Brooklyn Institute for Social Research -
  • What is poetry and what is it good for? These questions have long haunted practitioners and readers of this “beautiful and pointless” art, to quote the contemporary critic David Orr. But “beautiful and pointless” were not always the terms of the debate. On the contrary, these questions about what poetry is and what it does mean something profoundly different in our contemporary moment than they meant in centuries past.
  • There’s more than a little irony in the fact that Ludwig Wittgenstein—widely considered to be among the most original and influential philosophers of the 20th century—held that his discipline’s “real discovery” was “the one that makes me capable of stopping doing philosophy”. In his posthumously published masterpiece, Philosophical Investigations, he likened proper philosophical method rather to a form of therapy, one which “gives philosophy peace, so that it is no longer tormented with questions that bring itself into question.”
  • Sharia is often portrayed as Islamic legal maxims and corporal punishment—a rigid, “medieval” religious law, dating from the 7th century Arabia, that’s allegedly incompatible with modern democracy. But this image bears little resemblance to reality. Not only is Sharia a highly complex legal system, it’s also a metaphysical idea, a way of talking about communal life, and a moral law constantly subject to criticism, debate, discussion, and interpretation within Muslim communities from the classical era to the present day. How can we understand Sharia as a legal system and beyond?
  • Since its first formulation in the early 1960s, the concept of “participatory democracy” has come to take on multiple meanings. Conceptions of participatory democracy range from deepened civic engagement to procedural reform to the wholesale transformation of the liberal-democratic system. For some, participatory democracy is an organizing ethos, a set of values for building community space that sits outside of, or counter to, prevailing institutions; for others, it’s a definite political project, one aimed at radically reconfiguring the state and reallocating institutional power. What is participatory democracy? What connects, and differentiates, its various understandings?

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.

Upcoming Courses



Support the Brooklyn Institute

The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Consider supporting our mission by becoming a member or donating today.

Mailing List
To receive our newsletter with upcoming news and announcements, please enter your email address.
  • New York/General
  • New Jersey
  • Philadelphia
  • Midwest
  • London

Recent Posts

Podcast for Social Research, Episode 45: Empire and Capital

On Thursday and Friday, October 22nd and 23rd, BISR, along with numerous partners, conducted a two-day teach-in and symposium, Empire in Crisis, dedicated to exploring the scope, function, and possible futures of U.S. imperialism. The 45th episode of the Podcast for Social Research is a recording of Friday’s introductory teach-in session: “Empire and Capital: Policing […]

Podcast for Social Research, Episode 44: The Overdetermined Election

Faculty Video: Empire in Crisis: a Teach-In and Symposium on U.S. Imperialism Today

Empire in Crisis Teach-In Syllabus