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Speakers Series

2021-2022 Humanities Center’s Annual Theme

The Agora

The Humanities Center’s theme for the 2021-2022 academic year is The Agora. Agora literally means “meeting space,” and, in ancient Greek cities was a space that served as a meeting ground, a place to gather. Usually located in a city’s center or by a harbor, the agora was a place where people would gather to engage in religious, political, judicial, social, and commercial activity. While the agora was a physical space, we hope to expand that idea to better apply to modern times.

We hope the WVU community joins us in exploring the agora in which we live, work and play. As we think about the physical places where we gather and share, might we also consider our agora as a virtual arena? Can this new space become another sociocultural meeting ground where we go to share and shape ideas? How do we construct meeting spaces and question how we gather and for what purposes? Where are the central places that galvanize our artistic, philosophical, spiritual, political, commercial and social lives? Are our modern agoras becoming fragmented and polarizing? How do they contribute to our sense of meaning? Are they a site where we participate in culture? These are among the many questions to consider as our academic year and our theme unfolds.

As we emerge from a year of social distancing and greater isolation into one where assembling may still be tenuous, the idea of gatherings feels particularly poignant.

How we navigate through these times will look different from person to person and place to place. Regardless, the need to discuss and debate ideas continues. More than ever, the humanities are necessary for identifying, analyzing, providing context and interpreting human actions and creations of the past and present. We hope that you will join us throughout the academic year in respectful, thought-provoking dialogue around The Agora.

The Center’s 2020-2021 theme will be woven across a series of events, listed below.


Humanities Center 2021-2022 Events

We are working on livestreaming and recording many of our events. Please check back for details.

September 4, 2021 @ 2:00 PM, Taylor Books, Charleston, WV

New Books About the Mine Wars: A Reading and Discussion with Authors
Chuck Keeney, Ginny Ayers, Anne Lawrence, and Catherine Moore.

The Humanities Center is proud to co-sponsor this event with WVU Press as part of the Blair 100 events around the centennial of the Battle of Blaire Mountain.

September 27, 2021 @ 7:00 PM, Gold Ballroom, Mountainlair

Blind Man’s Bluff: Reading with Author and Alumnus James Tate Hill

Join WVU alum and native West Virginian J.T. Hill for a reading from his new memoir, “Blind Man’s Bluff.” Hear J.T.’s personal story about pretending to see as a legally blind man and his journey through high school, college and grad school to find his way, physically and figuratively.

Register Here

October 1, 2021 @ Noon, Art Museum of WVU

Lunchtime Looks sponsored by the Art Museum of WVU, Landscapes: A Sense of Place in Art and Writing

A short presentation by Humanities Center Director Renée K. Nicholson, using The Line Becomes a River, the 2021-2022 Campus Read, and Winter Twilight by William H. Partridge.

October 12, 2021 at 6:00 PM via Zoom

Songs on the Line: Music, Politics, and Humanitarian Crisis on the US/Mexico Border, featuring Dr. Robert Neustadt of Northern Arizona University with introduction by WVU's Dr. Katelyn Best.

How can we tell the story of undocumented migration on the Arizona/Mexico border? The talk will describe Professor Neustadt’s trips to the border with students, his journey from academic to academic-activist-singer-songwriter, and how ‘songs on the line’ can be vehicles to teach awareness and compassion about this catastrophic and often misunderstood humanitarian crisis. This program is a Campus Read tie-in event as well as part of WVU Diversity Week.

Register Here

October 29, 2021 @1-2:30 PM, Zoom

NEH Support for (Digital) Humanities Projects: What and How

This session will give attendees the opportunity to learn from NEH senior program officer, Jennifer Serventi, about the many funding opportunities offered by the National Endowment for the Humanities. During the workshop, she will focus on the Divisions of Research Programs and Education Programs and the Office of Digital Humanities. In her presentation, she will address two related questions: 1) What opportunities are available to faculty and staff, particularly for digital projects? and, 2) What kinds of strategies can you employ to take advantage of them?

She also will discuss ways that faculty and staff can participate in NEH projects and special initiatives beyond applying for an award directly from NEH. Examples of these opportunities include serving as a peer review panelist, advising documentary films or podcasts, evaluating archival collections as an advisory board member, participating in professional development opportunities, conducting research with support of a fellowship from an independent research institution, and becoming involved in the work of your state humanities council.

Register Here

November 16, 2021 @ 7:00 PM, Mountainlair Ballrooms

2021-2022 Campus Read Author Francisco Cantú, The Line Becomes A River: Dispatches From the Borde

Francisco Cantú is a writer, translator, and the author of The Line Becomes a River, winner of the 2018 Los Angeles Times Book Prize and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in nonfiction. A former Fulbright fellow, he has been the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a Whiting Award, and an Art for Justice fellowship. His writing and translations have been featured in The New Yorker, Best American Essays, Harper’s, and Guernica, as well as on This American Life. A lifelong resident of the Southwest, he now lives in Tucson, where he coordinates the Field Studies in Writing Program at the University of Arizona. This event is co-sponsored by the Festival of Ideas

December 6, 2021 @ 7:00 PM, Zoom

Appalachian Writers of Color Series featuring Neema Avashia

In our second year of celebrating Appalachia’s rich and diverse voices, our kickoff reader is Neema Avashia, author of Another Appalachia: Coming up Queer and Indian in a Mountain Place, forthcoming from West Virginia University Press.

Monday, January 24th @ 7:00 PM Zoom

On Many a Vase and Jar: Orientalism in Ballet with Phil Chan

Phil Chan is a co-founder of Final Bow for Yellowface, and most recently served as the Director of Programming for IVY, connecting young professionals with leading American museums and performing arts institutions. He is a graduate of Carleton College and an alumnus of the Ailey School. As a writer, he served as the Executive Editor for FLATT Magazine and contributed to Dance Europe Magazine, Dance Magazine, Dance Business Weekly, and the Huffington Post. He was the founding General Manager of the Buck Hill Skytop Music Festival, and was the General Manager for Armitage Gone! Dance. He served multiple years on the National Endowment for the Arts dance panel and the Jadin Wong Award panel presented by the Asian American Arts Alliance. He serves on the International Council for the Parsons Dance Company, and the Advisory Board of Dance Magazine. He is the author of Final Bow for Yellowface: Dancing between Intention and Impact, and was a 2020 New York Public Library Dance Research Fellow.

February 28, 2022 @ 7:00 PM Milano room and via Zoom

2Hungry Town: A reading with Jason Kapcala.

Co-sponsored with Eberly College’s Leadership Studies program.

Monday, March 7th @ 7:00 PM, Milano Room and via Zoom

Wheeling's Polonia: Reconstructing Polish Community in a West Virginia Steel Town, Author Event With William Hal Gorby. 

Wheeling was a center of West Virginia’s labor movement, and Polish immigrants became a crucial element within the city’s active working-class culture. Arriving at what was also the center of the state’s Roman Catholic Diocese, Poles built religious and fraternal institutions to support new arrivals and to seek solace in times of economic strain and family hardship. The city’s history of crime and organized vice also affected new immigrants, who often lived in neighborhoods targeted for selective enforcement of Prohibition. At once a deeply textured evocation of the city’s ethnic institutions and an engagement with larger questions about belonging, change, and justice, Wheeling’s Polonia is an inspiring account of a diverse working-class culture and the immigrants who built it.

Co-sponsored with Eberly College's Department of History.

April 4th, 2022, Details TBA

Native American Studies presents Joy Harjo, US Poet Laurate

The Humanities Center is pleased to co-sponsor this event put on by WVU’s Native American Studies program. Details forthcoming.