Graduate Student Seminars
Seminar Descriptions and Registration
Seminars allow faculty and graduate students to engage in rich conversations and innovative scholarship with colleagues from a wide range of disciplines. Learn about upcoming seminars below, and sign up for one or more of the individual mailing lists. Propose a seminar here.
Co-directors: Stan Link (Blair School of Music), Leah Lowe (Theatre), Jonathan Rattner (Art/Cinema & Media Arts), and Nancy Reisman (English)
The Art Seminar brings together Vanderbilt faculty who conduct or reflect on creative research. Consisting of makers/researchers from art, creative writing, cinema and media arts, art history and theater departments, along with the Blair School of Music, this seminar creates a forum for sharing and comparing processes of production and discussing current topics relevant to our work as creative research academics.
This seminar will feature critique sessions of on-campus faculty work and will host local, national, and international visual artists, curators, filmmakers, writers, theatre and performance artists, and others, who will be invited to share early drafts of their projects and present on issues in their respective fields.
Co-directors: Brandon Byrd (History), Anthony Reed (English), and Eric Ritter (Philosophy)
The Black Worlds Seminar is about Black people and the modern world. It attends to the historical and current thought and subjective experiences of the people who have claimed Blackness as a political, social, and cultural identity. It is about Black world-making too. Once a month, our meetings will convene scholars from Vanderbilt and beyond who will share new and in-progress research on topics such as interrelated struggles for racial justice, practices of resistance, and dreams of freedom across Africa and its Diaspora. Working across disciplinary and activist modes of scholarship, these meetings will establish a common ground on which students and scholars from a variety of backgrounds can collaborate for the mutual purposes of study and struggle. Co-sponsored by the Racial Justice Grand Challenge Initiative.
Co-directors: Jane Landers (History and Director, Slave Societies Digital Archive) and Daniel Genkins (History and Executive Director, Slave Societies Digital Archive)
The Circum-Atlantic Studies Seminar meets to discuss interdisciplinary work on the Atlantic World linking the Americas, Africa, and Europe. Sessions focus on an invited talk and/or a discussion of a pre-circulated work and address a range of constituencies on campus. In addition to junior and senior faculty from a wide variety of domestic and international universities, CASS has featured seminars of graduate students from Vanderbilt, visiting international graduate students, and Masters of Liberal Arts and Science students. CASS has also organized focused programs on Brazil, Cuba, and Africa. With support from the RPW Center, CASS also developed a Black Atlantic History Speaker Series that invites major scholars of the Black Atlantic to campus every February to discuss their research and publications.
Co-directors: Matthew Milbourne (English) and Simone Stirner (German, Russian and East European Studies)
The Contemporary in Theory Seminar collaboratively thinks through some of the most important, cutting-edge theoretical engagements with contemporary reality. Contemporary issues and theoretical discourses range from climate change and ecocriticism to critical race theories and from feminist and queer theory to aesthetics and poetics. We foster innovative approaches to the contemporary across diverse disciplines and methodological backgrounds, addressing pressing topics of our times through our shared intellectual and theoretical concerns, while bringing to bear our areas and disciplines of expertise.
Co-directors: Iggy Cortez (Cinema & Media Arts/English) and Jennifer Fay (Cinema & Media Arts/English)
The Film Theory and Visual Culture Seminar fosters dialogue among faculty and graduate students interested in film, visual culture, art history, literature and media studies, as well as in theories of the image, philosophies of perception, aesthetics and critical theory, media histories, and the history of vision. Each semester we host scholars from leading programs in film and media studies (and adjacent fields), as well as scholars from our own Vanderbilt community.
Co-directors: Elizabeth Covington (GSS/English) and Stacy Clifford Simplican (GSS/Political Science)
The Gender and Sexuality Studies Seminar examines new trends and classic ideas in feminist and queer scholarship. Working across disciplinary boundaries in a dynamic and inclusive scholarly community, we address emergent and significant contemporary issues, new scholarship, and applications of feminist and queer concepts to teaching and research.
In the fall semester, this seminar will focus on Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and the scholarship that discusses the issues in this case. We will explore the anticipated and unanticipated consequences of this decision while considering the current and future state of human rights in the United States.
Co-directors: Maria Corado (Anthropology) and Juan Jose Lopez Juarez (Antrhopology)
GuateLab (IximLab) is a students' initiative to discuss social problems that have implications in Guatemala (Iximulew). The main idea is to have a site to discuss, propose, give critiques, and give solutions from students' perspectives to social problems such as access to education, inequalities, racism, violence, hunger, health issues, migration, etc. GuateLab is a site that is not academic, so each point of view is welcome when expressed in a respectful way. We welcome the Vanderbilt community (staff, scholars, graduate & undergraduate students, and companions) and people interested in Guatemala to join us.
Co-directors: Sohee Park (Psychology) and Vesna Pavlović (Art)
Mind, Image, Body is a multi-disciplinary and experimental seminar that considers the intersection of scientific processes of remembering and the role that visual representation plays in that process. As our bodies detect a cue of sound, smell, or an image, our brains are stimulated to bring us back in time and help us remember. In this process, memory works through dualities. It is always in flux and cannot be pinned down. It is at once very far and near. It is very present and absent. It is large and small. The seminar will try to define, gauge, and bridge this gap between the objectively quantified memory ability of the brain and the embodied memory experiences to culminate in the creation of a shared memory archive.
Co-directors: Mabel Gergan (Asian Studies), Akshya Saxena (English), and Samira Sheikh (History)
Political turmoil and daily violence in South Asia have been making headlines for a while now: whether it is the ascendance of Hindu nationalism in India, the economic crisis in Sri Lanka, the climate crisis in Bangladesh, or the military coup in Pakistan. The Remaking South Asia Seminar will foster discussions of the long histories and future implications of these issues. At the same time, wary of studying South Asia only as a problem, it will aim to transform and remake knowledges about South Asia by highlighting its anticolonial, anti-caste, and Indigenous art and activism that have lessons for transnational issues. In the fall semester, we will discuss pioneer social reformer and Dalit leader, BR Ambedkar’s speech Annihilation of Caste and the 2021 documentary film about India's only newspaper run by Dalit women, Writing with Fire.
Co-directors: Jay Clayton (English/CMA) and Scott J. Juengel (English)
The Novel Seminar brings together the Vanderbilt community and visiting scholars to engage with groundbreaking scholarship on the history, theory, and politics of the novel form, from its early modern provenance to its contemporary persistence in a hyper-mediated public sphere. Our sessions explore matters of fictional world-building and narrative form as they intersect with pressing questions in multiple fields of inquiry, from climate change to racial capitalism, sexual politics to social justice. While largely focused on the Anglophone world, the seminar welcomes scholars working in a range of national literatures and disciplines to share work and join the discussions.
Co-directors: Cameron Crain (Center for Technology Transfer), Holly Tucker (Director, RPW), Victoria Hensley (NEH Post-Doc, RPW)
This seminar considers the applications and implications of generative artificial intelligence in public history initiatives. Working with colleagues in Tech Transfer and the creative team at the AI Foundation delivery team, we will develop an interactive AI representation of one of Vanderbilt’s most beloved alumna, Stella Vaughn. How are AI “humans” built, technologically speaking? What additional complexities, constraints, and ethical conundrums arise in attempts to recreate a historical figure and the contexts in which they lived? And most importantly, how is AI reshaping our understanding of history, memory, and humanity as a whole?
Co-directors: Isidora Miranda (Blair School of Music), Ruth Rogaski (History), and Guojun Wang (Asian Studies)
The Transdisciplinary Asia Seminar aims to bring together Vanderbilt scholars and students interested in Asia to explore cutting-edge research across disciplinary and national boundaries. While furthering our multi-dimensional understanding of Asian languages, cultures, and political histories, the seminar also explores theoretical contributions afforded by Asian Studies to the study of the environment, global health, colonialism, transnationalism, among other topics.
Our monthly seminar meetings feature recent works or works-in-progress by our Vanderbilt colleagues and external guests. In addition to the seminar, we also host a weekly writing group during and between semesters. Transdisciplinary Asia provides a framework for Vanderbilt scholars to develop new insights into Asia and regions beyond.
Co-directors: Robert Engelman (Philosophy) and Emanuel Stults (History)
The Trends in Social Criticism Seminar is a virtual seminar that explores currents of social criticism across historical, geographical, political, and cultural lines. The seminar seeks to deepen our understanding of social criticism and foster self-reflection as social critics in modern, media-saturated, liberal-democratic societies. Social criticism is a widespread practice through which we identify, interpret, and address our most pressing concerns. In times of conflict over our concerns and strategies for addressing them, we are prompted to reflect upon our practices of social criticism and think creatively about how to better engage in them.
Accordingly, in the fall semester, the seminar will explore questions about the desiderata of social criticism, the nature of the social critic, and the relationship between critical social theory and political practice. In the spring semester, the seminar will examine a range of trends in the history of social criticism up to the present. By refining our understanding of social criticism and exploring the diverse ways in which it manifests, our goal is to come together and shed light on one of the most meaningful socio-political practices we commonly engage in.
Co-directors: Raheleh Filsoofi (Art) and Richard McGregor (Religious Studies)
The relationship between the humanities and the cultures of the Middle East is a long and complex one. Visions of Diversity: Middle Eastern Arts and Aesthetics will explore some of the nuances of this relationship and fully embrace the diversity of those influences and reception. An overarching conversation will extend throughout the year, focusing on the production, transmission, and reception of aesthetic impulses with a Middle Eastern inspiration. The seminar will explore a series of ongoing art projects in parallel with focused discussions of related themes and analysis. We will investigate the interplay of aesthetic communication with performance, cross-cultural bridging, community building, trauma, displacement, and self-discovery. Our goal is to illuminate the Middle Eastern contributions to our evolving contemporary aesthetic lives.
Co-Directors: Teresa Goddu (English), Eric Gurevitch (Asian Studies), Matthew Plishka (Latin American Studies), and James Pilgrim (History of Art and Archetecture)
Members of the Environmental Humanities Seminar engage in lively interdisciplinary discussions about how people think about, represent, interact with, and change/are changed by their environments. Our invited speakers, works-in-progress talks, excursions, films, and reading groups provide a forum to discuss the history and culture of ecological sensibility, environmental management, climate change, and environmental justice, among other topics. We invite those interested in the environmental humanities to bring their interests, expertise, curiosity, and questions to our community.
Co-Directors: Celso T. Castilho (History), Elvira Aballi Morell (Spanish & Portuguese), Jesús Ruiz (American Studies), and Lidiana de Moraes (Latin American Studies)
Members of the Global Humanities Seminar center their work on the humanistic study of the implications of global movements of people, goods, and ideas. Our scholarly programming particularly focuses on dislocation, belonging, and citizenship issues. Although we ground our intellectual pursuits within disciplinary leanings – such as History, Anthropology, Modern Languages & Literatures, and Cultural Studies – the implications of our seminar are deeply transdisciplinary and take a bottom-up approach to examine matters of race, ethnicity, migration, gender & sexuality, and other pursuits.
Co-Directors: Letizia Modena (Italian), Lee Ann Custer (History of Art and Architecture), Ana Luiza Morais Soares (Anthropology), and Anna Tybinko (Spanish and Portuguese)
The Urban Humanities Seminar offers a forum for interdisciplinary dialogue on and collaborative approaches to the study of the past, present, and future of cities and their inhabitants, viewed through the lens of spatial justice. Situated at the intersection of humanities, urban planning and design, and civic engagement, our discussions consider how the stories that are told about cities reveal spatial relations and social inequities—and how, by examining the cultural, economic, political, gendered, and racialized memories embedded in these stories, we might collectively work toward a more just future. We invite those interested in the interplay between people and the urban environment to share ideas and projects, especially as they concern: the ability of arts and literature to reflect and shape affective and cognitive relationships to the urban environment; identity and the experience of place; issues of inclusion and exclusion in cities as they pertain to in/visibility, belonging, livability, mobility, migration and movement, place attachment and place making.