Cogut Institute for the Humanities

2020–21 Annual Report

Responsive programming and inventive forms of community in a year of extraordinary challenges

From the Director

Portrait of Amanda Anderson
Amanda Anderson, Director of the Cogut Institute for the Humanities

As we entered an uncertain year marked by an ongoing sense of crisis, one key concern was how we would sustain connection and community in the absence of in-person convenings and the collaborative energies of our research and teaching initiatives. The Cogut Institute’s role on campus is to serve as a dynamic locus of activity, a “hub,” for programming, cross-disciplinary research, and curricular innovation. What would all of this translate into when conducted in an exclusively remote format? And how would we respond effectively to the urgent challenges facing our communities and our world—the pandemic, the ongoing struggles for racial and social justice, and the climate emergency—when our means of connecting seemed so limited?

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Conversations in the Humanities

In fall 2020 we launched the institute’s first podcast, Meeting Street, whose title alludes to the location of Pembroke Hall as well as the spirit of the conversations that normally take place there. Talking with leading scholars across diverse fields, our show explores exciting work in the humanities and beyond. Our first season included episodes on disability studies, the environmental humanities, data science, feminist criticism, and historical racism. 

Cover art of the Meeting Street podcast featuring corner street sign

Explore the first seven episodes!

Events and Programs

The Cogut Institute hosted 22 course workshops and 35 public events that ranged from one-hour webinars to multi-day conferences. Many of our initiatives are focused on themes directly relevant to the contemporary moment, and event conveners responded with innovative forms of virtual programming and outreach. Revisit some of our programming below and on YouTube!

BVI hosted three webinars presented by the Sojourner Project, the Black Studies Mobile Academy initiated by the Practicing Refusal Collective: "Frequencies of Blackness," "Sovereignty," and "Catastrophe::Cartography." Humanities Initiative Professor Tina Campt and Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa (RISD) also moderated "Continuous Refusal, Collective Refusal," a conversation with artist Cameron Rowland and MoMA curator Thomas Lax.
The Cogut Institute partnered with the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America (CSREA) to convene a roundtable discussion designed to confront and respond to the legacies of racism in humanities research and institutional sites, the meaningful interventions made by scholars, students, and activists, and new ways of impacting the future of the humanities by centering race. Watch the video!
This event features projects from the capstone seminar of the doctoral certificate in collaborative humanities. The Spring 2021 edition included 11 student presentations, with commentaries from Veena Das (Johns Hopkins University), Macarena Gómez-Barris (Pratt Institute), and Brown University faculty members Faiz Ahmed and Marc Redfield.
This new series showcases the layered understanding that humanities scholars bring to the study of democracy. The first two events explored how work, habit, or religion inform democratic ideas and experiences. They featured talks by Professors Bonnie Honig (Modern Culture and Media, and Political Science) and Thomas Lewis (Religious Studies) with responses by both faculty members and doctoral students.
The Center for the Study of the Early Modern World showcased the opportunities and resources offered by several prestigious libraries and collections in the United States through a series of online workshops. It partnered with Brown University's John Hay Library to present the interdisciplinary symposium "Performing Objects and the Objects of Performance" moderated by faculty member Holly Shaffer (Art History).
The initiative hosted its first welcome webinar in Fall 2020 and presented a series of events exploring the way we conceive of chemical exposures, urban landscapes, and invasive species, among other urgent topics at the threshold between environment and human activity. Watch webinars with guest speaker Azzurra Cox on "landscapes of belonging" and postdoctoral fellow David Frank on "the ethics of biodiversity."
The Humanities in the World initiative hosted webinars with critical theorist Denise Ferreira da Silva and nonfiction writer Deborah Baker as part of its new "Race in a Global Frame" lecture series.
Through talks on 13 concepts, the Graduate Student Edition addressed a situation of crisis in the U.S. marked by the failure to contain the coronavirus pandemic, sustained state violence against Black Americans, and increasingly active White supremacist movements. Concepts include "collecting," "progress," "swarming," "structural adjustment," and “user democracy,” among other ideas.
In partnership with departments, centers, institutes, and initiatives at Brown, the Cogut Institute works to advance programming and discussions on the goals and challenges of the Ph.D. degree. Workshops and panels on writing for the public, data modeling and visualization, scholarly publishing, and career paths for doctorates punctuated broader conversations among faculty and students.

Brown’s Digital Publications Initiative selected The Sojourner Project: A Black Studies Mobile Academy among the long-form scholarly works whose development it will support. The collaboration, led by Tina Campt, is part of the Practicing Refusal Collective, an international Black feminist forum of artists and scholars. The digital dimension of the collective’s work amplifies a larger set of transnational and diasporic gatherings in which conversations, workshops, and art activations create multi-directional encounters with the histories of struggle and practices of refusal that have emerged in different black communities.

Read more about the Sojourner Project

Portrait of Tina Campt
Tina Campt teaches at the Cogut Institute and in Modern Culture and Media.

Meet the Fellows

The sustaining nature of spaces devoted to sharing work-in-progress became ever more evident under the general conditions of stress and isolation that characterized the academic year. "Our faculty, undergraduate, postdoctoral, and graduate fellows," Amanda Anderson writes, "exhibited commitment, stamina, and joyful engagement throughout the months of online seminar sessions.

2020–21 Fellows Seminar Roster

"Inaugurating a new start-of-semester “Meet the Fellows” series, 20 fellows presented speed talks about their research interests and aspirations through webinars that remain available online.

 

 

We have been happy to celebrate good news from our fellows along the way:

  • Marysol Fernández Harvey '21, Matthew Marciello '21, Karis Ryu '21, and Nicole Yow Wei '21 graduated with honors. Three undergraduate fellows received departmental prizes for their research in American studies (Matthew Marciello) and history (Nicole Yow Wei and Karis Ryu).
  • Graduate Fellow Kelly Nguyen Ph.D. '21 accepted a position as University of California Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley.
  • Graduate Fellow Tanvir Ahmed Ph.D. '21 headed to Vienna, Austria to join the Austrian Academy of Science’s Institute of Iranian Studies as a research fellow.
  • Postdoctoral Fellow Cindy Nguyen will be the University of California Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Literature at the University of California, San Diego.
  • Postdoctoral Fellow Aviva Cormier accepted a position as visiting assistant professor of anthropology at Vassar College for 2021–22.

Curricular Innovation

The institute's impact on education at Brown is felt through the courses it presents and, as significantly, through the courses taught by recipients of the Collaborative Humanities Course Award and the courses taught by the postdoctoral fellows and distinguished faculty appointed jointly at the institute and in a department. All together, these account for a catalog of 28 undergraduate courses and 13 graduate seminars. Courses presented by the institute included five undergraduate seminars taught by recipients of the Cogut Institute Faculty Fellowship on the topic of their research in American studies, anthropology, classics, history, and philosophy. 

2020–21 Course Catalog

“ I loved the creative assignments, diverse class structures, guest lectures, and discussion dynamic. Class never felt boring. ”

2020-21 student course evaluation
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The Cogut Institute continues to advance its curricular initiative in collaborative humanities. At the undergraduate level, the most recent recipients of the institute's Collaborative Humanities Course Award, Juliet Hooker (Political Science) and Emily Owens (History) team-taught the first iteration of their new course on Loss, Political Activism, and Public Feelings in fall 2020. Joachim Krueger (Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences) and Bernard Reginster (Philosophy) led a popular introduction to the Psychology and Philosophy of Happiness in spring 2021.

Loss, Political Activism, and Public Feelings: Between Fact and Affect

Speaking with Amanda Anderson, Juliet Hooker and Emily Owens reflected on how the course generated sites of collaboration among themselves, among the students, and across teacher and student roles. Listen starting at 22'30" especially!

Simulating Reality: The (Curious) History and Science of Immersive Experience

In October, Amanda Anderson spoke with Fulvio Domini (Cognitive, Liguistic and Psychological Sciences) and Massimo Riva (Italian Studies) about the undergraduate collaborative seminar they taught in spring 2020 on the history and science of immersive experience. Offered again in spring 2021, the course received the newly created Collaborative Research and Scholarly Experiences (COEX) curricular designation.

Listen to episode 3 of Meeting Street

In this excerpt from spring 2020 student presentations, Eugy Han '20 and Jessica Zhu '20 explore the juxtaposition of past and present realities in photography.

Doctoral Certificate in Collaborative Humanities

Eleven doctoral students from eight departments completed the doctoral certificate this past academic year, bringing the total of graduates to 30 in the program's fourth year. Congratulations to Pablo a Marca, Katherine Contess, Kareem Estefan, Melaine Ferdinand-King, Nomaan Hasan, Jacquelynn Jones, Alessandro Moghrabi, Regina Pieck, Katyayni Seth, Jake Sokolov-Gonzalez, and Amber Vistein!

All Recipients of the Doctoral Certificate

Building on Distinction in the Humanities

At the Cogut Institute, students and faculty from across 24 humanities departments and programs—plus the social sciences and even natural sciences—collaborate on initiatives that are simply crucial to the challenges we face as a society today. That is why investment in the Cogut Institute is a key priority of BrownTogether, the campaign to achieve a higher level of excellence at the University by bringing together innovative education and outstanding research and scholarship.

Why We Need the Humanities

 

Students and faculty associated with the institute share their thoughts on why the humanities are more important now than ever.

To ensure that humanities scholars can benefit from our collaborative teaching and research programs for years to come, we are still in need of support for:

For more information about these priorities and how you can help advance excellence in the humanities at Brown, please contact Sarah Santos, Director of Development for Academic Initiatives, at [email protected] or (401) 863-1894.

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