Feature | 24 September 2020

THI’s 2020-2021 Theme: Memory

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Dear Friends of The Humanities Institute,

We welcome you to a new school year with smoke in the air and a pall of uncertainty and crisis all around us. From climate calamity to the vicissitudes of the pandemic to the very real and unresolved issues of race that this country is facing, all we can say with confidence is that we’re in a moment of tumult and change. This isn’t a buoyant or easy time. Yet, even—or especially— in the face of this uncertainty, we remain as devoted as ever to the unique power of the Humanities to illuminate our most pressing and perennial questions.  

With so much instability, we want to make clear our commitments to you, the students, faculty, and staff of UC Santa Cruz, and our wider community near and far. No matter what this year brings, we’ll be funding essential research and providing the high caliber of intellectual programming you’ve come to expect from us. And as our online events from the spring and summer have shown us, we have an eager and growing audience for our virtual programming. So please stay tuned and join us throughout the year.

Last year, our focus was Futures. In 2020-2021, our theme will be Memory. Throughout the coming year, we will be leading conversations at UC Santa Cruz and beyond on the many facets of memory and its significance in our lives. Memory is at the center of transformations all around us. Across the United States, movements are sparking a national reckoning over how history is remembered by taking to the streets and toppling monuments. Presidential candidates vying for the White House are relying on drastically different collective memories to promote diverging platforms. Meanwhile, our communities on the West Coast are grieving the devastation wrought by unprecedented fires and memories lost. 

Memory manifests in many different forms, from the physical to the symbolic. It is a way of processing and conveying the human experience that is neither fixed nor unchanging. Instead, memory is fluid and contentious, it can be reconstructed in different places and times, it both shapes us and is shaped by us. Memory offers a lens into who we are as individuals, as part of a collective, and a nation. 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.

What can memory tell us about our past, present, and future? What is the relationship between individual memory, collective memory, and history? How is memory passed down through generations? And why are certain moments remembered while others are silenced or left out?

Join us for a year-long discussion about memory that includes events on transitional justice, indigenous resistance, and a Questions That Matter course on “Memory and the Americas.” Together, our humanistic inquiry into memory and its multiple dimensions can help us navigate this critical time and build a more just future. 

We look forward to peeling back the layers of Memory with you this year.

Much more soon,

Nathaniel and Irena

Nathaniel Deutsch, Faculty Director, The Humanities Institute

Irena Polić, Managing Director, The Humanities Institute