The Imminent Questions Speaker Series hosts accomplished scholars confronting debates at the forefront of scholarly research in the humanities. As a result of bringing to campus a distinguished scholar to discuss how the humanities can help us address the pressing issues of our time, the Center facilitates cross-disciplinary conversations among many departments and organizations. While the speaker gives one main lecture, the speaker’s campus visit includes various days in order to engage with faculty and graduate students from various departments in more informal settings as well.

Past Speakers:

2015-2016: Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Director of the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, “The Long Arm of the Past: State Violence and the Enduring Logic of Mass Criminalization” (2016)

Dr. Muhammad is the author of The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America, published by Harvard University Press. The Condemnation of Blackness won the American Studies Association John Hope Franklin Publication Prize, which is awarded annually to the best published book in American studies. The book is notable for its lengthy discussion of the role of the social sciences – and of black and white social scientists – in shaping and sanctifying racial “data,” with terrible consequences for African Americans.

Watch the lecture online here.

2014-2015: Dr. Tim Ingold, Chair in Social Anthropology at University of Aberdeen “The Creativity of Undergoing” (2014)

Creativity is often portrayed as an X-factor that accounts for the spontaneous generation of the absolutely new. Yet the obsession with novelty implies a focus on final products and a retrospective attribution of their forms to unprecedented ideas in the minds of individuals, at the expense of any recognition of the form-generating potentials of the relations and processes in which persons and things are made and grown. Ingold shows that the wellsprings of creativity lie not inside people’s heads, but in their attending upon a world in formation. In opening to the unknown – in exposure – imagination leads not by mastery but by submission. Thus the creativity of undergoing, of action without agency, is that of life itself.

2013-2014: Dr. Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Director of Scholarly Communication, Modern Language Association “The Humanities in and for the Digital Age” (2013)

How can digital tools help us to foster open and civil academic exchange? Dr. Kathleen Fitzpatrick demonstrated how humanities scholars are using digital platforms to conduct open review and open publishing of academic work. Venues such as MediaCommons Press host crowd reviews of forthcoming books and reports, including Fitzgerald’s book, Planned Obsolecence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy. This talk challenged audience members to consider how digital technologies can aid us in rethinking how we evaluate scholarship, from blind peer review to the tenure review process.

Watch the lecture online here.

2012-2013: Dr. Stuart Shieber, Faculty Director of Office for Scholarly Communication, Harvard University “Publishing in Distress in the Sciences and Humanities: Two Problems in Scholarly Communication and How to Solve Them” (2012)

How can we solve the publishing crisis by making knowledge free and open to all? Dr Stuart Shieber made a cogent case for the value of Open Access—making scholarly information available to all free of charge—as part of the solution to the current publishing distress in academia. His experience in developing Harvard University’s open-access policies contributed to discussions at UC San Diego about the accessibility of scholarly information and the implementation of new infrastructures that encourage open access publishing.