Any project on curiosity worth its salt must owe an unusual number of debts to people, places, and things. This book is no exception. We want to begin with a warm thanks to the Center for Curiosity, in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice, for providing both of us with academic homes, financial support, and intellectual inspiration as we conceived and executed much of this project. Special thanks to Kushal Sacheti, founder and director of the Center for Curiosity, whose continued and vigorous belief in all things curiosity spurred this project forward. We would also like to thank the participants of several symposia we organized under the auspices of the Center for Curiosity—the Curiosity: Emerging Sciences and Educational Innovations symposium at the University of Pennsylvania (December 2018), the Reimagining Education: Curiosity and Mental Health symposium at American University (April 2018), the Network Neuroscience of Curiosity symposium at the University of Pennsylvania (November 2017), and, especially, the Curiosity across the Disciplines symposium at the University of Pennsylvania (December 2016). Not only did symposia participants enrich our understanding of curiosity, many of their talks grew into chapters for the present volume. On that note we owe a huge thanks to all of our contributors, for their prompt, fearless, and eminently curious work. Thanks also to our anonymous reviewers and to the enthusiastic support of our editors at the University of Minnesota Press: to Danielle Kasprzak, who saw the promise of the project and shepherded it through review, and to Pieter Martin, who oversaw the later stages of development.
Perry Zurn owes a tangible debt to a few rooms of his own that made both the mundanities and the electric moments of this project possible: G11 Franklin Patterson, 316 Hayden, and 112 Battelle-Tompkins. In recognizing the material conditions of my own curiosity—and signaling the historically unequal distribution of those conditions—I also want to acknowledge the Nonotuck people, the Lenni-Lenape people, and the Piscataway people, on whose traditional territories I undertook this work. Many thanks to American University for research leave to accept the postdoctoral fellowship at Penn’s Center for Curiosity. I also thank the students in “The Ethics of Curiosity” course at Hampshire College (Spring 2016) and “The Philosophy of Curiosity” course at American University (Spring 2018) for getting curious about curiosity in a more expansive sense than I could ever have imagined. Thanks to generous audience members where I presented my curiosity-related work, including attendees at the American Philosophical Association, Critical Genealogy Workshop, Derrida Today, Diverse Lineages of Existentialism, philoSOPHIA, the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy, and the Trans Philosophy Project conferences, as well as audiences at Academic Programs International, Adelphi University, American University, Appalachian State University, DePaul University, Hampshire College, Haverford College, MIT Media Lab, the University of Colorado Denver, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the Imagination Institute, the Penn Network Visualization program, Lea Elementary, Open Connections, and Westtown School. Special thanks also to my grandmother, Sara Atlee, and mother, Holly Zurn, for modeling and facilitating my raucous and self-reflective curiosity from a young age. And big thanks to Arjun for being my co-conspirator in curiosity studies these past few years!
Arjun Shankar knows that his meandering, tangential, idiosyncratic journey down this intellectual path has been made possible only through the trust, friendship, and belief of many who have supported him along the way. Many thanks to the Center for Curiosity in conjunction with the School of Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania for providing the space and resources necessary to think with curiosity from 2016 to 2018. I owe much to Dean John L. Jackson Jr., whose advocacy, enthusiasm, and intellectual support has been essential to seeing this project through. Kushal Sacheti’s belief in this project, along with his rigorous critique, has made it possible for me to think curiously, expansively, and across disciplines. Thanks to the students in my class “Curiosity: An Ethnographic Approach” (Spring 2018) for listening to early drafts of chapters and providing enthusiastic criticism. Thanks to those who have offered their feedback on my curiosity-related work, including audiences at the American Anthropological Association, Hamilton College, American University, Goldsmiths, Aarhus University, the University of Pennsylvania, Penn’s Netter Center for Community Engagement, the Penn Network Visualization program, and Westtown School. Thanks to my former ninth-grade students at the Academy for Social Action in New York City, who taught me so much about what teaching and learning is and the struggles that come when challenging a system that oppresses young people of color; they led me to dedicate my life to education. Special thanks to my mother, Kamala Shankar, who encourages my curiosity even when she is unsure what it means or where it is going, and my sister, Priya Shankar, who is an endless ball of enthusiasm and hope. Thank you, Mariam Durrani, who inspired me with her ceaseless reminders that no work is worth anything if it does not push us to challenge the patriarchal and racist systems that continue to oppress all of us. I hope this work contributes in a small way to that project. Finally, thanks to Perry Zurn, for being the collaborator I did not know could be. Let this be the beginning of many curious collaborations.
To curiosity studies. To radical curiosity. And to all those whose curiosity has brought us to this moment.