2020-21 Panels and Participants

Collage featuring a 19th-century eye diagram and data source code representing the 2020-2021 Critical Conversations' theme of "Identity."

Fall 2020

Collage featuring a map of Antarctica, a close-up of a hot pink neon sign and a 19th-century optical eye exam diagram.
Identity as an Engine for Poetry

October 7, 2020

Time: 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Location: This event was accessible via Zoom and can be viewed on video.

What relation does poetry have to identity, and how does poetry help us to understand our role in the world? How do poets grapple with their own immigrant, Asian American, queer, gender or other identities? In what ways is poetry relevant to issues and concerns addressed by scientists and social scientists? Putting identity front and center in the creative practice means debunking the notion that the poet works within a vacuum, outside of specific time and place. Come explore how the poet discovers fresh connections between histories, lands and social worlds.

Participants

  • Elizabeth Bradfield, Associate Professor of the Practice of English and Co-director of the Creative Writing Program, Department of English.
  • Chen Chen, Jacob Ziskind Visiting Poet-in-Residence, Department of English.

Moderator

  • Yuri Doolan, Chair, Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies; Assistant Professor, Department of History and Department of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

 

Collage featuring an 18th-century engraving of the Tower of Babel, a close-up of a 19th-century anatomical diagram of the throat while speaking, an ancient Assyrian tablet with cuneiform writing and an overlay of various sections of data source code.
Language and Identity in the Digital Age

October 20, 2020

Time: 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Location: This event was accessible via Zoom and can be viewed on video.

Language is something that we use every day, and yet we are often not consciously aware of the structural complexity of our most basic words, phrases and utterances. What is the nature of these structures, and how is our identity affected and shaped by the particular languages we speak? How are our linguistic and cultural identities recognized and ignored by modern technology? This conversation engages theoretical and computational linguists to help us explore the complex relationships between language and identity, along with recent ethical and social justice issues that arise from language-reliant technologies including machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Participants

  • Lotus Goldberg, Professor of Linguistics, Michtom School of Computer Science.

  • Sophia Malamud, Associate Professor of Linguistics, Michtom School of Computer Science.
  • James Pustejovsky, TJX Feldberg Professor of Computer Science; Chair of the Programs in Linguistics and Computational Linguistics, Michtom School of Computer Science.

Moderator

  • Constantine Lignos, Assistant Professor of Linguistics, Michtom School of Computer Science.

 

Spring 2021

Collage featuring images from recent Jews for Black Lives and Jews of Color Caucus demonstrations. Also includes detail from a 1947 Jewish Peoples Fraternal Order of the I.W.O. flyer courtesy of the Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives. Background image “Lo Tirtzach/Thou Shalt Not Murder,” 2016, by Rachel Stone.
Black and Jewish Identities: Visions of Freedom

March 9, 2021

Time: 5:30-6:30 pm

Location: This event was accessible via Zoom and can be viewed on video.

Relations between African Americans and Jews in the United States are at a complicated and critical juncture, which brings some members of these groups closer together, while causing significant tensions in other quarters. The stories of many Jews of Color throughout the world also signal that Jewish identity and identity with communities of color are not mutually exclusive. This conversation will compare shared themes of diaspora and assimilation, as well as ideological perspectives on social and political empowerment, before asking: What are the best strategies for advancing freedom and equality in the United States?

Participants

  • Amber Spry, Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies and Politics, Departments of African and African American Studies and Politics

  • Alexander Kaye, Karl, Harry, and Helen Stoll Assistant Professor of Israel Studies, Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies

Moderator

  • David Sherman, Associate Professor of English, Department of English
Collage featuring the score to “Tom Tom,” 1932, by Shirley Graham du Bois, courtesy of the Schlesinger Library, Harvard University. “PS752,” 2020, archival pigment print by Sheida Soleimani. “Barbecue: Study Guide” publication cover, 2016, courtesy of Geffen Playhouse. Also includes images of Josephine Baker and a detail of Nina Simone's hands. Background image from the 2019 Brandeis Theater production of The Bacchae. Photo by Mike Lovett.
Art and the Politics of Representation

March 25, 2021

Time: 5:30-6:30 pm

Location: This event will be accessible via Zoom.

How does art shape or challenge our understanding of identity? How do artists complicate our investments in identity as a useful frame for seeing the world, and how do they embrace and/or trouble the markers that we often rely on to construct a coherent sense of self? We will consider the ways in which photographic portraiture and live theater have been used to represent or express identity, on the one hand, and to re-evaluate our belief in the concept, on the other.

Participants

Moderator

  • lauren woods, Assistant Professor, Department of Fine Arts