Oakland University
Center for Public Humanities


Dear Friends,

As we negotiate historic uncertainties this fall semester, I am reassured by the dedication and fortitude of our community. Our University’s leaders work tirelessly to ensure a safe environment. Our colleagues in the sciences have taken on projects related to COVID-19. And our humanists, artists, and performers continue to inspire us, build our collective resolve, and remind us of our shared humanity as we struggle with the pandemic and work to overcome systemic racism.
The Center for Public Humanities joins these efforts. This year, all of our programs and events focus on “care” in order to explore how we might pay homage, look after, and strengthen each other and our communities in this trying time. All of our public events this fall will be offered online, and we encourage you to register for these exciting opportunities.
The arts and humanities form an integral support system, particularly when we need to be reminded of our shared connections. Please reach out to me or to any member of our Community Advisory Board. We would love to hear from you.

Take good care, 
John (signed)
John Corso-Esquivel
Director, Center for Public Humanities and
Associate Professor of Art History 


Photo of Karen Miller

The Flawed Victory of Women's Suffrage

September 8th, 7:00 PM. ONLINE.

OU history professor Karen Miller examines what women's suffrage accomplished, and what it failed to achieve.
Supported by the Department of Women and Gender Studies and the Center for Civic Engagement.

Photo of Belinda Kong

Creativity and Community during Covid-19: A Look at Chinese Social Media

October 12th, 5:30 PM. ONLINE.

Bowdoin College Associate Professor Belinda Kong shows how ordinary people in China use social media to create community amidst Covid-19.
Generously funded by Student Affairs & Diversity.

Great Michigan Read Book Club: What the Eyes Don't See

Great Michigan Read Book Club: What the Eyes Don't See

November 18th, 2:00 PM. ONLINE.

Join us for an online book club to discuss Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha's What The Eyes Don't See, a powerful first-hand account of the Flint water crisis. Facilitated by Professors Adolfo Campoy-Cubillo, Mark Navin, and Michael Doan. Space is limited! Please register by September 28th.
This project is funded by Michigan Humanities, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Hand painting the word Poetry as street art
Photo by Trust "Tru" Katsande on Unsplash


By Katie Hartsock, #WordsForResilience Editor
Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing, Oakland University

In this time of pandemic, physical separation has led many of us to contemplate human connectedness, in all its elusiveness, beauty, and necessity. It has been a joy to edit #WordsForResilience, and to showcase language and poetic thought as one of our deepest wells of connection across time and—more pertinently right now—space. Sharing new creative work and favorite literary quotes from the OU community and Michigan writers, #WordsForResilience has given us, and friends and family across the country, a place to reflect and find resolve.
A poem by alumnus Donald Beagle was picked up by LA-based podcast A Moment of Your Time. Jamaican Poet Laureate Lorna Goodison, who gave the 2017 Maurice Brown Memorial poetry reading at OU, sent us to a Denise Levertov poem. Dunya Mikhail, internationally renowned Iraqi-American poet and Special Lecturer in Arabic at OU, shared a poem evoking hardship and hope as it “sings about the ruins, / a beautiful song with no walls.” And a poem by 2020 OU graduate Grant Howington expressed one of the many paradoxical emotions of this year: “I wish we could return to normal / but really I wish for things to change.” Befriend and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to receive new #WordsForResilience every week.


By David C. Bricker
Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, Oakland University

Philosophers are trained to untangle the content of concepts people use to understand their situations and to plan their actions. When I learned that ‘care’ is the proposed theme for the Center’s attention I immediately thought of the distinction between reasonable and unreasonable care. Unreasonable care might be care for an unworthy objective, or care using unsuitable means however worthy the objective. An example of an unworthy objective might be caring for the purpose of manipulating the recipient. Bad caring wastes resources, leads to unintended and bad outcomes or intended outcomes that are bad nevertheless. Caring for a single person should be distinguished from caring for a community. Caring for communities often is pursued through mediating institutions, either charitable or governmental. Mediation by institutions increases the risk of squandered resources and unintended outcomes.
The above observations might serve as a beginning point for philosophical study. No doubt much more remains to be untangled.
Photo of Mt. Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School
"Mt. Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School" by Rossograph is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. 

This year marks the bicentennial of the founding of Oakland County. While many of the activities to celebrate that milestone have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Center for Public Humanities has authored a teaching guide for Oakland County teachers and professors to explore an important and too often forgotten aspect of Oakland County’s history—its treatment of Native Americans.
The teaching guide supports online instructors who want to screen the powerful  documentary, “Indian School: A Survivor's Story.” This freely available online documentary was produced by two sisters, Dr. Kay McGowan and Fay Givens. It charts the traumatic forced relocation of Native Michigan children to notoriously abusive Indian boarding schools like the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School. We offer this guide with the belief that celebration must also be accompanied by measured reflection. The downloadable guide assists regional instructors who want to bring this critical discussion into their undergraduate classrooms.
View the Teacher's Guide


By Josephine Walwema
Department of English, University of Washington

CAS Dean Kevin Corcoran convened an ad hoc Humanities Working Group in September 2019 to author a white paper on the role of the humanities at Oakland University. Several members of the Center’s Community Advisory Board also served on this ad hoc committee. As the Working Group finalizes its report, we share a summary of its findings here.
The Humanities at OU are as integral to its founding as the land given over for its construction. The liberal arts were valued for the ability to foster clear organized thinking, creativity, and logic among graduates in all disciplines. It is thus not surprising that Oakland's founding curriculum included “non-western civilizations,” programs and courses in the performing arts, and a center for urban affairs.
As well, a number of projects and programs designed to enhance the cultural awareness of the community featured prominent speakers and classes in Black History; seminars on African rituals, customs, modes, and dress; and a language class in Swahili.
Curiosity about the human condition, having empathy for people, seeing cause and effect at broad levels and in widely disparate outputs is the purview of the humanities. Students steeped in the humanities are inherently prone to diverse thinking and can anticipate and serve the needs of a wide array of people.
Note: Professor Walwema was an Associate Professor of Writing & Rhetoric at Oakland University and a Community Advisory Board Member. As Dr. Walwema relocates to take a position a the University of Washington in Seattle, we wish her farewell and offer gratitude for her service!
The Center for Public Humanities will again join the All-University Fund Drive (AUFD) this fall! Funds go directly to support the programs we deliver to engage our community in the arts and humanities, including faculty-led events, research conversations, and more. 


Since 2006, Kresge Library has celebrated “Authors at Oakland,” alternating between articles and books published by Oakland University faculty and staff. This year’s in-person “Celebration of the Book” was canceled due to Covid-19. The Center for Public Humanities would like to join Kresge Library in celebrating our University’s authors. In future years, we look forward to highlighting books published in the arts, humanities, and proximate fields. Congratulations, authors!


Islamophobia as Supplement for Anti-Black Racism

Islamophobia as Supplement for Anti-Black Racism

January 27th
Dr. Stephen Sheehi of the College of William & Mary explores how Islamophobia is intertwined with political policing and suppression in the US.
Generously funded by the Hajja Razia Sharif Sheikh Endowment for Islamic Understanding Programs. 
Poetry Reading and Chat: With Care?

Poetry Reading and Chat: With Care?

February 16th
World-renowned poet and Guggenheim Fellow Dunya Mikhail will read and discuss her recent poetry.
Collaboration, Care, and Community Building in Women-Centered Hip Hop

Collaboration, Care, and Community Building in Women-Centered Hip Hop

March 18th
For the inaugural Distinguished Lecture in Public Humanities, OU Professors Rebekah Farrugia and Kellie Hay talk about the Detroit hip hop collective The Foundation with live hip hop performances!
Screening: Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake in 3D

Screening: Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake in 3D

April 1st
The stunning 3D film version of Sir Matthew Bourne's restaging of the ballet Swan Lake—with male swans!
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