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Sawyer Seminar at the University of Chicago, 2011-2012
Around 1948: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Global Transformation

This Seminar is sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

square Archive
Visit the project's archive here. This archive includes audio-recordings of events, along with the year's program, information about speakers, and related courses.

square News Articles
For news articles about this Sawyer Seminar, please see:
- UChicago News (10/13/11)
- UChicago Tableau (Spring 2012)

The aim of this Sawyer Seminar is to look at the remarkable historical moment ‘around 1948’ across a range of international locations and from the point of view of several disciplines.  The significance of the seminar consists in the effort to identify, clarify, and compare the shape and form of the novel alignments and institutions to emerge in the wake of 1948.  We wish to avoid the grip of a Cold War teleology – to take seriously the absence of a cold war logic, which was only emergent in 1948.  

The transformations under consideration in the seminar will be both political and cultural.  Much of the political world in which we live took shape around 1948; for worse or for better, this shape might have been otherwise.  There were profound changes in culture, both within countries and around the world.  Even as the new world was taking shape, media were developing to represent it to itself, and this too is an important part of what we wish to address. The situation of intellectuals was different in every country, but over all there was a sense of a caesura, a point of no return. 

We are aiming for both synthetic and synchronic analyses, which allow us to put seemingly unlike developments in the same field of inquiry.  Disparate moments in culture, society, and politics, we suggest, amounted to a historical turning point, a fundamental transformation the effects of which remain central to our understandings of citizenship, art, and obligation to this day.  Rather than neglecting the immediate post-war years as a distinct historical moment, we seek to reveal and analyze little-noticed (or undiscovered) connections and exchanges between events and developments that are proximate in time. 

Autumn 2011, Crisis of Representation
Both aesthetic and political, the culture of representation encompasses formal experiments across the arts and their institutions and political innovations across institutions seeking to represent new subjects and concerns. Read more >>

Winter 2012, Traumatic cosmopolitanism
To both deepen and broaden the meaning of cosmopolitanism, we will place the study of small communities of elective affiliation in dialogue with large-scale movements of people both voluntary and coerced. Read more >>

Spring 2012, Recuperating the aspirational
In an era notable for its pessimism and rejection of utopian thinking, there were projects that succeeded.  Even those that did not were motivated by strong ideals.  Yet those ideals contained both constructive visions and the legacy of loss. Read more >>

The Sawyer Steering Committee is pleased to announce the three Sawyer Fellowship awards for 2011-12:

Sawyer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Dimitris Kousouris
is the Sawyer Postdoctoral Fellow.  Dr. Kousouris received his Ph.D. in History from the Ecoles des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.  His research is on "Transnational and Comparative Aspects of Legal Purges of Wartime Collaborators in Europe (1944-early 1950's)."

Sawyer Dissertation-Year Fellowships

Arvind Elangovan, a Doctoral Candidate in the History Department at the University of Chicago, will pursue his dissertation work on "A Civil Servant's Adieu to a Nation: Sir Benegal Narsing Rau and the Making of Postcolonial India, 1935-53."

Martha Sprigge, a Doctoral Candidate in the Music Department at the University of Chicago, will pursue her dissertation work on "Abilities to Mourn: Musical Commemoration in the German Democratic Republic (1945-1989)"

For more information, please write to

The Franke Institute for the Humanities | 1100 East 57th Street, JRL S-118 | Chicago, Illinois 60637 | 773-702-8274