Professor Reiss argued in this talk that Henry David Thoreau is one of the great critical modern sleepers, someone who both diagnosed and resisted the commodification and regulation of the sleep-wake cycle. >>
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 discussion, Professor Tomlinson examined how the deep, extraordinary history of musicking offers several heuristic opportunities of extra-musical reach. >>
Prof. Radin examined three episodes in the International Biological Program's project to collect and freeze blood from members of human populations depicted as primitive and endangered. >>
Professor Downie presented several imperial Greek texts that reflect upon the value of the tumuli of Troy as places of memory and argued that Philostratus, in particular, saw the burial landscape of the Troad as offering a way to articulate contemporary Greeks’ relationship to the past. >>
Although widespread in Taiwan and China, god statues have received little attention from anthropologists. By examining god statues, Professor Lin attempted to answer several important questions in Chinese religion. >>
Against a history of animation from Windsor McCay to contemporary fine art, Professor Grim’s paper focused on both the psychological facts and the philosophical questions regarding our dynamic visual processing. >>
Professor Miller’s talk considered the imagination of counterfactual self-understanding in literature and film, with special attention to the film Another Year (director Mike Leigh, 2010). >>
Professor Raffle’s talk was drawn from an ongoing book project that explores the lives of stone. >>
Professor Papapetros described how turn-of-the-century art history projected ethnographic theories of animistic practices on Renaissance and modern artworks while endowing inert images with the semblance of liveliness (Lebendigkeit) and animation (Belebung). >>