Pitzer Spotlights

2005-2006 Spotlight Archives

Professor Dan Segal, Invited Scholar

Dan Segal
Professor Dan Segal

Dan Segal, Jean M. Pitzer Professor of Anthropology and History, was the featured scholar at the University of Virginia’s Page-Barbour and James W. Richard Lecture series, Oct. 10-12. The prestigious century old lecture series invites one scholar for an eight-day stay involving three main lectures.

Previous Page-Barbour lecturers include poet T.S. Eliot, President and Chief Justice William Howard Taft, philosopher Walter Lippman, and psychologist B.F. Skinner. Recent lecturers include philosopher Richard Rorty, physicist Freeman Dyson, and anthropologist Maurice Godelier.

Segal’s lecture series was titled Modernity and the History Monopoly or Why We Need Other Histories.

“When we think about something, a person, a society or an object like a desk, we label it as modern or not modern. I’m interested in the cluster of ideas that is present when we label something as modern,” Professor Segal said. “When we say something is modern, we make 2 claims: we make a claim about its place and time in the development of human history and that it has come out of European History. The things that are modern in the world are part of a gradual progress and of a recent geographic history.”

The lecture series is directed at the university as a whole, meaning that scholars must make their talks as interesting and relevant for a psychologist as for a physicist. This proved to be a welcome challenge for Professor Segal.

“This was an opportunity to speak to the entire school—all the departments and students together, which is very different from most academic writing and lectures. Instead of focusing on every minute detail, you are invited to give conceptual overviews of your thinking,” Professor Segal explained. “But that aspect was also fun and liberating and gave me a chance to step back and think about what the more fine-grained research I’ve been doing adds up to.”

-Catherine Okereke ’00