The 2018 Obermann Humanities Symposium and Provost’s Global Forum, “Against Amnesia: Archives, Evidence, and Social Justice,” was directed by Teresa Mangum (Obermann Center and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies and English, CLAS) with the help of a committee of faculty members and campus archivists: Paula Amad (Cinematic Arts, CLAS), Amy Chen (English, CLAS and University Libraries), Matthew Hannah (Obermann Center and Digital Bridges), Marie Kruger (English, CLAS), Jennifer Sessions (History, CLAS), and Miriam Thaggert (English; Gender, Women’s, & Sexuality Studies; and African American Studies, CLAS).
The symposium brought a dozen scholars, artists, and archivists to Iowa City to share their wide-ranging work. Given the emphasis on social justice, presenters experimented with formats and presentation. From the opening keynote, during which UI alum Trudy Peterson invited individuals to read aloud the articles of the International Bill of Human Rights (listen to Peterson’s talk), to the closing session in which participants saw, heard, and felt the intersections of art, archives, and social justice, the symposium demanded the audience’s engagement with tough, demanding histories, memories, bodies, and laws.
This event was a special collaboration with International Programs and the Office of the Provost. We were especially grateful for the Provost’s Global Forum Award, which includes the Joel Barkan Memorial Keynote Lecture.
The UI Center for Human Rights and the Andrew W. Mellon-funded Digital Bridges for Humanistic Inquiry project were co-funders. Additional funding was received from two Ida Cordelia Beam Visiting Professorships from the Provost’s Office.
“[Against Amnesia was] one of the most productive conferences I’ve ever been to. As an artist-scholar who works in a lot of different media, it was incredibly generative for me. I was able to engage with exemplars of scholarly and artistic strategies of assemblage, questioning, and decolonial deconstruction; see new-to-me primary source materials relevant to my book project; pick up tips on how and where to look for items of interest to my own genealogical research in the Caribbean; make connections with local and national scholars whose research interests overlap with my own; and feel a sense of possibility, again, about the archival projects I have on my plate.” —Alea Adigweme, graduate student in Communication Studies, CLAS
Highlights and media:
- Trudy Huskamp Peterson: “Best When Used By: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights”
- William Pretzer: “A Darker Presence: Interpretive Goals and Collecting Strategies in the National Museum of African American History and Culture”
- Jacqueline Wernimont’s HASTAC blog post
- WorldCanvass: Featured speakers
- Center for Human Rights course: Archives and Activism, taught by Obermann HASTAC Graduate Scholar Kelsey McGinnis (UI Center for Human Rights and Music, CLAS)
- Obermann Center Special Topics Graduate Seminar: Archives, Power, and Social Justice, taught by Elizabeth Yale (Center for the Book and History, CLAS)
- Cinematic Arts Graduate Seminar: Digital Dust: Archives and New Media, taught by Paula Amad
- Digital Dust: New Media & Archives, May 1–3 mini-conference of graduate research presentations from Paula Amad’s Cinematic Arts course
- Iowa City Archives Crawl, a collaboration with UI Main Libraries, UI Museum of Natural History, Iowa City Public Library, and the State Historical Society of Iowa. More than 200 people, ranging from Boy Scout troops to lifelong local residents, turned out to interact with holdings in local museums, archives, and libraries
- Aha! in the Archives: Our short video series featuring stories about “aha!” moments in the archives—times when a researcher or artist found something that altered a project or their way of thinking and feeling about a topic