The Humanities Institute

Founded in 1986, the Humanities Institute presents a thematic program each semester pursuing a topic related to the humanities. As part of Scripps’ tradition of interdisciplinary education, these programs include conferences, lectures, exhibitions, and film series that bring together prominent and younger cutting-edge scholars.

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Latest Program: Silence

Is silence the absence of sound? Is it the space between words, a pause between heart­beats? Is silence a refusal to speak — or to respond? Is silence collaborative, complicit? Is it pleasant, peaceful? Contemplative? Is meditation a form of silence? Does silence signify absence? Does it entail presence? Does silence make you nervous? Is silence menacing? In fall 2014, the Humanities Institute explores the theory and practice of silence: voluntary and coerced, solitary and communal, literal and metaphoric. What are the politics of silence? How has silence been mandated and inflicted across historical periods and in a range of cultures and geographic locations? How are silence and gender related? Can silence be palpable, visual, deafening, architectural, dynamic? Hush. Let’s think about it.

Calendar of Events

The full calendar for this semester's program is available here.


Coming Soon: Faculty Seminar: David Cubek, "Venezuelan Silences: Music and Politics"

David Cubek
Music, Scripps College

October 2, 2014 | 12:30pm
Baxter 108

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Addressing recent controversies involving musicians and artists following the incendiary protests and government repression in Venezuela this year, this seminar will explore longstanding and fundamental questions regarding political responsibility: Should artistic and educational institutions be held accountable for the actions or the opinions of sponsors and patrons – or for their silence with regard to these actions and opinions? How might artists supported by government institutions avoid becoming tools of political propaganda or accomplices in governmental actions and policies? Must an artist’s silence with regard to political controversies be interpreted as the acceptance or endorsement of a patron's views?

David Cubek was appointed assistant professor of music and director of the Claremont Concert Orchestra by the Joint Music Program of Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Pitzer, and Scripps Colleges in 2010. In addition to being passionate about conducting and teaching at the college level, Cubek is a firm believer in the power of music to foster social change. During the summer months, Cubek regularly conducts ensembles from Venezuela's acclaimed music education program known as "El Sistema." He has also collaborated with several El Sistema-inspired programs in the United States, including Youth Orchestra of LA (YOLA), Gustavo Dudamel's initiative committed to providing intensive music training to underserved neighborhoods in the LA area, OrckKids (Baltimore), Harmony Program (NYC), and Bravo Waterbury! (Connecticut).

Born in Venezuela, Cubek began private piano and composition lessons at the age of 7 before entering the Simon Bolivar Conservatory. In 1999, he went on to continue his education in Montreal, studying piano, music theory, and orchestral conducting at McGill University and the Conservatory of Montreal. At the latter institution he was awarded First Prize with Great Distinction in orchestral conducting. Cubek completed his doctoral studies in orchestral conducting at Northwestern University, where he served as assistant and guest conductor of the opera program, and the Chamber and Symphony Orchestras. He has been music director of the University of Chicago Chamber Orchestra and a lecturer in music theory at both Northwestern and McGill. In addition, Cubek has led orchestras in Canada, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, and Italy.

Faculty seminars run from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.

RSVP to humanitiesinstitute@scrippscollege.edu


Coming Soon: Public Talk: Pete Brook, "Prison Silences"

Pete Brook
curator of "Prison Obscura"

October 2, 2014 | 4:15pm
Garrison Theater, Scripps College Performing Arts Center

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Prison Obscura, currently on view at the Clark Humanities Museum, presents rarely seen vernacular, surveillance, evidentiary, and prisoner-made photographs, shedding light on the prison-industrial complex. In this talk, Brook will discuss the silences that permeate prison culture in the United States: both the silencing of prisoners themselves and the silence of others about the issues and abuses within the criminal justice system.

Pete Brook is a freelance writer and curator based in San Francisco. He writes and edits prisonphotography.org, a website analyzing imagery produced within and about prisons with a focus on the prison industrial complex in the United States. Brook holds a master’s degree in Art History from the University of St. Andrews and a master’s degree in Art Gallery and Museum Studies from the University of Manchester; he has curated shows for Seattle’s Vermillion Gallery, Holland’s Noorderlicht Gallery, New York’s Photoville, and Belgrade’s Kulturni Centar Belgrada. He writes regularly for Raw File, the Wired photography blog, and is working on a book about the history of prison photography in the United States, forthcoming from Silas Finch. 

Exhibition reception to follow in the Clark Humanities Museum at 5:30pm.

Co-sponsored by the Core Curriculum in Interdisciplinary Humanities.


Coming Soon: Exhibition Reception: "Prison Obscura"

October 2, 2014 | 5:30pm
Clark Humanities Museum
Visit website

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The exhibition is on view at the Clark Humanities Museum from Sept. 2 through Oct. 17. The reception will take place from 5:30-7:00pm. Brook will also present “Prison Silences,” a public lecture for the Humanities Institute on Oct. 2 at 4:15 p.m. in Garrison Theater at the Scripps College Performing Arts Center.

No country in the world incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than the United States. In fact, more than 2.2 million people are currently locked up in the U.S.—a number that has more than quadrupled since 1980. But the lives lived behind bars are often invisible to those on the outside. Prison Obscura, an exhibition curated by Pete Brook, sheds light on their experiences and the prison-industrial complex as a whole by showcasing rarely seen surveillance, evidentiary, and prisoner-made photographs.

Prison Obscura, which comes to Scripps following its successful run at the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery at Haverford College last spring, builds the case that Americans must face these images to grasp the proliferation of the U.S. prison system and to connect with those it confines. It encourages visitors to ask why tax-paying, prison-funding citizens rarely get the chance to see such images and to consider what roles such pictures play for those within the system. Alyse Emdur’s collected letters and prison visiting room portraits from across the nation and Robert Gumpert’s recorded audio stories from within the San Francisco jail system provide an opportunity to see, read and listen to subjects in the context of their incarceration. Juvenile and adult prisoners in different workshops led by Steve Davis, Mark Strandquist and Kristen S. Wilkins perform for the camera, reflect on their past, describe their memories, and represent themselves through photography. Prison Obscura moves from these intimate portrayals of life within the prison system to more expansive views of legal and spatial surveillance in such works as Josh Begley’s manipulated Google Maps’ API code and Paul Rucker’s animated videos, which offer a “celestial” view of the growth of the prison system.

Prison Obscura is a traveling exhibition curated by Pete Brook and made possible with the support of the John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities and Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery at Haverford College, Haverford, Penn. Support for its presentation at Scripps has been provided by the Scripps College Humanities Institute and by the Core Curriculum in Interdisciplinary Humanities at Scripps College.

Exhibition: “Prison Obscura”

September 2-October 17, 2014
Clark Humanities Museum, Scripps College
Visit website

Prison Obscura presents rarely seen vernacular, surveillance, evidentiary, and prisoner-made photographs, shedding light on the prison industrial complex. It builds the case that Americans must face these images to grasp the proliferation of the U.S.  prison system and to connect with those it confines. It encourages visitors to ask why tax-paying, prison-funding citizens rarely get the chance to see such images and to consider what roles such pictures play for those within the system. For more on the exhibition and its curator, please visit Prison ObscuraThe New York TimesYouTube, and the LA Times.

Prison Obscura is on view from Monday through Friday from 9:00am-5:00pm in the Clark Humanities Museum in the Bette Cree Edwards Humanities Building at Scripps. Brook will also present “Prison Silences,” a public lecture for the Humanities Institute on October 2 at 4:15 p.m. in Garrison Theater at the Scripps College Performing Arts Center, with a reception to follow from 5:30 to 7 p.m. inside the exhibition.

Prison Obscura is a traveling exhibition curated by Pete Brook and made possible with the support of the John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities and Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery at Haverford College, Haverford, PA. Support for this presentation has been provided by the Scripps College Humanities Institute and by the Core Curriculum in Interdisciplinary Humanities at Scripps College.