This spring, the Humanities Institute, under the directorship of Scripps Professor of Anthropology Lara Deeb, presents a series of public lectures focused on the theme “Borders, Walls, Fences.” The series examines geographical, political, and social conflicts in a variety of border zones around the world, including the United States, Israel/Palestine, the Mediterranean, and Kashmir.
“My hope is that this seminar and program will challenge students and audiences to ask critical questions about sovereignty, power, citizenship, and violence in relation to border zones,” says Deeb.
“Borders, Walls, Fences” follows the fall 2016 program, “The â€˜War on Terror’: 15 Years Later,” which looked at changes in foreign and domestic policy since the al-Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center and the effects of those new policies both in the U.S. and abroad. Deeb conceived the spring and fall themes to be complementary; together, they trace relationships between social, spatial, and political divisions in a variety of historical and geographic contexts. Deeb believes that spring semester’s conversations about borders and citizenship will be especially relevant since the election of Donald Trump, who has pledged to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
“In all of these areas, borders are not only material or territorial boundaries, but also spaces of state-sponsored or sanctioned violence, ongoing settler-colonialism, and/or racist anti-immigration policies and practices. That isn’t new. However, since the U.S. election, the urgency surrounding these issues has been amplified significantly,” Deeb says.
A major component of the Humanities Institute programs are their 5C student offerings. In addition to several post-lecture workshops and discussions open to all 5C students, those who are accepted as Humanities Institute fellows participate in a for-credit seminar in which they read books or articles by each of the speakers and then meet with them to ask questions and share their perspectives.
“I’ve never taken a class this interactive,” says Jessica Bird ’19, who participated in the seminar for “The â€˜War on Terror’: 15 Years Later.”
“It’s been really cool to read the authors’ books, get to talk to them in class, and then listen to their lectures—which is often an extension of their current research and goes beyond the book.”
Bird says her knowledge about politics has significantly increased by participating in the Humanities Institute programs. She was only five years old when the Twin Towers were attacked, and she admits that prior to college she didn’t think much about the War on Terror. Now, she is able to understand the topic from many angles, and brings that understanding to her other classes. Above all, Bird says, she has learned that “Nothing is as simple as meets the eye when it comes to politics.”