In 2014-15, the topic of MCSI’s series was ARCHIVE. Prominent scholars, artists, and activists across a range of disciplines helped us understand the power, transience and technologies of the collection. Who preserves, what and how do they display, who sees, what is lost? If, as artist and theorist, Catherine Lord suggests “culture requires memory. Memory requires an archive,” then one of the primary goals of this year of programming on ARCHIVE addressed feverish incursions into lost and found holdings made ever more accessible and intangible by the digital.
In 2014-2105, the topic of MCSI’s series was VIRUS. Prominent scholars, artists, and activists across a range of disciplines, helped us understand both the natural and human forces that define, use, are used by, and try to control viruses. If “AIDS is a crisis of connections,” according to curator John Chaich, then one of the primary goals of MCSI’s year of programming on VIRUS was to address viral crises by making connections across virology, performance, psychoanalysis, public health, photography, poetry, video, critical Internet studies, environmental analysis and other fields that morally, emotionally, and with conscience engage with the virus, the viral, the sprawl, and the many similar repetitious functions that mindlessly spread illness, pollution, power, or ideas in contemporary culture.
In 2013-14, the topic of MCSI’s series was Technology Changes. The definition of “technology” might be “things people make and use to improve their experience and world.” From the wheel to the iPhone, some see the invention and use of technologies as forces towards human’s liberation or equality, while others understand technologies as reinforcing divisions in society. Does our understanding of who owns, builds, sells, and uses technology allow us to better understand how it shapes us as much as we shape it?
In 2013, MCSI’s spring event series explored the City.
One definition of “city” might be “a place of such dense inhabitation that it (i) cannot feed itself and (ii) produces more waste than it is healthy for humans to live with.” Yet, even while there is some truth to this definition, there are also good reasons to think that humanity’s only sustainable future involves further “densification,” that is, further urbanization. This lecture and event series looks at “cities” in terms of issues of human sustainability, but equally in terms of social stratification, democratic public spheres, cosmopolitanism, and the arts.
In 2012, MCSI’s spring event series explored the difficult work of making democratic politics and social relations happen. In pursuing this inquiry, we examined forces that thwart and pervert democracy, particularly in our own time. These forces are complex and in some cases elusive. They include, to start, the activities of corporations and militaries. However, they also include the ways political boundaries—between, for example, cities and incorporated suburbs, as well as between independent sovereign states—limit and often pre-empt democratic political organizing. In examining these and other forces that thwart and pervert democracy in our historical moment, we will be particularly concerned with the uneven impact of professional-managerial “experts” on democratic political projects.
In the Spring 2011 semester, the Munroe Center for Social Inquiry presented a semester-long event series on “Schooling in Mass Societies. This series pursued a dialogue between (i) debates about educational policy and (ii) the study of mass schooling as a prominent element of societies throughout the world over the last two centuries or so (since the industrial revolution, roughly speaking).
During the spring 2010 semester, the Munroe Center for Social Inquiry at Pitzer College presented lectures, seminars, and a gallery exhibit that re-opened questions about capitalism and its discontents—rather than treat capitalism, or “markets,” as the all-purpose answer to social questions. This sustained thematic inquiry looked backward in time to examine the most recent and earlier “busts” following capitalist “booms,” and looked forward in time to consider the range of forms, both desirable and undesirable, that might emerge when the global economy “recovers” from the Great Recession of the present.