2017-2018 Faculty Seminar Application Call: Dissent



Faculty Seminar 2017-18: Call for Applications



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?


As always, we wish to stress the disciplinary and interdisciplinary dimensions of our topic. At times dissent will arise specifically because of disciplinary engagement, or the invention of a new discipline: there is Galileo’s reputed ‘And yet it moves.’ At times dissent will arise within disciplines when orthodoxy faces challenge; at times what was dissent will become the new orthodoxy. Will interdisciplinary approaches shake up the disciplines themselves? What then are the implications of our work for dissent and assent? How have artists broken with tradition? How have scientists done so? How has their work affected the public sphere? How will journalists see their role in this day and age? What are our philosophies of dissent? When it comes to dissent, we can think all the way from issues of education and public health to the activism and conformities of social media. Dissent may come into the very way we formulate our questions about dissent.


Guided by this particular political moment, therefore, the ISI encourages you to think widely around the topic, in ways that may help illuminate some of our present predicaments. We invite you to join a cohort of like-minded—or dissenting—colleagues as we construct a sustained conversation on dissent as our theme for the coming year.


The Interdisciplinary Studies Institute is a faculty 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 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 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 Monday, March 6th, 2017.


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, with additional funding from the Dean of the College of Natural Sciences.


Interdisciplinary Studies Institute: Director and Board Members

Stephen Clingman, ISI Director, Department of English

Janice Irvine, Department of Sociology

Lisa Henderson, Department of Communication

John Kingston, Department of Linguistics

Randall Knoper, Department of English

Kathleen Lugosch, Department of Architecture

Banu Subramaniam, Department of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies