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The Oakley Center

The Oakley Center was established in 1985 to support research across the humanities and social sciences, with a special emphasis on interdisciplinary work. Since that time, it has come to play a vital role in the scholarly life of Williams College. The Center provides a meeting place where faculty and administrative staff can pursue their intellectual and research interests. It sponsors many events and programs throughout the year, some exclusively for faculty and staff and others for the entire campus and the wider public.

Programs especially for faculty include fellowships, colloquia with distinguished visiting scholars and Center-supported faculty research and reading groups. Each semester, about eight faculty Fellows are in residence and participate in a weekly research seminar. Through the Ruchman Fellowship program, two Williams seniors participate in the Fellows' seminar as well. Through the Clark-Oakley Fellowship, offered in conjunction with the Research and Academic Program of the Clark Art Institute, the Center also provides an office and funding for one scholar, from outside the College, who will take part in the programs of both institutions. The Center's public events include occasional conferences and the annual Richmond, Weiss, and Davis Lectures.

We invite you to join us for these upcoming 2014-2015 events. More events will be posted soon.


Tuesday, September 18 at 4:00 pm, Oakley Center


A conversation with JAMAL J. ELIAS (Walter H. Annenberg Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies and South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania)

Childhood innocence and cuteness are cornerstones of societal constructions in many parts of the world. But beneath the brittle veneer of idealized childhood lies a range of problematic assumptions and constructions. This colloquium employs a variety of visual materials from Turkey, Iran and Pakistan – picture books, comics, posters, stamps – to examine moral and religious constructions of children. Issues to be examined include the relationships between cuteness, helplessness, innocence and virtue; the construction of childhood as singular stage of life; and adult anxiety regarding childhood agency and subsequent processes of infantilization and control.

*By RSVP only*


Thursday, October 16 at 4:30 pm, Oakley Center

A conversation with RICK VALELLY (Claude C. Smith '14 Professor of Political Science,Swarthmore College)

*By RSVP only*


Thursday, October 16 at 7:00 pm, '62 Center

TED SHAW (Director, UNC Center for Civil Rights) delivers the annual Davis Lecture.

The W. Allison Davis 1924 and John A. Davis 1933 Lecture commemorates the remarkable work of two distinguished scholars, brothers who, throughout their adult lives, made important contributions to equal rights and opportunity in the United States. Allison Davis, valedictorian of the Class of 1924, was a pioneer in the social anthropological study of class and caste in the American South. John A. Davis pursued wide-ranging political science work on race in both the United States and Africa. The Davis Lecture is delivered each year by a scholar whose work concentrates on some aspect of race, class, or education in the United States.

*This event is free and open to the public and is co-sponsored by the Davis Center at Williams College.


Thursday, October 23 at 4:30 pm, Oakley Center

A conversation with filmmaker KIMBERLY PEIRCE ("Boys Don't Cry," "Stop-Loss," "Carrie")

*By RSVP only*


Thursday, October 30 at 4:30 pm, Oakley Center

A conversation with JONATHAN CRARY (Meyer Schapiro Professor of Modern Art and Thoery, Columbia University)

*By RSVP only*


Tuesday, March 17 at 5:00 pm, Oakley Center

A conversation with SUSAN LEIGH FOSTER (Professor of World Arts and Cultures/Dance, UCLA)

*By RSVP only*


Thursday, April 9 at 5:00 pm, Oakley Center

A conversation with ROGER CHARTIER (Professeur in the Collège de France and Annenberg Visiting Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania)

*By RSVP only*


Monday, May 4th, time TBA; Griffin Hall #3

OTIS BRAWLEY (Chief Medical and Scientific Officer and Executive Vice President of the American Cancer Societyecture on medicine and medical ethics. Watch Dr. Brawley's TEDTalk here.

*This event is free and open to the public.

Oakley Center News

Senior Oakley Center Fellow and Williams College President Emeritus John Chandler was recently featured in an article in Newsweek Magazine: "Inside the Colleges that Killed Frats for Good."

The Chronical of Higher Education featured an article on the work of Daniel Everett (Dean of Bentley College and professor of anthropology and linguistics) who delievered the annual Richmond Lecture on March 13, 2012.

Siddartha Mukherjee, (Columbia and CU/NYU Presbyterian Hospital), who gave the annual Andrew B. Weiss, MD, Lecture on Medicine and Medical Ethics in 2010, has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.

Barbara J. King of the College of William and Mary blogs about a recent Oakley Center symposium, "After Humanism," here. Information about the symposium (September 23-24, 2010), as well as conference pictures, can be found here.

Former Clark-Oakley Humanities Fellow Jonathan Katz, now head of a new visual studies program at SUNY-Buffalo, speaks out about the controversy sparked by a high-profile exhibition that he curated at the National Portrait Gallery: "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture." The exhibition received a positive review in the Washington Post.

Link to Oakley Center past events, 2006-2013