The 50,000 objects in The Metropolitan Museum of Art's comprehensive collection of European sculpture and decorative arts reflect the development of various art forms in Western Europe from the early fifteenth through the early twentieth century. Marina Kellen French Curator Wolfram Koeppe's wide-ranging interests have contributed to acquisitions now included as essential masterpieces in this historically significant collection. In his lecture, Koeppe speaks about building The Met's expansive compendium of central European sculpture, woodwork and furniture, goldsmithwork, and horological and mathematical instruments.
Before the circumnavigation of Africa by the Portuguese, the corridor of the Red Sea had linked the Mediterranean with the Indian Ocean world, where many of the most coveted goods of international trade originated. The Dahlak Archipelago, in the southern Red Sea, provided a set of stepping stones for trading networks crisscrossing this transregional continuum; a market and a shipping service hub; unique marine products; and a gateway in the movement of enslaved people from East Africa to Arabia and beyond. Historian Roxani Margariti’s lecture focuses on the local, regional, and transregional history of this medieval and early modern island polity. Situated at the margins of powerful territorial states, tenuously connected to metropolitan centers and the master narratives they generated, the Dahlak islands occupied crucial crossroads and commanded a lucrative maritime realm. How, she asks, do the medieval Islamic world, the Middle East, and East Africa look from their maritime edges?
Like many alert contemporaries, writer Hari Kunzru often finds himself worrying about privacy, worrying about surveillance, worrying about data mining and credit card fraud. He finds these worries reflected everywhere around him in the culture. But what precisely, he asks, is threatened when privacy is threatened? In this reading, Kunzru fictionalizes arriving at an institute of advanced study in Berlin, wherein his working space is a desk in the middle of an open-plan office, devoid of the solitude necessary for writing and thinking. “If I have no privacy—that is to say, no interiority,” he asks, “am I still human, as the idea has been historically understood?”
In this lecture, “The Quick and the Dead,” Sophia Roosth asks: At what pace must life proceed in order to count as life? How do qualities such as speed, slowness, time, and temperature actually shape the ways in which we think about life as form, pattern, or process? Roosth interrogates questions such as these historically and anthropologically by attending to a variety of scientific communities, among them geobiologists and micropaleontologists, polar scientists, resurrection scientists, and researchers at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which stores samples of the world’s seeds for post-apocalyptic renewal.
In popular accounts as well as UN Development reports, the Arab world appears uniquely resistant to modern ways of being and styles of thought. Yet debates about modernity have long been at the center of intellectual life in the region, and the most sophisticated versions of these debates happen in poetry. The cultural heritage that seems most threatened by modernity is precisely the one poets have traditionally served to protect. Robyn Creswell’s lecture will focus on the question of how modern Arab poets have reconciled the demands of innovation and cultural preservation—the demand to make it new with the demand to make it authentic. It will examine a suite of poems that take the radio as a figure for new aesthetic sensibilities and political communities grounded in the history of the region. It will also reflect on the way debates about culture and modernity have been reflected in the recent uprisings.