In order to give an impression of the atmosphere and style of the After Hours Conversations, here are a few quotations from various speakers during the academic year 2012/2013. Since most speakers were also frequent listeners during talks given by others, they give us an impression of both sides of the AHC experience, speaker and audience.
The format of the After Hours Conversations is extremely interesting. It forces the speaker to focus on the main point. I attended a number of these presentations and I enjoyed all of them. I was exposed to interesting topics by experts in their fields. The short presentations made it easy to follow and the following discussion was useful and engaging. When I prepared my own presentation I enjoyed the fact that it forced me to look for the big picture and to distil it to a short and accessible statement. I found it very rewarding.Nathan Seiberg, School of Natural SciencesTalk Title: What Do We Learn from the Recent Observation of a Higgs-like Particle?As a presenter, I found the experience very rewarding and enriching. It is a real challenge to distill the key concepts of your field into a concise 10 min delivery and as such preparing was a great reflective exercise. Attending the AHC program was one of the highlights of my time at the IAS - where else can you be educated in such a wide-variety of topics by world class academics? It is unique experience within the IAS - I spoke with many different people from all schools which I am sure I would not have done so naturally without this forum.
Jenny Jim, Program in Interdisciplinary StudiesTalk Title: The Interpretation of Brains: Applying Clinical Psychology in the Rehabilitation of Brain-injured ChildrenI really enjoy the After Hours Conversations! They are pithy and thought-provoking, and they celebrate the uniqueness of the Institute. The conversations encourage dialogue between disciplines, and their informal nature ensures lively discussions in which everything is on the table (including beer & nuts).Derek Bermel, Artist-in-ResidenceTalk Title: Music, Mathematics, & Morphemes: Collaborations in Sound, Word, and NumberI liked the After Hours Conversations a lot and I think, they contributed significantly to my IAS-experience. Giving a talk there was exciting and productive, particularly the short and restrictive time-frame was advantagous. The audience was very special and helpful. Since significant parts of the work, namely of the Historical Studies members, follows the Humboldtian ideal of solitude and freedom, it was very good to have a place for intellectual exchange like that. The AHC are a productive combination of easy accessability and high intellectual standard.
Helmut Heit, School of Historical StudiesTalk Title: There Are No Facts, Only Interpretations - Nietzsche on ScienceExcellent format. Really forces you to think of the very essence of one's ideas (or hypotheses) and see how an interested, but unprepared audience reacts. Could perhaps have a bit more time for discussion, people could always drift away before.Jan-Werner Mueller, School of Historical StudiesTalk Title: Can Religion and Democracy Really be Reconciled?My experience with the After Hours Conversations was very positive. I attended several of the events, and gave one talk myself. To me, they were excellent opportunities for genuine yet casual interdisciplinary interactions. For example, my talk was about a specific topic in the history of science. The questioners in the audience comprised historians as well as natural scientists. I sincerely hope that the After Hours Conversation can continue to operate in its current form, which will be beneficial to all the members of the Institute.Chen-Pang Yeang, School of Historical StudiesTalk Title: Probing the Sky with Radio Waves: From Wireless Technology to the Development of Atmospheric ScienceI was slightly reluctant to give an After Hours talk, as I considered the format to be a little superficial. After all, what can one say in ten minutes to an audience who has no prior knowledge of the topic, and sometimes even of the discipline of which this topic is part? But now, having given the talk, I definitely recommend it to any member who wants to look at his or her research topic from a fresh perspective. Choosing a minute part of one’s research, summarizing it and then putting it in words that would make sense to non-specialists is an excellent intellectual exercise. It even led me to think of a new project, on which I hope to write a paper in the future. When this happens, I will be sure to add a note of thanks to the After Hours Conversation series.Ortal-Paz Saar, School of Historical StudiesTalk Title: Angels, Demons and Religious Encounters: The Babylonian Incantation BowlsI very much enjoyed the session. It was especially helpful to present this work on the transnational movement of Asian infants from East to West, and its psychic effects, to a general audience. I have presented this research in multiple locations, but I was especially impressed by the audience at the IAS for their openness toward my critique of the practice, in particular my situating the phenomenon in the larger historical context of war, violence, and gendered migration from the Cold War up to the contemporary period. Not all audiences have been sympathetic to an analysis of transnational adoption as a form of affective labor―the shoring up of idealized notions of family and kinship through the commodification of human life―but I found the question and answer period very productive, as the audience was both receptive and curious, offering insight as well as asking for clarification. I think that we could have easily continued our discussion for an additional hour. (Indeed, I went out with a group of colleagues from SSS and SHS afterward to continue the discussion―an “After After Hours Conversation,” as it were.)David Eng, School of Social ScienceTalk Title: The Psychic Economy of Transnational Adoption