By Dr. Sarah Ropp, HI Difficult Dialogues Program Coordinator and Andrew W. Mellon Engaged Scholar Initiative Fellow
The Humanities Institute is privileged to welcome outstanding visiting scholars, performers, and activists to UT each year as part of various programs, including the Cline Centennial Professorship in the Humanities, the Distinguished Visiting Lecture Series, and the Difficult Dialogues Public Forums, among others. We have gathered together a few resources by recent visitors that speak to racial injustice and health inequities in a number of different formats, from books and articles to video and music.
In September 2016, the Humanities Institute welcomed Rita Charon as its ninth C.L. and Henriette Cline Centennial Visiting Professor. Charon is Professor of Medicine and founder and Executive Director of the Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University. Her Distinguished Public Lecture for the Humanities Institute, entitled “The Shock of Attention: Bodies, Stories, and Healing,” can be viewed at this link.
Upcoming Event: On Thursday, July 16, 2020, at 1pm CDT, Charon will be participating in an online conversation hosted by the Modern Language Association entitled “Medicine, Narrative, Power, and Pandemic,” along with physician and fiction writer Aakriti Pandita. They will respond to the questions, “How can narrative and the humanities help us understand this pandemic? And how can they make medicine smarter, more equitable, and more effective?” Register for the event HERE.
In 2018, Alondra Nelson delivered a Humanities Institute Symposium keynote lecture on her book The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation after the Genome (Beacon Press, 2016) as part of the Distinguished Visiting Lecture Series. President of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) and the Harold F. Linder Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study, she has produced a number of recent works that speak to intersections between race, social inequality, health care, and activism:
Article: In “Society after Pandemic,” Nelson asks, “How do the social conditions exposed, exacerbated, and created by the novel coronavirus demand that we substantively rethink our ideas of society and, therefore, some of the prevailing assumptions of social science?” This is the inaugural essay in the SSRC’s “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” series.
Teaching resource: The #coronavirussyllabus is an open-access, living list of texts for teaching about Covid-19 in social, historical, and political context, from scholarly books and articles, to music, visual art, and film, to podcasts and videos. Nelson initiated this crowdsourcing effort with the Twitter hashtag #coronavirussyllabus, inviting contributions from around the globe and across a wide variety of disciplines.
Video: Recently, Nelson participated in a virtual roundtable hosted by the Modern Language Association entitled “Is Higher Education Learning from the Pandemic?” along with Cathy N. Davidson and Christopher Newfield.
Book: Nelson’s contributions to scholarship on health equity and racial justice date to at least 2011, when she published her first book, Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination (University of Minnesota Press), which argues, “The Black Panther Party’s understanding of health as a basic human right and its engagement with the social implications of genetics anticipated current debates about the politics of health and race.”
(Photo credit: Daniel Cavazos)
In fall 2018, Eric Klinenberg was the featured speaker for a Difficult Dialogues Public Forum on “Climate Change, Social Infrastructure, and Inequality,” hosted by the Humanities Institute and Planet Texas 2050. Klinenberg is Helen Gould Shepard Professor of Social Science and Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University. Klinenberg’s work explores the failures of social infrastructure in moments of crisis, especially for historically neglected populations.
Video: “The Chicago Heat Wave, 20 Years Later” is a talk given by Klinenberg at the 2015 Chicago Humanities Festival that picks up the ideas presented in his 2002 book Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago (University of Chicago Press). In this book, the publisher writes, “Klinenberg uncovers how a number of surprising and unsettling forms of social breakdown—including the literal and social isolation of seniors, the institutional abandonment of poor neighborhoods, and the retrenchment of public assistance programs—contributed to the high fatality rates” of the record-breaking 1995 Chicago heat wave.
Book: In Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life (Penguin Random House, 2018), Klinenberg argues that “the future of democratic societies rests not simply on shared values but on shared spaces: the libraries, childcare centers, churches, and parks where crucial connections are formed.”
Article: “Worry Less about Crumbling Roads, More about Crumbling Libraries,” a September 2018 Atlantic article, presents Klinenberg’s basic thesis for Palaces of the People.
(Photo credit: Daniel Cavazos)
The Humanities Institute, in partnership with Native American and Indigenous Studies and Texas Performing Arts, was honored to host Martha Redbone for a fall 2019 Difficult Dialogues Public Forum entitled “Indigeneity, the Land, and Storytelling” along with Angelo Baca and Anne Lewis. Redbone is a Native and African American multi-award-winning musician and storyteller celebrated for her roots music embodying the folk, indigenous, and mountain blues sounds of her childhood in the Appalachian hills of Kentucky.
Theater: This clip presents “Caught My Eye,” a song from Bone Hill, Redbone’s interdisciplinary theater work, which premiered in 2015 at Joe’s Pub in New York City (Redbone also presented Bone Hill: The Concert at Bass Concert Hall in February 2020.) Redbone explains, “Bone Hill is the true account of my ancestors, of post-slavery, and people of color working in the coal mines of Appalachia amid the laws of Jim Crow and our survival as the original people of that land as the world changes around us through the generations.”
Album: Redbone’s most recent album is Garden of Love: Songs of William Blake. Of the album, Anastasia Tsioulcas of NPR writes, “Martha Redbone’s music chronicles the crossroads of the American experience. Born in Kentucky and of Cherokee, Choctaw and African American descent, Redbone combines folk, Appalachian, soul and Native tradition in a group of settings of poetry by William Blake – a startling idea, perhaps, but one that brims with potency and freshness.”
“On Another’s Sorrow” is a song from the album that resonates particularly deeply at the current moment, asking: “Can I see another’s war and not be in sorrow too?”
“How Sweet I Roamed” is another song from the album that, Redbone writes, “could have been the prelude to I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
Other Songs: Redbone performs her version of “Drums,” originally written by Peter La Farge, at the 2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. The song is a testament to the violence of forced removal and state “education” and is a part of the permanent collection at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. “You may teach us of this country’s history,” the song goes, “but we taught it to you first.”
Redbone performs the slave spiritual “No More Auction Block” in 2017 in the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Howard Gilman Opera House in association with Voices of a People’s History of the United States.