• Citron Public Lecture 

Deadline Extended: Call for Applications for 2019-20 Seminars

The Interdisciplinary Studies Institute invites fellowship applications for 2019-2020 on the theme of “belonging.” The Oxford English Dictionary defines belonging as “an affinity for a place or situation.” Affinities may confer the benefits of closeness, common feeling and understanding, unity, solidarity, and identity, but they may also impose the drawbacks of distance, lack of empathy and ignorance, disunity, alienation, and exclusion. All sorts of affinities make both these benefits and drawbacks possible and thereby challenge how we know our worlds and imagine better ones. Through the lens of belonging we can explore how ways of knowing produce affinities, and how affinities may also be understood as affective investments, whose values need to be inspected and measured. By wrangling with belonging, we can bring into clearer focus how the valuation of these investments animates and motivates different social, economic, intellectual, artistic, political, and ethical imaginaries.

For next year’s faculty and graduate student seminars, the ISI encourages you to think broadly about the topic of belonging. What does it mean to belong? Not to belong? How does personal choice determine belonging? How does power shape and become renegotiated within the economies of belonging in which we find ourselves at home, at work, in the streets, and on local, national, and international political stages? We invite meditations on and treatments of belonging that address citizenship and immigration politics, love, nationalist and neo-fascist movements, efforts to organize on the left, material and imagined communities of resistance, schools of thought, artistic periods, communities, movements, the family and kinship, species and other scientific taxonomies, intimate and state violence, networks of solidarity and resource sharing, friendship, identity, and the university.

The Interdisciplinary Studies Institute provides a forum for discussion and engagement across the disciplines. Each year the focal point of our activity is a seminar organized around a specific topic. No matter your field, period, cultural focus, discipline, or perspective, we call on colleagues from the humanities, arts, social and natural 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. Participating faculty fellows will receive a $2000 research allowance, and participating graduate student fellows will receive a $1000 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 your c.v. Graduate student applicants should also have their principal advisor send a brief endorsement of their proposed project, which confirms that it contributes toward their progress toward their degree. The 8-10 faculty fellows selected and the 8-10 graduate student fellows selected will meet at regular intervals during the academic year to discuss presentations from each seminar member in turn (each fellow presents once). Among the obligations of the group are regular attendance at the meetings of the seminar. Meetings are for a two-hour interval at lunch, so you must be free at that time. Proposals should be sent by email to isi@umass.edu by April 12, 2019. Applicants to the graduate student seminar should also have their advisor’s endorsement sent to that address by the deadline. Please identify yourself as a faculty member or graduate student in the subject line of your message.

For more information on the seminar or ISI, please contact the Director, John Kingston and the graduate assistant, James Heilman, at isi@umass.edu. 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. 


In Memoriam: Dr. Eileen O'Neill (1953-2017)

It is with great sorrow that we note the death of our colleague, Eileen O'Neill, Professor of Philosophy. Professor O'Neill was a founding member of the advisory board of the Interdisciplinary Seminar in the Humanities and Fine Arts (ISHA), the forerunner of the Interdisciplinary Studies Institute (ISI). Her contributions were vital to establishing ISHA as a sustainable venue for scholarly and artistic exchange between faculty here at UMass and to building the foundation for its eventual transformation into ISI. We feel her loss keenly. 

Photos of "Hairdresses Are My Heroes" -- A Performance by Sonya Clark

The ISI is very pleased to pass on the news from Loretta Yarlow, of the University Museum of Contemporary Art that an event which ISI co-sponsored, “Hairdressers Are My Heroes,” a performance by Sonya Clark, was a great success. 

The performance involved an ancient African hairstyle from a sculpture in the exhibition Five Takes on African Art / 42 Paintings by Fred Wilson, re‐created by the hands of stylist Kamala Bhagat on the head of artist Sonya Clark. Clark’s work often features hair and combs to speak meaningfully about cultural heritage, gender, beauty standards, race, and identity, and this performance celebrated artists across time — from the original hairdresser who created the style, to the sculptor who created the piece, to the contemporary hair stylist, to Sonya Clark herself.

A video of the event can be seen here, and pictures of the event taken by Ed Cohen of MassLive are displayed below, with more pictures available here. 

2018 ISI Resident: Masha Gessen

The ISI is very pleased to announce that Masha Gessen has accepted our invitation to be the Institute's Resident this spring. Given that the topic of this year's seminar is dissent, Ms. Gessen was an obvious choice, given her reporting on and participation in dissent in Russia, both concerning LGBTQ rights and more generally.

We therefore are extraordinarily happy that she has agreed to accept our invitation. Most recently, Ms. Gessen has published The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, which won the National Book Award for non-fiction.

Details of Ms. Gessen's activities as ISI's resident are still being worked out, and will be announced as soon as they're settled. In the meantime, if you are interested in hosting Masha Gessen for a classroom visit, please feel free to contact us at isi@umass.edu.

ISI Announces 2018 Graduate Student Seminar Fellows

We are excited to announce that ten graduate students have been chosen as Fellows for the ISI's inaugural interdisciplinary graduate student seminar on "Dissent", which will begin meeting on February 14. As is customary in ISI's Faculty Seminar, the Graduate Student Fellows will approach this theme from a great variety of perspectives, ranging from theater to the social sciences and the humanities, and will meet to present their work on dissent throughout the spring semester. 

The ten 2018 graduate student fellows are Swati Birla (Sociology), Jodie Childers (English), Maryam Fatima (Comparative Literature), Florianne Jimenez (English, Composition/Rhetoric), Brendan McCauley (Communication), Ben Nolan (Political Science), Sonny Nordmarken(Sociology), Emily Tareila (MFA Studio Art), Cecilia Vasquez (Anthropology), and Magdalena Zapędowska (English).

Congratulations to our new Fellows! We thank all applicants for their interest, and look forward to a fruitful and productive seminar for all participants!

ISI Welcomes New Board Members

At the beginning of the spring semester, the ISI welcomed new members to its Advisory Board. The new members of the board are David Cort from Sociology, Brian Dillon from Linguistics, Rebecca Hamlin from Political Science/Legal Studies, Shona Macdonald from Art, and Angie Willey from Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. They join Lisa Henderson from Communication, who has graciously agreed to stay on.

This is also an occasion to thank once again those members of the board who have stepped down after many years of contributing to the Institute's success; we are indebted to Janice Irvine from Sociology, Randall Knoper from English, Kathleen Lugosch from Architecture, and Banu Subramanian from Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

Former ISI Fellow Rebecca Lorimer Leonard recently published, "Writing on the Move: Migrant Women and the Value of Literacy"

Former ISI Fellow Rebecca Lorimer Leonard (Value, 2014-15) recently published, Writing on the Move: Migrant Women and the Value of Literacy, which details how ideological values affect literacy. Based on a qualitative study of migrant writers in the U.S. from 17 countries, Writing on the Move describes multilingual writers both struggling and succeeding under contemporary conditions of migration. Part of the book was workshopped during ISI's 2014-15 "Value" seminar. More information about the book is available on the website of The University of Pittsburgh Press.