Global Arts and Cultures

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Visiting Scholar | Aruna D'Souza | Against Empathy: The Value of Mistranslation in Art and in Life


Thursday, March 5, 2020

20 Washington Place, Auditorium

The Decolonial Teaching in Action program of the Center for Social Equity and Inclusion welcomes Aruna D'Souza.

In our increasingly fragmented and political sphere, many people embrace the idea that empathy is a vital tool to achieve understanding each other, and by turn a more just society. But what if misunderstanding - the mistranslation that exists at the heart of all communication - enriches our experience of the world? What if, instead of seeking to understand each other, we were better off learning to accept that we might never understand - and work for justice regardless?

Starting with Amitav Ghosh's novel Sea of Poppies and touching on the work of a number of artists, including Raqs Media Collective, Nina Katchadourian, and others, this talk will explore the possibilities that are offered when we allow the frictions of mistranslation to frame out view of the world and structure our institutions.

Aruna D'Souza

Aruna D'Souza, author of Whitewalling: Art, Race & Protest in 3 Acts for its inaugural public lecture. D'Souza writes about modern and contemporary art; intersectional feminisms and other forms of politics; and how museums shape our views of each other and the world. Her work appears regularly in, where she is a member of the editorial advisory board, and has also been published in The Wall Street Journal,, Art News, Garage, Bookforum, Momus, Art in Americ, and Art Practical, among other places. She is currently editing two forthcoming volumes, Making It Modern: A Linda Nochlin Reader and Lorraine O’Grady: Writing in Space 1973–2018. She is co-curator of the upcoming retrospective of Lorraine O’Grady’s work, Both/And, which will open in November 2020 at the Brooklyn Museum