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Research events 2007-8

The Medieval Schoolroom and the Literary Arts

10-12 July 2008, Keynes Hall, King's College
Organiser(s): Dr Nicky Zeeman

In the fourteenth century poem Piers Plowman, the figure Anima famously declares that 'grammar is the ground of all'; how this may be true for the theological and political reflections in the poem, let alone medieval literary culture as a whole, is a substantially neglected question. In recent decades, the attention that has been paid to medieval institutions of learning has generally been directed towards the universities and the complexities of schaolastic thought. Insofar as study has been directed to verbal arts, the focus has been on rhetoric and logic. Historians may have acknowledged that grammar offerred the disciplinary forum in which medieval literature was studied and writers learned their craft, but the detailed mechanics of this connection -- the specific procedures and practices of pedagogy from the primer school to university -- are not yet clearly understood. This conference will be an international and interdisciplinary conversation focussed on these issues; it will bring together intellectual historians, classicists, linguists, musiclogists as well as scholars working in English departments.

Computation and Cognitive Science

7-8 July, King's College
Organiser(s): Dr Mark Sprevak

The purpose of the conference is to better understand philosophical implications of the notion of computation in the cognitive sciences and foster international collaboration among those working in the cognitive sciences. The topics of the conference include the computational architecture of the mind, the relationship between computation and representation, computation and the extended mind, necessary and sufficient conditions to implement a computation, computation and cognitive neuroscience, massive modularity and computation.

The papers will be circulated in advance, leaving more time for Q&A and discussion. The speakers include: Kenneth Aizawa, William Bechtel, Jack Copeland, Frances Egan, Chris Eliasmith, Gualtiero Piccinini, Richard Samuels, Oron Shagrir, and Mark Sprevak

The conference website is here.

Cambridge Armenian Workshop

7-8 June, Wine Room
Organiser(s): Bert Vaux

The purpose of the event is to bring together a number of leading armenologists, includinf Robert Thomson, Christina Maranci, Theo van Lint and James Clackson. The program is here.

Lecture on US elections

21 May 2008, Wine Room
Organiser(s): Bert Vaux

Political scientist Professor Andrew Rudalevige, expert on the US presidency, is giving a lecture tomorrow, 21 May, in King's. Come to hear History in the Making? What to Expect from the 2008 US Presidential Election in the Wine Room, 2.15pm, to hear about US voting behavior, and an evaluation of the 2008 race. For more information contact Bert Vaux bertvaux [at] gmail [dot] com. Read a review of Andrew Rudalevige's book at Buzzflash.

Work in Progress: Prof John Pocock

6-8 May 2008, Wine Room, King's College
Organiser(s): Dr Istvan Hont, Prof Ross Harrison

Three linked seminars on work in progress by Professor John Pocock, the Harry C. Black Emeritus Professor of History at the Johns Hopkins University.

His works on intellectual history include The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law (1957, second edition 1987), Politics, Language and Time (1971), The Machiavellian Moment (1975), and Virtue, Commerce and History (1985).

Work in Progress: Prof Haun Saussy

11-14 March, Wine Room, King's College
Organiser(s): Dr Stefan Uhlig, Prof Robin Osborne, Dr Basim Musallam, Prof Ross Harrison

Three linked seminars on work in progress by Haun Saussy, Professor of Comparative Literature, Yale University.

Two areas of great activity in recent comparative literature, world literature and media studies, offer the discipline a chance of expanding its horizons and keeping up with the times. But the expansion in either direction may portend a loss of literary specificity--or at least, the present discussion aims to give reasons for continuing to think of literature as not reducible to either global cultural studies or a cumulative theory of media convergence. The expansion of canons of literature to "global" reach involves a streamlining of reading such that works are taken as thematic units to which form serves as a mere vehicle or genealogical marker; the inclusion of media in the set of objects we 'compare' frames those objects as artifacts of technology to which content relates only indirectly or ironically. Both of these new directions-- which deserve to be taken seriously and are motivated by genuine intellectual interests-- seem to foreclose, by predefining it, the relation between form and content in a literary work, and the literary mode of reading that always asks (asked?) what that relation is. A series of readings will provide a context for debating the institutional and intellectual options of comparative

Economies of Fortune and Luck

14-16 March 2008, King's College
Organiser(s): Prof Caroline Humphrey

Hitherto, anthropology has been mainly concerned with ideas of misfortune, auspiciousness and divination and less about economies of fortune. Such moral and ontological modalities seem very widespread among Tibeta-Burman groups, where Buddhism is deeply intermingled with apotropaic beliefs. Fortune and luck seem to be iconic potentials open to be displayed, embodied, stolen, exchanged and wasted. Neither gifts nor commodities, fortune and luck play key roles in the moral constitution of personhood and household. In Inner Asia, a plethora of rituals for summoning fortune exists and are performed during weddings, funerals and other life events. In relation to the well-being of the person and household, fortune-prosperity and luck are key idioms employed in geomantic practices and territorial ritual. On another level, fortune and luck are subjects to be enacted within specific modes of displaying efficacy. The political leader, the hunter, the game player and the wealthy host showing off as though he were blessed by luck or fortune are not simply displaying charismatic properties but generating future fortune and luck in the same process. This conference aims to provide the first in-depth study of a critical concept which as yet remains marginalized in anthropological inquiry.

Tarde/Durkheim: Trajectories of the Social

14-15 March 2008, CRASSH, King's College, St Catherine's College
Organiser(s): Dr Matt Candea

Once dismissed as a naive precursor to Durkheimian social science, Gabriel Tarde is now increasingly presented as the misrecognised forerunner of a post-Durkheimian era. Reclaimed from a century of near-oblivion, Tarde's sociology has been linked to a Foucaultian microphysics of power, to Deleuze's philosophy of difference and to Actor Network theory. In the meantime, Emile Durkheim, the venerable ancestor of sociology, has known better days. Long before the neo-Tardian challenge, Emile Durkheim's work has been attacked as totalizing, positivist and conservative.

The conference will explore the recent redicsovery of Tarde, with participants from a range of disciplines including sociology, anthropology and philosophy, who acknowledge a continuing or productively re-imagined debt to Durkheim. Speakers include Georgina Born, James Laidlay, Bruno Latour, James Leach, Joel Robbins, Marilyn Strathern, Karen Sykes and Nigel Thrift.

The conference website is here.

The Missing Link: Medicine in late antiquity

8-9 March 2008, Beves Room
Organiser(s): Dr Peter Jones, Dr Debbie Banham

This conference brings together scholars working on medicine between the end of the classical period and the fourteenth century. This is critical both for the transmission of ancient learning to subsequent periods and for the composition and compilation of texts that continue to be influential in later centuries. The following scholars will be speaking: Sally Crawford (Birmingham) on "Texts, tweezers and trepanning: assessing the archaeology of Anglo-Saxon medicine, Valerie Knight (Manchester) on " Alexander Trallianus on gout: the secondary transition", Christina Lee (Nottingham) on "Care and cure: Anglo-Saxon attitudes towards disease and disability", Danielle Maion (Udine) on "The 'Salernitan' Practica Petrocelli", Lea Olsan (Cambridge) on "Anglo-Saxon charms and Marcellus Empiricus.

Recovery, Plasticity and Rehabilitation

29 February 2008, Beves Room, King's College
Organiser(s): Prof James Fawcett

After stroke or spinal cord injury, patients recover some useful function and they usually have intensive physiotherapy to maximise this. The physiotherapy aims to drive changes in brain circuitry so that the nervous system can compensate for damage by rewiring itself. However, this is done against a background of the very limited plasticity of the adult nervous system. Young children, who have much greater plasticity, also recover much more quickly after brain damage. The concept behind this meeting will be to bring together people working on plasticity, rehabilitation and brain injury, with the aim of finding out how to apply these concepts to human patients.

Speakers include Nick Ward, Jean-Claude Baron, Alan Thompson, David Menon, John Rothwell, James Rowe, Steve McMahon and James Fawcett.

Later meetings on Axon damage in neurodegenerative disease and Basal ganglion disease are planned.

Work in Progress: Prof Marjorie Levinson

29-31 January 2008, Wine Room, King's College
Organiser(s): Dr Alex Regier, Prof Ross Harrison

Three linked seminars on work in progress by Marjorie Levinson, Professor of English Language and Literature, University of Michigan.

The discussion papers are being pre-circulated and available from Susan Amiss.

Book Launch: Revolution in the Making of the Modern World

29 November 2007, Saltmarsh Room, King's College
Organiser(s): Dr John Barber

The launch of the book "Revolution in the Making of the Modern World: Social Identities, Globalization and Modernity", published by Routledge, and edited by John Foran, David Lane and Andreja Zivkovic

Arising out of a conference funded by the Research Centre at King's, this volume re-evaluates the contribution of revolutions to the formation of modern, industrial societies and questions whether ideas of revolution are still relevant in the postmodern and globalised world of the twenty-first century. Featuring contributions from some of the world's leading sociological and political thinkers on revolution, this work opens with a contribution by Göran Therborn, Professor of Sociology at the University of Cambridge, and closes with an afterword by Antonio Negri, the most important contemporary theorist of the relationship between globalisation and revolution. Tackling critical topics from democracy to elite-led transitions, from information communication technologies to the network society, from terrorism to regime change, these essays show how revolutionary traditions and patterns of revolutionary conflict have been transformed by today's global struggles for freedom and power.

Contributors include Asef Bayat, John Barber, Robin Blackburn, Alex Callinicos, John Dunn, John Foran, Jeff Goodwin, Fred Halliday, John Hogan, Krishan Kumar, David Lane, Ching Kwan Lee, Antonio Negri, Valentine M. Moghadam, Eric Selbin, Mark Selden, Göran Therborn, Harald Wydra, Andreja Zivkovic.

Work in Progress: Prof Richard Tuck

21-23 November 2007, Wine Room, King's College
Organiser(s): Dr Istvan Hont, Prof Ross Harrison

Three linked seminars on work in progress by Richard Tuck, Professor of Government, Harvard University and Honorary Fellow, Jesus College, Cambridge. Subjects are "The State of Nature" (21st Nov), "Democracy" (22nd Nov) and "Utopia" (23rd Nov). Noel Malcolm of All Souls College, Tim O'Hagan of UEA, Frederick Neuhouser of Columbia will also be attending.

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