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?
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. >>
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. >>
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. >>
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. >>
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. >>