Fall 2010

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

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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?
 

Thursday Lecture Series: Violence and Critique

The Prison, Welfare, and Labor Market Nexus: A Gendered Analysis of the Violence of Incarceration

  • Kristin Bumiller, George Daniel Olds Professor in Economic and Social Institutions, Amherst College

Professor Bumiller’s talk examined the gendered dimension of ex-prisoner issues, in particular, the ways that ex-prisoners’ concerns, including employment, discrimination, and even activism, are fundamentally shaped by their intersections with gender.  >>

Thursday Lecture Series: Violence and Critique

The Invention of Islamic Fundamentalism

  • David Harrington Watt, Professor of History, Temple University

Operating between the registers of cultural, intellectual, and religious history, Professor Watt explored the processes through which, over the course of the twentieth century, “fundamentalism” metastasized from a parochial condition of American Protestantism to a purported global phenomenon marked as being a problem: dangerous, authoritarian, and worthy of concerted scrutiny. >>