I had a fantastic time at the Wilson College Humanities Conference this weekend. As artists and academics, work never seems like work when we are pursuing those things that engage our spirits and intellects, and getting together with a group of hungry minds at a successful conference is definitely like play time.
The conference theme was Prophetic Fragments: Humanities Past, Present, and Future—a meditation drawn from Cornel West’s book Prophetic Fragments: Illuminations of the Crisis in American Religion and Culture. Central to both the conference and West’s book is the idea that, “….prophets—ancient and modern, religious and secular—tend to engage in an imaginative critique of the status quo.” I presented a paper on Katherine Dunham’s work as a case study of/model for successful interdisciplinarity. In that framework, I was able to discuss ways in which she presaged the civil right movement, and how her approach to ethnography prophesied the advent of postmodern anthropology forty years later.
It was interesting being the only dance person presenting in a group that encompassed diverse scholars specializing in literature, women’s studies, education, philosophy, and bioethics among other disciplines. Because prophecy was central to everyone’s presentation, it was easy for us all to find connections to each others work that sparked many robust discussions. My mind is reeling from the sharing of ideas and feedback with this diverse group—it was a source of ideas for both new artistic and scholarly work. I am definitely looking forward to future conferences outside of dance.