Visiting Scholars


2018-2019 Distinguished Visiting Scholar: Souleymane Bachir Diagne

Souleymane Bachir Diagne

Souleymane Bachir Diagne is a professor at Columbia University in the departments of French and Philosophy. He is currently the Director of the Institute of African Studies. His areas of research and publication include History of Philosophy, History of Logic and Mathematics, Islamic Philosophy, and African Philosophy and Literature. His latest publications in English include: Islam and the Open Society: Fidelity and Movement in the Philosophy of Muhammad Iqbal, Dakar, Codesria, 2010; African Art as Philosophy: Senghor, Bergson, and the Idea of Negritude, Seagull Books, 2011; The Ink of the Scholars: Reflections on Philosophy in Africa, Dakar, Codesria, 2016; and Open to Reason: Muslim Philosophers in Conversation with the Western Tradition, New York, Columbia University Press, 2018. Forthcoming is an English translation of his Bergson Postcolonial, to be published by Fordham University Press, New York, in 2019.

1) Film Screening: Tuesday, January 15, 6:30 p.m., Buchanan 1910

Souleymane Bachir Diagne will be the guest speaker at a screening of two landmark Senegalese films: Ousmane Sembène's Borom Sarret (1963) and Djibril Diop Mambéty's La petite vendeuse de soleil (1999), followed by a Q&A with Professor Eric Prieto.

2) Graduate Seminar: Wednesday, January 16th, 2 p.m., Phelps 6206C

Souleymane Bachir Diagne will offer a guest seminar entitled "A postcolonial Bergson: élan vital in the philosophy of Muhammad Iqbal and Leopold Sédar Senghor."

The impact of French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941) is immense. In the history of ideas, it has defined what Frederic Worms has rightly called the “Bergson moment”, whose influence on literature and philosophy started with his 1889 Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience (known in English under the title Time and Free Will) and still endures, as can be seen for example in Gilles Deleuze’s works. Bergson’s concepts of duration, intuition, élan vital (life force), dynamic religion and open society revolutionized philosophical thought. Furthermore, Bergson’s ideas were profoundly meaningful for intellectuals in Asia and Africa in their fight for a decolonized world. This seminar focuses on the influence of Bergsonism among colonial/postcolonial subjects. After a presentation of Bergson’s philosophy and key concepts, we will examine how “Bergsonism” shaped the views of two important poets and thinkers of the twentieth century: Muhammad Iqbal of British India and Léopold Sédar Senghor of Senegal.

Space is limited, so please contact Dalia Bolotnikov Mazur ( to sign up as soon as possible. The seminar will be preceded by a lunch.

3) Guest lecture: Thursday, January 17th, 4 p.m., Wallis Annenberg Conference Room (SSMS 4315)

Souleymane Bachir Diagne will deliver a lecture entitled "Translation and Decolonization."

In the colonial space, one imperial language presents itself as the Logos incarnate, in contrast to the local indigenous vernaculars which are then deemed lacking and incomplete. How the act of translation, of “putting in touch” languages (Antoine Berman, The Experience of the Foreign), creates linguistic equality and reciprocity, even in a colonial situation, is the topic of this presentation.

Souleymane Bachir Diagne Visit

Past Visiting Scholars:

Marina Warner

Marina Warner, the 2017-2018 Distinguished Visiting Scholar, is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Birkbeck College, Professorial Research Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies, a Fellow of the British Academy, President of the Modern Humanities Research Association for 2018, and was elected President of the Royal Society of Literature in 2017. Her books include Stranger Magic: Charmed States and The Arabian Nights (2011) and Forms of Enchantment: Writings on Art and Artists (2018). In 2015, she was awarded the Holberg Prize in the Arts and Humanities, and in 2017 she was given a World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award and a British Academy Medal. She began the project in Palermo, Sicily and is currently researching the concept of Sanctuary and writing an ‘unreliable memoir’ A Life Mislaid about her childhood in Egypt. Warner's public lecture was entitled "Sanctuary and Literature: Words on the Move."

Marina Warner Visit


Christopher Prendergast

Christopher Prendergast, the 2016-2017 Distinguished Visiting Scholar, is Professor Emeritus in French at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of King's College. He was formerly Distinguished Professor in French and Comparative Literature at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. He is a member of the British Academy, the Academia Europea and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is also Honorary Professor at the University of Copenhagen. Prendergast’s public lecture was entitled “Culture, Politics & Philology in the Nineteenth Century: A French Riposte.”


Susan Buck-Morss

Susan Buck-Morss, the 2015-2016 Distinguished Visiting Scholar, is Distinguished Professor of Political Philosophy at the City University of New York Graduate Center and Professor Emerita in the Government Department of Cornell University. Her trans-disciplinary work involves the fields of philosophy, history, cultural studies, comparative literature, history of art and visual culture, German studies, and architecture. Her public lecture was entitled “Year One: Rethinking the Origins of the Present.”


Michael Fried

Michael Fried, the 2014-2015 Distinguished Visiting Scholar, holds the J.R. Herbert Boone Chair in the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University. Fried is one of the most influential art historians, art critics, and literary critics working today and has published richly and variously on a wide range of subjects, from Caravaggio to contemporary "art" photography and 19th century Realist novels. His public lecture was entitled “An Almost Unknown Masterpiece: Cecco del Caravaggio's Resurrection.”