Midwest Faculty Seminars: University of Chicago


This year the University of St. Thomas will support the attendance of six faculty at the Midwest Faculty Seminars sponsored by the University of Chicago. The seminars for this year are listed below. If you are interested in applying, send to Faculty Development a description (no more than one page) of how attendance at a specific seminar would affect your teaching and/or research. Priority is given to those faculty who have never attended a Midwest Faculty Seminar in the past. All expenses are paid. The seminars generally last from early Thursday morning until noon on Saturday.

Please send your application request by e-mail (to pmalexander@stthomas.edu) no later than 4 p.m. on September 24.

Topics for 2010-11

Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations
Oct. 21-23, 2010

A founding document for the social sciences as they are understood today, Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations has exerted immeasurable influence on economic and political philosophy since its initial publication in 1776. But how well is the text actually understood? In recent history, Smith’s extraordinarily detailed and thoughtful work has been commonly boiled down to a few simplistic assertions about the “invisible hand” that guides the marketplace. This seminar will continue efforts of recent decades to return to the text itself, with a variety of historical, theoretical and practical approaches to Smith’s writing. In particular, this conversation will emphasize the political and intellectual environment in which Smith produced his key work and the ways in which changes in global and national economic systems must be taken into account when reading The Wealth of Nations today.

Jan. 27-29, 2011

The United States’ Declaration of Independence asserts that all men are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We all seem to understand the sentiment behind this statement, and yet any attempt to specify what exactly is meant by “happiness” reveals an inadequacy inherent to the description of such an intensely personal emotion. Such efforts have, nonetheless, been a primary concern of philosophical, religious, psychological and even, as the above example illustrates, of legal thought at least since classical Greece. This seminar will take a variety of approaches from across the academic spectrum to create a conversation that engages these and other related issues. How can scientific and quantitative methods help us to understand human happiness better? How do understandings and expectations of happiness differ across cultures? What role do governments have in defining, or even providing for, the happiness of citizens? How have conceptions of happiness changed over time.

Migration: Displacement and Belonging
Feb. 24-26, 2011

The increasingly global economy makes the movement of people a more complex problem and an increasingly essential topic. As transportation, communication and commerce all become much easier and more fluid across national boundaries, the stakes and the nature of migration necessarily change. This seminar will consider both the forces causing movement (disasters, development projects, politics, economics) and the issues around settlement (community formation and exclusion, cultural and political citizenship). How does an ethnic or cultural community change as the population disperses, or as it is infused with new populations? How do migrant communities negotiate between traditional cultural identification and assimilation, and how can cultural identity be preserved in new and unfamiliar locations? Do governments have a role in preserving or protecting migrant cultures, or in encouraging assimilation? How can governments regulate immigration and migrant populations in a way that is humane as well as fair to both citizens and immigrants?

April 7-9, 2011

As living standards rise in the world's most populous countries, the global demand for energy is skyrocketing at the same time that environmental concerns warrant cutbacks in fossil-fuel usage. In the coming decades, who is going to have access to energy, and where is it going to come from? This seminar will consider the material aspects of the energy problem alongside ethical questions. What will new energy sources look like and how will they be allocated? What by-products and long-term environmental consequences will result from these new technologies? As materials grow scarce, should some people or purposes be considered more worthy of resources than others? How does one prioritize energy usage across borders? We will consider the economic and political stakes of energy policy, and consider how an issue that affects the whole earth can or should be managed by national governments and international corporations.

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