Art as Knowledge: Sovereign Power, Death, and Monuments

Zainab Bahrani
Edith Porada Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Art and Archaeology, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University
March 10, 2009

This lecture considers two ancient Mesopotamian monuments, the stele of Naramsin and the Law Code of Hammurabi. Combining archaeological and formal analyses of these monuments with the perspective of philosophy and critical theory via the writings of Giorgio Agamben, Walter Benjamin, and Jacques Derrida, Bahrani turns to the larger theoretical question of the life span of images and the efficacy of works of art. Rather than taking the two monuments as antiquities isolated in space and time from their own cultural context, Bahrani argues that they are also timeless works of art that reflect on the relationship of law and the state of exception, and the very ancient tie between absolute political power and biopolitics. The respondent for the lecture was Beate Pongratz-Leisten, Lecturer in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. The lecture is part of the Art as Knowledge series, which features talks by leading art historians on the subject of how art develops and conveys knowledge.

Behavior Change as a Psychological Enterprise

Deborah Prentice
Visiting Professor, Institute for Advanced Study
February 25, 2009

Solving societal problems involves changing people’s behavior – inducing them to drink less, exercise more, turn down the heat, stay in school, and so on. Interventions designed to change these behaviors have met with limited success. School of Social Science Visiting Professor Deborah Prentice discusses how a closer look at interventions and their affect on people’s thoughts, feelings, and motivations reveals why some succeed and others fail, and she also suggests strategies for improving these outcomes.