The University Seminars Archive

Conferences & Symposia

2018-2019 Seminar Supported Conferences & Symposia


10.23.2018 | 483 | Studies in Modern Italy

The Nazi and Fascist Persecution of the Jews in Italy: Themes for Future Research

A public lecture by Michele Sarfatti, with an Introduction by David Kertzer

On the anniversary of the Racial Laws in Italy, which initiated the systematic persecution of the Jews in Italy, this lecture examines some aspects of that persecution that have not yet been sufficiently investigated by Italian and international historiography. It therefore functions as a platform for further research. Themes for future research include, among other things, the demography and social status of Italian Jewry, the comparison of European anti-Jewish legislations in the 1930s, and the consequences of the knowledge of the extermination among high-ranking Italian authorities in the early months of 1943.


10.26.2018 | 739 | Linguistics

50th Anniversary of the Columbia School Linguistics Seminar: Looking back and looking forward

Professor William Diver and his students at Columbia began holding regular seminar meetings 50 years ago, in 1968. This event will celebrate the linguistic theory they developed, now known as Columbia School Linguistics, and will commemorate the last 50 years of this seminar, while also looking forward to the next 50. Senior scholars who were students of Professor Diver will reflect on their careers and the contribution of the seminar to their work, and we will hear as well from the current generation of Columbia School scholars who are carrying this work forward. In addition to personal testimonials, and reports of work in progress, some time will be dedicated to working sessions on ongoing analyses.


10.27.2018 | 581 | Shakespeare

Shakespeare and His Sources: 2018 Annual Shakespeare Colloquium

Shakespeare seldom invented the stories of his plays and poems. Rather, he adapted existing sources, taking what he needed, omitting what he didn’t and adding his own rich language and psychological insights. To study his sources is to understand his genius at work. This conference, presented annually for the past 26 years in Madison, New Jersey, gives scholars, teachers, and members of the community an opportunity to spend a day exploring Shakespeare’s work. Four speakers–including one whose discoveries were front-page news in The New York Times this past February–discuss how Shakespeare used and creatively transformed his sources.


11.15.2018 | 711 | Literary Theory

Keywords and Key Concepts

Two former heads of the Literary Theory seminar, as well as the present head (myself) and several of its key participants over the past years, will be participating in a high-level theoretical discussion of key concepts at use in the humanities at the present time. The immediate occasion is the publication in September of a revised edition of Raymond Williams’ “Keywords,” with Jonathan Arac, former head of the Literary Theory seminar, as one of the leaders of the team revising it and one of the speakers. The plan is to set the Keywords team in conversation with the Political Concepts team, affiliated with Columbia (as well as Brown, The New School, and CUNY), represented by Akeel Bilgrami, the other former head of the Literary Theory seminar, as well as Etienne Balibar, our star speaker for the past years, and Ann Stoler, head of the Political Concepts collective. The point is simply to bring these two projects to each others’ attention and to stimulate conversation in the Columbia community about the usefulness of theoretical concepts and how that usefulness changes over time, as represented by the necessary changes to Williams’ classic of the 1970s.


11.30 – 12.1.2018 | 427 | Studies in Political and Social Thought

Constellations Conference: Democracy in a World of Crisis

Columbia University The end of the Cold War and the fall of Communism witnessed an unprecedented proliferation of liberal representative democracies across the globe. Never before did constitutional democracy enjoy such broad and widespread geographical, institutional, and symbolic support. However, this unique historical development went together with the rise to hegemony of a neo-liberal economic model, austerity politics, and the demise of the social contract underpinning welfare states and social democracy, domestically and internationally. Serious and recurrent economic crises, social integrative problems triggered by cultural change and massive legal and illegal migration, environmental disasters associated among other things with global warming, and the absence of political will on the part of political parties in and out of government to address these issues by devising intelligent social policy, raise serious questions about democratic efficacy and legitimacy. Lack of responsiveness to those hurt or rendered insecure by fundamental changes in economy, society and culture have left the field open to illiberal, anti-democratic forces willing to use the machinery of constitutional democracy to undermine it. Indeed in recent years new challenges have appeared and serious concerns have emerged regarding the effects of these historical development on democratic norms in general. The institutional, normative, and political practices associated with democracy are now increasingly questioned and contested. We take all this as an opportunity for a serious examination and critical reconsideration of the idea, meaning, value, and fate of constitutional democracy in the 21st century. It is time to engage in serious reflection on the foundations, conditions, and assumptions that have informed the global diffusion of contemporary forms of the representative constitutional democratic state. The task of the conference is to rethink the actual theory and practice of democracy. With participants from the United States, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East, the conference will bring together scholars from a variety of academic disciplines, such as Politics, Philosophy, Sociology, History, and Economics, to critically explore and provide alternative ways of making sense of the current situation of democracy across different states, societies, and spaces. A wide range of topics will be debated throughout the two-day conference, including the normative foundations of democracy, its varieties and the economic challenges it faces, its relationship to the rule of law and constitutionalism, its populist temptations and authoritarian transformations, its promises and exclusions, and its future prospects.


2.22.2019 | 613 | Full Employment, Social Welfare, and Equity

Consultation to Design Winnable Federal Job Guarantee Legislation


2.28 – 3.2.2019  | 735 | Sites of Cinema

Legacies of Leftism in Film and Media Theory: East Asia and Beyond

The Sites of Cinema Seminar has been considering the venues for exhibition in the cinema century as well as the locations of world cinema. This comparative conference brings leading Japanese, Korean, and Chinese scholars together to speak about the histories of film theory relative to their national traditions of Leftism. We ask: “How have Leftist traditions inspired film and media theories across the world?” and “What can we learn from these traditions today as we explore new methodologies in film and media studies and new political possibilities in the contemporary world?” The first evening Round-Table to be held at Faculty House takes up the topic: “Criticism on the Left Today: Agenda for the Next Generation.”


3.7 – 3.8.2019 | 497 | Slavic History and Culture

Displacement and Display: Iliazd as a Transnational Artist

This symposium will be held in conjunction with the archival exhibition “Ilia Zdanevich (1894-1975): The Tbilisi Years,” on view in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library’s Chang Octagon Room from February 8 until July 1, 2019. The Russian-Georgian Zdanevich began his career in St. Petersburg as a passionate propagandist for Futurism, became a proponent of zaum in his native Tbilisi during Georgia’s short-lived independence, and reinvented himself in mid-century Paris as a major book artist under the pseudonym Iliazd. The exhibition highlights the multilingual milieu and the welter of poetic and artistic schools represented in Tbilisi at the moment Zdanevich began printing his cycle of zaum dramas using an inventive typography that drew on—while extending—earlier avant-garde print techniques. Our symposium will begin with public lectures by Johanna Drucker, Breslauer Professor of Information Studies at UCLA and an internationally recognized visual theorist with a focus on typography, and François Mairé, President of the Iliazd-Club, followed by a reception. The following day will be dedicated to a workshop (“The Translation of Unknown Words: A Workshop on Avant-Garde Sound in Print”) focused on problems posed by translating zaum and related avant-garde phenomena. Workshop participants include professional translators at many stages of their careers – some respected poets in their own right – scholars, and graduate students. Discussions during the morning session are expected to range over questions of linguistics, prosody, performance, book design, biography, and changes in historical context and cultural attitudes – questions that may be taken into account when dealing with avant-garde sound poetry in print. During the afternoon session, translators will work on texts drawn from Zdanevich’s own zaum dramas. Both the exhibition and the symposium will be open to the members of the Seminar of Slavic History and Culture (497). Members of the Material Texts Seminar (787)—which has also endorsed our symposium—will also be invited to both. From the point of view of the Slavic Seminar, the symposium will support scholarly investigation into the poetry, performance, and printing of the Russian avant-garde not only by reconsidering Zdanevich’s contributions, but also by considering the relations between one of the Russian avant-garde’s major poetic modes, zaum, and related phenomena practiced across the international avant-garde. For members of the Seminar on Material Texts, the symposium promises to address a crucial moment when imaginative book design strove to meet the needs of a performance-based sound poetry that radically rejected meaning as a basis for organization. This symposium and the archival exhibition related to it are parts of a larger project, supported by a Global Humanities grant, which will culminate in June 2019 with a two-day international conference in Paris, co-organized with the Columbia Global Centers and the Iliazd-Club.


3.29 – 3.30.2019 | 441 | Classical Civilization

Ovidius Philosophus

This international conference explores the philosophical aspects of the corpus of the Roman poet Ovid. Long a fixture of the western canon and an author central to classical scholarship, Ovid has been studied and appreciated for his postmodern wit and playfulness, but has rarely been taken seriously as a thinker in conversation with the philosophical currents of his time. In keeping with the interdisciplinary outlook of the University Seminar in Classical Civilization, and the Columbia Classics Department’s focus on intellectual history, we hope to offer a corrective to narrowly literary readings of Ovid and to open up a new chapter in Ovidian scholarship and the study of Latin poetry more generally.


4.18 – 4.20.2019 | 559 | Arabic Studies

The Cultural Turn in Arabic Literary Production

This conference addresses the turn to humanities and social sciences in Arabic literary production, with emphasis on a digital age that brought print culture and its mode and means of production in dialogue with new developments in the field. Thus , its papers engage with rising issues, problems, and effects. It’ll try to offer perspectives on these new developments that make use of print industry but also with less literariness, a tendency that may impact the quality of writing and criticism in the near future. What is applicable to Arabic is certainly applicable to other languages and cultures, and hence the need for a comparative framework that prompts a wider outlook and worldview.