Questions That Matter


Questions That Matter

Questions that Matter is a public humanities series developed by UCSC Humanities Research Institute and the community of Santa Cruz. It will bring together in conversation two or more UC Santa Cruz scholars with community residents and students to explore questions that matter to all of us. The series is a part of a strategic initiative of the Humanities Research Institute to champion the role and value of the humanities in contemporary life. At the University of California Santa Cruz, we understand that the humanities are a crucial element of any first-rate liberal arts education. Indeed, what distinguishes the best universities in the United States is the fact that the humanities are an integral part of their core curriculum, along with the arts and sciences. The series is designed as a lecture and conversation, with plenty of time built in for participant questions and answers. The series will be in partnership with Bookshop Santa Cruz, the Santa Cruz Public Libraries, and the Kuumbwa Jazz Center.

Event Archive

January 20, 2018: Freedom and Race

America has famously been called “the land of the free,” and yet when the “Star Spangled Banner” was written, people of African descent were enslaved within its borders, including by the song’s own author, Francis Scott Key. Today, the relationship between freedom and race continues to vex the United States and the rest of the world.

Featuring: Jennifer González, History of Arts and Visual Culture & Dean Tyler Stovall, History

Video hosted on Vimeo

October 26, 2017: Anger in Politics: From the Bard to the Donald

What place does anger have in public life? Should we welcome the expression of anger in our elections and political deliberations, or does the common good depend on the existence of political institutions and processes from which anger and other strong emotions are excluded? Has the failure of those institutions and processes prompted much of the acrimony, hostility, and rage that we have witnessed (or felt)? What does the theater understand about such questions that politics does not understand?

Featuring: Daniel Wirls, Philosophy, Deborah Gould, Sociology & Sean Keilen, Literature

Video hosted on Vimeo

March 1, 2016Play: Games, Life, and Death

Featuring: Kimberly Lau, Literature & Noah Wardrip-Fruin, Computational Media

Over the past decade, the revolution in gaming has created new communities, identities, and careers. Games can now help detect early dementia, reduce pain felt by burn victims, and may help speed healing from concussions. They also have many of us obsessed with playing them, providing countless hours of entertainment for both kids and adults alike. What is gained and what is lost as a result of the current “gamification” of life? Is play mostly about having fun or does it also have a higher purpose? How are games shaping the future and what it means to be human?

Video hosted on Vimeo

January 27, 2015: Making the Cosmos Local

For millennia, people across the globe have searched the sky for answers. They have imagined and reimagined the cosmos, from an infinite and eternal backdrop full of other worlds, to a young Earth encircled by nearby planets and crystal spheres of stars. What is the relation between our lives here on Earth and the wider realm of nearby planets, distant stars, unfathomably faraway galaxies, and a potentially infinite universe—or swarm of universes? Where do we find, or create, meaning in such a picture?

Featuring: Minghui Hu, History & Anthony Aguirre, Physics