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Panels and Workshops

Recent Panels and Workshops

Black and white image of an ivy-covered window of the University Club building
May 7, 2018 4:00 PM
Banquet Room, University Club Building (lower level)
Panel Discussion

What is irrelevance? What sort of research is irrelevant, in the humanities?  Is all scholarship relevant in the humanities?  Have you done research or teaching that you consider to be irrelevant? Have others?


  • Steven Hutchinson, Senior Fellow (Spanish and Portuguese, UW-Madison)
  • Kelsey Ihinger, Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow (Spanish and Portuguese, UW-Madison)
  • Su Fang Ng, Solmsen Fellow (Clifford A. Cutchins III Associate Professor of English, Virginia Tech)
  • Tomislav Longinović, Senior Fellow (German, Nordic, and Slavic and Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies, UW-Madison)
  • Michael G. Titelbaum, Resident Fellow (Philosophy, UW-Madison)

 Refreshments will be served at approximately 5:00 PM.

October 19, 2017 12:00 PM
212 University Club Building
Christina Sharpe
English, Tufts University
2017 Nellie Y. McKay Lecturer

In our changing climate, severe storms have become both aberrant and quotidian. Please join us for a conversation about “The Weather” and how the afterlife of slavery suffuses our present-day environment with Christina Sharpe, the 2017 Nellie Y. McKay Lecturer, and Cherene Sherrard-Johnson, IRH Senior Fellow. Light refreshments will be served, but feel free to bring along a bag lunch. RSVP to receive a copy of the relevant reading.

Christina Sharpe is Professor of English at Tufts University and the author of the award-winning In the Wake: On Blackness and Being and Monstrous Intimacies: Making Post-Slavery Subjects, both published by Duke University Press. Her research interests are in black visual culture, black diaspora studies, and feminist epistemologies, with a particular emphasis on black female subjectivity and black women artists. 

Cherene Sherrard-Johnson is the Sally Mead Hands-Bascom Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches nineteenth and twentieth century American and African American literature, cultural studies, and feminist theory.  Recent publications include: A Companion to the Harlem Renaissance (Wiley 2015), Dorothy West’s Paradise: A Biography of Class and Color, “Insubordinate Islands and Coastal Chaos: Pauline Hopkins Literary Land/Seascapes” in Archipelagic American Studies (Duke 2017), and Vixen, a debut poetry collection forthcoming September 2017 from Autumn House Press.

Low aerial image of the University Club Building at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
September 11, 2017 3:30 PM
Banquet Room, University Club Building (lower level)
Panel Discussion

Must the humanities be "relevant"? To what, or to whom? How have perspectives on these questions evolved since the heated debates of the 1960s and 1970s? Can research be "irrelevant," and if so, can it still be worth pursuing? Or, on the other hand, is all research in the humanities in some way relevant? Our six panelists will each speak for five minutes about the notion of relevance as it relates to their research and teaching, after which an hour will be devoted to general discussion.

All audience members are encouraged to propose approaches to this subject, and to reflect on their own experiences. Please feel free to bring up issues of “relevance” that you have faced in your own research and teaching.

Cindy I-Fen Cheng, Professor, History, UW-Madison (IRH Resident Faculty Fellow)
Ramzi Fawaz, Professor, English, UW-Madison (IRH Resident Faculty Fellow)
Stephen Kantrowitz, Professor, History, UW-Madison (IRH Senior Fellow)
Larry Shapiro, Professor, Philosophy, UW-Madison (IRH Senior Fellow)
Mali Skotheim, Research Associate, Classics, The Warburg Institute (IRH Solmsen Fellow)
Melissa Vise, Visiting Assistant Professor, Italian Studies, New York University (IRH Solmsen Fellow)

Refreshments will be available at 3:15 PM

May 8, 2017 3:00 PM
Banquet Room, University Club Building

Panelists are invited to reflect on the following questions; please come and share your ideas and memories on these as well:

How might your discipline or interdisciplinary research area contribute to the future direction of the Humanities? How has your discipline’s relationship to the Humanities changed over the last ten years? How has the Institute for Research in the Humanities enhanced your scholarly work or your understanding of your discipline? Do you have an IRH “ah-ha” or “eureka” moment to share? What role to you see for the IRH in the future of the Humanities?

Moderator: Steven Nadler, Philosophy

Panelists, UW-Madison:
Tejumola Olaniyan, English and African Languages and Literatures
Cindy I-Fen Cheng, History and Asian American Studies
Laurie Beth Clark, Art
Alex Dressler, Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies
Michael Titelbaum, Philosophy

Following the panel, we invite all attendees to take up these questions at their tables with discussion facilitators:

Jonathan Pollock (Honorary Fellow, Madison College), Robert Wolensky (UW System Fellow, UW-Stevens Point), Max Harris (Honorary Fellow, IRH), Tina Chronopoulos (Solmsen Fellow, SUNY Binghamton), Jennifer Row, (Solmsen Fellow, Boston University), Nevine El-Nossery (Resident Fellow, UW-Madison) and Andrew Zolides (Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow, UW-Madison).

Closing remarks: Associate Dean Sue Zaeske, College of Letters and Science

October 10, 2016 12:00 PM
Banquet Room, University Club (lower level)
Publication Workshop
Ken Wissoker
Editorial Director, Duke University Press

PLEASE NOTE: this workshop is open to graduate students, faculty, and academic staff. Registration is required: The reservation deadline is 12:00pm on Wednesday, October 5.

Join us for a discussion of the state of academic publishing in the humanities and the process of working with a university press—from project to proposal to publication. The workshop will include a presentation from Ken Wissoker (Duke University Press and CUNY), who will talk about writing first and subsequent scholarly books at a time of significant changes in the academy, in publishing, and in the ways ideas circulate. Moderated by Susan Stanford Friedman.

Sponsored by the UW-Madison Institute for Research in the Humanities and Center for the Humanities. Space is limited. Registration is required. RSVP to

Ken Wissoker is the Editorial Director of Duke University Press, acquiring books in anthropology, cultural studies and social theory; globalization and post-colonial theory; Asian, African, and American studies; music, film and television; race, gender and sexuality; science studies; and other areas in the humanities, social sciences, media, and the arts. He joined the Press as an Acquisitions Editor in 1991; became Editor-in-Chief in 1997; and was named Editorial Director in 2005. In 2014, in addition to his duties at the Press, he became Director of Intellectual Publics at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City. He has published more than 900 books which have won over 100 prizes, and has contributed to the Cinema JournalChronicle of Higher Education, and Prof. Hacker.

Moderated by Susan Stanford Friedman, Director of the Institute for Research in the Humanities, Hilldale Professor in the Humanities, and Virginia Woolf Professor of English and Gender & Women’s Studies at UW-Madison. Her most recent book is Planetary Modernisms: Provocations on Modernity Across Time from Columbia University Press in August 2015.

September 12, 2016 3:00 PM
Banquet Room University Club Building (lower level)
Panel Discussion

What are the meanings of “agency” in various disciplines and interdisciplines of the humanities? To what extent is it theorized or assumed? Does agency mean the freedom to act? To think? To feel? Is agency individual or collective? Does agency imply autonomy? How does agency relate to structure? Institutions? Oppression? Political Activism? Subjectivity? Identity? Emotion? Morality? Religion? How does agency relate to victims, torture, human rights? Is agency inherent in all forms of creativity? Is agency exclusively “human”? Do (non-human) animals have agency? Plants? Microbes? Do machines have agency? (Remember, “Open the pod door, Hal,” from 2001!)?

“Agency” means something quite different across cultures, including the different academic cultures of the humanities and interpretative social sciences. Agency is also often hotly debated in such fields as feminist theory, race theory, and poststructuralist theory. Is “agency” a product of Enlightenment thought, a keystone of “liberalism”? Or do different cultures and times produce varying notions of individual and/or communal agency? Within the framework of a Foucauldian discourse theory, agency appears as a fiction; within the framework of social movement theory, agency is foundational for change. How do we negotiate the different meanings of agency in our fields and disciplines?

Ask yourself: in your own research, do you assume some form of agency to be at work in what you study? If so, what do you mean by it?  Panelists will make short presentations (6-7 minutes) on the meaning(s) of agency in their research for one hour. We will then have one hour of general discussion, so please bring your ideas about agency (especially in relation to your own work) to share with others.

Refreshments available by 2:45 PM. 


May 2, 2016 3:00 PM
Panel Discussion
February 24, 2016 3:00 PM
Banquet Room University Club Building (lower level)
Panel Discussion

Join us for a discussion of the state of academic publishing in the humanities and the process of working with a university press--from project to proposal to publication. The workshop will include brief presentations from Eric Zinner (NYU Press) and UW-Madison faculty members Ron Radano and Pernille Ipsen. Moderated by Susan Stanford Friedman.

Refreshments available by 2:45pm.

Space is limited. Please RSVP to

Sponsored by the UW Institute for Research in the Humanities and Center for the Humanities. With support from the Scholarly Publishing Series, sponsored by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education, the Graduate School, UW-Madison Libraries, and the Office of the Provost.

September 16, 2015 3:00 PM
212 University Club Building
Panel Discussion

"Humanities by the Numbers" was the theme for the annual conference of the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes, hosted by the Center for the Humanities in Madison in June. The status of "numbers" in humanities research sparked sharp debate—some attacking the loss of nuance and individualized specificity or uniqueness; some suggesting that numbers and counting invisibly undergird analysis that appears singular; others promoting the promise of the digital and 'big Data'; and still others probing the very concept, status, and deployment of numbers in human experience as well as humanities research.

The question of 'what counts as evidence in humanities research' broadens the issue beyond numbers per se. But some of the same debates apply, particularly as we move across the varied disciplines and interdisciplines that make up the humanities and as the humanities works collaboratively with the social sciences, sciences, and arts.

Panel Presentations (1 hour) and Open Discussion (1 hour)

  • Henry Drewal, Evjue-Bascom Professor, Art History and Afro-American Studies
  • Christine Garlough, Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies
  • Robert Glenn Howard, Professor, Communication Arts
  • Steven Hutchinson, Professor, Spanish and Portuguese
  • Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen, Merle Curti Associate Professor, History
  • Michael Schatzberg, Professor, Political Science; African Studies Program
  • Steve Stern, Alberto Flores Galindo and Hilldale Professor, History