Debarati Sanyal appointed as new director of the Consortium for Interdisciplinary Research at UC Berkeley

Debarati Sanyal headshot
August 17, 2022

The Division of Arts and Humanities at UC Berkeley is pleased to announce the appointment of Debarati Sanyal as director of the Consortium for Interdisciplinary Research (CIR) effective July 1, 2022.

Sanyal is a professor in the French department and affiliated with Critical Theory, The Center for Race and Gender, and European Studies.

"CIR is a holding place for some of the most incredible programs on campus," says Sanyal. "It's an incubator for nimble and truly multi-disciplinary inquiry."

Established in 2013, CIR supports interdisciplinary research and programming across disciplinary and departmental lines, leveraging opportunities for exchange, programming, and dissemination within campus and to a global audience.

CIR currently supports programs including the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion (BCSR), The Program in Critical Theory, New Strategies for the Humanities, and Digital Humanities. BCSR houses the Luce Foundation supported Democracy and Public Theology Program, the Designated Emphasis in Religious Studies, and the Asian Pacific American Religions Research Initiative, while The Program in Critical Theory houses the Mellon Foundation supported International Consortium for Critical Theory Programs and the Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory. CIR produces 30-40 events a year, manages millions in grant funding, and coordinates academic, outreach, and publishing activities bringing together 200 faculty, scholars, and graduate students from nearly 30 campus departments and schools. Her appointment reinstates the faculty director position at CIR, bringing a greater focus on collaborative programming to what had in recent years become an administrative role.

In the near term, Sanyal's projects for CIR include plans for an international conference on borders, migration, technology and aesthetics. She foresees an overlap not only between the humanities and social sciences in this project but also between the humanities and the arts in the exploration of representations of the border, particularly by migrants themselves.

In the longer term, Sanyal also intends to promote CIR cross-divisional collaborations around questions of digital media and disinformation, Environmental Humanities, Medical Humanities, Global Humanities and Human Rights . She aims to foster synergies among the programs and centers in CIR and sees the consortium as uniquely situated to address timely issues through an interdisciplinary lens.

"Debarati Sanyal is a tremendous convener," says Arts and Humanities Dean Sara Guyer. "Under her leadership, CIR will bring together people and ideas to create intellectual community. I greatly look forward to the new avenues of research and inquiry that will emerge as Debarati builds connections among current programs and amplifies CIR as an interdisciplinary nexus on campus and beyond."

Sanyal's areas of expertise include critical theory, critical refugee studies, human rights and humanitarianism, transcultural memory studies, Holocaust studies, postwar French and Francophone culture, and 19th-century French literature. She is the author of The Violence of Modernity: Baudelaire, Irony and the Politics of Form (Johns Hopkins, 2006) and Memory and Complicity: Migrations of Holocaust Memory (Fordham, 2015).

Her recent scholarship has focused on migrant resistance, biopolitics, and aesthetics in Europe's current refugee "crisis." Her upcoming book will be titled Arts of the Border: Voices of Migration at the Edges of Europe. She is currently rewriting portions of it in light of the war in Ukraine since the racialization of immigration discourse was magnified by the stark differences in rhetoric and policy surrounding Ukrainian refugees compared to other migrants and refugees fleeing war, violence, and untenable living conditions in their home countries. Sanyal received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2021 and is also a 2014 recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award.

"I look forward to supporting and enhancing the extraordinary work that is already happening in CIR and, in collaboration with the Division of Arts and Humanities, to developing interdisciplinary initiatives that investigate — as Édouard Glissant puts it — "the exultant divergence of humanities."