Brooklyn Institute for Social Research -
  • When Robert Hooke discovered the cell in 1665, modern science acquired an enduring metaphor: the cell as the building block of life. Since then, cell theory has evolved three central tenets: the cell is the basic unit of life, all living organisms are composed of cells, and all cells come from other cells. But cells themselves have also come to be thought of in terms exceeding, if not opposed to, the biological: cellular biology is premised on our ability to culture cells outside of the living body, which has transformed our conception of them into a technology, sparking debates about how and whether we can, or should, intervene in our own cellular processes ...
  • From the medieval period to the present, a small group of Christian women have fallen into trances, had erotic visions, heard voices, foresworn food, and claimed to have direct contact with God. This course asks two questions about these women. First, why have women who testified to similar spiritual experiences been alternately venerated as saints, burned as witches, and finally medicated as patients? Second, what do the scholarly and artistic interpretations of the lives of these women tell us about modern preoccupations with desire, the body, transgression, and gender politics? ...
  • Politics is often called an “art.” So how can it also be a science? Is a science of politics possible—or even desirable? First emerging out of the late nineteenth century confluence of Western nationalism, imperialism, racism, and capitalism, political science was initiated as a science of, and for, the modern state. The conception of liberal democracy that emerged at the time became the implicit benchmark to be met by other, “modernizing” nations and societies, with outcomes whose legacy persists today. But, what does political science purport to do? ...
  • Anarchism comes to us from the Greek anarkhos—“without a ruler.” “To be governed,” wrote the famous French anarchist Pierre Proudhon, “is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so.” But anarchists are concerned with more than oppressive states. They sought liberation on all fronts including sexual freedom, an end to private property, freedom of expression, and freedom from want through mutual aid. ...
  • Climate is now on everyone’s agenda: in the minds of some, the cause of all causes, and the movement of all movements. As it has burst across public attention, we have everywhere Green New Deals, eco-socialists, great transformations, just transitions—a constellation of concepts and plans for moving to a different world. Yet, what are the origins of the climate crisis? Can we build steel conceptual walls between climate and the broader breakdown of the non-human ecology? And what possible role can small peasants, schoolteachers, nurses, energy workers, or pastoralists play in a transition to an ecologically enduring and egalitarian world? ...

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Recent Posts

Podcast for Social Research, Episode 58: The Kafka Diaries

In episode 58 of the Podcast for Social Research, award-winning translator Ross Benjamin sits down with BISR’s Christine Smallwood, Rebecca Ariel Porte, Ajay Singh Chaudhary, and Lauren K. Wolfe to discuss—on the occasion of his new translation of the fully reconstructed, uncensored diaries—Kafka’s long, often fraught, sometimes tendentious publication and reception history. Loosely organized along […]

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Faculty Writing: On Noah Bombach’s White Noise, and the Stakes of Reading Instruction