Prior to her death in 1997, Idee Levitan-Maxted, calligrapher, painter and poet, contributed a generous endowment to the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center. The Idee Levitan IHC Endowed Lecture Series was established in recognition of her gift. It will ensure that visiting scholars are brought to campus annually to discuss the relationship between the disciplines of art, philosophy and science as well as the creative processes that bridge the disciplines.

Known to her friends as "Mighty Idee," Levitan-Maxted was both an artist and a patron of the arts who participated regularly in the cultural life of Santa Barbara. She also had a lifelong passion for Eastern spirituality and alternative health practices. The inaugural address in the Idee Levitan IHC Lecture Series was delivered by Simon Schama, Old Dominion Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University, who spoke on "Rembrandt and Blindness" (Spring, 1999). The next event in this series featured Svetlana Alpers, Professor Emerita at the University of California, Berkeley and Visiting Research Professor in the Department of Fine Art at New York University, discussing "Velasquez's The Spinners or What Are We Looking For?" (Spring, 2000). It was followed by an international conference, "Packrats and Bureaucrats: Study in the Archives" (Winter, 2001) devoted to the phenomenon of collecting that featured the participation of renowned Russian artists, Ilya & Emilia Kabakov. The next event featured eminent poet and professor of English at the University of Houston, Edward Hirsch who discussed his just released book, "The Demon and the Angel: Searching for the Source of Artistic Inspiration" (Spring 2002).

Since then there have been a number of highlights in Idee Levitan IHC Lecture Series: Thomas Crow, Director of the Getty Research Center, spoke on "The Unknown Conversation: The Last Works of Mark Rothko and Eva Hesse" (Fall 2002); Okwui Enwezor, Curator of Documenta XI, discussed "The Postcolonial Constellation: Contemporary Art in a State of Permanent Transition" (Spring 2003); and W. J. T. Mitchell, Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor of English and Art History, University of Chicago, explored "Abstraction and Intimacy" (Spring 2003).

Past Events

2015 - 2016

talk: The Natural and the Supernatural in the Scientific Study of Meditation and the Cognitive Science of Religion

John D. Dunne (Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Thursday, February 18, 2016 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

Over the last two decades, some of the most influential scientific studies of meditation have examined practices derived from Buddhism, and the success of these studies — as expressed in impact factors, citation rates, and grant funding — likely rests in part on their capacity to articulate “meditation” in a fashion that remains strictly naturalistic. During the same period, however, the cognitive science of religion (CSR) has routinely deployed the category of the “supernatural” as essential to anything that we can properly call “religion.” From the CSR perspective, one might conclude that the naturalistic rhetoric found in scientific studies simply reflects the ongoing modernist strategy of formulating a “scientific Buddhism” that is not a “religion.” While illuminating, this interpretation nevertheless leaves in place the highly problematic notion of the “supernatural” itself, especially as the marker of “religion.”  This talk explores the aligned oppositions of natural/supernatural and science/religion within both the science of meditation and the Cognitive Science of Religion. Drawing on the critique offered long ago by Emile Durkheim, it shows how the rhetoric of both contexts remains largely blind to the modernist assumptions inherent in the concept of the “supernatural.”

Sponsored by the IHC’s Idee Levitan Endowment and the IHC series The Humanities and the Brain.

soundcloudClick here to listen to a recording of John Dunne’s talk for the 2015-16 IHC series The Humanities and the Brain

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2014 - 2015

artist talk: Music of the Anthropocene

John Luther Adams (composer, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Become Ocean)
Thursday, June 4 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

Today a growing number of geologists believe we have left the Holocene and entered a new period—the Anthropocene—in which the dominant geologic force is humanity itself.  What does this mean for music? What does it mean for a composer, or for any creative artist working in any medium today?  Can music be engaged with current events and at the same time detached from them? Can music resonate with world around us, and yet still create a world of its own?

Called “one of the most original musical thinkers of the new century” (Alex Ross, The New Yorker), John Luther Adams is a composer whose life and work are deeply rooted in the natural world. Adams composes for orchestra, chamber ensembles, percussion and electronic media. A recipient of the Heinz Award for his contributions to raising environmental awareness, Adams has also been honored with the Nemmers Prize from Northwestern University “for melding the physical and musical worlds into a unique artistic vision that transcends stylistic boundaries.”

Sponsored by the IHC’s Idee Levitan Endowment and the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

Footage from the documentary Strange and Sacred Noise
courtesy of Leonard Kamerling and the Alaska Center for Docuemtary Film,
Univeristy of Alaska Museum of the North

Listen to a recording of this talk by John Luther Adams for the IHC series The Anthropocene: Views from the Humanities.

John Luther Adams will also appear at the Ojai Music Festival:

Sila: The Breath of the World (West Coast Premiere)
Thu June 11, 3:30-4:45 PM
Libbey Park, Ojai

Festival collaborator and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Luther Adams returns to Ojai with the West Coast premiere of “Sila: The Breath of the World,” to be performed at a free community event throughout Libbey Park. This new work for an ensemble of 80 musicians received its first performances last July at the Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival. In the Inuit tradition, sila is the spirit that animates all things – the wind, the weather, and all forces of nature. In “Sila,” composed specifically to be heard outdoors listeners alike are encouraged to move about the performance space freely. The Ojai performance will include musicians from CalArts, ICE, and percussion ensemble red fish blue fish.

For more information, visit www.OjaiFestival.org or call 805-646-2053. Sila is a free event and open to the public.
We encourage audience members to bring blankets or chairs.

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2013 - 2014

talk: The Good Funeral: Death, Grief and the Community of Care

Thomas Lynch (poet, author of The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade)
Thomas Long (Candler School of Theology, Emory University)
Thursday, February 6, 2014 / 5:00 PM
Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall, UCSB Music Building

In the authors’ book, The Good Funeral: Death, Grief and the Community of Care, two of the most authoritative voices on the funeral industry come together here to discuss the current state of the funeral. Through their different lenses–one as a preacher and one as a funeral director–Thomas G. Long and Thomas Lynch alternately discuss several challenges facing “the good funeral,” including the commercial aspects that have led many to be suspicious of funeral directors, the sometimes tense relationship between pastors and funeral directors, the tendency of modern funerals to exclude the body from the service, and the rapid growth in cremation.

Courtesy of Chaucer’s Books, copies of The Good Funeral will be available for purchase and signing.

Parking for this event will be available in Lot 3, which is the parking lot closest to the Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall.  Please visit UCSB’s interactive parking map or visit the Department of Music’s website for directions to the Concert Hall.

Sponsored by the IHC series The Value of Care, the IHC’s Idee Levitan Endowment, and the Walter H. Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion, and Public Life.

Click here to listen to a recording of Thomas Lynch’s talk for the IHC’s Value of Care series.

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2012 - 2013

Talk: Combat Trauma and Moral Injury

Jonathan Shay (author of Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character and Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming)
Tuesday, February 12, 2013 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

Injury of mind and spirit from war is often broader and more destructive than Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as officially defined. The strict definition can be understood as the persistence, after battle, of the valid adaptations in brain and mind that kept you alive when other humans were trying to kill you. In civilian life, these adaptations are not needed and become impairments. In the ‘90s, Shay coined the term “moral injury” for a painfully common source of the “something more,” not captured by PTSD, but supremely captured by Homer in his portrait of Achilles in the Iliad. Compared to pure PTSD, moral injury destroys the capacity for trust, increases suicidality, domestic violence, and criminality, and wrecks the capacity for a flourishing human life. Shay will explain moral injury, describe how the term is now used for two related but different damages of war, and give his view on the prevention of psychological and moral injury in military service. Shay, a 2007 MacArthur Fellow, has spent over twenty years working with veterans and military leaders. He is a passionate advocate of improved mental health treatment for soldiers and of more effective efforts to prevent PTSD and moral injury in military service.

Sponsored by the IHC’s Idee Levitan Endowment and the IHC series FalloutIn the Aftermath of War.

Click here to listen to recording of Jonathan Shay’s talk from the IHC Fallout series.

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2011 - 2012

Panel: Using the Ancient Greeks to Think About Public Goods: a Dialogue

Greg Anderson (History, Ohio State University)
Josiah Ober (Classics & Political Science, Stanford)
Glenn Patten (Classics, UCSB)
Thursday, February 16, 2012 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

Classical structures (such as the polis) and ideas (such as koinonia) are frequently invoked in discussions of the common good — either as the grounds from which modern ideas and structures developed, or as marks of a fundamental break between ancient and bourgeois societies.  Two leading scholars offer complementary views, exploring both civic decision-making and social practices, Aristotelian theory and cultural context, continuity of past with present and the distance between them.  Together they offer new perspectives on the problem of re-imagining the commons today.

Greg Anderson is the Ohio State University Department of History’s  specialist in the history of ancient Greece. He is a graduate of the universities of Newcastle and London in his native Britain, and holds MA, MPhil, and PhD degrees in Classics from Yale University. Anderson’s primary research areas are archaic Greece, classical Athens, and social theory. His work explores articulations between culture, politics, and the production of material life. His first book, The Athenian Experiment (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003), addressed the cultural implications of the shift from a narrow oligarchic regime to a more socially inclusive political formation in pre-classical Athens. Among his more recent publications, one article reconsiders the cultural construction of “tyranny” in archaic Greece, while another makes a case for seeing the classical Greek “state” as a cultural “effect,” the product of a complex entanglement between the material and the ideational. His current book project (Illiberal Athens) is a postmodern Marxist “social ecology” of classical Athens, an account of the inequalities, the exploitations, and the other costs of producing a “free society” in Greek antiquity.

Josiah Ober, the Constantine Mitsotakis Chair in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanf, specializes in the areas of ancient and modern political theory and historical institutionalism. He has a secondary appointment in the Department of Classics and a courtesy appointment in Philosophy. His most recent book, Democracy and Knowledge: Innovation and Learning in Classical Athens, was published by Princeton University Press in 2008. His ongoing work focuses on the theory and practice of democracy and the politics of knowledge and innovation, Recent articles and working papers seek to explain economic growth in the ancient Greek world, the relationship between democracy and dignity, and the aggregation of expertise.

He is sole author of about 60 articles and chapters and several other books, including Fortress Attica (1985), Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens (1989), The Athenian Revolution (1996), Political Dissent in Democratic Athens (1998), and Athenian Legacies 2005). He has held residential fellowships at the National Humanities Center, Center for Hellenic Studies, Univ. of New England (Australia), Clare Hall (Cambridge), Center for the Advanced Study of the Behavioral Sciences , and Univ. of Sydney; research fellowships from the ACLS, NEH, and Guggenheim; and has been a visiting professor at University of Michigan, Paris I-Sorbonne, and UC-Irvine. Before coming to Stanford he taught at Montana State University (1980-1990) and Princeton University (1990-2006).

Sponsored by the Department of Classics, the Department of History, the Department of Political Science and the IHC’s Idee Levitan Endowment as part of its Public Goods series.

Click here to listen to a recording of this panel from the IHC series Public Goods.

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2010 - 2011

Talk: Home as Elsewhere

Yi-Fu Tuan (Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Wednesday, March 9, 2011 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

Plants are truly in place. Animals less so. Humans least of all. That’s the sum of my story. I will elaborate on it in two parts. The first part identifies the conditions that make home, real home, so important to our sense of wellbeing. Leaving home can make us homesick to the extent of incapacitating us. We are prone to be sentimental about home. Even in America, a famously mobile society, the sentiment is popularized in such poems and songs as “Home Sweet Home.” On the other hand, human imagination is always capable of taking us elsewhere to realms of beauty and fruitfulness that no comforts of home can satisfy. So we migrate to greener pastures. But even when we are forced out of home and homeland, even when we are exiled, there are unexpected spiritual/intellectual rewards. Religion itself, whether it be Buddhism or Christianity, considers attachment to home and all that it ideally offers not a blessing but a condition fatal to one’s true destiny.

Sponsored by the  IHC’s Idee Levitan Endowment and the Geographies of Place series.

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2009 - 2010

Talk: Sacred Waters: Arts and Ecologies of Mami Wata and Other Aquatic Divinities in Africa

Henry Drewal (Art History, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Thursday, May 20, 2010 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

Arts for sacred waters in Africa are ancient and widespread. They express deeply-held beliefs and practices about the sanctity and power of water. Mami Wata, Pidgin English for “Mother Water,” is the name of a widely worshiped deity, as well as the generic term for a vast “school” of water deities across much of the African continent. Mami Wata’s many attributes and roles are as fluid as water itself — only the frames of history and culture can give her specificity. This talk explores some of the faces and engagements of Mami Wata in selected environments — cultural and ecological.

Sponsored by the Idee Levitan IHC Endowed Lecture Series, IHC’s Oil+Water series and the Community Environmental Council.

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2008 - 2009

PERFORMANCE: The Cooking Show con Karimi & Comrades: A Live Cooking Performance for Your Heart, Mind, Stomach & Funny Bone

Tuesday, May 19 / 8:00 PM
MultiCultural Center Theater
Admission at the door: $5 general / students free

Savor a tasty theatrical experience with revolutionary chef Mero Cocinero Karimi and his culinary comrades as they dish up Iranian-Guatemalan-Filipino food, cultural consciousness and humor.  Chef Mero creates revolutionary recipes live onstage, serving up stories and healthy political discussion combined with delicious culinary samples, guaranteeing every audience member their own satisfying taste.  The Cooking Show con Karimi & Comrades serves to educate people on the complexity of food and cultural consciousness in a humorous, engaging way, and explores how amidst all the dilemmas and struggles, they can empower themselves by embracing cultural and bio-diversity. http://www.kaoticgood.com/

This event is part of the IHC’s Food Matters series.  Sponsored by the MultiCultural Center and the Idee Levitan IHC Endowed Lecture Series.

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An evening with filmmaker Les Blank

Screenings of All In This Tea (2007)and Yum, Yum, Yum! (1990)
This event has been cancelled due to the Jesusita Fire.

Fresh from a retrospective screening of his films at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the filmmaker’s filmmaker and documentarian Les Blank brings two of his most recent food films to Magic Lantern as part of the Interdisciplinary Humanity Center’s Food Matters series. Since the early 1960s Blank has been well-known for recording the work of American musicians like Clifton Chenier, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Ry Cooder while pursuing interests stretching from Eames design to gap-toothed women. Blank will screen two films Yum, Yum, Yum!, a 1990 movie about Cajun cooking and All in This Tea, his most recent documentary about David Lee Hoffman’s journey through China in quest of the finest leafy brews. Please stay after the screenings for a live interview with Blank and a question and answer period with the Magic Lantern audience. Sponsored by Magic Lantern Films and the IHC’s Idee Levitan Endowed Lecture Series.

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2007 - 2008

Talk: Conflict in Congo – The Challenge of Visual Journalism

Marcus Bleasdale
Monday, March 3 / 8:00 PM
Campbell Hall

Widely published in Time, Newsweek, and National Geographic magazines, photojournalist Marcus Bleasdale has been covering the brutal exploitation of The Democratic Republic of Congo and its natural resources for nearly a decade. Bleasdale is the recipient of the 2007 Freedom of Expression Grant and has won numerous awards including UNICEF Photographer of the Year. His book One Hundred Years of Darkness was recognized as one of the best photojournalism books of 2002 by Photo District News, which dubbed his images some of the most iconic of the 21st Century.

Generously supported by Phyllis de Picciotto and Stan Roden. Co-presented with the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center as part of the Idee Levitan Endowed Lecture Series, and UCSB Arts & Lectures.

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2006 - 2007

Talk: Is it Really the End of Everything?

David Summers (History of Art, University of Virginia)
Tuesday, June 5 / 4:00 PM

McCune Conference Room, HSSB 6020

The paper will be a brief history of the modern ideas of optimism and pessimism, and the relation of these ideas to the historiography of Hegel, which has cut a broad swath in the history of art and the history of culture in general.  I will try to stake out a position beyond optimism and pessimism, rooted in the possibility of a new intercultural conversation in which the history of art should play an essential part.

David Summers is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of the History of Art at the Center for Advanced Studies at the University of Virginia in 1981. He is the author of Real Spaces: World Art History and the Rise of Western Modernism (Phaidon, 2003) which proposes a new and flexible conceptual framework for the study of all art.

Sponsored by the Idee Levitan IHC Endowed Lecture Series, and the Department of the History of Art and Architecture

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Standpoint, Subjectivity, and Gender: Wittgenstein’s House for His Sister in Vienna, 1926-1928

Whitney Davis (Art History, UC Berkeley)
Thursday, May 3 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, HSSB 6020

Ludwig Wittgenstein’s house for his sister Margarethe (Gretl) Stonborough-Wittgenstein, completed in Vienna in 1928, has often been seen as an expression of his philosophy of language.  More likely, however, it was a subtle exploration of Gretl’s form of life–especially of her art collection–and a recognition of her standpoint in relation to her subjectivity and sexuality.  By the same token, it incorporated Ludwig’s standpoint as well, leading to an irresolvable tension in the reconciliation of the multiple standpoints involved in a Lebensformóa problem at the heart of Wittgenstein’s philosophy of meaning and communication.

Whitney Davis is Professor of History & Theory of Ancient & Modern Art and Director of the Consortium for the Arts and the Arts Research Center.

Sponsored by the Idee Levitan IHC Endowed Lecture Series, and the Department of the History of Art and Architecture

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Talk: Whose Renaissance? The Peripatetic Life of Objects in the Era of Globalization

Claire Farago (History of Art, University of Colorado, Boulder)
Monday, April 16 / 4:00 PM
McCune Conference Room, HSSB 6020

This talk investigates some of the contributions of extra-European art to European culture since the first era of globalization in the sixteenth century.  Farago will chart the fortunes of several strategically chosen categories of objects at both ends of the cultural exchange to show how extra-European art and culture have shaped European artistic ideals and also how these same artistic objects performed at their point of origin.  Such artistic objects include Mexican painted manuscripts, European religious prints, and featherwork mosaics.

Dr. Farago is a professor of History of Art at the University of Colorado, Boulder.   As a specialist on many facets of visual culture in the early modern period, including Leonardo da Vinci, she has authored and edited many books including, most recently, Transforming Images: Locating New Mexican Santos in-between Worlds (2006), Grasping the World: The Idea of the Museum (2004), and Reframing the Renaissance: Visual Culture in Europe and Latin America 1450 to 1650 (1995).

Sponsored by the Idee Levitan IHC Endowed Lecture Series, and the Department of the History of Art and Architecture

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