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2010-2011 Seminar: The Everyday and the Ordinary

A longstanding interest of many disciplines, including history, art history, anthropology, sociology and philosophy, as well as literary and cultural studies, the everyday and the ordinary have enjoyed a conceptual resurgence in recent years. For some theorists, everydayness holds out what may be the last promise for genuine democracy and solidarity not just between individuals but also between people and the environment.

For others, everyday activity remains a productive site of resistance to repressive social formations, especially for those who are otherwise disempowered. And for others still, the everyday constitutes what Henri Lefebvre (after Marx) flatly terms “the irreducible core of appearances” in a world that has “been torn away from us” under capitalism. As perhaps the last refuge, then, for a politics and an ecology unassailable on moral grounds, especially in a world consumed by globalization and imperia of various kinds, the everyday is as remote or anterior as it is close at hand and a template for the future. Accordingly, we are very much interested in “our” everyday or the ordinary toward which we increasingly incline—from green and locavore initiatives to the virtual or cyber world that both mimics and collapses the alienation that everydayness has been mobilized to oppose. We are also interested in how the everyday has evolved or has been conceived over time and across cultures, both in art and in scholarly and disciplinary practice. We are particularly concerned with a paradox central to most considerations of the everyday and the ordinary: namely, how something so close and omnipresent is invariably conceived as something strange or, quoting Stanley Cavell, as “the extraordinariness within the ordinariness of our lives."

Director: William Galperin (English)

Faculty Fellows: Andrea Baldi (Italian), Ann Fabian (History/ American Studies), Louis Sass (Clinical Psychology, GSAPP/ Comparative Literature), Derek Schilling (French), Emily Van Buskirk (Germanic, Russian, and East European)

Predoctoral Fellows: Richard Dub (Philosophy), Joshua Fesi (English), Yelena Kalinsky (Art History), Nell Quest (Anthropology), Matthew Roth (History), John Savarese (English)

Postdoctoral Fellows: Laura Brown (Anthropology, U. of Michigan), Loren Goldman (Political Theory, Chicago)

Affiliated Scholars: Jonathan Farina (English, Seton Hall), Chris D’Addario (English, Towson State)

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