Published: Jan. 27, 2021

Zoom screenshot of panelists during eventHow can artists and scholars help the nation contend with the peril in which we find ourselves? The 2020 US presidential race was one of the most politically and ideologically divisive and contentious races that we’ve ever seen. And as the events of January 6, 2021 have illustrated, the nation remains divided to the point where political leaders at the highest level are challenging election results without any evidence or basis in reality and a largely white group of insurrectionists tried to overthrow the US government. Our humanities centers, located in three different states that also have a history of divided state government, have brought together three artist-scholars to reflect on the cultural, social, and political fall-out from the 2020 election—a fall-out that we will undoubtedly continue to feel the ramifications of long after the January 6, 2021 inauguration—and to imagine paths forward.

On Wednesday, January 27th at 3:30 MT (4:30 CT/5:30 ET), the Center for Humanities & the Arts participated in a joint collaboration among Carolina Public Humanities (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies (University of Iowa) to feature humanities scholars discussing the state of culture, politics, and society in the aftermath of a tumultuous 2020. 

The featured speakers were Ruth Ellen Kocher from CU Boulder, Malinda Maynor Lowery from UNC Chapel Hill, and Christopher Merrill from the University of Iowa. 

This event will took place over Zoom. Here is a recording of the event.


Ruth Ellen Kocher is Senior Associate Dean of Program Initiatives at CU Boulder and the author of domina Un/blued (Tupelo Press 2013), One Girl Babylon (New Issues Press 2003), When the Moon Knows You’re Wandering, winner of the Green Rose Prize in Poetry (New Issues Press 2002), and Desdemona’s Fire, winner of the Naomi Long Madget Award for African American Poets (Lotus Press 1999). Her poems have been translated into Persian in the Iranian literary magazine, She’r, and have appeared or are forthcoming in various anthologies including, Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poets, Black Nature, From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great, An Anthology for Creative Writers: The Garden of ForkingPaths, IOU: New Writing On Money, New Bones: Contemporary Black Writing in America. She has taught poetry writing for the University of Missouri, Southern Illinois University, the New England College Low Residency MFA program, the Indiana Summer Writer’s workshop, and Washington University’s Summer Writing program.

Malinda Maynor Lowery is a Professor of History at UNC-Chapel Hill and Director of the Center for the Study of the American South. She is a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. Her second book, The Lumbee Indians: An American Struggle, was published by UNC Press in September 2018. The book is a survey of Lumbee history from the eighteenth century to the present, written for a general audience. Her first book, Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation (UNC Press, 2010), won several awards, including Best First Book of 2010 in Native American and Indigenous Studies and the Labriola American Indian Center National Book Prize from Arizona State University. She has written over fifteen book chapters or articles, on topics including American Indian migration and identity, school desegregation, federal recognition, religious music, and foodways, and has published essays in the New York Times, Oxford American, The North Star, and Scalawag Magazine. She has won fellowships and grants from the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Sundance Institute, the Ford Foundation, and others. She has produced documentary films, including the Peabody Award-winning A Chef’s Life (5 seasons on PBS), the Emmy-nominated Private Violence (broadcast on HBO in 2014), In the Light of Reverence (broadcast on PBS in 2001), and two short films, Real Indian (1996), and Sounds of Faith (1997), both of which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

Christopher Merrill has published six collections of poetry, including Watch Fire, for which he received the Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets; many edited volumes and books of translations; and five works of nonfiction, among them, Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars and Things of the Hidden God: Journey to the Holy Mountain. His latest prose book, The Tree of the Doves: Ceremony, Expedition, War, chronicles travels in Malaysia, China and Mongolia, and the Middle East. His writings have been translated into twenty-five languages; his journalism appears widely; his honors include a Chevalier from the French government in the Order of Arts and Letters. As director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, Merrill has conducted cultural diplomacy missions to over forty countries. He serves on the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, and in April 2012 President Obama appointed him to the National Council on the Humanities.