Dr. Annie Polland, Senior Vice President for Programs & Education at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, discusses the toll that tenement life took on immigrant families, as well as the challenges of conveying that exhaustion to modern-day students and tourists. >>
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?
Philology and the reconstruction of texts has been a main humanistic method since the purported end of the middle ages. Today’s exchange will delve into the history of philology and its basic methodological assumptions, bringing to the fore some of its colonial underpinnings, and asking digital humanists, as part of the conversation, about connections between DH and this core method in humanities research. >>
Are we headed for a world of scarce resources and environmental catastrophe, or will market forces and technological innovation yield greater prosperity? Paul Sabin, Associate Professor of history and American Studies at Yale University, takes up this question in his book The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and Our Gamble over Earth’s Future. >>
Any city at any historical moment is composed of many layers, including not only emergent and dominant forms of urbanism but also superseded, decaying, elapsed, or otherwise exhausted versions of itself. Rotella survey's the South Side of Chicago and its fallen or fading orders in order to pursue a larger objective: an understanding of how the cultural complexity of an historical moment expresses the quality of density, the single trait that mostly crucially defines the city. >>
The Political Concepts conference returns to the Columbia University. The project is guided by one formal principle--the posing of a Socratic question "what is x?"--and by one theatrical principle--the concepts defined should be relevant to political thought and, more broadly, to thinking about the political. >>
After centuries as a small but thriving urban center and quarry less than 20km east of Rome, Gabii essentially collapsed, and the Imperial-era occupation was by the dead rather than the living. Excavations by the Gabii Project since 2009 have uncovered several dozen burials dating to a variety of time periods; the Imperial ones, however, are the most numerous and the most anomalous. >>
Current Musicology, a leading journal for scholarly research on music, is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary with an open-themed conference on March 28–29, 2015 at Columbia University. The journal was founded in 1965 by graduate students at Columbia University as a semi-annual review. We publish articles and book reviews in the fields of historical musicology, ethnomusicology, music theory and analysis, and philosophy of music. >>
Liberals today almost universally conceive of plutocracy as a problem that in principle will be satisfactorily corrected in a well-ordered liberal-democratic regime. Against this, Green argues that plutocracy is an inescapable problem that cannot be fully solved. >>
In October 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Immigration and Nationality Act. Abolishing the national origins quota system, which had heavily restricted immigration from Asia and southern and eastern Europe for decades, the act introduced new systems that placed preference on immigrants’ occupational qualifications and family ties with the United States. Coming from a wide range of academic disciplines, including history, literature, cultural studies, sociology, anthropology, political science, and law, participants in this interdisciplinary conference collectively seek to achieve a better understanding of issues and problems associated to American immigration today under the theme of “Managing Borders.” >>
How empirical are the humanities? For over a century, empiricism has almost exclusively been attributed to the sciences. The sciences search for patterns and laws, while the humanities aim at understanding unique events. The sciences try to explain the world, while the humanities aim at interpreting it. >>
The term conversion carries connotations of religion and coloniality. But this has not prevented it from appearing, more generally, as an index of change and transformation. Barber – by drawing on debates in Religious Studies, Philosophy, Black Studies, and Media Studies – argues that conversion’s apparent generalizability is actually limited by its specifically Christian formation. Conversion names a specifically Christian operation that has itself converted to a generalizable form. >>
The Greek historian Polybius notes the flood of all things Greek into the city of Rome in the wake of the Roman victory at Pydna in 168 B.C.E. (Polyb. 31.24.6-7; Plut. Aem. 6.4-5, 33.3). One way in which direct contacts with the Greek world accelerated during this time was in the increasing frequency of Greek diplomatic embassies to the Roman Senate. Champion shall argue that ennui and exhaustion in hosting such embassies provide an essential backdrop against which to view an increasingly sharp Roman response to Greek political problems. >>
Presented as a special event within the spring talk theme of "Exhaustion," Fellow Brian Goldstone organizes a talk with speakers Anne Allison, Robert O. Keohane Professor of Cultural Anthropology and Professor of Women's Studies, Duke University, and Elizabeth Povinelli, Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University. >>
This talk considers the role twentieth century models of intermediary metabolism played in the constitution of ideas of homeostasis and interiority for organisms vis-à-vis their environments. These are contrasted with contemporary theories of metabolic disorder, explored via ethnographic work observing biomedical research. >>
During the 1960s, entropy was a powerful concept for the production and interpretation of the large-scale earthworks of the Land Art movement. But while this focus on entropy is important, it has since come to obscure the more extensive role of energy in the art and politics of the postwar decades. >>
While recent years have seen an opening up within anthropology of the limits and potentialities of ethnographic description, with increasing use being made of photographic and filmic images in particular, considerably less attention has been paid to the question of whether images, broadly conceived, might present not just a supplementary means of conveying ethnographic insights, but a radically different way of imagining and arriving at them. What would an imagistic – as opposed to a more conventionally discursive or didactic – anthropological mode of knowing necessitate? >>
Since the 1940s, invocations of "close reading" (however understood) have figured centrally in controversies over new methodological developments in literary studies: e.g., the New Criticism, structuralism, New Historicism, deconstruction, ideology critique, and, notably now, the Digital Humanities. The talk recalls some of those controversies and considers how the idea or ideal of "close reading" operates in current debates about-- and within-- the Digital Humanities. >>