Letter from 2019

Dear Colleagues and Friends of the Center,

It is my great pleasure to provide an overview of the 2018-19 activities of the Center for the Humanities and report on my first year as Director. I will start by expressing my gratitude to my predecessor, Mihoko Suzuki, the Founding Director of the Center. Mihoko deserves great credit for making the Center such an important part of the life of the University of Miami, and for creating so many programs under its aegis. Her continued advice and support have been a great help in my first year in the position

Shortly after I took over the directorship, we hired a new Assistant Director, Dr. Meghan Homer. Meg has an Ed.D. in Leadership from Virginia Commonwealth University, where she also worked as Associate Director of Academic Affairs with the honors college. We then hired as our Events Coordinator Ony Dunnam, who holds a BA in law from Andres Bello Catholic University in Venezuela. It is thanks to their skill and dedication that the year has gone so smoothly, despite the fact that we are all new.

This year, we had four distinguished scholars visit as Henry King Stanford Distinguished Professors. Hazel Carby, Charles C. and Dorathea S. Dilley Professor of African American Studies and American Studies at Yale, discussed the experience of blackness in the United Kingdom after WWII. Christopher de Hamel, Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, lectured on the manuscripts owned by Saint Thomas Becket. Catherine Hall, Emerita Professor of History at University College London, addressed the life of Edward Long, a prominent Jamaican slave-owner and intellectual, and described the legacies of slave-ownership in Britain itself. François Recanati, a recent inductee into the College de France (that country’s most prestigious research institute), applied rigorous philosophical analysis to the question of imagination and the self.

In February, we had our fifth annual Edith Bleich lecture, given by Rudolf Dekker, a leading Dutch Historian, who spoke on the diary of Constantijn Huygens, Jr., a prominent seventeenth-century intellectual and political advisor. This public lecture also served as the keynote speech for a conference called “Life-Writing Historicized: The Individual in Social and Cultural Context in Europe, 1300-1800,” which featured several of our own faculty and scholars from various universities in the United States and Europe.

We continued our tradition of workshops for faculty and graduate students on preparing for the job market, grant writing, and publishing. Visiting presenters included a senior editor at the University of Pennsylvania Press and the Executive Director of the American Historical Society. Seven faculty presented talks on recent publications at Books and Books, and we also sponsored several speakers for our interdisciplinary research groups as well as cosponsoring scholars brought to campus by various departments within the University.

Our major new initiative this year has been to expand our outreach to undergraduates. The biggest outcome of this effort was an event called Inquiring Minds, organized by our Assistant Director, designed to introduce undergraduates to research opportunities in the humanities. Ten faculty and five undergraduates gave brief presentations on their research, and representatives of the Office of Undergraduate Research and other campus partners were present to give students contact information. Ninety-one people, the overwhelming majority of them undergraduates, attended, and the event generated great enthusiasm.

We already have an exciting list of speakers for next year. We will feature Henry King Stanford Distinguished Speakers Mimi Sheller, a leading scholar of modern Caribbean society; Allan Brandt, former Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard and an influential historian of science; Sara Ahmed, a leading figure in cultural studies; and Stephanie Burt, a noted poet and literary scholar. Our Edith Bleich lecturer will be Jennifer Morgan, a historian of race and gender in the early modern Atlantic world.

We greatly appreciate the ongoing support of Dean Bachas and the leadership of the College of Arts and Sciences, especially Senior Associate Deans Angel Kaifer, Kenneth Voss, and Jennifer Ferriss-Hill. We are grateful to Provost Jeffrey Duerk for agreeing to take over the lion’s share of the Center’s funding, and look forward to working with him and his office as well as continuing our relationship with A&S. I also wish to thank our graduate program coordinator, Kerri-Leanne Taylor, and our undergraduate student assistants, Jack Morton, Andrea Trespalacios, and Katelyn Dorane, for their hard work.

With best wishes,

Hugh Thomas
Director, Center for the Humanities