Ursinus Professor Leads Immersive Seminar in Sweden

Abby Kluchin, an assistant professor of philosophy and religious studies, shared her expertise abroad at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm.

She gave a three-day immersive seminar to artist and professor Lisa Tan’s “Affect and Embodiment” class. Tan invited Kluchin, who represented both Ursinus College and the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, an experimental school that expands access to liberal arts education beyond the boundaries of traditional colleges and universities.

Kluchin co-founded the institute six years ago as a graduate student at Columbia University.

Kluchin worked with art students at both the undergraduate and graduate level during the seminar, which featured a wide range of work from contemporary theorists of affect such as Teresa Brennan, Kathleen Stewart, Ann Cvetkovich, and Eve Sedgwick, as well as classic psychoanalytic thinkers like Freud and post-Kleinians like Wilfred Bion.

“I’ve had a lot of experience working with art students and I absolutely love it,” Kluchin said, “They’re so creative—they’re so interested in how to use theory rather than worried about mastering it or getting everything right—and they were just a joy to work with.”

Throughout the three-day event the students engaged in close readings and discussions, writing activities, skits and role playing activities.

“It was spectacular to be in that space,” Kluchin said of the opportunity. “Stockholm is stunning, even when it’s February and freezing. My classroom for the week was a little freestanding house on the water, with swans and ducks and seabirds everywhere and that incredible Scandinavian light. After a week with that group of students, as well as the faculty and other visiting artists, I felt really energized about new directions for my teaching and research.”

Kluchin’s research focuses on continental philosophy, with emphases in feminist theory, psychoanalysis and post-structuralism.

The Brooklyn Institute began during Kluchin’s sixth year of pursuing her doctoral degree at Columbia University when met some like-minded individuals in a pedagogy seminar she likened to the Ursinus Common Intellectual Experience.

They went on to convince a local Brooklyn bar to lend them their back room once a week for six weeks where they taught their first class, “Plato and Aristotle: Politics of the City.” The result was the institute, whose aim is to “lower the barriers to access to liberal arts education.”

It now has around 40 faculty members teaching classes encompassing a wide range of topics spanning from the traditional to the more contemporary.

“We teach courses in alternative spaces all over New York City, Philly and several other states to a diverse group of students of all ages and from a wide variety of educational, vocational, racial, and socio-economic backgrounds,” Kluchin says.

The institute has even served as a learning experience for Ursinus students, and Kluchin has used it to bridge her teaching at Ursinus and her work as the co-director of Ursinus’s Teaching and Learning Institute.

Zooey Cox ’17 was an intern for the Brooklyn Institute’s Philadelphia branch in its infancy, and during fall 2016, Cox’s PhillyX project involved helping the institute expand into Philadelphia. Emily Shue ’18 was a New York-based intern during summer 2017 who worked on the Brooklyn Institute’s community initiative, which offers free educational opportunities to some of New York City’s most underserved residents.

“I spent my summer surrounded by people who had chosen to dedicate their time to bringing education in the arts to working-class adults and underprivileged communities in a world that grows increasingly hostile towards the arts,” Shue says. “Learning can be about exploration and discovery and things you’re genuinely interested in, too.” –By Mary Lobo ’15