Discussion Colloquia Perfect For Your Next Reading Group

Discussion Colloquia

The Institute for Humane Studies offers a wide range of resources to facilitate critical thinking and discussion on campus. One of the signature programs we offer is discussion colloquia. These events take place over the course of a weekend and feature a small group discussing readings on a specific topic. They are suitable for undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty. They serve as a great opportunity to dive into a topic deeper than you could in the classroom.

As one of our more popular programs, here are our five favorite Discussion Colloquia topics we offer. From Abolitionism to Anarchy, we’ve built several comprehensive colloquia packed with challenging and eye-opening texts.

 Frederick Douglass

Moving chronologically through the life of the abolitionist and freedom fighter Frederick Douglass, these texts highlight Douglass’ fight for the end of slavery and his staunch defense of the rights of men. It also explores Douglass’ political philosophy and debates he had with fellow abolitionists. Starting with his book My Bondage and My Freedom and ending with his reflections as an elder statesman grappling with various issues of the late 19th century, this colloquium provides a comprehensive look at the words and philosophy of one of America’s most influential thinkers and orators.


IHS offers two different discussion colloquia on the political and economic implications of anarchy, respectively. This collection includes not just texts supporting anarchism, but those skeptical and even outright opposing it. These readers are great introductions into the philosophy of anarchism. Using both contemporary and historical works, the goal of these readers is to give participants a full view of what anarchy strives for as well as its implications.

History of Policing and Alternative Methods

A must for those who want to hold a discussion colloquia on the current state of law enforcement in America. Providing both a history of policing in America as well as potential solutions to some of the most pressing issues with law enforcement, this reader uses history and social theory to tackle a prescient issue of our time. From the writing of policing journalist Radley Balko to academics presenting quantitative studies of the failures of certain strategies, this reader is sure to spark discussion on what the future of policing in America should be.

Sacred Rights

What did religious liberty mean to the Founding Fathers? How did it affect the creation of the United States? Those are the questions the Sacred Rights discussion colloquia attempt to answer. Drawing significantly from primary documents from the nation’s founding, this collection focuses on the debates centered around the founding of America about religious liberty and how it would eventually be codified in the Bill of Rights. This discussion colloquium can serve as a great supplement for scholars interested in colonial and revolutionary America, as well as the creation of America’s Constitution and other founding documents. You will find many of the issues our founders had about religious liberty are still being discussed today.

Economics of Foreign Aid

The Economics of Foreign Aid colloquium asks if foreign aid to developing countries is effective or responsible for more harm than good. Formatted as a debate, each section offers dueling views on different aspects of foreign aid. Without taking a side, these selections offer competing opinions and solutions for global poverty. This colloquium is excellent for challenging many common assumptions about global poverty, the ‘third world’, and how distributing foreign aid actually works.

Interested in hosting an IHS Discussion Colloquia for undergraduates, graduates, or faculty? More information and applications are available on our site.

Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

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