Shannon Lee Dawdy will be coming to speak at the Indigenous Arts in Transition Seminar on Wednesday, December 11, 2013. Her talk is entitled “Patina: Object Trauma and Human Narrative.”

Shannon Lee Dawdy is Associate Professor of Anthropology and of Social Sciences in the College at the University of Chicago. She received a B.A. in Anthropology from Reed College, a M.A. in Anthropology at the College of William and Mary, an M.A. in History from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in Anthropology and History from the University of Michigan. Dawdy is a historical anthropologist and archaeologist whose fieldwork focuses on the American South and Gulf of Mexico with a particular focus on Louisiana, eastern Mexico, and Cuba from the 17th century to present. Her first single-authored book, Building the Devil’s Empire: French Colonial New Orleans (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), offers ‘rogue colonialism’ to explain how French New Orleans and many colonies like it functioned outside state controls. Dawdy’s research interests include piracy and informal economies; aesthetics, affect, and sensoria; temporality; gender and sexuality; fetish and thing theory; and death and disaster. Her recent fieldwork has focused on garden, market, and hospitality sites in New Orleans, including Pitot House, Rising Sun Hotel, St. Antoine’s Garden, and Ursuline Convent. This work informs Dawdy’s current book project, Patina: A Profane Archaeology of Romantic Things, which reconsiders the intimate relations of capitalism—between people as well as between people and things—with attention to temporality, gender, and affect.

New Orleanians ironically figure themselves as residents of an “antique city.” In both public performance and private circuits, one finds a pervasive aesthetic of “patina,” or a value placed on the “look of age,” evident in historic preservation efforts, a local fixation on antique collecting, and the celebration of cultural traditions from Mardi Gras to jazz and creole cuisine. While the patina aesthetic undoubtedly supports provincial sentimentality and heritage tourism, it also dangles keys to understanding a kind of sociology. Material culture is a medium through which social actors communicate the unspeakable and through which they intensify their speech with concrete illustration. Singular objects are vital conversation pieces in society’s effort to talk itself into being. In her talk at the BGC, Dawdy will show how things such as antiques, heirlooms, and old houses are made to embody social experience. Old things outlive human co-habitants and this fact stirs not so much a coherent memory as an inchoate sense of object agency and a reminder of the traumas that time inexorably unfolds.

Light refreshments will be served at 5:45 pm. The presentation will begin at 6:00 pm.

RSVP is required.

PLEASE NOTE that our Lecture Hall can only accommodate a limited number of people, so please come early if you would like to have a seat in the main room. Registrants who arrive late may be seated in an overflow viewing area.