CHCI 2022 | Akira Mizuta Lippit, "Persona Non Grata"

Friday, May 20, 2022 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm

Penn Pavilion, Duke West Campus


The Duke community is cordially invited to select sessions of Face to Face: Forms of the Humanities, the 2022 Annual Meeting of the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI), hosted by the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute. See more on the conference theme below.

The CHCI is a global forum that strengthens the work of humanities centers and institutes through advocacy, grant-making, and inclusive collaboration. The CHCI advances cross-institutional partnerships, recognizes regional humanities cultures, and mobilizes the collective capacity of the humanities to engage the most pressing issues in society today. The FHI was institutional host of the CHCI from 2007 to 2016.

See all public sessions and conference policies here. SPACES ARE LIMITED. PLEASE REGISTER BY MONDAY MAY 16, 2022 (extended!)


IMPORTANT: For admission, please bring your ticket (electronic or print-out) to each session. Note that tickets are for public sessions ONLY. Registration for the full conference is limited to CHCI member organizations.


    About this Session

    The 2022 Srinivas Aravamudan Memorial Lecture will be delivered by Akira Mizuta Lippit, Vice Dean of Faculty and Professor of Cinema and Media Studies at the School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California and Professor of Comparative Literature and East Asian Languages and Cultures at USC Dornsife College. His lecture, "Persona non grata," resumes a series of inquiries that had begun long before the interruptions of the past several years and asks whether the pandemic has changed in some fundamental ways the nature or premises of questions regarding personhood. The phrase “persona non grata,” deployed primarily as a diplomatic idiom, refers to those individuals, typically foreign, that are no longer welcome by the State. By refusing to acknowledge the legal status of the unwelcome, the State also implies that they are, perhaps, no longer considered persons at all. What transgressions must one commit—ethical or legal, actual or imaginary—to be rendered non grata? And are such transgressions always assumed also to be violations of personhood as such? Are refugees, for example, the exiled and stateless, also persona non grata? This paper seeks to raise preliminary questions about the forms of violence against personhood that have made some unwelcome, no longer personable. Orbiting the various ideas implanted within the term person—from the private (personal) to the public (personae) to matters of character (personality)—are questions of the very conditions of the human and its face, the persona. Presented as a series of observations, “Persona non grata” also explores the other side of personhood, the impersonal, asking what has happened to the state of hospitality in the wake of the pandemic?

    Introduction by Richard Neer, Barbara E. and Richard J. Franke Distinguished Service Professor in Art History, Cinema & Media Studies and the College at the University of Chicago, where he is also Director of the Franke Institute for the Humanities.

    Akira Lippit’s interests are in world cinemas, critical theory, Japanese film and culture, experimental film and video, and visual studies. His published work reflects these areas and includes four books, Ex-Cinema: From a Theory of Experimental Film and Video (California, 2012); Atomic Light (Shadow Optics) (Minnesota, 2005); Electric Animal: Toward a Rhetoric of Wildlife (Minnesota, 2000); and his most recent book, Cinema without Reflection: Jacques Derrida’s Echopoiesis and Narcissism Adrift (Minnesota, 2016). At present, Lippit is completing a book on contemporary Japanese cinema, which explores the physical and metaphysical dimensions of the “world,” and another on David Lynch’s baroque alphabetics. Widely translated, his work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. He is past recipient of the Fulbright-Hays and Japan Foundation awards. Lippit is active in the film community as a programmer, interviewer, and jury member, and has been deeply involved in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Visual History Project. Lippit is Senior Editor of the journal Discourse and serves on the editorial board of Film Quarterly. He regularly teaches, lectures, and publishes in Japan, where he is a founding editor of the visual culture journal Ecce.

    About the Conference Theme:
    Face to Face: Forms of the Humanities

    Over the last couple of years, our institutes and universities have pivoted all over the world to online technologies for our events, collaborations, meetings and communications. The newly dominant technologies have done much to change our current understanding of a face, just as the invention and use of photography, of the close up in cinema, of the smartphone and facial recognition, of the television newscaster, and of the shifting nature of portraiture, icons and masks have done so in the past. These various technologies of the face, that are indicative of the idea of the front and the back, of an idea of the eyes as the mark of the front, have often been seen as indexed to the human, to identity, or to anthropomorphism. Fields in the humanities have addressed this by considering the emergence of face as prosopopoeia, as the instantiation of aesthetic symmetry par excellence, and as figuration.

    This conference will ask, what is a face? And what is the form of a face? How does the face index the human? Do non-human animals have faces? What scale of relationality is implied in the phrase, face to face? And how does the metaphysics of presence—the suggestion of an entity behind the face or through the window of the eyes—relate to a politics of recognition? If one can be known through the face, then how does knowledge function in the instance of no face, of the acousmatic, the face in shadow, the masked or veiled face, the fugitive face, the face as surface. In considering the philosophical implications of linguistic differences and untranslatable figurations of the face, we will address how the rocky face of a mountain, the façade of a building, the face of the earth, the face of the divine also demand an analysis of scale, a dimension of height, and an ethics of relationality.

    CHCI will address these questions concerning form and face also through a consideration of what kinds of forms are currently appropriate to humanities research, collaboration, and presentation. What are the implications of the changing technologies of face for notions of human, non-human, and posthuman; environment, infrastructure, and communicability; public face and interface? How do the changing technologies of face historically shape the manner in which we conceive of humanities research, its presentation, and its historical and geographical depth?

    CHCI poster (cropped) with text "Face to Face: Forms of the Humanities" and conference info
    Friday, May 20, 2022 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
    John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute
    Event Co-Sponsors