The Graduate Program in Visual and Cultural Studies hosted an interdisciplinary conference entitled “Casting Doubt” on Saturday. The all-day conference gave graduate students from many different universities and fields of study an opportunity to present some of their work.

“It was a wonderful collection of interesting and timely topics,” graduate student Mara Gladstone said. “This was a very productive conference. It gave students an opportunity to share and develop their ideas. The conversations began during the presentations were continued during breaks throughout the day.”

The goal of the conference was to explore the power of questioning ideas. By exploring ideas of uncertainty, conference participants could reflect upon, reconsider and reformulate the multiple dimensions of doubting.

Leanne Gilbertson, a doctoral student in Visual and Cultural Studies, coordinated the efforts of many graduate students and departments to create the “Casting Doubt” conference.

“Responding both to an official cultural climate which was increasingly failing to acknowledge voices of dissent and to a growing intellectual interest in emotional experiences of all kinds,” Gilbertson said. “The planning committee of ‘Casting Doubt,’ hoped to bring together recent scholarship that was seeking out and prying open spaces of doubt in order to consider their multiple meanings, modes, aesthetics and impacts,” she added.

“The idea for the conference derived from the sense that there was an urgent need for a forum in which scholars from various disciplinary backgrounds could converge to collectively explore how doubt has historically been understood and visually represented, to consider how doubt currently figures in our social, cultural and political systems and to discuss how doubt might impact our futures,” Gilbertson said.

The conference featured four different panel discussions entitled: “Doubtful Subjects,” “Paradoxes of Visibility,” “Material Uncertainty” and “Geographies of Doubt.” Each panel consisted of three students sharing their papers and research, followed by a moderated discussion and question session.

Eduaro Cadava, an English professor from Princeton University, delivered a keynote address entitled “Palm Reading: Fazal Shiekh’s Handbook of Death.”

“The address offered a meditation upon the relations among images, memory, history, death and mourning,” Gilbertson said. “In his reading of the photographs, Professor Cadava suggested that it is from uncertainty and indetermination that an understanding of the incomprehensible might emerge and that a sense of responsibility for the pain and suffering of others might arise.”

“It was a great day of presentations,” Queens University in Kingston art history graduate student Derek Rushton said. “There was a good representation of students from across the country. The conference provided a good public forum for people to present their work, discuss it and share ideas. Overall, the event was well organized.”

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