Using as its point of departure an off-the-cuff remark by David Letterman about his “Midwestern Lutheran guilt,” Josh Dubler’s paper explored emergent American discourses that tether putatively particular species of guilt to different ethnic identities. >>
Thursday Lecture Series are open to Columbia faculty, students, and guests. Special Events are open to the public, unless otherwise noted.
“Why do you shrink and speak so faintly? Are you superstitious?”
“I am constitutionally nervous. I dislike the discussion of such subjects. I dislike it the more because--”
You believe?” --Charlotte Brontë, Villette
Throughout history, conceptions of the supernatural have permeated art, science, culture, and politics, from the divine right of kings to the practice of illusionists, from transubstantiation to witchcraft, and from the power of political myth to the technological sublime. Conceptions of the supernatural make sense of seemingly irrational forms of knowing the world and experiencing it. They manifest in material ways in the form of religious and mystical experiences, in the “placebo” effect in medicine, in eerie sounds and optical illusions, and in debates about “post-truth” and “alternative” realities.
This lecture series explores the interdisciplinary facets of the supernatural from the symbolic to the spiritual, from the metaphorical to the political: What counts as supernatural in a religious, artistic, scientific or political context? What are the processes and structures around belief in the supernatural and what are the debates around supernatural tenets in traditional or occult religions? What aesthetic or scientific technologies--from gothic narratives to spirit photography--engender illusion and a belief in magic? How and why does the supernatural become productive, political, visible, and experiential--and how does it disappear? How do we understand efforts to obstruct, confront, or even dismantle the supernatural? And what role does the supernatural play in the formation of state-sanctioned ideologies and charismatic personalities? How might conceptions of the supernatural reshape our visions of new secular futures?
Daniel Lee’s talk investigated the rule of imprescriptibility in the analysis of sovereignty in early modern political thought: the norm that legal rights of sovereignty (jura majestatis) cannot be acquired by private actors simply on grounds of desuetude. >>
Dr. Fields explored the ways in which Classical Greek and Roman writers used birds to think about human political actions or institutions. >>
Dr. Sun argued that the three interrelated processes have to be explained by the interaction between the nature of popular religion and the changing structural conditions of China’s rural society, which include, above all, the removal of lineage associations as the dominant power-holder and the outmigration of rural residents. >>
Practices of divination are of considerable interest to anthropologists, ancient historians, and historians of science. >>
Pursuing a short claim made by Hannah Arendt, Hagar Kotef proposed that the body’s capacity for movement is the materialization of the Liberal concept of liberty. >>
Emily Ogden’s paper asked how Catherine Gallagher’s theory of fiction’s counterfactuality—its ability to reflect on logical, but unreal, states of affairs—works in the context of science fiction. >>
Julilly Kohler-Hausmann traced how discrediting the rehabilitative ideal eventually led to the ascendancy of mandatory sentencing regimes, the phenomenal growth in carceral institutions, and a particular notion of appropriate state functions and character >>
Edgardo Salinas’s paper reinterpreted Beethoven’s stylistic evolution through the prism of the literary critique articulated by the early Jena Romantics. >>
Jordanna Bailkin’s talk traced the fate of archives during the end of empire. >>