Choice in the Time of a Pandemic

November 18, 2020 (Wednesday) / 5:00 pm


Choice in the Time of a Pandemic

Renata Salecl

Professor of Psychology, Psychoanalysis and Law, Birkbeck College, University of London

David L. Eng

Richard L. Fisher Professor of English and Asian American Studies, University of Pennsylvania

Should people be free to choose to wear masks? How are hospitals deciding whom to put on a ventilator and whom not? And why are some people choosing to get infected? Acclaimed philosopher and sociologist Renata Salecl examines freedom of choice in the current pandemic and asks why choice is so often anxiety provoking, how it relates to jealousy and envy, and how it can lead to aggression in times of social crisis.

Remarks by David L. Eng to follow Renata Salecl's presentation.

Cosponsored by the Program in Comparative Literature, the Psychoanalytic Studies Minor, and the Collaboration Liaison Committee of the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia and Penn.

Renata Salecl is a philosopher and sociologist, who is a senior researcher at the Institute of Criminology at the Faculty of Law in Ljubljana and holds a professorship at Birkbeck College, University of London, UK. Renata has written books on anxiety, postmodernism and love, which have been translated into 15 languages. Her book, The Tyranny of Choice explores how late-capitalism's insistence on individuating yourself through personal choices can prevent the possibility of social change. In her new book published by Princeton University Press in 2020, A Passion for Ignorance: What We Choose Not to Know and Why, Salecl argues that ignorance, whether passive or active, conscious or unconscious, has always been a part of the human condition. 

David L. Eng is Richard L. Fisher Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is also Professor in the Programs in Asian American Studies, Comparative Literature & Literary Theory, and Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies. Eng has held visiting professorships at the University of Bergen (Norway), King’s College London, Harvard University, and the University of Hong Kong. He is the recipient of research fellowships from the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, and the Mellon Foundation, among others. In 2016, Eng was elected an honorary member of the Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research (IPTAR) in New York City.

Eng is author of Racial Melancholia, Racial Dissociation: On the Social and Psychic Lives of Asian Americans (co-authored with Shinhee Han, Duke, 2019), The Feeling of Kinship: Queer Liberalism and the Racialization of Intimacy (Duke, 2010), and Racial Castration: Managing Masculinity in Asian America (Duke, 2001). He is co-editor with David Kazanjian of Loss: The Politics of Mourning (California, 2003) and with Alice Y. Hom of Q & A: Queer in Asian America (Temple, 1998). In addition, he is co-editor of three special issues of the journal Social Text: with Jasbir Puar, “Left of Queer” (forthcoming 2020), with Teemu Ruskola and Shuang Shen, “China and the Human” (2011/2012), and with Jack Halberstam and José Esteban Muñoz, “What's Queer about Queer Studies Now?” (2005). His current book project, “Reparations and the Human,” investigates the relationship between political and psychic genealogies of reparation in Cold War Asia.