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Past Global Humanities Labs

Past offerings of the Kaplan Institute's "Global Humanities Lab" investigated international humanities topics through experiential learning and offsite research in Madrid, Vienna, and Istanbul.

detail from Picasso's Guernica

Spring 2017

HUM 310-6-22 and Art History 390-0-2

Professor Christina Kiaer (Art History)

MW 12:30-1:50 (fulfills Distro VI)

Course Description

The most famous artist of the twentieth century, Picasso is synonymous with the idea of modern art. Examining his work from his early scenes of bohemian Paris to his invention of cubism, his association with the surrealists, his famous protest mural Guernica of 1937, and his later political mural projects, we will ask: What makes Picasso such a powerful sign of the modern, continuously venerated in museums, scholarship and popular culture? This small-group, discussion based seminar will examine both his endlessly inventive formal experimentation—flirting with, but never fully embracing, abstraction—and the continuing resonance, in spite of feminist and postcolonial critiques, of his images of intimacy, interiority, and sexuality, as well as terror and atavistic violence.

Course enrollment was by application, with the aim to include a mix of students from both art history and non-art history backgrounds. Criteria for selection included qualities of intellectual curiosity, academic excellence, and maturity.

Required Textbook

John Berger, The Success and Failure of Picasso (Vintage)

Travel to Madrid

This course met for the duration of the spring quarter, and included a mandatory class trip to Madrid, Spain over Memorial Day weekend (May 25-30, 2017) to see the special exhibition “Pity and Terror in Picasso: The Path to Guernica” at the Reina Sofia Museum.

Costs and Financial aid

Roundtrip international airfare from Chicago to Madrid, as well as shared-room lodging in Madrid, was provided directly by Northwestern. Students were responsible for all other expenses associated with the trip, including but not limited to ground transportation, meals, passport or visa services, and other incidentals. All undergraduate students were welcome to apply for this course, regardless of their financial means. If a student was accepted into the course and needed assistance with the out-of-pocket costs or passport fees for the trip, they could apply for the University’s Katz Enrichment Fund.

This trip was co-sponsored by the Office of the Dean of Weinberg College, the Elizabeth and Todd Warnock Gift to the Department of Art History, and the Kaplan Humanities Institute.

Charting Modern Cities course graphic

Spring 2017


Professor Anna Parkinson (German)

HUM 310-4-20 / TuTh 2:00 - 3:20pm (fullfills Distro IV)

How is a city a measure of culture? What do we focus on when studying cities?

In this course students explored the distinctive histories and material cultures of two modern cities: Vienna and Chicago. In Vienna, we encountered ideas and artworks from the fin-de-siècle Vienna Modern at the heart of Central Europe, through to current political cultures of human rights and migration. In the US-American context, students traced Chicago’s brand of modernity exemplified in the history of urban planning and architectural styles, as well as domestic and transnational migration’s impact on art and social movements.

In tandem with excursions, students drew on interdisciplinary approaches from urban studies, literary and film studies, sociology, art history, philosophy, psychoanalysis, political science, intellectual history, and architecture as they sought answers through their research to the questions: how is the city constituted as an object of analysis; and how does a city shape—and, simultaneously, is shaped by—its inhabitants?

This course brought students to Vienna, Austria (March 18-25, 2017). The Kaplan Institute provided transportation and lodging for all students.

The Global Humanities Lab was co-sponsored by the Buffett Institute for Global Studies

Istanbul Global Humanities Lab image

Fall 2015


Professor Jessica Winegar (Anthropology)

What is a public? What are the politics of constituting a public? How might this differ across time and space?

This course explored how artists — and indeed art itself — work to create publics through politics of different scales. Students were able to address these questions through actual experience of these different scalar politics, as we traveled to the international Istanbul Biennial, visited nation-oriented museums in Istanbul and Chicago, engaged with street art in Istanbul, Chicago, and Evanston, and engaged in dialogue with artists in all three locations. We complemented this research with a range of interdisciplinary readings on how publics form in relationship to objects’ agency, human and non-human networks, space, media, social hierarchies, political projects, and institutions. Special attention was paid to the relationship between arts and publics in the revolutionary movements linking the Middle East and the U.S. Ultimately, the course sought to unsettle the definitions of art, politics, and the relationship between the two in this contemporary era of intensified global circulations and inequalities.

This course brought students to the 2015 Istanbul Biennial, flying roundtrip from Chicago on September 9th and returning to Chicago on September 16th.

The Keyman Program of the Buffett Institute for Global Studies and the Kaplan Institute for the Humanities provided transportation, lodging and a US$300 stipend for all students to travel to Istanbul.

For more information about the Kaplan Institute's Global Humanities Lab, please contact Tom Burke at

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