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The last few months have highlighted the enormous value of the arts and humanities as they inform and inspire people across the United States and around the globe. The Hall Center for the Humanities at the University of Kansas is determined to sustain a lively, thoughtful community of ideas despite physical distancing and so is launching its first ever summer speaker series, which will take place entirely online. You can revisit this page, check KU Calendars, or follow on social media for updates on how to connect to each of these events virtually.

For information on the full 2020-2021 Hall Center for the Humanities Lecture Series Schedule click HERE.

Summer Speaker Series 2020


Presented via Zoom webinar:
Passcode:  904399

*This event is co-sponsored by The Commons at the University of Kansas.

José Olivarez is the son of Mexican immigrants and author of the poetry collection Citizen Illegal (2018), winner of the Chicago Review of Books Poetry Prize, a finalist for the prestigious PEN/Jean Stein Book award, and named a top book of 2018 by the New York Public Library.

In 2018, Olivarez was awarded the first annual Author and Artist in Justice Award from the Phillips Brooks House Association. Along with Felicia Chavez and Willie Perdomo, he is co-editing the forthcoming anthology, The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNEXT. He is the co-host of the poetry podcast, The Poetry Gods, and a recipient of fellowships from CantoMundo, Poets House, the Bronx Council on the Arts, and the Conversation Literary Festival.

Olivarez is a master teaching artist. In 2017-2018, he was the Lead Teaching Artist for the Teen Lab Program at the Art Institute in Chicago, IL. In the past, he has led writing workshops & diversity trainings for institutions such as The Lincoln Center, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Studio Museum of Harlem, The Adirondack Center for Writing, Inside Out Literary Arts, and many more community organizations & universities. A recipient of the 2019 Ruth Lilly & Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, his work has been featured in The New York TimesThe Paris ReviewChicago Magazine, and elsewhere.


Previous Talks:


Presented via Zoom Webinar:
Password: 793554

Exciting, erudite, and yet accessible, acclaimed public intellectual Kwame Anthony Appiah challenges us to look beyond the boundaries — real and imagined — that divide us, and to celebrate our common humanity. Named one of Foreign Policy’s Top 100 public intellectuals, one of the Carnegie Corporation’s “Great Immigrants,” and awarded a National Humanities Medal by The White House, Appiah is currently a Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University. He has taught at Princeton University, Harvard University, Yale University, Cornell University, Duke University, and the University of Ghana.

Kwame Anthony Appiah’s most recent book, The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity (2018), is a brilliant and provocative exploration of the identities that define us – their histories, contradictions, and falsehoods. Appiah challenges our assumptions about how identities are created and how they work. These “mistaken identities,” Appiah explains, can fuel some of our worst atrocities―from chattel slavery to genocide. And yet they can usher in moral progress and bring significance to our lives by connecting the small scale of our daily existence with larger movements, causes, and concerns.

Elaborating a bold new theory of identity, The Lies That Bind is a ringing philosophical statement for the anxious, conflict-ridden twenty-first century. A Kirkus Review says that Appiah demonstrates “a penetrating grasp of the complexities of identity, wielding history like a scalpel, extracting the cancerous myths, poisonous prejudices, and foolish antagonisms that divide us.” The Lies That Bind builds on Appiah’s previous work, including Cosmopolitanism (2006) and the BBC Reith Lecture series Mistaken Identities (2016).

Appiah was born in London to a Ghanaian father and a British mother. Raised in Ghana and educated in England, he received a PhD in philosophy from Cambridge University in 1982. As a scholar of African and African-American studies, he quickly established himself as an intellectual with broad reach. His research and teaching interests include intellectual history, literary studies, the philosophy of language and mind, ethics, and political theory; he also teaches regularly about African traditional religions.

Professor Appiah is the author of numerous books and considers readers’ ethical quandaries in a weekly column as “The Ethicist” for The New York Times Magazine. He is currently working on two large projects: one exploring some of the many ways in which we now think about religion, and another examining the ethical and political consequences of the changing nature of work.

Originally scheduled to speak in March as part of the 2019-2020 Hall Center for the Humanities Lecture Series (postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic).


Presented via Zoom webinar:
Passcode: 981951

Deirdre Cooper Owens is the Charles and Linda Wilson Professor in the History of Medicine & Director of the Humanities in Medicine Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Director of the Program in African American History at The Library Company of Philadelphia, will talk about her recent book, Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology (2018).

The accomplishments of pioneering doctors such as John Peter Mettauer, James Marion Sims, and Nathan Bozeman are well documented. It is also no secret that these nineteenth-century gynecologists performed experimental caesarean sections, ovariotomies, and obstetric fistula repairs primarily on poor and powerless women. Medical Bondage breaks new ground by exploring how and why physicians denied these women their full humanity yet valued them as "medical superbodies" highly suited for medical experimentation.

In Medical Bondage, Cooper Owens examines a wide range of scientific literature and less formal communications in which gynecologists created and disseminated medical fictions about their patients, such as their belief that black enslaved women could withstand pain better than white "ladies." Even as they were advancing medicine, these doctors were legitimizing, for decades to come, groundless theories related to whiteness and blackness, men and women, and the inferiority of other races or nationalities.

Medical Bondage moves between southern plantations and northern urban centers to reveal how nineteenth-century American ideas about race, health, and status influenced doctor-patient relationships in sites of healing like slave cabins, medical colleges, and hospitals. It also retells the story of black enslaved women and of Irish immigrant women from the perspective of these exploited groups and thus restores for us a picture of their lives.


*This series is co-sponsored by Kansas Public Radio.


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