Many prominent environmental organizations have a dismal record on matters of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and have paid little attention, historically, to the problems of environmental racism. Philosophically, the analysis of these failures often zeroes in on the issue of “ecocentrism”—a term describing a range of positions seeking to go beyond a “human-centered” or “anthropocentric” perspective. Ecocentrism attributes moral consideration of intrinsic value to holistic entities such as ecosystems rich in biological diversity, the integrity of which might demand the sacrifice of human interests. This session aims to underscore how such criticisms of ecocentrism have missed the better and most important forms of it and the ways in which movements for environmental justice can be—and often are—dependent on the insights of ecocentric environmental philosophy.
Presenter: Bart Schultz
Presenter: Robert L. Kendrick
For good reason, castrati and some female sopranos attracted much scholarly attention in 18th-century opera studies. One famed female contralto, Vittoria Tesi Tramontini, had a stellar career in Italy and Austria but had an unusual background. She was born the child of a sub-Saharan African servant and a Florentine woman in the Medici Court.
Presenter: Haun Saussy
In-person and live streamed: Jean Price-Mars summed up 10 years of Indigéniste poetics when, in the preface to Thus Spake the Uncle (1928), a pivotal text of Caribbean post-colonial thought, he accused his fellow Haitian writers of “bovarysme,” of fantasizing that they were something that they were not. The passage is familiar—at least to Haitians—but the allusions it builds on are less so. The presenter will track those references backwards to Flaubert and Jules de Gaultier, and forward to Victor Segalen and Édouard Glissant, in hopes of diagnosing one malaise of cultural identity.
Presenter: Kağan Arık
This session concerns the Turkic language family, its relationship to other language families, and its historical development and spread on the Eurasian continent. Turkic languages contain more than 30 literary languages, plus numerous dialects that geographically range from Eastern Europe to Northeast China. These languages have been used to reflect the literary heritages of several dozen states, using numerous alphabets, during the past two millennia. They have borrowed words and paradigms from most of the Eurasian languages on the migration paths of the Turkic speakers and have, in turn, imparted an equal amount of their own vocabulary and paradigms to neighboring languages.
Presenter: Shan Xiang, Xiaorong Wang, Yi-lu Kuo, Yujia Ye
Due to the global pandemic, most teaching has been remote. This panel of Chinese language instructional professionals in East Asian Languages and Civilizations demonstrates how language teaching around current issues was carried out through technology in the remote learning mode. Four panelists will share their experience of teaching practices with innovative technology and demonstrate how the pandemic is reshaping teaching and education.
Presenter: Wu Hung
In person and live streamed: In human history, works of art are associated not only with creative imagination but also with constant destructive and reconstructive efforts. This presentation reflects on the destruction of Buddhist sites in China during the early 20th century, conducted not as iconoclastic acts but “in the name of art.” Political and economic factors undoubtedly contributed to such events, but was art historical scholarship itself also partially responsible for these tragedies? More important, how should today’s art historians and museum curators deal with this painful past?
Presenter: Catherine Kearns, Hervé Reculeau
We often talk about climate change in the past through overly scientific lenses: for example, proxies of cooling or warming weather, fluctuations in species, or records of resource stress. These science-heavy conversations also lean toward identifying or explaining societal catastrophes through the direct influence of climate change on ancient societies. How can we better understand the complex ways that cultures and states navigate climatic variability at multiple scales? This session presents a different approach to examining the social, political, and cultural dimensions of human-environment relationships in the past, drawing on the strengths of humanistic disciplines like history, philology, archaeology, anthropology, and visual studies, to give back to ancient human beings and groups the place they deserve in the narrative.
Presenter: Clifford Ando
Classical Athens and Rome sustained two of the longest-lived democracies in history. By their reckoning, each lasted at least 500 years. Yet each also ended, and the stories of their endings has much to say to another age when democratic institutions, and democratic cultures, feel imperiled. This session will describe the circumstances that led to the ends of democracy in Athens and Rome. Particular attention will be given to the role of legislatures and law, which they imagined as a bulwark of democratic rule but which appear also to have been instrumental in its failure.
Presenter: Benjamin Callard
In recent years, buildings and streets have been re-named, statues destroyed or moved on the grounds that the recipients of these honors behaved immorally. This is the public or expressive counterpart of a more inward question: how should we think and feel about people in the light of their vices and virtues? Is it possible to (justly) admire someone (for her achievements) if she also did terrible things? What is it to admire someone for an achievement? Are we admiring the person or the action? Can we—should we be psychologically able to—keep our attitudes toward a person's flaws and accomplishments discrete? In this talk, the presenter will offer some materials for answering these questions.
Presenter: David Rodowick
In-person and live streamed: In recent decades, the value of a humanist education has been criticized from all sides with doubts cast upon its relevance in an increasingly precarious world. The presenter defends a philosophical education in the humanities not in terms of canons, methods, or disciplines to be mastered, nor even knowledges and skills to be acquired and transferred. But rather, the humanities are something deeper and more fundamental—the continuous forging of a revisable moral life guided by reason in open and contingent intersubjective conversations with others. In other words, the humanities in its deepest sense conceived as a lifelong education in judgment. Teaching in the humanities has no more important goal.
Presenter: Lina Ferreria Cabeza-Vanegas, Rachel DeWoskin, Vu Tran
In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, how does an artist catch the day and conceive of keeping to a schedule and building a scaffolding for writing? This panel is a conversation between three authors on broken scaffolding, and a report on and exploration of diverse methods of reading, writing, and teaching outside of a schedule while negotiating global imbalance. How does a pandemic reform our notions of time? The pages we read and write? And the classes we teach? Perhaps, “the task of art today” is as James Baldwin acknowledges: “A society must assume that it is stable, but the artist must know, and he must let us know, that there is nothing stable under heaven.”
Presenter: Martha Feldman
In 1902–1904, when phonography was in its infancy, the voice of the last castrato Alessandro Moreschi was recorded to preserve a vanishing performance tradition. How might an archaeology that goes beyond those recordings uncover more sonic remains than meet the ear? How might it give purchase on Moreschi’s idiosyncratic and bewildering vocal habits as acoustic shards of past practices that surface in the form of what Derrida called a trace—above all laryngeal catches in the throat manifested as unpitched phonations, aspirates, large upward scoops, and even sobs? This session approaches those questions through comparative listening to early recordings by other singers as well as through several forking and interrelated traditions, including castrato and bel canto singing, theories of ornamentation, and vocal pedagogies.
Presenter: Edgar Garcia, Rachel Cohen, Augustus Rose, Margaret Ross, Stephanie Soileau
The writers on this panel will talk about various approaches to writing about cities, with a particular emphasis on writing about Chicago. How do writers create inner and outer landscapes real enough to get lost in? How do writers look to (and sometimes become) architects, gardeners, mapmakers, and photographers to work toward new stories, essays, and poems?
Presenter: James F. Osborne
In 2019, the presenter had the great fortune to be part of an archaeological team that made a remarkable discovery: a hieroglyphic royal inscription authored by Hartapu, a mysterious king from the early first millennium BCE. Named one of the Top 10 Discoveries of the year by Archaeology Magazine, this inscription, which was deciphered by colleagues at the University of Chicago, established the nearby site as a hitherto completely unknown capital city. In the text, Hartapu even claims to have conquered the kingdom of Phrygia (of King Midas fame), which, if true, would make his kingdom one of Iron Age Turkey's most powerful. This session will describe the cultural and historical setting of Turkey during the Iron Age and then present the exciting discoveries that have completely changed our understanding of the geopolitical composition of this time and place.
Presenter: Allyson Nadia Field
In 1916, the Ebony Film Corporation was formed in Chicago with the goal of producing short comedies featuring all-African American casts. While white-capitalized, the company hired an African American producer, Luther J. Pollard, as its President and General Manager. The film’s comedies were aimed at general audiences and focused on the slapstick comedy popular in the mainstream industry. What were Pollard’s ambitions? How did he understand his work in relation to the constraints around Black representation in the broader American film industry? Until recently, very little information about the company has been known to survive, and scholars of African American film history have long puzzled over Pollard’s involvement with Ebony. Through new material the Chicago Film Archives discovered about Pollard, the presenter discusses the work of Ebony, its relation to other Black filmmaking companies, and the Chicago-based film industry of the 1910s.
Presenter: Kris Trujillo
In person and live streamed: A growing body of scholarship has brought important attention to the co-opting of the Middle Ages by white supremacist myths of national origin. But in what ways has or can the medieval offer a resource for political projects of resistance and liberation? This session will explore how and why queer theorists, artists, and writers re-signified the medieval in the face of the AIDS pandemic in the 1980s and 1990s. And it will ask how these aesthetic, political, and even spiritual strategies may inform contemporary responses to the inequities the COVID-19 pandemic rendered more acute.
Presenter: Philip V. Bohlman
In the final chapter of its “Babylon Project,” the New Budapest Orpheum Society explores the transformation of exile to return—the powerful chronicles that grow around dispossessed peoples. Throughout human history exile has taken many forms, resulting from the tragic loss of homeland, as well as the human suffering that accompanies a pandemic. In its Humanities Day performance, the New Budapest Orpheum Society weaves songs of return, ancient and modern, from diverse cabaret repertories, into narratives of reckoning with the lived histories we increasingly witness in our own past and present.
Presenter: C. Riley Snorton
Virtual Only: Narratives about swamp people and swamp things punctuate the story of the New World, from the maroon communities constituted by Native peoples and formerly enslaved Africans beginning in the early 16th century to the first Asians (Filipinos) to arrive in the US, who settled in the swamps surrounding modern day New Orleans in 1763. As a place that is neither land nor water but both, the swamp functions as the grounds—as the “terra infirma”—for a series of considerations about difference, change, time, life, and death. In this session, the presenter explores each of these themes through tracing a figure who was called by many names but most commonly the “Wild Man of the Green Swamp,” which made national news in 1975.