Event Type: Conferences
Start Date : March 30, 9:00 am
End Date :


Schermerhorn Hall,
Room 501

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Each year the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society hosts an annual conference that brings together the finest scholars in the world to discuss issues of historical and contemporary relevance, joining the reading practices of comparative literary studies to those of the social theoretical disciplines. In collaboration with the Heyman Center for the Humanities, on March 30, 2012, we will convene the most trenchant thinkers worldwide in the humanities, social sciences, and life sciences for a workshop whose aim is Rethinking the Human Sciences.

The generally cultivated skepticism about the contemporary pertinence of humanities-based education to current problems in social achievement and capacity to compete in a global sphere has energized the ranks of the Institute to seek new venues of re-conceptualizing and re-articulating the human sciences. Indeed, the point is to rethink the humanities in broader fashion in order to address, not merely modes of learning that characterize the social sciences (historical methodologies, sociological and geopolitical conceptualizations, or anthropological figurations of culture), which has been the work of the Institute since the outset, but increasing tendencies in all disciplines (including the life sciences) that problematize the permutations and boundaries of the human – an enormous range of scholarship that includes meta-empirical discussions in neuroscience and cognitive science, the complex intersection of biotechnology, biopolitics, and bioethics; the geopolitical dimensions of epidemiology, public health, and human rights; the media and imaging technologies of human bodies; the emergent fields of ecology and ecocriticism, posthumanism and animality, and a great deal more.

In critically revivifying the discourse of the human sciences, ICLS seeks to address and to counter the increasingly impoverished discussion that pits the humanities against the sciences in a dead-end configuration of unquestioned imcommensurable terms. In this effort, the collaborative research and pedagogical work the ICLS stands for converges with philosophical arguments and inquiries made by medical or legal professionals, theoretical scientists, or public health activists, who insist that the profound and incisive questions concerning the meaning of human life in our world now and in the future cannot be properly posed without the thinking tools and framing devices that characterize humanities-based education.

The investigation of the questions demands that our conference be conducted as a comparatist and interdisciplinary conversation amidst several domains: history, literary studies, social and political sciences, health and life sciences, cognitive science, law, economics, anthropology, gender studies, media and technology studies, and historically precise, international in scope and yet focused on the particularities of location.

This conference is made possible with the support of the Heyman Center for the Humanities and the Columbia Global Centers.

No registration is required.

ACCOMMODATIONS: Columbia University makes every effort to accommodate individuals with disabilities. If you require disability accommodations to attend an event at Columbia University, please contact Disability Services at 212-854-2388 at least 5 days in advance of the event.


A video of this conference is available on our YouTube Channel and on DVD at the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. Please contact the office with advanced notice to arrange borrowing and viewing the movie.

Audio for this conference is also available as a free download on iTunesU.

9:00am: Opening Remarks Nicholas Dirks – Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences, Columbia University Stathis Gourgouris – Director, Institute for Comparative Literature and Society

9:20am-11:05am: Panel 1 Chair: Anupama Rao (History and ICLS, Columbia University) The Problem of Scale: Narrative Universals in the Human Sciences Srinivas Aravamudan (English, Duke University) What is ‘the Human’ about the Humanities today? Rosi Braidotti (Centre for the Humanities, Utrecht University) Respondent: Lydia Liu (East Asian Languages and Cultures and ICLS, Columbia University)

11:20am-1:05pm: Panel 2 Chair: Stathis Gourgouris (Classics, English, and ICLS, Columbia University) Rethinking diagnosis: Race, stigma, and the politics of schizophrenia Jonathan Metzl (Sociology, Psychiatry, and Medicine, Health, and Society, Vanderbilt University) Making, Critique: A New Paradigm for the Humanities Katherine Hayles (Literature, Duke University) Respondent: Jesús Rodriguez-Velasco (Latin American and Iberian Cultures and ICLS, Columbia University)

1:15-2:30pm: lunch break

2:45pm-4:30pm: Panel 3 Chair: Rosalind Morris (Anthropology and ICLS, Columbia University) The Return of Italian Philosophy Roberto Esposito (Philosophy, Italian Institute for the Human Sciences, Naples) Old and New Archives: Sites for Philosophical FieldworkHent de Vries (Philosophy and Humanities Center, Johns Hopkins University) Respondent: Patricia Dailey (English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University)

4:45pm-6:30pm: Panel 4 Chair: Akeel Bilgrami (Philosophy, Columbia University) The Science of SubjectivitySteven Shapin (History of Science, Harvard University) The Return of Meaning James Gleick (author of Chaos and The Information) Respondent: Marwa Elshakry (History of Science, Columbia University)

 The Heyman Center for the Humanities, Room B-101
74 Morningside Drive
New York, NY, 10027
  (212) 854-4541
  (212) 854-3099