Collaborative Research Seminar: Rethinking Futures (Fall 2024)

Mural Detail, 1929, Le Corbusier

In “Rethinking Futures,” five faculty members and twelve graduate students explore the future cross-culturally and across time, especially in light of the many existential threats now facing humanity, including environmental crisis, war, and democracy's sudden fragility. By exploring how the future has been imagined and figured in the past and is being imagined and figured now — across times and places, and through a wide variety of disciplines, prisms, and materials — we hope to provoke new imaginings of the future going forward. These prisms include environmental disaster and theories of catastrophe writ large; reparative anti-colonial visions of resource management; utopian visions of urban design; the nature and future of the human; the relationship between mourning and historical ruptures, and dark visions of the future in Japan and Africa.

Bringing together faculty involved in this variety of pursuits — literature, film, visual art, music, architectural history, landscape architecture and environmental planning, urban planning, geography, the history of science, technology, and philosophy — our group represents a wide range of disciplines as well as temporal and geographical coverage. The reach of the project will expand even further through the inclusion of outside visitors working with materials beyond our reach.

The seminar has the potential to create a community of teachers and students from across the university that is broader than what is normally found in such multi-disciplinary groups. We envision an unusually rich cross-fertilization that will deeply inform the work of faculty and students in the development of their research and teaching.


Participating Faculty:

Lilla Balint (German and Jewish Studies), Spaces of Experience and Horizons of Expectation

David Bates (Rhetoric), Human Origins and the Future of Thought

Danika Cooper (Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning), Returning Lands, Expanding Futures

Andrew Shanken (Architecture and American Studies), From the Radiant Future to the Flat Present

Alan Tansman (East Asian Languages & Cultures), “After this, nothing happened…”


Enrollment by Application

Admission to the seminar is by application. It will be made up of 12 graduate students and the five faculty organizers.

Interested students should write no more than a one-page letter indicating your interest in the course, what preparation you have, and how it fits with your ongoing interests. Send your letter to no later than August 15, 2024.

The seminar meets Fall 2024, Tuesdays, 2-5 pm. We plan on visits from several scholars/writers during the seminar; these will also include presentations outside the time of the seminar, which all participants are warmly (and strongly) encouraged to attend.