Thanks to Roberta Buffett Elliott’s generous gift in January 2015, the Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Studies is now providing significant funding to launch three new interdisciplinary research groups, five new working groups, and four new or broadened global partnerships as part of the competitive Big Idea and Global Partnership faculty funding initiatives. The first wave of funding will also include support for a major graduate student-led conference.


New Research Groups


Led by Christina Lafont and Karen Alter, the research group on Global Capitalism and Law will examine how laws and legal institutions differentially contribute to creating politically sustainable market economies. The group aims to move beyond debates about the varieties of capitalism to focus on comparative and international dimensions of law as it intersects with economies in advanced industrial, emerging, developing, and global market systems.


The research group Global Politics and Religion under Beth Shakman Hurd and Brannon Ingram will bring together innovative thinkers in search of new understandings of and creative responses to the challenges of socially and religiously diverse worlds. The project also seeks to improve public understanding of such questions by opening pathways beyond the tired alternation between naïve celebration of religion as the source of morality, community, and freedom, and denigration of religion as the root of global instability.


Directed by Rajeev Kinra and Laura Brueck, the Global Humanities Initiative research group will bring much-needed attention not only to the rich humanistic traditions of non-Western voices, but also to their relevance for global development and public policy. This will help make Northwestern a recognized leader in a vital international conversation about the continuing role of the humanities in building a more just, tolerant and humane 21st century. The initiative will be funded through a partnership between the Buffett Institute and the Kaplan Institute for the Humanities.


New Working Groups


Christopher Bush and Nasrin Qader will lead the working group, French and the Global Humanities, to actively rework the scholarly, pedagogical, and institutional parameters of what it means to study French language and culture for the global future.


The working group on Andean Cultures and Histories, led by Jorge Coronado and Sherwin Bryant, will address how the idea of the Andes as a region has been elaborated in written traditions and scholarship, and how the inhabitants of the region have sought to elaborate their relation to land, history, and global flows in the region. The group will enrich Northwestern's engagement with the Andes through a variety of programming, outreach, and scholarly projects.


The Global Research University is a new working group led by Jackie Stevens, Stephen Eisenman, and Jessica Winegar. They will develop a research agenda with other scholars to systematically study the potential benefits and concerns of foreign satellite campuses for the mission of a university.


The working group on Russian and Eastern European Studies, administered by Clare Cavanagh, will combine strengths across disciplines to create a new kind of regional research, conceived not in the shadow of the Cold War, but with an eye both to the enormous geopolitical changes that have marked the region over recent decades, and to the needs of a 21st-century university.


The Northwestern Forum for Languages and Cultures working group—led by John Paluch, Christiane Rey, and Deborah Rosenberg—will offer opportunities for students, faculty, and staff in all our colleges and schools to participate in language- and culture-based initiatives focused on expanding the study of foreign languages and cultures beyond the classroom. Given the centrality of foreign languages to an education in our globalized world, this group will spur local and global initiatives in the direction of both academic research and social engagement.


New Partnerships Strengthen Northwestern’s Global Connections


Roberta Buffett Elliott’s gift also helped to grow and strengthen Northwestern’s relationship with key institutions and partners around the world. The French Interdisciplinary Group, a long-standing Buffett working group, will pursue a new faculty group with colleagues at Sciences Po to promote exchanges, dual degrees, and joint research projects.


The Program of African Studies, led by Will Reno, will now collaborate with local partners in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, and other African countries to study the changing character of violence and the state.


The Comparative-Historical Social Science workshop, another long-time Buffett group, will continue its highly successful graduate exchange and summer conference program with the Max Planck Institute in Cologne, Sciences Po in Paris, the European University Institute in Florence, and Columbia University in New York City.


Finally, Dilip Gaonkar and the School of Communication will partner with the London School of Economics to address the fundamental challenges that the fast-changing media, communication, and information environment pose for today’s world.


The Buffett Institute’s Inaugural Graduate Student Conference


Additionally, support from the recent gift has enabled Northwestern PhD students from anthropology, political science, and history to design and execute a two-day conference for fellow graduate students and top scholars from around the world titled “Islam and the State.” This year’s conference will probe the enduring entanglement of Islam and modern statehood. The students will solicit comparative paper submissions, invite keynote speakers, and host various panels and receptions on the topic.


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