Humanities Center

Humanities Center

Welcome to The Syracuse University Humanities Center. Founded in 2008, we are located on the third floor of the historic William P. Tolley Humanities Building at Syracuse University.

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The SU Humanities Center has hosted well over three hundred conferences, public lectures, performance and exhibits at Syracuse University and in the CNY region through its major annual programs Syracuse Symposium ™ and the Central New York Humanities Corridor. We have also sponsored multi-year research programs such as "Images? Precisely!" in conjunction with the SU School of Architecture, as well as the major international initiative the Perpetual Peace Project, now entering its second phase with the "Eat Together for Peace" campaign in Syracuse in Fall 2012 that was followed by the visit of his Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet in October 2012 to participate in the two day program "Common Ground."

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In addition to these major annual programs, including the Humanities Center Dissertation Research Fellowships and Faculty Fellowships generously funded by The College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School, in the past year we initiated the Syracuse Symposium Seminars in which faculty from across the University will offer new courses that address that year's Syracuse Symposium theme at both graduate and undergraduate levels. During the spring semester each year the Center's Fellows also organize The HC Fellow Spring Symposia as part of their residence in the Humanities Center and in conjunction with their area of research, bringing national and international scholars to campus to engage in conversation around their area of research. 

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Humanities_Corridor_2011_color_sm.jpgOriginally established in 2006 by an initial award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and administered by the SU Humanities Center since 2008, the CNY Humanities Corridor has facilitated collaborative research between faculty at Syracuse University, Cornell University, and University of Rochester. Beginning in 2012, the Humanities Corridor received an additional million dollar award from the Mellon Foundation to support a second phase of activities and has expanded to encompass many of the liberal arts colleges and universities in the Central New York region. More detailed information on the history and range of collaborative range of research projects supported by CNY Humanities Corridor project is available at syracusehumanities.org/mellon

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Perspective_Logo_preview.jpgHow do we see the world?  This is the question that the 2014 Syracuse Symposium™ on PERSPECTIVE seeks to answer.  Clearly, our perspective has much less to do with our point of view in any literal sense than with our mindset, the framework of concepts and beliefs that sets our horizons and conditions the nature of our experience.  So often we evaluate the world from what we take to be the immutable truth of our own angle of vision, and we struggle to accept the assessments of others whose culture or life circumstance places them at odds with the world as we see it.  Judgments, misunderstandings, prejudice and pain at times make it almost impossible to respect the perspectives of others and to own the inevitable limitations of our vision from the place in which we stand.  This year’s Syracuse Symposium™ invites us to become aware of the contingent nature of our own perspectives and to consider the degree to which the perspectives of other people, other cultures, and other disciplines coincide with or contradict our own.

The opening event in the Symposium features U.S. Army veteran and award-winning writer, Kevin Powers, whose novel The Yellow Birds and book of poetry entitled Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting, are the creative offspring of his perspective as a soldier in Iraq in 2004 and 2005.  The protagonist of Powers’ novel has the comfortable certainties of his adolescent, US-based worldview violently wrenched from him as he encounters an alien culture and the military imperative to kill many of those who inhabit it.  From the geo-political perspective of war, we will move to phenomena far beyond the limits of the terrestrial realm with this year’s Kameshwar Wali lecture by physicist Mark Trodden. “Embracing the Dark Side” examines the mysteries of dark matter as well as the relationship between the smallest components that make up the universe and the “big picture” presented by modern cosmology. 

The “discovery” of perspective in Renaissance Italy quite literally changed the way people viewed the world as it was represented in art.  Two events, “New Perspectives on Renaissance Art” and the exhibition, “Place and Moment: Day for Night,” address precisely the aesthetic dimensions of perspective and its consequences in art history and contemporary art practice.  That the concept of perspectives also resonates outside the sphere of visual culture is the case made by both of the Symposium events related to sound: “Witnessing Archival Preservation: Perspectives on tape-based media” and the Society for New Music’s performance.  The view points of the marginalized are also considered by Eve Ensler’s lecture, “In the Body of Justice,” by “Indigenous Perspectives on Museums,” and by the conference “Negotiating Feminist Perspectives.”

These and many other events on the program for this year’s Symposium come from an array of disciplinary perspectives, including music, literature, art history, philosophy, drama, religion and cultural studies. Such diversity demonstrates not only the multiple intellectual viewpoints contained within the core disciplines of the humanities, but also the capacity of humanist inquiry to reach across boundaries and borders-- to law, to the sciences and social sciences—to expand our vision in order to forge new, more expansive perspectives that will both look toward and shape the future.

Syracuse Symposium™ events are available at syracusehumanities.org/syracuse-symposium-fall-2014/

Finally, as in past years, the HC will continue the HC Mini-Seminars and the Watson Visiting Distinguished Professorship program to bring national and international scholars and artists to campus to interact with faculty and graduate students. A key objective of the SU Humanities Center is to create a dialogue about the public possibilities of humanistic inquiry, as they pertain to innovative thinking and real-life problems. For more information on upcoming programs, or If you would like to participate in any of the SU Humanities Center's public programs or donate to our ongoing initiatives, please do not hesitate to contact the Center at 315.443.7192, or through the contact form

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Dympna Callaghan
William L. Safire Professor in Modern Letters and
Interim Director of the Humanities Center (2013-2014 academic year)