2009-10 Humanities Seminar
Intellectual Life at Moments of Crisis
The theme of the 2009-10 Humanities Institute seminar is "Intellectual Life at Moments of Crisis." At this moment of national and global crisis and potential transformation, the Humanities Institute's Fellows Seminar will explore the historical and contemporary conceptions, roles, and impacts of intellectual life and intellectual workers in times of political, social, cultural, or economic upheaval. This topic is meant to be broadly interdisciplinary and to invite consideration of intellectual work in the humanities, the arts, and the sciences and of intellectual life lived both within and outside of universities. Specific focal points for the seminar will be determined by the interests and projects of its members and by the distinguished visiting scholars and artists whom they will invite to deliver a public lecture and guest-lead a seminar session. Possible vectors of inquiry, however, may include: revolution in countries, cultures, and thought; the figure of the intellectual in and across different cultures and historical epochs; intellectuals and academic institutions as agents of change and reaction; "elitism," social distinction, and the political economy of higher education; the intellectual and collective identity (race, class, gender, religion); crises of belief and conscience; the life of the mind and crises of the body
2008-09 Humanities Seminar
Seminar Theme: Ethical Life in a Global Society
In 2008-9, the Humanities Institute Faculty Seminar will meet weekly to explore the topic: “Ethical Life in a Global Society." Specific focal points for the Seminar will be determined by the interests and research projects of its members, who will collectively produce the schedule of readings, discussions, and presentations. The Seminar's general objective, however, is to facilitate a broad and comparative inquiry into the ways in which historical systems of ethics and ideas of ethical life are both constructed and challenged in the contemporary world. Some of the issues that fall within the topic's purview and that the Seminar might explore include: the (uneven) globalization of capital, labor, technology, law, natural resources, environmental impacts, cultural influences, medical services and communications systems in the 21st century.
2007-8 Humanities Seminar
Seminar Theme: The Human and its Others
In 2007-8, the Humanities Institute faculty seminar will meet weekly to explore the topic: "The Human and its Others." Specific focal points for the seminar will be determined by the interests and research projects of its members, who will collectively produce the schedule of readings, discussions, and presentations. The seminar’s general objectives, however, are: to explore how the idea and category of the human has been understood and constructed—across time, across cultures, and in such intellectual disciplines and cultural practices as philosophy, psychology, religion, science, politics, medicine, technology, and art; to map historical and philosophical continuities and crises of the human (and of such conceptual cognates or corollaries as humanity and the humane); to probe the various binaries in which the human has been defined against such “others” as the animal, the divine, the monstrous, the inhuman, and the machine; and to examine the question of the human in the context of some of the contemporary issues (global warming, stem cell research, assisted suicide, torture, cloning, to name a few) that make it critical.
2006-7 Humanities Seminar
Seminar Theme: Labor & Leisure
The theme for the 2006-7 Humanities Institute Seminar and the Distinguished Visiting Lecturers Series for 2006-7 will be "Labor and Leisure." Selected HI faculty fellows and graduate students, along with the field experts they invite to deliver a public lecture and guest-lead a session of the seminar, will conduct a year-long inquiry into the politics, arts, economics, technologies, and cultures of human work and recreation across historical periods and national boundaries and contexts. As with each of its predecessors, the 2006-7 theme is meant to accommodate relevant research interests in and dialog between a wide range of academic disciplines. The particular emphases of the seminar will be determined by the projects and approaches that its members bring to it, but a general goal of its broad inquiry will be to explore, map, and assess some of the dimensions — material and conceptual, historical and contemporary, local and global — of 21st century regimes, subjects, and experiences of labor and leisure.
2005-6 Humanities Seminar
Seminar Theme: Remembering and Forgetting; Collecting and Discarding
In 2005-6, the Humanities Institute Faculty Seminar will meet weekly to explore the topic: "Remembering and Forgetting; Collecting and Discarding." Specific focal points for the Seminar will be determined by the interests and research projects of its members, who will collectively produce the schedule of readings, discussions, and presentations. The Seminar's general objective, however, is to facilitate a broad and comparative inquiry into the ways in which communities and individuals process—preserve, organize, memorialize, refashion, jettison—the past. Some of the issues that fall within the topic's purview and that the Seminar might explore include: arts, sciences, and cultures of memory; knowledge and information technologies; institutions of material collection (archives, museums, etc.); public monuments, rituals, and other engagements with time in space; environmental conservation, degradation, and transformation; theories and practices of conservation and preservation in art, architecture, and archaeology; and the production and consumption of history, commodities, and beliefs.
2004-5 Humanities Seminar
Seminar Theme: The Work of Religion: Past, Present, Future
In 2004-5, the Humanities Institute Faculty Seminar will meet weekly to explore the topic: "The Work of Religion: Past, Present, Future." Specific focal points for the Seminar will be determined by its members. The Seminar's general objective, however, is to facilitate a broad inquiry, one that is historically, culturally, and denominationally comparative, and one that takes "the work of religion" to include aesthetic, intellectual, political, psychological, social, and spiritual forms and dimensions. At the same time, the Seminar topic has been chosen for its potential to address issues of urgent contemporary interest to citizens as well as scholars: globalization and religion; the future of fundamentalisms; religion, sexuality, and public health; religious discourse in American politics and media; religion and political violence; religious in public education; etc.
Innovations for 2004-5 Seminar year may include: the invitation of two or three non-UT faculty members (possibly community religious leaders, artists or writers, or workers in religiously based social service agencies) to join the Seminar as "civic fellows"; the offer of a series of evening and off-campus events and forums throughout the year to engage members of local non-academic communities in aspects of the Seminar's inquiry; and a 2-day spring symposium, in collaboration with the UT Religious Studies Program, that would feature panels and lectures on several of the issues explored in the Seminar and perhaps would bring UT and invited scholars into dialog with others who approach these issues from within other sorts of intellectual, professional, and spiritual frames.
2003-4 Humanities Seminar
Seminar Theme: Modernity: Contexts and Contests, Forms and Future
In 2003-4, the Humanities Institute Faculty Seminar will meet weekly to explore the topic: "Modernity: Contexts and Contests, Forms and Future." In We Have Never Been Modern, sociologist of science Bruno Latour observes that the word "modern" (and cognates such as "modernity" and "modernism") always designates both "a break in the regular passage of time" and "a combat in which there are victors and vanquished." Of modernity's reputation as a combatant, Raymond Williams notes in Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society that "the majority of pre-19th century uses were unfavorable, when the context was comparative," but that "through the 19th and very markedly in the 20th century there was a strong movement the other way, until 'modern' became virtually equivalent to 'improved' or 'satisfactory' or 'efficient.'" Yet, philosopher and theologian Emmanuel Levinas begins his essay "Being a Westerner" by remarking that the wars and genocidal campaigns of the last century "have given [modernity's] triumph a lugubrious resonance and the successful outcome of humanity is taking on the appearance of an ending." These reflections may suggest the potential range and timeliness of an interdisciplinary inquiry into the contexts and contests, forms and futures of modernity—an inquiry that should put in dialog matters (and scholars) of art, architecture, and aesthetics; of science and technology; of political, legal, economic, and communications systems; and of social, cultural, spiritual, and environmental experience and change.
2002-3 Humanities Seminar
Seminar Theme: Texas in Global Context
In 2002-3, the Seminar's overarching theme, "Texas in Global Contexts," will link together two separate but closely related subjects, each of which will form the focus of discussion in a given semester. The Fall 2002 Seminar will discuss "Race Futures: State, Nation, World." The Spring 2003 Seminar engages with "Human Communities: Local, Global, & Virtual."
In a post-September 11, 2001 world, the 2002-3 Humanities Institute Seminar thus addresses issues of community, identity, and location, in the context of all our possible futures. From the vantage point of where we are—here and now—as local, national, and global citizens of communities that are rapidly transforming, even as we work and think, the Seminar will offer participants a chance to address issues of urgent import in both the broadest, largest categories possible, and as detailed, minute particulars marked by geography, technology, and time.
2001-2 Humanities Seminar
Seminar Theme: The Future of Disciplinary Knowledges
For the inaugural year, our subject under discussion will be the past and future of the Humanities and Social Sciences themselves, the disciplines, departments, and programs of which can be conceived as broadly as Seminar participants wish. We envisage readings and discussions on how disciplines, and interdisciplinary programs, were formed; interrogating the definitions, histories, and likely futures of disciplines and inter-/trans-/multi-/disciplinary formations; and rethinking the mission of university departments and programs in the new millenium.
Faculty fellows, together with the Director and Associate Director, will be responsible as a group for generating a body of readings around which weekly discussions revolve. Graduate student participants take the Seminar for course credit. Distinguished senior scholars whose work has been formative in particular disciplines and interdisciplinary programs will be brought to UT each semester, under the Institute's Distinguished Lecturers Series, to address the Seminar and to deliver public lectures on topics related to the Seminar's annual theme.
The Seminar, in short, is aimed at three crucial functions.
- Because the Humanities Institute recognizes that intellectual, educational, and social challenges of the 21st century are multidimensional and demand collaborative investigation and cross-disciplinary responses ("thinking outside the box"), the Seminar is designed to take advantage of the complex, broad-ranging thinking that is generated when an intellectually diverse group of fellows meet in weekly interaction around a seminar table. We anticipate that the work of the Seminar will support, stimulate, and energize the research and teaching of its participant fellows.
- For graduate student participants, the Seminar fulfils vital pedagogical, and professional-preparation functions unavailable elsewhere. Seminar topics cut across the focus, and field of vision, of any individual department or area studies programs; and the Seminar format uniquely offers graduate students the weekly opportunity to engage, and think alongside, a collectively diverse group of faculty working together. The experience should be especially invaluable for Ph.D. students preparing to enter the academic professions.
- In addition to stimulating cultures of interdisciplinary thinking, research, and teaching on campus, we envisage that the Humanities Seminar will function as an ongoing think-tank upon whose resources the University might draw, in the continuing examination of the role, goals, and methods of university education in the new millenium. Though housed in the College of Liberal Arts, we envisage that the Humanities Institute will function like an institute of interdisciplinary studies, as it continues to invite, seek out, and draw on faculty, students, and resources from schools and colleges throughout the University.