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Kahn Projects

Photo of a group meeting in the Kahn Institute

Long- and short-term projects are the focus of the Kahn Institute. Kahn projects invite up to 20 Smith and Five College faculty members, as well as Smith students and staff, to explore, discuss and debate as a group topics of broad interest to a multidisciplinary crosscut of scholars. Kahn projects are typically co-organized by two Smith faculty members. Project organizers receive course releases, stipends and other compensation.

Current & Upcoming Projects at the Kahn

The Notorious RCG: Race, Class and Gender in STEM (short-term, spring 2021)

Despite its claims to objectivity and universality, the practice of science—and the training in that practice—is embedded in a matrix of historical precedents and social relations. And like all other forms of embedded knowledge, recent events have prompted an overdue examination of the ways in which access to and success in the sciences is impeded by long-standing structures, traditions and biases. This short-term Kahn seeks to identify the obstacles and impediments that stand in the way of students and colleagues from traditional underrepresented groups who have chosen careers in STEM.

Coping with Democratic Precarity and the Prospects for Democratic Renewal (2021-22)

Democracy is faltering. At every level of governance and across multiple domains, democratic institutions, norms, and practices are under increasing strain. The questions and problems are vexing, wide-ranging, and cross-cutting, and, thus, offer rich possibilities for interdisciplinary engagement. This project will bring together scholars from across disciplines to explore the causes and effects of democratic precarity. It will also engage scholars across disciplines who direct their attention to possibilities for pathways toward democratic renewal and the realization of high-quality democracy within communities, countries, and in domains of global governance.

Democracies Redux: Resumptions, Resilience, Reconciliation, and Restoration (2021-22)

Democracies Redux is an invitation to open up what democracies might mean, carry, and create, when reconsidered as ways of knowing and being that upheld inter-relationships, inclusivity, and the work of restitution and renewal. Democracies in this project centers itself in investigative commitments that reimagine democracies’ polyvalent manifestations and vital possibilities in the passageways of life, matter, ideas, and their mutuality. This project is as much about generativity as it is productivity. In this vein, the project is also a physical address from which the work of resumptions and restoration can be carried out.

Democracies (2021-22)

The Kahn Institute is partnering with the Provost's Office for the next campus-wide themed year in 2021-22, focusing on democracies. A thorough examination and contemplation of democracies must proceed through the curriculum, exhibitions, performances, lectures, special events, and the collaborative work that happens in Smith's Centers and at the Kahn. The Kahn Institute invites proposals for short-term projects within the themed year of democracies. Contact us with your ideas.

Technophilia/Technoskepticism (2020–21)

When this seminar begins in 2020, the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G promise to shift daily lives—in conjunctions with, and through resistance to—myriad older technologies. When technologies change the world, what happens? Thinking expansively about technology and its work in the world, this yearlong Kahn project invites discussions about creativity and data, machines and knowledge production. From moveable type to drones, prison architecture to bioinformatics, innovation has long tested our ethics, if not also our ways of being human. What are the implications of innovation?

Imagining Climate Change: From Slow Violence to Fast Hope (2020–21)

This yearlong Kahn project will bring together scholars from across the disciplines to ask how climate change forces—and inspires—us to shift our habits of thought, representation, and communication. We believe that recognizing the slow violence of climate change is urgent work. We will probe the magnitude of this slow violence while daring to envision and nurture the hope that turns indifference into action.

Propose a Kahn Project

Long-Term Projects

Long-term projects are built around broad topics that are investigated in depth throughout an entire academic year. Long-term project fellows meet once a week at the Kahn Institute for two hours of discourse and/or other activities, and always share a meal, provided by the Kahn, either before or following their weekly colloquium. Long-term projects also include public lectures by a range of experts in fields related to the project topics, as well as field trips, film screenings and other activities.

Short-Term Projects

Short-term projects provide new contexts for Smith and Five College faculty to explore topics of common intellectual concern that bear on their own research and may serve as seeds for future long-term projects. Short-term project formats are flexible, but typically take place within an abbreviated timeframe. Short-term projects often include public events, panels or forums, film screenings, workshops, field trips and other activities over the course of two to three days, a weekend, or a series of daylong symposia.

Proposal Steps

1. Contact the Kahn director to suggest your project idea as early as possible, even if it’s at a preliminary stage.
2. Schedule a meeting with the Kahn director and staff to brainstorm and develop your idea, discuss parameters, identify potential participants or constituencies, and project a timeframe.
3. Draft a one-page narrative description of your project to articulate the central questions, problems and themes to be explored and analyzed; generate interest in participation; and indicate disciplines, departments or programs whose faculty may be interested in applying for project fellowships.