It’s Wednesday, and in the Kluge Center that means lunch.
In a tradition that dates back to the earliest days of the Center, scholars and staff gather each Wednesday for a brown-bag lunch that fosters collegiality and a lively exchange of ideas.
Romila Thapar was the first person to suggest we meet regularly over lunch, in 2003. At the time, in Dr. Thapar was the Kluge Chair in Countries and Cultures of the South (since then she has gone on to be a winner of the Kluge Prize for lifetime achievement in the study of humanity). The lunch, she believed, would help bind the Kluge Center’s residents together and engage them in cross-disciplinary dialogues.
Dr. Thapar was right. While not every lunch-time discussion is academic in nature they all engage the Center’s residents in getting to know each other better. Brownbag lunches take place on Wednesday’s at 12:30 p.m. and anywhere from ten to twenty-five individual researchers and staff appear. Normally we gather around a conference table upstairs at the Kluge Center and the overflow crowd uses the couch and extra chairs around a coffee table. (We are about to experiment with using a number of smaller round tables and possibly take away the conference table.)
Luncheon topics have been many and varied. Jürgen Kocka (Distinguished Visiting Scholar, 2010) and his wife began a discussion on the role of the public intellectual. Claudia Deetjen (Bavarian American Fellow, 2009) and her guest, Dr. Michael Steppat, started a conversation on the role of “public speaking” vis-à-vis the German and American educational systems. Ruth Wasem (Kluge Staff Fellow, 2014) and Anthony Stewart (AHRC Fellow, 2014) engaged us in a lively exchange about the tragic and comic aspects of racial self-identification. Normally the larger group breaks into smaller groups but when Paul Crego (Kluge Staff Fellow, 2007) brought maps and laid them out on the table talked about his field of expertise, the history of Abkhazia, during the height of their 2009-10 tensions with Russia and Georgia, we all stayed focused on what he had to say.
Occasionally one individual will entertain the group. Deirdre Ní Chonghaile (Lomax Fellow, 2012) played the fiddle. Gerhard Casper (Kluge Chair in American Law and Governance, 2006, and former president of Stanford University) read his humorous essay on “A Day in the Life of a College President.” Dario Sarlo (AHRC Fellow, 2006, and Kluge Fellow, 2013) played the violin. And this past December, Wendy Fok (Digital Studies Fellow, 2014) suggested an “ugly Christmas sweater” brown-bag lunch, the results of which you see below:
The Wednesday brownbag lunch is a wonderful Kluge Center tradition, one that helps create a warm and collegial atmosphere for our resident scholars. And now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time (as of this publication) for lunch.