We are in a far different place now than where we usually are at the beginning of the academic year. COVID-19 turned our world upside-down this past year. It has continued to transform and shape every aspect of our work and lives, and to exacerbate prior inequities. The killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others, have further shaken us to the core. Throughout these difficult few months, it has been a privilege to work with Ed Comentale, Associate Vice Provost for the Arts and Humanities, and Dina Okamoto and Michelle Moyd, Director and Associate Director of the Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society, on “Confronting Racism,” an important online series of talks and conversations that has had local, national, and international resonance.
There is much more work to be done, and it is good to know that our partnerships—with the Council, with CRRES, and others—are working well. It is also important to acknowledge the ongoing support for our work from the College and the Campus. We are grateful to Rick van Kooten, Executive Dean of the College of Arts + Sciences, and Paul Gutjahr, Associate Dean for the Arts and Humanities, for their support of our mission, including, most importantly, our efforts to help colleagues and students carry out their work during these difficult times. Provost Lauren Robel continues her staunch support for Arts and Humanities research and creative practice, and her office endorses and underwrites a central role for Arts and Humanities in improving the student experience at IUB—a task requiring even more logistics and creativity nowadays—and in public outreach around the state of Indiana and the Midwest. Thanks to the support we receive, and the dynamism of the colleagues with whom we collaborate, CAHI occupies a central place in a vibrant ecosystem of artistic undertaking, humanistic inquiry, and public-facing programming that speaks to crucial issues of our time.
Like everyone else this year, we have had to shift gears and modalities, but our programming remains robust. In October, Imraan Coovadia, author of novels such as High Low In-between and The Institute for Taxi Poetry, as well as several non-fiction and scholarly works, will give a talk on his recent non-fiction work, Revolution and Non-Violence in Tolstoy, Gandhi, and Mandela. In the spring, Carolyn Forché, award-winning poet, memoirist, human rights activist, and translator, will speak to us about her 2019 memoir, What You Have Heard is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance, and her recent poetry collection, In the Lateness of the World (2020). Update: Forché’s visit has been tentatively rescheduled for Fall 2021. Also in the spring, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, the Canada 150 Research Chair in New Media at Simon Fraser University, will present in our Distinguished Scholar lecture series. Her work in Critical Data Studies is timely and crucial: she pushes us to heed the power of algorithms and big data in fostering discrimination and misinformation, and offers tools for countering these trends.
We are also excited to share the work of our colleagues with you in our Meet the Author/Meet the Artist series, which starting this year we are undertaking in collaboration with IU’s Arts and Humanities Council. On the eve of the November election, Sarah Edmands Martin (Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design) will present recent work, including the exhibition “Ongoing Matter: Democracy, Design, and the Mueller Report,” a collection of poster designs that identify the threats to democracy named in the Mueller Report. In November, we will hear National Book Critics Circle Award-winning poet Ross Gay (English) speak about his 2020 book-length poem, Be Holding, and engage with J. Kameron Carter (Religious Studies) in a free-ranging conversation that will touch upon poetry and far more. In December, Alisha Jones (Folklore and Ethnomusicology), will speak to us about her new book, Flaming?: The Peculiar Theo-Politics of Fire and Desire in Black Male Gospel Performance, which explores archetypes of masculinity in the music ministry of historically-black Protestant churches. In February, Osamu James Nakagawa (Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design), will talk about his recent experimental photography, as well as his artistic trajectory and methods. His presentation is timed to coincide with his co-curated exhibition, Photographic Occurrences, which will open at the newly-renovated Maxwell Hall gallery in February. Diane Reilly (Art History) will also show and tell about her recent book, The Cistercian Reform and the Art of the Book in Twelfth-Century France, a study attempting to bring to life the sensory complexity—text, image, song—that animated monastic life and its rituals of belief.
CAHI’s core mission is to support research in the arts and humanities in the College, and our grants and fellowships are a primary mechanism for doing just this. We can start with what has not changed: We will continue to offer our Research Fellowships and the CAHI/Kinsey Fellowship, which provide faculty with course releases to conduct research (this booklet profiles our new CAHI Fellows and their projects). Given the many COVID-related uncertainties and travel restrictions, however, we have had to reinvent some of our awards. Rather than offering funding for research travel, for example, we have opened our grant competitions to a variety of other forms of assistance that enable faculty and graduate students to pursue their research and creative projects. Please note also that funding is still available for workshops, symposia, and lectures in support of faculty research—virtual this academic year, and, conditions permitting, in-person next year. Please check out our calendar for details. CAHI also continues to be an active member of the Humanities Without Walls Consortium (HWW), linking fifteen universities in the Midwest. We will soon be sending out an announcement of a competition for seed money to help faculty develop proposals for research projects around major questions that require humanities- and arts-based collaborative approaches, so please keep an eye out for this.
Each year, CAHI also organizes one or more events focusing on professional development. In October, Suzanne Ortega, President of the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), Hironao Okahana, Vice President at CGS, and Jim Grossman, Executive Director of the American Historical Association (AHA), will lead a workshop, “Open Knowledge: Expanding Our Definition of Scholarship.” The workshop will probe the nature of humanistic inquiry, engaging with questions of what constitutes scholarship, how new forms of scholarship can be evaluated, the relationship between this work and the broader public, and more.
Another collaboration between CAHI and the IU Arts and Humanities Council is Platform, a research laboratory in arts and humanities supported by the Mellon Foundation, OVPR, and the Office of the Provost. The program’s Indiana Studies team supports initiatives that explore what makes Indiana unique, such as “Indiana Switchgrass” an online artist showcase (late October), and a symposium in the spring 2021. The Global Popular Music Team, in turn, will host a virtual speaker series that probes the unique ways that music communicates and is communicated in the digital age—a topic made particularly poignant by the current global pandemic—and will also examine the intersection of music with carceral states around the world.
This fall, CAHI will take the exciting step of moving into Maxwell Hall, where we will form part of the newly-established Gayle Karch Cook Center for Public Arts and Humanities. Here, CAHI will join IUB’s Arts and Humanities Council, the Center for Rural Engagement, IU Corps, and Traditional Arts Indiana, as well as several other units, and collectively foster research and creative activity that is multidisciplinary, public-facing, and socially responsive. Renovations to Maxwell Hall are now being completed thanks to funding from a Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and vital additional support from the campus, the provost, and Gayle Cook, whose generosity extends to support for our programming and other initiatives. We are extremely grateful to Ms. Cook for this opportunity.
We look forward to welcoming you in our new home, and to supporting you in new and creative ways as we move through these trying times and into the future.
Deborah Cohn, Provost Professor
Associate Director, College Arts + Humanities Institute
Director, College Arts + Humanities Institute