Spring 2014

Thursday Lecture Series are open to Columbia faculty, students, and guests. Special Events are open to the public, unless otherwise noted.

Thursday Lecture Series: Materiality

How Forests Think

  • Eduardo Kohn, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, McGill University

Forests think. This is neither a metaphor nor is it a claim specific to any "ontology." What kind of claim, then, is it? What right do we have in making it? And what might happen to our social theory ­and the human­ if we take it seriously? Thought emerges with life; it is not restricted to humans. >>

Thursday Lecture Series: Materiality

Decoding Roger Williams: Texts, Cryptography, and the Materiality of an Early American Mystery

  • Linford Fisher, Assistant Professor of History, Brown University

For over a century, the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University has been in possession of a rare seventeenth-century book. Its margins are filled with cryptic shorthand writing, long believed to be the work of Roger Williams, the seventeenth-century theologian and founder of Rhode Island. However, despite several attempts to decrypt it, this writing remained stubbornly indecipherable. >>

Thursday Lecture Series: Materiality

Hybrid Ecologies and the Environmental Humanities

  • Nancy Langston, Professor of Environmental History, Michigan Tech

How can the environmental humanities contribute to current discussions about ecological crises? Unlike traditional perspectives within the humanities, which place humans at the center of the story and view humans as exceptional, research within the environmental humanities focuses our gaze on the agency and interconnectivity of all things. >>

Thursday Lecture Series: Materiality

When Materiality Intervenes: Towards a Trans-Disciplinary Epistemology of Disruption

  • Bernhard Siegert, Gerd Bucerius Professor of History and Theory of Cultural Techniques, Bauhaus-University Weimar

Professor Bernhard Siegert, Gerd Bucerius Professor of History and Theory of Cultural Techniques at Bauhaus-University Weimar, spoke on problems of transcending materiality in processes of symbolization, for which the cultural technique of the common meal functions as a paradigm. The model of eating together then is transferred to examples of audio and visual media. >>

Thursday Lecture Series: Materiality

Property without Appropriation

  • Eric Nelson, Professor of Government, Harvard University

“Left libertarians” have argued that one can coherently defend both a theory of self-ownership and an egalitarian distribution of global natural resources—and that “right libertarians” are mistaken to suppose that one can reason plausibly from a self-ownership commitment to a defense of what Locke called “a disproportionate and unequal possession of the earth.”  Their argument rests on the claim that, pace right libertarians, there is no individual right to (truly) appropriate natural resources in the state of nature. >>

Special Events

A Critical Dialogue on Media and Materiality

This Society of Fellows talk, organized by Brian Goldstone and Grant Wythoff, addressed the topic of materiality in a discussion between Bernhard Siegert, Gerd Bucerius Professor of History and Theory of Cultural Techniques, Bauhaus-University Weimar, and Ben Kafka, Associate Professor, Departments of Media, Culture, and Communication and History at New York University. >>

Thursday Lecture Series: Materiality

Material Alliances

  • Mel Y. Chen, Associate Professor of Gender & Women's Studies, University of California, Berkeley

“Track switching,” focuses discussion on questions of inter- and trans-disciplinarity, wherein disciplines and, differently, “fields,” are considered variously as arbiters of moral, ethical, affective approaches to sexuality, queer, and gender scholarship. They also work to delineate capacities in interesting ways.  >>

Special Events

History and Psychoanalysis During the Postwar Period

Despite the continuous interest in psychoanalysis as a modern system of thought and interpretation, the history of the discipline and the study of analysts other than Sigmund Freud are still developing. This two-day conference will bring together historians, gender studies scholars, and psychoanalysts to explore the impact of the Second World War on psychoanalysis in the post-1945 era, and of psychoanalysis itself on different postwar societies and cultures. >>

Thursday Lecture Series: Materiality

Teleology and Necessity in Aristotle’s Account of the Natural and Moral Imperfections of Women

  • Mariska Leunissen, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Aristotle’s focus in the ethical treatises is on the moral development of men, and in particular, on that of the future (male) citizens of the ideal city. Infamously, Aristotle excludes natural slaves and women from the life of happiness that requires the activity of practical wisdom and moral virtue. >>

Thursday Lecture Series: Materiality

Victorian Anthropocene, 1834-1884

  • Fredrik Albritton Jonsson, Associate Professor of British History, Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, and the College, University of Chicago

The ability of the human species to transform the planetary environment has reached an unprecedented scale and magnitude in the past few decades. We have become “geological agents,” capable of changing the global climate through our carbon emissions. The atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen traces this growing emergency back to the invention of the double condensing steam engine of James Watt and the mineral energy economy ushered in by Britain’s Industrial Revolution. For Crutzen, Watt’s invention in 1784 marked the beginning of a new epoch of geological time – the Anthropocene. >>

Special Events

The Toleration of Tolerations

Toleration involves many paradoxes. One we might call the paradox of uniformity: while the point of toleration is diversity, every particular theory of toleration--and the institutional regime of toleration that embodies or expresses it--likely rests on a vision of political life or human existence that is more consistent with some belief systems than with others. >>

Thursday Lecture Series: Materiality

Women, Material Culture, and the History of Post-Roman Britain

  • Robin Fleming, Professor of History, Boston College

Historians, taking their ideas from early medieval texts, generally argue that the startlingly new material culture regime establishing itself in fifth-century Britain was the handiwork of Germanic warriors, who were establishing themselves in lowland Britain in the generations after Rome’s withdrawal from the diocese. Thus, it is argued that the transformations we see in material culture and life ways were driven by the activities of men. >>

Special Events

Calculating Capitalism

Among the most striking trends charted in the humanities in recent years has been the remarkable investment made in trying to understand modern capitalism. This conference seeks to profit from that boom by bringing together a range of scholars from the various disciplines that have developed novel methods for studying economic life: history, sociology, anthropology, science and technology studies, literary studies, as well as economics, accounting, and business studies. >>