As 2022 draws to a close, so does Brooklyn Institute for Social Research’s 10th anniversary year. Over the last 12 months, BISR worked with well over 3000 students, across some 5 continents. In the past 10 years, over 13000. In 2022, BISR offered over 160 unique courses, across the humanities, social, and natural sciences. Over the past 10 years, that number is approximately 1,000 courses, each designed around the lives, needs, and interests of working adults. These are not just numbers; they represent just a glimpse of how BISR is and always has been committed to rigorous, yet accessible education and research in, from, and for the public sphere, not cloistered away behind the literal and figurative walls of academia. They are just a taste of how in 10 years BISR has not only become a thriving, international institution but a genuine, unrivaled home for studying the socially relevant and the delightfully obscure, the “canonical” classics, and the critical cutting edge. They outline the difficult but vital work that all of us—students, faculty, friends, and supporters—have accomplished and how much we can do together in the next 10 years. For this last leg of our 10th anniversary, we have set out the goal of raising $40,000 between today and the end of 2022. In order to support all of this, and so much more, we ask you to continue building BISR by becoming a member, making a year-end donation, or securing matching funds and contributions.
• What your membership, donation, or contribution illuminates is a different set of facts and figures: In 2022 alone, BISR spent over $85,000 on scholarships for nearly 20% of our students who cannot afford even our already modest fees. In 2022 alone, BISR spent some additional $10,000 subsidizing the tuition of k-12 teachers who can carry their learning back to literally thousands of younger students and their families. Your membership or donation ensures continued support for every student in need; it ensures the ongoing success of creating something for everyone and never turning anyone away.
• Over the past 2 years BISR has produced 40 podcasts, six in just the last two months. Your membership, donation, or contribution enables the continuing production of episodes featuring extraordinary guests; recordings of symposia, book talks, and roundtables; the 65 (and counting) episodes of our musical Practical Criticism series; our new series like (Pop) Cultural Marxism, which brings critical theory to the world of mass media, and Faculty Spotlight, where long-time and new faculty give brief discussions of ideas, discoveries, concepts, and questions that shape their work. Just this year, BISR podcasts have had 36,000 unique listeners. Just last month, 5,000. And just this week over 1,000. If you’re one of those listeners and you’re excited about the coming year in lectures, music criticism, media discussions, deep dives into economics, current events, new books, and more, you should be a member or a Patreon Patron.
• In 2022 alone, BISR held 14 events and livestreams, ranging from live music performances to film screenings and public discussions on geopolitics, microbiology, poetry, economics, and so much more. 2022 featured no less than three Afrofuturism events alone, held in collaboration with Carnegie Hall: a screening of Space is the Place at Film Forum, a “What is Afrofuturism?” live-recorded Practical Criticism, and an Afrofuturism DJ session at Montez Radio. Over the past 10 years, BISR has held 125 events and livestreams, just over one a month. Your membership, donation, or contribution ensures that free events and streams continue; it underwrites thousands of dollars in technical and production costs, special guests, multiday events (online and in-person) and our ability to quickly adapt programming to the most urgent social questions (as with our recent expert streams on the legal, political, and economic implications of the US Supreme Court’s abortion decision, or the ramifications and contexts of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.)
• In 2022, BISR lost one of our long-time and beloved faculty members Jeffrey Escoffier. Jeffrey’s original interdisciplinary scholarship was undeniable and widely celebrated. Jeffrey—who took his work everywhere from the editor’s chair at Socialist Review to New York City’s Office of Public Health—found the home in BISR that he did not find in the formal academy, which had no place for someone whose work ranged from Keynesian economics to queer theory. His originality, his commitment to genuine public engagement, and his enthusiasm and expertise are exactly what BISR not only welcomes but celebrates. Jeffrey embodied what BISR has become over the past 10 years: an institution where an eclectic and practical kind of scholarship—where a committed and creative kind of person—is not merely tolerated but recognized, encouraged, cultivated, and connected to so many new people and projects. At 10 years, BISR is a home to the most rigorous, dedicated, creative, and engaged faculty (over 60 now) in fields from philosophy to biological chemistry; living, teaching, and learning in China, Switzerland, Norway, Mozambique, Tunisia, Turkey, Toronto, London, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Portland, Singapore, San Juan, at points Midwest all the way down to the Texan border and beyond, and of course right here in NYC. To be this kind of institution—an organization dedicated to teaching in actual society, to actually supporting work whose ambition is matched with actual analytic depth—is only possible with your membership, donation, or contribution.
What these numbers and these facts (still only a brief glimpse) illuminate is a story. $40,000 or $400,000 mean next to nothing in much of the formal academy. There, students drown in debt, faculty become ever more precarious, and “prestigious” private universities have long since become little more than tax-free hedge funds or real-estate conglomerates. There, scholars (some of them our own) report that teaching feels increasingly like an afterthought, with pedagogy reduced to counseling, even disciplining, students, and faculty and students situated in an absurd antagonism akin to living in Kafka’s Castle or a call-center.
Here, $40,000 (or $400,000) means everything. Your membership, donation, and contribution—through our new buy-a-course-give-a-course system, for instance—not only helps cover those $85,000 in scholarships, it also subsidizes the cost of our Praxis projects for civil society organizations who urgently need education and research programs. Your membership, donation, or contribution not only underwrites media and events, it enables us to offer BISR’s new journal Late Light at a fraction of its actual cost and support faculty writing exactly where it belongs—in newspapers and magazines or on the internet, and not locked away behind paywalled academic journals accessible to only a handful of specialists. Your membership, donation, or contribution keeps BISR the independent, autonomous center for critical education and research that can nurture and support this astonishing community of over 60 faculty and thousands of students across the world thinking, reading, learning, analyzing, and critiquing together, not in vain competition but in a real collective endeavor. Here, $40,000 (or $400,000) means thousands of scholarships, tens of thousands reached through media and events; here, it tells a story about who we are, what we value, and what we can do—what we can create—together.
Walter Benjamin once wrote that “the storyteller takes what he tells from experience—his own or that reported by others. And he in turn makes it the experience of those who are listening to his tale.” Stories are never wholly our own, they mix the practical with the poetic, the unique with the universal. Your membership, donation, or contribution takes your experience, mixed with that of friends, faculty, and peers, and makes it possible for so many others to take that tale, mix in their own lives, their own ideas, their own experiences, and tell it anew. BISR has no celebrity endorsement or academic sponsor. No one foundation or government foots the bill. What BISR has is you and that story, all too real, that we carry on together. As this year—and for BISR, this decade—draws to a close, please consider becoming a member, taking a course, buying-a-course & giving-a-course, making a donation, securing matching funds, and spreading the word among friends, family, and colleagues. Let your contribution tell part of your story, about the courses you love, about the students you support, about the media, programs, and projects that mean most to you, and about how so many others will tell that story anew in the ten years to come.
Thank you all for reading, for your support, and, as always, for being a member of the BISR community.
All the best,