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Chicago Humanities Festival: An unbiased election year look at ‘America’

Thu, Nov 1, 2012

The 23rd annual Chicago Humanities Festival kicked off at Northwestern University on October 14 and will run through November 11 on specific dates. This year’s theme—America—explores the humanities in a way that is relevant to the history of America. Because the festival takes place during the election season, Executive Director Stuart Flack points out that he “wanted the festival to be relevant to the election, but [he] didn’t want it to be about the politics of this one versus that one, or this policy versus that policy.” Instead, this year’s CHF encourages a rich and less confrontational discourse, bringing together varying political ideals and looking “at the reality of America today from as many different standpoints as we possibly could.”

The goal of this year, inspired specifically by the election season, is to encourage the celebration of ideas. “Our goal is to present a lot of different ideas from a lot of different sources to educate people about America, about the history of our country and the issues we have faced, not in a politicized way, but in just a purely educational, uplifting way,” Flack says.

The festival offers nearly 100 sessions throughout the city with working professionals in the humanities from across the country. Although some sessions have sold out already, Flack notes: “We love all of the events. We’ve spent so much time on each one of them that, really, either one that you’re interested in will be great.”

Exploring America’s history of race, hip-hop, dance, and health care to name a few, CHF takes a close look at a broad range of topics by experts in the field. Some highlights from a few of those sessions are listed below. For a complete list of sessions and speakers, and to learn how to become a member of the Chicago Humanities Festival, visit www.chicagohumanities.org.

The Wilmore Report – Francis W. Parker School, November 2, 7:30 p.m.
With his wit, levity, and subversively approachable persona, The Daily Show’s Larry Wilmore, the “Senior Black Correspondent,” opens the door to an honest conversation about race and diversity, as discussed in his book “I’d Rather We Got Casinos: And Other Black Thoughts.”

The Hip Hop Pioneer – UIC Forum, November 3, 12:30 p.m.
Tricia Rose invented hip-hop studies with her 1994 book “Black Noise.” Join the Brown University professor as she presents her thoughts on the current state of hip hop, which, she argues, is in some ways following the path forged by jazz, first an African American, then an American, and now a global art form.

The Ethics of American Health Care – UIC Forum, November 3, 4 p.m.
Professor and vice provost for global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania, Ezekiel Emanuel—one of America’s leading bioethicists—served in the Obama Administration as the Special Advisor for Health Policy to the Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Emanuel discusses the pressing issues facing US health care today, from access to insurance to the overall cost of American medicine.

Doris Conant Lecture on Women and Culture-What Can You Do for Your Country? – Francis W. Parker School, November 3, 4 p.m.
The Festival is delighted to present Maureen Orth — award-winning journalist, author, and special correspondent for Vanity Fair — and Michael McCaskey — President and Board Chairman of the Chicago Bears—as they discuss experiences as early Peace Corps volunteers, their perspective on what the Peace Corps meant to their lives and their world and its identity 50 years later.

Grant Achatz and the Culinary Cutting Edge – Francis W. Parker School, November 4, 10 a.m.
Grant Achatz is one of America’s most admired and influential chefs. His new restaurant “Next” offers themed menus for 12 weeks—inspired by early 20th-century Paris or Achatz’s Michigan childhood—and experiments with theatricality, seasonality, and the senses. Achatz’s work parallels that of any avant-garde artist, challenging preconceived notions in a relentless search for the new.

A Sneak Peek at Gay History – Chicago History Museum, November 4, 12:30 p.m.
Historian and Yale University professor George Chauncey has been working on the sequel of Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 for more than a decade. In this lecture, he gives us a preview that explains how a world so rich and varied in its own time disappeared from historical memory with the rise of the gay liberation movement a mere decade later.

Ellen Stone Belic Presents: In Her Infinite Wisdom, Camille Paglia—Culture Critic, Provocateur – Francis W. Parker School, November 4, 2:30 p.m.
Bestselling author Camille Paglia, one of our most audacious cultural critics, probing sex and beauty in art, literature, and media, astonishes and challenges her audience with her conclusions—that the avant-garde tradition is dead and that director George Lucas is the world’s greatest living artist.

The Trials of Muhammad Ali – Harold Washington Library Center, November 10, 10 a.m.
Kartemquin Film’s latest movie covers Muhammad Ali’s battle to overturn a five-year prison sentence for refusing US military service in Vietnam. While discussing the challenges they encountered in making the film, director Bill Siegel and producer Rachel Pikelny will delve into a man’s hidden story of personal conflict and courage.

Elizabeth A. Liebman Program: Dancing With – Not Around – The Issues – Francis W. Parker School, November 10, 12 p.m.
By skillfully applying dance’s tools of abstraction to powerful effect—and illuminating nuances in the process, without being preachy—The Seldoms address current political, economic, and environmental issues with aplomb. In this program, The Seldoms performs excerpts from the 2010 work Stupormarket (which tackles the economic crisis) and a yet-to-be-named work on clean energy technologies that will premier this fall.

Little Rock: The Long Arc of the Civil Rights Movement – Harold Washington Library Center, November 10, 12 p.m.
Ernest Green, the eldest and first to graduate of the Little Rock Nine, and his son Adam Green, professor of history at the University of Chicago, discuss the promises, the disappointments, and the enduring achievements of the civil rights movement in the United States.

Millennials and the American Dream – Harold Washington Library Center, November 10, 2 p.m.
The Millennial Generation (born after 1980) is the first generation that may end up worse off economically than their parents. Millennial Heather McGhee, vice president at the public policy center Demos, is on the front lines of conversations about democratic reform, economic opportunity and financial regulation, trade, and globalization. Join her for an insightful look at this generation’s greatest challenges.

2012 Chicago Tribune Literary Prize-Elie Wiesel – Symphony Center, November 11, 10 a.m.
Elie Wiesel has brought generations of readers into one of the 20th century’s gravest tragedies with “Night,” Wiesel’s powerful telling of his experiences in the Holocaust camps of World War II. He and his wife Marion are founders of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, an organization dedicated to combating indifference and intolerance, and promoting justice through international dialogue.

2012 Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize (Nonfiction) – Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961 by Paul Hendrickson – Harold Washington Library Center, November 11, 2 p.m.
More than 50 years after the death of Ernest Hemingway, a definitive biography has emerged to deepen our understanding of this complex man. “Through painstaking reporting, through conscientious sifting of the evidence, and most of all, through vivid, heartfelt, luminous writing, Hendrickson gets to the heart of both Hemingway and his world,” writes the Chicago Tribune’s Julia Keller.

Written by Erica Lindsay,
StreetWise Editorial Intern

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