University of Rochester

EVENT: University Programs Explore Humanities With Interdisciplinary Works

September 10, 2007

The 2008 presidential election, material culture, and the religious cultures of African diaspora are just a few of the subjects scholars will explore in a series of events slated for The Humanities Project in 2007-2008.

The Humanities Project showcases lectures, films, symposia, courses, conferences, panels, and exhibitions that highlight interdepartmental works by University faculty in the humanities. To emphasize the spirit of collaboration inherent in the project, many of the works also features local institutions and scholars from across the country. This year, nine projects, each with their own programming, make up The Humanities Project.

Most of the events are free and open to the public. For a complete listing of events, visit:

The Humanities Project is entering its second year with a renewed financial commitment from President Joel Seligman through the Humanities Fund.

In 2006 Seligman created the Humanities Fund to support interdisciplinary work by faculty in philosophy, the arts, languages, and other fields with $100,000 from the President's Venture Fund. Pleased with the quality of the work included in the project, last year he increased the allotment to $150,000 annually for the remainder of his presidency.

"Few fields are more likely to nurture the human spirit, inspire creative thought, or foster the creation of original knowledge than the humanities. The humanities are the foundation of higher education throughout the world. I am thrilled by the efforts of our humanities faculty and students to build on this great foundation as the study of the humanities continues into its third millennium." Seligman said.

Thomas DiPiero, Senior Associate Dean of Humanities, sees the project as a chance for University students, faculty, and staff, and the community at large, to look deeper into the humanities.

"The Humanities Project programming offers people in the Rochester area a chance to explore an abundance of humanistic topics with surprising depth," DiPiero said. "It's really an educational treasure."

On Sept. 14 David Z. Albert, the Frederick E. Woodbridge Professor of Philosophy and the Director of the M.A. Program in The Philosophical Foundations of Physics in the Department of Philosophy at Columbia University, will give a lecture titled "Physics and Change," at 3:30 in 201 Lattimore Hall to kick off this year's Humanities Project.

Albert's lecture is part of the ongoing Humanities Project series "History and Philosophy of Physics," which explores current research into the foundations of quantum mechanics. The series talks, which occur throughout the academic year, will focus on the history of quantum mechanics in the twentieth century and current proposals for formulating an interpretation of quantum mechanics that make it more intelligible and consistent.

The nine individual series in The Humanities Project were selected from proposals reviewed by a committee of department chairs in the College. Besides "History and Philosophy of Physics," the project includes:

  • "The Medieval West: Contemporary Views," which aims to give audiences a lively sense of the Middle Ages through four symposia throughout the year;

  • "The Organ in Society: Culture and Technology," a series of events that bridge the study of music, historical cultures, and the physics and engineering of pipe-organ construction;

  • "Politics & Media Constructions: Anticipating the 2008 Election," which will use films and speakers to examine the relationship between the media and the way it represents politicians as a presidential election looms on the horizon;

  • "Reimagining the Americas: Cultures, Identities, Formations and Transformations," takes a look at the relationship between the United States and Latin America and how it has changed;

  • "Religious Cultures of the African Diaspora: New Trajectories of Inquiry," will consider the ways in which religion has also shaped the diversity of the African Diaspora community in Rochester and beyond;

  • "Theories and Things: Re-evaluating Material Culture," examines the role everyday objects like quilts and Coca-Cola ads play in the context of human history and what meanings they hold.

Additionally, two ongoing efforts on campus are part of this year's Humanities Project. The Grounds for Sculpture Project provides seed funding and a process for the acquisition of a major outdoor site-specific work of art for the River Campus at the University. With funding from the Humanities Project, the Grounds for Sculpture committee will begin the process of selecting a site and extending a call for proposals this fall. The installation of the artwork is planned for the spring of '09.

The University is also home to a new translational press, Open Letter, which will translate and publish books and other publications from other languages in English. In the coming weeks Open Letter events funded by The Humanities Project will be announced.