Annual Themes

Every year we focus on an Annual Theme to provide a range of Humanities insights on a timely and significant topic.

2023 – 2024 | Technology

We are in a moment of rapid technological advancements that promise to change the nature of human experience, and indeed our viability: a variety of experts have suggested that the risk of human extinction from artificial intelligence technology could be as great as pandemics or nuclear arms. While these developments are momentous, the types of decisions that we are facing are not entirely new – throughout history, humans have created technologies that, in turn, have shaped our lives in profound, species-altering ways. The Humanities Institute is dedicating the 2023-2024 academic year to examining the relationship between humanity and technology, and the transformations, threats, and opportunities that lie ahead. Learn more here ›

2022 – 2023 | Travel

In the face of the global pandemic, we’ve been asked to isolate ourselves, quarantine, or shelter in place. Amongst many changes, the pandemic has prompted us to think differently about travel: when it’s possible, what it offers, and who can or can’t participate. Travel has been important throughout history, from prehistoric migrations, commercial voyages, colonial expeditions, and diasporic displacements, to modern tourism, voyages of self-discovery, and even solace travel. Throughout the 2022-2023 academic year, we are considering the many facets of travel to provide a Humanistic understanding of this fundamental aspect of our experiences moving through time and space. Learn more here ›

2021 – 2022 | Imagination

The world has been turned upside down by the ongoing global pandemic, multiple climate catastrophes, and a range of political movements. While periods of dramatic change can be unsettling, they also offer us an opportunity to reconsider long taken-for-granted ideas and reflect on our vision for the future. In 2021 – 2022, we focused on the theme of Imagination to gather the humanistic insights, skills, and inspiration necessary to navigate our path forward together. Learn more here ›

2020 – 2021 | Memory

As movements across the United States spark a national reckoning over how history is remembered through public monuments and our communities grieve the devastation wrought by unprecedented fires on the West Coast, a profound discussion about memory could not be more important. The Humanities – from literature to poetry to history and art – are vital spaces of memory and essential for examining what we remember and what we forget. In 2020-2021, The Humanities Institute led conversations at UC Santa Cruz and beyond on the many facets of Memory and its significance in our lives. Learn more here ›

2019 – 2020 | Futures

What kind of futures can we imagine? And how does thinking about the future inform our present? In the face of major technological advances, ecological transformations, and radical political developments, the Humanities can provide insights into a range of possible futures and inspire new ways to navigate our complex world. During the 2019-2020 Academic Year, THI investigated what lies ahead by leading conversations in Santa Cruz and beyond on the theme of Futures. Learn more here ›

2018 – 2019 | Data and Democracy

As technology increasingly shapes our habits and defines our access to knowledge, it is more important than ever that we understand how we got here and work to imagine a more inclusive, open, and transparent future. The Humanities are essential in helping us make sense of this changing world. During the 2018-2019 Academic Year, THI investigated this theme, presenting a series of public events with luminaries such as Jaron Lanier on campus and community conversations in downtown Santa Cruz and Silicon Valley. Learn more here ›

2017 – 2018 | Freedom and Race

During the 2017-2018 Academic Year, THI addressed the most vexing questions surrounding the historic struggle of people around the world to be free. We launched our first-ever course and brought the Santa Cruz community together for standing-room-only events featuring the kind of thoughtful dialogue that defines the work of the Humanities. Learn more here ›


THI’s themes are part of our Expanding Humanities Impact and Publics project, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.