Havens Center Programs

The Visiting Scholars Program

Among the Havens Center’s activities, it is perhaps best known for its Visiting Scholars Program, which brings distinguished critical scholars from around the world to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Visiting scholars spend the better part of a week in residence at the Havens Center, delivering lectures, conducting seminars, and meeting with students, faculty, and the interested public. The Visiting Scholars Program enriches the campus and community in several ways. Scholars speak with expertise on a wide range of topics, very often presenting the findings of recently conducted original research. Havens Center lectures and seminars are also sites of cross-disciplinary discussion among faculty and students and a context in which people from the broader community can participate in intellectually stimulating programs with academics. The Center also maintains an extensive archive of audio recordings (and more recently, video recordings) of past lectures on our website. Through the Visiting Scholars Program, the Center also offers a Colloquium in Critical Sociology, which is available every semester and can be taken for variable credit.


Through the Visiting Scholars Program, UW students can earn academic credit in Sociology 994 (Colloquium in Critical Sociology) for attending lectures and seminars. The course is available every semester and can be taken for variable credit. In addition, the Center frequently offers an integrated series of lectures linked to a graduate or undergraduate seminar, usually taught by a member or members of the Center's Steering Committee. Past examples include “The New Economy,” “Varieties of Feminism,” “Rational Choice and Social Theory,” “The Politics and Economics of Science and Technology,” “Women, Social Space and Citizenship,” “Labor Studies for the 21st Century,” “Latino History and Politics,” “The Future of Hip Hop Studies,” and “Renewing Socialism: Alternatives to Capitalism and How to Get There.”

Award for Lifetime Contribution to Critical Scholarship

Every couple of years, the Havens Center bestows the Award for Lifetime Contribution to Critical Scholarship on an individual whose work and career has demonstrated both a distinguished and extensive record of scholarly achievement in the critical tradition of social thought and a strong commitment to social justice. To date, recipients have included Frances Fox Piven, Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, and Eduardo Galeano.

The Real Utopias Project

Attending to the creative tension between practical reforms and utopian alternatives, Havens Center director Erik Olin Wright has organized the Real Utopias Project, a series of working conferences dedicated to exploring a wide range of proposals and models for radical social change. Rather than focusing on either grand, abstract visions of a new social order or piecemeal reforms, the basic organizing principal of the project is to combine serious normative discussions of the underlying principles of different emancipatory visions with a pragmatic analysis of the institutional designs required to make those visions a reality. Each conference in the series is organized around a provocative, innovative manuscript advancing a proposal for radical, yet realizable social change. A group of scholars from around the world is invited to write essays engaging the ideas of this manuscript. The essays, which have ranged from detailed critiques of the argument advanced in the original manuscript to additional proposals for refining or modifying institutional designs, are circulated among participants and discussed at the conference. After the conference, the papers are revised in light of these discussions and the author(s) of the original manuscript write a concluding essay. The collection of papers is then published in the Real Utopias Project Series by Verso publishers, London.


The Havens Center puts on a wide variety of conferences, some of which are strictly academic in character and aimed at a campus audience, and others which are more public in character and designed for both the campus and off-campus communities. In recent years, these have included: RadFest/Midwest Social Forum; International Conference on Local Democracy; National Conference on Media Reform; Nature, Raw Materials and Political Economy; New Latin American Left: Origins and Future Trajectory; Private Military Contractors in Latin America; and Renewing Radical Scholarship.

The Labor & Working Class Studies Project

The Labor & Working Class Studies Project (LWCSP) is organized in collaboration with UW faculty and students, as well as representatives of community and labor organizations concerned with the rights and living standards of working people in Wisconsin and beyond. The Project encompasses a wide array of activities, including among others an annual Speakers Series, cultural events, and a biennial Labor and Working Class Studies Conference, as well as other campus-community-labor dialogues, aimed at addressing issues of concern to labor and working class people. The Project is also a member of the Working Class Studies Association and will host the WCSA’s National Conference in Madison in June 2013.

Social Cinema: Stories of Struggle and Change

The Havens Center’s Annual Film Series explores important contemporary social topics from critical perspectives. Each screening is followed by a discussion of the issues explored in the film. The series is organized in collaboration with the Wisconsin Union Directorate Film Committee and is free and open to all.

Other Activities and Co-sponsored Events

The Havens Center also engages in a variety of additional activities on a more or less regular basis. It frequently brings speakers, including non-academics, to deliver lectures on a wide variety of topics of interest to both the campus community and the broader public. Very often, these lectures are organized in cooperation with other campus programs and community organizations. Examples include As’ad AbuKhalil, Ali Abunimah, Belquis Ahmadi, Tariq Ali, Gilbert Ashkar, Dan Clawson, Laila Farah, Robert Fisk, Malcolm Gladwell, Amira Hass, Cheri Honkala, Ching Kwan Lee, Robert Pollin, Ann Powers, Guenther Roth, Leslie Salzinger, and Jane Slaughter, among many others. The Havens Center has also been actively involved with community groups, social movements, and non-profits in Madison and beyond, co-sponsoring conferences, workshops, and community events.