Spring 2018

7/13 | DISOBEDIENCE

From the late 17th through the late 19th century, nostalgia denoted a form of homesickness so extreme that it could sometimes be deadly. What Nostalgia Was unearths that history. Thomas Dodman traces the invention of nostalgia as a medical diagnosis in Basel, Switzerland, its spread through the European republic of letters and into Napoleon's armies, its subsequent transformation from a medical term to a more expansive cultural concept, and its shift in meaning in the colonies, where Frenchmen worried about racial and cultural mixing came to view moderate homesickness as salutary. 

8/13 | BREAKING SILENCE

New Books in the Arts & Sciences—panel discussions celebrating recent work by the Columbia Faculty.

In this lecture Dr. Romaine proposes a doughnut as a model for thinking about the relationship between language and inequality in a linguistically diverse world and for explaining why language is the missing link in the global debate on sustainability, equity and poverty. By suggesting how human well-being can exist only within limits that are both social and ecological, the doughnut highlights the importance of addressing environmental sustainability and social justice together. Policies that discriminate against the languages of the marginalized poor severely compromise the power of global development agendas to improve their lives. The cross-cutting effects of linguistic diversity on all aspects of human welfare mean that global development agendas cannot reach the ‘bottom billion’ until they speak to them in their own languages. Changing the normative perspective to make room for global language justice inside the doughnut requires teasing out and understanding numerous complex linkages between language, poverty, education, health, gender, and the environment that have been rendered invisible by prevailing models and discourses of development. She will also identify some specific pathways and policies for sustaining linguistic diversity through explicit recognition of language as both a right and means of inclusive sustainable development.

The Heyman Center is hosting a film screening of Swim Team, an award winning feature documentary about a New Jersey YMCA based, community swim team made up of kids on the autism spectrum. The film follows three of team’s star athletes, boys on the cusp of adulthood, when government services become scarce. A roundtable discussion will follow.

Composed of Michel Leiris's daily travel journal detailing the first French state-sponsored anthropological expedition in sub-Saharan Africa, this first English translation (by Brent Edwards) of the French Surrealist writer's Phantom Africa bears witness to the full range of social and political forces shaping the African continent in the period between the World Wars.

9/13 | THE BODY AND TROUBLE

In 1872, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "Science does not know its debt to imagination," words that still ring true in the worlds of health and health care today. We know a great deal about the empirical aspects of medicine, but we know far less about what the medical imagination is, what it does, how it works, or how we might train it. But it was not always so. In this lecture, Sari Altschuler will be talking about her new book on the history of the medical imagination. During the 18th and 19th centuries in the United States, doctors understood the imagination to be directly connected to health, intimately involved in healing, and central to medical discovery. Literature provided health writers important forms for crafting, testing, and implementing theories of health. Reading and writing poetry trained judgment, cultivated inventiveness, sharpened observation, and supplied evidence for medical research, while novels and short stories offered new sites for experimenting with original medical theories. Health research and practice relied on a broader complex of knowing, in which imagination often worked with observation, experience, and empirical research. In reframing the historical relationship between literature and health, The Medical Imagination provides a usable past for our own conversations about the imagination and the humanities in health research and practice today.

This paper will consider how the ‘turn’ to global history might alter our approach to modern Italy and its colonies.  With its emphasis on transnational trends, and the themes of mobility and connectivity, the approach has much to offer scholars of Italian colonialism but so far has had relatively little impact in reshaping the field and introducing new themes of research. Focusing on Italians overseas in the age of nation and empire, this paper will seek to explain what the study of Italy might contribute to the burgeoning field of global history. Specifically, I take a number of well-known Italian migrants to Latin America and the Pacific (the journalist Giovan Battista Cuneo; the archaeologist Antonio Raimondi; the anthropologist Paolo Mantegazza; and the medical ‘charlatan’ Giulio Bennati), in order to retrace the political, commercial and scientific networks that brought them from the Mediterranean to the Andes and beyond. First, I argue that their lives can tell us much about the experience of empire in the nineteenth century and the extent to which a country without significant colonies could nevertheless participate in, and benefit considerably from, European imperial expansion. Second, I look at attempts to create national ‘colonies’ of settlement in the South American Republics and suggest that these colonies represent an important link between processes of global migration and those of European colonial expansion.

This day-long event is the second of a three-piece series that focuses on the movement of people across and along the Mediterranean and the emergence, re-signification, and use of sites of memory.

New Books in the Society of Fellows; Celebrating Recent Work by Leah Whittington and Michael Allan

Transparency in Post-War France

Monday, February 12, 2018

This book returns to a time and place when the concept of transparency was met with deep suspicion. It offers a panorama of postwar French thought where attempts to show the perils of transparency in politics, ethics, and knowledge led to major conceptual inventions, many of which we now take for granted. Between 1945 and 1985, academics, artists, revolutionaries, and state functionaries spoke of transparency in pejorative terms. Associating it with the prying eyes of totalitarian governments, they undertook a critical project against it—in education, policing, social psychology, economic policy, and the management of information. Focusing on Sartre, Lacan, Canguilhem, Lévi-Strauss, Leroi-Gourhan, Foucault, Derrida, and others, Transparency in Postwar France explores the work of ethicists, who proposed that individuals are transparent neither to each other nor to themselves, and philosophers, who clamored for new epistemological foundations. These decades saw the emergence of the colonial and phenomenological "other," the transformation of ideas of normality, and the effort to overcome Enlightenment-era humanisms and violence in the name of freedom. These thinkers' innovations remain centerpieces for any resistance to contemporary illusions that tolerate or enable power and social coercion.

This talk will discuss the preservation of the world’s languages and cultures from the perspective of written text, focusing on work currently underway to make the modern and historic texts accessible in the digital world via the Unicode Standard.  What is the process to make languages available on mobile devices and computers, and how many scripts used to write languages are “missing”?  Why is this important, and how does emoji play into the work? The presentation will include examples of successes and challenges. It will conclude with a brief question and answer period.

Hysteria from the Archives

Monday, February 19, 2018

This Poetry Coffee Hour is to feature Leticia Fernández-Fontecha and her new book, Hysteria from the Archives.

Transnational Feminist Futures

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Transnational Feminist Futures is an event meant to offer a unique opportunity for scholars and practitioners from different disciplines to interrogate and hone our understanding of where the field of transnational feminisms is and where it is going. This event is devoted to cultivating a robust and dynamic dialogue around the ‘transnational’ as an analytic, a critique, and a process.

To celebrate the sesquicentennial anniversary of the birth of W.E.B. Du Bois (February 23, 2018), IRAAS, The Center for Race, Philosophy, and Social Justice and the Heyman Center are sponsoring a spring semester lecture series: Du Bois at 150.  

"Minstrel Military: How America Weaponized Blackface to Fight Nazis" will examine the role amateur blackface minstrel shows played in the United States during the Great Depression and World War II. In the century spanning the end of the Civil War to the birth of the Civil Rights Movement (an era called "Jim Crow," after the first blackface character), the American government refocused domestic and foreign policy to federalize, finance, distribute, codify, and produce racist amateur blackface music and plays in public schools, the military, and everyday American life as an expression of patriotic duty and citizenship.

As a set of disciplines, the humanities face the challenge of how to write about embodied experiences that resist easy verbal categorization such as illness, pain, and healing. The recent emergence of interdisciplinary frameworks such as narrative medicine has offered a set of methodological approaches to address these challenges. Yet conceptualizing a field of medical humanities also offers a broader umbrella under which to study the influence of medico-scientific ideas and practices on society.  Whether by incorporating material culture such as medical artefacts, performing symptomatic readings of poems and novels, or excavating the implicit medical assumptions underlying auditory cultures, the approaches that emerge from a historiographical or interpretive framework are different from those coming from the physician’s black bag. This lecture series will explore the enigma of how what we write relates back to the experience of bodies in different stages of health and disease. Our speakers will explore how the medical humanities build on and revise earlier notions of the “medical arts.” At stake are the problems of representation and the interpretation of cultural products from the past and present through medical models.

Militarized police officers with tanks and drones. Pervasive government surveillance and profiling. Social media that distract and track us. All of these, contends Bernard Harcourt, are facets of a new and radical governing paradigm in the United States–one rooted in the modes of warfare originally developed to suppress anticolonial revolutions and, more recently, to prosecute the war on terror. The Counterrevolution is a penetrating and disturbing account of the rise of counterinsurgency, first as a military strategy but increasingly as a way of ruling ordinary Americans. Harcourt shows how counterinsurgency’s principles–bulk intelligence collection, ruthless targeting of minorities, pacifying propaganda–have taken hold domestically despite the absence of any radical uprising. This counterrevolution against phantom enemies, he argues, is the tyranny of our age. Seeing it clearly is the first step to resisting it effectively.

The Caine Prize Lecture: Bushra al-Fadil

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Caine Prize for African Writing is a literature prize awarded to an African writer of a short story published in English. The prize was launched in 2000 to encourage and highlight the richness and diversity of African writing by bringing it to a wider audience internationally. The focus on the short story reflects the contemporary development of the African story-telling tradition.

Mario Small will discuss why the public discourse on poverty, inequality, and economic opportunity requires improving our qualitative, not just quantitative, literacy. He argues that the public discourse about these problems is undermined by an inability to communicate evidence about their causes and potential solutions. Some of this evidence is statistical, but much of it stems from qualitative studies about the lives and communities of the disadvantaged. He argues that an enhancement of qualitative reasoning would allow more serious consideration of the evidence, enhance public discourse, and lead to a more effective politics.   

Poetry as both a form and genre has many possibilities to exist within; however, poetry oftentimes has the burden to have an argument and a set of imagery and meanings that are preconceived and placed within the poem. In this way, poetry often gets conflated with writing a thesis or project, and the poet simply the presenter of perfectly argued language. In addition, when poets attempt to bridge the gap between genres and write within the contemporary essay form, they are tasked to construct perfect arguments there as well and avoid the associative and aesthetic logic that makes poems important. The term essay itself was coined by Michel de Montaigne in the 1500s, and it comes from the French word, essai, which means to test or experiment with what one knows as a learning tool (and is in some opposition to the terms we use to discuss the essay now, such as thesis). 

Lecture by Prof. Jane Gallop, Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee.

Du Bois at 150

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

To celebrate the sesquicentennial anniversary of the birth of W.E.B. Du Bois (February 23, 2018), IRAAS, The Center for Race, Philosophy, and Social Justice and the Heyman Center are sponsoring a spring semester lecture series: Du Bois at 150.  

In Conversation: Exploring Race and Whiteness in America Today Panelists: Whitney Dow and Claudia Rankine Moderated by Joy Reid   

New Books in the Arts & Sciences         —panel discussions celebrating recent work by the Columbia Faculty The Art of Love Poetry By: Erik Gray

Du Bois at 150

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

To celebrate the sesquicentennial anniversary of the birth of W.E.B. Du Bois (February 23, 2018), IRAAS, The Center for Race, Philosophy, and Social Justice and the Heyman Center are sponsoring a spring semester lecture series: Du Bois at 150.  

11/13 | HACKTIVISM

Fred Lerdahl's thought has exercised a widespread influence on music theory and music cognition as well as informing the analysis of music in the tonal repertoire and beyond. A conference organized in his honor by the Department of Music at Columbia University will present recent work based on and related to the theoretical work of Fred Lerdahl as well as its applicability to various areas of research and musical practice. Speakers will include Ray Jackendoff, Carol Krumhansl, Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis, and David Temperley.

"Second Wave Feminism as History:  Britain and Beyond" 

We Are All Fast Food Workers Now

Monday, March 26, 2018

Just a day after the anniversary of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, a roundtable discussion on labor, activism, and gender with Author Annelise Orleck, Barnard Professor of History Premilla Nadesen, and other activists, moderated by Alice Kessler-Harris.

Protestants Abroad

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Author David Hollinger discusses his new book Protestants Abroad.

Traversing centuries and continents from early 19th-century Europe and Asia to Africa from the turn of the 21st century to today, Andreas Wimmer delves into the forces that encourage political alliances to stretch across ethnic divides and build national unity. Offering a long-term historical perspective and global outlook, Nation Building sheds important new light on the challenges of political integration in diverse countries. 

New Books in the Arts & Sciences: Celebrating Recent Work by Mark Taylor ​

As a set of disciplines, the humanities face the challenge of how to write about embodied experiences that resist easy verbal categorization such as illness, pain, and healing. The recent emergence of interdisciplinary frameworks such as narrative medicine has offered a set of methodological approaches to address these challenges. Yet conceptualizing a field of medical humanities also offers a broader umbrella under which to study the influence of medico-scientific ideas and practices on society.  Whether by incorporating material culture such as medical artefacts, performing symptomatic readings of poems and novels, or excavating the implicit medical assumptions underlying auditory cultures, the approaches that emerge from a historiographical or interpretive framework are different from those coming from the physician’s black bag. This lecture series will explore the enigma of how what we write relates back to the experience of bodies in different stages of health and disease. Our speakers will explore how the medical humanities build on and revise earlier notions of the “medical arts.” At stake are the problems of representation and the interpretation of cultural products from the past and present through medical models.

New Books in the Society of Fellows: Celebrating Recent Work by David Russell and Emily Ogden

the poets: Tracy K. Smith, U.S. Poet Laureate and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and M. NourbeSe Philip, renowned Canadian poet of Tobagoan heritage The Global Poets Series is a celebration through poetry of our diverse global community at Columbia

The Evolution of Beauty

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

An event on Darwin featuring Yale ornithologist Richard Prum, University of Pennsylvania Professor of Medicine Debbie Cohen, and Professor of Anthropology and Biology at Binghamton University.

Panel to celebrate the publication of Democracy and the Welfare State, edited by Alice Kessler-Harris and Maurizio Vaudagna. The research of CSSD working group Social Justice After the Welfare State inspired the creation of this book.

Sites of Religious Memory in an Age of Exodus - Western Mediterranean

New Books in the Society of Fellows: Celebrating Recent Work by Rebecca Woods, Matthew Jones, and William Deringer

Public Humanities Initiative Showcase

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Description TBA.

Migration and Mobility in a Digital Age: Paradoxes of Connectivity and Belonging

Tuesday, April 10, 2018 - Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The image of Syrian refugees with a smartphone shooting ‘selfies’ upon reaching dry land has captured the international imagination (Chouliaraki, 2017; Kunstman, 2017; Risam, forthcoming 2018). It suggests an image of the ‘connected migrant’ (Diminescu, 2008), which is shaped by a profound ambivalence: migrants are expected to be people fleeing from war, violence, and poverty; they are not expected to be ‘digital natives’, equipped with technologies to navigate their difficult journeys. While smartphones are accessible, affordable, and easy to use, in the realm of the public imaginary the image of the disenfranchised and disconnected migrant remains that of the ‘have nots’, and therefore subject to ‘high tech orientalism’ (Chun, 2006, p. 73). This posits the figuration of the migrant as outside the realm of development and modern forms of communication, disenfranchised and vulnerable in order to be worthy of international aid and pity (Boltanski, 20000; Ticktin, 2008). And yet smartphones are ubiquitous, and migrants have been early adopters and heavy users of technologies for the simple reason that these technologies are ingrained in their daily practices and everyday lives, which often involve perilous crossings but also the need to keep in touch with the home front and their diasporic communities. The promise of connectivity that is guaranteed even under duress becomes fraught with the profound disconnection brought about by the disciplining gaze of Western media and publics.

Du Bois’s Marxist Experiment

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

To celebrate the sesquicentennial anniversary of the birth of W.E.B. Du Bois (February 23, 2018), IRAAS, The Center for Race, Philosophy, and Social Justice and the Heyman Center are sponsoring a spring semester lecture series: Du Bois at 150.  

12/13 | STANDING GROUND/STANDING ROCK

In two recent novels, Kamila Shamsie and Colm Tóibín recreate classical mythology to address contemporary audiences and transnational subjects. Kamila Shamsie's Home Fire brings the story of Antigone to the contemporary British Pakistani community, while Colm Tóibín's House of Names re-imagines the Agamemnon tragedy from the points of view of Clytemnestra and Electra. These two authors will join each other in conversation to discuss their modern adaptations of these Greek classics and to explore why these heroines continue to haunt writers and readers today. Christopher Morash will moderate the discussion.

David Autor will use evidence from the worlds of economics and political science to examine the impact of economic change – and in particular the rising competition of foreign imports into the American market – on political polarization. Counties that were particularly exposed to foreign trade have become more likely to vote for the Republican candidate for president. The panel will address the question of economic and political responses to these trends that may have the potential to ameliorate political polarization. The panelists will be announced later in the winter.

This book focuses on six brilliant women who are often seen as particularly tough-minded: Simone Weil, Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy, Susan Sontag, Diane Arbus, and Joan Didion. Aligned with no single tradition, they escape straightforward categories. Yet their work evinces an affinity of style and philosophical viewpoint that derives from a shared attitude toward suffering. What Mary McCarthy called a “cold eye” was not merely a personal aversion to displays of emotion: it was an unsentimental mode of attention that dictated both ethical positions and aesthetic approaches.

Experiments in Opera Today: Conference and Symposium

Friday, April 20, 2018 - Saturday, April 21, 2018

Over the last four decades, a wide range of musicians and composers, visual artists, and theater practitioners have taken up opera as a form ripe for experimentation. It has been conceived for serialized television broadcast, performed by robots, staged in site-specific spectacles, transformed into non-narrative installations, wedded to free improvisation, and intended (if not quite realized) as interstellar rituals. This conference and symposium considers how artists from numerous disciplines are currently working with opera now that pieces such as Meredith Monk’s Vessel (1971), Carla Bley and Paul Hanes’s Escalator Over the Hill (1969-1971), Robert Wilson and Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach (1975/6), Györgi Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre (1977), Robert Ashley’s Perfect Lives (1983), Harrison Birtwistle’s The Mask of Orpheus (1984), and Luigi Nono and Massimo Cacciari’s Prometeo (1984/5) have already grown into ‘classics’ of the avant-garde. What new approaches to narrative, voice, subject matter, media, and technology have recent creators of opera employed? Or is the emphasis on novelty particularly ill-suited to a form that, even in its most radical guise, continues to connote a host of conventions and traditions (ways of singing, a simultaneously extravagant and rarefied aesthetic, a canonical repertory, a bourgeois base, and so on)? What elements of the operatic past, then, have remained compelling or inevitable? This two-day event will convene a group of prominent scholars, composers, artists, directors, and dramaturgs in order to explore these and related questions. 

'Pale Sister', written by Colm Toibin for the actress Lisa Dwan is a dramatisation of the voice of Ismene, the sister of Antigone, who recounts her sister's defiance of the King as pressures mount on Ismene herself to act to vindicate her sister, or even follow her example. It arises from 'The Antigone Project' a course taught at Columbia by Lisa Dwan and Colm Toibin, which examined the ways in which this story - a woman's powerlessness emerging as power, conscience versus law,  defiance versus might, protest versus order, individual versus authority - has been re-written and re-created, including versions made in France during the Nazi Occupation, Ireland during the Troubles, Germany after the war, South Africa during apartheid, and among the Pakistani community in contemporary London. It runs for one hour and fifteen minutes and will be followed by a discussion.

As a set of disciplines, the humanities face the challenge of how to write about embodied experiences that resist easy verbal categorization such as illness, pain, and healing. The recent emergence of interdisciplinary frameworks such as narrative medicine has offered a set of methodological approaches to address these challenges. Yet conceptualizing a field of medical humanities also offers a broader umbrella under which to study the influence of medico-scientific ideas and practices on society.  Whether by incorporating material culture such as medical artefacts, performing symptomatic readings of poems and novels, or excavating the implicit medical assumptions underlying auditory cultures, the approaches that emerge from a historiographical or interpretive framework are different from those coming from the physician’s black bag. This lecture series will explore the enigma of how what we write relates back to the experience of bodies in different stages of health and disease. Our speakers will explore how the medical humanities build on and revise earlier notions of the “medical arts.” At stake are the problems of representation and the interpretation of cultural products from the past and present through medical models.  

Cons and Scams: Their Place in American Culture

Monday, April 23, 2018 - Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Cons and con men have long been present in American culture and are often represented as romantic figures. This symposium will explore cons and scams in their many guises and what makes us vulnerable to them, with particular attention to the current political scene in the US.

13/13 | COUNTERREVOLUTION

The Borrowed Muse

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

“An imitator shares his crown, if he has one, with the chosen object of his imitation,” the poet Edward Young declared in 1759, “an original enjoys an undivided applause.”  But just where does one locate originality, and how does one determine its relationship to artistic merit and value?  Over the past few decades, several developments have called the very notion of originality into question.  Postmodern thought has relegated it to one among many creative paradigms — think only of the practices of interpreting Jazz standards and of sampling.  Moreover, there is the stockpile of knowledge (two centuries of critical editions, often state-supported) and its explosion into the everyman’s land of Google. In moving books and manuscripts into an endlessly searchable, domestic platform, the digital revolution has likewise created new forms of knowledge and expertise. This proliferation has created brought forth “algorithmic divination,” (Freedgood), i.e. new forms of reading and other scholarly practices that unearth various unsuspected lineages of, and connections between, works.  Indeed, modern scholars frequently have access to a richer and deeper range of primary sources than would the authors have had themselves. Taking these materials and tools into consideration thus offers a prime opportunity for a reassessment of musical creation and creativity in the distant past.

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