Discovery & Inspiration asks “What can we learn by talking to scholars about their research? What makes them so passionate about the subjects they study? What is it like to make a new discovery? To answer a confounding question?”
For over 40 years the National Humanities Center has been a home away from home for scholars from around the world—historians and philosophers, scholars of literature and music and art and dozens of other fields.
Join us as we sit down with scholars to discuss their work—to better understand the questions that intrigue and perplex them, the passion that drives them, and how their scholarship may change the ways we think about the world around us.
Nancy F. Cott, “Accidental Internationalists: American Journalists Abroad Between the World Wars”
This lecture illuminates the field of international possibility seen by a leading fraction of young Americans in the 1920s. It offers a counter-narrative to the well-worn account of American “expatriates” who succumbed to the seductions of Paris and soon returned home chastened. A far larger stratum of would-be writers lived outside the United States without desire to be “expatriates,” found vocations in journalism, brought the world home to American audiences, and allowed these international ventures to shape their lives.
Paul S. Sutter, “Public Health and the Panama Canal”
When the Panama Canal opened in 1914, it not only revolutionized international trade, but brought about new developments in public health. While diseases like yellow fever and malaria were seen as an inherent threat of “the tropics” by the Americans and French, the process of constructing the canal actually created conditions in which such diseases could proliferate more freely.
In this podcast, Paul S. Sutter (NHC Fellow, 2021–22), professor of history at the University of Colorado, Boulder, discusses the complex interplay of natural and cultural catalysts that can produce and spread disease. Understanding the ways that human activity can bring vectors and viral pathogens together is crucial to reckoning with historical, contemporary, and future public health challenges.
Paul Ushang Ugor, “Socially Responsible Cinema: Femi Odugbemi’s Artistic Vision”
For the past twenty years, Nigerian filmmaking has dominated media production in Africa and among African diasporic communities. One of the most influential figures in this industry is the writer, director, and producer Femi Odugbemi, whose work is an example of the "socially responsible cinema" that has been under-explored in scholarly analyses of Nollywood.
In this podcast, Paul Ushang Ugor (NHC Fellow, 2021–22), associate professor of English at Illinois State University, considers how Odugbemi’s screen media uses popular cultural forms to encourage public awareness of political and ethical issues in Nigeria and across Africa. By exploring this national film tradition, we can examine both the transformative power of art in a postcolonial context and the global influences that have informed the development and popularization of Nollywood.
Maggie M. Cao, “Imperial Painting: Nineteenth-Century Art and the Making of American Empire”
Nineteenth-century American paintings frequently depict foreign settings, from the Caribbean to the Arctic. Many of these artworks seem to reveal moments of cultural exchange or scientific inquiry, but they have rarely been seen as evidence of the growing imperialist tendencies of the United States throughout this century.
In this podcast, Maggie Cao (NHC Fellow, 2021–22), associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, considers how the aesthetics and subject matter of nineteenth-century American art can better help us to understand imperialism as a global and historical concept. By examining paintings from this period, we can trace how complex attitudes about cultural relations were represented and disseminated to a wider public.
Howard Chiang, “Psychoanalysis in China”
In the early twentieth century, psychoanalytic ideas based on the work of Sigmund Freud were taken up, translated, and even challenged by practitioners from a variety of geographic regions and backgrounds. However, the importance of psychoanalytic thought in China has not always been given adequate attention.
In this podcast, Howard Chiang (NHC Fellow, 2021–22), associate professor of history at the University of California, Davis, discusses how tracking the emergence and adaptation of psychoanalysis in China allows us to understand the effects of cultural and disciplinary exchange on emerging intellectual discourses. By examining China’s influence on psychoanalysis, we can tell a better and more global story about the origins of this field of study.
Elizabeth S. Manley, “Imagining the Tropics: Women and Tourism in the Caribbean”
Widely understood as a destination for leisure and pleasure, the Caribbean has drawn visitors from the global north for over a century. Women have played a central role in establishing this image of the islands, from the proliferation of women's travel writing beginning in the late nineteenth century to their active roles in shaping the tourism and hospitality industry.
In this podcast, Elizabeth S. Manley (NHC Fellow, 2021–22), associate professor of history at Xavier University of Louisiana, analyzes the contradictions that have fueled narratives of the Caribbean from the colonial period to the present. By examining the ways that notions of gender, commerce, global mobility, and discourses of exoticism have changed in the region over time, we can better understand how the Caribbean has been culturally constructed as a site for escape and rejuvenation.