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: Exhibition Opening Reception: "Prison Obscura"

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

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. Brought to Scripps College by the Humanities Institute as part of a semester of programming this fall on the theme of Silence and offered in collaboration with the Core Curriculum in Interdisciplinary Humanities, the exhibition is on view at the Clark Humanities Museum from Sept. 2 through Oct. 17.

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.

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, 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.

Co-sponsored by the Core Curriculum in Interdisciplinary Humanities

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.