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Critique of Humanitarian Reason

Didier Fassin
Institute for Advanced Study
February 17, 2010

Humanitarianism, which can be defined as the introduction of moral sentiments into human affairs, is a major component of contemporary politics—locally and globally—for the relief of poverty or the management of disasters, in times of peace as well as in times of war. But how different is the world and our understanding of it when we mobilize compassion rather than justice, call for emotions instead of rights, consider inequality in terms of suffering, and violence in terms of trauma? What is gained—and lost—in this translation? In this lecture, Didier Fassin, James D. Wolfensohn Professor in the School of Social Science, attempts to comprehend humanitarian government, to make sense of its expansion, and to assess its ethical and political consequences.

Expanders and Communication-Avoiding Algorithms

Oded Schwartz
Technical University Berlin
January 25, 2010

Algorithms spend time on performing arithmetic computations, but often more on moving data, between the levels of a memory hierarchy and between parallel computing entities. Judging by the hardware evolution of the last few decades, the fraction of running time spent on communication is expected to increase, and with it - the demand for communication-avoiding algorithms. We use geometric, combinatorial, and algebraic ideas and techniques, some of which are known in the context of expander graphs, to construct provably communication-optimal algorithms.

Complexity of Constraint Satisfaction Problems: Exact and Approximate

Prasad Raghavendra
University of Washington
February 16, 2010

 Is there a common explanation for 2SAT being solvable polynomial time, and Max2SAT being approximable to a 0.91 factor? More generally, it is natural to wonder what characterizes the complexity of exact constraint satisfaction problems (CSP) like 2SAT and what determines the approximation ratios for MaxCSPs like Max2SAT.

Artistic Collaboration: A Conversation with Alex and Vincent Katz

Alex and Vincent Katz
February 12, 2010

Painter Alex Katz and his son, writer Vincent Katz, discuss their personal experiences in artistic collaboration in a conversation with Derek Bermel, the Institute's Artist-in-Residence.  Both Alex and Vincent have been involved in numerous collaborative projects.  Alex has collaborated on books with many poets, including John Ashbery, Robert Creeley, and Kenneth Koch, and he has designed sets and costumes for choreographers Paul Taylor and David Parsons.  Vincent has collaborated with the artists Rudy Burckhardt, Francesco Clemente, and Wayne Gonzales.  He is an art critic who has authored numerous essays and articles on contemporary artists; he is the publisher of the poetry journal Vanitas and of Libellum Books; and he serves as Chair of the Board of the Bowery Poetry Club.