Metal moveable Type


From the discipline’s earliest days in the US, when Franz Boas was assistant editor on the journal, Science, Columbia faculty have contributed to the scholarly public sphere in which debates about the discipline and its relationships to other forms of practice and intellectual work have been shaped. Our current faculty members continue to be actively involved in these long-lived conversations. In addition to their respective academic writing projects, many are working as editors of journals and book series. Others have convened new forms of collective and collaborative production that make use of new digital platforms and other media. 

Our faculty are also stewards of many of the institutions that nourish creative intellectual work, sustain academic communities and advocate for the importance of critical thinking in the societies where we work. In recent years, departmental faculty members have served as directors and/or co-directors, and played other substantial roles in many of Columbia’s interdisciplinary and regionally focused institutes and centers, including: the Center for Comparative Media (Maria José de Abreu, Brian Larkin, Rosalind Morris), the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race (Catherine Fennell, Claudio Lomnitz, Audra Simpson), the Center for the Study of Social Difference (Lila Abu-Lughod, Paige West), the Columbia Center for Archaeology (Zoe Crossland), the Institute of African Studies (Brian Larkin), the Center for Palestine Studies (Nadia Abu El-Haj, Lila Abu-Lughod, Brinkley Messick, Brian Boyd), the Donald Keene Center for Japanese Studies (Marilyn Ivy), the Heyman Center for the Humanities (Nadia Abu El-Haj), the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society (Rosalind Morris), the Institute for Research in African American Studies (Vanessa Agard-Jones, Steven Gregory), the Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality, (Lila Abu-Lughod, Vanessa Agard-Jones, Rosalind Morris, Elizabeth A. Povinelli), the Institute for Latin American Studies (Claudio Lomnitz), and the Weatherhead East Asia Institute (Myron Cohen).

We are also engaged with foundations and NGOs that support culturally attuned and inclusive initiatives around the world. Some of these are focused on questions of law, governance and social justice, others on environmental conservation and sustainability, while yet others are devoted to alternative forms of education and self-narration. Thus, for example, Paige West works with the The Papua New Guinea Institute of Biological Research, and Ailan Awareness. She is also a co-founder of The Ranguva Solwara Skul, a youth-based venture that reinforces traditional knowledges with contemporary science, and connects classroom learning to hands-on experience in the reefs in Kaselok Village, in New Ireland. Vanessa Agard-Jones works with a community-gardens based childhood education program called Land to Learn and the Black Atlantic Ecologies project, located in the Center for the Study of Social Difference. Rosalind Morris is a founding board member of the Kimberley Foundation, a Canadian charity that supports education for sustainable earth sciences and climate justice as well as local library initiatives. Claudio Lomnitz is a member of the Mexican Bar Foundation and is a Board member of the Fundación Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (Mexico). Lila Abu-Lughod is on the Board of the Palestinian Museum in Birzeit and has helped curate exhibits on pastoral nomads for the National Museum of Qatar. Our archaeologists are also involved with indigenous practitioners and museologists in the places where they work: Severin Fowles with the Archaeology Advisory Board, Picuris Pueblo, New Mexico (no website), and Brian Boyd with the community of Shuqba, northwest of Ramallah (no website).

Below is a small showcase of our editorial and publishing activities. In 2021, we will launch a new podcast series, 'The Public Square is a Sphere,' in which our faculty members discuss the issues that drive their work and inspire their collectively oriented activities.

conversations with Columbia Faculty


David Scott, headshot contemplative - in blue jacket

David Scott is the founding editor of 'Small Axe,' and Director of the 'Small Axe Project. "The aim of the Small Axe Project is to participate both in the renewal of practices of intellectual and cultural criticism in the Caribbean and in the expansion and revision of the scope and horizons of such criticism." Check out the journal here.

Small Axe 62 cover
The Public Square is a Sphere, with David Scott
Paige West, headshot

Paige West was the founding editor, with Dan Brockington, of the journal, 'Environment and Society,' which she edited for ten years. She is presently on the editorial board of 'American Ethnologist,' the flagship journal of the American Ethnological Society. Read more about Paige West's work to nourish Indigenous inclusion on environmental issues here.

The Public Square is a Sphere, Paige West
Partha Chatterjee, headshot

One of the most significant movements in twentieth century social scientific thought emerged under the sign of 'Subaltern Studies.' The name refers to a collective, convened by Ranajit Guha and devoted to a reconsideration of Gramscian thought in relation to the question of postcoloniality. For many years, Partha Chatterjee has been the editor of its flagship publication series, 'Subaltern Studies: Writings on South Asian History and Society,' and has stewarded its community through his directorship of the Center for Studies in Social Sciences in Calcutta. Read Richard McGrail's (a Columbia MA alumnus) interview with Professor Chatterjee about his relationship to 'Subaltern Studies' here.

Subaltern Studies journal cover
The Public Square is a Sphere, logo with Partha Chatterjee image
Audra Simpson, headshot

Audra Simpson serves on the editorial board of 'Polar: Political and Legal Anthropology Review.'  "This innovative interdisciplinary publication features articles on such issues as nationalism, citizenship, political and legal processes, the state, civil society, colonialism, postcolonial public spheres, multiculturalism, and media politics. It publishes work that is distinguished by its critical definition of problems, ethnographic orientation, or theoretical outlook.

The Public Square is a Sphere, icon with Audra Simpson
Vanessa Agard-Jones, headshot

Vanessa Agard-Jones is a contributing editor to 'The Against Nature Journal,' a project of Council. She is also a member of the editorial collective of Social Text, a "daring and controversial leader in the field of cultural studies, the journal consistently focuses attention on questions of gender, sexuality, race, and the environment." 

The Public Square is a Sphere, icon with Vanessa Agardi-Jone
Rosalind Morris, headshot

Rosalind Morris is the founding editor of 'The Africa List,' published by Seagull Books. The series publishes literary fiction and critical works by writers from or thinking about Africa. Morris was also a founding co-editor, with Radhika Subramaniam, of 'Connect: art, politics, theory, practice.'

'The Public Square is a Sphere,' logo with Morris headshot in background

Lila Abu-Lughod is a member of the editorial collective of the journal, 'Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East,' published by Duke University Press. You can follow the journal here.

Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, covers
The Public Square is a Sphere, podcast icon with Lila Abu-Lughod
Brinkley Messick, headshot

Brinkley Messick was the founding Co-Director (2010-2015) of the Center for Palestine Studies, and creator of its website ([email protected]). Messick is involved in programming on legal issues ('Palestine and Law') and a series on film ("Palestine Cuts") and theater ('CPS Stage'), each of which has a section on the CPS website. Messick is also Director of the Middle East Institute, and a co-convener of the 'Center for the Study of Muslim Societies,' at Columbia.

Palestine Center image, wall poster 'Nothing Lasts Forever'
Brinkley Messick, Podcast icon: the Public Square is a Sphere'
Povinelli headshot

Elizabeth A. Povinelli has worked on multiple collaborative land-based projects with her longstanding Menthayengal, Emmiyengal, Wadjigiyn, and Kiyuk Indigenous colleagues. These include the underlying land-oriented nature of the Karrabing Film Collective's work, and projects with the Northern Land Council and Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority to reconceptualize forms of more-than-human modes of belonging outside the liberal politics of proprietary recognition, exemplified in the collaborative Back to Earth, Serpentine Gallery/Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority/Karrabing collaboration,

Still from 'Family' @ Karrabing Film Collective
Povinelli podcast icon: 'The Public Square is a Sphere'
Maria José de Abreu headshot

Maria José de Abreu is a member of the editorial board of Public Culture. She was a co-editor with Charles Hirschkind and Carlo Caduff of the special issue of Current Anthropology entitled 'New Media, New Publics,' which grew out of a Wenner-Gren sponsored symposium on the same issue.

Public Culture 94 cover image
Maria José de Abreu podcast icon: 'The Public Square is a Sphere'