fbpx Office Hours: Ronak K. Kapadia | The Studio Museum in Harlem

Office Hours: Ronak K. Kapadia

Studio Museum

Ronak K. Kapadia
Photo: Suzette Lee

Office Hours is a new feature in Studio magazine and on the web that engages artists, scholars and organizers on the application of critical knowledge and theory.

Ronak K. Kapadia is a PhD candidate in NYU’s American Studies program. He is currently writing his dissertation on creative responses to state security, immigrant detention, surveillance, and the U.S. empire since the late 1970s.

Talk to me about your dissertation project.

The project is tentatively called Queer Cartographies of the Long War. The long war is the Pentagon’s latest term for its counterinsurgent defense strategy against al Qaeda in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Horn of Africa, the Philippines and beyond. I’m trying to challenge the explanatory power of “expert” knowledge on terrorism, militarism and warfare by turning to artists who consider the archives of the U.S. global security state in their work. By treating these diasporic cultural archives as instances of “poetic knowledge,” in Robin Kelley’s sense of the phrase, my project offers an opportunity to theorize security politics in more expansive and imaginative terms.

Who are some of the artists whose work you’re looking at?

The artists I engage are a diverse bunch, including Wafaa Bilal, Mariam Ghani, Chitra Ganesh, Naeem Mohaiemen and the Visible Collective, Sheba Chhachhi, Mona Hatoum and M.I.A. I would also add that my project particularly engages the non-visual: the tactile, sonic and affective elements of these artists’ work. I’m arguing that an intimacy with those who have been erased by forces of state violence requires an alternative sensorial relation to visual knowledge.

How do you go about writing? What does your process look like?

Although it’s not terribly ergonomic, I’ve always written best while lying on my bed. (Really, since I was a kid in grade school, I’ve always worked best this way.) In terms of process, I accumulate: stacks of books, endless e-files meticulously organized on my laptop, scribbled notes on paper napkins from coffee shops, Post-its, the usual mess. They’re a material archive of my own process.

By Thomas J. Lax, Program Associate and Exhibition Coordinator