Institute for Critical Inquiry into Global Change

Several tulips are in full bloom in front of a traditional, Roman-style building with pillars.

The Institute for Critical Inquiry into Global Change is an intensive week-long summer seminar that brings together faculty, graduate students, and invited guests with common research interests.

Recognizing that faculty and graduate students seldom have the time to devote to slow readings of new research, or an intellectual community with whom to reflect broadly on critical approaches across disciplines, the Institute hopes to create such a time and space.


Confronted by the effects of globalized capitalism, as well as the aftermath of anti-colonial struggle and decolonization, this Institute will focus on the historical processes of imperialism and colonialism.

Right now, scholars find themselves faced with the challenge of using a set of conceptual tools developed from the Western tradition, to examine those historical processes that led to the expansion of rule beyond the geographic boundaries of the west. The language of western political thought is woven into the everyday political, legal, and social practices of these societies. It is also not the language of self-understanding used by non-western societies.

The resulting dilemma emerges: 

  • How can scholars examine such geographic expansions of rule and ensuing political struggles, as ones that came to challenge the very conceptual frameworks used to organize and justify rule itself? 

Grappling with that question requires two lines of approach.

  1. It requires a sustained analysis of imperialism and colonialism as these processes play out along multiple registers: systemic registers of political economy and transnational institutions as global forces for power, dispossession, and justice; political and cultural registers of collectivities, conflict, and affiliation not always contained by the state; and personal registers of bodies, desire, and subjectivity that are dense sites of both agency and domination.
  2. It requires interrogating the concepts and interpretive frameworks emergent from the western tradition that provide the vocabulary for making sense of these historical processes. Critical inquiry at its best is precisely oriented to this intersection between concepts and historical forces.

Summer Seminars

Each year, the Institute will explore a different theme connected to this challenge, and will examine both its empirical and conceptual dimensions. For example, one year it might chart the development of French political theory in conjunction with the colonization (and later post-colonial struggles) of North Africa, while also reading those thinkers and activists who challenged the politics and conceptual framing of French imperialism.

Another year might focus on the circulations of the Black Atlantic through the lens of racialized global capital.

A third year might investigate transnational and Pan African efforts to redefine black subjectivity.

Scholars will meet daily during an intensive week-long seminar organized around readings circulated in advance. Each Seminar will be led by a rotating set of two scholars (with the exact format to be decided through consultation with the advisory board for the Institute). The Seminar’s theme and yearly leaders will be decided by a planning committee composed of four to six scholars across the University. Each Summer Seminar will have 10-12 participants with a special effort to include visiting scholars and graduate students already in Minnesota through the ICGC’s partnership with the University of the Western Cape. ​

Advisory Committee

  • Hakim Abderrezak (French and Italian)
  • K​aren Brown (ICGC) 
  • Kate Derickson (Geography)
  • Vinay Gidwani (Geography)
  • Diyah Larasati (GWSS)
  • Nancy Luxon (Political Science, Chair) 
  • Richa Nagar (GWSS)
  • Robert Nichols (Political Science)
  • Ajay Skaria (History)

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Inaugural Lecture:
"On the Creation of 'New' World Humans"
Presented by Dr. Gerard Aching, Cornell University
April 26, 2019

Lecture Series:
"Black Radical Humanism and the Problem of Freedom" 
Presented by Dr. Gary Wilder, the City University of New York
October 18, 2019