Past Evanston Northwestern Humanities Lecture Series

2016-2017 Lectures

poster for Nitasha Sharma's talk on Blacks in Hawai'iMarch 13, 2017 (Monday)
7:00 pm
"The Obama Effect? Reflections on the Experiences of Hawai’i's Black Residents"
Nitasha Sharma (Associate Professor, African American Studies, Asian American Studies and Performance Studies and Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence)

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As President Obama’s home state, Hawai'i has earned global recognition beyond its status as an island paradise. Yet what do Black residents say about their experiences in the islands? This talk speaks to a possible “Obama effect” that has led increasing numbers of African Americans from the U.S. continent to seek refuge in the Pacific, where they find a “respite” from racism. Yet the stories of Hawai’i-born and raised Black people reveal an underside to more sunny depictions.

poster for Jennifer Lackey's talk on prison educationFebruary 22, 2017 (Wednesday)
7:00 pm
"Captive Minds: The Necessity of Education Behind Bars”
Jennifer Lackey (Wayne and Elizabeth Jones Professor of Philosophy)

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"For the past year, I have been teaching college courses at Stateville Correctional Center, a maximum-security men’s prison in a suburb of Chicago. All of my students have been convicted of at least one murder and nearly all of them are serving very lengthy sentences, yet they are among the most engaged and thoughtful students I have had in my 16 years of teaching at the college level. Drawing on this experience, along with research on the benefits of prison education, I will show why education, especially at the postsecondary level, should be provided in all prisons. Along every relevant dimension, prison education has been shown to be invaluable: it cuts recidivism rates dramatically, eases reentry through increased and improved employment opportunities, significantly reduces violence and disciplinary infractions within prisons, breaks down racial barriers among those who are incarcerated, and is highly cost effective. But perhaps most remarkable of all, it enables incarcerated men and women to create a community of inquiry, where curiosity, creativity, mentorship, and activism are prized."


October 13, 2015

The Ethics of Vaccination

Eula Biss (English) and Laurie Zoloth (Religious Studies and Professor of Bioethics and Medical Humanities in the Feinberg School of Medicine)

For some, vaccination may raise fears, but for others, access to vaccination is still an unrealized goal.

People avoid vaccination for various reasons, ranging from fear that vaccines will damage their immune systems to suspicions about components in the vaccines. Eula Biss, author of On Immunity -- which examines the history of vaccines and the metaphors we use to think about them -- joins Laurie Zoloth, Professor of Medical Humanities and Bioethics at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine, to discuss the ethics of vaccine refusal.

November 12, 2015

Irrational Fear? The Meanings of Hypochondria

Catherine Belling (Associate Professor of Medical Humanities and Bioethics at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine)

What does it mean when a patient is convinced that symptoms suggest he or she is seriously ill, even if medical testing finds no evidence of disease? This talk will explore hypochondria in many facets: as a challenge to clinical reasoning, a mental illness diagnosis (until recently called 'hypochondriasis'), a popular insult, a way to think about the particular medicalized fears of our society and our difficulty in managing uncertainty.

April 5, 2016

Living in the Era of Sexual Health

Steve Epstein (Humanities, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Sociology)

In recent decades Americans have been ever more preoccupied with sexual health problems and entranced by the promise of sexual health solutions. In my remarks I will ask how it has come to be that we understand ourselves and our society in this particular way. Beginning with the World Health Organization’s first definition of sexual health in 1975, I will consider several touchstones in the modern invention of sexual health, as well as the emergence of a panoply of experts who point the path toward its achievement. With reference to competing definitions of sexual health across the political spectrum, I will draw out lessons from several specific examples of contemporary sexual health debates, including those relating to HPV vaccines, HIV prevention, and the development of pharmacological treatments for female sexual dysfunction.


Hector Carrillo
"The Day of the Dead/ El Día de los Muertos: Mexican Traditions of Remembrance"
Thursday, October 30, 2014

Nick Davis and Miriam Petty
"Slavery on Screen"
Thursday, November 20, 2014

John Alba Cutler
"Prizes! Prizes! Prizes! - Latino Literature and the Economy of Prestige"
Thursday, April 30, 2015


Darlene Clark Hine
"The Black Chicago Renaissance - 1930-1950"
Thursday, April 24, 2014

Huey Copeland
"In the Arms of the Negress"
Thursday, March 6, 2014

Michelle Wright
"Blackness When You Least Expect It: Understanding Racial Diversity in the 21st Century"
Tuesday, October 8, 2013

2012 -2013

Laura Hein
"World War II Remembrance in East Asia"
Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thomas Simpson
"Murder and Media in the New Rome "
Thursday, January 31, 2013

Janice Radway
"Debating the Meaning of Girlhood in the 1990s: How Girls Talked Back and What it Means Now for their Futures"
Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Julia Stern
"Whatever Happened to Elvira? Slavery and Citizenship in Robert Aldrich's Whatever Happened to Baby Jane"
Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Harvey Young, Jr.
"A Racist Love Note: Stereotypes and Caricatures on Early 20th Century Valentine's Day Cards"
Thursday, February 16, 2012

Laurie Shannon
"The Eight Animals in Shakespeare: Notes on the Long History of How We Talk about Animals"
Thursday, April 26, 2012


Steven Epstein
"Sex, Science, and Cancer: The Politics of HPV Vaccination"
October 26, 2010

Mary Pattillo
"Four Blocks from Barack: Race, Class and Neighborhood Change on Chicago's South Side"
January 13, 2011

Mary Finn
"What Was So Victorian About the Victorians?"
February 8, 2011

John Alba Cutler
"Chicana Poetry and the Specter of La Malinche"
April 28, 2011


Edward Muir
"People Who Believe in Nothing:" Intolerable Thoughts in Late Renaissance Italy"
Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bill Savage
"Contra Burnham: Why We Need More Little Plans"
Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Barbara Newman
"Exchanging Hearts: Reflections from Patients, Mystics, and Poets"
Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Peter Hayes
"The Holocaust: Myths and Misconceptions"
Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Brodwyn Fischer
"Latin America's Urban Slums: Dead-End Ghettoes or Cities of Hope?"
Thursday, April 29, 2010

Susan Manning
"How Has the Post-Civil Rights Movement Perspective of Intellectuals Reshaped Narratives of "Black Dance" in the U.S.?"
Thursday, May 20, 2010


Jeffrey Garrett
"Screams and Smiles: The Cultural Anthropology of Children's Book Illustration"
Thursday, October 23, 2008


Hollis Clayson
"Transatlantic Americans: Artists in Paris, 1870 to 1914"
Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Carl Smith
"The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City"
Thursday, May 8, 2008