Thinking-feeling the Louise Lennihan Arts and Sciences Grant Showcase

“Otro Mundo es Posible”, by Beatriz Aurora, from her collection “Historias Pintadas: el color de la lucha zapatista”. Source: Araucanía

Thinking-feeling the Louise Lennihan Arts and Sciences Grant Showcase

The Futures Initiative supported eight student projects with the Dr. Louise Lennihan Arts and Sciences Grant this year. On November 11th, we came together to share the results with each other and with a larger audience in a showcase. This event was fresh air coming into the lungs. I want to use this space to think-feel the experience. 

Thinking-feeling is a concept that stems from Abya Yala (indigenous name for the continent that covers both North and South America), it is the practice of thinking both with heart and mind. Colombia’s Caribbean coast riverine and swamp communities taught this to the sociologist Fals-Borda and it became known across the continent, understood as what we do. I embrace it as a way of being and learning in the world: it gives space to embodied knowledge and allows us to have decolonial practices while approaching knowledge as a practice, not as a product. The Dr. Louis Lennihan Grant is a door to practice thinking-feeling and other alternative ways of co-creating knowledge.

I invite you to (re)visit the showcase video and think-feel the words of Cathy Davidson, Founding Director of The Futures Initiative. Davidson makes clear that the story of this grant is that of people who put humanity first, who prioritize sharing knowledge and creating it collectively. And that story is central to understanding how our projects are wired to a vision, to a practice, to a common goal. As Professor Davidson presented I wondered: what does it mean to be part of this group? How do I recognize myself in the projects of others and in the showcase? How do I relate to Dr. Louise Lennihan?

Then, the presentation of my fellow students became a journey. First, Josephine Barnett made us think of the intimate sphere of family and memory, using ‘the family photo album’ and ‘home videos’ she invited us to rethink trauma and how it is rooted across generations in systemic acts of violence. Afterward, Sara Fresard took us from memory to our skin, to the very intimate experience with the bacteria (that differs on each person!). We enjoyed learning from her public art-based science experiences and how powerful they result for people, as they create a different relationship with science.

Hugo Genes moved us from the individual to the collective, by taking us to Bahia, Brazil. His work focuses on seashore communities and their responses to plastics from the ocean. Here the lenses change, and we are a microscope on this huge planet that we have to take care of, just as we take care of our own skin. After that, we kept feeling-thinking about collective experiences. Shima Houshyar took us to Iran during the Cold War (1954-1989) and shared their wonderful work on the political afterlives of large-scale infrastructural development and environmental transformations at that time.

Kyueun Kim made us rethink the present, moving us to East Asia with her project about posthuman theatre and performance in the region. Kyueun poses questions on subjectivity, spirituality, and superintelligence in our current technological world. And Max Papadantonakis made us ask ourselves more questions about the technological era with his work on the inequalities in New York City’s High-Tech Industry. Max demystifies the ideas of meritocracy and wellness around the industry and shows us the dark side of tech: its precarity.

After, we moved into the intersection of language and technology. Here my project partner, Ernesto Cuba, and I shared about our First Spanish Feminist Linguistics Editathon, which we co-organized with other members of our international community of feminist linguists and the collaboration of several chapters of Wikimedia communities from Latin America. We continue with the digital community experiences with Nga Than, who presented on Gab, a social platform that attracted far-right extremists due to its minimal content moderation policies.

As you can see, we went from the private and intimate sphere, until we got to the public and digital experience of people in the world. We all can relate to these experiences in different ways. Thus, the showcase resulted in a very comforting stitched narrative that demonstrates how different individuals from The Graduate Center student-community approach social questions.

The showcase was a point in a bigger journey. Each of our projects has a longer life, all of them include lives wired; lives that depend on each other; all of them are seeds that can continue growing. The showcase ended, but the questions remained to keep blooming: What is knowledge and “for whom” do we produce it? “With whom” do we produce it? How can we make it participative, open, and socially useful?

It was not a showcase, it was a meaningful space to share, meet with the GC community again, and engage with CUNY as an institution for the public good. As an international student, this experience made me feel at home at CUNY. These experiences are the ones we should reproduce to take knowledge into the future.

Silvia Rivera Alfaro is a Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures (LAILAC) Ph.D. Student at the CUNY Graduate Center (GC). She specializes in Hispanic sociolonguistics and is also a student in the Interactive Technology and Pedagogy Certificate program at the GC. Additionally, Silvia is the co-founder of Indisciplinadxs, an international digital community of Spanish-language feminist linguistics based in Latin America. She holds a BA in Spanish Philology and an MA in Linguistics from the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR). During her time at UCR she taught a variety of courses, collaboratively conducted research, and proofread for academic journals.