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Other Worlds

ISHA 2007-08

Cosmologists and philosophers contemplate the fine-tuning question: that is, if things had been different at the origins of our universe in even the smallest way, we would live (or not live) in a very different universe, or no universe at all. Yet, one paradox of the universe we do inhabit is that it has given rise to creatures (ourselves at least) who can imagine, and frequently do, the possibility of other worlds and the complicated nature of this one—sometimes so complicated that it seems "otherworldly" indeed. What is it in the nature of things, or the nature of the human mind, that prompts such imaginings? What gives shape to these imaginings, whether in science, religion, the humanities, or arts? How does the form of human imagining sometimes give us entry into a different kind of world? The capacity is so "universal" we can take it for granted, but surely it could do with some scrutiny. Imagining other worlds happens in the writing of history, or anthropology, or ethnography. Music is perhaps a world of its own; languages and cultures propose different versions of the world. Ethics proposes a better way of being in our world; politics a way to get there. Works of literature, art, and film have always imagined utopias or dystopias. Architecture reshapes our everyday space; the poem, painting, movie allow us to be "in" another world. How does memory imagine a world that might (never) have been? How do we imagine the future? How do minds imagine the worlds of other minds?

It was with these thoughts in mind that ISHA "imagined" the world of a seminar in 2007-08. Our Fellows were as follows.


Sky Arndt-Briggs

German and Scandinavian Studies

Building a Better Future: Urban Utopia and the Working Class in Berlin, 1880-1933.

Polina Barskova

Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies (Hampshire College)

The "Other" Other World: Vectors of Aesthetic Opposition in Petersburg/Leningrad, 1917-1944.

N. C. Christopher Couch

Comparative Literature

Future Oceans, Future Minds: Ecology and Intelligence in David Brin's Uplift Universe.

Jane Degenhardt

Department of English

Staging the Muslim "Other" World: Imagining Christian Conversions to Islam in Early Modern Theater

Bill Gibson

Department of Economics

Visualizing Alternative Economic Systems: An Agent-Based Modeling Approach.

Laurie Godfrey

Department of Anthropology

Ghosts of the Past and Orphans of the Future: A Palaeontologist Contemplates Planet Madagascar.

Salman Hameed

School of Cognitive Science (Hampshire College)

Gods from Outer Space: UFO Religions and Modern Science

Don Maddox

French and Francophone Studies

Chronosyntonization and the Cosmological Imagination

Young Min Moon

Department of Art, Architecture and Art History

Out of the Interstitial Realm: Text in Art

Monika Schmitter

Department of Art, Architecture and Art History

Inner Space and Outer Appearance: The House as Portrait in Renaissance Venice

Martin Wobst

Department of Anthropology

The Evolution of Theory of Mind and False Belief Understanding