The Hobart and William Smith classroom is going global even more so with the recent naming of Jodi Dean, professor of political science, as the Erasmus Chair for the Humanities in the Faculty of Philosophy at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Dean was required to give an inaugural lecture during the official inauguration ceremony for the position. While at the university, she also gave a four-hour seminar for the philosophy faculty and two three-hour lectures for master’s students in philosophy. In June, she will return to give a second set of lectures and seminars to complete her responsibilities as holder of the Erasmus Chair.
So how did one of the Colleges’ professors of political science earn this prestigious position in Erasmus’ philosophy department? “A lot of my work as a political theorist involves Continental philosophy as well as Continental cultural and political theory,” explained Dean, author and editor of eight scholarly works. “My work with psychoanalysis and Marxism is a particularly natural fit for the Research Programme at Erasmus, which focuses on French philosophy of difference.”
For Dean, there was an academic as well as personal gratitude for her new role at Erasmus.
“The professors and graduate students in philosophy who specialize in the same area that I write in had all read a large amount of my work in a very careful, thorough way and based on their close readings, they challenged me and my theses,” said Dean. “All of that is a rare and extraordinary honor for any theorist.”
The honor was mutual. During Dean’s inauguration ceremony, The Rector Magnificus Wiep van Bunge, professor of the history of philosophy and dean of the department of philosophy at Erasmus, introduced her as “one of the leading commentators on the writings of such contemporary philosophers as Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri and Slavoj Zizek.”
Van Bunge went on to say that, “She has the rare ability to find complexity in what at first sight might look simple and bring clarity to issues that look obscure.”
According to Dean, her particular attention to clarity in her presentation of ideas has everything to do with the classroom at HWS. “Teaching at Hobart and William Smith has forced me to develop as a thinker and writer,” Dean explained. “It has challenged me to explain important, complex ideas in a clear way and to work through them alongside my students.”
In addition to her impact on the Colleges’ campus as one of its intensely interdisciplinary and international professors, Dean has also brought some of the world’s leading Continental philosophers to campus. In recent years, she has welcomed Rainer Forst, German philosopher and political theorist, as well as Slavoj Zizek, Slovenian sociologist, philosopher and cultural critic.
Dean, a member of the faculty since 1993, holds a bachelor’s degree from Princeton, and her master’s and Ph.D. from Columbia. In the past, she has delivered a lecture series at the University of Lima, Peru, to help inaugurate a new master’s program in Cultural Studies. Additionally, she has spoken at Cardiff University in Wales, on her current research, “Zizek against Democracy” and “9/11 Conspiracy Theories: Psychosis and Contemporary Politics.”
The photo above was taken while Dean was at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.