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Annual Theme

The Future

Our 2019-2020 Theme

This year, the West Virginia University Humanities Center’s Speakers Series takes as its theme, “The Future.” The featured speakers demonstrate that the speculative future is not only the province of the STEM fields, and almost implicitly technology, but also that of humanists and those engaged in humanistic inquiry. The humanities are not on the periphery but are central to our future and these scholars, some well-established and some new voices, will engage in this conversation with WVU students, staff and faculty from a variety of disciplines from across the campus and our community. The series also attests to the significant role and impact that humanities perspectives bring to discussions and applicable outcomes concerning the future. 

Our speakers’ will provide insights on the human dimensions of the future through their research in history, English literature, philosophy, musicology, art history and ethnography. Collectively, they posit answers to such questions as: how people before the Civil War perceived the future and shaped it, changing American’s understanding of that future; whose futures are represented in current discourse; how have people looked to the past to reimagine the probable, possible, and preferable in the future; how humans interact with nature and technology and what can be done to change the future; how can we recover (and acknowledge such recoveries) of previously silenced peoples so they may impact the future; and how conceptions of the future changed language and poetic form. 

One of the roles of the humanities is to examine and help us understand human experience and grapple with ideas, stories, moral issues, the products of creative expressions, and the complex and real interactions of people, technology, and the planet. Although often maligned as backward-looking, the research of the scholars who will participate in the WVU Humanities Speakers Series for 2019-2020 shows that people in the past and present have looked and are looking toward the future in order to understand it, prepare for it, use it as inspiration, and bring it into being. Our speakers’ work is groundbreaking and provocative, comes from diverse perspectives, and represents a variety of humanities disciplines and humanistic inquiry. It brings to our community conversations that examine the construct of the future and what this means for the human experience. 

The Center’s 2019-20 theme will be woven across a series of events, listed below. For all Humanities Center event listings, see our Events page.

September 3, 2019

  • “Performing Our Futures"; Ben Fink with Appalshop, Denise Johnson with Arch Social Community Network, and Gwen Johnson with Lechter County Social Hub 
  • 7:00 pm, Milano Reading Room, Downtown Library
  • Co-Sponsored with the Center for Community Resilience

September 4, 2019

  • “Performing Our Futures: a Workshop"; Ben Fink with Appalshop, Denise Johnson with Arch Social Community Network, and Gwen Johnson with Lechter County Social Hub 
  • 9:00-11:30 am, Room 2036, Downtown Library
  • Co-Sponsored with the Center for Community Resilience

October 21, 2019

  • A Reading from   Silas House, author of   Southernmost 
  • 7pm, Milano Reading Room, Downtown Library
  • This event is a part of the Dan and Betsy Brown Lecture Series

November 11, 2019 

  • Presenting an Evening with the author, Tara Westover "Educated"
  • 7:30 pm, Mountainlair Ballrooms
  • Co-Sponsored with the David C. Hardesty Festival of Ideas and Campus Read 

January 27, 2020

  • George Lewis, Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music (Columbia University) "Black Liveness Matters: Karel Čapek meets Blind Tom" 
  • 7:00 pm, Bloch Hall, Creative Arts Center

February 10, 2020

  • Jason Phillips, Eberly Professor of Civil War Studies, (History, West Virginia University) "Looming Civil War: A History of the Future"
  • 7:00 pm, Milano Reading Room, Downtown Library

February 25, 2020

  • “Humanities: Engaging with the Past, Present and Future," Recipients of 2019 Humanities Center Research Grants
  • 6:00-7:30 pm, the Rhododendron Room, WVU Mountainlair

March 10 , 2020 

  • Johanna Winant (English, West Virginia University), "Predictive Texts: Logic, Form, and Poetry"
  • 7:00 pm, Milano Reading Room, Downtown Library

March 25, 2020

  • Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing (Anthropology, University of California , Santa Cruz) “Feral Atlas: The More-Than-Human Anthropocene" 
  • 7:00 pm, Room 125, Brooks Hall

April 2 & 3, 2020

  • Appalachian Speculative Futures Conference
  • various venues 
  • Co-Sponsored with the WVU Libraries