2017-2018 Faculty Seminar Application Call: Dissent


As we move from the Obama era into a new phase in the United States, the question of dissent is likely to gain ever greater prominence. What will assent and dissent mean in this period, and how will they be exercised? The dynamic of the last presidential election was itself propelled by dissent against standard narratives on the part of specific sectors of the public. How then will dissent be conceived and organized going forward, whether this relates to the Black Lives Matter movement, women’s rights, gay and transgender rights, migrant and immigrant rights, human rights, labor rights, education, health and other areas of stress and vulnerability? In an era in which Islamophobia, racism, and xenophobia are renascent, questions of solidarity and dissent are likely to take on increasing importance. Where scientific consensus—for example on climate change—is under threat, there may for once be a paradoxical overlap between consensus and dissent. Where ‘truth’ itself has become a malleable political commodity, a matter of performance and simulacrum rather than fact, how will we tie dissent to notions of evidence and truth? How will evidence and truth be legitimated?

The political looms large in this call for applications, therefore. Quite possibly there will be moments of anticipation or inspiration from previous eras, whether the period of the Vietnam War, the civil rights struggle, or struggles for gender and sexual equality. At the same time, we might benefit from comparative approaches. How has dissent been organized and theorized in other times and places, or within specific cultures? Are there test cases we can study, whether in China, Russia, the former Soviet bloc, South Africa, Cuba or the Arab Spring? What are the options for national or transnational links? How is dissent in the personal sphere tied to the collective? Not despite but because of the serious issues, does comedy—and its history—offer a platform for dissent?


In the call for the 2016-17 ISI seminar, 'Trespassing,' ISI fellows were asked to reflect on the act of trespassing and examine it as an intellectual, scientific, artistic, political, social, cultural or legal act. Trespassing is ordinarily thought of as a misdemeanor, if not a crime, and as a violation of a declared boundary. Moreover, changes to what the boundary protected are ordinarily treated as damage. Trespassing is never encouraged, generally prohibited, and often punished. It is a phenomenon that can take many forms, often no more than setting foot across a property line, but also migrating or fleeing across a territorial boundary, or working in a discipline other than one’s own.What obstructions do trespassers encounter, whether from colleagues, citizens or others who claim ownership? What does trespassing disrupt in one’s own well-honed practice or sense of the familiar? What is damaged and what is generated? And finally, how is trespassing transformed into collaboration and remapping, finding neighbors, colleagues and compatriots in new versions of home?


The Interdisciplinary Studies Institute has chosen the theme "Value" for its 2014-15 faculty seminar. "Value" is one of our keywords, easy to say and to claim, though almost impossible to pin down in its complexity and range all the way from the most material to the most ethereal. Yet, has there ever been a society where questions of value have not been front and center, both foundation and purpose, assumption and teleology, a matter for dispute, conviction and doubt? As a term that has been construed in so many different forms in so many different contexts, it is an ideal topic for interdisciplinary investigation. Read on for a list of this year's fellows.


ISI Seminar 2013-14

ISI is proud to announce a new roster of fellows for the 2013-2014 seminar, 'Emancipation,' which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. 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, and the freedom from constraints that inhibit 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 more information on the seminar and to see a list of next year's fellows, click read more.


Engagement: The Challenge of Public Scholarship

ISI Seminar 2012-2013

In its inaugural year the newly established Interdisciplinary Studies Institute (ISI) takes up the legacy of W.E. B. Du Bois for its first seminar entitled ‘Engagement: The Challenge of Public Scholarship’. Following in Du Bois’s footsteps, we’d like to consider what public engagement means to us today, in whatever fields we explore, whether in the humanities, arts, social sciences, or natural sciences. What does it mean to be an engaged scholar or artist? What lines do we cross over—or open up—when we transfer our spheres of learning and dissemination from the academic to the public? What examples do great public intellectuals and artists give us, what problems have they had to confront?