Cons and Scams: Their Place in American Culture

General Programming

  • The Center for Public Scholarship at the New School
  • Registration required. See details.

Join us for the 37th Social Research Conference


*This event is free and open to the public.

Monday and Tuesday, April 23 & 24, 2018

Cons and con men have long been present in American culture and are often represented as romantic figures. This symposium will explore cons and scams in their many guises and what makes us vulnerable to them, with particular attention to the current political scene in the US.

With Edward Balleisen, Geoffrey O'Brien, Daniel Kevles, Diana Henriques, Nina Shapiro and more.


DAY 1: Monday, April 23
SESSION I: 1 - 3pm


(LOCATION: Theresa Lang Center, 55 W. 13th Street, NY, NY)

Edward Balleisen, Professor of History and Public Policy; Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies, Duke University; author of Fraud: An American History from Barnum to Madoff (2017)

Noah Isenberg, Professor of Culture and Media at the New School’s Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, director of Screen Studies program; author of We’ll Always Have Casablanca (2017)

Geoffrey O’Brien, American poet, essayist, and cultural historian; former Editor in Chief, Library of America and author of Stolen Glimpses, Captive Shadows: Writing on Film, 2002–2012 (2013)

Moderator: Mark Greif, Associate Professor of Literary Studies, Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, The New School

SESSION 2: 3:30 - 5:30 PM

(LOCATION: Theresa Lang Center, 55 W. 13th Street, NY, NY)

Diana Henriques, financial journalist for the New York Timesfrom 1989 to 2012 and now a contributing writer, author of The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust(2011)

Robert Shireman, Senior Education Fellow, The Century Foundation

Barak Orbach, Professor of Law and Director of the Business Law Program, The University of Arizona, James E. Rogers College of Law; author of the article “Scamming: The Misunderstood Confidence Man” (2015)

Moderator: William Deringer, Assistant Professor, Program in Science, Technology & Society, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Keynote: 6:00 - 7:30pm
William Butler Yeats' "The Pot of Broth"
A reading by actors from the Irish Repertory Theatre's production of "The Pot of Broth"

Join us for a reading of "The Pot of Broth," a 1903 play by William Butler Yeats, in collaboration with Lady Gregory, which features a hungry trickster, a charming con man who makes a hearty meal of a stone and a song.

DAY 2: Tuesday, April 24
SESSION 3, PART 1: 12:30 - 2:00 PM


(LOCATION: Theresa Lang Center, 55 W. 13th Street, NY, NY)

Elaine Salisbury, author of Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art (2009) and The Conman: How One Man Fooled Britain’s Modern Art Establishment (2010); Lecturer, SUNY – Albany

Maggie Cao, David G. Frey Assistant Professor, Department of Art and Art History, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Moderator: María González Pendás, Lecturer in Art History and Mellon Research Fellow, Society of Fellows in the Humanities, Columbia University

SESSION 3, PART 2: 2:10 - 3:40 pm

(LOCATION: Theresa Lang Center, 55 W. 13th Street, NY, NY)

Daniel Kevles, Stanley Woodward Professor Emeritus of History, Yale University

Nina Shapiro, Director of Pediatric Ear, Nose, and Throat at the Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA and Professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA; author of Hype: A Doctor’s Guide to Medical Myths, Exaggerated Claims and Bad Advice – How to Tell What’s Real and What’s Not(2018)

Moderator: Heidi Hausse, Lecturer in history and Mellon Research Fellow, Society of Fellows in the Humanities, Columbia University