Eman Ghanayem, Unit for Criticism SCT Fellow, Summer 2017

When I learned of my acceptance to the SCT summer program, I was filled with excitement and many expectations that, fortunately enough, both Cornell University and the beautiful city of Ithaca were able to fulfill at every mark and in every way. My primary seminar titled “Humanity” and led by Oxford University Professor Feisal Devji had a great set of graduate students and scholars who were deeply invested in discussing the relevancy of the humanities in present-day US academia. During the six-week program, I had come to learn a great deal about some of the conflicts and limitations that arise when the “the human” is addressed in relationship to coloniality, technology, gendering and racializing processes and modern ethics of war and peace. The readings Professor Devji selected for the discussion were ripe with fascinating theories, some of which were new to me, and included many disciplines like philosophy, anthropology, history, postcolonial studies, literary studies, and feminist theory, as well as involved multiple geographies such as Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America.  Outside of the primary seminar, I was able to attend the Unit’s lecture series, mini-seminars and colloquia that expanded my world view and allowed me to meet and productively converse with different professors and students who were able to vocalize interesting concerns about the status of theory today, especially considering the conditions of current politics, its orientation towards the conservative right, its employment of xenophobic and discriminatory language, and its damaging effects on vulnerable human subjects and subject matters.      

I am grateful for the Unit for Criticism and Interpretative Theory for sponsoring me to attend the SCT program. Without doubt, it was a great experience. The university’s extensive and naturally stunning campus inspired me to do a lot of writing, reading, and thinking. It also introduced me to helpful resources and a wide range of great people, some of which I have come to think of as friends. I would highly recommend the SCT program to fellow UIUC graduate students who are interested to learn more about contemporary conversations around the place of theory in the humanities , whether it be in the US or the world outside of it. Aside from talking and thinking theory, the city’s gorgeous landscape and numerous bodies of water were a source of great comfort and inspiration. They are definitely worth the visit!