The Right to Look is more our duty than a “right”

Book Cover: The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality by Nicholas Mirzoeff

“RSVP for the Book Launch for Nicholas Mirzoeff’s
The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 5:30 pm at 20 Cooper Square, 5th Floor, New York, NY

Space is limited and reservations are required. To RSVP, please visit:

Register to attend a reception celebrating the publication of The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality (Duke University Press, 2011), by Nicholas Mirzoeff, Professor in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, NYU.
In The Right to LookNicholas Mirzoeff develops a comparative de-colonial framework for visual culture studies, the field that he helped to create and shape. Casting modernity as an ongoing contest between visuality and countervisuality, or “the right to look,” he explains how visuality sutures authority to power and renders the association natural. Encompassing the Caribbean plantation and the Haitian revolution, anticolonialism in the South Pacific, antifascism in Italy and Algeria, and the contemporary global counterinsurgency, The Right to Look is a work of astonishing geographic, temporal, and conceptual reach.”This event is free and open to the public.


I studied with Nick during a semester “abroad” at NYU, yes, venturing beyond the 14th street divide counts as abroad for many New York City graduate students! (joke). That spring, I took a class in visual culture called “Modernity and Climate Change” in the Media Culture and Communication Studies Department. The class was simply amazing, with the range of discipline and perspectives represented. Our group conversations were candid, intense, exciting and enriching. Nicholas was a confident leader and didn’t overly direct the conversation or derail fruitful trains of thought.

I invited him to speak at the Ninth Annual Nature Ecology Society Colloquium where he delivered a talk “Islands of Justice: Imagining Climate Change. He made a big splash with they way he integrated images, and audience assumptions and cultural readings of climate change images and information, specifically that of islanders around the world whose lives are changing at the prospect of climactic shifts and sea-level changes.

He was a truly welcome addition to our roster, a major coup, I might add, and  he represented the start of a rich relationship between NES and NYU. I found him to be an engaging speaker, brilliant thinker, witty, real and personable!

I definitely recommend that people who grapple with visual studies and / or use digital media (as a theoretical foundation, for data collection, analysis or presentation) should attend. If you tell him I sent you, it’ll elicit a smile!

Let me know if you decide to go, I’d love to hear about it!


Back to the Future of DUMBO & the Manhattan Bridge

Time warp: pciture of DUMBO street with Bridge framing 1974 and in 2009

I had no idea this block was a photo op!

In my internet wanderings I chanced upon this Business Week picture taken in DUMBO with the Manhattan Bridge in the background. Total déjà vu ensued not because of the bridge (hey, “I’m a New Yorkah”! I’ve seen it like a bajillion times)  but because of the framing. A couple of years ago my friend and I celebrated New York’s bike month by riding in the Bike New York activities though Brooklyn and Manhattan. At the end of a long day in the saddle, we went to DUMBO park and stopped to take photos.

The cobblestone streets are still a mess, the warehouses are the same (though maybe they’ve been bleached at some point), and the bridge is still blue. The only difference is the number and models of the cars parked. Neat time warp moment!

Read the full article at Business Week, where they have more photos!

Enraptured by Raptors in Westchester…


Among the presentations at the festival was “Close Encounters With Birds of Prey,” a kind of Raptors 101 given by Bill Streeter of the Delaware Valley Raptor Center.

Among the presentations at the festival was “Close Encounters With Birds of Prey,” a kind of Raptors 101 given by Bill Streeter of the Delaware Valley Raptor Center.


Dear Feeling Friends,

In this February 12th, 2009 New York Times article,  reporter Kate Stone Lombardi covers the “Eagle Fest, an event that has been held annually for the last five years to celebrate the return of the bald eagle to the lower Hudson Valley.” How exciting is her mention of the people of all ages, tripods and cameras at the ready to view the blooming population of Bald Eagles, the American National Bird, in Westchester. Many of the bird pairs are transplants from Alaska, some of whom do migrate to and fro each year.

Though I did not attend…(had I only known, thinks she wistfully), it seems like it was a great event given our recent Canada Geese / Jetliner conflict in Manhattan. It seems to me encouraging that there are people in our great State who appreciate different avian species for their inherent value as living beings who share our urban and semi-urban spaces.

I chose the above photograph because of the resemblance between Misters Streeter (human) and Barney (avian). Every life form has a counterpart that cares for its continued survival, something akin to what humans call Love and Concern, so to see an inter-species resemblance at an event in which there is an abiding concern for the survival of these Eagles and other Raptors seemed a fitting focal point for reminding ourselves that humans don’t have existential priority, we just have (sometimes destructive, sometimes ameliorative) technology. There is a difference. This event was a shining example of ameliorative technology for/ knowledge about breeding eagles in captivity, releasing them to the wild and ongoing population maintenance and surveillance.

To be clear, while I generally frown upon “species management” and surveillance of any kind, to see it used for the benefit of Others is heartening and heartwarming.

Link to the NYT article:

Geese and their Message lost in NYC Plane Accident

Dear Feeling Friends,

A moment of silence for the gruesome deaths of the geese, sucked into and killed by the engines of a US Airways Airbus (plane)  in New York City, this 15th of January 2009.

Thank You.

Unfortunately, I could not embed these videos, but you can view them at their host sites:

For a clip about the birds, as well as Witness and Survivor accounts.

The news reports in the New York Times City Room section, and Wired News ofer mind-bending detailed information about the goings on, prayers, sentiments of the crash survivors, thankfully none of whom were killed or seriously injured beyond the shock of the crash.

However, as they say half the story has never been told.

What kinds of geese were killed? How many? Were there any survivors? Are their remains floating in the river? How does this affect their population?  Do air traffic controllers and those who predetermine viable flight paths refer to scientific or even lay information about migration paths in order to courses least prone to collision?

In the Wired News article, a retired pilot said that the controllers warn of birds in the area, but clearly a vague, often consequence-free warning is not enough. Knowledge ofthe birds habits, nesting places and migration paths would reduce or even eliminate future incidences.

On a spiritual note, the Goose as a totem brings certain lessons, specifically:

To carry Goose medicine is to carry the energy of the journey of the great quest, to set a high goal and find the right ways to navigate towards it. Goose also comes to teach us how to navigate the greatest turbulence in our lives as well as how to make greater headway when things are going well.

This can be a teachable moment: here we are presented with the miraculous preservation of human life in a situation when it could have been lost. We can interpret the loss of Avian life as the Goose totem sending us a message writ in their blood:  We humans must and can do better. We must be different than we have been. We must know, love and respect the other life forms with which we share this city. Not doing harms us all.

Just  how much money, time, paperwork, gasoline, therapy hours and and Avian life could have been saved with the knowledge and integration of basic information about Geese migration patterns into available flight plans in a given season? Our disregard for the loss of aavian life today is a stain on the human claim to species superiority. With all the resources available to us to preserve and save life, our ignorance of non-human beings in New York City caused unnecessary avian death, human emotional shock, damage to our already sick Muhheakantuck river or the Hudson River as we know it,  loss of collateral (airplane) and a long, diesel-fuel expensive day for our city services (EMT, Fire Department, Coast Guard, Ferries and public officials).

As today’s events are processed in the public domain, I am interested to learn how people integrate the lessons ‘wing-delivered’ to us today.

Rest in Peace, Geese. Ashe.