Sampada Aranke (PhD, Performance Studies) is an Assistant Professor in the History and Theory of Contemporary Art at the San Francisco Art Institute. Her research interests include performance theories of embodiment, visual culture, and black cultural and aesthetic theory.
-> What triggered your interest in Gender Studies?
Feminist theory transformed my understanding of what theory could “do.” Critical gender studies scholars opened up the possibilities for thinking differently. I started to think about my politics in a renewed sense— one that not only emphasized critiques of power, but also one that posited new ways of living, desiring, relating, feeling, sensing, and embodiment. These lines of thought opened new horizons and possibilities while also maintaining a rigorous critique of the ones we inhabit now.
-> Could you define the specificity of your approach to Gender Studies?
For me, critical gender studies requires us to think about the interlocking modes of oppression under capitalism and heteropatriarchy. To think gender is also to think race, class, sexuality, ability— without accounting for all these modes of subjectivity, we aren’t doing gender studies how it should be done.
-> Does your research in the field of Gender Studies bear a civic and/or political engagement? Is this an important aspect for you?
My own work is deeply political. I believe that in order for us to imagine—and live— new worlds, we must take seriously the premise of undoing the one we inhabit now. This is entirely a political project. Working from the premise that the personal is political, we should everyday think of our subjectivity as imbricated within the structures that bring us into being. This is a political project as much as it is an aesthetic, cultural, or social one.
-> As a scholar/artist/thinker/curator/…, what does the title “Gender in Translation” evoke for you?
‘Gender in Translation’ summons to me the power of translation and the power in translation. To be able to open up meaning across languages (written, oral, embodied, or otherwise aesthetic) requires such nuance, such rigor, such intentionality because that practice makes it either possible or impossible to capture both the meaning and spirit behind a given text. Gender in translation leads us to that nexus: where the power of and in gender meets the power of and in translation.