Programs in 2020-21

The Center for Humanistic Inquiry offers up to $2,500 to support seminars for humanities-oriented research at Amherst. Seminars include between four and fifteen participants and meet periodically throughout the school year. Activities include guest speakers, writing workshops, reading groups and the like. 

Black and Indigenous Political Imaginaries

Colorful fingerprints In our current moment, shaped by ongoing and overlapping forces of settler-colonialism, white supremacy, and cis-heteropatriarchy, how might we have conversations across Indigenous and Black political imaginaries? How might frameworks for justice work in tandem or in opposition to one another? How can we think of political projects such as abolition and reparations in relation to decolonization and sovereignty? This seminar's purpose is to think through these questions via an interdisciplinary reading group with faculty from Indigenous/Native Studies, Black Studies, and American Studies. The group will read the following texts: Tiffany Lethabo King’s The Black Shoals, Jodi Byrd’s The Transit of Empire, Mark Rifkin’s Fictions of Land and Flesh, and the recent anthology Otherwise Worlds: Against Settler Colonialism and Anti-Blackness. Leaders: Ashlie Sandoval (American Studies) and Ashley Smith (American Studies). Participants: Jennifer Hamilton (Sexuality, Women and Gender Studies), Jallicia Jolly (Black Studies), Pooja Rangan (Film and Media Studies), Solsiree del Moral (Black Studies).

Asian American Studies

Asian American This seminar brings together faculty members from multiple disciplines whose work engages with Asian American studies. The group reads and discusses recent scholarship in Asian American studies that informs and grounds their work situating the long history of Asian American activism in the struggle for racial justice in the U.S. and beyond. Leaders: Lili Kim (History) & Pawan Dhingra (American Studies). Participants: Sony Coranez Bolton (Latinx and Latin American Studies & Spanish), Robert Hayashi (American Studies), Thirii Myint (English & Creative Writing).

"It was an energizing and engaging group and a surprisingly meaningful experience for me."


Composed of Nows: New Directions in Emily Dickinson Scholarship

Dickinson "Smart Set" This seminar explores new directions in Emily Dickinson scholarship and the impact thereof on interpreting the poet in the place she called home. Using the Museum’s newly developed interpretive framework (2020) and the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Emily Dickinson (2021), this seminar places Museum interpretive staff in conversation with scholars at the forefront of the field. Each of six sessions explores groupings of essays in the Handbook in connection with the Museum’s interpretive messages, which support the core idea that Emily Dickinson quietly forged her powers of creativity, insight, and bravery in her beloved home, creating revolutionary poetry that touches the world. Over the course of each two-hour discussion-based Zoom meeting, participants absorb new research contextualizing Dickinson in her time and place, while interrogating her work in relation to the 21st-century and contemporary Museum audiences. Leaders: Brooke Steinhauser (Emily Dickinson Museum), Elizabeth Bradley (Emily Dickinson Museum). Participants: Karen Sanchez-Eppler (English/American Studies)

"This group is one of the highlights of my experience at Amherst..."


How Free Is/Should Speech Be?

Speech Freedom of speech is in many eras a taken for granted aspect of American life. In those eras, controversy tends to focus on issues like whether something counts as speech. But ours is an era in which freedom of speech cannot be taken for granted. Controversies around speech and its meaning abound. This seminar examines the meaning and value of speech and free speech under contemporary conditions. Leader: Austin Sarat (LJST). Participants: Karu Kozuma (Student Affairs), Amy Cox Hall (Anthropology), Jonathan Obert (Political Science), Liz Agosto (Student Affairs), Scott Alfeld (Computer Science), Martha Umphrey (LJST), Lisa Rutherford (Counsel's Office), Adam Sitze (LJST), Justin Smith (Counsel's Office), Ellen Boucher (History).

Feminist Thought

Feminist solidarity fists In its second year, the research seminar on Feminist Thought continues to gather faculty members from campus whose teaching is animated by feminist theories and whose scholarly inquiries employ gender and sexuality as critical lenses of analysis to expand and revise our understanding of history, society, literature, culture, and politics. This year participants read, discuss, and celebrate new books published by Amherst colleagues in 2020: Aneeka Henderson, Veil and Vow: Marriage Matters in Contemporary African American Culture (University of North Carolina Press, 2020); Khary Polk, Contagions of Empire: Scientific Racism, Sexuality, and Black Military Workers Abroad, 1898-1948 (University of North Carolina Press, 2020); and Jen Manion, Female Husbands: A Trans History (Cambridge University Press, 2020). Co-leaders: Lili Kim (History) & Mary Hicks (Black Studies & History). Participants: Krupta Shandilya (Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies), Jennifer Hamilton (Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies), Kristin Bumiller (Political Science), Amrita Basu (Political Science & Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies), Jutta Sperling (History), Khary Polk (Black Studies & Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies), Jyl Gentzler (Philosophy), Aneeka Henderson (Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies), Sheila Jaswal (Biochemistry-Biophysics & Chemistry), Leah Schmalzbauer (Sociology & American Studies), Jenna Riegel (Theater and Dance), Stephen Dillon (Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies)