Throughout the year the Center sponsors numerous colloquia. Typically, a scholar, artist, performer, or critic conducts a discussion with Williams faculty and staff who have signed up to attend. Participants are often asked to read a short essay provided by the guest as background or as the focus for discussion. Colloquia give faculty and staff an opportunity for more intensive discussion with the guest than public lectures or other presentations usually afford, and they have come to play an important role in stimulating intellectual exchange at Williams.

Colloquium speakers may be invited by the Director of the Center or suggested to the Director by interested faculty. Note, however, that speakers whose work or talk is aimed solely at the members of one department are more suitable for department functions than for Center-sponsored colloquia. Speakers for Center colloquia should be figures of notable achievement whose work would be of significant interest to faculty in multiple departments and programs.

See our list of past colloquia here.

Spring 2022 Events


Elizabeth Kolbert

February 22 Tuesday, 4:30pm | Oakley Center

So pervasive are human impacts on the planet that it’s said we live in a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene. In Under a White Sky: the Nature of the Future, Elizabeth Kolbert takes a hard look at the new world we are creating. Along the way, she meets biologists who are trying to preserve the world’s rarest fish, which lives in a single tiny pool in the middle of the Mojave; engineers who are turning carbon emissions to stone in Iceland; Australian researchers who are trying to develop a “super coral” that can survive on a hotter globe; and physicists who are contemplating shooting tiny diamonds into the stratosphere to cool the earth. One way to look at human civilization, says Kolbert, is as a ten-thousand-year exercise in defying nature. In this work she examines how the very sorts of interventions that have imperiled our planet are increasingly seen as the only hope for its salvation.

The Pulitzer Prize–winning author discusses her new book, Under a White Sky, which returns to humanity’s transformative impact on the environment, now asking: After doing so much damage, Elizabeth Kolbert wonders: can we change nature, this time to save it?


The Book I Didn't Write: An Oakley Salon with Gretchen Long

March 4 Friday, 4:30pm | Oakley Center

Our published work has never been easier to access, a quick google search away. Harder to find, and more intriguing, is the work we haven't written. In this discussion we'll consider scholarly lives unled: long-shot ideas for future works, projects dreamed of but laid aside, or a book we would like to have written, if it hadn't already been written by someone else. Join us for a discussion of alternate scholarly paths.

A new and highly informal series of gatherings this year, the Oakley Salon brings together small groups of faculty to talk about their scholarly and creative work in a casual setting over tasty snacks and drinks.

Gretchen Long is the Frederick Rudolph '42 Class of 1965 Professor of American Culture in the History Department at Williams College. She received her B.A. from Wesleyan University, and her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. She is the author of Doctoring Freedom: The Politics of African American Medical Care in Slavery and Emancipation, and is currently working on a project about black women and food on the antebellum plantation.


Entwined: Indigenous, Afro-Indigenous, African American
Just Futures Roundtable Series

Feb 15, Mar 15, Apr 12, May 10 6-7:30 PM EST | Zoom

The Williams College Spring '22 roundtable series "Entwined: Indigenous, Afro-Indigenous, African American" focuses on four themes central to communities: : Spirituality (February 15), Security (March 15), Sovereignties (April 12), and Freedom (May 10). Academics, artists, and activists will discuss communal agency and historical/ contemporary justice. This series is part of the Mellon Foundation's Just Futures initiative, which aims to tell a different, more complete story of New England/Northeast and its global connections–past, present, and future.


Zola, Zola, "Zola"
Namwali Serpell

April 7 Thursday, 4:30pm | Online

Join us for a conversation with Namwali Serpell about adaptation, media, and the figure of the "Whore" in Émile Zola's 1880 novel Nana, Janicza Bravo's 2020 film, Zola, and the 2015 tweets by A'Ziah "Zola" King on which the film is based.

Namwali Serpell's first novel, The Old Drift (2019), won the Anisfield-Wolf Book prize for fiction “that confronts racism and explores diversity,” the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction, and the Grand Prix des Associations Littéraires Prize for Belles-Lettres. It was named one of the 100 Notable Books of 2019 by the New York Times Book Review, one of Time Magazine’s 100 Must-Read Books of the Year, and a book of the year by New York Times Critics, The Atlantic, NPR, and BuzzFeed. She is Professor of English at Harvard University.


Accompaniment in the Time of Covid: A Comprehensive Public Health Approach
The Annual Weiss Lecture delivered by Ophelia Dahl

April 14 Thursday, 7:30pm | '62 Center Mainstage

Ophelia Dahl co-founded Partners In Health (PIH), a global health non-profit dedicated to delivering high-quality care to the poor. PIH, which began in Haiti’s rural Central Plateau, now serves millions of patients in ten countries on four continents around the world. PIH’s community-based model has helped to redefine what’s possible in health care delivery in settings of poverty, proving that HIV, multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, and other diseases that stalk the poor can be effectively treated in communities from Peru to Rwanda to West Africa. Ms. Dahl led PIH as Executive Director for 16 years, and now chairs its Board of Directors. She continues to write, teach, and speak about the health and rights of the poor, moral imagination, and accompaniment.

Ms. Dahl also helps to lead the Roald Dahl Literary Estate, which manages the works of her late father, the writer Roald Dahl. She is a Director’s Fellow at the MIT Media Lab, and a Trustee of Wellesley College, her alma mater. Ms. Dahl is a recipient of the Union Theological Seminary’s Union Medal and, together with her PIH colleagues, the Hilton Humanitarian prize.

Sponsored by the Oakley Center for Humanities and Social Sciences, the Andrew B. Weiss, M.D., Lecture on Medicine and Medical Ethics was endowed by the late Andrew B. Weiss ’61 and his wife Madge Weiss.


Thinking Through the Pandemic: A Perspective Through Photographs
Rustom Bharucha

April 27 Wednesday, 4:30pm | Oakley Center

Rustom Bharucha is Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies in the School of Arts and Aesthetics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. He is the author of several books including Theatre and the World, The Question of Faith, In the Name of the Secular, The Politics of Cultural Practice, Rajasthan: An Oral History, Another Asia: Rabindranath Tagore and Okakura Tenshin and Terror and Performance. A former advisor of the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development in the Netherlands, he has served as a consultant for the Arts Council in Ireland and Ford Foundation in the United States. More recently, he was the Project Director of Arna-Jharna: The Desert Museum of Rajasthan and the Festival Director of the Inter-Asian Ramayana Festival at the Adishakti Laboratory for Theatre Research in Pondicherry.


The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War
Louis Menand

May 3 Tuesday, 4:30pm | Oakley Center

The Cold War was not just a contest of power. It was also about ideas, in the broadest sense―economic and political, artistic and personal. In The Free World, the acclaimed Pulitzer Prize–winning scholar and critic Louis Menand tells the story of American culture in the pivotal years from the end of World War II to Vietnam and shows how changing economic, technological, and social forces put their mark on creations of the mind.

Louis Menand is Professor of English at Harvard University and a staff writer at The New Yorker. His books include The Metaphysical Club, which won the Pulitzer Prize in history and the Francis Parkman Prize from the Society of American Historians. In 2016, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama.

Ancient Dance Image

Mobilizing Antiquity: Ancient Dance, New Directions

May 20 Friday | Oakley Center

Drawing upon the expertise of scholars working on a range of cultures and contexts, including the Mediterranean, South Asia, and Nubia, this conference will offer a comparative exploration of ancient dance and performance practices. Faculty and staff interested in performance, the premodern world, and/or comparative cultural studies are warmly invited.

Convened by Williams College Assistant Professor of Classics Sarah Olsen with featured speakers Zoa Alonso Fernández (Universidad Autónoma, Madrid), Solange Ashby (UCLA), Anurima Banerji (UCLA) and Felipe Rojas (Brown), and responses from Corinna Campbell (Williams), Guy Hedreen (Williams), Lu Kuo (Bard), and Shanti Pillai (Williams). Full schedule to be announced soon.


New Faculty Salon

Date TBA, 4:30pm | Oakley Center

A new and highly informal series of gatherings this year, the Oakley Salon brings together small groups of faculty to talk about their scholarly and creative work in a casual setting over tasty snacks and drinks. We hope this will be an opportunity to get to know more about the projects of colleagues across disciplines.


Colloquium with Rizvana Bradley

Date TBA, Fall 2022 | Oakley Center

Rizvana Bradley is a scholar of cinema and media studies, and contemporary art, with a specific interest in the development of the moving image, and art installation. Her forthcoming book manuscript is a recipient of a Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant, and offers a critical examination of the histories and forms of racialized embodiment that move through a range of experimental artistic practices, which integrate film and other media. She is Assistant Professor of Film & Media, UC Berkeley.