2018-19: The Year of Authority

Announcing the 2018-19 Authority Fellows

Invited Society Scholars

  • Prasenjit Duara, Oscar Tang Chair of East Asian Studies, Duke University
  • Bonnie Honig, Nancy Duke Lewis Professor of Modern Culture & Media and Political Science, Brown University
  • Holly Hughes, Professor of Theatre & Drama, University of Michigan


  • Avigail Eisenberg, Political Science, University of Victoria
    Pluralism and Group Authority
  • J. Daniel Elam, Comparative Literature, University of Hong Kong
    World Literature for the Wretched of the Earth: Anticolonial Aesthetics, Postcolonial Democracy
  • Damián Fernández, History, Northern Illinois University
    Rebellion and Political Authority in the Visigothic Kingdom  of Toledo (507-711 CE): Tyrants, Invaders, Sinners, and the Quest for Order
  • Andrew McKenzie-McHarg, History, CRASSH, University of Cambridge
    Invisible Authority: The Strange Career of the Unknown Superiors in Eighteenth-Century Europe
  • David Rojas, Latin American Studies, Bucknell University
    Climate Architectures: On the Becomings of Scientific Authority in Agro-Industrial Amazonia
  • Aaron Schuster, Language & Literature, University of Amsterdam
    A Clinical Anthropology of Authority
  • Klaus K. Yamamoto-Hammering, Anthropology
    State Ideology in Contemporary Japan, and its Marginalized Others

Mellon Graduate Fellows

  • A. R. Edlebi, English
    The Idea of Earth: Modern Literature and Human Time
  • Asli Menevse, History of Art
     The Guillotine and The Pedestal: Critique of Political Authority in Fin-de-Siècle

Sustainability Fellow ( & Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future)

  • Jennifer D. Carlson, Energy Humanities, CENHS, Rice University
    Denial’s Authority: The Cultural Force of Environmental Ambivalence in “Illliberal” Times

Faculty Fellows

  • Alexander Livingston, Government
    Freedom Now: Inventing Civil Disobedience in Twentieth-Century America
  • Kate Manne, Philosophy
    The Art of Faking Mastery
  • Jessica Ratcliff, Science & Technology Studies
    Collecting Authority: The East India Company’s Museum and Library, London 1801-33
  • Dehanza Rogers, Performing & Media Arts

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows                       

  • Jeff Eden, Asian Studies
    Slavery and Empire in Central Asia
  • Marysia Jonsson, History
    Religious Tolerance, Baltic Confessional Geographies, and Protestant Networks in the Age of the Great Northern War (1700-1721)
  • Amy Chun Kim, History of Art  
    Ideologies of Pure Abstraction: Modernism between Paris and Moscow
  • Joan Lubin, English
    Social Science Fictions

Authority Focal Theme Description

From auctoritas to the author to authoritarianism, the question of authority – whether grounded in epistemological expertise, juridical power, rhetorical persuasiveness, creative innovation, divine decree, or political charisma – is inextricable from humanistic inquiry and critique. With authority, the power to decide, to authorize, to adjudicate, to rule, and to hold sway stands or falls – in science, law, art, oratory, religion, or politics. The Society invites scholarly projects that trace the consequences, crises, and possibilities of authority across historical periods, disciplinary boundaries, geographic territories, and social contexts.

At stake in authority is who or what authorizes and bestows power, prestige, and influence. On what basis does authority claim to rule? Knowledge? Law? Charisma? Popular will? The sovereign word? Tradition? Moreover, each expression of authority calls forth its contestation and opposition. At times authority is contested within the same discursive sphere (e.g. different scientific paradigms or hermeneutic interpretations at loggerheads); at times, however, the opposition is based on another source of authority: religious law vs. secular law; scientific knowledge vs. political will; economic concerns vs. ethical concerns. At such junctures, the question then arises: who or what power adjudicates the conflict between appeals to different authoritative instances?

The Society invites scholars to explore the ‘ends of authority,’ understood as its purposes, goals, and ideals as well as its limitations, aporias, and paradoxes. Applicants could investigate the rise of authoritarianism across different historical and political or religious contexts, exploring its conditions, its appeal, its critiques. One could research the crisis of scientific authority, in which expertise itself is called into question on grounds that are impervious to scientific argumentation. Considering the death of the author, one could question what signs, strokes, words, tics, and idiosyncrasies determine a text’s or artwork’s ‘author’; what authorizes an original from its copy or fake; or the degree to which the authority of a few authors still determines research fields today. In the age of a superabundance of information, what differentiates ‘real’ (authoritative) information from ‘fake news,’ and how one can be interchanged with the other as an ‘equal’ source of authority?

2018-19 Courses on Authority


More news

View all news
by Richard Ross, part of the Architecture of Authority series, featuring an austere, empty row of chairs against a wall with a clock