The Difficult Dialogues Faculty Development Seminars have brought together faculty members from across the College to discuss specific issues from across disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives. The contributions of the seminars were curricular, institutional and intellectual, as they supported the development of new curricular offerings at Barnard, made intellectual contributions to the College and to broader scholarly literatures, and helped to foster institutional changes that will allow for continued expansion of Barnard’s ability to foster engagement among faculty, students and broader communities.
Academic Year 2006-07: Religious Freedom and Academic Freedom
While religious advocates and academic scholars are often taken to be on opposing sides in controversies over the teaching of science, religious history and ethics, this seminar explored the inter-relations between religious freedom and academic freedom. Major contributions:
- “Religion Versus the Aacdemy,” a new course offered by Professor Randall Balmer and John Stratton Hawley that explores the proper aims of education in relation to those of religion, which have long been a matter of public debate, even as in recent years the intensity and terms of that debate have changed significantly.
- “Campus Religious Conflicts Should Go Public,” an essay in Academe, by Janet Jakobsen, exploring The ethos of public engagement encouraged by the version of religious freedom promoted in the U.S. Constitutions, which could also work in concert with (rather than opposition to) meanings of academic freedom that focus on free expression.
Academic Year 2007-08 Africana Gender Studies
Most contemporary conceptualizations of African diaspora have worked to develop more dynamic and nuanced understandings of diaspora and have noted the need for a consideration of gender, class, sexuality, and nation in the context of diaspora. This seminar addressed these questions by drawing together faculty who work on gender studies in the context of African, African American and Caribbean literatures and histories. Major contributions:
- The Africana Gender Studies Seminar supported institutional and curricular change in the form of a search for new senior faculty in the field. Over the years immediately following the seminar, the Africana Studies seminar hired three new faculty members: Tina Campt, Professor of Africana Studies and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies; Yvette Christiansë, Associate Professor of Africana Studies and English; and Celia Naylor, Associate Professor of Africana Studies and History.
- “Rewriting Dispersal: Africana Gender Studies,” Special Issue of Scholar & Feminist Online, Guest Editors, Christine Cynn and Kim F. Hall
Academic Year 2008-09 Ethnic Studies
A group of energized students at Barnard had been advocating for the institution of Ethnic Studies to become part of the formal Barnard curriculum. They had produced reports on Ethnic Studies and developed a student-led reading group. In 2008-09 Difficult Dialogues faculty seminar addressed the intellectual questions raised by their efforts. Major Contributions:
- The formation of the Consortium on Critical Interdisciplinary Studies and the Interdisciplinary Concentration and Minor on Race and Ethnicity. A subcommittee of the faculty seminar formed to focus on the creation of a possible Concentration on Race and Ethnicity at Barnard, and proposed that Barnard develop a consortium amongst Africana Studies, American Studies and Women’s Studies to support the concentrated study of race and ethnicity on campus. The subcommittee continued to meet through the 2009-10 academic year and in spring 2010 officially formed the Consortium, which will offer both an interdisciplinary concentration on race and ethnicity, (ICORE), for majors in these fields, and an interdisciplinary minor on Race and Ethnicity (MORE), for majors in other fields.
- The Consortium also wrote a follow-up grant, which was funded by the Mellon Foundation and which will support a faculty seminar to explore the history of contemporary ideas about race and ethnicity. “Questioning Modern Identity: Empire, Diaspora and Alternative Genealogical Coordinates” will continue the work of this aspect of the Difficult Dialogues grant over a two-year period, beginning in Fall 2010.
Academic Year 2009-10 Inequality in New York City
Barnard’s location in New York City is a central part of life at the College offering Barnard students access to a diverse range of intellectual opportunities. Although New York is a global city, connected through migration, commerce and culture to every area of the world, the city is also the site of immense inequality between rich and poor. According to the New York Time, in 2008, even as New York City’s poverty rate declined slightly, the gap between rich and poor grew. This seminar explored the relationship between empirical reasoning as a means of understanding and assessing inequality. Major Contributions:
- Barnard wrote a follow-up grant to the Mellon Foundation to enable the College to expand its offerings in empirical reasoning.
- As the differential effects on men and women of the recent recession show, inequality is linked to a range of other social differences including gender and sexuality. Because gender and sexuality were the differences least frequently addressed by the national Difficult Dialogues Initiative, Barnard extended its grant in order to produce two studies on gender, sexuality and inequality, published by the Barnard Center for Research on Women in its New Feminist Solutions series: New Feminist Solutions 5: “Valuing Domestic Work,” on the struggle for domestic workers’ labor rights in New York state, and New Feminist Solutions 7: “Desiring Change,” on community organizing on behalf of gender, sexuality and economic justice.