Meet a Lucerna Author: Kai Milanovich

What is your Lucerna project about?

My project, “Performing Escape: Imagining Future with Plato’s Symposium,” spun out of a queer theory course I completed in the Fall of 2021. One theme of this class was focusing on the contingency of history and theoretical interventions into our understanding of time. Why must we understand time as linear, such as a story line—can these formulations be transfigured? One “queered” view of time comes in founding the construct of time on relationality and affect rather than on the movement of the planets. This conception of time relates to idealistic political questions, such as, “How might one’s relationship to the future—a world which is not yet here—shape their actions in forming that future?” The potency of our imagination is a vital condition to any political project because any world worth desiring must be creatively different from our current state.

Why are you interested in this topic?

This project focuses on several historically distinct moments in order to do the “imaginative work” of political thinking. If all social and political constructs are historically situated within contingent material conditions, then how does the dislocation of these constructs alter their constitution? What would it genuinely mean to bring old ideas into the present—not in a carbon-copy form that is ignorant to the diversity of contingent structural meanings—but in a way which was respectful to those ideas as they were? The clearest motivation for this project came as a method of creativity: historical situations are not only the failures of ancestors from which we vicariously learn, they are also sites for the generation of world-making knowledge.

What have been the benefits and challenges of this project?

Perhaps the biggest benefit of this project was personal, in that it allowed me the time and space to think through how queer theoretic approaches to time altered conceptions of meaning making. Personally, this has helped me make clearer sense of what my past has meant to me, specifically realizing that part of growing up is learning always to relate differently to past moments so substantially that those moments fail to be recognizable any more. Challenges, on the other hand, were found in trying to make the project somehow pragmatic in a social/political sense. While it was a personally fulfilling project, it was a little bit straining to identify how such conceptions of meaning making could act as viable, let alone useful, supplements to any sort of political project.

What is your advice for students who are interested in publishing their work in Lucerna?

Work with others! Students, professors, even people outside of academia to identify alternative viewpoints. Personally, I do much greater work whenever I can bounce ideas off people, hear new formulations of thought, and work to clarify where my confusions sit.

What are your professional plans or goals?

Currently I am applying to a number of graduate programs in philosophy. I’m primarily interested in bioethics and epistemology and am drawn to more of the applied side of philosophy. I graduated in December of 2021, though on the off chance that I decide graduate school somehow isn’t best for me, then I will likely continue my work at a local domestic violence shelter. This work has proven to be more rigorous, fulfilling, and insightful than most academic work I’ve engaged with yet, so the pull of the work has been quite strong!

To hear Kai and other UMKC students talk about their remarkable research, attend the annual Lucerna Symposium, 5-6:30 p.m., Thursday, March 17, in Zoom. Click here to register.