The Humanities Institute


Founded in 1986, the Humanities Institute presents a thematic program each semester on a topic related to the humanities. As part of Scripps’ tradition of interdisciplinary education, this program includes lectures, conferences, exhibitions, performances, and film series bringing prominent and younger cutting-edge scholars to campus.

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Latest Program

Walls, Borders, Fences

Walls, Borders, Fences

The spring 2017 theme for the Humanities Institute ­– “Walls, Borders, Fences” – interrogates the relationships between social, spatial, and political divisions in a variety of historical and geographic contexts. These contexts include the United States, the U.S. borders with both Mexico and Canada, Israel/Palestine, Europe and the Mediterranean Sea as deadly border, apartheid South Africa, Kashmir, and cities – including Los Angeles and Jerusalem – that are divided along economic, racial, social, and political lines. What can we learn by thinking comparatively across these multiple contexts? How might comparison allow us to ask new questions about critical contemporary issues such as ongoing forms of settler-colonialism, anti-immigration policies and rhetoric, and state-sponsored or sanctioned violence in border zones?

Juxtaposing these contexts reveals the relationship between various forms of violence and borders, walls, and fences. Violence contributes to erecting these boundaries; these boundaries contribute to enacting violent subjugation and military occupation. How can we think about borders, walls, and fences as both material boundaries and networks of historical, ideological, political, and economic conditions that define nation-states, communities, and collectivities? How are borders being reconfigured in the contemporary world in ways that change how we can think about sovereignty, power, citizenship, and violence? How do borders shape the relationships between space and identity?


Upcoming Event

Public Event – Thomas Abowd

February 28, 2017
4:15 pm

Balch Auditorium
Scripps College

Jerusalem, on the Moving Edge of Israeli Colonial Rule

What kinds of barriers—physical, legal, and discursive—operate to keep Israeli-occupied Jerusalem a city of immense separation and inequality? In this presentation, urban anthropologist, historian, and author Thomas Abowd will analyze how colonialism and colonial urbanism remain a crucial component of contemporary Palestinian and Israeli realities. Abowd will illuminate everyday life as well as the broader institutional forces that comprise and enable Israeli urban policy in Jerusalem, and address the multiple expressions of anti-racism and resistance to colonial and military rule in the city most contested by Palestinians and Israelis since 1948.

Thomas Abowd is an urban anthropologist and historian who received his PhD in Cultural Anthropology from Columbia University. He teaches in the Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora Program at Tufts as well as American Studies and Anthropology. His book on spatial politics and colonial urbanism in Israeli-occupied Jerusalem is entitled Colonial Jerusalem. He has been involved in activist and scholarly projects related to the Middle East for more than 25 years and is currently writing about neo-liberal urban space in Flint and Detroit.