When we refer to “the international scientific community,” what do we mean? In this Scholar-to-Scholar talk, Lorraine Daston (NHC Fellow 2021–22) discusses how scientists began developing international collaborations and organizations in the latter half of the nineteenth century—the era of globe-spanning empire, telegraph networks, steamship lines, and world expositions. This international scientific governance has endured—and has created binding agreements that survived wars, revolutions, decolonization, and radical shifts in research agendas over more than a century.
What are the reasonable boundaries and expectations that students should expect from their mentors? And what obligations are owed to those who share their knowledge and experience? Looking at traditions from the ancient world to the modern era, these three scholars will discuss the nature of mentorship in different cultural contexts and how the concept of mentorship continues to resonate in contemporary classrooms.
Catherine M. Cole reveals how the voices and visions of artists in South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo can help us see what otherwise evades perception from the injustices produced by apartheid and colonialism. Examining works by contemporary performing artists Brett Bailey, Faustin Linyekula, Gregory Maqoma, and others, Cole demonstrates how the arts are “helping to conjure, anticipate, and dream a world that is otherwise.”
Offering an expansive vision of what the United States should be, John McGowan combines the thinking of philosophers like John Dewey and William James with the ethos of comedy to imagine what American life could be like if we more fully embraced values such as love, forgiveness, and generosity that are too often left out of our political discourse.
Laura F. Edwards’s compelling book considers the sweeping transformation of American law produced in the wake of the Civil War. Through her analysis of constitutional amendments, Supreme Court decisions, and legal claims espoused by everyone from national politicians to everyday citizens, Edwards demonstrates how the notion of rights became so integral in post-Civil War America, especially in the lives of African Americans, women, and organized laborers.
Joy Connolly argues in her most recent book, The Life of Roman Republicanism that “Cicero, Sallust, and Horace inspire fresh thinking about central concerns of contemporary political thought and action” including the role conflict plays in the political community, the conditions needed to promote an equal and just society, citizens’ interdependence on one another for senses of selfhood, and the uses and dangers of self-sovereignty and fantasy.
February 3–24, 2021 | For centuries, the importance of civility to the health of republics has been widely recognized. Peaceful resolution of conflicts, open debate, and the nurturing of an engaged citizenry are essential to maintaining governments in which power is held by the people. Yet, civility remains elusive. The scholars in this series help us think about ways of encouraging, preserving, and restoring civility—through political and creative expression, in the courts, on the page, and on the screen—from the classical period to the modern era.
Reckoning with the centuries-long toll of treating African Americans as less than their fellow citizens is a challenging task, requiring us to consider not only what has been extracted from and denied the mistreated but the costs borne by all of us. Though these three scholars focus on different periods and places in this country's history with quite different sources, approaches, and questions, their work illuminates the myriad ways that racism and systemic injustice affect us all.
NHC Virtual Book Talk: The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America’s Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War
By awakening northerners to the true nature of slavery, and by enraging southerners who demanded the return of their human "property," fugitive slaves forced the nation to confront the truth about itself, and led inexorably to civil war. Andrew Delbanco's masterful examination of the fugitive slave story illuminates what brought us to war with ourselves and the terrible legacies of slavery that are with us still.
Since at least as far back as the expansion of the Vietnam War and the lies and coverups that brought down Richard Nixon, every presidency has further centralized and strengthened executive power, producing the political conditions for our present crisis. In American Breakdown, David Bromwich provides an essential analysis of the forces in play beneath the surface of our political system. His portraits of political leaders and overarching narrative bring to life the events and machinations that have led America to a collective breakdown.