Welcome Back, from IHC Director Susan Derwin

Welcome Back, from IHC Director Susan Derwin

September 30, 2020

Listening to all that come to us…is a human duty and reveals an identification with democracy and not with elitism.

—Paulo Freire

Dear Campus and Santa Barbara Community,

As we embark on another academic year, we at the IHC are looking forward to partnering with you in pursuit of our mission to advance knowledge about human experience in cultural, historical, and social contexts, through programs that foster human agency, social connectivity, and civic empowerment. This mission for us is all the more pressing, as we seek to respond to the national and global crises with compassion and commitment, and in solidarity with those who are suffering.

But we know that if robust solidarities and paths forward are to be forged, we must listen to the voices of individual and collective subjects experiencing oppression. And that before all people can become authors of their own destinies, we must listen to ways of knowing and expressing that exceed dominant epistemologies and regimes of representation. We must listen for the sake of listening, without an intention to respond. Listen to the silences and the inaudible messages those silences contain. Listen with “evenly hovering attention” (Freud), unimpeded by memory or desire (Bion). We must listen deeply, with the “third ear,” directed simultaneously inward and outward (Reik). We must listen with the pores, muscles, and nerves of our bodies, and with our hearts and minds combined—“corazonar” (de Sousa Santos). We must listen to ourselves listening and recognize the internal resistances that make embodied listening difficult. We must listen to be changed.

It is our hope that the IHC’s 2020-21 public events series Living Democracy will provide a platform to forge a community of listeners. The series will include scholars, activists, writers, and artists dedicated to listening in solidarity to the stories and histories of long-silenced peoples and communities and to studying the social formations that have led to their suppression.

Living Democracy begins on October 8 with a talk by UC Santa Barbara historian John Majewski: “Living Democracy in Capitalism’s Shadow: Creative Labor, Black Abolitionists, and the Struggle to End Slavery.” On October 20, two-time National Book Award Winner Jesmyn Ward will speak about her creative process as a writer of America’s South. Ward’s latest novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing, has been described as “a searing, urgent read for anyone who thinks the shadows of slavery and Jim Crow have passed.” Harvard University American Studies and History Professor Lizabeth Cohen will examine the history of efforts—successful and failed—to keep American cities vital, in a talk that will be of particular relevance given the nation’s present state of social, political, and economic imbalance. Cohen’s talk, “Struggling to Save America’s Cities in the Suburban Age: Urban Renewal Revisited,” will take place on October 22. Just before the presidential election, on October 29 Archon Fung (Harvard Kennedy School) will explore what it will take to create a deeper, more egalitarian and deliberative democracy in the nation. Finally, to conclude the fall line-up of Living Democracy, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, of the City University of New York Graduate Center, will discuss abolition as a practical program for urgent change grounded in the needs, talents, and dreams of vulnerable people. Her talk, “Making Abolition Geographies: Stories from California,” will take place on November 19.

Please join us via Zoom for these events, which will also be presented in ASL and Spanish. Register online and learn about our other programs and events at ihc.ucsb.edu.

I wish you a successful academic year ahead, and please be in touch, as always, with your ideas and energies for interdisciplinary collaborations.

With best wishes,
Susan Derwin
IHC Director