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A Culture of Care >> Read Smith’s plans for the summer and fall 2021 semesters.

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

Excavating the Image, Part I: Isaac Julien's Lessons of the Hour (short-term, June 2021)

In December 2021, SCMA will open an exhibition of Isaac Julien’s Lessons of the Hour in its New Media Gallery. Julien is one of the most important artists working in time-based media (film and video) today. Lessons of the Hour is a deeply researched single-channel video installation that dramatizes episodes from the life and writings of Frederick Douglass (1818-1895). Julien’s focus on the key women in Douglass’s life, transatlantic exchange, the environment, and the history and theory of photography make this work ideal for courses in many departments. This first part will focus on discussing the work and different ways in which it could be incorporated into interterm and/or spring 2022 courses and programming.


Racialized Medicine, Past and Present: Teaching and Research in the Spaces Between STEM and the Humanities (short-term, June 2021)

Racism, racialization, and xenophobia have found footholds in public health crises and responses of the past, and these processes have also made their way, via structural racism and other systems of power, into many of the ways we continue to describe and respond to these crises.  This moment seems like an opportune one, as we navigate this new terrain, to consider the spaces between science/public health and the humanities that can offer opportunities to expand how we see, interpret, and draw conclusions about our respective fields, particularly as we think about the intersection of race and medicine between past and present. We invite participants from STEM and the humanities/humanistic social sciences to join in a two-part conversation where we focus on how representations manifest long-standing assumptions and erase others.

Thinking Post-Nationally, Teaching Transnationally (short-term, May, 2021)

As a self-described “global college,” Smith promises its students a transnational experience. While students across divisions and disciplines tap into discourses that increasingly appear to transcend national boundaries, the study of foreign languages and cultures in particular – often paired with study abroad – has long positioned itself as the prime opportunity for students to gain a transnational perspective. Just as cultures and languages do not exist in isolated silos, the study of those cultures and languages should not either, and neither should that study be isolated from other aspects of the liberal arts curriculum.  

Is Inclusivity in My Classroom the Same as in Yours? (short-term, May, 2021)

Imagine the way our students move through many different classrooms with different expectations for, invitations to, contours of, and language about inclusivity. In some classrooms, the material itself may provide avenues into inclusionary practices; in other classrooms, inclusion may be embedded more in the practice than in the matter. Sometimes inclusive pedagogy converges form and content, sometimes inclusivity recognizes content in “parallel play” with form. We hope to have conversations with colleagues who are curious about these different models, not just because we have something to learn from them as teachers, but also, we believe, because the more each of us understands a fuller map of inclusion methods across the curriculum, the better each of us will be in helping our students transition from one room to another.

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.