The Center

The Center for the Study of Social Difference at Columbia University promotes innovative interdisciplinary scholarship on the role of gender, sexuality, ethnicity and race in global dynamics of power and inequality. Working together with colleagues from universities and research centers around the world, CSSD Fellows and faculty challenge the disciplinary divides among the humanities, the arts, and the social sciences by asking not only how historical categories of social difference intersect on the level of identity, but also how these categories shape institutions, modes of knowing, acts of representation, and processes of globalization. The Center’s collaborative work recognizes the crucial role of history in the study of global structures of inequality and social difference and develops rigorous conceptual and empirical analyses of complex networks of culture and power. CSSD creates the conditions for scholars, artists and practitioners to imagine alternative social structures and to set new and daring intellectual agendas for the future.

Current Projects

Teatro de la CandelariaWomen Creating Change engages distinguished feminist scholars across Columbia’s many schools to focus on how contemporary global problems affect women and the role women play in addressing those problems. There are currently five Women Creating Change working groups: "Gender & the Global Slum," "Gender, Religion & Law in Muslim Societies," "Women Mobilizing Memory," "Re-thinking Vulnerability: Feminism & Social Change," and "Social Rights After the Welfare State." Each working group uses the resources of Columbia’s Global Centers to develop international networks of scholars and activists working on pressing problems of gendered inequity.

This project engages some of the most pressing debates of our time, questions about the beginning and end of life, prenatal testing, abortion, euthanasia, eugenics, technologies for the medical correction and “cure” of the non-normative body, disease, wartime injuries, post-traumatic stress, and healthcare. The study of disability also forces us to interrogate charged ethical and political questions about the meaning of aesthetics and cultural representation, bodily identity, and dynamics of social inclusion and/or exclusion.

The Digital Black Atlantic Project (DBAP) is a multi-institutional and interdisciplinary working group that has come together to invent a scholarly resource and digital platform for multimedia explorations and documentations of literary texts, visual documents, sites, moments, rituals and ceremonies, monuments and memorials, performances, and material objects emerging out of and concerning the Black Atlantic world.

This working group will consider a series of linked questions about the social, cultural, and scientific nature of the sexed and raced body. This project uses the specific focus on sex-testing of elite athletes as a lab for considering larger questions related to social difference and the intersections of scientific and sociocultural perspectives on the sexed and raced body. Sex-testing provides an excellent focal point for exploring how an entangled and intersectional view of sex, gender, and other social formations might be relevant to contemporary matters of science and social policy.