets to tell the story of a nation’s treasured dead? For her, this question eventually begged another: What would it mean to see history rather than know it? Following this line of thought, I argue that by emphasizing “seeing history rather than knowing it,”[iii] Akhlaghi’s art collapses history’s binary opposition to memory, instead carving out a space for history in memory, approaching it as always a memory constructed as such. In this breakdown and in enacting the condition of her own subjectivation by willing herself a place within visibility, Akhlaghi shows us how to perform the possibility of a less definitive futurity. If change is the performance of possibility and, per Deleuze per Foucault, “the subject who sees is [herself] a place within visibility, a function derived from visibility”[iv]; Akhlaghi’s positioning of herself as an eyewitness solidifies both her sensate receptivity and her autonomy to act upon her desire for another future.


[i] By visibilities here I mean to evoke those Foucauldian “forms of luminosity which are created by the light itself and allow a thing or object to exist only as a flash, sparkle or shimmer” (Deleuze, Foucault, 52).

[ii] Jacques Rancière, The Emancipated Spectator, trans. Gregory Elliott, (New York: Verso, 2009), 107.

[iii] Rex Butler, “Azadeh Akhlaghi: An eye witness in Iran,” Art Collector 70, October–December (2014),

[iv] Gilles Deleuze, Foucault (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988 [1986]), 54. 

Forty Years and More: International Conference on Iranian Diaspora Studies
March 28-30, 2019
Seven Hills Conference Center
San Francisco State University
800 Font Blvd, Mary Ward Hall
San Francisco, CA 94132

From Pinglish to Enarsi:
The Iranian Brain Drain & Affects in Diaspora

In 2009, the IMF reported that Iran’s brain drain—its loss of trained professional workforce to other nations offering better opportunities—sits atop the global list, with an annual loss of 150,000–180,000 of its academic elite to “developed” countries. Following the bloody post-electoral street protests of the same year, it could be surmised from stories coming out of Tehran and other urban centers that if not the actual number, then the number of those wishing to leave the country has been on the rise. My essay concerns itself with asking: What translocal affects has this specific form and high level (of talk) of travel helped deploy?

As Georges Van Den Abbeele has argued, to speak of travel is inevitably to engage in it, to embody the movement implied by the words; i.e. our speech utterances effectively change our position as matter in the world, transport us. We speak, we shift; we shift, we change; we change, we speak differently—and speak differently, an immigrant population always does. Speaking differently poses a problem, a threat that Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari have addressed in claiming the unity of language to be “fundamentally political.” Can a population whose accents often betray their foreignness and whose grammar is frequently faltering, fully submit to the social laws of their host nations to ease the apprehension with which they are likely received? I take up José E. Muñoz’s adaption of “identity-in-difference” to discuss the struggles of assimilation the Iranian diaspora has faced, both from their host and home nationals.

On the flipside of this equation are the migrants and their discontents. If “travel” comes from the French term “travailler”—to work—we must go beyond the physical to ask: What is the emotional work of travel? Exemplary of this labor, my paper closes on an analysis of how Iranians have been employing mixed linguistic fabrications in various social media outlets—“Penglish” and “Enarsi”—to change the negative prevalence of a sense of dépaysement (disorientation as a result of not being in their home country) common to Iranian diaspora, to a more positive one rooted in potentiality.