The Interdisciplinary Humanities Center at UC Santa Barbara is holding its annual Public Events Series this quarter, with this year’s theme being “Regeneration.”
Serving as the public face of humanities on campus, the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center (IHC) offers public events every year, including forums for faculty to present research and creative endeavors; runs publicly engaged programs in collaboration with community partners; and offers research and extracurricular grants to humanities graduate students.
The Public Event Series, which has been offered every year since the IHC’s founding in 1987, brings together academic and creative voices of national and international stature across humanities fields to address topics of broad social concern.
Susan Derwin, the IHC director and a professor of German and comparative literature, described the theme of “Regeneration” as an opportunity for discussion about how the global community and culture can address challenges and heal from upheaval and social conditions that have been impressed upon the world in recent years.
Derwin said the theme of “Regeneration” was especially important following the number of disruptive events that the world has faced, from issues of social justice and equity to public health.
“We really want this year to help people think about how to move forward into an equitable and just future after these years of upheaval. Of course we’ve had a lot of racially motivated violence, we’ve had the pandemic, we’ve had health challenges, social justice challenges, we have a fractured political climate,” Derwin said. “How do we really come together and move forward? That’s really what our goal is, that we will be able to think about these things in a regenerative way.”
This year’s lineup includes journalist and climate expert Elizabeth Kolbert, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.” Dexter Filkins, a staff writer for The New Yorker, will also discuss the future of Afghanistan following the United States’ exit from the region.
“I always hope [audience members] come away with hope by listening to people working on urgent questions or in places where there are urgent concerns,” Derwin said.
Alexandre Gefen, a research professor at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, and Sandra Laugier, a philosophy professor at the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, will explore the path to “recovery” after the pandemic caused the “destruction of the space of ordinary life” and “undermined the democratic public space,” as stated on the IHC website’s description of their event series.
Derwin said these international academics will offer a “philosophical” look at how the world can move forward in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Afro-Cuban American artist Harmonia Rosales — who is delivering the next event series on Jan. 27 — will present the ideas behind her creative project “Entwined,” which will be on exhibition in UCSB’s Art, Design & Architecture Museum from Jan. 19 to May 1.
“Rosales’ interweaving of representations from ancient Greek and Yoruba mythologies invites viewers to challenge their ideas about identity and empowerment. Women and people of color, the protagonists of her canvases, assume roles of power and beauty in exquisite imaginings of ancient myths and Renaissance paintings,” the IHC website event description stated.
“[She’s] an artist who’s been reimagining, reinterpreting earlier works of art and stories and things that bring us into the present and future,” Derwin said.
Derwin described the serendipity of featuring Rosales in the event series alongside the presentation of her work with the museum.
“This exhibition was being organized, and a faculty member came to us, because we solicit ideas too, and said, ‘Hey, this would be really great for the Regeneration series,’” Derwin said. “We do collaborate with other entities on the campus and try to cosponsor projects when we can.”
According to IHC Associate Director Erin Nerstad, the Jan. 27 event featuring Rosales will be held virtually following UCSB’s decision to offer remote learning through Jan. 28.
Attendance for all events is open to the public and free, with the event format being subject to change based on campus COVID-19 policies. Attendees can view the IHC website for up-to-date information.
Derwin said she looks forward to discussing important “issues of social justice that inflect our responses to these emergencies” and hopes the audience feels stimulated and inspired by the talks.
“I hope that people will feel compelled to engage and also inspired to become agentive forces for change, to collaborate with others, to become involved if they’re not already,” Derwin said.
“We try to make our program a platform for people whose voices are often not heard so that these voices can be heard and they can resonate in our communities. So we want people to be made aware and incentivized to or heartened to continue their work, knowing that they’re in solidarity with people who we are bringing.”