Graduate seminar ‘Tether’ welcomes stellar lineup of international speakers

September 28, 2021

A remarkable set of guest speakers from around the world, including London, the US, Canada, South Africa, Egypt, and Palestine, will participate in Associate Professor Ozayr Saloojee’s Fall 2021 graduate seminar titled Tether.


See the speaker profiles below.


The guests represent a variety of disciplines, including archaeology, anthropology, urban planning, design, architecture, and more. They will speak to questions of grounding and tethering, to help foster and encourage critical conversations on power, memory, decolonization, and what a restitute architectural practice might be.

The course asks:

What are the things that keep us in place? That keep us in our places? Good and bad. Strong and not. What are the things that, like gravity – orient us up and down? What are the projections — cylindric, conic, azimuthal, transversal, Space-oblique Mercator, Robinson Mercator — that guide and frame and orient how we see ourselves in space and geography? What are those projections when they become ideas, epistemologies, histories, and ontologies, that colour, structure, inflect, transform the ways we think, the ways we move, the ways we habituate, the drawings we make, the spaces we imagine, the architecture and cities and landscapes that we labour on and for? 


What are things we hold on to, or the things that hold us back? What are our anchors? The things we hold dear? What do we grip tightly to? And what are the things that stop us? The things that might bog us down: the weight of an inequitable world, the slow crush of a thinning atmosphere, the thickening of our arteries and alveoli and capillaries, the sluggish viscosities of change. What are the things outside ourselves, or even those things within us — our own knowledges and histories and archives — that might prevent us from moving, from drifting, good or bad, even though we might want to?

Dan Hicks

Dan Hicks is Professor of Contemporary Archaeology at the University of Oxford, Curator at the Pitt Rivers Museum, and a Fellow of St Cross College, Oxford. Hicks works on the material and visual culture of the human past, up to and including the modern, colonial, contemporary, and digital world, and on the history of archaeology, anthropology, art, and architecture.


His curatorial work has ranged widely and recently included the co-curated exhibition and book Lande: the Calais Jungle” and Beyond in 2019. Hicks has published eight authored and edited books and has written articles, essays, and op-eds for various journals, magazines, and newspapers, for a wide range of audiences: from the Times Literary Supplement to Apollo Magazine. They include Art Review, Artnet, The Guardian, The Telegraph, and The Independent. Hicks has regularly appeared on radio and TV, including Radio 4’s In Our TimeToday Programme, Making History, and many radio and TV documentaries and news broadcasts.


His latest book, The Brutish Museums: The Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution, was named by the New York Times as one of the Best Arts Books of 2020. The Nigerian poet and novelist Ben Okri, one of Africa’s most important and acclaimed writers, described The Brutish Museums as a “startling act of conscience.”

Jess Myers

Jessica Myers is a podcaster, writer, and editor focusing on urban planning and architecture. In 2017, she received a master’s degree in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She also holds a BA in architecture, with minors in urban studies and French, from Princeton University.


Outside of her work as the architectural strategist for LaPlaca Cohen, Myers is the series editor of Taking Freedom, a social justice book series that will be published by a coalition of the Service Employees International Union, MIT’s Community Innovators Lab, and Sage Publications. In the past, Myers worked in diverse roles—archivist, translator, analyst—in New York and Paris and within cultural practices that include Bernard Tschumi Architects.


Her personal interests and research engage multimedia platforms as a means to explore the culture and the urban condition. Her podcast Here There Be Dragons offers an in-depth look into the intersection of identity politics and security policy in public space through the eyes of New Yorkers, Parisians, and Stockholmers. Her work can be found in The Architects NewspaperThe Funambulist MagazineFailed ArchitectureDwell, and lArchitecture dAujourdhui. 

Ciraj Rasool

Ciraj Rassool is a professor of history at the University of the Western Cape and directs its African Programme in Museum and Heritage Studies. He is an associate member of the Global South Studies Center at the University of Cologne and a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Luschan Collection (Berlin).

Rassool has been on the boards of the District Six Museum, Iziko Museums of South Africa, the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA), and the National Heritage Council of South Africa. He has previously chaired the Scientific Committee of the International Council of African Museums and currently serves on the High Level Museums Advisory Committee of UNESCO. 


Rassool has published widely in the fields of political biography, museum and heritage studies, memory politics, and visual history. His latest books are The Politics of Heritage in Africa: Economies, Histories and Infrastructures (Cambridge University Press, New York 2015), co-edited with Derek Peterson and Kodzo Gavua, and Unsettled History: Making South African Public Pasts (University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 2017), written with Leslie Witz and Gary Minkley.

WAI Architecture Think Tank

WAI Architecture Think Tank is a planetary studio practicing by questioning the political, historical, and material legacy and imperatives of architecture and urbanism through a panoramic and critical approach. It was founded in Brussels during the financial crisis of 2008 by Puerto Rican architect, artist, curator, educator, author, and theorist Cruz Garcia and French architect, artist, curator, educator, author and poet, Nathalie Frankowski.

WAI is one of their several platforms of public engagement that include Beijing-based anti-profit art space Intelligentsia Gallery and the free and alternative education platform and trade-school Loudreaders. In search of critical forms of architectural pedagogy, Garcia and Frankowski are deeply invested in the development of new curricula and pedagogical experiments searching for diverse forms of public engagement with architecture, as well as decolonization and anti-racist reconstruction of the role of architecture in the construction of new worlds. In addition, Garcia and Frankowski develop and frequently offer international art and architecture workshops for diverse participants, spanning from children to college students working across different fields and the general public.


Currently, they are associate professors at the school of architecture at Iowa State University and visiting lecturers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Garcia and Frankowski are former assistant professors at the School of Architecture + Design at Virginia Polytechnic and State University (Virginia Tech), Ann-Kalla Visiting Professors at Carnegie Mellon University (2019-20), Hyde Chairs of Excellence in Architecture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (2017-19) and visiting teaching fellows at The School of Architecture at Taliesin. At these institutions, they have promoted the creation of open alternative platforms, student-led publications, symposia, and curatorial programs, including Loudreaders, WASH Magazine (Taliesin), Fold (UNL), and POST-NOVIS.


Recent publications include A Manual of Anti-Racist Architecture Education (Blacksburg: Loudreaders Publishers 2020), Narrative Architecture: A Kynical Manifesto (Rotterdam: NAI010 Publishers, 2020), Pure Hardcore Icons: A Manifesto on Pure Form in Architecture (London: Artifice Books on Architecture, 2013) translated to German by ARCH+(Berlin) and set for publication in Chinese as 纯粹极致标志 (Beijing: China Architecture and Building Press, 2021), Shapes, Islands, Text: A Garcia Frankowski Manifesto (Sevilla: Vibok Works, 2014), and a series of children’s books on art and architecture including The Story of the Little Girl and The Sun. Garcia and Frankowski are currently working on the upcoming book From Black Square to Black Reason: A Post-Colonial Architecture Manifesto.

Nora Akawi

Nora Akawi is a Palestinian architect living in New York. Through research, curatorial, and pedagogical practices, her work lies at the intersection of urban and environmental justice, collective memory, and architecture—drawing from migration and border studies, mapping practices, and archive theory. She focuses on architecture’s entanglements in processes of erasure and exclusion in settler colonialism. Since 2014, she has been teaching a series of interdisciplinary courses on Borderlands in collaboration with researchers, artists, and human rights organizations in the Jordan Valley, Lesvos and the Aegean Sea, the Mediterranean coast of Palestine, and the occupied Golan Heights.


Before joining The Cooper Union, Akawi taught urban design, history, and theory of architecture at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) at Columbia University. Also at Columbia, she served as director of Studio-X Amman from 2012 to 2020, where she led an open and public educational platform advancing critical architectural discourse in the Arab world through courses, events, exhibitions, and publishing projects. 


Recently, Akawi curated Al Majhoola Min AlArd (L’étrangère sur terre) at the Biennale d’Architecture d’Orléans (2019), and co-curated Friday Sermon, the Bahrain Pavilion exhibition in the Biennale Architettura in Venice (2018). She is co-editor of the books Friday Sermon (Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, 2018) and Architecture and Representation: The Arab City (Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, 2016).

Menna Agha

Dr. Menna Agha is an architect and researcher who has recently coordinated the spatial justice agenda at the Flanders Architecture Institute in Belgium. She joins the Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism to promote pedagogy and research in the newly established area of Design and Spatial Justice.


Agha holds a PhD in Architecture from the University of Antwerp and a Master of Arts in Gender and Design from Köln International School of Design. In 2019/2020, she was the Spatial Justice Fellow and a visiting assistant professor at the University of Oregon. She is a third-generation displaced Fadicha Nubian, a legacy that infuses her research interests in race, gender, space, and territory.


Among her publications are: Nubia still exists: On the Utility of the Nostalgic SpaceThe Non-work of the Unimportant: The shadow economy of Nubian women in displacement villages; and Liminal Publics, Marginal Resistance. 

Elgin Cleckley

Elgin Cleckley is an assistant professor of architecture at the University of Virginia with an appointment in the Curry School of Education and the School of Nursing. He is a designer, director, and principal of _mpathic design – a Design Thinking pedagogy, initiative, and professional practice focusing on intersections of identity, culture, history, memory, and place. Cleckley is the Design Director at the UVA Equity Center and the NOMA Project Pipeline: Architecture Mentorship Program (since 2019) with Charlottesville youth.


After studying architecture at the University of Virginia (’93) and Princeton University (’95), he collaborated with DLR Group (Seattle), MRSA Architects (Chicago), and Baird Sampson Neuert Architects (Toronto) on award-winning civic projects. He was a Muschenheim Fellow at the University of Michigan (1998), teaching undergraduate studios at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Before joining UVA’s Design Thinking program in 2016, he was the 3D Group Leader and Design Coordinator at the Ontario Science Centre (Toronto), Science Content and Design Department, and Agents of Change Initiative since 2001. This work produced the world’s first museum/design thinking architecture space (Weston Family Innovation Centre), featuring award-winning exhibitions, educational facilities, and public art with international artists David Rokeby, Michael Awad, Steve Mann, and Stacy Levy.


Cleckley is the recent winner of several notable honours, the Armstead Robinson Faculty Award, the 2020 ACSA Diversity Achievement Award, and the Dumbarton Oaks Mellon Fellowship in Urban Landscape Studies, in supporting the development of his forthcoming 2021 book with Island Press, _mpathic design, detailing his empathic design thinking methodologies. Recent writings include Next City, Medium, MANIFEST: A Journal of the Americas, the Journal for Interprofessional Education and Practice, AMPS (Architecture, Media, Politics, and Society), and Bridging the Gap: Emergent Ideas on Architectural Pedagogy and Practice Design (Routledge / Manchester School of Architecture). _mpathic design has been widely presented at national and international conferences in architecture, design, educational, and health arenas, with a presentation at the World Congress of Architects in 2021. _mpathic design’s practice includes collaborations with The Trace (NYC), Farmers Footprint, Albemarle County Public Schools, City of Lynchburg, and the Albemarle County Office of Equity and Diversity, providing site planning of the Charlottesville Memorial for Peace and Justice (with the Equal Justice Initiative).

Sara Salem

Dr. Sara Salem joined the London School of Economics as an assistant professor in 2018. Her main research interests include political sociology, postcolonial studies, Marxist theory, feminist theory, and global histories of empire and imperialism. She is an editor at the journals Sociological Review and Historical Materialism and can be found on Twitter at @saramsalem.


Her work explores the connections between postcolonial theory and Marxism, with special attention to the context of Egypt and the period of decolonization in the mid-20th century. She is particularly interested in questions of traveling theory, postcolonial/anti-colonial nationalism, and the afterlives and entanglements of European empire in the ‘Middle East.’ Dr. Salem convenes the undergraduate course The Sociology of Race and Empire and the postgraduate course The Anticolonial Archive: The Sociology of Empire and its Afterlives, and co-convenes the undergraduate course Advanced Social Theory.

Her first book, entitled Anticolonial Afterlives in Egypt: The Politics of Hegemony, was published by Cambridge University Press, 2020. This book builds its analysis of the afterlives of Egypt’s moment of decolonization through an imagined conversation between Antonio Gramsci and Frantz Fanon around questions of anticolonialism, resistance, revolution, and liberation. Anticolonial Afterlives argues that the Nasserist project – created by Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Free Officers in 1952 – remains the only instance of hegemony in modern Egyptian history. The 2011 revolution signified the end-point of its decline decades after it was created. Nasserism was made possible in and through local, regional, and global anti-colonial politics, even as it reproduced colonial ways of governing that reverberate into Egypt’s present. Anticolonial Afterlives explores these tensions through Gramsci and Fanon, foundational theorists of anti-capitalism and anticolonialism, and in doing so engages with some of the problematics around applying Gramsci’s thought in contexts such as Egypt and thinking about Fanon’s writing in relation to anticolonialism today.

Zoe Todd

Dr. Zoe Todd is an expert in Indigenous perspectives on freshwater fish conservation in Western Canada (specifically, Alberta). Dr. Todd has a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences (Alberta), a Master of Science in Rural Sociology (Alberta), and a PhD in Social Anthropology (Aberdeen). She studied the social and legal dimensions of freshwater and anadromous fish conservation and protection in Alberta and the Northwest Territories and also has experience working on Arctic food security. Her work is deeply shaped by her ongoing obligations as a Métis person to the watersheds her Indigenous ancestors moved through in Western Canada.


Todd’s current projects examine how Indigenous legal orders shape and refract Western fish conservation paradigms. She is a co-founder of the Institute for Freshwater Fish Futures (2018), an international collective of scientists, artists, writers, landscape architects, architects, environmentalists, journalists, and community leaders dedicated to honouring reciprocal responsibilities to freshwater fish in watersheds locally and globally.


She is a member of the Fluid Boundaries team that was shortlisted to represent Canada in the 2020 Venice Architecture Biennale and was a 2018-2019 Yale Presidential Visiting Fellow in the Program in the History of Science and Medicine. She is a member of the 2020 Class of the Royal Society of Canadas College of New Scholars. In addition, she is a co-PI, with Dr. Janelle Baker, on a project about bull trout conservation in Bighorn Country in Southwestern Alberta titled ‘Plural Perspectives on Bighorn Country: restor(y)ing land-use governance and bull trout population health in Alberta”, funded through an inaugural New Frontiers in Research Fund grant.