If we want the humanities to be more than academic—if we want them to make a difference in the world—we need to change the way we work. We need to rethink some of the traditional assumptions of the humanities. I suggest here seven rules of thumb for doing public humanities.
(Distributed August 29, 2014)
Program Series Launching in September 2014: Bringing Guantánamo Home
What gives a place a soul? Is it the people who pass through it, whether for an hour or over a lifetime? The celebrations, the rituals, the community gatherings? The homes, shops, places where “history happened”? Is a place’s soul something that persists over time or transforms? And how do we capture and value it?
After finishing my first year of study at Brown, I headed back to the UK. I caught up with friends and family, enjoyed my sister's wedding, and reflected on the beautiful chaos of the past 12 months. It was a relatively peaceful time and a good base from which to launch myself into my summer adventure: a 2-week solo trip to Hong Kong.
This June, shortly after I graduated, I traveled with American Dance Legacy Initiative (ADLI) to West Palm Beach, Florida to take part in a week-long project studying the works of jazz choreographer Danny Buraczeski. The process gave me a valuable chance to reflect – not only on what business I, an administratively-inclined grad student, had in a jazz dance workshop ten years after my last, never-very-proficient ballet class – but on my work with ADLI and the Center for Public Humanities.
Items discussed:The Public, The Internet, Mapping in general, Mapping Arts Project, research vs. museum and display, Miami, Cuba, themes of migration in contemporary art, African Diaspora, Lose your Mother (Saidiya Hartman), Cuban Coffee, failure at making Cuban Coffee, openness to opportunity, excitement for the year to come.
Have you ever been to the theatre and had a really inspiring experience? You saw a really interesting piece of political theatre and came out burning to talk to your friends about it. You go for a drink and end up banging the table in frustration that you can't do anything about issues in the play. Sure, the play got you feeling engaged and motivated, but so what?
This summer, in something of a role reversal, I’ve been a student, and have been watching my students work as professionals, keeping an eye on their summer practicums. It’s been interesting, and a bit disconcerting, and I think I’ve learned something from it – in addition to what I’ve learned in my course. It made me think hard about the difference between being a student, and working at a job.
“Draw a circle around yourself. Don’t step out and don’t let anyone or anything in.” This advice greeted me when I arrived for orientation to my PhD program in history. Offered by one of the most senior professors in the department, these words were intended to help the arriving cohort successfully navigate the demands of graduate study. Our priority for the next several years, we quickly learned, must be our individual mastery of scholarship in our fields; if we prevailed and became faculty members, as intended, this separation from the cares of the world shou
In the final months of his presidency, William Clinton ordered the United States military to unscramble the satellite signal it uses for global positioning, increasing the accuracy of civilian GPS from a 100-yard margin of error in the year 2000, to about 10 feet today. Immediate benefits included improved navigation for boaters and hikers, accuracy of systems utilized by emergency responders, and resolution of U.S. Geological Survey topographical quad maps. The Clinton administration also foresaw a boom in GPS-related industry and profits.
My summer practicum has been spent, in part, at WaterFire Providence. A much-beloved Providence institution for nearly 20 years, WaterFire is, "an independent, non-profit arts organization whose mission is to inspire Providence and its visitors by revitalizing the urban experience, fostering community engagement and creatively transforming the city by presenting WaterFire for all to enjoy."