In recent years intellectual history has reestablished itself as a distinct and vital field of scholarship, with a new attention to the social and cultural contexts of thought as well as to language, rhetoric, and meaning. Even as the field has applied insights from a broad range of other disciplines, and especially from literary studies and philosophy, its practitioners have sought an understanding of thinkers, ideas, and texts that is emphatically historical.
The next meeting of the 2014-2015 Triangle Intellectual History Seminar is Sunday, October 5. Jonathon Glassman, Professor in the Department of History at Northwestern University and a Fellow at the National Humanities Center this year, will be leading a discussion on the topic of “Rethinking Race in the Colonial World.”
Paper available | TIHS-Glassman | Click here to download paper.
Is it possible or useful to use the concept of “race” when discussing ways of thinking that do not stem directly from Western ideas? Most studies of racial thought suggest not: the prevailing assumption is that the racialization of difference in places like Rwanda or Darfur has been the product of imported Western doctrines. This article, in contrast, argues that discourses of racial difference resulted from conversations that African intellectuals had with one another more than with colonial rulers or educators – conversations in which they drew on multiple intellectual traditions, including many that were inherited locally from the precolonial past. The article is drawn from a monograph that in turn will serve as the starting-point of my current project: a comparative study of racial thought that, although restricted to the African continent, will question conventional understandings of race, ethnicity, and nation in many parts of the world, including the West.
The next seminar of the 2014-205 Triangle Intellectual History Seminar is Sunday, November 2. Michael Kimmage, Associate Professor of History at the Catholic University of America, will be leading a discussion on the topic, “The Decline of the West: An American Story.”
The next meeting of the 2014-2015 Triangle Intellectual History Seminar is Sunday, December 7. Professor Colin Tyler of the University of Hull is Visiting Professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Wake Forest University. He will be leading a discussion on the topic, “Forms, Dialectics, and the Healthy Community: Recovering the British Idealist Reception of Plato.
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The history departments at three Triangle Area universities – Duke University in Durham, North Carolina State University in Raleigh, and The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill – have established a Program in Intellectual History for students pursuing the MA and Ph.D. in Modern European, Russian, or American History. Within easy access of each other, these universities now form a major national center for graduate teaching and research in the humanities and social sciences. The Program is designed to take advantage of their unique concentration of resources:
The uniqueness of our program lies in both its thematic inclusiveness and its methodological orientation. The faculty is committed to a contextual approach to intellectual history. Context is broadly defined, but we believe that intellectual historians make their distinctive contribution to knowledge when they study texts to recover the historical meanings of ideas. To that end we seek to understand how ideas were formed, reformulated, argued, and received in specific historical contexts. We also wish to develop a closer relationship between European and American intellectual history – one that will enrich both areas. Hence we encourage research that draws comparative conclusions about thinkers and ideas on both sides of the Atlantic, and that explores transactions and mediations between American and European intellectual discourses.
Students develop plans of study involving intellectual historians from all three universities. Thanks to the diversity of faculty, students can explore a wide variety of themes, combining intellectual history with cognate fields in history and other disciplines. They can apply concepts and insights from feminist theory, literary and cultural theory, psychoanalytic theory, studies of the construction of national and ethnic identity, the history of science, the history of philosophy, political theory, and social theory.