2009-2010 Faculty Research Seminars

The Philosophy of Place and Space

Seminar Leader: John Schott, Professor of Cinema and Media Studies

In its modern conceptions, place is socially constructed, making it an essential way of seeing, knowing and understanding the world. Because place is at the nexus of individual, psychic, social, institutional, scientific, and representational practices, it has proven to be a remarkably productive category for describing contemporary life. Ideological critics, feminists, students of cartography, Freudians, postmodern critics, visual culturalists, social theorists, Foucauldians and artists view place from radically different perspectives. New media critics see us evolving into numinous, virtual spaces characterized by radical mobility. And of course there are interpretations rather more distopic: non-places, between-spaces, and places of fear—airports, exurbs, Abu Ghraib. In addition to discussing these problems in the Seminar, participants engage in their own research project.

Faculty Fellows

John Schott, Cinema and Media Studies, Seminar Leader

An exhibition exploring the philosophy of place in relation to the Northfield Middle School (past, present, and future) through photographs and text.

Deborah Appleman, Educational Studies

“The Geography of Incarceration and the Landscape of Learning,” a project exploring methodologies, effects, and significance of teaching literature, contemporary literary theory, and writing to incarcerated adults, with an emphasis on the geography of the prison and its effects on learning.

Adriana Estill, English and Latin American Studies

“The New Nation’s Beautiful Bodies,”a study of how colonial and imperial histories and geographies inform the development of a 20th century “ideal” Latina body.

David Lefkowitz, Studio Art

Following the exhibit “Other Positioning Systems," a project exploring the space between the abstract rendering of our environment (as in the Global Positioning System), on one hand, and the idea that a physical connection to the terrain we occupy defines our sense of identity, on the other.

Elizabeth McKinsey, English and American Studies

A study of Yosemite and its imaginative power and status, as part of a larger examination of the importance of regionalism in American literature, art, and culture.

Michael McNally, Religion

In the context of a larger project, “Native American Traditions, Religion, and the Law,” a study of sacred spaces and protections against a variety of threats to the sacred places/landscapes/waterscapes of Native peoples. 

Victoria Morse, History

The completion of a book on Opicino de Canistris, a fourteenth-century priest, artist, and spiritual writer who deployed maps as innovation ways to explore the Christian universe and the individual soul.

Dana Strand, French and Francophone Studies

Part of a larger project on the relationship between place/space and national identity, a study of the Tunisian filmmaker Nadia El Fani in the context of current technological developments that redefine space in a transnational frame.

Hong Zeng, Asian Languages

“The Semiotics of Exile in Contemporary Chinese Film,” a study of the film language of exile (both geographical dislocation and cultural uprootedness) as reflected in recurrent techniques, motifs, and aesthetics in contemporary films from Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai.