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Introducing Notions, a New Annual Publication from the Neubauer Collegium


News Summary

I am proud to introduce Notions, the Neubauer Collegium’s new public-facing report. This report is more than a source of information about what’s been happening at the corner of Woodlawn Avenue and 57th Street. In a moment when everyone is talking about crisis in the humanities (and in universities more broadly), it offers a source of inspiration and hope for the future of qualitative humanistic research.

Such hope is much needed. Lately, humanists are understandably demoralized. Private and public funding and attention are increasingly turning to STEM fields. Qualitative researchers have been pressured to justify their existence and defend their value. At the same time, universities have been subjected to increasing political heat, pressured to defend or change their leadership and their curriculums; challenged in their ability to represent a diverse society; divided internally by debates over the meaning of free expression.

We at the Neubauer Collegium don’t claim to have the solution to any of those problems, and this report is not a manifesto. But we do offer something else: evidence of the value of qualitative research in the form of our research projects, gallery exhibitions, and public programming. In all three domains, our mission is to bring together scholars, artists and practitioners across disciplinary and administrative boundaries who are posing new questions about human societies and culture. Notions highlights a few of the themes that have emerged organically in our programming this year, including climate change; the role of the performing arts as repositories of history and embodied knowledge; and the cultural and economic afterlives of empire.

All ideas begin as notions. Some remain fleeting thoughts, but others grow into questions that drive research and change. But notions do not become big ideas without support, space, and community – some of which is highly visible, and some largely unseen by the public. This report provides a behind-the-scenes perspective on ideas in the making – and of the ways in which unfettered qualitative research is essential to understanding cultures and societies in transformation.

Tara Zahra

Roman Family Director
Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society