BISR 2021 Year in Review and Year-End Appeal

Next month will mark Brooklyn Institute for Social Research’s 10-year anniversary. We began operations in the winter of 2012 with a single course, “Politics of the City: Plato and Aristotle,” offered in the back room of a Boerum Hill bar. Over the course of the last decade, we have built a unique, multidisciplinary curriculum of approximately 550 courses, and have expanded geographically to offer courses in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, London, and now—in the age of Zoom—truly worldwide. In 2021, BISR added faculty teaching courses not only in the U.S., but also in the U.K, the E.U., Mozambique, and North Africa. Whether Plato or psychoanalysis, Aristotle or abolitionism, over 10,000 students have taken part in BISR courses and programs during the past decade. As we celebrate this milestone, and begin planning for our next decade, we ask you to consider supporting BISR by making a year-end contribution or by becoming a member. A generous group of donors has agreed to match every dollar raised, up to $20,000, through the end of the year, and we need your help to reach this goal. 

In 2021, BISR was able to offer more courses and programs than ever. A few of the highlights include:  

  • 176 courses serving approximately 3,200 students from all walks of life and corners of the globe;
  • Faculty and curriculum expansion, with 10 new faculty members joining BISR, allowing us to develop and offer new courses on African-American literature and culture, law and legal studies, African social thought, decolonization, agriculture and food politics, critical design, mental health, and Soviet history and economy, among others;
  • Over a dozen free public events, including several book launches (featuring Raymond Geuss, Jaqueline Rose, Abraham Reisman, and Yasmine Seale, as well as BISR faculty authors Christine Smallwood, Suzanne Schneider, and Samatha Rose Hill), film screenings and music programming; discussions of history, art, scholarship, and society; and more;
  • A free teach-in on anti-Asian racism following the March murder of eight Asain-American women in Atlanta—examining the attack in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and US-saber rattling toward China, and offering strategies for countering these disturbing trends—as well as a series of crucial public conversations and smaller teach-ins about politics across the world, in the United States, and right here in New York City;
  • A number of tailored workshops and materials for activists and organizers working on issues related to education, equity, climate, and more;
  • The release of dozens of podcasts, from our ongoing Practical Criticism series to faculty conversations and edited versions or our live events;
  • A robust output of faculty writing in publications both big and small—from n+1, Aeon, Dilettante Army, Guernica, and The Baffler to The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, The Nation, and The New Republic—furthering our core commitment that critical, scholarly work belongs and begins principally in the public sphere. 
  • And, speaking of publications, the production of our soon-to-debut web and print journal, Late Late (stay tuned!)

As 2021 draws to a close, it’s daunting to even begin to survey the interlocking crises afflicting local, national, and global life, from another “hottest year on record” to the ongoing pandemic and emboldened right-wing mobilization. The type of learning BISR facilitates—critical, open to all, and rooted in the public sphere—cannot on its own remedy these deficits. But nor is it possible to build a different type of world without it. Over 10 years we’ve all helped demonstrate that BISR is a new kind of institution needed for a new time; one that understands how such pointed social inquiry can only thrive alongside open-ended engagement with the arts and humanities, science and mathematics; one in which there is no zero-sum game between the classics and the cutting-edge; one where critical learning and scholarship are a part of everyone’s lives. 

The last ten years have seen BISR grow from an experiment into this institution. And we are asking for your help to bring us into 2022 and beyond. While tuition fees cover a large portion of our annual budget, we rely on the generosity of our community to maintain even our current level of operations. Your gift or membership enables us to, in no particular order: pay our programming and administrative staff a living wage; provide scholarships to over 10% of our students; organize dozens of free public events each year; produce the Podcast for Social Research; and support the scholarly work of our growing faculty (sixty-nine and counting!) amidst a time of crisis and contraction within the traditional world of higher education. Your support underwrites a 10th anniversary year promising:

  • even more courses in more subjects for more students, supporting more faculty than ever before;
  • a tremendous diversity of online and in-person programming, from collaborations with Carnegie Hall, Goethe Institut, and Film Forum, to faculty book launches, to special 10th anniversary festivities, and much more;
  • New projects and ventures, including the print publication of BISR’s new journal, Late Light

BISR didn’t start from a celebrity announcement or a massive grant. It has been built, piece-by-piece by our students, our faculty, and our broader community. Your support helped sustain BISR through 2021, and we ask that you help bring us into 2022. There are many ways to support our work: Become a member, make a one-time donation, take a course, attend one of our public programs, become a Patreon subscriber to the Podcast for Social Research, tell your friends and colleagues about the Institute’s programs; secure a matching donation from your employer if available;; reach out with your ideas to help make BISR even better. It is you—as students, readers, listeners, and friends—who make this work possible, and we are so grateful for your support. 

All the best,

BISR

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