Hall Center For The Humanities


Decolonizing Knowledge
Fall Faculty Colloquium 2014

Co-directors: Byron Caminero-Santangelo, English
Glenn Adams, Psychology

In his seminal study of anti-colonial struggle, The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon discusses what scholars have more recently referred to as the coloniality of knowledge. References to this idea emphasize that mainstream research enterprises are not unbiased readings of objective reality or identity-neutral tools wielded by dispassionate or position-less observers. Instead, standard forms of academic and scientific knowledge frequently have roots in colonial histories and are integral components of imperial modernity that—regardless of researcher awareness or intentions otherwise—reflect the perspective of the powerful and serve to reproduce forms of domination. In the last lines of The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon charges concerned scholars with the task of decolonizing knowledge: that is, to illuminate forms of domination in conventional academic wisdom and to construct new concepts, based on marginalized perspectives and experiences, that provide the foundations for broad human liberation.

This task of decolonizing knowledge is the organizing theme of the 2014 Fall Faculty Colloquium. Associated with the theme are two related projects.

The first project is to illuminate how even apparently progressive formations of standard knowledge have not shaken themselves loose from colonial assumptions regarding depoliticized objectivity. Rather, these formations can function as epistemologies of ignorance: forms/ways of knowing that promote not-knowing or render invisible unsettling or troublesome facts and narratives. In this context, the task of intellectual decolonization requires that researchers reveal the interested positionality of standard knowledge that masquerades as positionless or politically innocent reflections on objective reality.

The second, more difficult project is to develop alternative conceptual tools, rooted in the epistemological perspective of marginalized communities, that provide a broader foundation for the study of humanity. An important resource for this task is the work of critical scholars from a variety of disciplinary locations who often operate from supposedly “peripheral” fields of knowledge production (e.g., indigenous studies, ethnic studies, and area studies based on marginalized geographical regions). In contrast to the prevailing academic construction of these fields as sites for the application of general/central knowledge to particular/peripheral cases, the project of decolonization requires something akin to theory from the South. Specifically, it requires that researchers consider the epistemological perspective of geographically marginalized positions as a privileged source of general knowledge for the mainstream academic enterprise.

The City Imagined
Fall Faculty Colloquium 2012

This colloquium will look at the ways in which the city has been imagined by modernists and is currently being re-imagined as it faces the severe challenges of the 21st century.

• What types of interdisciplinary inquiry would be most fruitful for understanding the city of the future as it is reconceived in the context of climate change and social disorder?
• Does urban renewal and adaptation necessarily require collective amnesia to be successful and comprehensive? What segments of a city’s past can contribute to a reconstruction of its social imagination and propel its residents to new ways of thinking about space and urban behavior?
• What happens to the identity of a city over time as it undergoes massive social and economic transformations? Is it possible to maintain a distinct urban culture in a global environment? Can a sense of place be preserved in a megacity of tens of millions of residents?
• Do cities that subject their residents to high levels of sensual stimulation evolve their own set of ethics?
• How does the representation of cities as dystopias in popular media serve the interests of urban reformers? Is anti-urbanism a crucial part of U.S. national culture? Are cities worth saving, or is New Orleans the first of many future abandonments?

Participating in the Colloquium are Faye Xiao (Assistant Professor, East Asian Languages and Cultures); Akiko Takeyama (Assistant Professor, Anthropology); Nathan Wood (Associate Professor, History); John Pultz (Associate Professor, Art History); Clarence Lang (Associate Professor, African and African American Studies); Jennifer Hamer (Professor, American Studies); Barney Warf (Professor, Geography); and Eric Hood (doctoral candidate, English). All KU faculty and graduate students are welcome to attend Colloquium sessions.

Meetings will take place from 9:00-10:30 a.m. in the Hall Center Seminar Room on the following dates: August 20 and 27, September 10, 17, and 24, October 1, 15, 22, and 29, and November 5, 19, and 26. Meeting times are subject to change. Please consult the calendar for the most up-to-date information.

Consciousness in Interdisciplinary Perspective
Fall Faculty Colloquium 2011

Reading List and Schedule

This colloquium was a particularly fruitful collaboration. Click here to read the assessment given by its co-directors, Anna Neill and Leslie Tuttle.

What is human consciousness? What precisely do we mean when we refer to perceiving, feeling, thinking, and decision-making? Recent decades of research have restored questions about the nature of consciousness to the scientific respectability they enjoyed more than a century ago, and reopened them to a wide range of disciplinary approaches. Today, the cognitive sciences seek to explain the physical origins of our sense of self. At the same time, humanist scholars who used to conceive of the conscious mind primarily through its shadow, the Freudian unconscious, are integrating the new “thinking about thinking” in their studies of language, narrative, memory, and identity. These new developments, some claim, are nothing short of a “scientific revolution” that will alter our understanding of human nature, and thus remap our disciplinary boundaries.

The Hall Center’s 2011 Fall Faculty Colloquium, “Consciousness in Interdisciplinary Perspective,” will encourage interdisciplinary dialogue about consciousness, which sits simultaneously at the forefront of the cognitive sciences and at the root of humanistic inquiry. Participants will consider how new insights about our evolutionarily shaped human minds might enrich understanding of the classic subjects of humanistic scholarship, such as reading, storytelling, reasoning and believing. At the same time, they will reflect on the flowering of cognitive sciences within a specific environment—liberal, post-war Western science—with its own embedded historical and cultural precedents for making the human “I” an object of study.

Seven faculty members and one graduate student will meet under the leadership of co-directors Anna Neill and Leslie
Tuttle: Sherrie Tucker (Associate Professor, American Studies); Iris Smith Fischer (Associate Professor, English); Mark Landau (Assistant Professor, Social Psychology); Glenn Adams (Associate Professor, Social Psychology); Ann Rowland (Associate Professor, English); Ben Sax (Associate Professor, History); Brian Daldorph (Assistant Professor, English), and Nicholas Simmons (doctoral candidate, Philosophy).

The format will be unique, exploratory and interrogative, with the principal aim being to generate novel ideas for further investigation. Participants will read excerpts from important recent work, engage in interdisciplinary discussion, and eventually produce short, individual or collaborative essays for a collection aimed at a general audience, to be made available through KU ScholarWorks.

All KU faculty and graduate students are welcome to attend Colloquium sessions. Meetings will take place from 9-10:30 am in the Hall Center Seminar Room on the following dates: September 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, October 6, November 3, and December 1 and 8.

Meeting times are subject to change. Please consult the Hall Center’s website calendar for the most up-todate information.

Fall 2009 Faculty Colloquium

Respectability, like pornography, is difficult to define but we believe we know it when we see it. Despite the challenge a definition of respectability poses for the person on the street, when one turns to scholarship in a variety of disciplines, it seems that a concern for respectability is everywhere -- anthropologists debate the difference between respectability and reputation in the Caribbean, labor historians ask how the working class distinguished itself as respectable, students of African American culture deploy "the politics of respectability", and gender scholars ask if respectability limits or empowers women and men.  Respectability can be embedded in objects like pianos and violated by artists like les fauves. Respectability plots drive English literature from Austen to Dickens and social scientists question the relationship of respectability to class.  In other words, one would be hard pressed to find a field in the humanities of social sciences where respectability can't be fruitfully studied.

Director: Ann Schofield, Professor, American Studies/Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies

The Tree of Life
2008 Spring Faculty Colloquium – A Component of the Creative Campus Project

The Tree of Life crosses diverse cultures and contexts as concept, metaphor and motif, from folklore and religion to science and commerce. As a theme, therefore, the concepts, metaphors and applications of The Tree of Life should be explored across the sciences, humanities and the arts.

Directors: Kris Krishtalka, Director, Biodiversity Institute & Professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology; and Victor Bailey, Director, Hall Center for the Humanities & Distinguished Professor of History.

Discourses: Theory in the Humanities

Humanities scholars are often accused of possessing a slavish devotion to "isms" and spilling too much ink on theory. In reality, many faculty are rather more theory-averse. For this reason, a number of KU faculty have decided to offer a series of roundtables in the Fall 05 and Spring 06 semesters on some of the most renowned theorists of the past few decades to assess exactly how influential they have been. In each case, a particular work will form the nucleus of the presentation. All the texts under scrutiny continue to have appeal for historians, philosophers and literary critics and are well worth re-visiting.

View past Discourses>



Below is a list of the Fall Faculty Colloquia from past semesters. Click on any of the links to see a list of each of the colloquia presented that semester.

  • Fall Faculty Colloquium 2006: Representing the Middle East
  • Fall Faculty Colloquium 2005: Capitalism and Culture
  • Fall Faculty Colloquium 2003: Collecting & Collections - Interdisciplinary Perspectives
  • Fall Faculty Colloquium 2002: Re(searching) Life - A Contemplation of Organzing Collectively
  • Fall Faculty Colloquium 2001: Globalization, Ethics, and Culture
  • Fall Faculty Colloquium 2000: Gender & Nationalism
  • Fall Faculty Colloquium 1998: Performances: Cultural, Theatrical, Historical
  • Fall Faculty Colloquium 1997: Professions & Professional Ethics
  • Fall Faculty Colloquium 1996: The Contested Terrain of Public Space - Past, Present, and Future
  • Fall Faculty Colloquium 1995: Gender as Concept and Method
  • Fall Faculty Colloquium 1994: Creativity
  • Fall Faculty Colloquium 1993
  • Fall Faculty Colloquium 1992: The Canon
  • Fall Faculty Colloquium 1991: Narrative, History, and Lifewriting
  • Fall Faculty Colloquium 1990: Human Rights, Ideology, and Social Change


Below is a list of other colloquia series the Hall Center for the Humanities has sponsored in addition to the annual Fall Faculty Colloquium. Click on any of the links to see a list of each of the colloquia presented that semester.

  • Spring Faculty Colloquium: Tree of Life
  • Food & Culture: An Interdisciplinary Colloquium
  • Laboring Americans Colloquium
  • Spring Faculty Colloquium 2001: Law & Literature

Featured Resident Fellow

Jorge Pérez

Jorge Pérez, Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese, will work on his book project “Confessional Cinema: Religion and Film the Spanish Public Sphere (1957-1975).”

Featured Publication

Chosen People: The Rise of American Black Israelite Religions
by Jacob Dorman

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