From May 28-June 1, 2024, the Townsend Center for the Humanities at UC Berkeley will host the next CHCI Annual Meeting. Registration is open for late registration through May 13. After that point, please contact us directly if you would like to register. The Patio Conversations program is open to proposals through May 20.

… at Risk | CHCI Annual Meeting 2024

Scholars and intellectuals find themselves increasingly at risk. Globally, the number who have been forced into exile, because of war, regional conflict, or state persecution is on the rise. Authoritarians see fit to hound their critics for their intellectual and creative work, or on account of their sexual, gender, ethnic, and religious identities. In the United States, many professors struggle to do the basic work of teaching in contexts growing more hostile by the day. Some find themselves without an institutional home (or secure employment), their departments eviscerated if not outright abolished, with the stroke of a pen, from the University of Wisconsin to West Virginia University. Others find themselves navigating ever-expanding legislative and political minefields, at the “new” New College engineered by Governor Ron DeSantis and Christopher Rufo, or before committees of the U.S. House of Representatives self-appointed to monitor campus policies on free speech and dissent. The CHCI annual meeting in Berkeley—… at Risk—aims to examine the multiple challenges encountered by scholars operating within increasingly hostile environments at home and abroad.

This conference will ask, what is a scholar at risk? Is it always a figure in exile? A person in search of refuge? Our understanding of the intellectual at risk has in many ways been shaped by an earlier response to the chaos and disintegration of World War II. In “We Refugees” (1943), Hannah Arendt initially rejected the label “refugee” (whom she understood as a person seeking refuge “because of some act committed or some political opinion held”—when “we committed no acts,” she would retort); but eventually she revised her understanding in ways that proved formative and influential for the rest of the century: “those of us who have been so unfortunate as to arrive in a new country without means.” Are there limits to the Arendtian model of the refugee? If statelessness and exile, sanctuary and hospitality remain the yardsticks of a resilient response to risk, are we up to the specific challenges we face in the 21st century? What new forces have emerged of late to erode principles of academic freedom?

CHCI will also address the forms of thought in the humanistic disciplines that enable as well as foreclose forms of risk. Can a focus on “insecurity” rather than “inequality” encourage a reimagining of the commons? Can risk be politically galvanizing?

The CHCI Annual Meeting is our international conference for leaders in the humanities and humanistic social sciences. Each Annual Meeting is hosted by a member center or institute and focuses on a theme chosen by the host director. The program is a balance between thematic sessions and member-oriented sessions, including a Membership Plenary, Best Practices for Humanities Centers, and sessions led by our CHCI Networks. The Annual Meeting takes place in May/June and we aim to meet at a venue outside of North America every other year. Attendees include but are not limited to humanities center and institute directors and staff, early career scholars interested in humanities leadership, humanities networks and funders, academic administrators, and non-academic humanities leaders.

Hans Hofmann: Detail from Above Deep Waters, 1959; oil on canvas; 84 1/4 x 52 in.
University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive; Gift of Hans Hofmann