IRW Seminar

2018-2019 IRW Seminar Call


Public Catastrophes, Private Losses

The Institute for Research on Women (IRW) announces its twenty-second annual interdisciplinary seminar, “Public Catastrophes, Private Losses.” Wars, genocides, forced migration, and terrorism, as well as health epidemics and natural disasters remake lives. In the aftermath of physical and emotional dislocation, how do people process a sense of loss and rebuild their lives? A growing body of scholarship suggests that the impacts of catastrophic events vary across different contexts, bleeding into multiple domains. This seminar looks at the ways public catastrophes imprint themselves on lives, how individuals, as members of groups, narrate, process, and grapple with legacies of loss, and how states and non-governmental organizations address such events, serving the needs of some populations better than others.

Inspired by feminism, we are particularly interested in the ways the personal and public are intertwined, and how, in the aftermath of catastrophe, families and communities become repositories for loss, silence, mourning, witnessing, reconstruction, and reparation. What are the conditions that make it possible for ordinary people to make sense out of overwhelming events or processes that have profoundly disrupted the life of their family, community or nation? How can states and other social institutions best respond to their needs? Recent social movements, such as Black Lives Matter, suggest that social inequalities shape understandings of whose lives count, and what kinds of deaths are grievable. We live in a precarious world, where the lives of so many are considered expendable.

We invite applications from faculty and advanced graduate students (ABD status required) whose projects explore aspects of our theme. Such studies may examine any time period(s) or geographical location(s) and be rooted in any disciplinary or interdisciplinary approach(es). Some possible topics relevant to the seminar theme include, but are not limited to:

  • The effects of migration, exile, and dislocation
  • Post-disaster recovery efforts
  • Family memories of catastrophe
  • Disasters and environmental racism
  • Reparations
  • “Disaster capitalism”
  • Exceptional versus the “everyday” trauma
  • False memories and the politics of witnessing
  • Necropolitics
  • Therapeutic culture and victimhood
  • Sexual abuse during times of war
  • Epigenetics and the intergenerational transmission of trauma
  • Analyzing and archiving survivor narratives
  • PTSD and the medicalization of trauma
  • Trauma-descendant groups and memory work
  • Museums and memorialization
  • Trauma-based social movements

Individuals from all disciplines, schools, and programs on all Rutgers campuses are welcome to apply. We also welcome proposals from Rutgers-based writers and activists.

The seminar will support up to eight Rutgers Faculty Fellows and up to four Graduate Fellows from the New Brunswick, RBHS, Camden, and Newark campuses. Seminar fellows are expected to attend all Thursday morning seminar meetings during Fall and Spring Semesters 2018-2019, provide a paper for discussion in the seminar, and open a seminar session with an extended response to another scholar’s paper.

Graduate students will receive a $5,000 stipend for the year as seminar fellows. Faculty fellows will receive either $4,000 in research support or a one-course teaching release for one semester to enable them to participate in the year-long seminar. In the latter case, departments will be reimbursed for instructional replacements at the minimum contractual PTL rate. Financial arrangements will be made in advance of the seminar with the department chairs and/or appropriate deans.

Applications should be received at IRW by Thursday, January 11, 2018. All decisions of the selection committee are final. 2018-2019 Seminar Fellows will be notified by Friday March 2, 2018. Please contact IRW at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have any questions or would like more information.


**Download application materials for the 2018-19 seminar**