Jan. 6, 2000
Vol. 19 No. 7

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    Franke Institute creating dialogues across disciplines through its Sawyer Seminars

    By Arthur Fournier
    News Office

    This month and in February, The Franke Institute for the Humanities will present two conferences on topics under exploration through the Sawyer Seminar program––Human/Computer Creoles and Cultures, Friday, Jan. 14, through Monday, Jan. 17, and Hatred: Confronting the Other, Friday, Feb. 11, through Sunday, Feb. 13.

    Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Sawyer Seminar program fosters faculty member and graduate student exploration of the historical and cultural origins of significant contemporary developments. The University has received two grants, one for $350,000 that funded seminars between 1995 and 1998 and another for $100,000 to fund a seminar for October 1999 through June 2000. Sawyer Seminars are comprised of events that continue throughout an academic year.

    “The idea of the Mellon Foundation’s Sawyer program is really to create dialogue across departmental and disciplinary boundaries,” said J. Paul Hunter, the Barbara E. and Richard J. Franke Professor in English Language & Literature and Director of the Franke Institute. He said Sawyer Seminars that have taken place at the University have provided exemplary instances of the foundation’s ideals for the program.

    The University has been home to four such yearlong seminars, the first three organized as a trio of interdisciplinary investigations into themes developed out of a central topic––“Confrontations with the Other.” This year, the Sawyer Seminar taking place at the University will focus on “Computer Science as a Human Science: The Cultural Impact of Computerization.”

    Human/Computer Creoles and Cultures––the first of the Sawyer conferences this Winter Quarter––will bring together scholars from all levels in the Biological and Physical sciences, Social Sciences and Humanities divisions at the University, as well as those from around the world. The conference will explore how widespread, cross-cultural use of computers is creating hybrids of digital-symbol and human-symbol systems.

    Don Norman, professor emeritus of cognitive science at the University of California, San Diego, and president of UNext Learning Systems, will present a keynote address from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 14, in Classics 10, 1010 E. 59th St. Norman will address how technology shapes the way people speak, think and interact. A reception will follow his address.

    Howard Sandroff, Senior Lecturer in Music and Director of the Computer Music Studio at the University, will demonstrate the interaction between contemporary musical composition and computer technology in a presentation titled “In Performance: The Computer as a Musical Partner,” which will take place from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 15, in the Joseph Regenstein Library, Room A-11, 1100 E. 57th St. The presentation will include a performance of Sandroff’s 1996 composition Chant de femmes for flute and computer with guest artist Mary Stolper, as well as works by alumni, students and others.

    International speakers on Jan. 15 will include Arlindo Machado, professor of cinema, radio and television at the University of Sao Paolo, Brazil; Julian Warner, professor in the school of management at the Queen’s University of Belfast; and Alexander Voiskounsky, professor of psychology at Moscow University.

    A concluding roundtable workshop and panel discussion will take place from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17, at the Franke Institute, Room S-118 in the Joseph Regenstein Library.

    Hatred: Confronting the Other––the second of the two conferences––will reprise three pioneering Sawyer Seminar programs at the University that took place during the academic years 1995 to 1996, 1996 to 1997 and 1997 to 1998.

    Each of the three seminars examined issues related to the theme “Confrontations with the Other.” The first seminar, “Toleration, Repression and Authority in Early Modern Europe,” investigated the development of and opposition to ideals of tolerance and practices of toleration. The second seminar, “Religion, Law and the Construction of Identities,” reassessed modern dilemmas posed by secularization and resacralization from historical and theoretical perspectives. The third seminar, “Sexual Identities and Identity Politics: Cross-Cultural Investigations,” provided a forum for the study of controversies related to sexual-identity issues with emphasis on the contrast between American and non-Western sexual identities, their social preconditions and the influence of modernity.

    Hunter said the success of the original multiyear sequence occasioned the idea of bringing together Sawyer participants from each of those three programs for an opportunity to address hatred in a common forum.

    Frank Reynolds, Professor in the Divinity School and South Asian Languages & Civilizations, explained the choice to discuss the topic of hatred at the conference. “Throughout the three seminars, ‘hatred’ was a pervasive phenomenon of concern, but still it has received little direct attention.”

    Reynolds, along with fellow Seminar Chairs Richard Strier, Professor in English Language & Literature and the Frank L. Sulzberger Professor of Civilizations in the College, and Beth Povinelli, Professor in Anthropology, determined that a final conference would offer participants from each of the past programs, as well as new speakers, a chance to meet and share insights.

    “This will be an opportunity to explore how the sources and expressions of hatred can best be understood and how the problems it generates can be more creatively and effectively addressed,” Reynolds added.

    Hatred: Confronting the Other, which is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 11, through Sunday, Feb. 13, will include speakers Charles Taylor, professor of philosophy at McGill University; David Katz, professor of history at Tel Aviv University; and Janet Halley, professor of law at Stanford University. Other events leading up to Hatred: Confronting the Other will include film screenings and poetry readings at the Franke Institute. Poet Nate Mackey, professor of literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz, will perform an evening reading Thursday, Feb. 10.

    For more information on either of the conferences, visit the Franke Institute Web site at http://humanities.uchicago.edu/institute or call (773) 702-8274. Both conferences are free and open to the public.