Spring 2015

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?
 

Special Events

Political Concepts

  • Hagar Kotef (‘09-‘12), Senior Lecturer in Political Theory and Comparative Politics, SOAS, University of London

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. >>

Special Events

Current Musicology 50th Anniversary Conference

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.  >>

Special Events

Managing Borders

  • Hidetaka Hirota, Lecturer in History and the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, Columbia University

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.” >>

Special Events

A Conversation on Precarity and Exhaustion

  • Brian Goldstone (‘12-‘15), Justice-in-Education Fellow at the Heyman Center for the Humanities, Columbia University
  • Elizabeth Povinelli, Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University
  • Anne Allison, Robert O. Keohane Professor of Cultural Anthropology; Professor of Women's Studies , Duke University
  • Zoë Wool, Lecturer in Anthropology, Columbia University

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. >>

Special Events

Image as Method: Ethnography – Photography – Film – Sensation – Perception

  • Brian Goldstone (‘12-‘15), Justice-in-Education Fellow at the Heyman Center for the Humanities, Columbia University

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? >>