UIC Institute for the Humanities


Please see below for the list of 2017 Humanities Frontiers (formerly known as Cutting Edge Issues in the Humanities) workshops.

Spring 2017:

“The Logistical City"
February 7, 2017 from 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Organized by Clare Lyster, School of Architecture

We live in an era where global mobility and systems of flow have become central to how we work and live. We now think nothing of dropping a priority package in a drop box in Chicago at 9:30pm knowing it will arrive in L.A. by 7:30am the next morning. Talking in real time with a friend in a remote location via video-­‐telephony is taken for granted, using nanosecond transmission signals is fundamental in the financial industry, while ordering groceries with an app and having them delivered later the same day is the norm rather than the exception. Given there is so much material and information flow in and around the spaces we inhabit, one could argue that infrastructural systems and their associated procedures are now the primary shapers of the urban environment. Yet, there are few, if any, intellectual models in place for architecture to contemplate the city from this perspective, i.e., the city as a set of flows as opposed to an aggregate of figures: The Logistical City.

The one day workshop will review and discuss current research on the space of logistics (FedEx; Amazon; Uber; Netflix, among other freight and last mile delivery systems). It explores how logistics formats urban territory and projects how logistical intelligence can be deployed as a model toward the future design of cities in an era where flow has emerged as fundamental space in its own right.

“Early Modern Epistolary Culture”
Organized by Nina Dubin, Art History Department

In recent years, scholars across the humanities have brought new and critical attention to the subject of early modern epistolarity, and more specifically to the ways in which the growth of letter writing—with its attendant social, cultural and political implications—effectively changed the course of history. For decades, scholarship on this subject has been dominated by literary studies on eighteenth-century epistolary novels. What distinguishes the new wave of research is in part its focus on material practice: letters are not only texts but also objects—possessed of blotches of ink, signatures, folds and seals—whose histories often involve unintended readers, postal messengers, eventual inheritors, archivists, and others. The proposed workshop would gather the key authors of recent scholarship along with scholars working on epistolarity from a variety of disciplines and at various stages of research.

This growing body of scholarship attests as well to a new emphasis on the visual. Though paintings by the likes of Vermeer and Fragonard of women sending and receiving love letters attest to the aesthetic importance of epistolarity, only now has the subject begun to emerge as a “cutting edge issue” in art history.  Art historians will comprise about half of the workshop’s participants, thus providing a rare opportunity for researchers to consider epistolarity through the lens of the visual arts.


Fall 2017:

“Political Ecology as Practice: A Regional Approach to the Anthropocene”
Organized by Ömür Harmanşah, Art History
Molly Doane, Department of Anthropology

Day 1

Day 2

This workshop will investigate the reciprocal relationship and the disjunction between the metropolitan theories of the Anthropocene, climate change, and the global environmental crisis on the one side; and the experience of local ecological conflicts in various micro-regions around the world, on the other. The central research question to be collectively addressed will be whether the current vibrant theories of the academic/metropolitan center derive from or get inspired by the multiplicity of regional ecological conflicts experienced today. Conversely we ask, in what particular ways, these theories impact various human communities in their relationship to their land, its resources, biodiversity, and heritage. The workshop will invite participants to discuss global theories of the Anthropocene and its new ontologies of time and materiality, while investigating their links to regional practices and discourses.

Critical Theory, Psychoanalysis and the Politics of the Archive in Spanish Cinema”
November 10, 2017 from 9am-5pm

Organized by Steven Marsh, Hispanic and Italian Studies

This workshop will to bring a group of leading scholars currently working on contemporary Spanish visual culture and particularly film to UIC. Its intention is, firstly, to discuss and debate questions of national cinema in an age of globalization. However, it also seeks to defend a theoretical approach to film at a moment when such approaches are under attack within the disciplinary framework of Hispanic Studies. Precisely at a moment in history when the status of the moving image – its indexical relation to reality is being questioned, is when a complex engagement with the materiality of film seems most necessary. The technological changes in the evolution of the filmic image – the so-called digital revolution – raise all kinds of philosophical and political issues regarding filmic representation.

Furthermore, Spain is a country still experiencing the painful and unresolved aftermath of the lengthy dictatorship that followed a brutal civil war. This in turn has led to intense debate around the question of the politics of memory, as expressed through national cinema. These debates have extended to an interrogation of the value of trauma theory and psychoanalysis in ways that establish a division between the psychic and the social, between subjective and shared experiences. In Archive Fever, Jacques Derrida argues that history, tradition and culture already depend on the way the archive is inhabited by specters. Consigned to the spectral, the archive is never only a place of remembering, but is equally oriented towards modes of forgetting. The archive does not catalog history as much as “write” it, an unconscious impression. The archive perpetuates authority and questions it, monumentalizes the past and reveals haunting traces of the past that carry a promise in an unpredictable future.

This workshop seeks to explore the validity of such approaches to Spanish cinema in the context of post-dictatorship Spain and the legacies of political violence that the country has inherited.

Confirmed participants:

Julián Gutiérrez-Albilla, U. of Southern California

Patricia Keller, Cornell University

Cristina Moreiras, University of Michigan

Camila Moreiras, New York University

Sarah Thomas, Brown University

Teresa Vilarós, Texas A & M University

Exact schedule will be posted.

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Institute for the Humanities (MC206)
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Chicago, IL 60607-7040

Phone (312) 996-6352   Fax (312) 996-2938
Email huminst@uic.edu

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