Director's Welcome

Welcome to the Institute for Critical Social Inquiry (ICSI) at The New School for Social Research. The Institute is designed to provide scholars with the opportunity to spend a week at the New School’s campus in Greenwich Village, working closely with some of the most distinguished thinkers shaping the course of contemporary social inquiry. The Institute is founded on the premise that responding to current and emergent problems requires developing our collective capacities to formulate new and better questions, rather than relying on the application of all too familiar ready-made theories. In the current landscape in which most of us work today, there is seldom the time or the opportunity for in-depth exploration of those modes of inquiry most relevant to our research agendas and developing projects. How often have we all wished we could steal the time from our current writing and teaching obligations to return to a thinker whose style of thinking and whose conceptual insights shaped us at earlier moments and would mean as much or more to know better today? Our themes are mobile and responsive, joining conceptual labor with pressing political concerns in our times, in an effort to understand and act upon better that which is emergent on our collective horizons.

The Institute offers a unique and intensive opportunity for Fellows to pursue this charge in one of the three week-long seminars designed to cultivate styles of thinking and conceptual vocabularies that address the disparate sites and unequal conditions in which we live. In the spirit of encouraging a diverse set of attendees from around the world, reduced tuition is available for participants whose universities are not able to provide funds for travel abroad. I particularly encourage students from the Global South to take advantage of this possibility.

It is with great pleasure that I announce this coming year’s Summer Seminars and the extraordinary Faculty we shall have with us in 2018: Richard J. Bernstein (Professor of Philosophy, The New School for Social Research) will convene the seminar on "The Relevance of Hannah Arendt"; Jean and John Comaroff (Professors of African and African American Studies and Anthropology, Harvard) will lead a joint seminar on “Theory from the South: Interrogating the Global Dis/Order"; and Nilüfer Göle (Professor of Sociology, EHESS) will convene the seminar, “EuroIslam: Secular Public Culture in Question.” We are particularly excited to have this synergy among the seminars and anticipate enabling opportunities for abundant exchange across them.

Each of these scholars will teach a week-long Master Class on a foundational thinker or topic of contemporary concern. By “Master Class” we intend to signal that the seminars are hands-on and intensive, consisting of lecture, concentrated reading of key texts, and ongoing exchange. In each seminar, the three-hour morning sessions are devoted to critical reflection on and discussions around the seminar’s topical focus with readings provided in advance. The afternoon workshops, organized by the Fellows themselves, are devoted to presentations of and critical exchanges around each Fellow's current research or extended readings from the morning’s discussions. On Saturday, the entire cohort of Fellows meet jointly for an Open Forum, where the Faculty and Fellows discuss our diverse visions of what “critique” and “disobedience” require today, themes that cut across the seminars' common concerns and current events and help shape the design of ICSI.

I invite you all to review the rest of our website on which you can find descriptions of the seminars, and information about tuition, housing, and scholarships. You can also explore the profiles of the 2017,  2016 and 2015 Fellows and Faculty. To keep up to date with the ICSI's activities, please make sure to join our newsletter and follow us on Twitter and Facebook

I encourage you to take advantage of this unique intellectual opportunity and to contact the Managing Director, Charles McDonald, with any questions you may have. I look forward to welcoming you in person on June 10, 2018 at our opening reception. As always, I shall be present and actively engaged with fellows and faculty every day throughout the week. I will attend seminars,  hold an open coffee hour on some late afternoons, and be available to arrange informal meetings with groups of attendees and contacts with other scholars in the area. In brief, I will be doing everything I can to make this experience a formative and inspiring one for all. 

Ann Laura Stoler
Founding Director, Institute for Critical Social Inquiry (ICSI)
Willy Brandt Distinguished University Professor
of Anthropology and Historical Studies
The New School for Social Research