Conversations Across the Humanities

Structured discussions of issues and themes of interest to faculty, postdocs, and students across the humanities and humanistic social sciences. All are welcome to listen, learn, and converse at these monthly meetings.

The Culture of Cremation in Classical Rome

Thomas Habinek
Professor of Classics and Director, Society of Fellows at USC

 September 15, 2017 | 12:00pm to 2:00pm | Doheny Memorial Library (DML) Room 241, Academy for Polymathic Study

Open-air cremation was the primary means of corpse disposal throughout much of ancient Roman history.  What was the impact of this practice on other aspects of Roman culture, and what accounts for its sudden abandonment in later antiquity?  Professor Habinek will discuss his recent article “At the Threshold of Representation: Cremation and Cremated Remains in Classical Latin Literature” and explore the significance of his research for broader histories of personhood, literary autonomy, and embodied cognition.

RSVP by September 13 to reserve a place for lunch and to receive a copy of the advance reading .

Knock, knock, who’s there? Joe Coleman and his angry apparition

Lisa Bitel
Professor of History and Religion, USC

Friday, October 20, 2017 | Noon to 2pm | Social Sciences Building (SOS) 212

Please complete the RSVP form for lunch and to receive the pre-circulated paper.

Governance Through Documents:
The Board of Trade, its Archive, and the Imperial Constitution
of the British Atlantic, 1696-1807

Asheesh Siddique 
Postdoctoral Fellow in History and Society of Fellows at USC

 November 17, 2017 | 12:00pm to 2:00pm | Doheny Memorial Library (DML) Room 233, Intellectual Commons

This paper examines the role of documents and their circulation in the enactment of the imperial constitution of the British Empire in the Atlantic World during the long eighteenth century. It focuses on the Board of Trade’s dispatch of “Instructions” and “Queries” to governors in to the American colonies, arguing that it was through the circulation of these documents that the Board sought to enforce constitutional norms of bureaucratic conduct and the authority of central institutions of imperial administration. The paper traces the shifting meaning of these documents in the aftermath of the American Revolution, when they came to be treated as sources of historical data.

Complete the RSVP form for lunch and to receive the pre-circulated paper.

Discussion on the State of the Humanities in the University

Vanessa Schwartz
Professor of Art History, History, and Critical Studies, USC

 December 8, 2017 | 12:00pm to 2:00pm | Doheny Memorial Library (DML) Room 241, Academy for Polymathic Study

Complete the RSVP form for lunch and to receive the pre-circulated materials.

The Roots of Cerebral Subjectivity:
Humanizing the Brain in Early Christianity

Jessica Wright
Postdoctoral Fellow in Classics and Society of Fellows at USC

 January 19, 2018 | 12:00pm to 2:00pm | Doheny Memorial Library (DML) Room 233, Intellectual Commons

This paper offers a new genealogy of “cerebral subject ideology” – that is, the identification of the human being, qua rational subject, with the brain. While historians have largely agreed that this phenomenon developed out of Enlightenment philosophy in seventeenth-century Europe, Jessica Wright argues that its origins can be found in sermons across the late Roman Empire. In particular, Dr. Wright explores how early Christian preachers adapted arguments drawn from medicine and philosophy to support their doctrines of human exceptionalism and divine providence. The conceptual development of the brain in early Christian theology, Dr. Wright suggests, laid the foundations of differentiation on cognitive, psychic, and bodily grounds in later European philosophical and scientific movements.

Complete the RSVP form for lunch and to receive the pre-circulated paper.

An Unholy Brew:
Alcohol in Indian History and Religion

James McHugh
Associate Professor of  Religion and Society of Fellows at USC

 February 16, 2018 | 12:00pm to 2:00pm |
Taper Hall (THH) Room 309k

James McHugh presents an extract from his book project on alcohol and drinking in pre-modern Indian history and religions. In this chapter he discusses drinking in Tantric rituals: what exactly did this involve and why did people do it?

Complete the RSVP form for lunch and to receive the pre-circulated paper.

A Thing Apart: A New History of the
Civil Right’s Movement Fight for Racial Representation,
Censorship, and the NAACP’s Anti-Blackface Campaign

Rhae Lynn Barnes
Postdoctoral Fellow in History and Society of Fellows at USC

 March 23, 2018 | 12:00pm to 2:00pm |
Taper Hall (THH) Room 309k

Title TBA

John Blakinger
Postdoctoral Fellow in Art History and Society of Fellows at USC

Friday, May 4, 2018 | 12:00pm to 2:00pm |
Social Sciences (SOS) 250

Complete the RSVP form to receive the pre-circulated paper.