In the Fall of 2015, UC Davis commenced its second Mellon Sawyer Seminar: “Surveillance Democracies?” The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation announced in June 2014 that it had awarded a John E. Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures to UC Davis professors Kriss Ravetto-Biagioli and Anupam Chander. Ravetto-Biagioli, an associate professor in Cinema and Technocultural Studies, and Chander, professor of law, won one of 10 Mellon Sawyer grants in 2014 for their proposal.
Named for the Mellon Foundation’s long-serving third president, John E. Sawyer, the program is designed to create a temporary research center for cross-disciplinary, intensive study. The year-long seminar will interrogate the impact of digital technologies on our public and private lives.
“This Mellon Sawyer Seminar will bring to bear the full range of humanistic disciplines to try to understand the political, social and cultural implications of the new regimes of surveillance,” Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Ralph Hexter stated in his cover letter to the Mellon Foundation. “I am particularly pleased that the Seminar represents a collaboration between a professor in the division of humanities and a professor in our law school since the legal discussions about surveillance need to be situated in broader cultural frameworks.”
The subject grows out of vigorous intellectual conversations and research collaborations on the UC Davis campus over the last several years on various forms of digital humanities. In spring 2012, for instance, Ravetto-Biagioli convened a Faculty Research Seminar at the UC Davis Humanities Institute on the topic of surveillance and the social network.
The grant will fund a post-doctoral research fellow and two advanced graduate students. It will also underwrite the travel costs associated with bringing to UC Davis an array of scholars working in the humanities and social sciences for a series of symposia in 2015-2016.
In addition to Ravetto-Biagioli and Chander, seminar leaders will include Ken Goldberg, craigslist Distinguished Professor of New Media and founding director of the CITRIS Data and Democracy Initiative at UC Berkeley.
UC Davis was among 18 institutions invited to apply in 2014. A list of other 2014 awardees may be found here.
In 2011, Marisol de la Cadena, professor of anthropology, won the campus’ previous Mellon Sawyer Seminar for her project on “Indigenous Cosmopolitics.”