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Center for the Study of Social Difference

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The Center for the Study of Social Difference at Columbia University promotes innovative interdisciplinary scholarship on the role of gender, sexuality, ethnicity and race in global dynamics of power and inequality.

The Center for the Study of Social Difference at Columbia University promotes innovative interdisciplinary scholarship on the role of gender, sexuality, ethnicity and race in global dynamics of power and inequality. Working together with colleagues from universities and research centers around the world, CSSD Fellows and faculty challenge the disciplinary divides among the humanities, the arts, and the social sciences by asking not only how historical categories of social difference intersect on the level of identity, but also how these categories shape institutions, modes of knowing, acts of representation, and processes of globalization. The Center’s collaborative work recognizes the crucial role of history in the study of global structures of inequality and social difference and develops rigorous conceptual and empirical analyses of complex networks of culture and power. CSSD creates the conditions for scholars, artists and practitioners to imagine alternative social structures and to set new and daring intellectual agendas for the future.

Current Projects:

WOMEN CREATING CHANGE

Women Creating Change engages distinguished feminist scholars across Columbia’s many schools to focus on how contemporary global problems affect women and the role women play in addressing those problems. There are currently four Women Creating Change working groups. "Gender & the Global Slum," convened by Saidiya Hartman, Neferti Tadiar, and Anupama Rao, addresses the global slum as the product of a complex interplay between the political economy of urban space and the spatialization of social difference, especially gender/sexuality. "Gender, Religion & Law in Muslim Societies," directed by Lila Abu-Lughod and Katherine Ewing, explores the divergences and points of contact between the work of individuals termed “Islamic feminists” and “Islamist women” and has evaluated the academic research used to promote the social inclusion and wider political transformation of women in the Islamic world. "Women Mobilizing Memory," headed by Marianne Hirsch and Jean Howard, focuses on the political stakes and consequences of witnessing and testimony as responses to historical trauma.  “Social Rights After the Welfare State,” led by Alice Kessler-Harris, explores the implications of the declining welfare state for American politics, gender and race relations, and the future of American democracy. Each working group uses the resources of Columbia’s Global Centers to develop international networks of scholars and activists working on pressing problems of gendered inequity.

THE DIGITAL BLACK ATLANTIC PROJECT

The Digital Black Atlantic Project (DBAP) is a multi-institutional and interdisciplinary working group that has come together to invent a scholarly resource and digital platform for multimedia explorations and documentations of literary texts, visual documents, sites, moments, rituals and ceremonies, monuments and memorials, performances, and material objects emerging out of and concerning the Black Atlantic world. From the epic prose-poems of Aimé Césaire and Derek Walcott, to the city of New Orleans as Atlantic capital, to the explosive moment of historical convergence that was the year 1968, the rhizomatic literary, performative, historical, geographical and other paradigms of the Black Atlantic demand to be approached from as many informed disciplinary perspectives as possible. DBAP seeks to place these and other perspectives in immediate and sustained dialogue with one another, building "deep texts" –experiences of carefully curated content that will allow for enriched engagements with regional cultural productions. Recent work has focused on the Caribbean and its diaspora, analyzing the intersection of information technologies with fields such as American studies, gender and sexuality studies, queer studies, black studies, ethnomusicology, and communications, among others.