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NEPH Symposium 2023: Public Humanities Panel and Workshops

Public Humanities

dateApril 21–22, 2023 location The Heyman Center, Columbia UniversityPlease see individual registration pages for room locations
  • Bard Graduate Center
  • Columbia Oral History MA Program
  • Columbia University Seminars
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
email address [email protected]
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
Craft supplies strewn across a table

Sponsored by Columbia University Seminars, and in partnership with the Bard Graduate Center, Columbia University is co-hosting the 2023 Spring Symposium of the Northeastern Public Humanities Consortium. This inter-institutional gathering brings together researchers and practitioners from across the region to discuss the methods, aims, and urgencies of public humanities research. The symposium features a panel presentation and discussion of three innovative projects on April 21. We are also offering a set of public humanities training workshops on the morning of Saturday, April 22.


time2:00pm EDT

Expanding the Conversation: Public Humanities Projects-in-Progress

This panel presentation and discussion features three multifaceted initiatives that model new approaches to Public Humanities research. As dynamic collaborations between academic institutions and civic organizations that bring together scholars, practitioners, and the public, each of these projects engage in boundary-crossing forms of knowledge-making that explore where public and humanistic concerns intersect. This panel introduces the three projects while highlighting some of key approaches to community engagement and project sustainability, including the crucial contributions of graduate student fellows.

I See My Light Shining: Oral Histories of Our Elders

This project seeks to create an expansive archive of oral history interviews with people in targeted geographies across the United States, including New York City, the Deep South, the Greenwood District in Tulsa, and Native American reservations in Arizona and New Mexico, in an effort to capture unrecorded memories and life experiences before these stories are lost to history. From aging Civil Rights activists to Native American tribal leaders, those interviewed will also have the opportunity to have their family archives preserved, photographs, letters, and additional ephemera, preserving a vast array of histories to allow future generations to learn lessons from our times.

The Zip Code Memory Project

This Project seeks to find community-based ways to memorialize the devastating losses resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic while also acknowledging its radically differential effects on Upper New York City neighborhoods. Through a series of art-based workshops, public events, social media platforms, and a performance/exhibition at the Cathedral of St John the Divine, community members re-imagine Zip Codes not as zones of separation, but as interrelated spaces for connectivity and mutual care.

The Health and Medical Humanities Initiative

Providing an ongoing forum to study the influence of medico-scientific ideas and practices on society and work towards the establishment of a set of humanistic competencies that can inform medical practice at Columbia University. Seeking to foster conversations between medical practitioners, scholars, and patients on the diverse experiences of bodies in different stages of health and disease, MedHum builds upon and revises earlier notions of the ‘medical arts’ to explore new interdisciplinary frameworks for medical and humanistic ways of knowing.

time10:00am EDT

Practicing Connection IRL // rooted sharing, listening and making

This workshop provides an introduction to some of the methods used in social practice art, an approach to artistic engagement that emphasizes the potential of art to support positive social change. In this workshop, we will engage in practicing ‘connection’ to create an experience of community and care through listening, sharing and making. We will perform a listening score, ‘this is a piece,’ that invites us to consider what we need as creative agents. We will then guide participants in making an artist book or zine, which are tools that social practice artists often use as jumping off points for dialogue, tools for celebration, and objects for collective reflection. Sharing, listening and making are methods that we use in our own practice and we hope that by working through these methods together, these tools may support the work that matters most to you.

Cristina Ferrigno

interdisciplinary artist and educator

Floor Grootenhuis

artist in residence at the Raper Lab

Hunter College, CUNY

time10:00am EDT

Podcasting 101 with Zora’s Daughters

Zora’s Daughters is a society and culture podcast that uses Black feminist anthropology to close read popular culture and model critical participant observation of the world we live in. In this workshop, Alyssa James and Brendane Tynes, the duo behind the award-winning podcast, will guide participants through the process of creating a public-facing podcast that speaks to and emerges from research. Workshop participants will engage in a series of questions and activities designed to help them think obliquely about their scholarly interests and develop their ideas into a compelling and widely accessible creative project. The workshop will cover essential topics such as: finding your ‘why’; identifying your audience; developing a topic; and creating a public presence.

Alyssa A. James

PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology

Columbia University

Brendane Tynes

PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology

Columbia University

time10:00am EDT

Listening for Embodied Knowledge: An Approach to the Oral History Interview

What does it mean to have BIPOC voices at the center of our practice—what are we inviting them to speak on, or claim authority over? We know that oral history has the ability to document the experiences of BIPOC life, but can our approach to the interview go beyond the chronicling of what has happened to them? Can we also prioritize and harness oral history’s potential to record, elevate, and assert ‘ways of being’ and ‘ways of knowing’ our shared world that have been historically delegitimized and overlooked? Our embodied experiences are also our particular expertise on the world. The reality of BIPOC life becomes a particular education, one that shapes unique strategies of surviving and thriving; of sense-making; ways of seeing, interpreting, and “reading” the moments, politics, and interactions of daily life—it is embodied knowledge, embodied authority. How can our practice better ‘hear’ and legitimize embodied knowledge(s)? In this workshop we will consider the oral history interview as an ‘act of translation’, an approach that permissions the narrator to be both the ‘teller’ of their story, and also the first interpreter of their lived experience. We will discuss forms of un-hearing that can interrupt this process; reflect on the making and un-making of agency and authority in the interview by introducing both the language and concept of permission; and consider the oral history encounter as a ‘space of remembering’ and translation.

Nyssa Chow

Assistant Professor in the John B. Moore Documentary Studies Collaborative (MDOCS) and Film and Media department

Skidmore College

time10:00am EDT

In Search of a Tunnel: Researching the Underground Railroad in Upstate New York

How do we research the underground railroad when evidence of its civil disobedience was frequently and deliberately hidden? In this workshop, we’ll examine the collective work of academic researchers and community partners to furnish and exhibit evidence of underground railroad activities in Central and Western New York. Of the two approaches that inform the Cornell-Ithaca Underground Railroad Research Project, an archaeological excavation and critical fabulation, the workshop will concentrate on the writing, discussion, and showcasing of fictional approaches to experiences of traveling on the underground road.

Gerard Aching

W.E.B. DuBois Professor in the Humanities and professor of Africana and Romance Studies

Cornell University