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HI Research Workshops 2008-2009

The Humanities Institute supports existing interdisciplinary reading groups in the humanities and encourages the formation of new groups.  Research Workshops include faculty and/or graduate students from diverse disciplines and focusing on a variety of topics.

  • Early Modern Research Workshop
    The Early Modern Reading Group offers a wide range of expertise and a variety of courses in the literature and culture of the Western world from 1500-1830, including intellectual history, historical studies of genres and authors, detailed readings of canonical and popular texts, and various topics in cultural studies. It is comprised of UB faculty in English, Comparative Literature, History, and Modern Languages, and supplemented by course offerings available through our membership in the Folger Shakespeare Library Institute.Adopting the term “early modern” signals a practice of a theoretically-grounded cultural studies, and interest in a number of historical phenomena that resist inclusion within earlier period designations: the complex literary and extra-literary debates over gender identity that permeate literature, politics, and family life; the emergence of a new public sphere of theater, print, literary culture, and the marketplace; literature’s role in constructing a myth of cultural identity for the emergent modern state; the way in which a new bourgeois semiotic and material economy created the novel (and vice versa); the transformation of scientific epistemology and practice; the transatlantic formation of radical political rhetorics and practices such as puritanism, republicanism, and jacobinism; the discursive practices by which the “Old World” redefined itself through the encounter with the “New World.”

    For more information, contact Amy Graves, RLL,

  • Empires and Diasporas (E&D)
    Housed in the Department of African-American Studies, E&D provides a forum for discussion of recent academic work examining the intersections and overlaps of two broad interdisciplinary fields of contemporary academic inquiry: imperial and colonial history, policy, and practice, and global migrations and the attendant transnational political and cultural movements that have emerged alongside these modern experiences of diaspora. E&D’s approach will be interdisciplinary and comparative but our main concern is on the status and role of what is referred to as the “Global South”– on the place of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America and the Caribbean – within discussions of empire and diaspora.For 2008-2009 year, E&D will begin with Vijay Prasad’s revisionist account of Third Worldism, The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (NY: The New Press, 2007) before turning to a classic of transnational solidarity – either Richard Wright’s The Color Curtain (1956) or the essays collected in W.E.B. DuBois on Asia: Crossing the Color Line, edited by Bill V. Mullen and Cathryn Watson (Baton Rouge: UP of Mississippi, 2005). In the winter semester, we will consider the lives and work of two figures – Claudia Jones and Audre Lorde – who stand at the crossroads of pan-Africanism and feminism. We will read the recently-published critical biographies of Jones and Lorde by, respectively, Carol Boyce Davies (Left of Marx: The Political Life of Black Communist Claudia Jones (Durham: Duke UP, 2008)) and Alexis De Veaux, (Warrior Poet: A Biography of Audre Lorde (NY: Norton, 2006)).

    In addition, in collaboration with the Transnational Critical Studies Workshop, E&D will also be inviting a number of guest speakers to UB.

    For more information contact Peter James Hudson, Department of African-American Studies,

  • Graduate Group in Cultural Studies (GGCS)
    The primary purpose of the GGCS is to draw together the community of cultural studies scholars across disciplines at UB and in the community. Membership includes faculty, staff, and students from approximately 15 UB departments. Our research engages a wide range of historical and contemporary theories and methods of cultural critique and practice, with a special interest in how those interventions contribute to contemporary shifts in redefining both culture and its study at the levels of the individual, the national, and the global.During fall 2008 the group will focus on the world oil economy. In coordination with workshops by visiting cultural studies scholar Dr. Imre Szeman, we will be investigating what he identifies as three prevalent strategies for grappling with today’s perceived crisis of power: “strategic realism, techno-utopianism, and eco-apocalypse.” Research materials will include: the Retort collective’s Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War and Dr. Szeman’s response to this work; Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil! and its film adaptation There Will Be Blood; and additional readings selected and presented by workshop participants. Weekly meetings will be on Mondays at 3:00 p.m. in 109 Clemens Hall.

    For more information contact Tim Bryant at

  • Philosophical Reading Group
    This semester the Philosophical Reading Group will meet on Fridays, from 3:00 to 5:00 , in Clemens 640.  Our text is Augustine’s CONFESSIONS.  Either the Chadwick translation ( Oxford , $8-10) or the more recent Gary Wills translation are recommended.  There is also, of course, the two volume Loeb Classical Library edition with English and Latin on facing pages.  This will run about $45-50 for the two volumes.The CONFESSIONS are divided into 13 books, with the longest, book 10, on memory, running about 42 pages.  Most are about 25-30.  There are a total of 14 Fridays in the semester, beginning 31 August and ending 7 December.  It is suggested that the group read one book per week and that they meet briefly, to assign the chapters, on the first Friday, 31 August.

    For more information, contact David Johnson at


  •  Research Workshop for Queer Theory
    “Queer theory” encompasses a heterogenous body of critical interrogations of identity and the normalizing technologies of power that, as an effect of their operation, pathologize other forms of sociality, subjectivity, embodiment and erotic proactice. This research workshop seeks to continue the production of robust critiques and renders queer theory itself as an object of critical inquiry.For more information, contact Steven Ruszczycky, English,


  • Reading Group on Cultural Studies of Space
    The Reading Group on Cultural Studies of Space brings together faculty and graduate students to discuss social theories of space, especially as concerns globalization and culture. The foundations of this Reading Group rest in intellectual curiosity and a desire to expand our understnading beyond the bounds of sometimes too narrowly defined academic discioplines, rather than in any institutional directive.For more information, contact Justin Read, RLL,
  • Time and Memory Research Workshop
    The Time and Memory Research Workshop brings together different conceptions of time and memory across the disciplines of socio-cultural anthropology, history, American Studies, and archaeology to stimulate interdisciplinary cross-fertilization.For more information, contact Peter Biehl, Anthropology,


  • Transnational Critical Studies Research Group
    The Transnational Critical Studies Research Group examines the effects of the mobility of people, technologies, ideas, capital, and commodities on contemporary societies, intellectual life, cultural and literary practices. It focuses on transcultural and diasporic experiences that exceed national, racial, religious, and linguistic boundaries.  Meeting every other Tuesday, the group is committed to both reading and research meetings.For more information, contact Arabella Lyon (,  Carine Mardorossian (, or Hershini Bhana Young (

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