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Humanities in Crisis

Question 1:

Culture Wars

Describe how college officials’ answer to the question “what is art” enabled them to provide a reason to the public and artists why they censored and canceled a human rights-themed exhibit. Hint: administrators claimed art cannot be investigated. Describe in your own words what they meant and how defenders of artistic freedom might respond. You should summarize the article, in other words. Do so in a minimum of three sentences. If you are confused by the article’s meanings, persevere in your effort, not your accuracy that count.

Question 2:

Crisis of Representation

According to The New York Times a sociologist, Alice Goffman was criticized for how she represented the experiences of African American youths in Philadelphia. What did her critics say about her book? How are their criticisms reflective of a ‘crisis of representation’ in the humanities and academic culture?

Hint: ‘crisis of representation’ refers to asking questions or challenging others’ works through criticizing their right or ability to represent the experience of others. Those who question whether an author should represent other people-especially those with less power than the author-often advocate for the right of people being depicted in books, films, and other media to participate in their representation. This is encapsulated by the phrase, no about us without us.


Today, we become cultural anthropologists, researching and writing through a critical lens, an eye for detail and nuance, and a commitment to fighting “the single narrative” wherever it may appear with a true story that better attends to the diversity of human culture and experience.

  1. Interview someone else. Your goal is to help them share their thoughts, ideas, practices and perspective with you. You can interview someone by phone or in person, but be sure to speak to them. Unless an ability-related accommodation is needed to carry out the interview–for example, you’re interviewee can’t hear, be sure to talk with them. Texting or emailing doesn’t count. Calling or seeing them does. And so too “participant observation” methods count. Besides talking, what else can you and your interviewee do? Make a meal. Play a game. ANY activity that allows you to participate in another’s world-and them to participate in yours.
  2. Your letter should be at least 200 words. Addressed to a real person you have spoken to for this assignment.
  3. We don’t hide ourselves from our story but scrutinize the ideas and stories we bring to see the world through when writing our anthropological accounts. What are your thoughts, ideas, and feelings, and how did hearing an account of another’s life or interviewing someone else impact you? Be sure to REACT to the interviewee in your letter that is not just about them, but also is written to them, from you. Make your reaction part of your account.
  4. Your letter should articulate, at any point, how the person’s story challenges any “single story” you’ve heard.

Last Updated on July 21, 2022

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