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The Summer Institute in the Arts & Humanities

The 2005 Institute

Becoming Strangers: Travel, Trust, and Collaboration

June 21st - August 11th, 2005

Overview | Faculty | Students | Schedule | Symposium

2005 Overview

Summer Institute Project

Photo by Derrick Jefferies, 2005 Summer Institute

Most of us depend on habit to get us through our daily lives. We presume that the food bought in a grocery store won't poison us; we take for granted that other cars will make space for us when merging on the highway; we trust our employers to pay us for our services rendered; we believe that classes ought to start at the time listed in the course catalog. Habits so thoroughly saturate what we do and how we do it that we tend to forget about them - until we find ourselves in situations where outpilot doesn't suffice. Then we can feel uncertain, betrayed, or on occasion exhilarated. And, in our globalized, mobile, hybrid, networked world, these moments of vertigo are ever more common. Only hermits can thoroughly insulate themselves from the shocks and eddies of new experiences, from other ways of thinking and presuming.

This institute will be pondering occasions when everydayness gives way to oddity, strangeness, and unfamiliarity. More specifically, we will be examining scenarios in which people deliberately venture beyond their comfort zone, risking vulnerability in quest of novelty. We will be inquiring into what modes of knowing, what kinds of affect, and what sorts of dangers characterize the dis-ease of encountering the truly unforseen. Travel will be central to our discussions, insofar as movement through space can serve as a paradigm for leaving behind the familiar, but we will also be discussing how the artistic process itself can serve as a model for "making one's home strange," that is, a means of doffing habit and newly, freshly perceiving the world around us. Finally we will be exploring the interpersonal dimension of these voyages into the unknown: what kinds of relationship - of trust, of fear, of rivalry, of welcome, of longing - characterize interchange between "strangers"? Can one truly learn to see (or see oneself) through another's eyes?

This eight week intensive institute, taught by an artist (Ellen Garvens), a scholar in poetics and literary criticism (Brian Reed), and a historian of science and technology (Phillip Thurtle), provides an innovative and interdisciplinary approach to understanding the important of "strange encounters" as a literary, artistic, and critical theme. We will begin by developing an understanding of what constitutes "strangeness": how it has been defined and conceptualized by academic researchers, practitioners, artists, and laypeople. Through an innovative mix of plenary, seminar, and tutorial style sessions the institute will encourage co-operative learning, project-based exploration of materials, and the development of individual thought and expression. Readings will be chosen from the disciplines of cultural studies, art, art history, literary criticism, and social theory. Students will be encouraged to use their experiences in lecture and discussion to come up with a conceptual and practical "toolbox" for exploring the rich critical theoretical terrain of trust, travel, and cooperation. Finally, working on their own, in small groups, and with individual faculty members, institute participants will use this toolbox to develop an exemplary piece of research that will allow them to demonstrate their full talents to postgraduate or professional programs. Possible projects might include but are not limited to: representations of travel (in art, literature, critical theory); the role of the stranger and the act of welcoming; becoming strangers for strangers; betrayal as a literary, artistic, or historical-political event; the relationship between habit and technology in contemporary society; and trustful openness toward an unknown future. The Institute will culminate in a series of presentations and in the publication of an anthology of student research in the arts and humanities.

The Fourth Annual, 2005 UW Summer Institute in the Arts & Humanities at the University of Washington was sponsored by Undergraduate Academic Affairs , the Simpson Center for the Humanities , the Office of Research , Summer Quarter , the Undergraduate Research Program , and the Mary Gates Endowment for Students .

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