Cogut Institute for the Humanities

2021–22 Annual Report

Advancing innovative research on urgent topics

From the Director

This past year witnessed an extraordinary eagerness to foster community amidst ongoing crises: crises of race and gender, economic inequity, healthcare, war, democracy, and the environment, to name a few. Given the heightened sense of world-changing challenges, it was not possible to imagine a simple return to a pre-pandemic way of life; instead, we saw a strengthening of engagement across communities and a gaining of momentum to address major issues together. In the fall of 2021, we offered our first in-person events since the spring of 2019, and the excitement at being able to gather again in a physical space was palpable. Throughout the pandemic, we have learned to maintain and nourish community in virtual spaces, but being physically together again after so long brought with it a renewed sense of hope and aspiration.

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Amanda Anderson
Amanda Anderson, Cogut Institute Director

Initiating important dialogue through research-based programming

The EHAB initiative brings the diverse methods of the humanities to bear on understanding the more-than-human world and our relationships with it. During 2021–22, EHAB programming addressed equitable nature writing, the climate crisis, and the interplay of the environment and race, while the EHAB reading group discussed current research and creative work with a focus on environmental justice.
The Black Visualities initiative, led by Tina Campt from 2019 to 2022, brought together artists, writers, theorists, and critics to explore the gendered and racialized politics of looking, seeing, erasure, and visibility. Joined by global partners, in fall 2021 the initiative hosted “Aesthetics,” a collective reflection on the meaning of Blackness in the arts in the 21st century.

The 21st–Century Ph.D.

The 21st–Century Ph.D. initiative, in partnership with departments, centers, institutes, and initiatives at Brown, advances discussions on the structure, experience, and aspirations of the Ph.D. degree. In spring 2022, a major symposium gathered professionals and Brown University Ph.D. candidates to explore challenges facing, and possible reforms of, humanities Ph.D. programs. Pictured here, Africana Studies Ph.D. candidates Melaine Ferdinand-King and zuri arman present their research and proposals for their program.

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Melaine Ferdinand-King at the 21st-Century Humanities Ph.D. Symposium. In the background, zuri arman and Eleanor Rowe-Stefanik.
The Humanities in the World initiative, led by Leela Gandhi, explores the global dimensions of humanities scholarship as well as the role of the humanities in society. In spring 2022, public events presented fresh perspectives on postcolonial literature, freedom of speech, and bodily political protest.
The series “Democracy: A Humanities Perspective” showcases the layered understanding that humanities scholars bring to the study of democracy. In a pair of events for 2021–22, AIDS historian Sarah Schulman drew parallels between the ACT UP movement and present-day activisms, and data scholar Wendy Chun illuminated the power of big data to amplify division and outrage.
Attendees at the Flynn Lecture with Valeria Luiselli


Programs open to the public during 2021–22

24 In-person, 18 Virtual, 3 Hybrid


Attendees from around the world


Event video views on YouTube

Through screenings followed by structured discussions, the “Film-Thinking” series aims to enlarge our sense of the politics and distinctive formal properties of cinema. In 2021–22, the series featured Charles Burnett’s 1990 family drama “To Sleep with Anger” and Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1970 surrealist political mystery “The Spider’s Stratagem,” presented in collaboration with the international festival Il Cinema Ritrovato.
The Political Concepts initiative starts from the premise that our era needs a revised political lexicon to help us better understand the world in which we live and act, and that the humanities can and should contribute to such a revision. At the spring 2022 conference, Brown and RISD scholars gathered to revise, deconstruct, or create concepts such as “cooperation,” “wall,” and “remains.”
The Center for the Study of the Early Modern World brings together experts to focus on the multiple historical traditions of Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe — and on potent connections between them. Over the course of the year, the center hosted 13 events, including the revival of its graduate colloquium series, a dynamic space dedicated to the presentation and discussion of research in the field.

Greg and Julie Flynn Cogut Institute Speaker Series

The Greg and Julie Flynn Cogut Institute Speaker Series brings high-profile speakers to campus and creates special opportunities for undergraduates. In April, award-winning author Valeria Luiselli gave a public talk and follow-up seminar for students, providing a sampling of her ongoing audio-based art project exploring the landscapes and people surrounding the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

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Valeria Luiselli in conversation

Transforming research and training through collaborative practices

The Collaborative Humanities Initiative supports teaching and programming that foreground collaborative practices in humanities research, advancing innovative scholarship for the 21st century. Below are a few highlights of this year’s activities.

Preparing graduate students for the profession

In the capstone seminar for the Doctoral Certificate in Collaborative Humanities, graduate students across disciplines sharpen and refine their research projects as they simultaneously explore collaborative roles beyond traditional scholarship, including interviewing their peers and collectively creating and sharing an archive of formative texts. In promoting an interdisciplinary network of early career scholars, the certificate program prepares participants for informed and engaged academic careers. In the spring 2022 workshop, students developed projects on topics in religious studies, anthropology, comparative literature, history, modern culture and media, music, and theatre and performance studies.

Students in the Project Development Workshop

Students in the Project Development Workshop, with commentators

Fostering productive dialogue between disciplines

In spring 2021, cognitive scientist Joachim Krueger and philosopher Bernard Reginster team-taught “Psychology and Philosophy of Happiness,” developed under the aegis of the institute’s Collaborative Humanities Course Award. One year later, in spring 2022, they joined Meeting Street host Amanda Anderson for a broad-ranging discussion, with special focus on how collaboration between their respective disciplines enhances student learning and paves the way for important new research into a timely topic. An edited version of the transcript also appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Showcasing important research through creative work

A spring 2022 collaborative humanities seminar titled “Decolonial Matters: Thinking from the South,” led by archaeologist Yannis Hamilakis and historian Vazira Zamindar, gave graduate students a unique opportunity to explore the history of colonization and decolonization in the global South. Focusing on the materiality of things, objects, artifacts, and landscapes, from archaeological remains to museum objects, works of art, and contemporary material traces of migration and border crossing, the semester culminated in an exhibition of course participants’ original artwork addressing the themes of the course.

Art from Decolonial Matter exhibit

Art from Decolonial Matter exhibit

Exploring contemporary concerns in a public setting

The Collaborative Humanities initiative featured Jonathan Sterne, James McGill Professor of Culture and Technology at McGill University, in a lively conversation with Cogut postdoctoral fellow Emily Lim Rogers on the politics of disability and the lived experience of impairment.

The initiative also hosted a conference titled “Capitalism and the Human,” organized by Timothy Bewes and University of East London professor Jeremy Gilbert, which convened an international group of scholars to discuss the ways in which the understanding of the human is bound up with the dynamics of contemporary capitalism. The conversation explored an array of topics including the notion of the anthropocene, the politics of reproduction, and solidarity between the human and nonhuman.

Congratulations to Recipients of the Doctoral Certificate in Collaborative Humanities

Fifteen doctoral students from 11 departments completed the doctoral certificate this past academic year: Mariam Tarek Ibrahim Abou-Kathir, Osama Ahmad, Inga Chinilina, Thomas Dai, Tara Dhaliwal, Julie Dind, Isabel Farías Velasco, Norman Frazier, Lee Gilboa, Nabila Islam, Mariz Kelada, Heather Lawrence, Andressa Macena Maia, Sherena Razek, and Stephen Woo.

The total number of graduates now comes to 45 in the program’s fourth year. Congratulations to all!

All Recipients of the Doctoral Certificate

Fostering interdisciplinary research in a community of scholars

The Fellows Seminar is the heart of the Cogut Institute. Exemplifying the spirit of interdisciplinarity and collaboration, the seminar brings together scholars across disciplines and at all levels — undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, and faculty — to share work-in-progress, to gather and give feedback, and to learn from perspectives across age, expertise, and discipline. In this way, the seminar serves as an incubator for inspiring new research projects.

In the video below, this past year’s undergraduate fellows share their thoughts on the seminar experience and note how it gave them confidence as scholars, challenged their thinking, helped them refine their work, and provided them with a new sense of community.

A pair of “Meet the Fellows” webinars offer a tantalizing overview of the research emerging from the seminar and gives evidence of a commitment to make an impact on the world through interrogating history, literature, and more.

The fellows had a highly productive year, filled with accomplishments and recognition for their work.

All five undergraduate fellows graduated with honors. Kaitlan Bui ’22 served as an orator at the spring commencement, and in 2022–23, she will be a Fulbright Scholar (Vietnam). Jane Freiman ’22 was awarded a prize for distinction for her senior thesis. And Connor Jenkins ’22 was a corecipient for the John Thomas Memorial Award for the Best History Department Thesis.

The postdoctoral fellows shared their research through a number of publications, events, and other venues. They were also interviewed about their current projects and teaching by Morris Karp, Deans’ Faculty Fellow in the Humanities, for the institute’s blog, The Humanities in Practice:

2021–22 Fellows Seminar Roster

Cultivating new generations of humanities practitioners

Courses offered by the institute showcase the transformative power of interdisciplinarity and collaborative research practices and empower students to begin contributing new knowledge to their fields.

Courses for 2021–22 covered an impressive range of topics, including climate change, censorship in the arts, the Black gaze, the philosophy of biology, horror films, and disability. These speak to the extraordinary scope and vibrancy of new humanities research emerging from Brown.

2021–22 Course Catalog


Total courses offered in 2021–22


Collaborative Humanities Seminars


Courses taught by institute fellows


Departments represented

“ This class welcomed people from multiple disciplines and, together, we shared our individual disciplinary methods and got to learn from each other. ”

Student course evaluation for “Technologies of Memory”

Join us in supporting the humanities

The humanities make an essential contribution to a full understanding of our world. Through studying the written record, the arts, and the many other aspects of culture that shape who we are, the humanities provide a rich historical perspective, helping us to appreciate how we arrived at the present and to imagine possibilities for our future.

In the video below, Cogut Institute Undergraduate Fellow Connor Jenkins ’22 reflects on how the humanities make a difference in the world today.

You can help the Cogut Institute advance the research and teaching of humanities scholars at Brown. A gift in support of these priorities will contribute to growing the humanities faculty, extending financial support to scholars, and expanding our public programming:

To learn more about how your gift will make an impact, please contact Sarah Santos, Director of Development for Academic Initiatives, at or (401) 863-1894.

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