Call for Applicants: 2018 Summer Institute, Rhetoric & Public Culture, “New Modes of Political Protest: 1968 to 2018”

Call for Applicants: 2018 Summer Institute in Rhetoric and Public Culture, “New Modes of Political Protest: 1968 to 2018”

The annual Rhetoric and Public Culture Summer Institute at Northwestern University is scheduled to be held on July 9-13, 2018 (with arrival July 8 and departure July 14).

This year's theme is: "New Modes of Political Protest: 1968 to 2018.” Institute conveners are Dilip Gaonkar (Rhetoric and Public Culture, Northwestern University) and Randall Bush (Lecturer, MSC Program, Northwestern University).

However defined, protest is an increasingly visible mode of articulation in the face of unstable global political, media, and cultural arrangements. Whether signaling a response to the simultaneously sedimented and unstable features of modern institutional orders, or signifying the historically unequal composition of economic forces, a critical vocabulary is needed to explore the increasing presence of political protest across the globe.  

We seek answers for why protest has become an increasingly visible, viable—even preferred—mode of collective agency in modern, “democratized” countries of the West. Once seen as the political expression of last resort or as the disordered roar of the undemocratic crowd in the developing countries of the global south, protest is now seen as increasingly unavoidable, if not increasingly legitimate. Through comparative historical, political-theoretical, and rhetorical forms, we ask how protest represents new options, new venues, and new challenges for the foundational questions of democracy, political legitimacy, governmentality, populism, and liberal constitutionalism that give form to political and social theory.

The institute will consist of five days of presentations and discussions led by Laura Gratten (Political Science, Wellesley College), Charles Postel (History, San Francisco State University) and two other “Visiting Scholars”.  Each visiting scholar will deliver an afternoon lecture, lead a seminar discussion on selected readings (assigned in advance) the following morning, and attend a colleague’s presentation that afternoon. The overlapping format enables student and faculty participants to continue informal scholarly discussions during group lunches and dinners. 

In addition, there will be afternoon presentations by at least three Northwestern faculty members, including: Scott Durham (French and Italian), José Medina(Philosophy) and Robert Hariman(Rhetoric and Public Culture). 

The institute is sponsored by the Center for Global Culture and Communication (CGCC), an interdisciplinary initiative of Northwestern University School of Communication. The Center will subsidize transportation (up to $250), lodging (double-occupancy), and some meals (breakfast and lunch every day and two group dinners) for admitted students. Applicants should send a brief letter of nomination from their academic advisor, along with a one-page statement explaining their interest in participating in this year’s institute, to the summer institute coordinator David Molina ( We will adopt a policy of rolling admissions. Priority will therefore be granted to strong applications that are submitted in a timely fashion, preferably by June 15, 2018.  All inquiries should be directed to David Molina.


Faculty Bios:

Scott Durham is Associate Professor of French and Comparative Literature and Director of Graduate Studies in French at Northwestern University. His main interests are in 20th- and 21st-century literature, film, and theory, with particular emphasis on Foucault, Deleuze, and Rancière, as well as the Marxist critical tradition. Professor Durham is the author of Phantom Communities: The Simulacrum and the Limits of Postmodernismand the editor of a Yale French Studies issue on Jean Genet.

Laura Gratten is Associate Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College. Herresearch is at the intersection of democratic theory and practice, focusing on grassroots politics, social movements, and critical studies of race and culture. Professor Grattan’s book, Populism’s Power: Radical Grassroots Democracy in America, analyzes populist rhetoric and organizing in popular culture and in historical and contemporary social movements. 

Robert Hariman is Professor of Communication Studies and Director of Graduate Studies in Rhetoric and Public Culture at Northwestern University. His scholarship focuses on the role of public art and artistry in human affairs, particularly with regard to political judgment and the discursive constitution of modern society. Professor Hariman’s recent publications include two books co-authored with John Louis Lucaites, No Caption Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture, and Liberal Democracyand The Public Image: Photography and Civic Spectatorship.

José Medina is Walter Dill Scott Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University. His research is primarily in critical race theory, feminist and queer theory, political philosophy, communication theory and social epistemology. Professor Medina’s books include The Epistemology of Resistance: Gender and Racial Oppression, Epistemic Injustice, and Resistant Imaginations, and Speaking from Elsewhere.

Charles Postel is Professor of History at San Francisco State University. His research focus on social movements and politics in the United States—with particular interests in the political ideas that have inspired radical protest and reform, as well as conservative activism. Professor Postel’s first book, The Populist Vision is a history of the Populist movement of the 1890s, the most powerful revolt against corporate power in U.S. history.