Wayne State University

Aim Higher

I am pleased to be reporting to you about the work of the Humanities Center in the 2016-17 academic year. As you will see, my report is contained in a booklet that commemorates the 50th anniversary of 1967 Detroit rebellion/revolution by including pictures and images that capture moments during the July 1967 incidents. I feel privileged to be present in Detroit this year when dozens of events, exhibits and conferences seek to reflect on the events of July 23-27, 1967 and their impact on the personality and psyche of this heroic American city. The following quote from the July 5 2017edition of the Detroit Free Press summarizes the competing characterizations of the events in July 1967:

For the past half-century, the violence that summer in Detroit has most commonly been referred to as a riot, as were most of the civil disturbances that broke out in cities across the U.S. in the 1960s. But critics of that label say it is too superficial. Riot describes the violence but sells short the built-up anger and long-simmering resentment over police brutality, racial discrimination and social injustice that blacks had endured for years in Detroit. That's the fuse, they say.., The Humanities Center's contribution to this conversation was to characterize the events as a "revolution" and to use that concept as the theme for its 2017 Faculty Fellowships Competition. Our Call for Abstracts (CFA) began thus: 2017 marks the centennial of the Russian Revolution and the fifty-year anniversary of the Detroit Revolution. It is a time to reflect on the causes and lasting impacts of these events locally and worldwide. But what makes a revolution? A revolution can be a dramatic political upturning—the French Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, and the global revolutions of 1968 and 1989 are but a few. The Faculty Fellowship competition attracted excellent proposals from outstanding WSU faculty from several disciples including English, Sociology, Communication, the Classics, Education and Anthropology. They will present their papers at our spring 2018 Faculty Fellows' Conference. The Center is currently trying to recruit a distinguished scholar to keynote the conference and to speak specifically about the 1967 rebellion/revolution in Detroit.

This year, following the Advice of NEH Chairman William "Bro" Adams who visited our campus last year, the Center made explicit moves to broaden its focus to include the Public Humanities and the STEM disciplines. To promote the Public Humanities, I wrote a strong letter of support that was part of a successful WSU proposal to the NEH for a "Next Generation in Humanities PhDs" planning grant. The group of faculty who submitted the winning proposal formed a Working Group and applied successfully to the Center for funds to develop programs to prepare an implementation grant proposal. The intent of the grant program is to train the next generation of PhD graduates to embrace work and service outside of academia, and in the process help citizens to see the inherent social value of the humanities. Additionally, through the efforts of our Grant Writer and Development Specialist Cheryl Courage the Center submitted to the General Motors Foundation a proposal that would fund WSU faculty to give talks to the clientele of Detroit area restaurants in an effort to make the research and art of the participating faculty more accessible to the public.

Our interest in the STEM disciplines is a response to Provost Whitfield's charge to the Center's Advisory Board in September 2016. He encouraged the Center to develop programs that would articulate the humanities with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines since the USA is in critical need of citizens with expertise in these disciplines. To that end, the Center funded two groups that overtly addressed this desired nexus between STEM disciplines and the humanities. One is the Working Group on "Integrating the Humanities, Social Sciences, and STEM" led by CMLLC scholars Alina Cherry, Nicole Coleman and Laura Kline. These professors met with leaders of STEM disciplines across the university and with the co-chairs of the Gen Ed committee in an effort to identify various avenues that would lead to the interaction of humanities and STEM students in academic courses. The Center also funded a new Working Group on "Genes and Language" the leaders of which are Natalia Rakhlin of Communication, Chuanzhu Fan of Biological Sciences, Haiyong Liu of CMLLC and Linguistics and Ljiljana Progovac of English and Linguistics. The goal of this Working Group is to "investigate possible associations between points of language variation and genetic differences between human populations". Additionally, our 2017-18 Brown Bag series will feature several talks that bring together the humanities and STEM disciplines. For example, Professor Ken Jackson, Chair of English will give a talk on "Shakespeare in the Age of STEM" in October 2017.

It should be noted that the Humanities Center has always had as part of its mission the goal of leading the humanities beyond its traditional boundaries. Consequently, the current thrusts toward affiliations with STEM disciplines are in keeping with the center's fundamental purposes and goals. Evidence of that mission is the fact that we funded a Working Group in Science and Society for over 10 consecutive years. That group, led by Professor Marsha Richmond of History, sponsored scores of talks over the years that featured humanists, scientists and mathematicians having interdisciplinary conversations and collaborations that led to integrated projects and publications. The Center's other programs also performed well. We began the year with our fall symposium on the theme "Ideology". This quintessentially humanities topic attracted contributions from scholars affiliated with a broad range of disciplines: Philosophy, French Studies, Urban Studies, German Studies, Communication, English, and Law. They presented a variety of papers that pointed to the centrality of ideology in the theoretical cultures of most academic pursuits. The keynote speaker, Professor Jason Stanley of Yale University, gave the most controversial and wide-ranging talk. His topic "The emergency manager: The neo-liberal ideology and subversion of democracy, from Schmitt to Snyder" attracted both supporting and dissenting responses.

The Center hosted 51 brown bag talks, which attracted scholars from over 16 different departments and 5 colleges. This year saw an increase in the participation of students, principally as members of the audience, but also as presenters along with their mentors. Our resident scholars program attracted a lively group of junior and senior scholars who worked well together and expanded their individual intellectual horizons through regular interactions with colleagues affiliated with different disciplines. I encourage you to read the very favorable testimonials of 2016-2017 Annual Report 6 these resident scholars later in this report. Once again, the Center's Marilyn Williamson Endowed Distinguished faculty Fellowship competition attracted excellent proposals. The Center's Advisory Board chose Professors Jonathan Flatley and Jaime Goodrich, both of the English Department as recipients. The Board found it extremely difficult to choose between the two outstanding proposals submitted by these faculty; consequently the Board decided to fund both projects since we had the funds to do so. You will find abstracts of their proposals in the body of this report.

This year has been typical for the Center: we were busy, challenged, inspired and blessed. We are completing our 24th year of operation and going strong-- partly because of the dedication of our staff and partly because of the support of the faculty and students we serve. The year ahead promises to be exciting. We will begin it with a fall symposium on "Civility and Incivility" to be keynoted by Dr. Susan Herbst, President of the University of Connecticut, whose book "Rude Democracy in American Politics" caught the attention of the Center's Advisor Board. Already we have recruited over 60 faculty for our Brown Bag series, which is an indication that a large number of faculty and students in the humanities, social sciences, and arts see the Center as a venue for sharing their ideas and seeking scholarly fellowship.

We thank you all for your continued support of the Center and wish you a successful 2017-18 academic year.

Walter F. Edwards, D.Phil
Professor, English
Director, Humanities Center