This conference was part of the early stages in the formation of a lexicon of political concepts, the sixth in a series of conferences started in Tel Aviv University, and the second to take place in New York City. >>
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?
Professor Cohen lectured on the intimate knowledge gained in families about a highly stigmatized subject, and about the relationship between the discourses concerning homosexuality that took place outside the family and those that took place within it. >>
Professor Morefield’s presentation examined the classical scholarship of two pro-imperial, public intellectuals writing at opposite ends of the twentieth century, Alfred Zimmern and Donald Kagan. >>
Professor Fischer explored four different instantiations of his theme, which appear at the level of the word, the sentence, the paragraph, and the book. >>
Professor Dolan’s talk traced the disciplining of the orchestra over the course of the nineteenth century, exploring how the idea of orchestration became marginalized in musical discourse. >>
Professor Lears’s talk aimed to broaden and deepen the concept of “animal spirits,” which John Maynard Keynes used to identify the visceral urges motivating investors. >>
A closer examination of Gem. 1:3, its surroundings, and Boileau’s role in the Quarrel between the Ancients and Moderns can suggest a better insight into the manifestly hidden mechanisms of the sublime in Longinus and elsewhere. >>
Professor Otis discussed the results of a qualitative study investigating individual differences in the experience of thought. >>
Professor Secord explored the text, the ambitions of its author, Humphrey Davy, and the significance of the work to a generation of scientists. >>
Based on his historical ethnography of the efforts of the secret police of former East Germany to control civil rights movements in the country, Professor Glaeser provided an overall interpretation of GDR political project as a revolutionary, self-fulfilling prophecy. >>
This talk examined one of the more prolific periods of missionary linguistics in seventeenth-century North America. >>