Skip Navigation
A Culture of Care >> Read Smith’s plans for the fall 2021 semester.

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

Health and Medicine, Culture and Society: Crossroads in a Liberal Arts Education (Fall 2022)

The COVID-19 pandemic has rendered longstanding footholds of racism, racialization, and xenephobia in public health and medicine hypervisible. Early news articles on cases in the United States disproportionately featured images of Asian and Asian-American people. Poorly planned and communicated travel bans stoked xenophobia. And former President Trump's perpetual framing of the virus as connected to China amplified racism and violence against Asians and Asian-Americans. This semester-long project recognizes our current moment as an opportune one, especially as we navigate new terrain in the college classroom as the pandemic continues to unfold, to examine past and present ways that systems of power manifest in uneven ground upon which people must attend to their health and negotiate medical systems.

Common Grounds: Toward (Re)Thinking Global Indigeneity (2022-23)

Around the world indigenous peoples and their histories face questions of marginalization, climate change and global hegemony while maintaining their histories and distinct sovereignties. We are called to consider the forces of colonization, settler colonialism, and racial capitalism across North America, the western hemisphere, and the globe. Common Grounds seeks scholars working on topics that address the indigenous question "within" urgent issues such as: seal-level rise, femicide, agricultural sciences, territorial sovereignties, the digital world, public health, climate justice, border-crossing, the Anthropocene, global trade, and internationalism, among others. 

Is There a Latinx Vote? (short-term, February 2022)

In 2020 the U.S. Presidential election offered voters an openly authoritarian option for the nation, calling into question the meaning and promise of democracy in the United States. Election polls unveiled the uncanny support of some Latinx communities for this authoritarian option. Some contemporary observers have posed this support as a shift in the preferences of the “Latinx vote” and Latinx communities at large. A major (mis)understanding of the political identities of Latinx voters, often cast through hagiographic myths and monolithic views of progressive labor and social conservativism, sat at the core of this widespread appraisal. One question that remains in place: is there a Latinx vote? Continuing the institutional efforts of the Year on Democracies at Smith College, the Kahn Liberal Arts Institute invites Smith and Five College faculty members to join a seminar focused on Benjamin Francis-Fallon’s The Rise of the Latino Vote: A History. In this Kahn seminar we seek to  interrogate the existence, nature, identity, and motivations of the “Latinx vote.”

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 Kahn Institute 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.

Year on Democracies (2021-22)

The Kahn Institute is partnering with the Provost’s Office for the campus-wide themed year in 2021–22, focusing on democracies. A thorough examination and contemplation of democracies will proceed through the curriculum, exhibitions, performances, lectures, special events and the collaborative work that happens in Smith’s centers and at the Kahn.

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.