Letter from the Director 2011

I am pleased to report that the College of Arts and Sciences Center for the Humanities concluded a successful and event-filled 2010-11, the second year of its operations.

The Center hosted three Stanford Distinguished Professors who contributed a great deal to the intellectual life of the university by presenting programs to faculty and students, both graduate and undergraduate, and members of the South Florida community: the playwright and actress Anna Deavere Smith performed scenes based on her interviews of both doctors and patients to reflect on the political and personal aspects of contemporary health care; the novelist Chris Abani gave lectures on his experiences as a writer and led workshops for undergraduate and graduate students in creative writing; and law professor and public intellectual Martha C. Nussbaum spoke and engaged in dialogue with her audience on the question of “why democracy needs the humanities.”

The Center presented its first major conference, “Imagining Culture(s), Rethinking Disciplines,” on anthropology and the humanities, organized by a multidisciplinary committee consisting of faculty from Anthropology, English, History, Modern Languages and Literatures, and Religious Studies. The conference featured distinguished scholars Dipesh Chakrabarty and Mabel Moraña, and the acclaimed novelist Erna Brodber.

We also organized two one-day symposia, one on “Humanities through Classics: What Does the Future Hold?”which featured a panel consisting of Shadi Bartsch, Michael Halleran, Gregory Nagy, and Patrice Rankine, and faculty from UM Classics and other Humanities departments; the other, “The Present Future of Caribbean Literary and Cultural Studies,” celebrating the scholarship and career of Professor of English Emerita Sandra Pouchet Paquet, with the novelist George Lamming as keynote speaker.

For 2011-12, the Center will host three Stanford Distinguished Professors: Nilo Cruz, the Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright and author of Anna and the Tropics; Dominic McIver Lopes, Distinguished University Scholar and Professor of Philosophy at the University of British Columbia, whose work focuses on aesthetics, including scientific images and computer art; and Alan Lightman, MIT professor of physics and humanities and acclaimed author of Einstein’s Dreams, which has been translated into 30 languages.

With the support of the Florida Council for the Humanities, the Center will hold a major conference to mark the fifth centennial of Ponce de León’s landing in Florida: “Florida at the Crossroads: Five Centuries of Encounters, Conflicts, and Exchanges.” Highlights of the conference include a panel on the future of Florida and Miami with President Shalala; Alberto Ibargüen, President and CEO of the Knight Foundation; and Alejandro Portes, Professor of Sociology at Princeton and visiting professor at the UM law school; and a musical theatrical performance produced by GableStage and the UM chorale. As a prelude to the conference, we will hold three Saturday seminars during Fall 2011 for secondary school instructors on various aspects of the conference theme. I will be on sabbatical research leave during 2011-12, and I am grateful to Anne J. Cruz, Professor of Spanish in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, who has graciously agreed to serve as acting director of the Center and to oversee the conference and its associated events.

In closing, I express my appreciation to the faculty board, especially its departing members, Otávio Bueno, Guido Ruggiero, John Paul Russo, and George Yúdice, for their wisdom and hard work on behalf of the Center. I thank our new Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Leonidas Bachas, Provost Thomas LeBlanc, and President Donna Shalala for their strong support of the Center and of the Humanities. Thanks also to those of you who have generously supported the Center and participated in its programs. Once again, I acknowledge the outstanding work of the staff of the Center – Associate Director Kyle Siebrecht, Administrative Assistant Liana Minassian, and Student Assistants Anna Anderson, David Bahamon, and Lina Mesa.

Mihoko Suzuki 
Director, Center for the Humanities
Professor of English