Dictionary of the Possible

Over the course of a year and a half Avi Alpert and Rit Premnath hosted a series of public discussions at The New School. Each meeting 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 opened up our editorial process to the motivations of an interdisciplinary group.

This yearlong series has culminated in Shifter’s 22nd issue Dictionary of the Possible. This “dictionary” catalogs 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 present a book that continually incites discussion.

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Saturday, February 24 2019, 3-4:30 pm
Queens Museum, New York
Discussion Leaders: Liz Park & Sophia Marisa Lucas

Recommended Readings:

What Is Internationalism? from The Internationale by R. Palme Dutt, 1964
Global Conceptualism: Reflections from MoMA.org by Jane Farver, 2015
Introduction from Governing the World: The Rise and Fall of an Idea, 1815 to the Present by Mark Mazower, 2012


Saturday, May 5 2018, 4-6 pm
Teachers College, Columbia University
Discussion Leaders: Richard Jochum & Livia Alexander

Recommended Readings:

Maxine Green: Teaching as Possibility
bell hooks: Teaching to Transgress, Chapter 1 Engaged Pedagogy
J Krishnamurti: Education and the Significance of Life

Additional Readings:

Eng-Beng Lim, Lisa Duggan, and José Esteban Munõz: The Performance and Pedagogy of Neoliberal Affect
Maxine Greene: Aesthetic Literacy
Wendy Kohli: The Dialectical Imagination of Maxine Greene


Saturday, December 5, 4-6 pm
U-312, Parsons University Center, 63 Fifth Avenue, NYC
Discussion Leaders: Billy Galperin and Shadi Harouni

Recommended Reading:

Ernst Bloch, The Principle of Hope, Vol. 1, pp. 195 – 223
Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia, Chapters 1 & 2
Veena Das, To Live with Concepts from Four Lectures on Ethics, pp. 7 – 37 (Forthcoming)
David Hume, Of Miracles from An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding


Varimage Box, Mr. No Problem (Dooshvary)


Saturday, November 21, 4-6 pm
Discussion Leaders: Terike Haapoja and Oliver Kellhammer

Recommended Reading:

Kari Weil, A Report on the Animal Turn from Differences, Vol 21, No 2, pp. 1-23 (2010)
Eduardo Kohn, Introduction: Runa Puma from How Forests Think: Toward and Anthropology Beyond the Human, pp. 1-26 (2013)
Paola Cavalieri, The Meaning of the Great Ape Project from Politics and Animals, Issue 1, pp. 16-34 (2015)
Rights of Nature Articles in Ecuador’s Constitution

Supplemental Readings:

Gregory Bateson, Metalogue: What is an Instinct? from Steps to an Ecology of Mind, pp. 48-69 (1972)
Thomas Nagel, What is it Like to be a Bat? from The Philosophical Review LXXXIII, pp. 435-50 (1974)
Wendy Doniger, Reflection on J.M. Coetzee’s Lives of Animals, pp 93-107


Saturday, November 7, 4-6 pm
Discussion Leaders: Hong-An Truong & Dwayne Dixon

Recommended Reading:

Tarak Barkawi, Grounded from Review of International Studies, 35, pp. 860-862 (2009)
Gilles Deleuze, What is Grounding?
Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Forgotten Places and the Seeds of Grassroots Planning from Engaging Contradictions: Theory, Politics, and Methods of Activist Scholarship (2008)
Hito Steyerl, In Free Fall: A Thought Experiment on Vertical Perspective from The Wretched of the Screen (2012)


Saturday, October 24, 4-6 pm
Discussion Leaders: Yamini Nayar & Jaret Vadera

Recommended Reading:

Teresa Rodrigues Cadete, Introduction: Rewriting Culture between the Lines from Material Idea: On the Legibility of Culture
Édouard Glissant, For Opacity from Poetics of Relation, trans. Betsy Wing
Naomi Klein, Chapter 1: New Branded World from No Logo
Raqs Media Collective, Stammer, Mumble, Sweat, Scrawl, and Tic
Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation

Recommended Media:

Omar Fest, CNN Concatenated (2002)
Radiolab, Cities: It’s Alive? (4:58-16:00 min.)
Astra Taylor, Examined Life: Avital Ronell (2008) (6:40-7:51 min. & 4:30-5:20 min.)


Saturday, October 10, 4-6 pm
Discussion Leaders: Avi Alpert & Brendan Fernandes

Recommended Reading:

Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism from Discourse on Colonialism
Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, Cannibal Metaphysics: Amerindian perspectivism from Radical Philosophy 182 (Novemember/December 2013)
Simon Gikandi, Picasso, Africa, and the Schemata of Difference from Modernism/modernity, Volume 10, Number 3, September 2003, pp.
Charles W. Mills, White Ignorance from Race and Epistemologies of Ignorance
James C. Scott, Hills, Valleys, and States: An Introduction to Zomia from The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia


Saturday, September 26, 4-6 pm
Discussion Leaders: Colleen Macklin & Will Lee

Recommended Reading:

Johan Huizinga, Play-forms in Art from Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture
McKenzie Wark, Players from Simulations, Exercise, Operations
Liz Ryerson, A 21st Century Digital Art Manifesto
Benedict Singleton, (Notes Towards) Speculative Design

Secondary Reading:

Jack Halberstam, The Queer Art of Failure from The Queer Art of Failure
Eric Zimmerman, Manifesto For A Ludic Century


anna anthropy, Dys4ia
Fullbright, Gone Home
Ed Key and David Kanaga, Proteus
Hide and Seek Productions Ltd., Tiny Games
Jane McGonigal, Superbetter
King, Candy Crush Saga
Local No. 12, The Metagame
Temkin , et al., Cards Against Humanity


Harun Farocki, Serious Games
Harun Farocki, Parallel
John Gerrard, Exercise


Saturday, September 12, 4-6 pm
Discussion Leaders: Siddhartha Lokanandi & Rit Premnath

Recommended Reading:

Sara Danius & Stefan Jonsson, An Interview with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Ivan Illich from The Development Dictionary: A Guide to Knowledge as Power, Needs


Saturday, May 16, 4-6 pm
Discussion Leaders: Danilo Correale & Nick Keys

Recommended Reading:

Henri Lefebvre, Work and Leisure in Daily Life
Kazimir Malevich, Laziness as the Truth of Mankind
Vernon Richards, Nationalisation of Leisure in Why Work?: Arguments for the Leisure Society
Bertrand Russell, In Praise of Idleness in Harper’s Magazine, October 1932
Peter Sloterdijk, Introduction & Part I of You Must Change Your Life: On Anthropotechnics
Mladen Stilinović, In Praise of Laziness
Thorstein Veblen, Introduction in The Theory of the Leisure Class


Saturday, May 2, 4-6 pm
Discussion Leaders: Adam Spanos, Avi Alpert, & Rit Premnath

Recommended Reading:

Theodore Adorno, The Essay as Form, in The New German Critique, No. 32, Spring-Summer, 1984 (p. 151 – 171)
Michel Foucault, Preface, in The Order of Things: An Archaeology of Human Sciences
Lydia H. Liu, Shadows of Universalism: The Untold Story of Human Rights around 1948, in Critical Inquiry, Summer 2014, Vol. 40 Issue. 04
Raymond Williams, Introduction, in Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society

Supplemental Reading:

Jorge Luis Borges, Library of Babel, in Labyrinths
Fredric Jameson, Cognitive Mapping, in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture
Martin Jay, Georg Lukács and the Origins of the Western Marxist Paradigm, in Marxism and Totality
Gyanendra Pandey, In Defense of the Fragment, in Representations, 37, Winter 1992


Saturday, April 18, 4-6 pm
Discussion Leaders: Keith Tilford & Andrew Weiner

Recommended Reading:

Jacques Derrida, A Certain Impossible Possibility of Saying the Event, in Critical Inquiry, Winter 2007, Vol. 33 Issue. 02
Peter Osborne, Modernity: A Different Time, in The Politics of Time Modernity and Avant-Garde (1995)

Video Resources:

Ray Brassier, Bergson, Lived Experience, and the Myth of the Given
Slavoj Žižek, Events and Encounters Explain Our Fear of Falling in Love


Saturday, April 4, 4-6 pm
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)


Saturday, March 21, 4-6 pm
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