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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.


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


Professor Theodore Shaw, the former Director-Counselor and President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, is currently director of the Center for Civil Rights at the law school of University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.  Professor Shaw is also the inaugural Julius Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law and has previously served as a professor of professional practice in law at Columbia University Law School. He began his career as a trial attorney in the US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division. This event is co-sponsored by the Davis Center, the Oakley Center, and the Office of Strategic Planning and Institutional Diversity.

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 5:00 pm, Oakley Center

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

Writer/director Kimberly Peirce made a mark with her feature debut Boys Don't Cry (1999) which won the Best Actress Oscar. Peirce has since made Stop-Loss (2008) and most recently Carrie (2013). This open discussion with faculty will range from her films and her career to gender on screen and behind the camera, and the challenges of making meaning and content in film, TV and digital media.

*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)

Jonathan Crary will discuss a range of issues connected with
his book 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep. Crary will outline its origins in his earlier work on spectacle and attention and will position it in relation to other cultural and political accounts of
neoliberalism. At the same he will pose the question of what it means
to produce unabashedly polemical writing in the context of today’s

*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