The Center

The Rice Center for Critical and Cultural Theory (3CT) was created in academic year 2012-2013 to promote intellectual synergy and community among Rice faculty and graduate students whose work is informed by a deep and sustained engagement with critical and cultural theory and their ongoing development and permutations. Though housed in the School of Humanities, and drawing primarily on faculty and students from the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Architecture, the Center welcomes and encourages faculty and students in any field whose work is framed by an intensive engagement with critical and cultural theory and its methodological innovations.

This breadth of reception is consonant with the Center’s commitment to support research that is problem-driven and draws on a broad array of conceptual resources and intellectual backgrounds to address pressing questions of broad social and cultural significance, including the reformulation of problems in the sciences in their social dimension. The program’s primary pedagogical aim is thus to equip students to engage ambitious and synthetic research projects of social and cultural significance in a wide range of areas such as new media studies, biopolitics and biophilosophy, race and ethnicity studies, science and technology studies, ecocriticism and environmental humanities, animal studies, medical humanities, transnationalism, art and architecture, psychoanalysis, and political and social theory–just to name a few of the more established pursuits in which a strong theoretical background is indispensible.

The Center’s grounding rationale is that the complexity of these sorts of socially and culturally significant questions requires a breadth of intellectual training and rigor of theoretical articulation not available in the traditional disciplines and departments alone, constituted as they are by the legacy of the disciplinary specialization that defined the nineteenth-century university in the United States (and, before that, its models in Europe). The Center is therefore committed to the view that rigorous theoretical training enables empowering reflection upon the dominant forms of disciplinary norms, practices, and protocols and their historically and socially constituted nature. The Center thus aims to strengthen and enrich how its participants understand and relate to their own “home” disciplines.

Graduate Certificate Program

Such a critical perspective on disciplinarity will, the Center hopes, equip graduate students to intervene more effectively and strategically in debates in their home disciplines, thus enhancing their preparedness for careers both inside and outside the academy.


Status: The Certificate program is open only to students already enrolled and in good standing in a Rice graduate degree program.

Application: The application should consist of a vita, a 2-3 page single-spaced description of the student’s research interests, of the primary theoretical commitments that frame those interests, and how the research intervenes in the current state of critical and cultural theory. A brief (one to two paragraph) letter of endorsement from the faculty member directing the student’s research is also required. Only students in good academic standing in their home departments may apply. Students will be informed promptly early in the Fall semester each year of their acceptance, and students not accepted may reapply to the Certificate program.

Coursework: Students must complete four theory-intensive graduate seminars of their choice, at least one of which (3 credit hours) must be outside their home department. Students must submit to the Center for approval a syllabus for each theory-intensive course, and they may do so at any time during a three-year period that begins with their acceptance into the program. The Center recommends, however, that students interested in applying for the Certificate seek approval for courses as they are taken. A full list of approved courses is available in the General Announcements, and students may petition for approval of a course not listed there. Each course must be completed with a grade of at least B-, and required core courses for other graduate degree or certificate programs, such as English 600 or SWGS 501, may not count toward the total of four courses. Elective courses used to fulfill requirements for other graduate degree or certificate programs at Rice may count toward the total of four courses. Transfer credit from other programs will not be accepted.

Colloquium: Students must also participate in an annual colloquium, which consists of a lecture and seminar given by a visiting scholar in the Spring and Fall semesters of each year. The Colloquium thus consists of two lectures and two seminars per year, total. To accommodate a broad range of student interests, the Colloquium will not be dedicated to a particular theme or approach each year, and the requirement need not be completed in one academic year. It must, however, be completed within three years from the date of acceptance into the program.

Certificate: After students have completed all of these requirements within three years from the date of acceptance into the program, they will be awarded the Certificate upon completion of the degree program in their home department.

Competitive Stipend: Students who have completed the requirements for the Certificate may compete for one of the Center’s annual one-time stipends of $5000. The Center may make up to ten awards each academic year, and students may receive the stipend before completion of the degree program in their home department. The Center will award competitive stipends at the end of each academic year on the basis of the quality of the awardees’ academic performance in the four required seminars, the quality of their participation in the annual Colloquium, and other evidence of scholarly distinction in activities related to the Center’s mission (such as the presentation of conference papers, publications, and the like).

Graduate Student Research Travel Support

Students who are presenting papers or lectures at academic conferences or the equivalent may apply for up to 500 dollars to help defray the costs associated with presenting their research, which must be directly related to the Center’s mission. Students should apply by submitting a one page single-spaced abstract of the research to be presented, proof of the paper’s acceptance and the venue of presentation, and a brief budget outlining expenses related to presenting the research. Students are limited to one award within a twelve-month period and should inform the Center at the time of application of other sources of support received or applied for in connection with the same presentation. Please contact 3CT for deadline dates for both Fall/Spring semester.

*Awards are competitive, and students who are in the process of completing the requirements for the Certificate will be given priority.

Lecture, Symposia, Colloquia, and Conferences

The annual Graduate Certificate Colloquium is only one of any number of events the Center will sponsor or co-sponsor annually. Partnering with other Rice Centers, such as the Humanities Research Center, and with organizations outside the University, the Center has begun to mount lectures, conferences, symposia, and the like related to its mission.