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Department of Comparative Cultural Studies to debut in the fall

Dean John Roberts is pushing forward on his goal of better integrating the academic units within the College of Liberal Arts & Social Studies with the formation of the Department of Comparative Cultural Studies.

"This new unit will build on the inherent critical and comparative stance towards culture found in the Department of Anthropology, the Liberal Studies Program, and Religious Studies, enhancing the strengths of each area and encouraging greater interdisciplinary collaborations," he said.

"Scholars in the disciplines of anthropology, liberal studies and religious studies have long been students of each other's discourses."

Students of these constituent disciplines explore the historical construction of culture and the way that construction is fundamental to the political, social, and aesthetic relationships that shape human communities.

By creating an infrastructure that gives these disciplines a shared space for scholarly debate and student learning, the Department of Comparative Cultural Studies will give faculty and students engaged in cultural study an intellectual commons to create, debate and discuss shared projects and interests.

The new department that will essentially replace the current Department of Anthropology and is an additional step in Roberts' plan to create a more integrated intellectual environment in CLASS. In the fall, he established an ad hoc committee on Collaboration and Interdisciplinarity tasked with finding and proposing intellectual partnerships to probe and potentially answer today's most complex cultural, social and political questions.

The committee's work started with a survey of current interdisciplinary and collaborative research and teaching projects in the College and/or being engaged in by College faculty. It is also identifying barriers to interdisciplinary and/or collaborative research and teaching in the College and recommending ways to remove them.

"Many key topics explored in the College increasingly are approached through interdisciplinary inquiry, including the mind, the body, and the family, and the study of these topics is blurring traditional boundaries, as new understandings of the arts, language, culture, and history are transforming thinking about texuality and visuality," Roberts said.