micha cárdenas: Poetic Operations and Trans Ecologies

In this talk, Dr. micha cárdenas, Associate Professor of Performance, Play and Design, and Associate Professor of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at UC Santa Cruz, will discuss her new book Poetic Operations (Duke 2022), as well as her augmented reality artwork about climate justice and her forthcoming book After Man: Fires, Oceans and Androids.

In Poetic Operations, cárdenas considers contemporary digital media, artwork, and poetry in order to articulate trans of color strategies for safety and survival. Drawing on decolonial theory, women of color feminism, media theory, and queer of color critique, cárdenas develops a method she calls algorithmic analysis.

In her forthcoming book After Man, cárdenas confronts the dual crises of climate change and COVID-19 which have prompted speculation on the end of humanity. Following on the thinking of Sylvia Wynter, cárdenas considers the end of humanism not from the privileged place of posthumanism but from a decolonial viewpoint that many of us never had the privilege to be considered human. She dwells in what comes after man, in contemporary art, science fiction and international art biennials.

This talk is co-sponsored by Social Science Matrix, the UC Berkeley Department of Ethnic Studies, the Center for Race and Gender, and the Center for the Study of Sexual Culture. The event is organized and moderated by Professor Salar Mameni, a Matrix Faculty Fellow.


About the Speaker

micha cardenas
micha cárdenas

micha cárdenas, PhD, is Associate Professor of Performance, Play and Design, and Associate Professor of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she directs the Critical Realities Studio. Her book Poetic Operations, Duke University Press (2022), proposes algorithmic analysis to develop a trans of color poetics. Poetic Operations won the Gloria Anzaldúa Book Prize in 2022 from the National Women’s Studies Association. cárdenas’s co-authored books The Transreal: Political Aesthetics of Crossing Realities (2012) and Trans Desire / Affective Cyborgs (2010) were published by Atropos Press. She is co-editor of the book series Queer/Trans/Digital at NYU Press, with Amanda Philips and Bo Ruberg. She is a first generation Colombian American.

Her solo and collaborative artworks have been presented in museums, galleries and biennials including the Thessaloniki Biennial in Greece,  Arnolfini Gallery, De La Warr Pavilion in London, Museum of Modern Art in New York, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, the Centro Cultural del Bosque in Mexico City, the Centro Cultural de Tijuana, the Zero1 Biennial and the California Biennial. cárdenas is a member of the artist collective Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0.

View Map

Matrix News

2023-2024 Social Science Matrix Faculty Fellows Chosen

the faces of the four faculty fellows

How are climate change and genetically modified crops affecting farmers in India? What is the relationship between slavery and incarceration in the United States? How has the trauma of apartheid been passed through generations in South Africa? 

These are among the questions that will be explored by four UC Berkeley professors who have been selected to be Matrix Faculty Fellows for the 2023-2024 academic year. The scholars are Rebecca Herman, Assistant Professor in the Department of History; Andrew Wooyoung Kim, Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology; Benjamin Schoefer, Associate Professor in the Department of Economics; and Aarti Sethi, Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology. 

Launched in 2022, the Matrix Faculty Fellows Program supports assistant- and associate-level faculty members at UC Berkeley for work on research that has a significant impact in multiple disciplines in the social sciences. Fellows are chosen for the impact of their work in their home discipline, as well as the project’s potential impact and interest to scholars in other fields, aligning with the mission of Social Science Matrix to support cross-disciplinary research.

Matrix Faculty Fellows receive a course release (i.e., a reduced teaching obligation) to allow them to pursue work on publications and/or a book manuscript. The professors will also participate in Matrix programs, for example by contributing a website feature, participating in a panel discussion, or holding a workshop on a topic related to their research.

“This group of Matrix Faculty Fellows are pursuing research that spans disciplines while addressing incredibly important and topical issues,” says Marion Fourcade. “We look forward to their contributions to our intellectual life.”

Below are brief profiles of this year’s Matrix Faculty Fellows, adapted from their proposals.

Rebecca Herman, Assistant Professor, Department of History 

Rebecca Herman
Rebecca Herman

Professor Rebecca Herman will use her Matrix Faculty Fellowship to work on “The Global Wilderness: Antarctica in a World After Empire,” an in-progress book focused on the struggle over the future of Antarctica in the second half of the 20th century, when countries began to negotiate ground rules for the exploitation of Antarctica’s mineral resources — and competing visions for Antarctica arose in opposition.

“Leaders of the Third World insisted that Antarctica belonged to the ‘global commons,’ akin to the deep seas and outer space,” Herman explains, “while a rising global environmental movement fought to declare Antarctica a protected ‘World Park,’ off limits to commercial exploitation entirely. Against this backdrop, Argentina and Chile set about strengthening their national claims with performative acts of sovereignty. In the end, environmental protection won the day, and Antarctica became the most protected place on earth, even as it remains among the most vulnerable.”

“By bringing together the high politics of conflicts over Antarctic governance with the intimate stories of the people who executed it, this book aims to render complicated matters of environmental governance and global inequality intelligible and compelling to a broad readership,” Herman wote.

In addition to writing her book, Herman plans to convene a Matrix on Point discussion focused on “Environmental Justice & Environmental Governance: Past, Present, and Future,” which will bring together faculty working on issues related to climate equity, environmental justice, and environmental politics. “The discussion would invite participants to reflect on how their disciplinary and geographic perspectives (as well as generational, if so inclined) informs their view of inequality in international environmental politics, providing illustrative examples from their research.”

Andrew Wooyoung Kim, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, UC Berkeley

Andrew Wooyoung Kim
Andrew Wooyoung Kim

Integrating epidemiological, biological, and anthropological theories and methods, Professor Andrew Wooyoung Kim’s research examines the intergenerational effects of maternal exposure to trauma from South Africa’s apartheid on the mental health and physiology of adult children, while also exploring the reversibility of such effects through interventions like social support.

Kim’s project, “Breaking cycles, healing minds: Exploring the ameliorative psychobiological effects of social support to address intergenerational trauma from South African apartheid,” is based on analysis of data from a 30-year, multigenerational birth cohort based in Soweto, South Africa. He studies the biosocial mechanisms that underlie the intergenerational transmission of trauma through the alteration of stress biology. 

His work also aims to inform the development of interventions aimed at preventing and treating stress-related diseases. He will publish his findings, draft grant applications, and host public discussions on healing from intergenerational trauma.

As part of his Matrix Fellowship, he will also organize a mini-conference titled “Historical Trauma and Healing Justice: Research, Practice, and Policy for the Future”, which aims to highlight both recent and exemplary initiatives for overcoming historical trauma across multiple contexts — and offer practical skills for positive mental health. 

“Ultimately, I hope these findings will advance public health interventions for historically oppressed communities and help societies overcome the lasting consequences of intergenerational trauma,” he wrote in his proposal.

Benjamin Schoefer, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, UC Berkeley

Benjamin SchoeferIn his project, “A Macroeconomic Analysis of Universal Basic Income: Combining Theory and Evidence,” Professor Benjamin Schoefer will examine the effects of Universal Basic Income (UBI) in a rich and realistic macroeconomic model of the United States (and potentially other countries).

Together with a team of graduate student coauthors and undergraduates, he will adapt “a frontier model of the United States macroeconomy with heterogenous households, income risk, credit constraints, capital accumulation, educational choices, inheritances, wage bargaining, and firm monopsony,” Schoefer explained in his proposal.

His project will also represent key dimensions of the US status-quo welfare system. “I will then draw on existing microempirical evidence as well as non-macro-evidence on UBI-like programs to calibrate the features (parameters) of the model,” he wrote. “The machinery of the model will contrast short-run and transition effects of the policy (when certain margins, such as educational choices, are not active) with longer-run effects (featuring richer effects that examine shifts in educational attachment and occupational choices).”

He also aims to organize an interdisciplinary series of events or a mini-conference. “An additional goal of my course release will be to prepare a potential new course on ‘Work: its Past, Present and Future,’ which I am potentially hoping to teach to undergraduates in the future,” Schoefer wrote.

Aarti Sethi, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology

Aarti Sethi
Aarti Sethi

As a Matrix Faculty Felllow, Professor Aarti Sethi will complete the writing of her manuscript, “Hotspot: Suicide, Climate and Debt in Central India,” which explores the transformation of agriculture underway in contemporary rural India.

Since 1997, over 250,000 farmers have taken their own lives across India, the vast majority concentrated in the central Indian cotton-belt, a region known as Vidarbha, where farmers face crushing debt due to climate change and the use of genetically modified crops.

The phenomenon of farmers’ suicides is not restricted to India, Sethi notes, as suicides have been reported in nations such as the United States, Canada, Japan, and Sri Lanka. “While my own work is focused in central India, these are questions that resonate in farming communities around the world, particularly in the Global South,” Sethi wrote in her proposal. “Farming debt and climate change drive distress migration, land dispossession, and social alienation.”

In addition to writing her book, Sethi plans to organize a one day mini-conference at Matrix addressing the conjunctions of agriculture, debt, and climate change. “This conference would examine the social and material entanglements through which debt relations produce new subjectivities, social forms, and struggles for justice in the shadow of late-capitalist transformations of the agrarian landscape,” she explained.

Sweaty Ecologies: Professor Abraham Weil, University of Kansas

Join us on April 19 at 12pm for a talk by Abraham Weil, Assistant Professor in the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at University of Kansas and the general co-editor for TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly. This talk is co-sponsored by Social Science Matrix, the UC Berkeley Department of Ethnic Studies, the Center for Race and Gender, and the Center for the Study of Sexual Culture. This event is organized and moderated by Professor Salar Mameni, a Matrix Faculty Fellow.


Abraham Weil
Abraham Weil

Positioned through Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s use of the molecular, this talk explores relations between ecological threat, transgender aesthetics, and sweat. Global temperature anomaly has risen .17 degrees Celsius since 2010, when I first began taking small vials of testosterone weekly – approximately 624 glass vials with plastic caps and cardboard packaging and 1,248 syringes, one to draw and one to administer, also individually wrapped. The regulation of hormones requires the constant and wasteful ritual. Since 2010, the earth has warmed, and I along with it. Indexed through liquids, this talk explores the control and management of hormones vis a vis the murkiness of the ocean’s microplastics. Drawing on the method and analysis of Guattari’s Three Ecologies, this talk moves between systematic and institutional critique of capitalism, the state, the medical industrial complex, and embodied sites of playfulness, art, and aesthetics.

Image: Photograph by Chris Jordan, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

View Map

Kadji Amin: “Training Bourgeois Selves: Magnus Hirschfeld and the Subsumption of Pederasty”

Please join us on February 22 at 12:30pm for a talk by Professor Kadji Amin, Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Emory University.

Professor Kadji Amin

In this talk, “Training Bourgeois Selves: Magnus Hirschfeld and the Subsumption of Pederasty,” Amin discusses a key architect of Modern Sexuality, the German Jewish homosexual sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld. Amin argues that Hirschfeld’s work allows us to track the process by which the bourgeois Western notion of sexuality as a form of innate selfhood subsumed sex as a social and spatial practice. By turning to Hirschfeld’s work, Amin’s talk argues that the fundamental problem of queer of color critique — that of how sexuality conceals and transacts more salient hierarchies of power — was born with the epistemological invention of sexuality.

Following the lecture, a conversation with Professor Amin on his recent work will be held at the French Department Library, 4229 Dwinelle, from 5-6 pm.

The event is co-sponsored by the UC Berkeley Department of French. Additional support is provided by the Department of Ethnic Studies and the Center for the Study of Sexual Culture. This event is organized and moderated by Professor Salar Mameni, a Matrix Faculty Fellow.

View Map

Matrix News

Four Professors Chosen as 2022-2023 Matrix Faculty Fellows

New program aims to help faculty pursue cross-disciplinary projects.

faculty fellows

Four UC Berkeley professors have been selected to be the inaugural Matrix Faculty Fellows for the 2022-2023 academic year: Gašper Beguš, Assistant Professor of Linguistics; Puck Engman, Assistant Professor of History; Ethan Katz, Associate Professor of History; and Salar Mameni, Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies.

The Matrix Faculty Fellows Program supports Assistant- and Associate-level faculty members at UC Berkeley for work on research that has a significant impact in multiple disciplines in the social sciences. Fellows are chosen for the impact of their work in their home discipline, as well as the project’s potential impact and interest to scholars in other fields, aligning with the mission of Social Science Matrix to support cross-disciplinary research.

Matrix Faculty Fellows receive a course release (i.e., a reduced teaching obligation) to allow them to pursue work on publications and/or a book manuscript. The professors will also participate in Matrix programs, for example by contributing a website feature, participating in a panel discussion, or holding a workshop on a topic related to their research.

“We are excited to welcome this first-ever group of Matrix Faculty Fellows,” says Marion Fourcade, Director of Social Science Matrix. “I know from experience how important it can be to have time to complete a book or manuscript, and we hope that the interdisciplinary community at Matrix will be valuable to these scholars as they pursue their respective projects.”

Below are brief profiles of this year’s Matrix Faculty Fellows, based on their proposals.

Gašper Beguš

Assistant Professor, UC Berkeley Department of Linguistics

Gašper Beguš
Gašper Beguš

Gašper Beguš is Director of the Berkeley Speech and Computation Lab. As a Matrix Faculty Fellow, Beguš will pursue a project entitled, “Artificial intelligence, spoken language, and society,” which aims to “better understand how social biases are encoded in deep learning models,” according to the the project’s abstract.

“Deep neural networks underlie several technologies, from computer vision to natural language processing,” Beguš explained. “Their high performance comes with a trade-off: reduced interpretability. Understanding causal relationships in deep neural networks would enable building more effective and trustworthy models.”

The project aims to understand how AI-based language processing can encode biases. “Understanding how social biases are encoded in unsupervised speech processing models is increasingly important for understanding potential harms and building more trustworthy technologies, especially as they become increasingly available in low-resource languages,” Beguš wrote.

Beguš will focus on a book project with two interdisciplinary objectives: “to introduce deep learning to phonology and to introduce insights from phonology to the machine learning literature. Since the book opens up important new questions about productivity innovation, and imagination in neural networks and provides a framework to compare human behavior and brain responses to artificial neural networks, the book will be a useful resource to scholars of the humanities and social sciences such as cognitive scientists, philosophers of science, historians of science, and sociologists.”

As a Matrix Faculty Fellow, Beguš also aims to plan a workshop that “will be one of the first to bring together linguists, cognitive scientists, computer scientists, sociologists, scholars working with minoritized speech communities, and legal scholars to identify and discuss unique ways in which the new speech technologies bring opportunities and risks to the society.”

Puck Engman

Assistant Professor, UC Berkeley Department of History

Puck Engman
Puck Engman

As a Matrix Faculty Fellow, Puck Engman, Assistant Professor of History, will continue work on a book project entitled “Capitalists: A Socialist Problem,” which “traces the history of how the socialist government worked to define and solve the problem of capitalists after its takeover of private firms in the 1950s,” as explained in the proposal.

“Socialism made capitalists a problem for the Chinese state because the same change of ownership that eliminated the conditions for distinguishing capitalists based on their socio-economic position introduced the necessity to identify capitalists by administrative means,” Engman wrote. “‘Capitalist’ became a position in a ranked order of class labels, an assigned status that determined access to education, welfare, and career advancement.”

Engman will draw upon sources such as declassified state archives and research collections to “demonstrate how senior leaders in Beijing and local officials in Shanghai approached sensitive issues of entitlement and belonging in the management of capitalists…. The study of the establishment, eventual breakdown, and, after Mao’s death, the transformation of the system to manage capitalists is key to understanding class status, a state category as important in socialist China as gender or race in North America today.”

Engman also intends to organize an interdisciplinary panel discussion entitled “China’s Reforms in East Asian Context,” which will “bring together specialists whose work offers new perspectives on China’s economic reforms, past and present. The focus of this panel will be to challenge the conventional and increasingly dubious story of Chinese deregulation and market liberalization as a movement of institutional convergence and systemwide transition. Reinserting the Chinese reforms in their regional context, the panel will revisit key questions concerning the market re-form debate, models for economic development, international exchanges, and on-the-ground connections that paved the way for early investment.”

Ethan Katz

Associate Professor, UC Berkeley Department of History

Ethan Katz
Ethan Katz

Professor Ethan Katz will continue work on a manuscript entitled Building Resistance: The Uprising of Jews and Antisemites That Helped Win World War II, whichrecounts the story of the Algiers underground of 1940-1943 – arguably the most strategically consequential resistance movement of World War II.”

“When the American and British armies landed in North Africa in November 1942, they began Operation Torch, which proved to be one of the global turning points of World War II,” Katz explained in his proposal. “What is little known is that the Allied path into Algiers was made possible by a local underground of young Jewish leftists and arch-conservative, frequently antisemitic military brass and businessmen. In the hours before the landing, this motley group took over nearly all of Vichy France’s major institutions in Algiers and arrested the regime’s leaders. Soon after, the Allies took control of Algiers and, within months, all of French North Africa.”

Drawing upon sources in “a dozen archives and employing methodologies that draw from history, sociology, political science, and gender and family studies,” Katz “traces the paths of resistance of an unlikely set of comrades. It illuminates who made up the members of the underground, where they came from, and what led them to fight. From this story, we learn that resisters’ choices unfolded in a moral ‘grey zone,’ and that one’s entry into resistance often originated in particular social networks, their distinctive culture, and the resister’s conception of his manhood or family.”

As part of his Matrix Faculty Fellowship, Katz plans to organize a “mini-conference” focused on the theme “Paths of Resistance: The Who, Why, and How of Uprisings,” in which participants would focus on the explanatory power of these frameworks for several overarching questions: Can we chart a “typology” of resisters or resistance movements across a variety of chronological and geographical contexts? What are the leading motivations of those who choose to resist? How best can we account for differences in the makeup of movements that have emerged in various times, places, and contexts? The event would bring together an interdisciplinary group of scholars working on three distinct settings for resistance movements: those against Nazism and collaboration in Europe and its empires during World War II, U.S.-based social movements for equality past or present, and movements against authoritarianism based in the Global South.

Salar Mameni

Assistant Professor, Ethnic Studies

Salar Mameni
Salar Mameni

Professor Salar Mameni is currently conducting research for a second book, tentatively titled “Transgender Ecologies within Islamic Medicine,” which studies the history of transgender medicine within Islamic medical traditions.

“The golden age of Islamic medicine dates to 11th-14th centuries, a period that produced medical treatises by physician philosophers that continue to serve as reference for contemporary medicinal practices,” Mameni explained in a proposal. “My project is concerned with Islamic medical views on the gendered body, and in particular the conception of intersex and transgender bodies within medical manuscripts from this period.”

Mameni’s preliminary research has found transgender practices existing prior to Western scientific conception of the body as gendered through hormones. “I have found Islamic medicinal practices that used animal matter, plants and other earthly elements (such as heat application) that intervened in gendered expectations (such as offering remedies for sexual pleasure and contraception). Furthermore, I have found medical and juridical discussions around intersex bodies that defied fixed gendered expectations and surgical recommendations dating back to the 11th century.”

“The contemporary prevalence of sex reassignment surgery and hormone therapy within the Muslim world (such as Iran and Pakistan) has longer histories that have rarely entered Western scientific histories of hormone therapy. Hormonal conceptions of the gendered body within Western medicine dates to the early 20th century, yet using medicine to enhance or alter the sexed/gendered body has a much longer history in Non-Western medicinal practices. This study brings much needed attention to pre-hormonal conceptions of intersex and transgender medicinal practices within Muslim medicine.”

In addition, Mameni intends to organize a panel discussion on the theme, “Transgender Medicine” that “engages with the racial histories of transgender medicine as well its divergent historical practices…. My aim is to organize a panel discussion that not only highlights interdisciplinary research within transgender studies but also brings scholars from different disciplines into conversation. The panel proposes to particularly focus on vernacular and non-Western practices that have long defied fixed conceptions of gender, as well as subjugated transgender knowledges within racialized scientific practices. Proposed speakers come from various disciplinary backgrounds including history, anthropology, performance art, and Science and Technology studies.”