Histories of the Present
The theme of the Core Program as a whole is “Histories of the Present.” With this inquiry Core faculty and students explore the ways in which our contemporary self-understandings emerge from and express commitments and categories that are often taken as given—as so “natural” and “obvious” that they prevent us from thinking clearly about their complexities and ambiguities, and hinder us from seeing our world in other ways.
Core I I takes up this task through an examination of communities. Starting with the question “What is a community?” we look at both large imagined communities such as modern nation-states and religious groups and smaller, more intimate groups that we regularly label as a “community.” We ask: How are communities formed and transformed? What role does historical memory and forgetting play in the creation of community? How are communities at once inclusive and exclusionary? What role do performance and memory play in the formation and transformation of communities? And when are communities beneficial and when are they potentially harmful?
In this course, we examine the ways in which communities are created and transformed through political acts, religious practices, military intervention, cultural performances, social networks, and bonding. In conjunction with this, we critique the ways in which practices of overt and implicit exclusion along the lines of birth, class, race, gender, sexuality, ability, and religious beliefs limit the possibility of belonging. We explore the ways in which individuals and communities define and represent themselves in accordance with and in resistance to the dominant powers that often determine a community’s boundaries. We also explore how communities work in resistance to transform their own and others’ political, economic, and social condition.
Core II continues—with sharper focus and through an array of course offerings—the interdisciplinary investigations begun in Core I. Core II courses are taught by a faculty member with interdisciplinary research interests and may be team-taught by faculty whose complementary research interests make for fresh interdisciplinary dialogue.
Core III courses are small seminars designed to foster innovation and collaboration among students and faculty. The seminars involve considerable student participation and afford the opportunity to do more individualized, self-directed scholarship in association with a single faculty member working in her or his area of expertise from an interdisciplinary perspective. The work of the seminars culminates in a self-designed project exploring a particular topic through the lens of “histories of the present.”