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Call for Applications 2013-2014

ISI Seminar: Emancipation


As we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, it is appropriate that the ISI turns to the theme of ‘Emancipation’ for its 2013-2014 seminar. Yet in keeping with our traditions, we wish to explore the topic in broad, interdisciplinary, and multidirectional terms. The notion of emancipation has a larger history beyond the abolition of slavery in the United States, and is related to broader conceptions of human agency, autonomy, and equality. The concept has been closely connected with notions of democracy, universal human rights, social and economic justice, gender and sexual equality, or the freedom from any constraint that might inhibit our capacity for self-determination. It also has a long philosophical and theological lineage in debates over free will, human agency, necessity and divine preordination. Its links reach from the creative to the scientific spheres.


For the ISI seminar on emancipation, we would like to invite participants to explore this theme from the vantage point of different disciplinary and/or creative perspectives. What are the structures, discourses, and practices of human emancipation and autonomy? How has emancipation been figured historically? How do we figure it now? What are the intellectual, historical, social, cultural, psychological, imaginative and even biological conditions that make human emancipation possible—or constrain it? How do conceptions of emancipation play off between the human and natural worlds—for example in our relation to other species? What are the links between emancipation and ethics in complex and often protracted struggles? The seminar envisions contributions from not only those who investigate different historical emancipation movements, but also those interested, for example, in philosophical, sociological, psychological, anthropological and cross-cultural investigations about issues and conceptions of human autonomy and freedom. The idea of emancipation evokes broad theoretical issues as well as specific historical, political, and intellectual concerns, and lends itself to a fruitful examination of theory and practice in a variety of settings. Overall, we seek a set of searching and stimulating perspectives that shed light on what emancipation has meant and can come to mean.


The Interdisciplinary Studies Institute invites you to participate in a year-long contemplation of issues such as these. No matter your field, period, cultural focus, or perspective, we call on colleagues from the humanities and arts to the social sciences and sciences to bring your own inspiration to our theme and tell us how you would like to approach it. We invite you to submit a proposal setting out your particular interests. All fellows will receive a $1500 research allowance.


The proposal should describe in 1-2 pages the nature of your project and how you would present it to the seminar. The proposal should be accompanied by a copy of your c.v. The 8-10 fellows who are selected will meet at regular intervals during the academic year to discuss presentations from each seminar member in turn (each fellow presents only once). Among the obligations of the group will be a capstone event at the end of the year. Meetings are on Fridays at lunch, so you must be free at that time. Proposals should be sent by email to isi@umass.edu by Friday, March 1st, 2013.


For more information on the seminar or ISI, please contact the Director, Stephen Clingman, at clingman@english.umass.edu or see our website at www.umass.edu/isi. Major funding for ISI comes from the Provost, and the Deans of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.


Interdisciplinary Studies Institute: Director and Board Members

    Stephen Clingman, Director, Department of English

    Lee Badgett, Center for Public Policy and Administration

    James Boyce, Department of Economics

    Janice Irvine, Department of Sociology

    John Kingston, Department of Linguistics

    Randall Knoper, Department of English

    Laetitia La Follette, Department of Art, Architecture and Art History (Art History)

    Kathleen Lugosch, Department of Art, Architecture and Art History (Architecture)

    Patrick Mensah, Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures (French)

    Eileen O’Neill, Department of Philosophy

    Robert Paynter, Department of Anthropology

    Manisha Sinha, W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies

    Banu Subramaniam, Department of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies


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