Programs and Events

Alongside our interdisciplinary seminar, the Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture sponsors interdisciplinary conferences, lectures, workshops, and other events both on and off-campus. We also coordinate with various existing graduate student workshops on campus.  Students interested in collaborating with the Scherer Center should contact Nolan Kishbaugh.

Past Events:

The John Hope Franklin Lecture: Delivered By Vivek Bald

Description: You are invited to the Annual John Hope Franklin Lecture Series on April 17th and 18th. On April 17th at 3 PM, Vivek Bald (MIT, Comparative Media Studies and Writing) will offer a lecture, “Cross-Racial Histories, Transmedia Stories: The Bengali Harlem Project.” A reception will follow. On April 18th, Nitasha Tamar Sharma of Northwestern University will join him in conversation for a workshop on the Bengali Harlem Project at 11:30 AM.

A Conversation With Karl Berglund On His New Book “Reading Audio Readers” 

Description: Today, audiobooks can no longer be seen as a niche market or a mere substitute for ‘real’ reading. They are competing with print books and ebooks for the attention of book readers in a large and diverse range of national book economies. Drawing from the recently published book Reading Audio Readers, this talk uncovers how people make use of this medium by investigating a unique set of reader consumption data, covering 74 million logged sessions of audiobook streaming during one year, and on the level per user and hour. Offering an academic perspective on the kind of user data hoard we associate with tech companies, it asks: when it comes to audiobooks, what do people really read, and how and when do they read it? And how might audiobook streaming habits and algorithmic platform logic affect our literary culture in the long run?

Karl Berglund is an assistant professor of literature at Uppsala University in Sweden. His research spans the sociology of literature, publishing and reading studies, and cultural analytics. He is the author of Reading Audio Readers: Book Consumption in the Streaming Age (2024). His writing has appeared in PMLA, the Journal of Cultural Analytics, the European Journal of Cultural Studies, and other publications. For more information, click here.

Graduate Student Symposium: American Empire, Extraction, and Environment

Description: The Shapiro Initiative on Environment and Society (SIES), along with several partners, will host a conference featuring panels of junior scholars, graduate students, and PhD candidates. For decades, global consensus has been growing regarding the need for a transition toward fossil-fuel free energy production. The demands to halt new leases, pipelines, and drilling projects are clear, as are the demands by activists and impacted communities to redirect financing, prioritize the investment in clean renewables, and mitigate environmental impact. What can be said of the consensus about the labor and land use which has formed the basis of global capitalist modernity? How might an energy transition challenge or entrench the histories of extraction and exploitation that has given rise to American empire? How do we imagine equitable and sustainable futures in the era of climate crisis? What forms of energy will humans consume and where will resources be developed? Where will agricultural products be grown and how will the non-human be treated? What forms of territorial governance will be just? And who will control the land and the labor which works it? Click here for details.

A Conversation With Barbara McQuade On Her New Book “Attack from Within: How Misinformation is Sabotaging America” Joined by Jill Wine-Banks

Description: Barbara McQuade discusses her new book“Attack from Within: How Misinformation is Sabotaging America” with Jill Wine-Banks followed by Q&A and signing. Attach from Within is an urgent, comprehensive explanation of the ways disinformation is impacting democracy, and practical solutions that can be pursued to strengthen the public, media, and truth-based politics. An MSNBC legal expert and former US Attorney, McQuade breaks down the ways disinformation has become a tool to drive voters to extremes, disempower our legal structures, and consolidate power in the hands of the few. Click hereto RSVP.

Book Talk: Nathan Perl-Rosenthal Discusses His New Book  “The Age of Revolutions And the Generations Who Made It” 

Description: On Monday, February 26th, at 5:00 pm CST, author Nathan Perl-Rosenthal will discuss his upcoming book, The Age of Revolutions: And the Generations Who Made It. Perl-Rosenthal, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Southern California, provides a sweeping history of the revolutionary years (1760-1825) across continents, exploring the intertwining forces of progress and reaction. This event is organized by the Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture and the Chicago Center on Democracy. Moderated by Steve Pincus, the Thomas E. Donnelly Professor of British History at the University of Chicago, this conversation will delve into the historic revolutions that shaped Europe and the Americas, illuminating their profound impact on the modern world. Don’t miss this insightful preview of Perl-Rosenthal’s groundbreaking work! Click here to RSVP.

A Conversation With Nathan Perl-Rosenthal On His New Book  “The Age of Revolutions And the Generations Who Made It” 

Description: Nathan Perl-Rosenthal will discuss “The Age of Revolutions: And the Generations Who Made It“. He will be joined in conversation by Eric Slauter. A Q&A and signing will follow the discussion. In The Age of Revolutions: And the Generations Who Made It, historian Nathan Perl-Rosenthal offers the first narrative history of this entire era. Through a kaleidoscope of lives both familiar and unknown—from John Adams, Toussaint Louverture, and Napoleon to an ambitious French naturalist and a seditious Peruvian nun—he retells the revolutionary epic as a generational story. The first revolutionary generation, fired by radical ideas, struggled to slip the hierarchical bonds of the old order. Their failures molded a second generation, more adept at mass organizing but with an illiberal tint. The sweeping political transformations they accomplished after 1800 etched social and racial inequalities into the foundations of modern democracy. Click here to RSVP.

 “The Liberal Invention of Photography” with Michael Zakim

Michael Zakim is the author of Ready-Made Democracy (a political history of men’s dress), Accounting for Capitalism (a cultural history of market economy), and the forthcoming Global History of Paper (a material-driven study of knowledge and its uses). He teaches history at Tel Aviv University. This event is free and open to the public. 

Visible Designs: The Arts of Race and Capitalism, a symposium, October 12-13, 2023

“Visible Designs: The Arts of Race and Capitalism,” a symposium held in the Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago on October 12 and 13, 2023. The symposium gathered researchers in design studies, art history, and cultural history who foreground visual art and cultural institutions in the study of racial capitalism in the United States from the era of colonial slavery up to the present. Through eight presentations across four panels and featuring a keynote presentation from Professor Noliwe Rooks (Brown University) the symposium highlighted design, broadly construed, as a key site for analyzing and comprehending how structures of racial inequality are made (and unmade) through media and systems of economic production, exchange, and consumption. By foregrounding design as our theme, we conceptualize “race-making” as a deliberate and intentional practice encompassing art, political economy, and everyday life. 

“Impermanent Blackness: The Making and Unmaking of Interracial Literary Culture in Modern America” A conversation with Korey Garibaldi, Tuesday May 23, 2023

A conversation with Korey Garibaldi on his recent book Impermanent Blackness: The Making and Unmaking of Interracial Literary Culture in Modern America (Princeton University Press). The discussion will be hosted by Eric Slauter, Director of the Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture. In Impermanent Blackness, Korey Garibaldi explores interracial collaborations in American commercial publishing—authors, agents, and publishers who forged partnerships across racial lines—from the 1910s to the 1960s. Garibaldi shows how aspiring and established Black authors and editors worked closely with white interlocutors to achieve publishing success, often challenging stereotypes and advancing racial pluralism in the process.

Citywide Partnerships

The Scherer Center is a proud co-sponsor of the Newberry Library’s Seminar in American Art and Visual CultureSeminar in Early American History and CultureSeminar in Labor History, the Urban History Dissertation Group, and the Seminar on Women and Gender.