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Spring 2016 Calendar of Events

Complete Spring 2016 Calendar of Events [PDF]

Dialogue Symposium - What's Next?

From endless to-do lists and looming deadlines to the large issues remaking our world, we are forever casting ourselves forward. The future is a constant presence, pulling us toward it and shaping our choices. So often: “What will you do with that major?” Instead of: “What are you learning right now?” As though present decisions can best be evaluated by future outcomes. The responsible thing is to look forward. Plan, predict, dream, risk; that’s how we get ahead.

This semester, our dialogue symposium raises the question of “What’s next?” by reflecting on how we conceptualize and envision the future. How does our understanding of the future shape our lives in the present? Does looking ahead enhance the present, fostering hope and creativity? Or does it constrain us and lead us down a too narrow path? How do we make room for uncertainty? Surprise? How do we reckon the value of a future that never materializes precisely as we envisioned?

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

Community Conversation: What's Next?
Wednesday, February 3 @ 7pm

Higgins Lounge, Dana Commons 2nd Floor

What’s next? Do we control it? How much control do we actually want over the outcome? In this community conversation facilitated by Barbara Bigelow (Graduate School of Management) and Anita Fábos (International Development, Community and Environment), we will consider the times our plans went awry, despite all best efforts to prepare and strategize. Getting turned down for a job we were certain was the perfect fit. Being rejected by the college of our dreams. Breaking up with the one person we thought would be our life partner. Committing time, effort, and energy to something or someone, only to realize our expectations would never be fulfilled. Yet after such disappointment, we often find ourselves in better places and with connections we never could have imagined — and now could not imagine living without. Our discussion will explore the possibilities of being humble in our efforts to control what’s next and grateful
for the times we can’t.

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


Preparing for the Rising Tide: The Future of Boston's Waterfront
Thursday, February 11 @ 7pm

Higgins Lounge, Dana Commons 2nd Floor

In the past, managing coastal flooding has depended on prevention using grey infrastructure such as sea walls, bulkheads, and barriers. As sea levels rise and chronic flooding becomes the new normal, even master dike builders like the Dutch are moving to more flexible, resilient solutions. Rather than fight floods, many cities are reinventing their waterfronts to “live with water” — allowing defined areas to flood or contain water in order to prevent damage to other areas.

In this talk, Julie Wormser, Executive Director of The Boston Harbor Association, will discuss how, in the face of rising waters and increased storm-related flooding, Boston is making hard decisions about equitably managing flood-prone areas. Policy makers and property owners must determine how to invest in vulnerable zones. How should they plan for future development as local weather extremes become increasingly unpredictable? If they do nothing, up to one-third of the city of Boston could flood regularly by 2100. Is it possible to balance Boston’s place-specific sea level rise challenges with opportunities to enhance the city’s vibrancy? Wormser will share insights from The Boston Harbor Association’s recent research and outreach — including an international design competition co-hosted with the City of Boston and Boston Society of Architects.

This event is co-sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities, the Mosakowski Institute for Public Enterprise, and a New Earth Conversation.


On the Edge of Our Seats: Readings in the Higgins Lounge

Wednesday, February 24 @ 7pm

Higgins Lounge, Dana Commons 2nd Floor

Some stories keep us looking ahead. Call them page-turners, thrillers, tales of suspense. On the edge of our seats, we lean forward, hoping for a glimpse of what will happen next. The pleasure resides in that sweet spot between anticipation and uncertainty.

Professors Gino DiIorio (Theater), Jay Elliott (English), and Jennifer Plante (Writing Center) will select and read stories intended to keep us on edge. For the past two years, they have helped us celebrate Halloween with Readings in the Higgins Lounge. The events were so popular that we are incorporating the event into our spring programming. Combining the beauty of language, the art of storytelling, and the desire for community, Readings in the Higgins Lounge conveys the power and on-going relevance of the humanities. Join us for what promises to be a fun evening!

This event is sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities.


geoEnvisioning: An Exhibit by Clark Labs and Director J. Ronald Eastman
Exhibit Talk and Opening Reception: Wednesday, March 2 @ 4pm

Higgins Lounge, Dana Commons 2nd Floor

The human species now so dominates the world that we are transforming it profoundly. What are the consequences? How do we envision future states of the environment? To know the future, we must know the present, we must know the past, and we must know how to learn. Humans are adept at this, but sometimes the problems are so large that they are impossible to solve. With earth-observing satellites and machine learning, however, we now have the essential ingredients for geoEnvisioning — predicting and assessing future outcomes of human endeavors.

This semester, Clark Labs and director J. Ronald Eastman will introduce us to both the beauty and scientific potential that geoEnvisioning affords through an exhibition of images created using Geographic Information System and Image Processing software. The exhibition will run from March 2 through May 11.

This event is co-sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities and Clark Labs.


Stop Thinking about Tomorrow: Queerness, Ideology, and Anticipatory Democracy

Thursday, March 3 @ 7pm

Higgins Lounge, Dana Commons 2nd Floor

In a world that seethes with injustice, why would we turn our backs on tomorrow? Shouldn’t we be making sure that “it gets better,” that we “save the planet,” “defeat the terrorists,” and “stamp out bigotry?” But what if this idea of the future itself keeps “it” from getting better?

Lee Edelman, Fletcher Professor of English Literature at Tufts University, will take up these questions in an open, interactive, and wide-ranging conversation. Working within the psychoanalytic tradition, he will problematize and challenge the faith in progress proposed by anticipatory democracy and consider how certain classes of persons are targeted as the future’s enemies, as obstacles to the perfection of society: in short, as “queers.” By confronting what Edelman calls the “unlearnable lesson” of queer theory, might we reimagine life in terms of what and where we are now and begin to resist our manipulation by the imperative of what’s next?

This event is sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities.


Towards the Black Interior: Afrofuturism as Resistance

Wednesday, March 16 @ 7pm

Higgins Lounge, Dana Commons 2nd Floor

Afrofuturist feminism is a way of knowing and moving through the world. It is a strategy for naming and navigating complicated and often vexed histories and visions of the future — one that places people of color at the center and is fundamentally interested in transgressing conventional systems of power and dominance. In this talk, Susana M. Morris, Associate Professor of English at Auburn University and co-founder of The Crunk Feminist Collective, will consider how Black women artists, such as Octavia Butler, Wangechi Mutu, and Janelle Monáe, use Afrofuturistic literature, art, and music as transgressive tools to fight oppression.

This event is part of the African American Intellectual Culture Series co-sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities and the Office of the Provost.


Capitalist Futures: Standards, Grades, and the Making of the Modern World

Tuesday, April 5 @ 7pm

Higgins Lounge, Dana Commons 2nd Floor

So many transactions in a modern capitalist economy look to the future. Goods are bought and sold in the present, but are usually delivered in the future. For centuries, this lag between the present and the future has plagued commerce for the simple reason that it’s notoriously difficult to define the precise qualities of the commodity to be delivered down the line. From the early nineteenth century onward, businesses struggled to establish what, precisely, was a barrel of oil, a bushel of wheat, or a bale of cotton. What buyers believed they had purchased at one point in time was often difficult to reconcile with what they actually received weeks or months into the future. Even today, someone buying a commodity or good won’t receive it for days, weeks, or even months. How do both parties in these transactions see eye-to-eye on the quality and quantity of the goods when they finally arrive? How can buyers know that sellers won’t cheat them by sending them second-rate, defective, or faulty goods?

Stephen Mihm, Associate Professor of History at the University of Georgia, will explain how the creation of standards and grades for a wide range of commodities solved this problem. These systems of standards, while largely invisible to the public, have imposed an astonishing measure of uniformity on raw materials that move through the global marketplace. Buyers and sellers who once struggled to reconcile promises made in the present with deliveries made in the future can now do so with remarkable ease. Global trade and commerce very much rests on these novel conventions. While seemingly banal, they are key to understanding how the world became modern, bound together by ever more complex networks of exchange.

This event is co-sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities and the Departments of Economics and History.


Roots of Everything Lecture Series

Mapping the Nation

Thursday, April 7 @ 4:30pm

Higgins Lounge, Dana Commons 2nd Floor

Current discussions of partitioning Iraq and Syria emphasize that maps not only make geopolitical claims about territorial possession and knowledge, but also exert sociopolitical control. In this talk, Professor Lisa Kasmer (English) will explore cartographic history and mapping in nineteenth-century Britain to consider how the British nation exploited material representations of the empire to conceive of citizenship and rights. Professor James Murphy (Geography) will offer commentary.

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 Europe and America — in conjunction with the Higgins School of Humanities. The series highlights various aspects of modern existence originating in the early modern world and teases out connections between past and present.

This event is co-sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities and Early Modernists Unite.