Upcoming Events

Photographic exhibition featuring Sara Bennett will be displayed throughout Heyman Center. This is the opening of the exhibition. Closing and panel discussion will take place on April 26, 2017. 

Mortality Mansions

Thursday, March 30, 2017

REGISTER HERE A collaboration of 2006 U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall and Grammy® Award-winning composer Herschel Garfein, Mortality Mansions reflects on the themes of love, sexuality and bereavement in old age from Hall’s poems and traces the adoption of Hall’s work into the curricula of medical schools across the country. The world premiere performance features tenor Michael Slattery and Dmitri Dover, acclaimed pianist for the Metropolitan opera Lindemann Young Artist program, joined by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Richard Ford, National Book Award-winning poet Jean Valentine and Dr. Rita Charon, professor of Clinical Medicine and director of the Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University, who will read Hall’s poems. Hall will participate via remote video link from his farmhouse in New Hampshire.

Pierre Force talks about his new book, Wealth and Disaster: Atlantic Migrations from a Pyrenean Town in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016), which follows two families who emigrate from the same Pyrenean Town to Saint-Domingue, tracing their descendants in an epic saga that spans three generations.   Paul Cheney discusses his new book, Cul de Sac: Patrimony, Capitalism, and Slavery in French Saint-Domingue (University of Chicago Press, 2017), a micro-history of one plantation in France’s richest colony.  Emmanuelle Saada and Carl Wennerlind will join the discussion as respondents.

Music and the Body Between Revolutions: Paris, 1789-1848

Friday, March 31, 2017 - Saturday, April 1, 2017

The workings of the corporeal and spiritual body were repeatedly reimagined in France between 1789 and 1848, as successive revolutions fundamentally transformed understandings of bodily autonomy and moral responsibility. Discourses in philosophy, aesthetics, and the sciences were strongly affected by these events, as the radical reconfiguration of the institutional landscape from 1789 onwards led to the emergence of Paris as an international center for modern science and medicine in the first half of the nineteenth century. At the same time, Paris also became a crucial locus of activity in the musical sphere, a city of innovative composers, virtuoso performers, and instrument designers as well as a rising culture of musical ‘dilettantes’

A perennial preoccupation in the study of early writing systems is the degree to which these earliest forms of written communication reflect speech.  Nowhere is this concern more keenly present than in study of the earliest writing from Mesopotamia, known as proto-cuneiform, for which the vast gulf that separates speech from writing raises questions about the very language that underlies the script.  

New Books in Political and Social Thought —a panel discussion on recent work by University Seminars and Society of Fellows Alumni David Armitage, Jeffrey Barash, and Teresa Bejan, sponsored by Studies in Political and Social Thought (University Seminar #427)

The Irish and the Jews

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

REGISTER HERE As two diasporic communities whose paths have often crossed, the Irish and the Jews have complex shared histories. This exhibition and discussion aims to connect these interwoven narratives of migration, displacement, and cultural contact. Pól Ó Dochartaigh (National University of Ireland, Galway) will present on his exhibition at the Royal Irish Academy titled "Representations of Jews in Ireland" and Irish novelist, Ruth Gilligan, will read from her new novel Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan (Atlantic) about the Irish-Jewish community. These talks will be held at the Butler Library and will be accompanied by an exhibition of posters from the Royal Irish Academy and archival materials from the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University.

This interdisciplinary symposium is designed to address the increasing use of transducers by young creative artists in music and sonic art, a subject which has received scant attention as a unified practice. While transducers have been used by artists since their inception, the last ten years have seen an increasing prevalence of surface speakers or “sound exciters” in musical composition and sound installation. These transducers are essentially coneless speakers designed to attach to any smooth surface, thereby turning the object to which they are attached to into a speaker itself. In essence, sound is taken from its original source and “reembodied” into a new object (or recursively back into the original source) such as metal sheet, gong, piano, or other resonant object, often with the addition of mixed synthesis and other computer-based processes. 

Owen Sheers’s Pink Mist

Monday, April 10, 2017

Pink Mist tells the story of three young Bristol men deployed to Afghanistan. Returning to the women in their lives who must now share the physical and psychological aftershocks of their service, Arthur, Hads and Taff find their journey home is their greatest battle. This play was inspired by 30 interviews with returned servicemen and first staged at Bristol Old Vic in 2015. Described as fearlessly lyrical in its imagery” (The Times) and “the most important play of the year" (What’s On Stage), Pink Mist will be published in the US for the first time on April 4 by Nan A. Talese/Doubleday. Owen Sheers will read from his work, followed by a panel discussion with Peter Meineck and Maurice Decaul. 

Inspired by the life of Bessie M. Lee (1894 - 1955), who, after migrating to New York City, spent two years in indentured servitude, “Light” is a film in which dance, memory, music and poetry collide in a visual and aural landscape; a meditation on women being propelled into the unknown by courage and faith to risk their lives and everything they have for freedom. In “Light”, Aoki and Lee highlight the lives of women including Lee, who through the resilience and triumph over unimaginable experiences were grounding forces in the creation of the New York Chinatown community in the early 1900s.

Giorgio Biancorosso examines the soundtracks of both the original (1994) and the redux (2008) versions of Ashes of Time (dir. Wong Kar Wai) in light of both Japanese and Chinese-language precedents as well as the recent reconfiguration of film distribution occasioned by the rise of the PRC. Treating music as 'symptom' of a modus operandi, he presents a few examples of the persistence of the legacy of jidaigeki and the Zatoichi (aka "Blind Swordsman") series, not least via the surprising mediation of Leone's spaghetti westerns. 

Abstractionist Aesthetics

Thursday, April 13, 2017

In a major reassessment of African American culture, Phillip Brian Harper intervenes in the ongoing debate about the “proper” depiction of black people. He advocates for African American aesthetic abstractionism—a representational mode whereby an artwork, rather than striving for realist verisimilitude, vigorously asserts its essentially artificial character.  Maintaining that realist representation reaffirms the very social facts that it might have been understood to challenge, Harper contends that abstractionism shows up the actual constructedness of those facts, thereby subjecting them to critical scrutiny and making them amenable to transformation.

In this session, we will focus on the writings of Hélène Cixous and the emergence of what is called “écriture feminine.”

The Unplugged Soul: A Conference on the Podcast

Friday, April 14, 2017 - Saturday, April 15, 2017

REGISTER HERE A series of unprecedented freedoms – on demand software, discrete audiences, portable devices, cheap production costs, the bypassing of broadcast infrastructure and with it content restrictions – liberates the podcast from mass media's customary limitations, and podcasters are now making the most of their new territory. This conference ranges wide in its exploration of what amounts to a burgeoning new art form captivating listeners worldwide: the "impact bar" has never been higher in a culture brimming with content, but podcasters and producers have latched on to ancient verities of storytelling and the new mores of disclosure to win us over – to unplug the hyperconnected soul. VISIT CONFERENCE BLOG HERE.

Machiavelli on Liberty and Conflict

Monday, April 17, 2017

There is much controversy about the relation between liberty and conflict in politics. While some thinkers argue that liberty is only possible under the stability given by the law, and thus conflict should be avoided and replaced by consensus and order, others warn that the lack of conflict evidences the death of political liberty. In the wake of the 2007–2012 financial crisis, when representative democracy is being challenged through popular mobilizations, populist and proto-totalitarian leaders, it seems imperative to revisit the role of conflict in politics and its relation to liberty. 

A sensorial archaeology of undocumented migration in the Mediterranean.

An Evening with Vijay Iyer

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Grammy-nominated composer-pianist Vijay Iyer was described by Pitchfork as “one of the most interesting & vital young pianists in jazz today,” by the Los Angeles Weekly as “a boundless and deeply important young star,” and by Minnesota Public Radio as “an American treasure.” He has been voted DownBeat Magazine’s Artist of the Year three times – in 2016, 2015 and 2012. Iyer was named Downbeat’s 2014 Pianist of the Year, a 2013 MacArthur Fellow, and a 2012 Doris Duke Performing Artist. In 2014 he began a permanent appointment as the Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts in the Department of Music at Harvard University.

Burning Issues in African Philosophy builds off of the sophisticated work that has now become part of an international conversation on how African philosophy makes unique interventions into almost every important question of politics, ethics, aesthetics, ontology and epistemology. Indeed, the very definition of these fundamental philosophical conceptions is both challenged and enriched.

  • Carl Wennerlind, Associate Professor of History, Barnard College
  • Charly Coleman, Assistant Professor of History, Columbia University
  • Pierre Force, Professor, Department of French and Romance Philology, Columbia University
  • Erik Goldner, Associate Professor, California State University, Northridge
  • Arnaud Orain, Professor, University of Paris 8
  • John Shovlin, Associate Professor of History, New York University
  • David Bell, Professor, Princeton University

In an effort to marshal resources to meet the escalating demands of war, empire, and state formation, European governments developed a set of sophisticated financial mechanisms around the turn of the eighteenth century. Soon, however, the already impressively complex financial architecture nearly crumbled due to a series of cataclysmic stock market crashes. The South Sea Bubble in England and the Mississippi Bubble in France left the newly formed modern culture of credit in complete disarray. In this one-day workshop, six French historians explore the conditions that led to the creation of John Law’s financial scheme, the intellectual context in which it became possible for people to believe in modern finance, the role that political ideology played during the bubble, the experience of living during the immediate aftermath of the crash, and the overall geopolitical context of the rise and fall of Law’s system.

Program in World Philology. Jeffrey Schnapp is the founder/faculty director of metaLAB (at) Harvard and faculty co-director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. At Harvard, he serves as Professor of Romance Literatures and Comparative Literature in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, is on the teaching faculty in the Department of Architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, and is affiliated with the Critical Media Practice program in Visual and Environmental Studies.

As the icecaps melt and the sea levels rise around the globe―threatening human existence as we know it―climate change has become one of the most urgent and controversial issues of our time. For most people, however, trying to understand the science, politics, and arguments on either side can be dizzying, leading to frustrating and unproductive debates.Now, in this groundbreaking new work, two of our most renowned thinkers present the realities of global warming in the most human of terms―everyday conversation―showing us how to convince even the most stubborn of skeptics as to why we need to act now. Indeed, through compelling Socratic dialogues, Philip Kitcher and Evelyn Fox Keller tackle some of the thorniest questions facing mankind today.

  • Sara Bennett, Artist

Closing of exhibition featuring Sara Bennett with panel discussion.

The Wireless Past Anglo-Irish Writers and the BBC, 1931-1968 by Emily Bloom Expelling the Poor Atlantic Seaboard States and the Nineteenth-Century Origins of American Immigration Policy by Hidetaka Hirota

In this final session, we will explore the writings of the Iranian critical thinker and revolutionary, Ali Shariati, as well as some more recent critical works from around the world that explore the writings of Nietzsche and may offer directions forward for critical thought.

Since 1877 and to this day, Fresh Air programs from Maine to Montana have brought inner-city children to rural and suburban homes for two-week summer vacations. Opening a new chapter in the history of race in the United States, Professor Shearer will show how the actions of hundreds of thousands of rural and suburban residents who hosted children from the city perpetuated racial inequity rather than overturned it. Covering the racially transformative years between 1939 and 1979, Shearer will show how the rhetoric of innocence employed by Fresh Air boosters largely served the interests of religiously minded white hosts and did little to offer more than a vacation for African American and Latino urban youth.

The disciplines of creating art and criticizing art, while interdependent, are often thought of as mutually exclusive, and even antagonistic. Artists often dismiss critical inquiry as irrelevant or exploitative, and critics often claim that the ability to produce creative work is no prerequisite for what they do. What happens, then, when critics dare to work in the creative field they criticize? A panel of four artist/critics will discuss this dual calling:             Eliza Bent, actor & theater journalist             Ethan Greenbaum, visual artist & arts editor/writer             Kellie Jones, curator & art scholar/critic             Greg Tate, musician & music critic Moderated by Professors Alisa Solomon, dramaturg & theater critic, and David Hajdu, songwriter & music critic. 

The Engine of Modernity

Tuesday, May 2, 2017 - Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Science has long been associated with modernity, but the belief that it was its engine, that the modern world owed its existence to modern science, only rose after the beginning of the twentieth century. Pioneered by followers of Edmund Husserl (like Alexandre Koyré), and developed in various places in and outside Europe and the United States, the engine thesis became a widespread article of faith, a commonplace even, with far-reaching academic and political consequences.

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