Brooklyn Institute for Social Research -
  • Is literature a transhistorical and transnational art? Is translation a blessing or a curse? Judging by the existence of the Nobel Prize in Literature, the world’s best writers produce works that are not only translatable, but also marked by a universal quality. Grounded though they may be in specific linguistic and historical contexts, they still appeal to millions and purportedly contribute to the general advancement of literature as such. Is there such a thing as “world literature”—and, if so, what is it? Is literary “universality,” untainted by world politics, possible? Is it even worthwhile?
  • What is socialism? Today the word usually describes national electoral projects encouraging states to redistribute wealth. A century ago, though, socialist politics included on its left flank an altogether different vision. From Italy to India, those who called themselves Bolsheviks sought transnational coordination to collapse empires and states, more often mobilising the language of emancipation than material equality. They were inspired by an insurrection in Russia, and by Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov—Lenin—at its helm. What can we learn, if anything, from reading Lenin’s works today?
  • How can music—seemingly the most abstract of the arts—embody the concrete passions and narrative action of theatrical drama? This is the fundamental question underlying the history of opera, from its aristocratic 17th-century origins to its 19th-century popular heyday to its uncertain present. We will consider both the why and the how of these operas—both the political and metaphysical ideals that shaped them, from revolution to nationalism, humanism to nihilism—as well as the artistic alchemy by which these ideals were embodied and transformed into a unity of dramatic action and musical affect.
  • While the subject of race is seemingly discussed everywhere, the definition of race—what it means, and how we should understand it—remains remarkably under-explored. What, exactly, is race? What does it mean to be “racialized”? How does racism operate, perpetuate, and alter over time? In this course, we will explore how and why people are marked as belonging to a certain race, and attempt to understand the significance racialization and racism have as forces in structuring society.
  • The last decade has seen revolutionary movements take place throughout the Middle East and North Africa. From Tunisia and Egypt to Sudan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain, people have banded together (with mixed results) in attempts to overturn long-standing dictators and authoritarian regimes. Yet many of the regimes in question were themselves the heirs to an earlier moment of revolutionary upheaval, which swept the region in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and which gave rise to a spate of anti-monarchic, left-leaning governments, often led by members of the military. How should we understand this first revolutionary moment and to what can we attribute its shortcomings?

THE BROOKLYN INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL RESEARCH is an interdisciplinary teaching and research institute that offers critical, community-based education in the humanities and social sciences. Working in partnership with local businesses and cultural organizations, we integrate rigorous but accessible scholarly study with the everyday lives of working adults and re-imagine scholarship for the 21st century.

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