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CONTESTING AUTHORITY 

The 2022-2023 John W. Altman Program in the Humanities

“No maxim seems as successful today as Timothy Leary's “Think for yourself and question authority.” Once a countercultural mantra, it has become the rallying cry of libertarians and anarchists, ecological activists and anti-vaxxers, whistleblowers and conspiracy theorists alike. Around the world, collective resistance to authority has animated protests as politically diverse as the Hong Kong yellow umbrella movement, the Spanish indignados and French gilets jaunes (yellow vests), Black Lives Matter, the Arab Spring, the German Querdenker (contrarian thinkers), and the storming of the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021.  At the same time, authoritarianism is a growing worldwide threat—one that often thrives, paradoxically, on anti-authoritarian suspicion and rhetoric. What accounts for the widespread distrust of political, scientific, journalistic, and academic authority today?  What is its relation to rising authoritarianism and to earlier contests of authority? From Homer’s depiction of mutinous Greek warriors in the Iliad, through midcentury studies of “the authoritarian personality,” to contemporary worries about the power of algorithms to shape public knowledge, the humanities have explored the problems that arise when high-stakes claims to power and authority collide. While social progress often requires the questioning of authority, a reflexive and unthinking rejection of authority can undermine the institutions of knowledge, law, and culture that make social life possible.

The 2022-2023 Altman Program invites the Miami University community to explore the political, historical, aesthetic, and affective dimensions of authority and dissent. What is authority exactly? What is its relation to political power, law, expertise, rhetoric, and charisma?  What constitutes ethical resistance to authority, and what modes of dissent are effective? And how, finally, do we separate the reasonable suspicion of power from the nihilistic assumption that all authority is inherently corrupt, oppressive, and dispensable?
Tyranny of Merit book cover and info regarding book club
Humanities Center Book Club

A Discussion of Michael Sandel's "The Tyranny of Merit."

September 1, 2022 4:30 PM
212 MacMillan Hall (the Great Room)
orange chair with other chairs that are grey and plain
Michael Sandel
Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government Theory at Harvard University

The Tyranny of Merit

September 7, 2022 5:00 PM
Fritz Pavillion C, Armstrong Student Center
hands raised over protesting crowd
Daniel Ziblatt
Eaton Professor of Government at Harvard University

The Life and Death of Democracies

September 21, 2022 5:00 PM
Shriver Center Heritage Room
Sheila Jasanoff
Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government

Between Truth and Tyranny: The Rightful Place of Science in Democracy

October 6, 2022 5:00 PM
Shriver Center Heritage Room
hacker guy making hand gesture
Gabriella Coleman
Full Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University

The Hack and Leak and the Rise of a New Hacktivist Tactic

October 17, 2022 5:00 PM
Shriver Center Heritage Room
religious ceremony of some kind
Molly Worthen
Associate Professor Department of History, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Charisma and Culture War in the Age of the Guru

November 14, 2022 5:00 PM
Shriver Center Heritage Room
painting
Sophia Rosenfeld
Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania

Who Gets to Say What's True?

February 9, 2023 5:00 PM
Fritz Pavillion C, Armstrong Student Center
child at protest
Zareena Grewal
Associate Professor of American Studies, Ethnicity, Race, & Migration, and Religious Studies at Yale University

Authority and the Spectre of Crisis

February 27, 2023 5:00 PM
Shriver Center Heritage Room
Hannah Arendt
Dana Villa
Packey J. Dee Professor of Political Theory at the University of Notre Dame

Hannah Arendt: For or Against Authority?

March 30, 2023 5:00 PM
Shriver Center Heritage Room
scene from Gaslight movie
Kate Manne
Associate Professor of Philosophy at Cornell University

Mansplaining, Gaslighting, and Epistemic Entitlement

April 20, 2023 5:00 PM
Shriver Center Heritage Room
James Ingram
Associate Professor of Political Science at McMaster University

Authority and Emancipation

April 21, 2023 5:00 PM
Shriver Center Heritage Room

2022-2023 Altman Fellows

Joseph O'Neil

Joseph O'Neil is Associate Professor of German. He received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Modern German Literature and Culture from Indiana University. He is the author of Figures of Natality: Reading the Political in the Age of Goethe (Bloomsbury 2017) and has translated the work of Jakob von Uexküll and Niklas Luhmann. His current project, with the working title “The Fate of Thersites: Embodying the Political circa 1800,” continues research linking European literature and culture of the late eighteenth century to twentieth- and twenty-first-century political theory. 

Steven Conn

Steven Conn, W. E. Smith Professor of History, joined the Miami faculty in 2015 after spending 20 years at Ohio State. He specializes in US intellectual history and has published 6 books and edited 2 others. His most recent book, Nothing Succeeds Like Failure: The Sad History of American Business Schools, was published in 2019 by Cornell University Press.

2022-2023 Geoffrion Family Fellows

Michaela Anders

Micaela Anders is a senor honors student with majors in Political Science and History, as well as minors in Italian and Philosophy & Law. She is the current president of both the Amicus Curiae Prelaw Society and the Rotaract Club at Miami. Her research interests include criminal law and its history.

Alyssa Benson

Alyssa Benson is a senior honors student with majors in history and English literature. Her research interests include human rights law, Ukrainian political and cultural history, literary traditions throughout history, and nationalist movements, especially within the USSR. Her honors undergraduate history thesis explores the censoring and eventual publicizing of the Soviet Holodomor, a 1932-1933 famine-genocide which killed millions of Ukrainians.

Jacky Linden

Jacquie Linden is a junior from Luxembourg majoring in diplomacy & global politics and history, and minoring in comparative religion, Middle Eastern, Islamic & Jewish studies, and Arabic. Her research interests include state-building, political violence, and intellectual history. Having organized two climate protests in her home country, she still cultivates an avid interest in activism and social justice today.

Alex Massa

Alex Massa is a junior majoring in Political Science and Philosophy with a minor in Human Capital Management & Leadership. He is Chapter President of the Alpha Chi Rho fraternity and a member of the John Quincy Adams Society. His research interests include 18th-century philosophy, international law, and the political functions of art.

Liam Martin

Liam Martin is a senior honors student majoring in International Studies and Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian Studies. He is a former undergraduate associate and Scholar Leader, and a current consultant at the Howe Writing Center and undergraduate fellow at the Havighurst Center. His research interests include Russian politics and the spread of illiberalism around the world.

Carson Minter

Carson Minter is a senior honors student studying English: Creative Writing with a minor in Spanish. In the past, he has been a part of the Miami PRIME program. His research interests include the African American perspective as expressed in media, the perception of race in pop culture, and representation of minorities in pop culture.

Joey Puckett

Joey Puckett is a senior majoring in English literature, history and creative writing. His honors thesis focuses on early American prison libraries. His other research interests include Dostoevsky, Bakhtin, satire and literacy.

Grace Seifert

Grace Seifert is a senior honors student from Minneapolis majoring in History, Comparative Religion, and Political Science with a minor in Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Her research interests include indigenous women's history, sovereignty, and local history in Minnesota. Grace is currently working on an undergraduate honors history thesis examining the US-Dakota Conflict of 1862 through a gendered lens.

2022-2023 Altman Scholars

Ann Wainscott

Ann Wainscott, Associate Professor of Political Science, is the author of Bureaucratizing Islam: Morocco and the War on Terror (Cambridge, 2017) and essays in Politics and Religion and the Journal of North African Studies. She has served as Luce Fellow in Religion and International Affairs at the American Academy of Religion and as Smith Richardson Foundation Strategy and Policy Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace. Her current work, supported by the Global Research on Religion Initiative, examines the influence of religion ministries on authoritarianism in Arab monarchies.

Brian Danoff

Brian Danoff is Professor of Political Science. His research and writing focus on modern political theory, American political thought, and politics and literature. He is the author of Why Moralize upon It? Democratic Education through American Literature and Film (Lexington, 2020) and Educating Democracy: Alexis de Tocqueville and Leadership in America (SUNY, 2010). He is also co-editor of Alexis de Tocqueville and the Art of Democratic Statesmanship (Lexington, 2011). His articles have appeared in journals such as The Review of Politics, American Political Thought, Perspectives on Political Science, and Presidential Studies Quarterly.

Cynthia Klestinec

Cynthia Klestinec, Professor of English, studies the history of science and medicine in Renaissance Italy. She is the author of Theaters of Anatomy: Students, Teachers and Traditions of Dissection in Renaissance Venice (Johns Hopkins 2011) and numerous essays. She is co-editor of Professors, Physicians and Practices in the History of Medicine: Essays in Honor of Nancy Siraisi (Springer 2017) and co-curator and co-editor of Art, Faith, and Medicine in Tintoretto’s Venice, an exhibition held in the Scuola Grande di San Marco in Venice (2019). Her work has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Villa i Tatti-Harvard University, and the Delmas Foundation. 

Daniel Prior

Daniel Prior is Associate Professor of History. His books include the first translation in any language of the complete text of Saghïmbay Orozbaq uulu’s The Memorial Feast for Kökötöy Khan: A Kirghiz Epic Poem in the Manas Tradition(London: Penguin, 2022); and The Šabdan Baatır Codex: Epic and the Writing of Northern Kirghiz History (Leiden: Brill, 2013). His research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Slavic–Eurasian Research Center at Hokkaido University. His current research in comparative mythology examines culture apart from mass societies and mass communication.

Ron Becker

Ron Becker, Professor of Media and Communication and Strategic Communication in the Department of Media, Journalism & Film, studies the relationships among media (especially television), culture, and the politics of sexual identity. He is the author of Gay TV and Straight America (Rutgers 2006) and co-author of Media and Culture: Mass Communication in a Digital Age (Bedford 2015). His essays have appeared in TheTelevision Studies Reader, The Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television, and The Craft of Media Criticism. His current project examines the growing influence of multicultural empowerment narratives in U.S. media culture. 

2022-2023 Altman Graduate Fellows

Emily Lange

Emily Lange is a M.A. student in Philosophy. She received her B.A. in Philosophy and in English Literature from Elon University. Her primary research interests include critical social epistemology, theories of identity, and interdisciplinary approaches to philosophy pedagogy.

Tyler Eyster

Tyler Eyster is a M.A. student in English Literature. He received his B.A. in English and Religious Studies from Albion College and his primary research interests include contemporary American and British fiction, critical animal studies, the environmental humanities, and posthumanist theory.