A Series Presented by the Duke Lit Society
In the millennial academy, several big questions loom large. What will become of 1990's-style identity politics? How do we think about the United States' global economic and political primacy? How should we feel about the deadliest century of human existence, now that it's over? What do we make of a world quickly veering into electronica? Where, exactly, is capitalism headed next?
At Duke, it seems like these questions mold undergraduate education more than any sort of "canon," shaping courses in departments as disparate as public policy studies and the program in literature. And while these questions unite us, perhaps more than ever before, the intellectual discourses-as well as the academic methodologies-through which these questions are addressed seem never to cross paths.
We have on our faculty some of the sharpest critical minds in the American academy. Think, for instance, of Fredric Jameson and Robert Keohane-two of the world's foremost thinkers on Globalization-working on the same campus. Where academic convention and departmental necessity often conspire against intersections like that one, Bricolage seeks to assemble line-ups of Duke's most distinguished faculty for undergraduate-driven, interdisciplinary, electronically documented conversations on the questions that underlie so much work at this university.
In spite of this unfathomable wealth of intellectual resources, we at Duke often bemoan the absence of an "intellectual" culture among our undergraduates. Every year, top students transfer in search of more verdant cerebral turf, while countless others grasp in vain for the sorts of conversations that Americans love to associate with their college years. Trite debates about the relevance of a "work-hard/play-hard" mentality and obsessive tinkering with alcohol policy sometimes seem to rule the day. Nowhere else are students offering other students a chance to grow their minds, locate university resources, and form friendships in the process.
At the same time, this rigorous level of communal, critical thinking will galvanize an intellectual vanguard, a group of creative and committed undergraduates from across disciplinary, ethnic, and ideological lines, ready to carry campus cultural and political discourse past the tired realms of "cultural extravaganzas," honor code debates, and Seattle-style teach-ins. These student bricoleurs will create and perpetuate the type of metacritically inquisitive presence one would expect to find among the students of one of the United States' youngest and most forward-looking universities.
Project Description and Intended Audience
We'll start this semester with four "excursions," tackling Globalization, race, mass atrocity, and China. We are looking to frame commonplace themes in innovative ways, as the descriptions of each excursion illustrate. In assembling faculty panels, we are especially attentive to drawing a mix of intellectual and individual perspectives, while still maintaining a consistently stellar level of professional distinction. The format will be similar to that of the "panel discussions" held in conjunction to things like the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebrations. The excursions will be moderated by undergraduates, and priority will be given to undergraduates when question-and-answer time comes.
While the physical confluence of scholars and students in the actual excursions will serve as privileged sites for the discussions at their core, we intend to continue the conversations begun there through the conscious and innovative employment of web-based technologies. We are currently working with the Center for Instructional Technology and the Duke University Libraries to develop a module by which each excursion can be documented and supplemented online. For example, we're looking to include links to articles by our presenting faculty, information on relevant courses offered at Duke, and thread-based discussion forums-in addition to textual and audio documentation of the excursions themselves.
The first three excursions will take place at 8:00pm in the North Gallery of the Duke University Museum of Art, the last at 3:30pm in Griffith Film Theater.
Who, What, and When:
Globalization and Democracy
Race and Individualism
The Grammar of Mass Atrocity
Model Minority, High-Tech Coolies, and Foreign Spies