BISR 2018 Year in Review

Dear Friends of the Brooklyn Institute,

BISR’s work is predicated on a simple, shared notion: that people desire a rich, intellectual life, that people deserve such a life. Whether it’s concentrated on the burning topics of the day or the furthest flights of fancy, the life of the mind is not some rarefied museum piece for the proverbial “ivory tower,” but an integral part of this thick, gritty, material world we all live in.

In 2018, BISR worked with more students, in more places, with a broader faculty, and greater programmatic reach, than ever before. From New York to Western Michigan, students studied Artificial Intelligence and Ulysses, queer theory and the Ramayana, American Violence and Kierkegaard, Critical Theory and Calculus, liberalism and musicology. Through our Praxis program, we convened workshops for labor and political organizers, immigrant rights groups and union representatives, linking classic and cutting-edge scholarly work with the questions, concerns, and needs of those working in social justice organizations. Through our Community Initiative program, housing insecure and low-income New Yorkers studied poetry, history, and literature — an activity too often reserved as a “luxury” for the best-off. Through our Network program, hundreds of students have gathered in small cities and communities across three states, exploring everything from contemporary art to decolonization and William Faulkner. And in 2018, BISR launched a new program, Educator Access, right here in New York City, to provide scholarships and continuing education credit to K-12 and community college teachers at a time when public schools and their faculty face tightening budgets and diminished support.

Although we are intensely proud of our work, we don’t intend to rest on our laurels -. There is not a week that goes by when we don’t think about how much more we could be doing and what challenges are involved in getting there. We sum up the labor of this year   to underline how much you, our students, alumni, friends, supporters, readers, and listeners, have made possible.

Thanks to you, of the thousands who participate in courses annually, over 20% are scholarship students, paying whatever they deem possible given their means. Every single one of our Network classes, including the one we are planning this Summer in San Juan, PR, is made possible through your support. While we stretch every dollar as far as we can, we still face an annual shortfall of about 30%, which is made up through your generous support.

Supporting BISR also means supporting scholarship in and for the public sphere. It means facilitating free public events, from “Theory on the Radio” in New York City to “Borders, Migration, and Crisis” in Austin, TX to “Identity and Nationalism” in Cincinnati, OH. It means supporting symposia and series from Marx Now, which we co-presented last May with the Goethe-Institut, to our recent celebration of queer theory, radicalism, and the work of our own Jeffrey Escoffier, in partnership with Verso Books. Supporting BISR means supporting public scholarship that is not hidden behind paywalls but accessible to anyone who wants to read, in international newspapers and small magazines, literary journals and online-only supplements. That’s Suzy writing on violence and immigration in the Washington Post or Rebecca on the concept of paradise for the Los Angeles Review of Books; Patrick on American gun culture for the New York Times or Ajay on climate change for n+1; Alyssa on politics in The Nation or Adriana on Puerto Rico for Social Text.

We ask that you please consider all the ways you can continue to support BISR this year. Becoming a BISR member comes with a range of opportunities and benefits from special events to our new limited-edition t-shirt. Spread the word. Let a friend know why you learn with BISR. You can even buy them a gift-card! Support the podcastnow 27 episodes strongon Patreon. Suggest a partnership or new bars and cafes, community spaces, cultural institutions or even your office. BISR relies on a robust network of partners to host our classes and events. Every donation, whether one-time or  through our membership program, is tax-deductible, and there is no contribution too small (or too large!). We look forward to building together in 2019. Thank you for all you’ve done in getting us this far.

All the best,


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