Skip to Gallatin Navigation Skip to Gallatin Main Content

Distinguished Faculty Lectures

The Gallatin Distinguished Faculty Lectures (DFL) is a forum that honors the School's commitment to interdisciplinary study and excellence in intellectual, civic, and aesthetic endeavors. The DFL features speakers whose work or practice has made an outstanding contribution in one or more of these areas.

Recent speakers at Gallatin have included:


Hortense Spillers - Women and the Laws--Reading Le Code Noir
February 28, 2019

Hortense Spillers is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt chair in English at Vanderbilt University; on leave this year from her home institution, she is serving this semester as the M.H. Abrams distinguished visiting professor in English at Cornell University where she taught from 1987 to 2006. Her essay collection, Black, White, and in Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture appeared in 2003 and has been the subject of various symposiums and critiques.

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson - As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom Through Radical Resistance
March 29, 2018

In this, the third talk from the Ideas from the North series, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson locates Indigenous political resurgence as a practice rooted in uniquely Indigenous theorizing, writing, organizing, and thinking. She makes clear that the goal of Indigenous resistance can no longer be cultural resurgence as a mechanism for inclusion in a multicultural mosaic, calling for unapologetic, place-based Indigenous alternatives to the destructive logics of the settler colonial state.

Liza Featherstone - Behind the Mirror: Focus Groups and the ‘Culture of Consultation'
March 26, 2018

Over the course of the last century, few areas of life, from salad dressing to health care legislation to our favorite TV shows, were left untouched by the focus group. Journalist Liza Featherstone, author of Divining Desire: Focus Groups and the Culture of Consultation (O/R Books/Counterpoint Books, 2018), the first-ever popular survey of this rich topic, discusses some of her research with the colloquium, including the surprising roots of the focus group in early-twentieth century European socialism, its subsequent use by the mid-century “Mad Men” of Madison Avenue, and its widespread impact on our lives today.

Naomi Oreskes - keynote address for the Gallatin Climate Change Initiative Conference
September 14, 2017

Naomi Oreskes is professor of the history of science and affiliated professor of Earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University, and an internationally renowned geologist, science historian, and author. She received a BSc (First Class Honours) in Mining Geology from the Royal School of Mines, Imperial College, London, and later worked as an exploration geologist in the Australian outback. In 1990, she received an interdisciplinary PhD in Geological Research and History of Science from Stanford University. She joined the faculty at Harvard in 2013 after 15 years at the University of California, San Diego.

Kay Kaufman Shelemay - Musical and Moral Leaders: The Musician in Society
April 20, 2017

Kay Kaufman Shelemay is an ethnomusicologist who specializes in musics of Africa, the Middle East, and the urban United States. She holds a PhD in Musicology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and has been a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and is the recipient of grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Radcliffe Institute. She is past president of the Society for Ethnomusicology and in 2012 completed terms as a congressional appointee to and former chair of the Board of Trustees of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Her book Music, Ritual, and Falasha History (1986), won both the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award in 1987 and the Prize of the International Musicological Society in 1988.

Alfred W. McCoy - The Geopolitics of US Global Decline
April 20, 2016

Alfred W. McCoy holds the Harrington Chair in History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is the author of eight books, most recently Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State (University of Wisconsin Press, 2009). Winner of the Kahin Prize from the Association for Asian Studies, Policing America’s Empire draws together covert operations and modern Philippine history, to explore the transformative power of police, information, and scandal in shaping both the modern Philippine state and the US internal security apparatus.

His first book, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia (Harper & Row, 1972), is regarded as the classic work on global drug trafficking and sparked controversy when the CIA tried to block its initial publication. McCoy has won the Philippines National Book Award three times and has also been recognized with a 2001 Goodman Prize from the Association for Asian Studies, a 2012 Wilbur Cross Medal from Yale University, and the 2012 Hilldale Award for Arts & Humanities from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Sayed Kashua - Cultural Criticism Through Humor
March 10, 2016

Novelist, columnist, and screenwriter Sayed Kashua is renowned for using his humorous, tongue-in-cheek style to address the issues faced by Arabs in Israel. With dry wit, precise metaphor, and seemingly innocent subjects, he sheds light on the complex, sometimes despairingly painful, reality of life in modern Israel.

Sayed Kashua is the author of three novels: Dancing Arabs, Let It Be Morning, and Second Person Singular, which won the 2011 Bernstein Prize. In 2004, Kashua was awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize in Literature. He is the writer and creator of the hit Israeli TV shows Arab Labor and The Screenwriter. In the satirical weekly column for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Kashua writes in Hebrew and addresses the problems faced by Arabs in Israel who are caught between two worlds. In 2009, he was the subject of the documentary Sayed Kashua: Forever Scared.

Eyal Weizman: The Image Complex, Part I
September 17, 2015

In this two-part lecture, “Forensic Architecture,” Eyal Weizman discussed the work of the research agency of the same name that he established in 2011. Forensic Architecture – Part One: The Image Complex, was be delivered at NYU Gallatin, while Forensic Architecture – Part Two: The Conflict Shoreline was delivered at NYU’s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis on September 24. More on the lecture here.

Raquel Rolnik - Urban Warfare: the Colonization of Urban Land and Housing, March 31, 2015

Raquel Rolnik is an architect and urban planner, with over 30 years of experience in planning and urban land management and an extensive background in the implementation and evaluation of housing and urban policies. Based in São Paulo, she is a professor in the faculty of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of São Paulo and is the author of several books and articles on urban and housing issues. In her career, she has held various government positions, including Director of the Planning Department of the city of São Paulo and National Secretary for Urban Programs of the Brazilian Ministry of Cities. She has also worked as an urban policy coordinator for the Polis Institute. More on this lecture here.

Yvonne Rainer - Dislocations: An Abbreviated Journey Through 55 Years of Work, or, Enough Trio A, October 7, 2014

Dancer, choreographer, filmmaker, and writer Yvonne Rainer (American, b. 1934) is one of the most influential artistic figures of the last 50 years. Her work has been foundational across multiple disciplines and movements: dance, cinema, feminism, minimalism, conceptual art, and postmodernism. More on this lecture here.

Partha Chatterjee, response by Arju Appadurai - Nationalism, Internationalism and Cosmopolitanism: Some Lessons from Modern Indian History, September 18, 2014

This discussion examined in the context of 20th-century India the trajectories of three tendencies (nationalism, internationalism, cosmopolitanism) as an interconnected triad. Militant nationalism, especially the armed revolutionary groups, established connections with anti-colonial and anti-British forces in other parts of the world. More on this lecture here.

Alison Bechdel & Hillary Chute - Fun Home, November 21, 2013

Alison Bechdel, internationally acclaimed, award winning cartoonist, author of graphic memoirs Fun Home and Are You My Mother, in a freewheeling, multimedia conversation/confab with distinguished scholar Hillary Chute, author of Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics (Columbia Univ. Press: 2010). For twenty-five years, Alison Bechdel created the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. Her graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic was named Best Book of 2006 by Time Magazine. In 2008, she began devoting herself full-time to autobiographical work. A second graphic memoir, Are You My Mother: A Comic Drama, was published in 2012. She’s the recipient of a 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship, and is a Marsh Professor-at Large at the University of Vermont.

Hillary Chute is the author of Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics (Columbia UP, 2010) and Associate Editor of Art Spiegelman’s MetaMaus (Pantheon, 2011). In 2006, she co-edited the “Graphic Narrative” special issue of Mfs: Modern Fiction Studies—the first issue of an academic journal in literature devoted to exploring comics. In 2009, she founded the Modern Language Association’s Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives. Her essays have appeared in American Periodicals, Mfs: Modern Fiction Studies, PMLA, Twentieth-Century Literature, and WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly, among others. Her current book project is titled Disaster is My Muse: Visual Witnessing, Comics, and Documentary Form. More on this lecture here.

David Kaiser - Calculating Times: Testing Einstein's Relativity in the Cold War, April 29, 2013

David Kaiser is Germeshausen Professor and Department Head of MIT's Program in Science, Technology, and Society, and also a member of MIT's Department of Physics. His books include Drawing Theories Apart: The Dispersion of Feynman Diagrams in Postwar Physics (2005), and How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival (2011). 

Judith Butler & Anne Carson - Antigonick, February 22, 2013

Anne Carson’s ANTIGONICK, A staged reading with Anne Carson, Judith Butler (as Kreon), Anne Waldman (as Tiresias), Beth Pollack (as Antigone), Denis Butkus (as Haemon), Emily Young (as Ismene), Paul Coffey (as Guard) and Laura Slatkin (as Eurydice). Directed by Kristin Horton. Co-sponsored by Gallatin’s Classics and the Contemporary Series; NYU Department of Comparative Literature; NYU Humanities Initiative.

William Julius Wilson - Race and Affirming Opportunity in the Barack Obama Era, November 13, 2013

William Julius Wilson is the Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University. In 1998 he was awarded the National Medal of Science. His books include Power, Racism and Privilege (1973), The Declining Significance of Race (1978), The Truly Disadvantaged (1987), When Work Disappears (1996), The Bridge over the Racial Divide (1999), There Goes the Neighborhood (2006, co-author), Good Kids from Bad Neighborhoods (2006, co-author), and, most recently, More than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City (2009). Cosponsored by Gallatin's Human Rights Initiative, NYU Department of Sociology and the Institute for Public Knowledge. 

Cathy Cohen - New Media, Politics and Youth, March 14, 2012 

Cohen, a prominent queer activist and the founder of the Black Youth Project, engaged the audience in a discussion on the role of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in global politics. Cohen referred to an article in the New Yorker magazine by Malcolm Gladwell, in which he contrasted the deep ties of the Civil Rights movement with the weak ties of contemporary social movements that are forged by new media. 

Rackstraw Downes - Transition from Abstraction to Representation, April 26, 2012

The plein-air painter Rackstraw Downes, who is known for his rural and man-made landscapes of scenes ranging from farmland in Maine to the sidewalks of Coney Island, noted during a recent talk at Gallatin, “My idea is to paint the real state of the world.” The politics in his work, he added, are in the process of creation rather than in the finished image. “Spending so many hours of prolonged attention to real things in the real world is a critique of our sound-bite society, which is so enamored of technologically mediated experiences,” he said.

Gregg Mitman - A Journey without Maps: Film, Expeditionary Science, and the Growth of Development, December 8, 2011

Gregg Mitman is Vilas Research and William Coleman Professor of History of Science, Medical History, and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he also serves as Interim Director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. His research explores the history of ecology, nature, and health in American culture. Among his prize-winning books are Reel Nature: America's Romance with Wildlife on Film, and Breathing Space: How Allergies Shape Our Lives and Landscapes. 

Janet Halley - The Distributive Family: How and Why to Deconstruct the Market/Family Distinction, October, 2011

Janet Halley is Royall Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. She is the author of After Sex?: New Writing since Queer Theory (with Andrew Parker) and Split Decisions: How and Why to Take a Break from Feminism?, and is the editor of the new special issue of the American Journal of Comparative Law on Critical Family Law. 

Joan Scott - Sexularism: On Secularism and Gender Equality, Thursday, March 10, 2011

Joan W. Scott is Harold F. Linder Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science. Professor Scott's pioneering work in the areas of gender and intellectual history for over 30 years has helped to configure and reconfigure the study of feminism, politics, memory and language. She is the author of the seminal essay "Gender: A Useful Category of Analysis" (AHR, December 1986) and the book Gender and the Politics of History (Columbia 1988), as well as several dozen articles and edited collections, including the influential Feminists Theorize the Political, with Judith Butler (Routledge 1992). More recently, she is the author of The Politics of the Veil (Princeton 2007), a provocative assessment of the interplay of religion, feminism and democracy in modern France. 

Michael Hardt - Falsify the Currency! Foucault and Crisis, Thursday, February 10, 2011

Michael Hardt is an American literary theorist and political philosopher. Hardt is perhaps best known for his book Empire, which was co-written with Antonio Negri. It has been praised by some as the "Communist Manifesto of the 21st Century." 

Susan Silton - She Had a Laugh Like a Beefsteak, October 22, 2010

A performative lecture which contextualizes her multidisciplinary practice through the framework of voice, the piece has also been presented at Goldsmiths College and University of Manchester, UK; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; and Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles. "Though wildly diverse, Susan Silton's works of the past decade nonetheless share elements of formal experimentation and aesthetic choice, and employ coded imagery and iconography to deliver socially and politically charged messages." -- Christopher Miles, Artforum