The Ph.D. Program in History

at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York


Cornell University “Summer Institute on Contested Landscapes”

Summer Institute on Contested Landscapes*

Cornell University, May 13-17, 2013


Applications are currently being accepted for the inaugural Summer Institute on Contested Landscapes to be held at Cornell University May 13-17, 2013. We welcome applications from advanced graduate students (i.e., completing dissertations) and from junior scholars (i.e., who received a Ph.D. after May, 2010) in the social sciences, humanities, and other relevant disciplines.

The theme of this inaugural session is “property.” We seek to develop and apply critical analyses of property as a set of working rules, norms, conventions, and practices. What is property, who and what is eligible for ownership, and who decides? What is the relationship between changing property forms and sustainability, development, and democracy? Such questions are fundamental to contested global landscapes. Land grabs, new enclosures, geo-piracy, terra nullius narratives, native land claims, bioprospecting, geoengineering, water wars, and ongoing primitive accumulation all point to the primacy of “property” as an interpretive terrain of everyday struggle and innovation in the social life of land.

The 2013 Summer Institute seeks to advance scholarship on a broad terrain: property issues and encounters in landscapes (whether urban, rural, suburban, or subterranean), seascapes (whether estuaries, rivers, oceans, or groundwater), and the greater biosphere. Over the course of five days and through a mix of feedback on papers, intensive discussions, speaker sessions, and regional excursion(s), participants will have the opportunity to develop their papers and acquire new skills in a vigorous, collegial, interdisciplinary setting.

Successful applicants (up to 10) will signal broad empirical and theoretical originality. The Institute intends to stimulate vibrant and unexpected cross-disciplinary exchange among scholars whose research is directed to different times and spaces. Applications are not limited by historical period or world region.

A secondary goal of the Summer Institute is to produce an edited volume. To that end, applicants will be expected to submit a substantive draft of an unpublished paper in advance of the meeting (by April 15). All working papers and a limited number of selected readings will be pre-circulated to all participants. After participants submit final and publishable versions of their contributions to the edited volume (by October 1, 2013), they will receive a small honorarium. The Institute will cover travel (up to $600 per participant), food, and housing costs.

Application deadline is midnight (EST) on February 15, 2013. Applicants should send a cover letter, an abstract of an unpublished paper (that the applicant will work on during and after the Institute), one letter of recommendation, a current CV, and a writing sample. Please send to: Successful applicants will be notified by March 8. International participants will be responsible for researching and completing their own visa and related legal arrangements. Please note that accepted applicants are expected to attend the entirety of the Institute.

*The Summer Institute on Contested Landscapes is a collaborative initiative sponsored by Cornell’s Institute for the Social Science and its “Contested Landscapes” Theme Project, the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, and the Social Science Research Council. The inaugural Institute is coordinated by Chuck Geisler, Wendy Wolford, Jon Parmenter and Raymond Craib. Invited speakers (unconfirmed) include Stuart Banner and Marc Edelman. Questions should be directed to Chuck Geisler at  or Raymond Craib at

Frequently Asked Questions:

What file formats may I use to submit my materials?

Please submit emailed materials as pdf or MSWord files. We prefer proposals in pdf format with all the parts of the application compiled into one document, or as few documents as possible. No hard copies are needed.

What are the expectations for the cover letter?

In addition to describing the applicant’s interest in the Summer Institute, the cover letter should include the name and email address of the applicant; the date, institution, and field of expected or awarded Ph.D.; the working title of the proposed paper; and the name of the author of the letter of recommendation.

How should letters of reference be submitted?

Letters of reference can be sent by email directly by the letter-writer from their personal email address as an MSWord or pdf file to Although digital copies are preferred, letters of reference may be mailed by surface post to Land Project, Institute for the Social Sciences, Cornell University, 330 Ives Hall East, Ithaca, NY 14853.

How will I know when the ISS has received all my application materials and my file is complete?

You will receive an email from the ISS when your application is complete. We are cataloguing the application pieces in the order they were received. When we process all your materials in the queue, you can be sure we will let you know.

When will the ISS stop accepting applications for review?

We will no longer accept applications after February 15, 2013 at 11:59 PM.

For more information visit the website –

or contact:

Institute for the Social Sciences

342 Ives Hall East


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