Columbia University

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

2018-19 Global Humanities Project Grants and Columbia-PSL Collaboration Grants


Columbia University and Paris Sciences & Lettres (PSL) have been working together on a variety of projects and exchanges, including research, seminars, and conferences in both Paris and New York, and short-term faculty visits. The Columbia-PSL Collaboration brings Columbia faculty into contact with some of France’s most prestigious and internationally respected academic and research institutions.  Congratulations to the Columbia faculty members and their partners at PSL who will be continuing the collaboration in 2018-19:

  • Barbara Faedda (Italian) - Heritage Practices and Critical Fashion Theories
    Heritage Practices and Critical Fashion Theories will present a pair of conferences—the first at Columbia’s Italian Academy and the second in Paris at EHESS (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales).
    The first conference (which is part of the Italian Academy’s “International Observatory for Cultural Heritage”) will investigate the ways that the fashion world engages cultural heritage at all levels: creative, philanthropic, and promotional. The second conference will focus on how certain cities manage to establish themselves as hubs of global elegance, with a gathering of fashion historians.
    Topics to be addressed are: How should we approach the construction of value in the fashion sector? What role does heritage play in this process? How does contemporary art stimulate the creativity of fashion entrepreneurs? What is the prestige of a great brand or an iconic object? How does a city succeed in asserting itself as a "hub" for elegance on a global scale? When the enhancement of artisanal traditions has been part of a conservative ideology, how do private groups reflect on this today? How can we think of the relationship between the gradual de-industrialization of Europe (since the 1980s) and the subsequent museumification of Europe? How can we address the rise of luxury in a context of growing worldwide inequalities?

  • Jack Halberstam (English and Comp Lit, IRWGS) - Queer Theory: Here, Now, Everywhere
    The Queer Conference in Paris will consider the place of sexuality and gender in both the spread of global capitalism and right-wing populism and in the activist and aesthetic responses to these new forms of authoritarianism. For example, while we sometimes find white gays and lesbians at the forefront of anti-Muslim groups articulating a fear of religious homophobia (this happened in the Netherlands), we often also find that improvised queer anarchist groups lead the charge against state violence (this happened in Turkey). This group at Columbia University, in conversation with other key centers and organizations, will attempt to map a set of potential futures for queer studies, queer politics, queer art and queer activism. 

  • Holger Klein (AHAR) - Temple - Synagogue - Church - Mosque: Connections, Interactions, and the Politics of Conversion
    The goal of this joint research project is to increase our knowledge of the three monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—through a comparative study and analysis of their spaces of worship across a broad chronological and geographical spectrum, tracing the evolution of sacred buildings through an investigation of their similarities and differences in a dynamic and hitherto unprecedented manner from the Eastern Mediterranean to the New World.  Studying the dissemination and cross-pollination of architectural and ornamental forms will help to strengthen our knowledge of processes of migration of prototypes and techniques.
    The project will include a conference on Columbia University’s Morningside campus, entitled “Religious Architecture and the Politics of Conversion between the Ancient Mediterranean and the New World.” Scholars from different disciplines including Anthropology, Art History, Archaeology, Architectural History, History, Sociology, Urban Studies, will be asked present on a single monument or site, with room for ample discussion. We hope such an approach will allow for wide disciplinary cross-pollination and conversations across the narrow confines of individual departments and fields.

  • John Ma (Classics) - Ways of Seeing II: Anthropology and Aesthetics of Arms and Armor
    As a continuation of the interdisciplinary, cross-regional PSL-CU collaboration of 2017 (Ways of Seeing, Ways of Reading), this project prolongs and enlarges the interest of a group of scholars in materiality, media, message and image in historical contexts. Our focus, during this second round is on "The aesthetics and anthropology of arms and armor," in a comparatist perspective. We will look at these artifacts from a number of angles (image; writing; impact and interpretation; social meanings; technology and function) and in a number of contexts (ancient near-east; "classical" Mediterranean; ancient East Asia; early modern Europe; reception). The project will culminate in a conference in New York.  The outcome, as in the case of the 2017, will be the publication of the conference papers in the Harvard journal RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, the development of cross-disciplinary interactions, and the vital fostering of graduate performance in international contexts of interdisciplinary collaboration.

  • Ana Maria Ochoa (Classics) - Musical Displacements, Economic Dispossession, and Climate Change
    This project proposes to unsettle the very notion of the concept of migration comparatively via musical and other sonorous practices by getting into conversation experiences of forced migration from Europe and the Americas.  This is about constructing a comparative project that questions assumptions about the way music functions in different modes of forced displacement and forced migration in today's world and including different practices and modes of displacement. We are especially concerned about the link between extractivism (including intellectual property rights and music), displacement, political violence, colonialism and climate change (or dispossession of lands due to extractivism) on one hand, and the making of music in migrant camps in France, Burkina Fasso and Lebanon on the other one.
    The first seminar will be held in Bayonne as part of the "Haizebegi, worlds of music" festival.  The second will be held in New York, with a concert prepared by the PhD students involved in the project.

  • David Rosner (History) - Crime Without Punishment: A transnational historical inquiry into how and why worker death is overlooked by penal justice
    In most civil societies, the act of intentionally exposing someone to a known poison is categorized as a crime, and treated as such by the police and justice system. But, in practice, if it happens on the workplace, during work hours and/or in relation to a certain task, it is rarely considered as such. In the American context, industrial diseases such as asbestos-related cancers or silicosis are handled as unforeseen events, and if they reach the courts at all are handled through the civil courts. In Europe, the situation is somewhat different. In the absence of a robust civil court system, workers’ deaths from exposures on the job rarely reach the court - but when they do, they are prosecuted as criminal acts.
    This coming year David Rosner (Professor of History and Sociomedical Sciences) and Gerald Markopwitz (Adjunct Professor, SMS) will join together with Pascal Marichalar (Centre national de la recherche scientifique) to seek to explore the international import of a question first raised by Rosner in a 1998 paper published in the American Journal of Public Health entitled “When Does a Workers’ Death Become Murder?” They will have joint work sessions – one in Paris in the Fall and the other in New York in the Spring – to complete a series of papers comparing European and American experiences with death on the job.

  • Achille Varzi (Philosophy) - Map Semantics
    Although maps are ubiquitous representational devices, are successfully used by millions of people each day, and are constantly redesigned and improved upon, the formal study of their semantics has been barely broached. How do maps refer to the world they represent? How do they represent what they refer to? Can maps misrepresent things, can they possibly lie? Are maps compositional? Do they have a syntax that is coordinated with their semantics? Can maps support ambiguity and other typical features of the semantics of natural languages?
    Workshops on Map Semantics at both Columbia and IJN aim to promote a constructive discussion of such issues and, hopefully, the identification of suitably general framework within which they can be fruitfully addressed. 

  • Jesus Velasco (LAIC) - Writing of the Archives III: The Poetics of the Archives
    For this meeting, we will be working with the fluidity in the definition and description of "archive" in order to concentrate on the poetics of the archive; that is, the processes of fabrication of the archive in different disciplines and for different purposes. What are the challenges of the fabrication of specific archives when confronted with other disciplines? What kind of juridical work does the poetics of the archive? How does the poetics of the archive control forms of recording, replication, copy, or transmission?

  • Konstantina Zanou (Italian) - Transnational Intellectual History in Europe and the Mediterranean (18th-20th Centuries)
    Transnational Intellectual History in Europe and the Mediterranean (18th-20th Centuries) will bring together faculty members from Columbia and École Normale Superieure who already coordinate well-established seminar series at their respective institutions: the "Italian and Mediterranean Colloquium" (Columbia, co-organized by K. Zanou) and the "L'histoire transnationale et globale. Actualités de la recherche" (ENS, co-organized by B. Wilfert-Portal).  Through a series of lectures, graduate classes, and a final workshop involving graduate students, this project will forge links between scholars in these two environments and set up the conditions for a long-term relationship of exchange in matters of research and educational practice in the field of transnational and global history. Ultimately, the vision of this project is to forge collaboration between graduate students at the two institutions who share common research interests and career concerns.

The Global Humanities Projects Grants support projects that engage collaboratively with scholars outside of the United States, with a focus on any topic that brings together flows of knowledge from two or more different world areas, and investigates issues through a prism of global interconnectedness.  Congratulations to all of the winners of the 2018-19 Global Humanities Projects Grants:  

  • Alessandra Ciucci (Music) - Music and Sound at the Mediterranean Crossroads
    In recent years, studies about the construction of the sea as a concept have emphasized its centrality to the human saga and, consequently, the need to recognize the many ways in which people understand and relate to the sea. One significant way in which it is possible to discuss the centrality of the Mediterranean is through music and sound.  Music and Sound at the Mediterranean Crossroads seeks to explore how music and sound have shaped and continue to shape particular notions about a complex transnational "aquacentric" space in which different modes of performing and listening to the Mediterranean coexist, interact, accrete onto one another, exercise or contest power, come into conflict with one another, help to shape hybridity and forge new identities.
    The symposium, held in the city of Essaouira - itself characterized as a historical crossroads of cultures, languages and religious traditions, and a center at the intersection of Africa, the Atlantic, and the Mediterranean - asks participants to re-think the role of music and sound in the contemporary and historic  formations of this sea and to explore relationships, entanglements, experiences and interactions between Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the Atlantic Ocean, in the Mediterranean.

  • Kevin Fellezs (Music) - What's Up, A-Pop?: Re-Thinking the Relationships Between / Among Asian and Asian American Popular Music Cultures
    A two-day symposium at the Columbia Global Center in Beijing will bring together some of the leading scholars of Asian and Asian American popular music studies from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and the United States to discuss issues raised by studying the various relationships between and among Asian and Asian American popular music cultures in relationship to one another.  Popular music studies tend to be either nation- or genre-bound.  For its part, Asian American popular music studies still wrestles with defining and circumscribing Asian American popular music culture.  The symposium participants seek to initiate new conversations and new ways of thinking and writing about Asian and Asian American popular music cultures by re-orienting scholarship to the relationships between and among Asian and Asian American musicians, audiences, aesthetics, and taste formations. 

  • Valentina Izmirlieva (Slavic) - Displacement and Display: The Ongoing Revolutions of Ilia Zdanevich
    Displacement and Display: The Ongoing Revolutions of Ilia Zdanevich (1894-1975) focuses on the life, work, and reception of the Georgian-born Russian avant-garde propagandist and poet who, under the name Iliazd, spectacularly remade the phenomenon of livre d’artiste in mid-century Paris and engaged the major visual artists of his time.  The stateless Zdanevich, keenly attuned to the contingencies of his own existence at society’s margins, has subsequently been a "disciplinary refugee," sitting just outside the frame of any particular discipline’s ideally constituted object.  An international workshop to be held at Columbia Global Centers / Paris will provide an opportunity to illuminate disciplinary, political, and institutional factors that influence the way such transnational figures are studied and how they challenge us to deploy new configurations of the institutions and practices that support research in the humanities.  We also plan archival exhibitions in New York and Paris, accompanied in New York by readings from Zdanevich’s poetry and fiction and premier performances of his Futurist beyonsense dramas. This project grows from the PGIF initiative Black Sea Networks and contributes to its research stream on the transit of refugees through the Black Sea and Istanbul after the Russian Civil War.

  • Holger Klein (AHAR) - Parallel Heritages, Humanities in Action 
    Focusing on the origin, development, and present state of university collections of Classical antiquities at Columbia University in New York and the Université Paris I - Panthéon-Sorbonne, Parallel Heritages, Humanities in Action: The Sorbonne and Columbia Collections of Antiquities aims to provide insights into how these important university collections are and have been used to teach and stimulate interest in the Humanities. It will create a comprehensive inventory of these two important university collections, a detailed tracing of their genesis and history, and an exploitation of their value for the benefit of the respective university and city.
    The project will bring together faculty members and PhD students from the departments of Art History and Archaeology at Université Paris I, Panthéon-Sorbonne and Columbia University to conduct two weeklong research seminars on the history of their respective university collection in New York and Paris. The creation of a project website and the publication of essays and blogs via the online monthly journal EuropeNow will give permanence to the results of the research seminars, present the history of each collection to the wider public, and provide a platform for ongoing research and exchange.

  • Debashree Mukherjee (MESAAS), Ying Qian (EALAC), and Brian Larkin (Anthropology) Thinking the Ecological in Media Studies 
    This project conceives of “ecology” as methodology as well as material reality, both fundamentally predicated on the specificities of time and place. With India, China, and Nigeria as their primary sites of study, the lead faculty hope to initiate a broad conversation on campus on the ways in which media condition our sensory environments, the ecologies of media labor and production, and the urgent need to think with “other” media from “other” places.

  • Joseph Slaughter (English) - Literature and International Law at the Edge 
    The histories of modern literary studies and international law are, like those of many academic disciplines, entwined with the global history of European imperialism. Although there is an emergent interdisciplinary field of comparative literature and international law that is concerned with questions of imperialism, much of the scholarship remains entrenched in the traditional prejudices of its contributing disciplines. This collaborative project, Literature and International Law at the Edge, will challenge many of the Eurocentric assumptions that have so far characterized the emerging conversation by putting the Global South at the center of our interdisciplinary inquiry of literary and legal world-making.


  • Sarah bin Tyeer (MESAAS) and Claire Gallien (University Paul Valéry Montpellier 3 / Heyman Center, Fall '17) - Conceptions and Configurations of the Arabic Literary Canon
    This project endeavors to look at the conceptions and configurations of the Arabic literary canon as it was conceived by pre-modern Arab scholars, later reconfigured by early-modern orientalist scholars in Europe, and engaged with by modern and contemporary Arab writers, whether in Arabic or in English in order to understand how the Arabic literary canon was conceptualized across space and time, periods and languages. 

  • Gareth Williams (Classics) - Ovid and the Latin Classics in Chinese

    The Latin language is now taught more widely in China, and that development has led to a growing interest in the comparative study of certain literary forms, narrative poetry, erotic writing, and the poetics of loss (e.g., exile, bereavement, illness) prominent among them. A five-day event entitled Ovid and the Latin Classics in Chinese at the Columbia Global Center in Beijing will bring together both Chinese and western scholars to define and discuss the challenges that arise in trying to translate canonical Latin works into Chinese, and to identify strategies to overcome major conceptual obstacles such as the difficulty of rendering from Latin certain ideas and verbal conceits that find no close or even approximate parallel for articulation in Chinese. These issues are of course relevant not solely to Ovid but also to translating the Roman canon more generally.