Professor Emerita of Cultural Anthropology
Irene Silverblatt researches the cultural dimensions of power. She studies how “race-thinking” and gender relations were integral to the making of the modern world as well as how historical memory has shaped feelings of national belonging and demands for universal rights. These interests are both historical and contemporary, and have taken Silverblatt to the Inca Empire, the colonial Andes and contemporary Central/Eastern Europe. Her goal has been to explore the profound transformations in social identities, political sensibilities, and categories of “humanness” spawned by the “modern/civilized” world. With support from the Rockefeller, Guggenheim and Wenner Gren Foundations and Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, she has explored the Spanish Inquisition as a modern institution as well as the ways that gender construed power relations in Inca and Colonial Peru. These concerns about the cultural expressions of power, combined with an interest in the politics of memory and its relation to art, orient her next project. Research in central and eastern Europe explores the ways in which historical memory, particularly of the holocaust, is playing a role in the transformation of national ideologies as well as in the conceptualization of transnational, human rights. Her initial foray into this new arena was to edit Harvest of Blossoms: Poetry of a Life Cut Short. (with Helene Silverblatt). This volume is a collection of the poetry of our cousin, Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger, who died in an SS labor camp in 1942.