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Fall 2015 Calendar of Events

Complete Fall 2015 Calendar of Events [PDF]

Dialogue Symposium - Being Human

“What does it mean to be human?” While this question has long undergirded the humanities, today it possesses a sense of urgency that transcends academic disciplines. In popular and mass media, conversations about gender, race, and age lay bare the historic and cultural limits placed on human dignity and rights, challenging us to create more inclusive frameworks. Climate science, genetics, artificial intelligence, and medicine are just a few examples of areas transforming — and destabilizing —  traditional boundaries of “the human.” Shifting from one context to the next, we seem simultaneously more and less limited by the natural world of which we are a part. Embracing the possible disembodiment of human consciousness, knowledge, and subjectivity, some even imagine that we are post-human.

This semester, our dialogue symposium takes up the timely and timeless question of our own humanity: What does it mean to be human right now? What has it meant in the past? What might it mean in the future? Together we will seek to describe and understand experiences that are both unique and universal.Perhaps it is this effort, less than its result, that ultimately will define what it means to be human.

We hope you will join us at the events listed below.

Community Conversation: Being Human
Wednesday, September 9 @ 7pm

Higgins Lounge, Dana Commons 2nd Floor

What does it mean to be human? This is a question we are all here to explore — in our educations and throughout our lives. We seek answers in evolution, psychology, and faith. Artists, philosophers, poets, and historians grapple to give form to experiences that are simultaneously unique and universal.

In this community conversation facilitated by Clark University professors Jennifer Plante (Academic Advising) and Amy Richter (History), we will consider what it means to be human. In what contexts have we tried to define humanity? How do various answers align with or challenge our own experiences and assumptions? When are we aware of our human identity — in moments of danger, frailty, stillness, or triumph — and what does this awareness reveal about our personal definitions?

This event is co-sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities and the Difficult Dialogues initiative.


Becoming Human: Our Evolutionary Story
Thursday, September 24 @ 7pm

Higgins Lounge, Dana Commons 2nd Floor

Today we know what no previous generation knew: the history of the universe and the unfolding of life on Earth. Through the astonishing combined achievements of natural scientists worldwide, we now have a detailed account of how galaxies and stars, planets and living organisms, human beings, and human consciousness came to be. With this knowledge, the question of what role we play in the fourteen-billion year history of the universe imposes itself with greater poignancy than ever before. In telling the story of Earth to our children, we must inevitably consider the role of humanity in its history and how we connect with the intricate web of life on our planet. In this talk, religion and environmental scholar Mary Evelyn Tucker (Yale University), will illustrate how Journey of the Universe, a film, book, and interview series, responds to these questions and asks anew, “How do we, as humans, belong?”

We encourage all attendees to screen Journey of the Universe before the discussion. For more information on the project or to watch a trailer of the film, visit

This event is co-sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities, International Development, Community, and Environment, the Graduate School of Geography, and the Environmental Science and Policy Program.

Across the Table: Exhibition and Opening Reception

Wednesday, September 30 @ 4pm

Higgins Lounge, Dana Commons 2nd Floor

Stephen DiRado is a Massachusetts-based American photographe and a Professor of Practice in Photography in the Studio Arts Program and Clark University. His art is inspired by his captivation with and admiration for the people in his community. His photographs portray the underlying intimacy of individual and group dynamics. The debut installation of Across the Table continues to explore this theme in more than one hundred works projected on a large scale. While joining family, friends, and acquaintances for dinner or drinks, DiRado takes hundreds of photos, prodigiously documenting every facet of each gathering. Motivated by the effectiveness of the reverse shot in films, he studies the theatrics and composition of individual photographs then juxtaposes them to create one continuous chronological action. DiRado’s work captures the mood and tempo of each event in a dramatic linear narrative, highlighting the psychological complexities of human interaction.

The exhibition will run from September 30 through December 16. For more on DiRado's work, visit

This event is sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities.


Empathy, Science, and the Pursuit of Peace
Tuesday, October 6 @ 7pm

Higgins Lounge, Dana Commons 2nd Floor

For over fifty years, the tireless efforts and boundless good will of thousands of people have poured into conflict-resolution programs aimed at decreasing intergroup hostilities. Nonetheless, mounting evidence shows that these efforts are prone to fall flat or even backfire. Nearly twenty years ago, research scientist Emile Bruneau (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), learned this lesson when he volunteered at a summer camp for Catholic and Protestant children in Ireland. He has since turned to psychology and neuroscience to better understand the often unconscious processes that drive conflict. Using the lens of cognitive neuroscience, Bruneau will discuss how the human brain is set up to make “common sense” conflict interventions fail, and how even the most intuitive goals of these programs — empathy, trust, and friendship — can be deeply problematic in the face of social, political, and ideological divisions. Might functional neuroimaging (fMRI) provide a way to illuminate our unconscious biases and put humans on the path to peace?

This event is co-sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities and the Department of Political Science.


An Extension of Self: The Present and Future of Wearable Computing

Thursday, October 22 @ 7pm

Higgins Lounge, Dana Commons 2nd Floor

Google’s Glass captured the world’s imagination, perhaps more than any other head-up display. Yet, why would people want a wearable computer in their everyday lives? For over twenty years, Professor Thad Starner (Georgia Institute of Technology) and his teams of researchers have been creating living laboratories to discover the most compelling reasons to integrate humans and computers. They have created “wearables” that augment human memory and the senses, focus attention, and assist communication. Is it possible that computers and wearable devices are transforming humans for the better, enhancing key abilities, and leaving more time and space for deeper connections? In this talk, Starner will discuss why wearables, more than any other class of computing to date, have the potential to extend us beyond ourselves. 

This event is sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities


In Conversation with Janet Mock

Tuesday, October 27 @ 7pm

Jefferson Academic Center, Room 320

New York Times bestselling author and advocate for trans women’s rights Janet Mock will engage in a conversation about her memoir, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More (Atria Books, 2014).

Feminist critic bell hooks has described Mock’s work as “a life map for transformation.” Her account of growing up multiracial, poor, and transgender in America offers vital insight into the unique challenges and vulnerabilities of a marginalized and misunderstood population yet tells a coming-of-age story that taps into the universal human experience of making room for oneself in the world.

A book signing will follow the conversation. Copies of Redefining Realness will be available for purchase at the Clark University bookstore and at the event.

This event is part of the African American Intellectual Culture Series and is co-sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Office of the Provost, and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program.

Not Quite Human: Stories of Monsters, Demons, and the Supernatural
Wednesday, October 28 @ 7pm

Higgins Lounge, Dana Commons 2nd Floor

Hobgoblins. Vampires. Trolls. People. We are drawn to stories of monsters. Whether the subject of myth, legend, or contemporary popular culture, monsters help us process our fears and tap into our most basic survival instincts. Perhaps more important, they permit us to cast out the worst and best aspects of ourselves for closer inspection, enabling us to explore the outer edges of what it means to be human.

Clark University professors Gino DiIorio (Theater), Jay Elliott (English), and Jennifer Plante (Academic Advising) will once again kick off our celebration of Halloween by reading stories of monsters, demons, and the supernatural. Join us for a spooky evening in the Higgins Lounge…if you dare.

This event is sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities.


To Be Human is to Be in Dialogue: Celebrating a Decade of Difficult Dialogues at Clark
Thursday, November 5 @ 7pm

Higgins Lounge, Dana Commons 2nd Floor

Human being is being in relation. From our earliest moments, we are in a flow of connection and exchange with others and the world. Truly, to be human is to be in dialogue. Through the dialogue work at Clark, we have become more cognizant of those dynamic opportunities and the gifts they offer.

Started with a grant from the Ford Foundation in December 2005, the Difficult Dialogues (DD) initiative at Clark has re-envisioned the process of communication in our community, in higher education, and in society by creating more conscious spaces for speaking, listening, and creative insight. Drawing on rich traditions of dialogic practice, it encourages conversations grounded in authentic speaking, listening to understand, suspension of assumptions, respect for difference, and the possibility of learning something new. The spirit and practice of dialogue permeates Clark’s classrooms, public programs, student life, and more. It supports community reflection on and engagement with major issues, including race, religion, gender, and climate change.

Join us as the Higgins School of Humanities celebrates ten years of DD at Clark through a dialogue facilitated by Clark University professors Barbara Bigelow (Graduate School of Management), Sarah Buie (Visual and Performing Arts), Eric DeMeulenaere (Education), Patricia Ewick (Sociology), and Walter Wright (Philosophy). Together we will ask: Is there something distinctively human about dialogue? If so, why do humans need dialogue and its practices today more than ever?

This event is co-sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities and Difficult Dialogues.


Death and the Spectacle of the Anatomized Woman
Tuesday, November 10 @ 7pm

Higgins Lounge, Dana Commons 2nd Floor

Two centuries ago, the Anatomical Venus was considered a perfect tool to teach human anatomy to general audiences of useums and traveling shows. This enigmatic artifact, a life-sized wax model of the female body and its internal organs, now seems nearly incomprehensible. The once familiar mingling of beauty and death, medical expertise and spectacle confounds our contemporary expectations. In this talk, artist and curator Joanna Ebenstein will introduce us to the Anatomical Venus — memorably described as an “Enlightenment-era St. Teresa ravished by communion with the invisible forces of science.” Ebenstein will place the anatomized woman and her kin within their historical and cultural context in order to reveal the shifting attitudes towards death and the body that have rendered such spectacles strange. How has so much changed in a little over 200 years?

Ebenstein is the creative director of the new Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn and creator of the Morbid Anatomy Blog and Library. Find out more at

This event is sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities.

Science Fiction Research Collaborative Events

Sleep Dealer: A Screening and Conversation with Filmmaker Alex Rivera

Thursday, October 15 @ 7:30pm

Razzo Hall, Traina Center for the Arts

Alex Rivera is a New York-based digital media artist and filmmaker who uses visual storytelling techniques to give voice to the Latino cultural experience. His movie Sleep Dealer (2009) explores the paradox of a world connected by technology but divided by borders. Memo Cruz, a young man from a tiny village in Mexico, dreams of coming to the United States. Yet in this re-imagined borderland, crossing is impossible. Instead, Memo ‘migrates’ in a new way — over the Internet. By connecting his body to the net, Memo can control a machine that performs his labor in America, sending the benefit of his work without the body of the worker. His story illuminates new questions about futuricity and technology as they relate to immigration and global trade, ethnic relations, language, community, and environment.

This event is co-sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities and the Science Fiction Research Collaborative, a cohort of Clark faculty and students working in the burgeoning fields of science fiction, literature, and cinema with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. To highlight science fiction's interdisciplinary ethos and capacity for imaginative cultural and political critique, the collaborative develops public and curricular programs to encourage communities of effective research and pedagogical practices among the humanities, sciences, and social sciences.


The Cultural Work of Science Fiction: A Symposium on Translation, Negotiation, Appropriation

Friday, November 6 @ 3–5:30pm

Higgins Lounge, Dana Commons 2nd Floor

3pm: Conformance, Estrangement, and Translation as Practice and Metaphor

How is translation a matter of cultural negotiation? How applicable is translation theory to genre literature? Author Ken Liu will examine the origin of Chinese science fiction through translations of Western works alongside his own translation of Chinese writer Liu Cixin’s Nebula- and Hugo Award-nominated novel The Three-Body Problem (2008). Liu also will discuss how such a translational framework informs the writing of his debut novel, The Grace of Kings (2015), which melds Western and Chinese epic traditions.

4pm: Utopianism, Anti-Utopianism, and Cultural Appropriation: The Case of Mike Resnick’s Kirinyaga @ 4pm

Science fiction has frequently imagined both ideal and nightmarish societies, either to encourage the pursuit of the ideal or to critique such a pursuit. The genre’s history with regard to race includes the marginalization of people of color as well as various representations of the colonization of “new worlds.” Professor Jeffrey A. Tucker (University of Rochester) will explore how these issues converge in Mike Resnick’s controversial novel Kirinyaga (1998), about Africans living in a pastoral utopia in outer space. What does it mean for a white American author like Resnick to write such a novel? Should the novel’s themes be interpreted as utopianist or anti-utopianist?

5pm: Q&A and Reception

This event is co-sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities and the Science Fiction Research Collaborative, a cohort of Clark faculty and students working in the burgeoning fields of science fiction, literature, and cinema with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. To highlight science fiction's interdisciplinary ethos and capacity for imaginative cultural and political critique, the collaborative develops public and curricular programs to encourage communities of effective research and pedagogical practices among the humanities, sciences, and social sciences.

Roots of Everything Lecture Series

When Public Power Ceased to be Private Property

Tuesday, November 3 @ 4:30pm

Higgins Lounge, Dana Commons 2nd Floor

The Koch brothers’ aggressive attempts to get their candidates elected to office and the impact of Citizens United have brought to the fore the relationship between private wealth and the control of public power. Today we recoil at the notion that public powers, such as the right of justice, the collection of taxes, and even sovereignty could be owned, bought, sold, and inherited like a form of property. Yet this was the norm in the western world only three centuries ago. From judgeships, military rank, and government office to the Crown itself, all were considered to be, in some sense, the personal property of the holder. In this talk, Professor Rafe Blaufarb (Florida State University) will discuss the entanglement of public power and private property in early modern France, examine how this confusion came to be seen as intolerable, and detail the explosive decoupling of property and power at the heart of the French Revolutionary project of 1789.

Clark University Professor Robert Boatright (Political Science) will offer commentary.

This event is co-sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities, Early Modernists Unite, and the Departments of History and Political Science. The Roots of Everything is a lecture series sponsored by Early Modernists Unite (EMU) — a faculty collaborative bringing together scholars of medieval and early modern England and America — in conjunction ith the Higgins School of Humanities. Supported by funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the series highlights various aspects of modern existence originating in the early modern world and teases out connections between past and present.