New Perspectives on the Disciplines: Comparative Studies in Higher Education | April 28 & 29, 2006
The CHCI Annual Meeting at the University of Chicago | April 27-29, 2006
"The Fate of Disciplines" was at once the culmination of a three-year project on "New Perspectives on the Disciplines: Comparative Studies in Higher
Education" and the conference for the annual meeting of the Consortium of
Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI).
The last several decades have seen a great deal of change across the disciplines.
In the life sciences, changes in practices and concepts have, in many cases,
resulted in some quite radical transformations, including the substitution of new
disciplines for old. In the humanities and human sciences, where change has
been less dramatic but nonetheless far-reaching, universities have tended to
respond by addition rather than by transformation and substitution. These additions typically take the form of non-departmental units such as centers,
workshops, and institutes. Often these units are called "interdisciplinary." The
humanities institute movement might itself be seen as evidence of how the
problem of disciplinary change has been addressed on the humanities side of
the research university.
The era of interdisciplinarity, however, has had its problems. The proliferation
of units in itself is a problem, both intellectually and administratively. Further,
the rule of interdisciplinarity depends to a large degree on an ill-defined notion
of what a discipline is in the first place. And insofar as it offers an idea of the
disciplines, it tends to represent them as largely static and atomic, rather than
in themselves comprising a dynamic system, a changing set of relationships.
What might follow if the disciplines were conceived relationally, and
disciplinary transformation a function of changed relationships? In such a case,
might not universities wish to find appropriately flexible forms of disciplinary
institutionalization, a course that did not commit them to the existing tendency
to proliferate more and more new units?
Though this conference is not limited to these questions, they do constitute
some of the intellectual motivation for undertaking it. The five panels of the
conference offer as many chances to develop good answers to these questions.
The first does so by attacking head-on the question of definition: what is a
discipline? The second and third panels offer pairings of older and newer
disciplines that stand in some significant relation to each other: Philology and
Cinema-Media Studies; Religious Studies and Science Studies. We look at these
disciplines in themselves and, by way of specially invited commentators, in
relation to each other. The penultimate panel looks at the ensemble of
disciplines in systematic terms. The final panel, by way of an art installation
commissioned for the conference itself, takes up a question, more and more
insistent in recent years, as to the relation of the disciplines and the practice of
the fine arts.
- Introduction / James Chandler
- Welcome / President Don Michael Randel
- What is a Discipline? / Robert Post
- What is a Discipline? / Judith Butler
- What is a Discipline? / Moderator: Dipesh Chakrabarty
- Cinema and Media Studies / Tom Gunning (NOT AVAILABLE)
- Cinema and Media Studies / Gertrud Koch
- Cinema and Media Studies / Moderator: Yuri Tsivian
- Philology Panel / Sheldon Pollock
- Philology Panel / François Hartog (NOT AVAILABLE)
- Philology Panel / Moderator: Richard Neer
- Commentary: Cinema-Media Studies & Philology / Miriam Hansen and Robert Pippin (Moderator)
- Science Studies / Mario Biagioli
- Science Studies / Lorraine Daston
- Science Studies / Moderator: Adrian Johns
- Religious Studies / Amy Hollywood
- Religious Studies / Saba Mahmood
- Religious Studies / Moderator: Bruce Lincoln
- Commentary: Science Studies & Religious Studies /
Rivka Feldhay and Arnold Davidson (Moderator)
- Commentary – Q&A: Science Studies & Religious Studies /
Rivka Feldhay and Arnold Davidson (Moderator)
- Disciplinary Systems & Economies / David Wellbery
- Disciplinary Systems & Economies / Marshall Sahlins (NOT AVAILABLE)
- Disciplinary Systems & Economies / Moderator: Lisa Wedeen
- The Disciplines and the Arts / Helen Mirra
- Also see: “Instance the determination”, an on-site installation by Helen Mirra, which appeared in buildings throughout campus from April 27, 2006 through June 2009.
- The Disciplines and the Arts / W.J.T. Mitchell
- The Disciplines and the Arts / Bill Brown
- The Disciplines and the Arts / Moderator: Laura Letinsky
- Concluding Remarks / James Chandler
Documents available for download:
"The humanities can never be pinned down. The term has almost always been used to distinguish the study of the human spirit in its implicit and expressed values."
Wayne C. Booth
Professor, English Language and Literature
Title page of Margarita Philosophica by Gregor Reisch (Freiburg: Johanne Schottus, 1504). Courtesy Special Collections Research Center of the Regenstein Library, The University of Chicago.