Mason’s Center for Humanities Research!

The George Mason University Center for Humanities Research (CHR) supports Mason faculty across the university who are pursuing innovative and consequential research in the humanities and humanities-related disciplines; enhances the visibility and impact of this work; and advances Mason’s reputation for humanities research.  

The Center aims to demonstrate and promote the value of the humanities as a public good. Humanities research grapples with complex issues, encourages informed critical dialogue, facilitates cross-cultural and inter-generational understanding, promotes engaged citizenship and inclusive public discourse, and feeds the public imagination.

Introducing Our Theme for 2020-2021: Dissent

“Dissents speak to a future age” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg

While US constitutional history memorializes Justices John Marshall Harlan, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and William O. Douglas as the “great dissenters,” the phrase “I dissent” resonates today with the minority reports authored by the recently deceased Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, stripped of its customary adverb of collegiality, “respectfully.” One might think, for example, of her strongly-worded dissent in the case of Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby (2014), where the court ruled in favor of exemptions for closely held, for-profit companies who claim religious beliefs. Her statement of dissent is unapologetically charged with the anger of one who had witnessed the gradual establishment of women’s rights over the course of the 20th century, only to be presented with cases that sought to limit them. Even as we celebrate Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s notorious dissents, the Black Lives Matter movement reminds us daily, and with urgency, how crucial dissent is to our democracy and to the ongoing struggle for racial justice.

In the wake of Justice Ginburg’s passing, and in response to the ongoing Black Lives Matter Movement, the Center for Humanities Research invites applications from faculty and advanced PhD candidates whose research broadly interrogates or intersects with the notion of dissent. Articulations of dissent not only signal a deviation from the common opinion: the create the space for personal, social and political change.

While our theme takes inspiration from the legal sphere, we ask: which other discursive spaces have been opened by dissent over time? In which historical, philosophical, religious, and imaginative texts, contexts, cultural sites and/or practices can we locate dissent? Whose words, acts and gestures are given credence as dissent, and how do the imbrications of race, gender, sexuality, age, class and ability render dissent legible or allow it to be dismissed? If the voice of dissent is generally defined as the minority opinion, then how does such dissent gain traction, and influence, or even become the voice of the majority? How can we trace the relationship between individual dissent and the larger contexts from which it originates, or the uprisings that result? What does public, collective, or shared dissent look like? Or in the words of the late Justice Ginsburg, how do “dissents speak to a future age”?

We seek brief proposals that explain the importance of dissent, broadly construed, to an ongoing research project in any humanistic field of inquiry. Click here to go to our applications page.

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