Graduate Student Conference

Past conferences

2017: Science, Technology, and the Politics of Knowledge in Global Affairs

March 30-31, 2017

Scientists, state actors, international institutions, and lay activists vie for credibility and legitimacy to both frame and control global issues. Science and technology experts are routinely cast into a supporting role to bolster their claims.

From nuclear weapons in war, to nuclear energy in the battle against climate change; from new information technologies in surveillance regimes, to the use of randomized controlled trials in international development research – scientific and technological expertise operate as instruments of power and authority, which can serve to legitimate or contest new policies and regimes of global governance. The conference provided a platform for answering questions such as:

  • How do various international actors attempt to position themselves as credible participants in global politics?
  • Under what conditions does expert knowledge come to be seen as legitimate?
  • In what ways do international actors frame global issues and what must be done about them?
  • How is scientific and technological expertise marshaled among various epistemic communities in processes of claims-making and action?

Keynote speakerSheila Jasanoff, Harvard Kennedy School

Conference organizers

  • Kevin Baker is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at Northwestern University who works on the history of prediction, computer simulation, and environmental and economic modeling. His dissertation focuses on the Limits to Growth report and the birth of global modeling in the 1970s.

  • Savina Balasubramanian is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at Northwestern University whose work is at the intersection of gender and sexuality studies, science and technology studies, and political and historical sociology. Her dissertation examines the role of the social and behavioral sciences in the technopolitical governance of reproduction and population in Cold War India.

  • Omri Tubi is a second-year student in Northwestern’s sociology PhD program. His research interests are political sociology and science studies, and his work focuses on the relationship between public health campaigns and state-formation, examining malaria eradication and Jewish state-formation in Palestine.

2016: Islam and the Modern State

April 7-8, 2016

The conference examined how modern states exist in tension with the practices, institutions, and sensibilities associated with Islam. This interdisciplinary conference drew together advanced graduate students and senior scholars to probe the enduring entanglement of religion and modernity, and to understand how this entanglement bears on contemporary debates about modern statehood.

Panels investigated:

  • how states grapple with nationalism, neo-liberalism, and secularism in relation to local and global iterations of Islam;
  • the strategies that individuals and communities employ to subvert, comply with, or otherwise amend state sovereignty and its projects to cultivate ideal citizens;
  • and the modes through which the Islamic tradition is being transformed as a result of these processes.

Keynote speaker: Ebrahim Moosa, professor of Islamic studies at the University of Notre Dame with appointments in the Department of History and the Kroc Institute for International Studies in the Keough School of Global Affairs

Conference Organizers

  • Mona Oraby: PhD candidate in political science, Northwestern University. Her research investigates the legal regulation and administration of religious difference in the contemporary Middle East.

  • Bilal Nasir: PhD candidate in anthropology and part of the Initiative for Comparative Race and Diaspora at Northwestern University. His research examines the intersection between racialization, social movements, and Islamic learning among Muslim youth in the greater Los Angeles area.

  • Nathaniel Mathews: PhD candidate in history, Northwestern University. He works on the history of modern citizenship, ethnicity and the nation-state in Zanzibar, Oman, and the Swahili Coast.
  • Nurhaizatul Jamil: PhD candidate in anthropology, Northwestern University. Her research focuses on Muslim women’s participation in Islamic self-help classes in contemporary Singapore.