The National Humanities Center hosts a variety of public talks, conferences, and other cultural events. Here, and at our Soundcloud channel, you will find podcasts and audio recordings of recent events.
Since the early modern era, history has been largely viewed through an anthropocentric lens, skewing towards the involvement of humans. David Christian (NHC Fellow 2006-07) flips this narrative by zooming out to see history—specifically, Big History—on a larger scale, measured by geological and cosmological time. Bringing together fields as seemingly disparate as cosmology, anthropology, and geology, Big History offers what Christian calls “a unifying origin story” that explains our origin and place in the universe, bridging the humanities with the social sciences.
Scholars in gender and sexuality studies have largely ignored or dismissed attempts to explain the causes of sexual deviation for a variety of reasons. In this podcast, Fellow Benjamin Kahan discusses how his work, exploring “the historical etiology of sexuality,” moves past those scholars’ dismissal of early sexuality theories in hopes of producing a fuller understanding of how contemporary attitudes and notions about sexuality developed.
Non-human, post-human, anti-human. In recent years, historians, political theorists, philosophers and others have increasingly tried to think beyond an anthropocentric perspective to gain insights on a wide range of questions. But these ways of thinking have a long precedent in American fiction. In this podcast, Fellow Kate Marshall, associate professor of English at the University of Notre Dame, discusses how weird fiction, cosmic realism, and pseudo-science fiction have imaginatively grappled with non-human points of view from the late 19th century to the present.
The Humanities Moments pilot project at Weaver Academy in Greensboro, North Carolina introduces high school students to the role the humanities play in their lives. The value of the project is visible across the entire school from increasing self-understanding among students and bridging the gap between STEM and arts educators to teaching life preparedness and vital skills like critical thinking and empathy needed beyond high school.
While we often think of Renaissance-era Florence and the surrounding area as brimming with intellectual inquiry, artistic genius, and political intrigue, music and poetry were also important elements of life and to the Studia Humanitatis, the core of early modern education. In this podcast, Fellow Blake Wilson, professor of music at Dickinson College discusses his current project exploring the music and oral performance traditions of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance — how it was composed and performed as well as its relationship to other art forms in creating the rich civic and cultural life of the Renaissance.
Surviving accounts of the foundation of the early Christian church are extremely limited, leaving scholars with few sources beyond the narrative found in the fifth book of the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostles. And, for centuries, questions have persisted about the book of Acts itself: Who wrote it and for whom? What was the document's purpose? And, how historically reliable is the account it provides?
Most people would agree that judging people based on generalizations related to their skin color or gender, religion or nationality is wrong. Yet this is a common practice in all societies. So the question arises, is it ever okay to use stereotypes? And, if so, when?
Beyond their inspirational and devotional power, what other functions do religious works of art serve? From antiquity through the medieval periods, practitioners of many religious traditions throughout central Asia used works of art to teach followers religious histories, parables, and central tenets of their faith. How does this use inform our appreciation of these works and what can we learn from examining these religious practices?
For centuries before the arrival of Europeans, trade routes connected the various peoples who lived throughout the American Southwest and Mexico, and trade among these groups remained an important source of economic vitality and cultural exchange even after the Spanish arrived in the sixteenth century. In later years, these routes formed the basis of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, connecting merchants and communities from Mexico City to Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Beginning as a small group of intellectual ideologues, the Shining Path grew to become a significant insurgency movement whose violent practices resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Peruvians in the late twentieth century. However, to understand the Shining Path's history and its influence, it is important to understand its origins and the motivations of the individuals who formed its leadership.
On October 5, 2016, NHC director Robert D. Newman delivered a keynote address as a part of the ongoing Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Speaker Series at North Carolina Central University. In his remarks Newman touched on events as seemingly disparate as the workings of the Continental Congress and the social media origins of the Black Lives Matter movement and discussed the ways that the humanities help us understand the world, relate to one another, and come to terms with the most profound experiences and questions — on the nature of beauty, the search for justice, and the meaning of life in the face of horrific violence and our own mortality.
Since its founding over 50 years ago, perceptions of the Black Panther Party have varied widely, often shaped by misinformation—about the Party's motivations, its relations with other organizations, its influence in the U.S. and around the world. In this conversation, historian Jakobi Williams discusses the challenges facing scholars in reconstructing the history of the Black Panther Party, the common misconceptions that continue to shape views of the movement and its leaders, and the ways that the organization helped inspire resistance groups in other countries.
Shakespeare's plays are full of the influences of the supernatural—spirits, magic, temptation—haunting the lives of characters and shaping their actions. In this conversation, literary scholar Mary Floyd-Wilson discusses how these demonic representations reflect questions that were very much on the minds of Elizabethan-era theater-goers and offer a valuable perspective on contemporary debates of the period and shifts in thinking about questions of religion, of autonomy, personality, and the mind.
In a wide-ranging talk to alumni Fellows that incorporated stories about figures as distinct as H. L. Mencken, Georgia O’Keefe, and Mary Oliver, NHC president Robert Newman discussed how the humanities lend perspective to current events, refine our sense of the world and all it contains, and provide wisdom for navigating the future.
The use of geospatial technologies allows the interactions of place, space, time, and scale to be more obvious to teachers and students. Often there is an over-emphasis on the chronology of historical events without a strong consideration for their connections to geography. Geospatial technologies allow students to raise the critical ability to answer not only the important question of “where?” but also “why there?” With an emphasis on inquiry-based teaching and learning, Chris Bunin provides insights on the ways that GIS tools contribute to a deeper understanding of the humanities.
For most of the last 30 years, Congressman David Price has represented NC's Fourth District which covers much of the greater Research Triangle region including the National Humanities Center. As co-chair of the Congressional Humanities Caucus and a member of the Congressional Arts Caucus, Congressman Price has been a fierce advocate for federal investments in the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, championing their work and the work of all of those engaged in promoting the arts and preserving the cultural and historical legacy of the United States. During his most recent visit to the Center, he sat down with NHC Director Robert D. Newman to discuss the importance of the humanities in a democratic society and why they remain a relevant and vital part of American education and civic life.
While historians have increasingly marked the Haitian Revolution as a key moment in the history of the Atlantic world, literary depictions of the revolution and events surrounding it have remained little known among contemporary readers. By exploring a broad range of works from writers living in the Atlantic World, Marlene Daut has uncovered a transatlantic abolitionist literary culture that was shaped in many ways by imagining Haiti.
The banjo links disparate musical and cultural traditions — from Africa to the Caribbean to the United States — and its history is deeply interwoven with the history of those places. In this podcast, host Robert Newman talks with Laurent Dubois about this history and his book, The Banjo: America's African Instrument, published earlier this year by Harvard University Press.
Contention over questions surrounding immigration and citizenship have been foregrounded in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, but how does the current debate relate to America's historical treatment of foreigners and the establishment of birthright citizenship in the U.S. Constitution? In this podcast, host Richard Schramm talks with Kunal Parker about this history and helps frame current discourse as it relates to legal history.
In part 2 of this interview, Florence Dore and host Robert Newman continue to explore the surprising reciprocity between rock and literature. They also discuss the conference Novel Sounds—upcoming October 14-15 at the National Humanities Center—which will bring together scholars, critics, and performers to examine rock’s broader connections to a wide array of social, historical, and cultural concerns.
While it is not difficult to perceive rock ‘n’ roll’s profound influence on American culture since the mid-1950s, we seldom consider the surprising reciprocity between rock and serious literature. In this podcast, host Robert Newman talks with Florence Dore about the rock-literature nexus and on the ways that rock has both reflected and helped shape our national heritage.
In recent years, historians, literary theorists, archaeologists, geographers and others have been exploring space—both physical and metaphorical—and the ways that it shapes, and is shaped by, us. Host Richard Schramm talks with John Corrigan about “the spatial humanities,” a turn in academic research that brings together scholars from diverse fields, using new digital tools to better understand how we live in our spaces and how those spaces influence economics, politics, and culture.
Americans have long pictured themselves as all but free of religious intolerance and have difficulty coming to terms with the kinds of religious conflict and violence that occur in other parts of the world. In this podcast, host Richard Schramm talks with John Corrigan about America’s often forgotten history of religious intolerance despite our ideals and how that history has been all but lost. Their conversation also offers a preview of an NHC webinar, “Religious Freedom and Religious Intolerance in America,” which took place on Thursday, March 24, 2016.
At a recent dinner with Center Fellows alumni, President Robert Newman recounted several “humanities moments,” including Kurt Vonnegut’s response to the 1973 burning of his book Slaughterhouse Five by school officials in Drake, North Dakota.