Mellon AIS 2017-05-18T17:30:29+00:00

Mellon Advancing Intercultural Studies

Call for Seminar #4 is now open!

► Click for details and how to apply

Funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by the Center for Ideas and Society, the Advancing Intercultural Studies (AIS) project builds on the long-standing strengths of UCR’s College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS) in addressing ethnic, interethnic, cultural and intercultural developments in novel ways. The purpose of the AIS seminars, lectures and events has been to contribute to understanding existing and future aspects of diversity in the United States and to enhance our appreciation of both the problems and the opportunities to which it can give rise.

Project Overview:

Tensions arising amidst a diverse population have been at the front of public discussion in the past few years. The police shootings of African Americans as well as the murders at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church have focused the nation’s attention on questions of race and racial divisions; the fight against terrorism has raised concerns about immigration, religious tolerance and religious diversity; college campuses have struggled with issues of sexual harassment and race and gender relations; the 2016 election campaign brought to the fore the impact of increasing economic inequality and class disparities. What has been in arguably short supply in discussions of these issues has been the practices of civil discourse, reasoned debate and respect for the views of others. The seminars, public lectures and film series of the Mellon Advancing Intercultural Studies project are designed to engage university faculty, students and members of the Southern California community in thoughtful considerations of these important issues. The goal is to contribute to a democratic public sphere that avoids impassioned rhetoric in favor of deliberative discourse and mutual understanding.

From 2017 to 2018, the AIS project will host a series of four quarter-long seminars to explore key themes and topics.

  • Each seminar includes faculty, graduate students and upper-level undergraduate students.
  • Seminar members meet weekly on a formal basis to explore seminar themes, present and discuss their research and identify new questions and areas of investigation to which the seminar research might lead.
  • Each seminar participant also generates original research; graduate student and undergraduate produce research papers.
  • During the quarter, each seminar group will host a public lecture by an eminent scholar and a film screening designed to engage public interest in seminar themes.
  • These seminar events will be complemented by two summer film series and a final conference featuring and extending the work of seminar participants.

Project Dates:

Summer 2017- Film Series

Fall 2017- Seminar #1: Responses to Economic Inequality
Convener: Mathew Mahutga (Sociology)

Winter 2018- Seminar #2: Beyond Access: Diversifying Higher Education
Convener: Jennifer Nájera (Ethnic Studies)

Spring 2018- Seminar #3: Religious Identity: Harmony or Discrimination?
Convener: Muhamad Ali (Religious Studies)

Summer 2018- Film Series

Fall 2018- Seminar #4: Contested Histories: How to Write History
Convener: Georgia Warnke (Political Science)

Spring 2019- Final Conference

Seminar Themes:

Seminar #1: Responses to Economic Inequality
Convener: Mathew Mahutga (Sociology)

During this seminar, participants will examine contrasting responses to economic inequality, which has been on the rise in most rich Democracies for nearly three decades. We’ve witnessed two very different kinds of responses. On one hand, movements including Occupy Wall Street, the Bernie Sanders campaign and radical resistance to austerity and the promotion of multiculturalism in Europe, advocate progressive responses that seek to reduce economic inequality. On the other, right-leaning populist and anti-immigrant parties/movements in Europe and the United States, including Brexit (UK), the National front (France) and the Donald Trump campaign (US), have responded with attempts to scapegoat and exclude already marginalized groups from a shrinking economic pie. Thus, we seek scholars who examine the paradoxical relationship between rising inequality and bigotry, on the one hand, and progressive politics, on the other. The seminar is methodologically and epistemologically agnostic, but we are particularly interested in historical and empirical approaches to economic inequality and its backlashes, and in projects that can demonstrate connections between them.

Seminar #2: Beyond Access: Diversifying Higher Education
Convener: Jennifer Nájera (Ethnic Studies)

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the University of Texas’s affirmative action program in June 2016. Yet, arguably, efforts at diversity in higher education need now to go beyond attempts to provide greater access to institutions of higher education for under-represented groups to explore gender and racial campus culture of the institutions themselves. Such questions include issues of intra-student racial tensions (as those that arose recently at the University of Missouri); disparate undocumented student access (largely dependent upon state policies); gender equality, safety, and other Title IX issues (unsettling almost every campus in the United States); questions about symbols that may be racially charged (e.g. the names of Calhoun College at Yale and the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton and the flying of the Confederate flag at the Citadel); and concerns about the possible conflict between ensuring free speech and providing so-called safe spaces (e.g. the controversy of the Silliman College e-mail at Yale). Among other questions, this seminar would ask what colleges and universities owe their students in terms of resources, safe spaces, curriculum, and the like; how exclusionary symbols might be best dealt with in a way that acknowledges contentious histories and what new policies might be necessary to deal with sexual harassment, violence, and ethnic tensions.

Seminar #3: Religious Identity: Harmony or Discrimination?
Convener: Muhamad Ali (Religious Studies)

This seminar will examine issues of religious identity and diversity. The United States is one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world. Academic discourses and publication on religious harmony, tolerance, pluralism, and freedom have developed significantly. Yet religious diversity also takes other forms: religious tension, conflict, violence, terrorism, and discrimination. The terrorist shootings in San Bernardino near Riverside, the killings in Orlando, the shootings of Sikhs, and the 2016 Presidential Campaign, have raised fears of an increased Islamophobia. The ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Syrian civil war, and the Muslim Rohingya issue in Buddhist Burma, have raised tension and public debate about the role and impacts of religious identity more globally. This seminar will consider questions of religious identity and diversity, violence and peace, discrimination and harmony, hate speech and love activism, and the vexed relation between religion and politics.

Seminar #4: Contested Histories: How to Write History
Convener: Georgia Warnke (Political Science)

The subtitle of a 2003 article on the 1873 Colfax Massacre in which white southerners slaughtered a group of African Americans who had assembled in a local courthouse after a contested election reads “Stumbling on a forgotten Reconstruction tragedy.” Yet this headline represents the fate of countless similar events not only during slavery and reconstruction but well afterwards, among them: the vast number of lynchings that followed the Civil War and continued into the 20th century, a pattern of racial violence in the years before World War I in which white mobs stormed and destroyed entire black communities, the expropriation of black farmland by the federal government without compensation during World War II, New Deal policies that excluded African Americans, redlining, housing covenants and white violence that kept African Americans in ghettos through most of the 20th century. Similar omissions beset the study of the histories of other marginalized groups in the United States. While recent scholarship reflects new interest in correcting the historical record, more needs to be done. This seminar would result in papers exploring still unexplored aspects of our history.