Norman Wait Harris Memorial Foundation Fund

The Norman Wait Harris Memorial Fund is one of the University of Chicago's oldest endowments. It was established in 1923 with a gift from the five children of Norman Wait Harris, founder of the Harris Trust and Savings Bank, in honor of their father. The purpose of the fund is to help citizens of the United States better understand other peoples of the world. Each year the fund supports conferences, lectures, invited speakers, and other events on international topics at the University of Chicago. Students, faculty, and University centers and organizations are eligible to apply for Norman Wait Harris support.

In 2008-09, the Norman Wait Harris Fund supported international conferences on post-socialism and the future of post-Yugoslav anthropology, gender and sexuality in Islam, and Reconsidering American Power. In addition to the popular World Beyond the Headlines series, the Harris Fund supported lectures on democratization in Latin America, the relationship between imperialism and international law, and Tibetan nationalism. The fund also supported an award-winning exhibition at the Oriental Institute Museum on the looting of archaeological sites and museums in Iraq.

2008-09 Featured Event:
Conference on Reconsidering American Power

In a conference held April 23-25, 2009, participants considered the future of American power and the role of the social sciences in America’s global influence. Building on the previous year’s conference on Anthropology and Global Counterinsurgency, scholars revisited the critical, often fraught relationship between the academy and the state. Participants considered topics such as the influence of “nuclear fetishism” on U.S. nuclear policy and the involvement of anthropologists in military operations.

The conference featured a discussion by Professors Roger Myerson of the Economics Department and Marshall Sahlins of the Anthropology Department, who addressed current American military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan. Myerson critiqued U.S. nation-building strategies, asserting that before a democratic government can succeed, local populations must be able to trust their leaders and hold them accountable. Sahlins focused on the Counterinsurgency Field Manual drafted under General David Petraeus, attacking its “imperialist hubris” and privileging of U.S. interests over the moral treatment of local populations.

(Video and audio available from CHIASMOS, Chicago's International & Area Studies Multimedia Outreach Source.)


Events chosen for support in 2009-10 include a symposium at the Oriental Institute on the lives of ancient and contemporary women in the Middle East, a workshop on the economic recession’s impact on migration and remittance-driven development in Central America and Mexico, a conference on the avant-garde periods in Eastern European art, and a panel discussion on peaceful political settlement between governments and insurgent movements, featuring former combatants of the conflict in northern Ireland.

The Norman Wait Harris Fund will also continue its support of the World Beyond the Headlines series.