Franke Lectures in the Humanities

The annual Franke Lectures in the Humanities provide up to four public lectures a year, organized in conjunction with an upper-level undergraduate humanities seminar. The lectures are made possible by the generosity of Richard and Barbara Franke, and are intended to present important topics in the humanities to a wide and general audience.

The spring 2023 Franke Lectures in the Humanities have been organized in conjunction with the Yale College seminar “World Cinema” taught by Marta Figlerowicz.

Third Cinema in the Global 1960s: South-South Film Movements in Dialogue with International Political Cinema

Mariano Mestman, University of Buenos Aires

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

The talk will focus on the international influence of Third Cinema (or Third World political films) in the late 1960s. I will explore the relations between the New Latin American Cinema (from Brazilian Cinema Novo to Argentinean and Bolivian militant films) and African and Arab cinema. I will also show their links with European and North American artists and filmmakers during both Cuban and Algerian cultural or film encounters at the beginning of 1968.

Mariano Mestman holds a Ph.D. in film history from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. He is a senior researcher at the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas (CONICET) and the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he teaches Latin American and Third World political cinema between 1950 and 1970. He has carried out research work in audiovisual archives in Canada, Cuba, France, Italy, Mexico, and Scotland.


Lessons in Drag, with LaWhore Vagistan

LaWhore Vagistan

Monday, April 03, 2023

The day before Kareem Khubchandani’s Franke Lecture in the Humanities (“Aunty Aesthetics, or More Ways to Be an Aunty”) they will perform a drag show as your favorite South Asian drag aunty, LaWhore Vagistan. Dr. Vagistan brings the nightclub to the classroom (and vice versa) to explain how critical social theory matters in queer nightlife. Touching on themes that include globalization, feminist theory, and Islamophobia, she stages the nightclub as a site of politics and pleasure. Part lecture, part lip-sync, part audience participation, the show demonstrates how much drag teaches us—even requires us—to be in relation with the rest of the world.

LaWhore Vagistan is everyone’s favorite overdressed, overeducated, oversaturated desi drag aunty. Her music videos have screened at the Mississauga South Asian Film Festival, Austin OUTsider multi-arts festival, Hyderabad Queer Film Festival, and 3rd i San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival. She has performed at the Austin International Drag Festival, Mustard Seed South Asian Film Festival, The Asia Society, AS220, Queens Museum, Jack Theater, Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, Not Festival, Links Hall, and A.R.T. Oberon. You can find her on YouTube delivering a TEDx talk titled “How to Be an Aunty” and serving looks on Instagram at @lawhorevagistan.


Aunty Aesthetics, or More Ways to Be an Aunty

Kareem Khubchandani, Tufts University

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

Aunties are known to be terrifying figures, domineering and difficult, overbearing to younger generations. They are especially known for managing and curtailing desire, whether shaming you for that extra piece of cake you are eyeing or blabbing to your parents about your nighttime escapes. As such, they have become the butt of the joke, particularly in meme culture that critiques older generations’ outmoded style and politics. This talk revisits the hegemonic figure of the South Asian aunty in performance, TV, literature, and visual culture to detail what paying attention to her aesthetics can teach us about the queer and trans futures she makes possible rather than forecloses.

Kareem Khubchandani is associate professor in theater, dance, and performance studies at Tufts University. He is the author of the multiple award-winning Ishtyle: Accenting Gay Indian Nightlife (University of Michigan Press, 2020). Kareem is also coeditor of Queer Nightlife (University of Michigan Press, 2021) and guest editor of “Critical Aunty Studies,” a special issue of Text and Performance Quarterly.


The Socially Engaged Practices: From Filmmaking to Placemaking

Ou Ning, artist, writer, filmmaker, activist

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Ou Ning’s first documentary film San Yuan Li focuses on the urban village phenomenon in the process of China’s radical urbanization; it was a team effort. All the participants were amateur film lovers. They got to know each other through the U-thèque Organization founded by Ou Ning and taught themselves filmmaking during the weekend screening activities. His second documentary Meishi Street focuses on the demolishing of the street in front of Tiananmen Square and the protest of the residents prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. It was also a team effort, but for the first time, Ou Ning gave a digital camera to one of the residents, Zhang Jinli, who then learned basic skills and documented his protest himself. Through egalitarian discussion and mutual learning, Ou Ning and his team—and the ordinary people they engaged with—used acquired skills to document their reality, to shape their own narratives, and to find their own voice, in a process of self-empowerment. This practice of collectivism, which encourages participation, cooperation, equal rights, and mutual learning, was later applied to the Bishan Project, a six-year rural reconstruction and placemaking project, and has been updated and extended in a series of his recent experimental projects in different places to improve the local auditory identity through soundscape studies. In this lecture Ou Ning will share the practices he has consistently honed over the past twenty years.

Ou Ning is a Chinese artist, filmmaker, curator, writer, publisher, and activist, who currently lives and works in New York. He is the director of two films, San Yuan Li (2003) and Meishi Street (2005), chief curator of the Shenzhen and Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture (2009), jury member of the 8th Benesse Prize at the 2009 Venice Biennale, member of the Asian Art Council at the Guggenheim Museum (2011), founding chief editor of the literary bimonthly Chutzpah! (2011–14), founder of Bishan Commune (2011–16) and School of Tillers (2015–16), visiting professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (2016–17), and senior research fellow of the Center for Arts, Design, and Social Research in Boston (2019–22). His most recent book is Utopia in Practice: Bishan Project and Rural Reconstruction (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020).


On the Margins of (World) Cinema: New Style Seriality in African Screen Media

Moradewun Adejunmobi, University of California, Davis

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

One of the important developments in contemporary African screen media is the significant increase in new forms of seriality, frequently produced and circulated outside publicly supported legacy television and radio. Although African indie-style feature films tend to attract more critical attention than any other kind of African screen media among publics outside the African continent, locally produced and or inspired serial shows generate more audience engagement among African and African diasporic audiences. The potential upsides and drawbacks of this massive growth in privately sponsored forms of seriality for the autonomy of contemporary African screen media will be discussed.

Moradewun Adejunmobi is a professor in the African American and African Studies Department at the University of California, Davis. She holds courtesy appointments in the French and Comparative Literature departments and is a former chair of the Performance Studies Graduate Group at UC Davis. She focuses on the interactions between digital, print, and live performances of both popular and “high” culture texts in selected countries of West Africa. Her current research examines the intersection between commerce, critical reception, and local autonomy in the Nigeran film/television industry, popularly known as Nollywood. Her publications on African literature and media have appeared in Popular Communication, Cultural Critique, Comparative Literature, Politique africaine, Black Camera, PMLA, and Cinema Journal among others. She is the author of two monographs: JJ Rabearivelo, Literature and Lingua Franca in Colonial Madagascar, and Vernacular Palaver: Imaginations of the Local and Non-Native Languages in West Africa. She is also a coeditor (with Carli Coetzee) of the Routledge Handbook of African Literature and was a guest editor for the Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry (2016) special issue on African science fiction.