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 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?
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. >>
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. >>
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. >>