Much of the interdisciplinary research conducted in humanities centers and institutes is advanced through the lively exchange of ideas, including formal and informal conversations in which views are formed, evidence is tested, and conclusions are modified. At their best, these conversations become dialogues. In both European and other traditions dialogue has been a key mechanism for generating inquiry, leading to enlightenment across many fields of human endeavor. Dialogue allows the present to confront the past and the past to confront the present. As a genre in its own right, it is important for detailed study.

The resources of Edinburgh and the history of IASH made this theme particularly appropriate for a CHCI meeting. Dialogues of Enlightenment, however, possessed a thoroughly contemporary focus: local facilities and historic sites came into active relation with the conference through involvement with non-academic partners and historic and current venues of Enlightenment. Together we engaged in interrogating locality and mobility; intellectual, religious, verbal and imaginative exchange; communication and misunderstanding across space and time; lines of servitude, oppression and emancipation; and the possibilities and limitations of knowledge generated through dialogue.

Some panels took the form of actual dialogues focusing on polarities in conversation; others will consider dialogue as a theoretical and generic concept of Enlightenment, in the work of Hume and Kant, for example. Panels will feature pairs of speakers reflecting the diversity of dialogues among disciplines mdash science, religion, philosophy, politics, and music; other sessions will be devoted to dialogues between East and West, and to contemporaneous conversations with the past. Music -- in performance and in academic dialogue -- will be a significant feature of the conference. In a new departure for CHCI, one session will take the form of a group conversation about a particular text. We shall use Hume's Dialogues on Natural Religion to address the idea of dialogue, the possibility of cultural difference, and questions of belief. We ask that all attendees familiarize themselves with the Hume text in the Penguin edition.

Click here to view a PDF of the program poster.

Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities

The 2009 CHCI Annual Meeting was organized and generously hosted by the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh. The IASH was established in 1969 to promote interdisciplinary research in the humanities and social sciences at the University of Edinburgh. It seeks to bring about collegial dialogue and to further collaborative research by maintaining a number of Fellowship schemes, by conducting regular programs of Seminars, and by developing overarching Research Themes around which interactions with the local research community are structured.

The meeting took place largely at Playfair Library on the University of Edinburgh campus. By special arrangement, the plenary lecture by Wole Soyinka took place in the Debating Chamber of the Scottish Parliament, hosted by the The Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament. The final program and reception on Saturday evening took place at St. Cecilia's Hall. Our hosts also generously assembled a set of optional group sightseeing excursions in Edinburgh on Sunday 14 June. Edinburgh was glorious in the late spring weather, with only a brief rainstorm, and many attendees took take advantage of this opportunity to see one of Europe's most beautiful cities.


Playfair Library, Old College, University of Edinburgh

6:30 PM - Welcome Reception and Recital for Meeting Participants

FRIDAY, 12 JUNE 2009
Playfair Library, Old College, University of Edinburgh, and
the Scottish Parliament, Holyrood

9:00 AM - Plenary Lecture
Making Reason Public: the Necessary Conditions for Dialogue
Baroness Onora O’Neill, President, The British Academy
Chair: Susan Manning, Director, Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh

10:30 AM - Break

11:00 AM - Dialogue
Whose Enlightenment?
María Rosa Menocal, Director, Whitney Humanities Center, Yale University
Akeel Bilgrami, Director, Heyman Center for the Humanities, Columbia University
Chair: Carole Hillenbrand, University of Edinburgh

12:30 PM - Lunch

1:30 PM - Workshop
Trans-Regional Conditions of the Humanities
Hsiung Ping-Chen, Academia Sinica, Taiwan
Timothy Murray, Director, Society for the Humanities, Cornell University
Debjani Ganguly, Head, Humanities Research Center, Australian National University

4:00 PM - Tour of the Scottish Parliament Building
Requires pre-registration - information will be provided to all meeting registrants

5:30 PM - Plenary Lecture
Enlightenment and the New Enthusiasms
Wole Soyinka, Writer, Poet, Playwright, Nobel Laureate in Literature
Chair: The Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament
In the Debating Chamber of the Scottish Parliament

6:30 PM - Reception in the Garden Lobby of the Scottish Parliament

Playfair Library and St. Cecilia's Hall, Old College, University of Edinburgh

9:00 AM - Dialogue
David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion
A Group Discussion Mediated by Robert Gibbs, Director, Jackman Humanities Institute, University of Toronto

10:30 AM - Break

11:00 AM - Workshop
Creating Dialogue
Sarah Buie, Director, Director, Higgins School of the Humanities, Clark University
Daniel Herwitz, Director, Institute for the Humanities, University of Michigan

12:30 PM - Lunch
New Directors' Introductions and CHCI Business Meeting

2:30 PM - Dialogue
Placing Enlightenments, Then and Now
Charles McKean, Professor of Architectural History, University of Dundee
Stuart Taberner, Professor of Contemporary German Literature, Culture and Society, University of Leeds, and Director, Leeds Humanities Research Institute
Chair: Frédéric Ogée, Profesor of English Literature and Vice Président, Bureau des relations internationales, Université Paris VII - Denis Diderot

4:00 PM - Break

4:30 PM - Dialogue
Music: The Language of the Enlightenment?
Michael Steinberg, Director, Cogut Center for the Humanities, Brown University
Ruth HaCohen, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Chair: Anthony Cascardi, University of California, Berkeley

6:15 PM - Closing Reception
St. Cecilia's Hall - Lecture/Recital by Kirsteen McCue and David Hamilton commemorating Robert Burns' 250th Anniversary


1. Day tour to Paxton House, Berwick upon Tweed (cost £35)
Set in the beautiful Scottish Borders and built in 1758 for a young Scottish Laird, Patrick Home of Billie, award winning Paxton House is one of the finest 18th century Palladian country houses in Britain. Built by John Adam on a ridge overlooking the River Tweed, Paxton House features 12 period rooms many boasting interiors by Robert Adam and fine collections of Chippendale and Trotter furniture. The magnificent Picture Gallery houses over 70 paintings from the National Galleries of Scotland, including masterpieces by Raeburn, Wilkie and Lawrence. You can also enjoy over 80 acres of gardens, woodland and park-land and a mile of the breathtaking River Tweed. The cost of the tour includes: coach travel from Edinburgh; a full guided tour of the House plus a summary session with the Curator giving access to the collection in more detail and a visual presentation showing the Paxton collection and particularly the Chippendale furniture in context; lunch; time to explore the extensive grounds.

2. Morning Walking Tour of Edinburgh's Old and New Towns (cost £15)
Explore the delights of the city of Edinburgh, a World Heritage Site, with architectural historian, Professor Charles McKean. Twin Citadels - Beginning on the Castle Esplanade, walking through the crucible of the Enlightenment, the homes of its literati and clubs, down into the Canongate, and up Jacob's ladder to the Acropolis of Modern Athens, through its streets to Charlotte Square.