Dr. Sun’s talk sought to explain the explosive growth of Protestant Christianity in post-Mao China. >>
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?
In this talk, Dr. McCready-Flora examined a moment in philosophical history when charity seems both required and abused: Aristotle’s engagement with Protagoras. >>
Drawing on ethnographic research in northern Ghana, Dr. Goldstone asked what it would mean, not simply to pluralize or horizontalize or even “democratize” sovereignty, as some have tried to do, but to begin to envisage life outside the whole sovereignty edifice altogether. >>
The talk offered a genealogy of the “sixth sense” of early clairvoyants as a first step toward understanding the subsequent developments. Dr. Ogden argued that the sixth sense is sentiment. >>
Dr. Russell’s talk demonstrated how Eliot used the essay form to explore the constricting limitations of the culture she was attempting to make her way in as a single woman from Warwickshire. >>
Dr. Fields's talk looked at Greek writings of the Roman Imperial period and the use of frankness (parrhe¯sía) as a term freighted with the history of classical Athens and its participatory democracy. >>
Dr. Salinas’ talk traced the genealogy of the notions of kitsch and camp in the discourse of modern criticism and sought to complicate them, by analyzing representative performances of classical works that Liberace recorded for his TV show >>
Dr. Slauter examined changing attitudes toward the copying of news alongside shifts in its material form. >>
Dr. Deringer explored how financiers, journalists, and politicians during Britain’s age of “financial revolution” disputed what the distant future was worth. >>
Dr. Lee's talk explored the Roman law origins of Bodin’s delegation doctrine in early modern debates on legal rules governing delegation of magisterial authority in Justinian’s Digest. >>