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

Published April 20, 2021

Organized by Anna Botta, Italian Studies, and Joel Westerdale, German Studies

Project Description

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. As an extension of their transcultural mission, many language departments – conventionally delineated in terms of “national” languages – have themselves been taking on a more intensely transnational or post-national character, challenging the myth of cultural homogeneity perpetuated by the received ideal of “native” linguistic competency and the related fiction of monolingual national integrity. In light of how transnational discourses suffuse the entire Smith curriculum, this enhanced emphasis on linguistic and cultural hybridity opens up new opportunities for interdepartmental and interdisciplinary collaborations across the College.

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. The aim of this short-term Kahn project is to explore how a transnational or post-national approach might facilitate cross-pollination among language departments, across the humanities, and between the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. How can we work together to help our students not only comprehend the transnational, multilingual web into which they and their studies are woven, but also appreciate their own position as learners and conduits of new languages, cultures, and transnational disciplines? Should the seismic shift in the study of languages and cultures at Smith expand beyond individual language units and lead to a serious rethinking of the way the humanities intersect with the social and natural sciences? How might we teach our students to focus on the rich semantic possibilities of the prefix “trans” and to envision cultures, languages, and disciplines interacting across diverse axes of connections?

Planning to merge their two departments into a new transnational unit, Joel Westerdale (chair, German Studies) and Anna Botta (chair, Italian Studies) are hosting a two-day conversation which is meant to discuss possible college-wide outcomes of a transnational turn. The seminar is addressed to Smith faculty members, from all divisions, who are interested in bringing a wide range of provocative, transversal perspectives to the study of languages, cultures, and humanities. 

Project Fellows

  • Fernando Armstrong-Fumero, Anthropology
  • Sebnem Baran, Film and Media Studies
  • Giovanna Bellesia, Italian Studies
  • Silvia Berger, Spanish and Jewish Studies
  • Josh Birk, History
  • Anna Botta, Italian Studies, Organizing Fellow
  • Ibtissam Bouachrine, Spanish and Portuguese
  • Darcy Buerkle, History
  • Brigitte Buettner, Art
  • Justin Cammy, Jewish Studies
  • Esther Castro, Spanish, Latina/o, and Latin American Studies, Mount Holyoke College
  • N. C. Christopher Couch, Languages, Literatures, and Cultures/Comparative Literature, Hampshire College
  • Sandra Digruber, German Studies
  • Dawn Fulton, French Studies
  • Jay Garfield, Philosophy, Buddhist Studies
  • Bosiljka Glumac, Geosciences
  • Jonathan Gosnell, French Studies
  • Adrian Gras-Velázquez, Spanish and Portuguese
  • Christophe Gole, Mathematics
  • Simone Maria Gugliotta, Italian Studies and Spanish and Portuguese
  • Maria Estela Harretche, Spanish and Portuguese
  • Rebecca Hovey, Lewis Global Studies Center
  • Judith Keyler-Mayer, German Studies
  • Reyes Lazaro, Spanish and Portuguese
  • Denise McKahn, Engineering
  • Malcolm McNee, Spanish and Portuguese
  • Christiane Metral, French Studies
  • Thalia Pandiri, Classical Languages and Literature
  • Cornelia Pearsall, English and Study of Women and Gender
  • Karen Remmler, German Studies, Mount Holyoke College
  • Andy Rotman, Religion
  • Carolyn Shread, World Literatures
  • Maria Succi Hempstead, Italian Studies
  • Atsuko Takahashi,  East Asian Languages and Cultures
  • Camille Washington-Ottombre, Environmental Science and Policy
  • Joel Westerdale, German Studies, Organizing Fellow
  • Michele Wick, Psychology
  • Greg White, Government
  • Lu Yu, East Asian Languages and Cultures