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.

Follow the Humanities Institute on Facebook and Twitter!

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 on October 30th:

Faculty Seminar: Bill Anthes, “Indigenous Silences”

Bill Anthes
Art History, Pitzer College

October 30, 2014 | 12:30pm
Baxter 108

In 2013, the artist Edgar Heap of Birds created Native Hosts,Anthes Photo Web an installation on the Pitzer College campus comprising twenty sign panels recognizing sites and landmarks in the Los Angeles basin. Heap of Birds’s public artwork combined familiar place names with those in the indigenous Tongva language (for example by juxtaposing “California,” here made strange by the artist’s signature use of reversed text, with “Povu’nga,” the Tongva word for Long Beach). Evoking both a forgotten indigenous history and a contemporary urban-indigenous population that has been silenced, Native Hosts also foregrounds the conceptual, methodological, and ethical challenges that face scholars of indigenous cultures when addressing potentially sensitive images and subjects — ones that indigenous communities have, in many cases, struggled to protect from broader circulation. Strategic acts of cultural and political sovereignty, these enactments of indigenous agency differ from the violent erasures of indigenous histories by the settler state. How does scholarship acknowledge these silences?

Bill Anthes is Professor of Art History and a member of the Art Field Group at Pitzer College. He is the author of Native Moderns: American Indian Painting, 1940-1960 (Duke University Press, 2006) and a contributing author to Reframing Photography: Theory and Practice by Rebekah Modrak (Routledge, 2011). He has received fellowships and awards from the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center, the Center for the Arts in Society at Carnegie Mellon University, the Rockefeller Foundation/Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, and the Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Program. He is currently participating in the  four-year global collaboration Multiple Modernisms, focusing on indigenous modernisms from Africa, North America, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands and supported by the Leverhulme Trust in association with the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge. His book on the Cheyenne-Arapaho contemporary artist Edgar Heap of Birds will be published by Duke University Press in 2015.

Edgar Heap of Birds (Cheyenne-Arapaho), Native Hosts, Claremont, California, 2013

Photo: Laurie Babcock. Artwork © Edgar Heap of Birds

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



Exhibition Opening: “Silences”

October 30, 2014 | 4:00pm
Denison LibraryDenison Door Web

This exhibition will be curated and installed by the Scripps College Humanities Institute Junior Fellows, with the help of Carrie Marsh, director of Special Collections and Libraries at Honnold/Mudd, and Judy Harvey Sahak, director of Denison Library.

It will be on view in Denison through Tuesday, December 16.




Film Screening: “The Flat”

dir. Arnon Goldfinger (Israel, 2012, 97 minutes)

October 30, 2014 | 6:00pm
Boone Recital Hall, Scripps College Performing Arts Center

At age 98, director Arnon Goldfinger’s grandmother Flat Webpassed away, leaving him the task of clearing out the Tel Aviv flat that she and her husband shared for decades after immigrating from Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Sifting through a mountain of photos, letters, files, and objects, Goldfinger undertook the complex process of making sense of the accumulated ephemera of a lifetime. In the process, he began to uncover clues pointing to a complicated and shocking story: a chronicle of the unexpected yet inevitable ethical ambiguities and repressed emotions that arise when everyday friendships suddenly cross enemy lines.

In his award-winning emotionally riveting documentary, The Flat, Goldfinger follows the hints his grandparents left behind to investigate long-buried family secrets and unravel the mystery of their painful past. The result is a moving family portrait and an insightful look at the ways different generations deal with the memory of the Holocaust.

“One of the best movies of the year. It plays like a great mystery — and it is. This is what a documentary should be — smart, moving, profound, and unpredictable — in other words, what we look for in a great film. The Flat is all of that and more.” — Michael Moore

“SUPERB, FASCINATING. Raises questions about truth and memory so provocative that moviegoers are likely to stand in the lobby debating them.” — Chuck Wilson