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: Dangerous Conversations: Raced/Gendered/Classed Violence in the USA

“We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1967)

How shall we live in a Post-Charleston America? This is obviously not the post-racial America many envisioned with the election and re-election of Barack Obama. An apt observation has been made that Post-Charleston USA doesn’t look much different from a Pre-Charleston USA, so the difference must be found in us, in how we respond. More and more people have come out against racial profiling, systems of injustice, implicit bias, and the indiscriminate use of deadly force, which can no longer be characterized as “Black issues,” but as real world practices that affect friends, family, classmates, and co-workers. The legally condoned killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, Rumain Bribon, and 12-year-old Tamir Rice have raised concerns to a new level of awareness — outrage that moves us to identify the connections between racial, class, and gendered violence. How and why does America the nation-state promote systems of violence against its own people?

We will begin by recognizing how difference really works within the dominant logics of white privilege. That intersectional forms of difference are embedded within such dominant structures is a “given,” but they remain very difficult to excavate — but if we are to have meaningful discussions about social change, then these excavations must happen before we can celebrate “diversity.” As some people have observed, benefiting from white (or male or hetero or class) privilege is axiomatic; defending such privileges is a choice. So in addition to focusing on the innumerable acts of violence (micro- and macro-aggressions) that people of color face in their daily lives (i.e., Black male teens are 21 times more likely to be killed by police than white teens), let’s talk about why our nation-state tolerates the results of gun violence in our streets, in our public spaces, in our homes, and in our schools; why the USA has 5 percent of the world population and 25 percent of world prisoners (and also how African Americans and Latinos comprise 58 percent of the prison population but only 25 percent of  the U.S. total population); why rape culture is promoted in popular media and youth culture, in video games and movies, and practiced in our prisons and even on our campuses; why 67 percent of transgender prisoners in California have been assaulted by fellow inmates as well as prison officials; why extra-legal violence against “illegal” immigrants has been consistently ignored or even tolerated by various federal and state officials; how women in the USA ages 20 to 24 are at greatest risk of becoming victims of domestic violence, how more than 4 million women experience assault by partners each year, and  how 1 in 4 women reports experiencing domestic violence.

These statistics are not well-known, but even mainstream media cannot hide the devastating effects of these intersecting forms of violence in people’s lives in the contemporary United States. But as is the case in all conditions of crises, there are people who are doing tremendous work of excavation — and rebuilding; a work that is constant and simultaneous. The Humanities Institute will welcome scholars-artists-activists, writers, and musicians — all visionaries who use their brilliant skills and talents to further the discussions around difference by yoking them to the urgent and necessary work of dismantling inequality and social injustice.

Calendar of Events

The full calendar of public events for this semester is available here.

Coming Soon

Public Lecture: Robin D.G. Kelley

September 17, 2015
7:30-9:00 p.m.

Garrison Theater
Scripps College Performing Arts Center

Mike Brown's Body: An Historical and Political Autopsy

Robin D.G. Kelley
Distinguished Professor of History and Black Studies
and the Gary B. Nash Chair of U.S. History

Michael Brown, killed by Ferguson police on Aug. 9, 2014, is a casualty of a war originating over 500 years ago -- a war to colonize, dispossess, enslave, deny rights of citizenship; a war to decolonize, repossess, emancipate, democratize.  The Ferguson protests provide an occasion to meditate on the relationship between war, race, freedom, and democracy, especially in light of several events: the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War; the 100th anniversary of World War I; the 50th anniversary of the Selma march; and the latest “Freedom Summer” of 2014, from the #BlackLivesMatter movement and anti-police-violence protests to the war on Gaza. The lecture performs something of a political/historical autopsy on Mike Brown to reveal both the history of the racial regimes that ultimately left him dead in the streets for four and a half hours, but more importantly, reveal the alternative possibilities for creating democracy rooted in freedom, justice, and decolonization.

Robin D.G. Kelley is the Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair and Distinguished Professor of U.S. History at UCLA.  His books include, Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original (Free Press, 2009); Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times (Harvard University Press, 2012); Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination (Beacon Press, 2002); Yo’ Mama’s DisFunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America (Beacon Press, 1997); Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression (UNC Press, 1990).  (A twenty-fifth anniversary edition of Hammer and Hoe, with a new preface by the author is due out in 2015.)

Kelley also co-edited (with Stephen Tuck), The Other Special Relationship: Race, Rights and Riots in Britain and the United States (Palgrave, 2015); (with Franklin Rosemont), Black, Brown, and Beige:  Surrealist Writings from Africa and the African Diaspora (University of Texas Press, 2009); (with Earl Lewis), To Make Our World Anew: A History of African Americans (Oxford University Press, 2000); and (with Sidney J. Lemelle), Imagining Home: Class, Culture, and Nationalism in the African Diaspora (Verso Books, 1995).  He is currently completing a biography of journalist, social critic, adventurer, and activist Grace Halsell (1923-2000), for which he received a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Kelley’s essays have appeared in several anthologies and publications, including The Nation, Monthly Review, Mondoweiss, Electronic Intifada, The Voice Literary Supplement, New York Times (Arts and Leisure),  New York Times Magazine, Color Lines, Counterpunch, Lenox Avenue, African Studies Review, Black Music Research Journal, Callaloo, New Politics, Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noir, One World, Social Text, Metropolis, American Visions, Boston Review, Fashion Theory, American Historical Review, Journal of American History, New Labor Forum, Souls, Metropolis, and frieze: contemporary art and culture, to name a few.