Risk: Cornell Society for the Humanities Fellowships 2012-13




Timothy Murray, Director of the Society for the Humanities, is pleased to announce the 2012-2013 research focal theme: "Risk @ Humanities." Six to eight Fellows will be appointed.



Senior Scholars in Residence:

William Leiss

Scientist, McLaughlin Centre for Population Health Risk Assessment, University of Ottawa, and Professor emeritus, School of Policy Studies, Queen's University

Michael Warner

Seymour H. Knox Professor of English, Yale University



RISK @ Humanities

The Society for the Humanities calls for scholarly reflections on risk.  We seek interdisciplinary projects that reflect on historical, theoretical, and global understandings of risk as a concept and a reality that lies at the heart of the humanities and the arts. The Society wishes to open the question of how risk shapes the humanities and how the humanities might dialogue with broader biological, ecological, economic, and technological approaches to risk. 


We invite considerations of how risk might be inherent to the humanities.  Scholars could reflect on the relation of accident, danger, and uncertainty in cross-historical letters and arts.  How might risk lie at the heart of ritual and religion / legislation and government / letters and art?  Some scholars might consider the philosophy and anthropology of probability and chance or even the history or theory of gaming.  How do scholarly and artistic practices that cut across and against boundaries depend on and profit from risk?


Questions of geographies and environments at risk raise adjacent considerations of travel, politics, and transgression.  What is the relation of the humanities and the arts to “risk society,” “writers at risk,” or “risk territory”?  From risky behavior and risky thinking to risk in sexuality or the risk of torture, from questions of terror to threats of surveillance, from the transgression of creative production to the mixtures of cultures, peoples, and religions, risk @ humanities sits on unstable terrain.  What might it mean to research the humanities in relation to economic collapse, environmental degradation, immunological threat, or military incursion?  


Artistic form and practice themselves also contribute to an ongoing understanding of risk.  How might experiments in new media, performance, film, literature, music, art, and architecture articulate aesthetic interventions across the topography of risk? Might new electronic and digital networks, mobilities, and artistic projects threaten or empower the arts? Are indigenous or traditional practices at risk in the age of global communication and exchange?  These questions are meant to suggest, not delimit, possible approaches to the focal theme.


Scholars are encouraged to investigate ideas, instances, and inferences of risk across geographies, historical periods, disciplinary boundaries, and social contexts. The Society for the Humanities welcomes applications from scholars and practitioners who are interested in investigating this topic from the broadest variety of international and disciplinary perspectives.


The David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future co-sponsors one fellowship to support scholarly work addressing risk as it relates to energy, the environment or economic development.




Fellows include scholars from other universities and members of the Cornell faculty released from regular duties. The fellowships are held for one academic year. Each Society Fellow will receive $45,000. Applicants living outside North America are eligible for an additional $2,000 to assist with travel costs.


Fellows spend their time in research and writing, participate in the weekly Fellows Seminar, and offer one seminar related to their research. The seminars are generally informal, related to the Fellow's research, and open to graduate students, suitably qualified undergraduates, and faculty members. Fellows are encouraged to explore topics they would not normally teach and, in general, to experiment freely with both the content and the method of their courses.




Fellows should be working on topics related to the year's theme. Their approach to the humanities should be broad enough to appeal to students and scholars in several humanistic disciplines.


Applicants must have received the Ph.D. degree before January 1, 2011. The Society for the Humanities will not consider applications from scholars who received the Ph.D. after this date. Applicants must also have one or more years of teaching experience, which may include teaching as a graduate student.



Application Procedures

The procedures for application can be found at our website:




The Society for the Humanities

The Society for the Humanities was established at Cornell University in 1966 to support research and teaching in the humanities. It is intended to be at once a research institute, a stimulus to educational innovation, and a continuing society of scholars.  The Society and its Fellows have fostered path-breaking interdisciplinary dialogue and theoretical reflection on the humanities at large.


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