The Orlando Lectures

The Orlando Lecture History

What it is?

The Department of English and Film Studies biennial Orlando Lecture marks the department's significant feminist past and present and looks forward to its future. In 1989, the English Department hired five women faculty members (unheard of at that time and a watershed event in the battle for pay equity on campus) and in 1995 the department faculty founded The Orlando Project, a groundbreaking collaborative and digital history of women's writing in the British Isles. Almost all the faculty who initiated those critically vital events in feminist literary studies, women's writing and the transformation of the institution have retired from our department. We commemorate and extend these accomplishments in this lecture series, inaugurated in 2015 and described as follows:

The Orlando Lecture will be hosted by the Department of English and Film Studies in order to celebrate our long-standing commitment to feminism, women's literary history, gender and sexuality, and queer studies. It recognizes that the department's commitment to expanding the discipline of English--in terms of texts, theories, and access-- is an important aspect of its history as well as an ongoing project. The Orlando Lecture will be given by scholars whose work contributes to and extends this feminist scholarly project, broadly conceived.

Why the name Orlando?

The Department of English and Film Studies has two other annual lecture series, named after formative male members of our department. It was time to recognize the central role women have played in making the department one of the 22nd best in the world. 1 While the lecture, in part, marks the significance of The Orlando Project within the department's feminist history, the lecture is separate from the project and it's name refers us back to the source in Virginia Woolf's historical novel, tracing Orlando's history as a writer across 300 years, famously transforming sexes and becoming a woman in the eighteenth century. Woolf's novel and this lecture emphasize the collective and collaborative nature of feminist literary studies and do not single out one women but recognize their collective efforts.


The Department of English and Film Studies presented the 2021 Orlando Lecture:


Dr. Dina Al-Kassim

Promising Fatalities:
On the Politics of Exposure in Agamben, Kapil and Spillers

Wednesday, April 21, 2021
3:30 - 5:00 pm MDT


A talk in three parts that begins with a critique of the discourse of exposure as condition of truth and moves to an interrogation of Giorgio Agamben’s philosophy of the ‘ban’ as referenced by Bhanu Kapil, where an uncanny materialization brings Ban back to the metropole. Reading Kapil through Hortense Spillers on flesh and the unconscious, we will end with a consideration of the “promising fatality” that Judith Butler proposes as a method for reading a discrete transgender fantasy drawn from an anthropological source. Black and transnational feminism aligns itself with transgender imaginaries to pursue alternatives to the naked truth. The specific texts referenced in the talk will be Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo (1972), Bhanu Kapil’s Ban en Banlieue (2015), Hortense Spillers's Black, White and in Color and Judith Butler’s Antigone’s Claim.


Dr. Dina Al-KassimDina Al-Kassim is a critical theorist and literary scholar, who writes on contemporary political subjectivation, sexuality and aesthetics in modernist and contemporary forms with reference to the Middle East and Africa, Europe and the USA. She is the author of On Pain of Speech: Fantasies of the First Order and the Literary Rant (University of California Press, 2010), which investigates a foundational fantasy of modernity: speaking in one’s own voice. Through the examination of the politics of address revealed in the practice of literary ranting, a waste product of modern subjectivity, Al-Kassim identifies the social industry of foreclosure even as we are compelled to speak.

For a decade a professor of Comparative Literature and a member of the Critical Theory Institute at UC Irvine, Al-Kassim now teaches in Department of English Literatures and Language and in the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice at the University of British Columbia, where she is also an Associate at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies. Previously, Al-Kassim has been a Mellon Postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University, a Senior Seminar Fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute, and a Sawyer Seminar, Residency Fellow at the University of California, Humanities Research Institute. Recipient of a 2019 Social Science and Humanities Research Connections grant for the 2020 conference Critical Nationalisms, Counterpublics, Al-Kassim’s work today centres paradoxes of exposure in the political and aesthetic practices of those who inherit resistance and protest as inescapable frameworks determining subjectivity.

Co-editor of Postcolonial Reason and its Critique: Deliberations on Gayatri Spivak’s Thoughts (Oxford UP, 2014), Al-Kassim has published in Grey Room, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Interventions, Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, Public Culture, Cultural Critique, Cultural Dynamics, Camera Austria International and the volumes Derrida/Deleuze and Islamicate Sexualities and in the forthcoming Psychoanalysis, Gender and Sexualities (Cambridge UP) co-edited by Patricia Gherovici and Manya Steinkoler.

Reading samples from Dr. Dina Al-Kassim:

On Pain of Speech

Archiving Resistance: Women's Testimony at the Threshold of the State

Feminist Pornocracy? Femen and the Politics of Resistant Nudity

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