Dictionary of the Possible

Dictionary of the Possible

Over the course of a year Shifter in collaboration with Avi Alpert will host a series of public discussions, each concentrated on unraveling a keyword – a term that carries with it both a sense of urgency and agency in our present climate. By inviting artists, writers, activists, philosophers and others to propose terms and lead discussions, we will open up our editorial process to the motivations of others.

The yearlong series will culminate in Shifter’s 22nd issue Dictionary of the Possible. This dictionary will catalog the keywords taken up for discussion over the course of a year, accompanied by a list of questions provoked during each discussion. Rather than providing static definitions we envision a dictionary that continually incites discussion.


Saturday, April 4, 4-6 pm
The Bark Room
The New School, The New School, 2 West 13th Street Room M101, New York, NY 10011
Discussion Leaders: Leah Devun & Géraldine Gourbe
Recommended Reading:
Mark Allen, Notes Toward Socratic Gardening, in In the Canyon, Revise the Canon: Utopian Knowledge, Radical Pedagogy and Artist-run Community Art Space in Southern California by Géraldine Gourbe (2015)
Géraldine Gourbe, The Pedagogy of Art as Agency: Or the Influence of a West Coast Feminist Art Program on an East Coast Pioneering Reflection on Performance Art, in Composing Differences, edited by Virginie Bobin (2015)
Stefano Harney & Fred Moten, The University and the Undercommons, in The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study (2013)
bell hooks, Introduction & Engaged Pedagogy , in Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (1994)

Previous Discussions:


Saturday, March 21, 4-6 pm
The Bark Room
The New School, The New School, 2 West 13th Street Room M101, New York, NY 10011
Discussion Leaders: Eric Anglès & Mimi Winick
Recommended Reading:
Edward W. Said, Professionals and Amateurs, Independent (1993)
Bonnie Smith, High Amateurism and the Panoramic Past, in The Gender of History: Men, Women, and Historical Practice (1998)
Bernard Stiegler, Amateur, available at http://arsindustrialis.org/amateur-english-version
Miya Tokumitsu, In the Name of Love, Jacobin 13 (2014)
Stephen Wright, Users and Usership of Art: Challenging Expert Culture, Transform, (2007)
Simon Sheikh, Circulation and Withdrawal, Part II: Withdrawal, e-flux journal #63
Claire Bishop, Introduction – Viewers as Producers, in Participation, (2006)


Sunday, March 8, 4-6 pm
Discussion Leaders: Maricruz Alarcón & Margarita Sánchez Urdaneta
Recommended Reading:
Judith Butler, Chapter 1: An Account of Oneself (pp. 3-40) from Giving an Account of Oneself
Elias Canetti, Question and Answer (pp. 284-290) & Secrecy (pp. 290-297) from Crowds and Power
Trinh T. Minh-Ha, Documentary Is/Not a Name from October, Vol. 52, 1990
Video Resources:
Mustafa Abu Ali, They Do Not Exist, 1974
Luis Ospina and Carlos Mayolo, The Vampires of Poverty, 1978
Trinh T. Minh-Ha, Surname Viet Given Name Nam, 1989


Saturday, Feb 21, 4-6 pm
Discussion Leaders: Brian Block, Rit Premnath
Recommended Reading:
Daniel Kahneman, The Associative Machine from Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow
Nassim Taleb Narrative Fallacy from The Black Swan
Robin Scaife A Problem for Self-Knowledge: The Implications of Taking Confabulation Seriously from Acta Analytica, December 2014, Volume 29, Issue 4
Video Resources:
Indre Viskontas, Beyond Belief: How Memory Obscures the Truth
Guardians of Veracity from The Daily Show


Saturday, Feb 7, 3-6 pm
Smack Mellon
Discussion Leaders: Avi Alpert, Arlen Austin, Jason Boughton, & Molly Dilworth
Recommended Reading:
Robin Blackburn, The Planters Back Colonial Revolt from “The American Crucible: Slavery, Emancipation and Human Rights” (Ch. 6)
Judith Butler & George Yancy, What’s Wrong With ‘All Lives Matter’?
David Graeber, Concerning the Violent Peace-Police
M. K. Gandhi, Means and Ends and Ahimsa or the Way of Non Violence from “All Men Are Brothers”
Slavoj Žižek, Introduction: The Tyrant’s Bloody Robe from “Violence”
Supplemental Videos:
Angela Davis On Violence
Frances Fox Piven On Violence
Andrea Dworkin’s testimony on pornography before the attorney general
In conjunction with RESPOND


Saturday, Jan 17, 4-6 pm
Discussion Leaders: Cassandra Guan & Lauren Denitzio
Recommended Reading:
José Esteban Muñoz, Feeling Utopia from “Cruising Utopia”
Fredric Jameson, The Future as Disruption from “Archaeologies of the Future”
Kathi Weeks, The Future is Now from “The Problem with Work


Saturday, Dec 6, 4-6 pm
Discussion Leaders: Amanda Parmer, Avi Alpert, & Rit Premnath
Recommended Reading:
Emily Apter, “Women’s Time” in Theory
Elizabeth Grosz, The Hetero and the Homo: the Sexual Ethics of Luce Irigaray, from “Engaging with Irigaray” edited by Carolyn Burke, Naomi Schor, and Margaret Whitford
Saskia Sassen in conversation with Homi Bhabha, Immigrants and Citizens in the Global City
Henry David Thoreau, Selections from “Walden”
Eve Sedgewick Kosofsky, Introduction: Axiomatic, from “Epistemology of the Closet”
Lauren Berlant and Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Holding Up the World, Part III: In the Event of Precarity


Saturday, Nov 15, 4-6 pm
Discussion Leaders: Henry S. Turner & Edward Schexnayder
Recommended Reading:
Jacques Camatte, “Decline of the Capitalist Mode of Production or Decline of Humanity?”
Frederic William Maitland,“Moral Personality and Legal Personality”
Henry S. Turner,“Lessons From Literature for the Historian of Science (and Vice Versa): Reflections on ‘Form'”
George Bataille,“The Sacred Conspiracy”
Barbara Johnson,“Anthropomorphism in Lyric and Law”
Mollie Painter-Morland,“Rethinking Responsible Agency in Corporations: Perspectives from Deleuze & Guattari”
Henry S. Turner,“Toward an Analysis of the Corporate Ego: the Case of Richard Hakluyt”


Saturday, November 1st
Discussion Leaders: Mimi Winick & Thom Donovan
Recommended Reading:
Fred Moten “Black Mo’nin'” pg. 59, from Loss edited by David Eng
Jalal Toufic, The Withdrawal of Tradition Past a Surpassing Disaster
Gauri Viswanathan, “Spectrality’s Secret Sharers: Occultism as (Post) Colonial Affect,” in Beyond the Black Atlantic: Relocating Modernization and Technology. Ed. Walter Goebel


Saturday, October 25th
Discussion Leaders: Shadi Harouni & Rit Premnath
Recommended Reading:
Julia Bryan-Wilson (p.4) & Okwui Enwezor (p.33) from Questionnaire on “The Contemporary” edited by Hal Foster
Comrades of Time by Boris Groys
Introduction to What Was Contemporary Art by Richard Meyer


Saturday, October 18th
Discussion Leaders: Gabriel Rockhill and Avi Alpert
Recommended Reading: Avant-Garde and Neo-Avant Garde: An Attempt to Answer the Certain Critics of the Avant-garde by Peter Bürger

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