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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

SU Humanities Center explores conflict with Mini Seminar series

Invitation-only series draws from Syracuse, Ray Smith symposia speakers

Sept. 14, 2010, by Rob Enslin

The SU Humanities Center continues exploring “conflict” with its fall Mini Seminar series. Upcoming participants include ethnomusicologist Deborah Wong and musicologist Pamela Potter (Wednesday, Sept. 15), former FBI special agent Richard A. Marquise (Friday, Nov. 12), music theorist Jonathan Pieslak and ethnomusicologist J. Martin Daughtry (Tuesday, Nov. 16), and director Ping Chong (Friday, Dec. 3). All events run 9 a.m. to noon in The SU Humanities Center’s seminar room (304) in the historic Tolley Building.

The Mini Seminar series is organized by The SU Humanities Center, and is available by invitation only. Seating is limited. To reserve a space, call (315) 443-7192.

“The purpose of the series is to present renowned scholars in a seminar-style format, which is usually more intensive and conversational than a traditional lecture setting,” says Gregg Lambert, Dean’s Professor of the Humanities and founding director of The SU Humanities Center. “Our goal is to create a dialogue about the public possibilities of humanistic inquiry, as they pertain to interdisciplinary thinking and real-world issues.”

Past participants have included Leslie Marmon Silko, the Native American author and activist who kicked off this year’s Syracuse Symposium; W.J.T. Mitchell, the Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor at The University of Chicago; and Richard Dyer, professor of film at King’s College London.

Wong and Potter serve on the faculties of the University of California, Riverside, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, respectively. Their Mini Seminar is part of a larger program titled “Power and Resistance in the Second World War,” presented by the Ray Smith Symposium. Wong, who is professor and chair of music at UCR, specializes in music and performance of Asia America and Southeast Asia. Also, she researches identity politics, performance and cultural studies, mass media, popular culture, critical pedagogy, and music and ritual. Potter, a professor of musicology, holds additional appointments with UW’s German department and Center for Jewish Studies. She has written extensively about music and German national identity, as well as about music and the arts in Nazi Germany.

Marquise spearheaded the investigation of the Pan Am Flight 103/Lockerbie Air Disaster in 1988, in which 270 people died, including 35 SU students. His award-winning service led to the publication of “Scotbom: Evidence and the Lockerbie Investigation” (Algora, 2006). During his 31 years with the FBI, Marquise also served as the special agent in charge of the Oklahoma City Division and as chief of the Terrorist Research and Analytical Center. His Mini Seminar, “International Terrorism:  Threat in U.S. and Proactive Measures,” will explain what terrorist threats are, where they come from, and what the U.S. government does to counteract them.

Pieslak and Daughtry are music professors at CUNY Graduate Center and New York University, respectively. The former is a music theorist and composer whose areas of research include critical theory, rhythm and meter in metal music, and music and war. The latter is a specialist in music of the Russian-speaking world, music and memory, music and politics, and the significance of sound in conflict zones. Their Mini Seminar concludes a three-day “War in Iraq” program, presented by the Ray Smith Symposium.

Chong is an acclaimed director, writer, choreographer, and visual artist who is this fall’s Jeanette K. Watson Distinguished Visiting Collaborator in The SU Humanities Center. He returns to Syracuse Stage for a new piece of documentary theater (“Cry for Peace: Voices From the Congo”), following the success of 2008’s “Tales From the Salt City.” In addition to being one of the nation’s premier theater artists, he is a seminal figure in Asian-American arts. 

“Whether understood as a scourge that marks the human condition or as a tragic necessity of human progress, conflict has always been a catalyst for humanistic inquiry into one of the most persistent features of society,” adds Lambert. “The theme is timely and relevant.”

Conflict” is the theme of this year’s Syracuse Symposium, organized and presented by The SU Humanities Center. In turn, “Music of Conflict and Reconciliation” is the focus of this year’s Ray Smith Symposium, organized by The College’s art and music histories department, with major funding and assistance provided by the Mellon CNY Humanities Corridor, an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation initiative, and The SU Humanities Center.

Founded in 2008, The SU Humanities Center fosters public engagement in the humanities, as well as scholarship in and across various fields of humanistic inquiry. The center is home to Syracuse Symposium; The Mellon Central New York Humanities Corridor, an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation initiative; The Jeanette K. Watson Visiting Collaborator; and other major research initiatives, fellowships and public programming. More information is available at