Past Working Groups

Since 2002, the Humanities Institute has featured a variety of working groups:

Cultural Difference and Democracy

2003 - 2004
(led by Barry Shank [Comparative Studies], Nancy Ettlinger [Geography], and Tanya Erzen [Comparative Studies])
 
            This working group provides an opportunity for the comparative exchange of ideas and the production of new theoretical and empirical knowledge about the complex intertwinings of cultural difference and democracy. We intend to build on Ohio’s current status as both a bell weather state in national politics and a state where cultural differences have become the axes along which political alliances are built. But our interests extend well beyond the local and the national. Our goals include the development of innovative ways of investigating and understanding the values, beliefs, practices, institutions, processes, and relationships that enable and that are enabled by recognizably democratic politics. Among the topics we investigate are the relationships between concepts of citizenship and the state, the relationship between subjectivity and political desire, the role of rituals of communication and greeting in the structuring of public debate, the role of cultural legitimacy in the justification of political claims, the value of transparency in the dissemination of public information, relationships between economic practices and political assumptions, and substantialist versus proceduralist concepts of democracy.  

 

Cultures in Disputed Territory

2003 - 2004
(led by Amy Shuman [English], Ann Hamilton [Art], Galey Modan [English], and Michael Mercil [Art])
 
            The purpose of the workshop is to continue discussions initiated at the 2004 Annual Humanities Forum concerning concepts of home, land, security, democracy, citizenship, and civil liberties and continued by the working group convened by Dean Jacqueline Royster to respond to two documents, The National Security Strategy of the United States of America and the National Strategy for Homeland Security, representing the official U.S. position regarding national security.  This working group is an interdisciplinary initiative that will bring together national and international scholars together with Ohio State faculty to participate in projects dealing with political boundaries and culture, homeland security and international security, cultures in contention, and responsible citizenship.
 

Digital Media and the Core Intellectual Questions of the Liberal Arts

2003 - 2004
(led by Professors Lewis Ulman [English] and Daniel Boord [Theater]) 
 
            For an increasing number of faculty and students in the liberal arts, digital media are now the media of choice for academic inquiry and communication as well as artistic expression. In the process, an early emphasis on learning with digital media has necessarily evolved into a need for learning about digital media, from how to use increasingly sophisticated digital tools to how the use of those tools inevitably shapes research and learning (as does the use of earlier, analog media). As digital media increasingly merge words, numerical data, audio, images, and video on the screen (and in presentation media as yet unimagined), the intellectual and practical challenges they present also offer new opportunities for collaboration across traditional academic disciplines, which are often focused on a single medium—page, stage, canvas, or silver screen—and the creative, critical, and cultural traditions associated with them. This working group for the exchange of information and ideas involving the role of new media—in particular the production of new media—will address core intellectual questions of the liberal arts: "What can we know?" "How do we know?" "Who are we?" "Who have we been?" "What can we hope to become?" "What should we do?"
 

Endangered and Minority Languages and Cultures

2003 - 2004
(led by Professors Brian Joseph [Linguistics, Slavic and East European Languages and Literatures], Gregory Jusdanis [Greek and Latin]
 
            It is a commonplace observation these days that English has essentially become the lingua franca of the modern world. Similarly, on a slightly less broad scale, in numerous regions around the world, other languages are coming to dominate on a somewhat more localized basis, usually at the expense of other co-territorial languages, e.g. Spanish in South America or Mandarin in China. Moreover, this phenomenon is not an exclusively modern one, as the spread of Latin and Greek in ancient times demonstrates. One outcome of the spread of one language in an area is the loss or reduction of other languages, either altogether, thus endangering them, or relegating them to minority status, or both, though there are other paths to these outcomes. This working group seeks to explore the causes and consequences -- for the languages, the speakers, and the associated cultures involved -- of the processes of language endangerment and marginalization both in the present and in the past.

 

History Cartographic

2004 - 2005
 (led by Philip Brown [History]), Mei-po Kwan [Geography], Mansel Blackford (History), Cynthia Brokaw (History), and Christopher Reed (History)
            A recent revival of interest in cartographical and geographical dimensions of historical research presents an impressive array of opportunities and problems. Among cross-disciplinary applications, GIS, historical geography, and geographical history have served to link humanities, social science, and hard sciences; this proposed working group (now in its first year) seeks to address the links between history, cartography, and culture. Some areas of interest the group plans to explore are the importance of the rise of numerical thinking and the role of technology in colonization and 19th century imperialism, interest in ecological history and its close links to the geographical environment, and the development of post-structural perspective in geography.
 

Home/Land/Security

2004
(led by Amy Shuman [English], Ann Hamilton [Art], and Michael Mercil [Art])
       
The purpose of the workshop is to continue discussions initiated at the 2004 Annual Humanities Forum concerning concepts of home, land, security, democracy, citizenship, and civil liberties and continued by the working group convened by Dean Jacqueline Royster to respond to two documents, The National Security Strategy of the United States of America and the National Strategy for Homeland Security, representing the official U.S. position regarding national security. This working group is an interdisciplinary initiative that will bring together national and international scholars together with Ohio State faculty to participate in projects dealing with political boundaries and culture, homeland security and international security, cultures in contention, and responsible citizenship.
 

Literacy

2004 - 2006
(led by Harvey J. Graff [English and History], Marcia Farr [Education], Amy Shuman [Folklore and English], Beverly Moss [English], Mollie Blackburn [Education], and Kay Bea Jones [Architecture])
 
            As we clarify our usage and our reflections about literacy(ies), we not only hold the potential to improve our communications and abilities to collaborate but we also have a rare opportunity to reinvigorate teaching and learning. This working group (now in its second year) will establish a Literacy Workshop for a two-year run, from 2004-2006, with an aim of fostering a sense of collaboration among disciplinary clusters and their constituents from the social and natural sciences to the arts and humanities. Beginning in the humanities, the Workshop intends to foster a critical, cross-campus conversation and investigation into the nature of literacy and literacies, bringing historical, contextual, and critical perspective and modes of understanding together to stimulate new relationships institutionally and intellectually.

 

Local Worlds

2007-2011

Coordinated by Morgan Liu (Near Eastern Languages and Cultures) and Joel Wainwright (Geography)

The "Local Worlds" Working Group has been exploring the intersection of space, culture, and power since it began in Autumn 2007.  The group works to define local domains of practice, and considers how they are situated in wider structures of meaning and power.  Interdisciplinary discussions center on work in human geography, cultural anthropology, political science, critical theory, graphic novels, and linguistics, among others.  The format is intensive mutual engagement rather than traditional "talk."  The group operates on the premise that exciting things happen when interesting intellects gather in a convivial atmosphere.

Lusoglobe

2007-2011

Coordinated by Pedro Pereira (Spanish and Portuguese) and Antoinette Errante (School of Educational Policy and Leadership)

Portuguese is the language of 25 percent of Southern Hemisphere countries and 40 percent of the countries bordering the southern Atlantic rim region, around which eight metropolitan areas use Portuguese. The purpose of the working group is to enhance our understanding of cultural texts and dynamics that have resulted from the centuries-long networks of exchange among and beyond Portuguese-speaking regions in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. We are interested in what this inquiry can teach us about present-day cultural and political realities in the Lusophone world, as well as the role of Lusophone societies in the global milieu. Issues to be explored include domestic and transnational negotiations between “high” and “low” culture and the impact of audiovisual culture (e.g., music, television, cinema) and diverse forms of expressive culture (e.g., folklore and folklife, religious and ritual traditions, festival practices) on contemporary national and global politics, economic systems, and discourses of identity.

Migration, Transnationalism, and Border Politics

2008
(led by Jeffrey H. Cohen [Anthropology] and Ignacio Corona [Spanish and Portuguese])
 
            This working group fosters a dialogue between the social sciences and the humanities in the Colleges of the Arts and Sciences and invites participation from other units from the College of Agriculture and the Fisher School of Business with the goal of advancing interdisciplinary scholarship and research.  Certainly, globalization is responsible for much of current migratory trends as well as for destabilizing local identities and rearticulating them in new environments and contexts.  This working group integrates cultural, economic, social and humanistic perspectives in the discussion of transnationalism.  The interrelationship of these concepts articulates a continuum of social, cultural and political processes that contextualize the impact of transnationalism throughout the Americas.  Our dialogue invites comparative approaches and interregional studies throughout the Americas. In the Americas, as with the rest of the world, transnationalism accounts for numerous cultural processes relevant to interdisciplinary discussions.  Anthropologists focus on the movement of peoples and the cultural meaning and value of identity.  Cultural historians working with an expanded concept of Latin American recognize that in cinema and the arts entire bodies of individual or collective works are originated in such an experience of migration.  And the same occurs in literature, as can be exemplified by the contemporary Cuban American and the Puerto Rican literary canons, which are largely based on such a theme. Throughout the year we will focus on these topics and more, interrogating the meaning, value and validity of the concept of transnationalism for the arts, humanities and social sciences.

 

Music as a Biological Imperative

2006 - 2008
 
(led by Susan Fisher [Entomology] and Sebastian Knowles [English])
            The goal of this working group is to examine the hypothesis that music appreciation is rooted in our genes. If this is true, then various predictions emerge: 1) If music appreciation is encoded in our DNA, vestiges of musical competence should be found in other species; 2) aptitude for music should be found in early humans; 3) infants should show interest and understanding of music that does not involve learning if music is an essential part of our genetic heritage; 4) It should be possible to show how music is processed by the auditory system and explain the physiological reaction of people to music if music did, in fact, influence our survival.
 

Narrative and Cognition

2006 - 2009
 
(led by Frederick Aldama (English) and James Phelan (English)
           
            The aim of the working group is to explore how narrative shapes experiences of time (memory) and space (place), as well as how it informs our holographic capacity to determine our existence within time and space. The working group will grapple with how the mind and its stories inform our capacity to know and make sense of the world. The intersections among cognitive approaches to narrative with those of other approaches, both traditional and emerging, will be considered.
 

Pragmatics

2004 - 2005
(led by Craige Roberts [Linguistics], Donna Byron [Computer Information Science], and Scott Schwenter [Spanish and Portuguese])
 
            This working group aims to highlight the on-going interdisciplinary graduate study and research at OSU in the field of pragmatics, broadly construed as the study of how context affects language use and interpretation.  Pragmatics has ramifications not only for linguistic theory and the philosophy of language but also for interpersonal communication, language teaching, the computational implementation of natural language systems, and the study within psychology of how we produce and process speech.  Besides discussing current work at OSU, the group will host other top researchers doing work in pragmatics from the fields of artificial intelligence, linguistics and Spanish linguistics, philosophy, and psychology, from institutions elsewhere in the Americas and in Europe.

 

Public Sphere and Modern Social Imaginaries

2009-2011

Coordinated by Bernd Fischer (Germanic Languages and Literatures) and Alan Beyerchen (History)

The aim of this group's interdisciplinary research initiative is to explore the historical and contemporary significance of the public sphere and modern social imaginaries – the discourses, norms, and ideas shared by members of a given society. The motivation for such an investigation arises from the growing interdependence of different nations, regions, and communities that demands and generates new ways of political, legal, economic, strategic, and cultural forms of cooperation. What kind of public spaces facilitate and what kind of shared imaginaries support such cooperation and how do they emerge? What aspects in society hinder productive communication and interaction? Does productive social cooperation presuppose certain governmental, in particular democratic structures? Answering these and related questions will require the collaboration of a variety of disciplines, including, but not limited to social and political sciences, cultural theory, religious studies, philosophy, anthropology, economic theory, linguistics, history, art history, and education.

 

Religion and Violence

2002 - 2006
(led by Sarah Johnston [Greek and Latin], Fritz Graf [Greek and Latin], Hugh Urban [Comparative Studies], and Matthew Goldish [History])
 
            This working group will explore the propensity of religions of all types--ancient and modern, from all parts of the world--towards violence in the name of religion, both against members of other religions and against members of their own who are perceived as deviant. The group will address such issues as whether most religious systems have a natural, inherent tendency towards violence (and if not, what else might encourage violence); whether there are differences between monotheistic and polytheistic religions in this respect, or between religions that focus on belief and those that focus on practice; and how political systems could reinforce or diffuse religious tension and thereby religious violence. Visit the Web site of the program in Mediterranean Religions at http://omega.cohums.ohio-state.edu/gis/course_list.ph
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