Global Georgia Public Events Series

The Willson Center’s Global Georgia series brings world-class thinkers to Georgia. It presents global problems in local context by addressing pressing contemporary questions, including the economy, society, and the environment, with a focus on how the arts and humanities can intervene. Global Georgia combines the best in contemporary thinking and practice in the arts and humanities with related advances in the sciences and other areas. The series is made possible by the support of private individuals and the Willson Center Board of Friends.

2023 – 2024

Robert Adams


Title: “Telling Stories Across the Water: The Challenge of Reconstructing Race and History at the Penn Center”
February 1, 2024
Venue: Ciné

“Either the United States will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States.”
W.E.B. DuBois

“Any historical narrative is a bundle of silences.”
Michel-Rolph Trouillot

The idea of African Americans as a “people without history” undergirded the legitimacy of slavery. Even after the demise of this peculiar institution, false narratives produced in the service of slavery sustain racism. Since their arrival on American shores, Black people asserted their humanity by challenging the historical silences that rendered them invisible as historical actors.

Black History Month, a celebration of African American historicity initiated by Carter G. Woodson as Negro History Week in 1926, offers a distinct opportunity to consider the roles and responsibilities of historical institutions like the Penn Center in creating anti-racist histories. Embracing Black history is central to realizing the principles of democracy in the United States. The radical act of illuminating what Trouillot deemed “unthinkable history” is an essential component for liberating American democracy from its traumatic past.

Robert Adams, Jr. is the executive director of the Penn Center in St. Helena, South Carolina. Previously, he worked in philanthropy, academia, public policy, and corporate consulting. Robert earned a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin and an M.A. in sociology from the University of Florida. A 2008 Fulbright Scholar at PUC-São Paulo in Brazil, he has published extensively on African American and Afro-Latin American culture and history.

This event was presented by the Willson Center and the Institute for African American Studies in connection with Culture and Community at the Penn Center National Historic Landmark District, a partnership program of the Willson Center and Penn Center funded by a grant from the Mellon Foundation.

Robert Adams at Penn Center

Alexander Chee


Title: Betty Jean Craige Lecture – “On Productive Ambivalence”
February 21, 2024
Venue: Ciné

This event was presented as the Department of Comparative Literature and Intercultural Studies’s annual Betty Jean Craige Lecture, co-sponsored by the Willson Center in partnership with the department of English, the Georgia Review, and the Creative Writing Program.

Alexander Chee is the bestselling author of the novels Edinburgh and The Queen of the Night, and the essay collection How To Write An Autobiographical Novel, all from Mariner Books. A contributing editor at The New Republic and an editor at large at VQR, his essays and stories have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, T Magazine, The Sewanee Review, and the 2016 and 2019 Best American Essays. He was guest-editor for The Best American Essays of 2022.

He is a 2021 United States Artists Fellow, a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow in Nonfiction, and the recipient of a Whiting Award, a NEA Fellowship, an MCCA Fellowship, the Randy Shilts Prize in gay nonfiction, the Paul Engle Prize, the Lambda Editor’s Choice Prize, and residency fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the VCCA, Leidig House, Civitella Ranieri and Amtrak.

Chee is a full professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College and lives in Vermont.

The annual Betty Jean Craige lecture honors Craige, University Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature and a former director of the Willson Center.

Alexander Chee

Noa Yedlin


Title: “Crafting Unconventional Narratives: A Journey in Literature (and Television)”
February 28, 2024
Venue: Ciné

Noa Yedlin is a bestselling Israeli author, recipient of the Sapir Prize (the Israeli Man Booker) and the Prime Minister’s Literature Award, and author of the novels Track Changes, House Arrest, People Like Us, The Wrong Book, and Stockholm, which was published in English by Harper Collins in 2023. Yedlin is also the creator of a prize-winning television series based on Stockholm, which in turn has been re-made for television in Germany and in Sweden. Another of her bestselling novels, People Like Us, is currently being developed for television, and her novel House Arrest was adapted for the stage and performed at Beit Lessin Theater in Tel Aviv, where she lives. Yedlin was named by Haaretz Magazine one of “66 Israeli Women You Should Know.”

This lecture was presented by the Department of Comparative Literature and Intercultural Studies and the Willson Center.

Noa Yedlin

A. E. Stallings


Title: UGA Humanities Festival Opening Keynote Lecture and Conversation
March 12, 2024
Venue: UGA Chapel

A. E. Stallings is an American poet who studied Classics at Oxford and as a Foundation Fellow at the University of Georgia. In October 2023 she began her four-year elected term as Oxford Professor of Poetry, one of the world’s most prestigious academic honors in the field of poetry.

She has published four collections of poetry, Archaic Smile, Hapax, Olives, and most recently, Like, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She has published three verse translations, Lucretius’s The Nature of Things (in rhyming fourteeners!), Hesiod’s Works and Days, and an illustrated The Battle Between the Frogs and the Mice. A selected poems edition, This Afterlife, has been published by FSG in the US and Carcanet in the UK.

Stallings has received a translation grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and fellowships from United States Artists, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation. She is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She speaks and lectures widely on a variety of topics, and has been a faculty member at conferences such as the Sewanee Summer Writers’ Conference and Breadloaf.

This event was presented by the Department of Classics, the Felson Classics Endowment, the Willson Center, the Jere W. Morehead Honors College, the UGA at Oxford Program, the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, and by the UGA Humanities Council as part of the UGA Humanities Festival. It was also part of the Spring 2024 UGA Signature Lecture Series.

A.E. Stallings in front of the Parthenon

Hua Hsu


Title: Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding; UGA Humanities Festival Closing Keynote Lecture and Conversation
March 21, 2024
Venue: Georgia Museum of Art

The Willson Center welcomed Pulitzer Prize-winning author Hua Hsu to UGA March 21-22, 2024 as the annual Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding. This event, which included a reading and conversation with Ed Pavlić, Distinguished Research Professor of English, African American studies, and creative writing, was part of the Willson Center’s Global Georgia public event series and the UGA Humanities Festival. Hsu’s visit was presented in partnership with the Institute for Asian Studies and the Georgia Review.

Hua Hsu is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of A Floating Chinaman: Fantasy and Failure Across the Pacific (2016) and the memoir Stay True (2022), which won the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for Memoir or Autobiography and the 2022 National Book Critics Circle award in autobiography. Hsu is professor of literature at Bard College.

Hsu is a contributor to CBS News’s Sunday Morning; serves on the governance board of Critical Minded, a collaboration between the Ford Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation; and serves as judge for various literary competitions and fellowships, including the PEN America Literary Awards, Rona Jaffe Fellowship, and Dayton Literary Peace Prize. He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in criticism in 2018 (New Yorker); was a finalist for the James Beard Award for Food Writing in 2013 (for “Wokking the Suburbs,” Lucky Peach); and his work has been anthologized in Best Music Writing (2010 and 2012) and Best African American Essays 2010.

Hua Hsu

Kellie Carter Jackson


Title: Women’s History Month Keynote Event
March 26, 2024
Venue: UGA Special Collections Libraries

Kellie Carter Jackson is the Michael and Denise Kellen ’68 Associate Professor in the Department of Africana Studies at Wellesley College. She studies the lived experiences of Black people with a focus on slavery, abolitionism, the Civil War, political violence, Black women’s history, and film. She is the author of the award-winning book Force & Freedom: Black Abolitionists and the Politics of Violence, which won the SHEAR James H. Broussard Best First Book Prize. Force and Freedom was also a finalist for the Frederick Douglass Book Prize, a finalist for the Museum of African American History Stone Book Prize and listed among 13 books to read on African American History by the Washington Post.

Carter Jackson is also co-editor of Reconsidering Roots: Race, Politics, & Memory. Her essays have been featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, NPR, and other outlets. She has also been interviewed for her expertise on Netflix, Apple TV, “Good Morning America,” “CBS Mornings,” MSNBC, PBS, Vox, CNN, the BBC, The History Channel, Al Jazeera, Slate, and in a host of documentaries.

Carter Jackson is a Historian-in-Residence for the Museum of African American History in Boston. She also serves as a commissioner for the Massachusetts Historical Commission, where she represents the Museum of African American History in BostonKrebs earned a PhD in English from Indiana University, where she specialized in Victorian literature and culture, and a BA from La Salle College (now La Salle University).

This talk was presented by the Institute for Women’s Studies as the Women’s History Month Keynote event, in partnership with the Willson Center.

Kellie Carter Jackson

Mary Reynolds


Title: Odum Environmental Ethics Lecture
April 11, 2024
Venue: Jackson Street Building

Mary Reynolds is a “reformed” internationally acclaimed landscape designer who launched her career at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2002, the story of which was told in the 2016 film Dare to be Wild. She is a bestselling author, inspirational speaker, occasional television presenter, and founder of “We Are the ARK,” an international practical movement intended to “shift the environmental game in nature’s favor.” The movement posits that “the time for gardens as canvases for our creative pleasure is over. Everything must change and if we are to save the planet, then we must start with our own patches of it. It’s time to re-imagine our work as gardeners, to become leaders in the race to save our beautiful planet, to save ourselves.”

The Odum Environmental Ethics Lecture is presented by the Willson Center, the Environmental Ethics Certificate Program, the College of Environment + Design, and the Office of Sustainability.

Mary Reynolds

High Museum of Art Conversation


Title: “Truth Told Slant”
April 12, 2024
Venue: Lamar Dodd School of Art

A panel discussion with artists included in the High Museum exhibition “Truth Told Slant,” which featured emerging photographers who take dynamic and innovative approaches to documentary photography that challenge the established principles of observing the contemporary world. The High Museum hosted its own conversation event for the exhibition at the museum the following day.

Photographers Tommy Kha and Jill Frank participated in the conversation, which was moderated by Jon Feinstein.

This event was presented by the Lamar Dodd School of Art, the High Museum of Art, and the Willson Center. [Photograph: Tommy Kha, “The Small Guardian (The Isle of Misfit Toys), The Shoals, Alabama,” 2018]

Tommy Kha (American, born 1988), The Small Guardian (The Isle of Misfit Toys), The Shoals, Alabama, 2018

Valerie Babb


Title: Conversation: The Book of James with Author Valerie Babb, Ed Pavlić, and Greg Taylor
April 18, 2024
Venue: Delta Innovation Hub

Valerie Babb, Andrew Mellon Professor of Humanities at Emory University, joined Ed Pavlić, Distinguished Research Professor of English and African American Studies, and Greg Taylor, the former and founding executive director of the NBA Foundation, for a conversation around Babb’s new book The Book of James: The Power, Politics, and Passion of LeBron. This event was presented by the Willson Center and the Institute for African American Studies.

Valerie Babb holds a joint appointment in the departments of African American Studies and English at Emory. The Book Of James was published in November 2023 by Hachette Book Group. The New York Times called it “a wonderful companion to James’ legacy, and an outright clinic on how to write about basketball, race, culture and America itself.”

Among Babb’s other publications are A History of the African American Novel (2017) and Whiteness Visible: The Meaning of Whiteness in American Literature and Culture (1998), She co-authored the book Black Georgetown Remembered (1991), and developed and produced the video by the same name. From 2000-2010 she was editor of the Langston Hughes Review. She has been a Scholar-in-Residence at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and is the recipient of a W. M. Keck Foundation Fellowship in American Studies. She has lectured extensively in the United States and abroad and presented a Distinguished W. E. B. Du Bois Lecture at Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany. Babb was co-PI for the $1 million Mellon Foundation grant that supports Culture and Community at the Penn Center National Historic Landmark District, a partnership project of the Willson Center and St. Helena, SC’s Penn Center.

Ed Pavlić’s 13 published books range across (and at times between) genres: poetry, non-fiction, critical studies, and a novel. He twice served as director of the Creative Writing PhD Program in English (2006-2011, 2015-2017).

His most recent books are Call It in the Air (2022), a book-length documentary poem; Outward: Adrienne Rich’s Expanding Solitudes (2021), a study of the poet’s career; Let It Be Broke (2020) a collection of poems focused upon racial dynamics in contemporary life; and Another Kind of Madness (2019), a novel set in Chicago and coastal Kenya and tuned to the sound and structure of soul music, especially the songs of Chaka Khan.

As Executive Director of the NBA Foundation, Greg Taylor was responsible for the strategic development, creation and implementation of programs and partnerships that advanced the Foundation’s efforts to increase access and support for high school, college-aged, job-ready and mid-career Black men and women. Additionally, Taylor oversaw the administration of grants to national and local organizations to provide skills training, mentorship, coaching and pipeline development. Taylor also guided the Foundation’s organizational goals, managed its operations and resources, and designed fundraising to yield long-term success. Working closely with the NBA Foundation Board of Directors, Program Officers, National Basketball Players Association and all 30 NBA teams, he formed impactful partnerships and oversees support for national and local organizations in NBA markets and communities across the United States and Canada. He also managed a team of program managers, administrators and interns.

In his previous post with the NBA, Taylor was Senior Vice President for Player Development, in which role he worked closely with players, from rookies to veterans, journeymen to superstars, helping them navigate the unique demands which arise in the lives and careers of NBA players in the 21st century.

Valerie Babb

Julien Berger and Cassie Chantel


Title: “The Mask You Wear”
April 25, 2024
Venue: Ciné


“The Mask You Wear” is a musical composition collaboratively created by composer Julien Berger and composer and lyricist Cassie Chantel. Supported by the Athens Hip Hop Harmonic, this work blends classical saxophone quartet music with multi-genre vocalist and recording artist Chantel’s riveting lyrics. This event included a live performance of the piece, featuring saxophone quartet Mixed Media with Chantel, and a discussion with the composers and moderator Nkululeko Zungu.

Berger is an Athens, GA-based composer and saxophonist whose music is rooted in storytelling. Julien is influenced by contemporary wind ensemble music, saxophone chamber and solo music, and other contemporary styles, such as hip hop, jazz, and pop. His aim is to connect with audiences with his music across the boundaries of genre and style.

Leading with the story-telling element of classic hip hop while being as unorthodox as today’s rap/pop music, Chantel is an artist whose body of work cannot be categorized with generic labels. The tone of her voice defies gender and sexuality stereotypes with its ambiguous depth and transcends into her image. Known for embodying both feminine and masculine energy, Chantel gives a fresh perspective to the music industry.

Zungu moderated a discussion with Julien and Cassie, discussing the creative and collaborative process behind this piece. Zungu is a South African-born Black composer whose passion for music started in Cape Town, South Africa where he was surrounded by many styles and genres of music. His own expression is influenced by soundscapes and introspective art that can be found in music exploring avant-pop, trip-hop, electronic music, and spiritual styles. He can be seen performing under the alias ‘Kuza.

This event was presented by the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, the Athens Hip Hop Harmonic, and the Willson Center.

Cassie Chantel and Julien Berger

2022 – 2023

Nabil Ayers


Title: “Nabil Ayers in Conversation with David Barbe”
February 20, 2023
Orkin Hall

Writer and music executive Nabil Ayers joined David Barbe, director of the Music Business Program in the Terry College of Business, for a conversation about Ayers’s recent memoir and his life in the music industry.

Ayers has written about race and music for The New York Times, NPR, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, and GQ. His memoir My Life in the Sunshine was published in 2022 via Viking/Penguin. He is the president of Beggars Group US, where he has run campaigns for The National, Big Thief, Grimes, Future Islands, and St. Vincent, as well as reissue campaigns including Pixies’ album Doolittle, which was certified Platinum in 2019.

At age 25, Ayers and his business partner opened Seattle’s Sonic Boom Records store, which they sold to a longtime customer in 2016. As a drummer Ayers has performed in several bands including The Long Winters and Tommy Stinson. On his own record label, The Control Group/Valley of Search, Ayers has released music by Cate Le Bon, Lykke Li, The Killers, PJ Harvey, Patricia Brennan, and his uncle, the jazz musician Alan Braufman.

This event was presented by the Music Business Program in partnership with the Willson Center.

Nabil Ayers

Angela Brown


Title: “Opera… from a Sistah’s Point of View”
February 23, 2023
Edge Recital Hall

The Willson Center welcomed Angela Brown, a renowned operatic soprano who leads a nonprofit organization that provides cultural enrichment opportunities to underserved communities, to UGA February 20-24 as the annual Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding. Brown’s week in residence included learning sessions with students in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music and Clarke Central High School, and public events in the Hodgson School and the Delta Innovation Hub.

Brown’s visit was presented by the Willson Center in partnership with the Hodgson School, the Institute for African American Studies, the Music Business Program, and the Innovation Gateway.

“Opera… from a Sistah’s Point of View” showcases the soprano’s formidable singing while making the material accessible to audiences with little or no exposure to opera or classical music. Through wry, candid explanations of opera plots that provide a context to the performances that is contemporary and colloquial, Brown invites young and untrained audiences to engage with an artistic medium to which they may never have felt connected.

Angela Brown

David Beavan


Title: “Beyond Digital Humanities: Weaving Humanities, Research Software Engineering and AI”
March 15, 2023
Special Collections Auditorium

David Beavan is lead research software engineer in the Research Engineering Group (REG) at The Alan Turing Institute, and a research affiliate at the University of Edinburgh Centre for Data, Culture & Society (CDCS).

David Beavan from The Alan Turing Institute, the UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence, led an interdisciplinary journey showcasing cutting-edge digital humanities scholarship and the leading role of research software engineers in the Living with Machines project. The project is a flagship research initiative that aims to rethink the impact of technology on the lives of ordinary people during the Industrial Revolution (1780-1920), bringing together historians, geographers, linguists and curators, alongside research software engineers and research data scientists.

Through wrangling 109 billion words of newspapers, 129 thousand sheets of maps, and 180 million census entries, Beavan demonstrated how the research team has brought new insights while maximizing collaboration. He also discussed the responsible use of AI, the challenges of navigating intellectual property rights and processing sources securely, and how data science has a lot to learn about representativeness and bias from the humanities.

Finally, Beavan looked towards the future of digital research infrastructure in the UK, and attempted to resolve his identity: digital humanaut, software scribe or research wrangler?

Beavan has been Research Engineering‘s lead for Accelerating AI in the Arts and Humanities. He has led the Research Engineering Group’s work on Data-centric Engineering projects such as AI for Control ProblemsVehicle Grid Integration and the development of the Data Safe Haven Classification Web App. He is an organizer of the award-winning Turing Data Stories, an open community creating and curating data stories.

He is vice president and trustee of the Society of Research Software Engineering, and is a member of the UKRI Peer Review College, reviewing for both AHRC and ESRC. Beavan has served the digital humanities community as an elected member of the European Association for Digital Humanities (EADH), and was a former co-organizer of the the Humanities and Data Science Turing Interest Group.

This event was presented by the Willson Center Digital Humanities Lab (DigiLab), the UGA Libraries, and by the UGA Humanities Council as part of the UGA Humanities Festival.

David Beavan

Jack Davis


Title: Odum Environmental Ethics Lecture – “The Bald Eagle: The History of a Symbol and Species”
March 16, 2023
Jackson St. Building

Jack Davis is Rothman Family Chair in the Humanities at the University of Florida. He specializes in environmental history and sustainability studies, and is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea (2017). His latest book, The Bald Eagle: The Improbable Journey of America’s Bird (Liveright/W. W. Norton, 2022) was named a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, one of the five best nonfiction books of 2022 by the LA Times, an Amazon Best Book of 2022, and an Apple Best Book of 2022.

Davis was one of the recipients of the 2019 Andrew Carnegie fellowship award. His previous books include Race Against Time: Culture and Separation in Natchez Since 1930 (2001), winner of the Charles S. Sydnor Prize for the best book in southern history, and An Everglades Providence: Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the American Environmental Century (2009), which received a gold medal from the Florida Book Awards.

This event was presented by the Willson Center, the Environmental Ethics Certificate Program, the College of Environment + Design, and by the UGA Humanities Council as part of the UGA Humanities Festival.

Jack Davis The Bald Eagle book cover

Paula Krebs


Title: “The Humanities at Work”
March 17, 2023
Delta Innovation Hub

Paula M. Krebs became executive director of the Modern Language Association in August 2017. She administers the programs, governance, and business affairs of the association and is general editor of the association’s publishing and research programs, as well as editor of two association publications.

Krebs previously served as the dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Bridgewater State University. Before arriving at Bridgewater State, she was special assistant to the president for external relations at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, an American Council on Education (ACE) Fellow in the president’s office of the University of Massachusetts, and a professor and department chair at Wheaton. She has also been a regular contributor to higher education publications, including the Chronicle of Higher Education’s blog Vitae.

A member of the MLA Executive Council from 2013 to January 2017, Krebs also served on the executive committee of the MLA’s Association of Departments of English (2003–05). She served on the Massachusetts ACE Women’s Network Board of Directors and was a member of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities Board of Directors from 2009 to 2015.

Krebs earned a PhD in English from Indiana University, where she specialized in Victorian literature and culture, and a BA from La Salle College (now La Salle University).

This event was presented by the Willson Center and by the UGA Humanities Council as part of the UGA Humanities Festival.

Paula Krebs

Young Plato


Title: Screening and Conversation
March 20, 2023

The documentary Young Plato tells the story of Kevin McArevey, the headmaster of an all-boys primary school in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and his novel approach to addressing issues of poverty, inner-city decay, and the legacy of sectarian violence that are deeply embedded in his students’ lives: through the teaching and application of Classical philosophy. By encouraging the students to identify and examine fundamental questions about themselves, each other, and the society into which they were born, McArevey is determined to change their outlook on life, and the future of their community.

The screening was followed by a conversation and Q&A with Ian Altman, faculty in English and language arts at Clarke Central High School; Aaron Meskin, professor and head of the UGA department of philosophy; and philosophy teaching assistant Rissa Willis.

This event was presented by the Willson Center, the department of philosophy, and by the UGA Humanities Council as part of the UGA Humanities Festival.

Young Plato

Kaywin Feldman


Title: “Building a National Collection in a Changing Nation”
March 21, 2023
Georgia Museum of Art

This lecture by Kaywin Feldman, director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., honored Georgia Museum of Art Director William U. Eiland on the occasion of his retirement.

Feldman previously led the Minneapolis Institute of Art as its Nivin and Duncan MacMillan Director and President from 2008 to 2019, and directed the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art from 1999 to 2007. She is a member of the board of directors of the Terra Foundation for American Art and a trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the White House Historical Association, and the Chipstone Foundation. She is a past president of the Association of Art Museum Directors and past chair of the American Alliance of Museums.

Feldman lectures and publishes widely on many aspects of museums in the 21st century. In 2021 Forbes magazine listed Feldman as one of the “50 Over 50” most visionary women making an impact on society.

This program was presented by the Georgia Museum of Art and the Willson Center, and by the UGA Humanities Council as part of the UGA Humanities Festival. It was also part of the UGA Signature Lectures series.

Kaywin Feldman

Vincent Carretta


Title: “Recovering the Life of Phillis Wheatley Peters, ‘A WONDER of the Age Indeed!’”
April 3, 2023
Online Event

Vincent Carretta is professor emeritus of English at the University of Maryland. He is the author or editor of more than ten books, including scholarly editions of the writings of Olaudah Equiano, Phillis Wheatley Peters, Ignatius Sancho, and Ottobah Cugoano. His books include Phillis Wheatley Peters: Biography of a Genius in Bondage; Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man; and The Life and Letters of Philip Quaque, the First African Anglican Missionary, coedited with Ty M. Reese.

This event was part of The Genius of Phillis Wheatley Peters: A Poet and Her Legacies, a year-long partnership project by the University of Georgia and TCU on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of the 1773 publication of Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. The event was conducted online as a Zoom webinar.

Phillis Wheatley

Peter O’Connor


Title: “Slow Wonder Lights the Slow Fuse of Possibility”
April 18, 2023

There are double edged words used by education researchers and bureaucrats that strip the art and beauty from teaching. They include evidence based practice, learning intentions, individual achievement, and effective teaching. What if we talked instead of seeking classrooms full of beauty, of slow wonder, of day dreaming teachers and students?  What if we abandoned lesson planning and embraced surprise and serendipity? What if we were brave enough for schooling to light the slow fuse of possibility to disrupt the madness of current living?

Peter O’Connor is Professor of Education and Director of the Centre for Arts and Social Transformation at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.  He has made and researched theatre in schools, prisons psychiatric institutions, and disaster zones, which he says share many commonalities.  He is currently the senior academic leading the rewrite of the New Zealand Arts Curriculum.  He is co-author with Claudia Rozas Gomez of Slow Wonder: Letters on imagination and Education with Cambridge University Press.

This event was presented as part of the Torrance Festival of Ideas, a free, global, online and in-person event where renowned experts from across disciplines present their innovative ideas to the public. Peter O’Connor’s lecture was sponsored by the Torrance Center for Creativity and Talent Development and by the Willson Center.

Peter O'Connor

Joel Robbins


Title: “The Present and the Future in the Present: Religion, Values, and Climate Change”
April 20, 2023
Peabody Hall

Joel Robbins is Sigrid Rausing Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. His work focuses on the anthropology of religion and the study of values, ethics, and anthropological theory more broadly. He has for two decades been centrally involved in the development of that anthropological study of Christianity. He is author of the books Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society and of Theology and the Anthropology of Christian Life. His most recent book is the co-edited volume Where is the Good in the World: Ethical Life between Social Theory and Philosophy.

This event was presented by the Willson Center, the Center for Theologically Engaged Anthropology, and the department of religion.

Joel Robbins book cover

Seán Hewitt, Louise Kennedy, and Martin Doyle


Title: Betty Jean Craige Readings and Conversation
April 26, 2023
Morton Theatre

This event brought together writers Seán Hewitt, Louise Kennedy, and Martin Doyle for a group reading and conversation with Nicholas Allen, Baldwin Professor in Humanities and director of the Willson Center. The event was presented by the annual Betty Jean Craige Lectureship in the department of comparative literature and intercultural studies, and by the Willson Center. Peter O’Neill, associate professor of comparative literature and chair of the department’s annual lectures, conferences and events committee, gave an introduction.

Seán Hewitt was born in 1990. He is the author of the memoir All Down Darkness Wide, for which he was awarded the 2022 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. His earlier works include J. M. Synge: Nature, Politics, Modernism and the poetry collection Tongues of Fire, which was awarded the Laurel Prize and was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, the John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Prize, and a Dalkey Literary Award. He is the recipient of a Northern Writers’ Award, the Resurgence Prize and an Eric Gregory Award. Hewitt is a book critic for the Irish Times and teaches modern British and Irish literature at Trinity College Dublin.

Louise Kennedy grew up near Belfast. Her first novel, Trespasses (2022) was called “Brilliant, beautiful, (and) heartbreaking” by the New York Times Book Review, and was named a Best Book of the Year by the Washington Post. Kennedy is also the author of a collection of short stories, The End of the World Is a Cul de Sac. She has written for the Guardian, the Irish Times, and BBC Radio 4.

Martin Doyle is the books editor of the Irish Times. His upcoming book Dirty Linen, which builds on two essays published in the Irish Times, reflects on the Troubles’ impact on his own life and that of his community as they struggled to live normal lives. It is due to be published by Merrion Press in October 2023.

The annual Betty Jean Craige lecture honors Craige, University Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature and a former director of the Willson Center.

Seán Hewitt, Louise Kennedy, and Martin Doyle

2021 – 2022

Maboula Soumahoro


Title: “Black Is the Journey, Africana the Name”
January 13, 2022

Maboula Soumahoro, associate professor in the English Department of the University of Tours and resident at Villa Albertine in Atlanta, joined Rachel Gabara and Lesley Feracho, faculty members in UGA’s Department of Romance Languages, African Studies Institute, and Institute for African American Studies, in conversation followed by a Q&A session with the audience.

A specialist in the field of Africana Studies, Maboula Soumahoro has conducted research and taught in the United States and France. She is the author of Le Triangle et l’Hexagone, réflexions sur une identité noire (La Découverte, 2021), newly translated into English by Kaiama L. Glover as Black Is the Journey, Africana the Name (Polity, 2021).

Maboula Soumahoro

Indigenous Photograph


Title: “Conversation with Native American and First Nations Photographers”
February 3, 2022
Virtual event

This conversation is presented in partnership with the Institute of Native American Studies and the Georgia Museum of Art.

Panelists include Cinthya Briones, Eli Faranango, Tailyr Irvine, Josué Rivas, and moderator Brian Adams. All are affiliated with the photographers’ collective Indigenous Photograph, whose mission is to support the media industry in hiring more Indigenous photographers to tell the stories of their communities and to reflect on how we tell these stories.

Indigenous Photograph: Tailyr Irvine

Conversation with Creature Comforts Brewing Co. & Bell’s Brewery


Title: “Quality Breweries, Quality Companies”
February 8, 2022
Delta Innovation Hub

“Quality Breweries, Quality Companies: A Conversation with Creature Comforts Brewing Co. and Bell’s Brewery,” presented as the launch event of Creature Comforts’ 2022 Get Comfortable campaign.

The panel includes:

From Bell’s:
Carrie Yunker – Executive Vice President
John Mallett – VP of Operations
Walker Modic – Director of Sustainability
Andy Farrell – Brewing Innovation Manager

From Creature Comforts:
Adam Beauchamp – Chief Operating Officer
Fenwick Broyard – VP of Culture
Ally Hellenga – Community Manager

Matt Stevens – Creature Comforts Sr. Director of Strategic Impact

The event is presented by the Willson Center in partnership with Creature Comforts Brewing Co. and Bell’s Brewery.

Video of the conversation is below:

Creature Comforts pavillion

Olúfẹmi Táíwò


Title: “Reconsidering Reparations”
February 16, 2022
Virtual event

Olúfẹmi O. Táíwò is assistant professor of philosophy at Georgetown University. He completed his Ph.D. at University of California, Los Angeles, and BAs in Philosophy and Political Science at Indiana University.

Táíwò’s theoretical work draws liberally from German transcendental philosophy, contemporary philosophy of language, contemporary social science, histories of activism and activist thinkers, and the Black radical tradition. His new book, Reconsidering Reparations, considers a novel philosophical argument for reparations and explores links with environmental justice. Táíwò also is committed to public engagement and is publishing articles in popular outlets with general readership exploring intersections between climate justice and colonialism.

This lecture is presented in partnership with the department of philosophy and the Institute for African American Studies.

Video of the talk is below:

Olúfẹmi O. Táíwò

Symposium on Muslim Women and Comics


Title: “Muslim Women and Comics”
February 22, 2022
Virtual event

“Muslim Women and Comics” is a symposium sponsored by UGA’s Diversity Research and Scholarship Grant program, and by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The symposium’s speakers are:

• Esra Mirze Santesso, associate professor of English, UGA (organizer and moderator)
• Ozge Samanci, associate professor of communication, Northwestern University; author of Dare to Disappoint
• Leila Abdelrazaq, author of Baddawi
• Aliyah Khan,  associate professor of English and director of Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan

Video of the symposium is below:

Muslim Women and Comics

David Chalmers


Title: “Reality+: From the Matrix to the Metaverse”
March 1, 2022
Delta Innovation Hub

David Chalmers is University Professor of philosophy and neural science and co-director of the Center for Mind, Brain, and Consciousness at New York University. This lecture was presented in partnership with the department of philosophy.

Chalmers is interested in the philosophy of mind (especially consciousness) and the foundations of cognitive science, physics, and technology, as well as the philosophy of language, metaphysics and epistemology, and many other areas. His latest book, Reality+: Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy, was published by W.W. Norton (US) and Allen Lane (UK) in January 2022.

David Chalmers

Greg Bluestein


Title: “A Conversation with Greg Bluestein, Author of Flipped: How Georgia Turned Purple and Broke the Monopoly on Republican Power
March 29, 2022
Russell Special Collections Libraries Auditorium

This event was sponsored by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication in partnership with the School of Public and International Affairs and the Willson Center.

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He also contributes to the Political Insider blog and Jolt newsletter, hosts the Politically Georgia podcast, co-hosts shows on WSB and Georgia Public Broadcasting outlets, and is a frequent guest on local and national TV and radio programs. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia with degrees in journalism and political science. His book Flipped was published in March 2022 by Viking.

Bluestein was joined in conversation by Audrey Haynes, associate professor of political science, Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor, and director of the Applied Politics Certificate Program in the School of Public and International Affairs.

Video of the conversation is below:

Greg Bluestein

Ed Pavlić and Christine Cuomo


Title: “Outward: The Radical Legacies of Adrienne Rich – A Conversation with Ed Pavlić and Christine Cuomo”
March 31, 2022

This event was in partnership with the department of English, the Creative Writing Program, and the Institute for Women’s Studies.

Ed Pavlić’s book, Outward: Adrienne Rich’s Expanding Solitudes was published in 2021 by the University of Minnesota Press. In it, Pavlić considers Rich’s entire oeuvre to argue that her most profound contribution in poems is her emphasis on not only what goes on “within us” but also what goes on “between us.” He shows how Rich’s most radical work depicts our lives—from the public to the intimate—in shared space rather than in owned privacy.

Pavlić is Distinguished Research Professor of English and African American studies, and affiliated faculty in creative writing, at UGA. His 13 published and forthcoming books range across (and at times between) genres: poetry, non-fiction, critical studies, and a novel.

Christine Cuomo is professor of philosophy and women’s studies at UGA, and an affiliate faculty member of the Environmental Ethics Certificate Program, the Institute for African-American Studies, the Institute for Native American Studies, and the UGA Initiative for Climate and Society.

Adrienne Rich

Martin Hayes


Title: “An Evening of Irish Music with Martin Hayes”
April 6, 2022
Georgia Museum of Art

This special evening with acclaimed Irish fiddle player Martin Hayes was presented in partnership with the Georgia Museum of Art.

Martin Hayes is one of Ireland’s foremost artists, known worldwide for his innovative and soulful interpretations of traditional music. This intimate performance of tunes and conversation provided an opportunity to spend time with a master of the Irish canon.

Hayes’ fiddle playing is rooted in the accent of East County Clare where he grew up playing with his father, the legendary P.J. Hayes, and the Tulla Ceili Band.

Hayes’ 25-year musical partnership with American guitarist Dennis Cahill, renowned for its groundbreaking performances, has included three acclaimed recordings, numerous international tours, and a special performance for President Obama. Hayes is also founder of the Martin Hayes Quartet, the Common Ground Ensemble, and the Meteor Award-winning Irish-American supergroup, The Gloaming. He has collaborated with musicians Bill Frisell, Cassandra Wilson, Ricky Skaggs, Jordi Savall, Paul Simon, Sting, Brooklyn Rider, and Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble on the Grammy-winning album “Sing Me Home,” as well as many of the leading Irish musicians over the past 35 years.

Martin Hayes

Jahan Ramazani


Title: “A Life in Poetry”
April 13, 2022
Virtual Event

Jahan Ramazani is University Professor and Edgar F. Shannon Professor of English at the University of Virginia. This talk was presented as part of the Spring 2022 Provost’s Seminar Series.

Ramazani specializes in modern and contemporary Irish, British, American, Caribbean American, and African poetry. His books include The Hybrid Muse: Postcolonial Poetry in English (2001) and Poetry in a Global Age (2020), and he is the editor of numerous books and special journal issues including The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry, 3rd ed. (2003) and The Cambridge Companion to Postcolonial Poetry (2017).

Video of the talk is below:

Jahan Ramazani

Valeria Luiselli


Title: Lost Children Archive
April 13, 2022
Virtual Event

Valeria Luiselli’s talk on her book Lost Children Archive was presented as the Department of Comparative Literature and Intercultural Studies’s annual Betty Jean Craige Lecture, co-sponsored by the Willson Center.

Luiselli was born in Mexico City and grew up in South Korea, South Africa and India. Her fiction and nonfiction books include Sidewalks, The Story of My Teeth, and Lost Children Archive. She is the recipient of a 2019 MacArthur Fellowship and the winner of DUBLIN Literary Award, two Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, The Carnegie Medal, an American Book Award, and has been nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Kirkus Prize, and the Booker Prize. She is a Writer in Residence at Bard College and lives in New York City.

Valeria Luiselli

Ryan Emanuel


Title: “On the Swamp: Indigenous Erasure, Environmental Justice, and the Transformation of North Carolina’s Coastal Plain”
April 19, 2022
Virtual Event

Ryan Emanuel is associate professor of hydrology in Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. His talk was presented as the 2022 Odum Environmental Ethics Lecture, sponsored by the Willson Center and the Environmental Ethics Certificate Program.

Emanuel is known for his innovative scholarship on water, environmental justice and Indigenous rights. Before his January 2022 appointment at Duke, he led the Ecohydrology and Watershed Science Lab at North Carolina State University, where he was a University Faculty Scholar and professor in the department of forestry and environmental resources, and a faculty fellow at the Center for Geospatial Analytics.

A prolific researcher with nearly 50 peer-reviewed publications to his credit, he is widely cited for his studies on water and biogeochemical cycles in mountain landscapes; the effects of saltwater intrusion on coastal freshwater ecosystems; and the impacts of climate change and land-use change on Indigenous lands and communities.

Emanuel is an enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, and he frequently combines tools and ideas from both the academic tradition and Indigenous knowledge systems in his studies and teaching.

Video of the talk is below:

Ryan Emanuel

Natasha Trethewey


Title: 2021-2022 Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding
April 21-22, 2022
Multiple venues

The Willson Center welcomed Pulitzer Prize winner and former Poet Laureate of the United States Natasha Trethewey to the University of Georgia as the 2021-2022 Delta Visiting Chair for Global Understanding, and as part of the Global Georgia public events series. Trethewey is Board of Trustees Professor of English in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University. The program was presented in partnership with the Institute for African American Studies, the department of English, and the Creative Writing Program.

A reading in the UGA Chapel on April 21, was followed by a public reception on the lawn outside the Chapel. On April 22 Trethewey took part in a public conversation with professors Barbara McCaskill and John Lowe of the department of English at the historic Morton Theatre in downtown Athens. During her two-day visit, Trethewey  also met with students in classes at both UGA and Clarke Central High School.

Trethewey has published five books of poetry including Monument: Poems New & Selected (2018), which was longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award, and Native Guard (2006), for which she was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in poetry. She is also the author of Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (2010) and Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir (2020), a New York Times bestseller. She was named the 19th Poet Laureate of the United States in 2012 and selected for a second term a year later. Her many honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation, and election to the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets in 2019. The Library of Congress awarded her the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry in 2020.

Trethewey has roots in Georgia and at UGA, where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in English before moving on to Hollins College and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for her Master’s and M.F.A., respectively. She spent part of her childhood in Atlanta and taught for a time at Emory University. The University of Georgia Libraries inducted Trethewey into the Georgia Writers’ Hall of Fame in 2011.

As part of the Delta Chair program, the Willson Center provided copies of Trethewey’s books to UGA and Clarke Central faculty for distribution to students, free of charge, in spring 2022 classes that included the writer’s work.

Natasha Trethewey

Penn Center Community Conversations


These two public conversations were presented by Culture and Community at the Penn Center National Historic Landmark District, a partnership initiative of Penn Center – a St. Helena, SC nonprofit organization committed to African American education, community development and social justice – and the Willson Center, funded by a grant from the Mellon Foundation.

Title: “Heirs’ Property: Land, Culture, and Community”
April 11, 2022
Virtual Event

This conversation explores the ways in which family land preserves culture, provides sustainability, and connects us to history and each other.

Panelists include Emory Campbell, Culture and Community at Penn Center community research partner; Odetta MacLeish-White, Director of Georgia Initiatives at the Center for Community Progress; Beaufort, S.C. City Councilman Mitch Mitchell; attorney Cherese Handy; and moderator Rosalind Bentley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Video of the conversation:


Title: “Sacred Spaces: The Penn Center, Belief and Belonging”
April 30, 2022
Penn Center, St. Helena, SC

This conversation explores the spaces where creative power, cultural heritage memories, and practices treated with reverence exist.

Panelists include artist and storyteller Natalie Daise; Griffin Lotson, manager of the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters; and artist and activist Charmaine Minniefield. Dr. Valerie Babb, Andrew Mellon Professor of the Humanities in the departments of African American Studies and English at Emory University, moderates the discussion.

Dr. Melissa L. Cooper, associate professor of history at Rutgers University-Newark and author of Making Gullah: A History of Sapelo Islanders, Race, and the American Imagination, was unable to attend in person and provides her remarks in a separate video.

The panel discussion was followed by Charmaine Minniefield’s on-site projected installation, “The Praise House Project: Remembrance as Resistance, Preserving Black Narratives.”

In-person conversation at Penn Center:


Remarks by Dr. Melissa L. Cooper:

Penn Center

2020 – 2021

Conversation with Creature Comforts & Sierra Nevada
Brewing Companies


Title: “Diversity, Community, and Sustainability: Sierra Nevada, Creature Comforts and the Commitment to Do Good, Better”
February 3, 2021, 4 pm
Virtual Event

This bi-coastal community conversation brings together representatives from two craft brewing companies – Chico, CA’s venerable Sierra Nevada and the relatively young Creature Comforts from Athens – for a conversation about the art of integrating business with communities – local, global, and social – in positive ways.

The conversation includes Creature Comforts CEO Chris Herron, Sierra Nevada CEO Jeff White, and moderator Fenwick Broyard, vice president of talent and culture at Creature Comforts.

The event is presented by the Willson Center, in partnership with the Creature Comforts and Sierra Nevada brewing companies, the UGA Office of Sustainability, the College of Public Health, and the Terry College of Business.

Video of the conversation is below, along with highlights from three separate conversations on “Diversity,” Community,” and “Sustainability,” recorded weeks earlier with representatives of Sierra Nevada, Creature Comforts, and members of the academic community who facilitated the discussions.

Creature Comforts

Georgia Museum of Art Virtual Discussion


Title: “Emma Amos: Color Odyssey”
February 4, 2021, 4 pm
Virtual Event

Curator Shawnya Harris, Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Curator of African American and African Diasporic Art, leads a conversation with scholars, artists and curators in conjunction with the exhibition “Emma Amos: Color Odyssey.”

Participants are:

  • Laurel Garber, Park Family Assistant Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • Diane Edison, professor of drawing and painting, Lamar Dodd School of Art, UGA
  • and Phoebe Wolfskill, associate professor, departments of American studies and African American and African Diaspora studies, Indiana University

This event is presented in partnership with the Georgia Museum of Art.

Video of the conversation is below.

Emma Amos- Color Odyssey

Kevin Day


Title: Virtual Performance and Discussion: “More than words…”
February 18, 2021, 7 pm
Virtual Event

The musical work “More than words…” for saxophone octet, piano, bass, and spoken word by UGA graduate composition student Kevin Day was commissioned by Connie Frigo, associate professor of saxophone in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, and the UGA Saxophone Studio in the fall 2019.

With more than 100 performances of his music taking place in the past two years, Day is a rapidly rising star who is currently writing more than 20 music commissions for prominent ensembles and soloists across the country. “More than words…” received its world premiere performance by 11 UGA music majors at a national conference at Arizona State University in March 2020, just days before the country shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and months before protests against racial injustice erupted in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. The work represents Day’s observations of the U.S. as a young Black man from Texas. The spoken-word component of the piece was written by Day and framed in quotes selected by narrator Karena Washington, a senior music education major and Mary Frances Early scholarship recipient.

Facilitated and produced by Frigo, this virtual event includes a performance of “More than words…” (from the world premiere) and a robust discussion with the composer, narrator, and other performers as they delve into the deeper meaning and impact of writing, performing, and presenting a work of this nature.

This event is presented by the Hugh Hodgson School of Music in partnership with the Willson Center. It is also part of UGA’s 60th Anniversary of Desegregation celebration calendar.

Video of the performance event is below.

Kevin Day

Carole Emberton

Author and associate professor of history, SUNY Buffalo

Title: “Beyond Redemption: Race, Violence, and the American South after the Civil War”
February 23, 2021, 3 pm
Virtual Event

Carole Emberton, associate professor of history at SUNY Buffalo, participates in a discussion and Q&A on her 2013 book Beyond Redemption: Race, Violence, and the American South after the Civil War. The event is presented by the department of history and the Willson Center.

Video of the conversation is below.

Carole Emberton

Closing Event for UGA Press Campus Read


Title: “An Education in Georgia: Looking toward the Future”
February 25, 2021, 4 pm
Virtual Event

To wrap up the 60th anniversary desegregation campus-wide reading event for Calvin Trillin’s An Education in Georgia: Charlayne Hunter, Hamilton Holmes, and the Integration of the University of Georgia (UGA Press), Mary Frances Early, music educator, writer, and the first African-American student to graduate from UGA, and Phaidra Buchanan, current undergraduate majoring in social studies education and minoring in German, Foundation Fellow, and UGA’s first African-American Rhodes Scholar (2021), join moderator Cynthia Dillard, Mary Frances Early Endowed Professor of Teacher Education at UGA, to discuss the past, present, and future of a desegregated UGA.

This event is sponsored by the University of Georgia Press, the New Georgia Encyclopedia, the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, and the Mary Frances Early College of Education, in partnership with the Willson Center. Support for this event was provided by Elizabeth and Sheffield Hale.

Video of the conversation is below.

An Education in GA

Conversation on Athens Hip-Hop Compilation with Producers Montu Miller, Ed Pavlić, & Artists


Title: “Now Is The Time – Shouting Fire in a Crowded Theater”
February 25, 2021 7 pm
Virtual Event

Now Is The Time: Shouting Fire in a Crowded Theater is a compilation album of Athens, Georgia, hip-hop artists assembled by executive producers Montu Miller and Ed Pavlić. This conversation is the third and final event in the series DJ Summits in the Global South, a Willson Center Global Georgia Initiative research project programmed by Pavlić and supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Moderated by Pavlić, Distinguished Research Professor of English, African American Studies, and Creative Writing, the conversation brings together two contributors to the album – artist LB and artist and engineer Caulfield – along with Miller, co-owner of ATHfactor-Liberty Entertainment, a full-service representation, promotion, and production company based in Athens.

About the album: Now Is The Time: Shouting Fire in a Crowded Theater is a music project created to react to America’s current climate. It is contemporary protest music that will help be the catalyst of some of the change that needs to happen now. The time to act is now as America is on fire with generational poverty, racial divide, political complacency, and countless other issues. This eight-song compilation consists of 13 Hip-Hop artists, two poets, and six producers based in Athens, where the core of these issues runs rampant. Want to know what some of American’s daughters and sons have to say about these issues plaguing America? Now Is The Time: Shouting Fire in a Crowded Theater addresses many of them with an unapologetic, direct attitude. This project is presented by ATHfactor-Liberty Entertainment (ALE) with support from the Willson Center through a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Video of the conversation is below.

Montu Miller
Ed Pavlić

Morton Theatre Corp. Community Conversation


Title: “Conversation: Morton Theatre Corporation Defiance Project Awards”
March 2, 2021, 4 pm
Virtual Event

A virtual conversation centers on the historic Morton Theatre Corporation’s Defiance Project Awards, a series of grants in support of projects “created to document and/or explore the Black Lives Matter Movement and/or everyday experience.” The event is presented by the Willson Center in partnership with the Institute of African American Studies, the Morton Theatre Corporation, and Flagpole magazine.

The conversation is moderated Carolyn Medine, professor of religion and director of the Institute for African American Studies. The participants are Thomas Brazzle, Morton Theatre Corporation programming committee chair; and four award recipients: visual artists Noraa James and Broderick Flanigan; musical artist Kxng Blanco; and filmmaker Booker T. Mattison.

Video of the conversation is below.

Morton Theatre

Helon Habila


Title: “Searching for Home: Africans in Europe”
March 4, 2021, 4 pm
Virtual Event

Nigerian-American author Helon Habila gives his talk, “Searching for Home: Africans in Europe,” as the Department of Comparative Literature and Intercultural Studies’s annual Betty Jean Craige Lecture, co-sponsored by the Willson Center and the African Studies Institute.

Habila’s talk, the Comparative Literature Department’s contribution to the 60th anniversary of desegregation at UGA, celebrates the department’s commitment to African and African Diasporic studies.

Video of Habila’s talk is below.

Helon Habila

Joy Harjo & LeAnne Howe

 Poets and authors

Title: Reading and Conversation
March 10, 2021 4 pm
Virtual Event

Poets Joy Harjo and LeAnne Howe share a conversation and read from their work in this event presented by the Institute of Native American Studies and the Willson Center, in partnership with the department of English and the Creative Writing Program. The event is part of UGA’s Signature Lectures series.

Harjo is the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States. An internationally renowned performer and writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, she is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Board of Directors Chair of the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation, and holds a Tulsa Artist Fellowship.

Howe, a poet, fiction writer, filmmaker, and playwright, was born and raised in Oklahoma and is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. She is the Eidson Distinguished Professor in American Literature in the UGA department of English.

Video of the conversation is below.

Joy Harjo
LeAnne Howe

Megha Majumdar


Title: “Writing Socially Engaged Fiction”
March 18, 2021, 4 pm
Virtual Event

Author Megha Majumdar’s talk, “Writing Socially Engaged Fiction,” is the Department of Comparative Literature and Intercultural Studies’s annual Betty Jean Craige Lecture, co-sponsored by the Willson Center in partnership with the Department of English and the Creative Writing Program.

Megha Majumdar was born and raised in Kolkata, India. She moved to the United States to attend college at Harvard University, followed by graduate school in social anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. She works as an editor at Catapult, and lives in New York City. Her first book, A Burning, was selected as a New York Times Notable Book of 2020 and longlisted for a National Book Award in fiction.

Megha Majumdar

Jee Leong Koh

Poet and publisher

Title: “Translation as a Literary Trope”
March 25, 2021, 4:30 pm
Virtual Event

Presented by COMPASS, the Comparative Literature & Intercultural Studies Graduate Student Organization, in partnership with the Willson Center.

Jee Leong Koh is the author of Steep Tea (Carcanet), named a Best Book of the Year by UK’s Financial Times and a Finalist by Lambda Literary in the USA. He has published three other books of poems, Payday Loans (Poets Wear Prada Press, Math Paper Press), Equal to the Earth (Bench Press), and Seven Studies for a Self Portrait (Bench Press), and a collection of zuihitsu, The Pillow Book (Math Paper Press, Awai Books), which was shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize. His work has been translated into Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Malay, Russian, and Latvian.

The author lives in New York City. He is the founder of the literary non-profit Singapore Unbound, which organizes the biennial Singapore Literature Festival in New York City and the monthly Second Saturdays Reading Series, and publishes works of poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction through the Gaudy Boy imprint, and book reviews and artist interviews on SP Blog.

Video of the lecture is below.

Jee Leong Koh

Conversation with Liza Stepanova and artists from her album E Pluribus Unum


Title:E Pluribus Unum: Reflections on Immigration in America in Music and Visual Art”
April 7, 2021, 7 pm
Virtual Event

Visual artist Kevork Mourad and composers Badie Khaleghian and Reinaldo Moya join Liza Stepanova, associate professor of piano in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, and moderator Alan Flurry of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, for a discussion about their individual experiences with immigration and how those shape their creative processes. The three artists contributed to Stepanova’s recent album E Pluribus Unum, which showcases a confluence of voices, narratives and ideals created by nine composers representing a diverse array of immigrant backgrounds and stories.

The conversation is presented in partnership with the Hodgson School and the Franklin College.

Video of the conversation is below.

GG E Pluribus Unum

Renee Gladman & Val Jeanty

Composer, percussionist and DJ; Writer and artist 

Title: “Conjurations: Composing at the Intersections of Sound, Line, and Language”
April 20, 2021 7 pm
Virtual Event

Composer, percussionist and DJ Val Jeanty and author and artist Renee Gladman take part in a discussion moderated by Nicholas Allen, who holds an endowed Professorship in the Humanities and is director of the Willson Center. Also participating in the conversation is writer Christina Wood Martinez, PhD student and instructor in the UGA department of English.

The event is presented in partnership with the Institute for African American Studies, the department of English, and the Creative Writing Program.

Gladman and Jeanty discuss their plans for a collaborative creative project that they will undertake throughout 2021, supported by the Willson Center.

Val Jeanty is a Haitian-born New Yorker whose musical practice combines modern electronic and traditional acoustic instruments for improvised performances and installations she refers to as “Afro-Electronica.”

Renee Gladman is a writer and artist preoccupied with lines, crossings, thresholds, and geographies as they play out in the interstices of poetry and prose. She is the author of eleven published works, including a cycle of novels about the city-state Ravicka and its inhabitants, the Ravickians. Gladman was recently awarded a 2021 Windham Campbell Prize in fiction.

Val Jeanty

Earth Day conversation with photographers Tomiko Jones, Jeff Rich, and Marni Shindelman

Title: “Land, Water, Sky: Photographers Address the Environment on Earth Day 2021”
April 22, 2021 4 pm
Virtual Event

Photographers Tomiko JonesJeff Rich, and Marni Shindelman join moderator Katie Geha, director of the Dodd Galleries at the Lamar Dodd School of Art, for a conversation on the occasion of Earth Day 2021, on the heels of a year that has reshaped discourses on countless levels of global society. They will discuss the interaction of their art with the environment, and how their work connects to issues from politics and technology to communication and memory.

This conversation is presented as part of the 2021 Global Georgia Initiative public events series of the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts, in partnership with the Lamar Dodd School of Art, the Dodd Galleries, and the Office of Sustainability. The event is also part of the university’s Earth Day 2021 Calendar.

Video of the conversation is below.

GG Land Water Sky

2019 – 2020

Conversation with Creature Comforts and Allagash
Brewing Companies


Title: “Tapping into Community: Craft, Culture, and Innovation”
January 8, 2020 4 pm
Location: Studio 225

A panel discussion featuring Rob Tod, founder; and Jason Perkins, brewmaster, Allagash Brewing Co.; Chris Herron, CEO; Adam Beauchamp, brewmaster; and Matt Stevens, vice president of strategic impact, Creature Comforts Brewing Co.; and Grace Bagwell Adams, assistant professor of health policy and management, UGA and principal investigator, Athens Wellbeing Project.

Followed by a public reception at 6 p.m. in the Creature Comforts Brewing Co. Tasting Room at 271 W. Hancock Ave. in downtown Athens.

Presented in Partnership with Creature Comforts Brewing Co. and the UGA Office of Sustainability.

Creature Comforts

Val Jeanty and Ashon Crawley

Composer, percussionist, DJ; Author

Title: Performance and Conversation
February 13, 2020 6 pm
Location: Ciné

Composer, percussionist, and DJ Val Jeanty will take part in a conversation with Ashon Crawley, associate professor of religious studies and African American and African studies at the University of Virginia, at 6 p.m. followed by a performance at 7 p.m.

Jeanty is a Haitian-born composer, percussionist, and turntablist who uses technology to lead listeners into her dream-like, expressionist Afro-Electronica compositions. She incorporates her African/Haitian musical traditions into the present and beyond, combining acoustics with electronics, and the archaic with the postmodern.

Crawley’s research and teaching experiences are in the areas of Black studies, performance theory and sound studies, philosophy and theology, and Black feminist and queer theories. He is the author of Blackpentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility (Fordham University Press, 2016) and the forthcoming The Lonely Letters (Duke University Press, spring 2020).

Part of DJ Summits in the Global South, a Global Georgia Initiative research project supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Presented in partnership with the Institute for African American Studies and the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute.

Val Jeanty
Ashon Crawley

Lawrence Wright

Author, journalist, screenwriter, playwright

Title: “The Future of Terrorism”
February 27, 2020 4 pm
Location: UGA Chapel

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright’s talk is the department of history’s Ferdinand Phinizy Lecture. It is also presented as part of the Global Georgia Initiative of the Willson Center, and in partnership with the School for Public and International Affairs and the Center for International Trade and Security.

Wright is an author, screenwriter, playwright, and a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction for The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (2006), which spent eight weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and has been translated into twenty-five languages. Time magazine pronounced it one of the 100 best nonfiction books ever written. Among his other books are Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief (2013), The Terror Years: From Al-Qaeda to the Islamic State (2016), and God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State (2018).

Lawrence Wright

2018 – 2019

Jeff VanderMeer


Title: “An Evening with Jeff VanderMeer”
 February 14, 2019 7 pm
Location: Seney-Stovall Chapel

Jeff VanderMeer’s best known fiction is the New York Times-bestselling Southern Reach trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance), which won the Shirley Jackson Award and Nebula Award. The trilogy made over 30 year’s best lists, including Entertainment Weekly’s top 10, and prompted the New Yorker to call the author “the weird Thoreau.” The trilogy has been acquired by publishers in 28 other countries, with Paramount Pictures acquiring the movie rights. The film version of Annihilation starred Natalie Portman and was released in 2018.

VanderMeer’s nonfiction has appeared in The New York TimesThe Guardian, the Washington Post,, and the Los Angeles Times. He has taught at the Yale Writers’ Conference and the Miami International Book Fair, and lectured at MIT, Brown, and the Library of Congress. His most recent novel from Farrar, Straus and Giroux is titled Borne. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with his wife, the noted editor Ann VanderMeer.


Stephanie McCurry

Professor of American History, Columbia University

Title: “Reconstructing: A Georgia Woman’s Life Amidst the Ruins”
 February 22, 2019 5:30 pm
Location: Seney-Stovall Chapel

Stephanie McCurry is R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of American History in Honor of Dwight D. Eisenhower at Columbia University. She specializes in the nineteenth century United States, the American South, the American Civil War and the history of women and gender. Her current interests include the history of the United States in the immediate post-Civil War moment, the history of postwar societies and processes of reconstruction in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the matter of marriage, politics and the state in the modern period.

McCurry is the author of Masters of Small Worlds: Yeoman Households, Gender Relations, and the Political Culture of the Antebellum South Carolina Low Country (1995) and Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South, (2010), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for history.

Her visit is presented in partnership with the department of history.


Christo Doherty

Photographer and Video Artist

Title: “Moving Statues: A Conversation of the Global South”
 April 10, 2019 6 pm
Location: Georgia Museum of Art Griffith Auditorium

Christo Doherty is a photographer and video artist who has held solo exhibitions of his work in South Africa and Europe. He is an associate professor and deputy head of the Wits School of Arts of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

Doherty will give a presentation based on his recent research and photographs concerned with the removal of statues and monuments from South Africa’s apartheid era, followed by a conversation with American scholars whose work has explored related issues in the United States.

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Public monuments from the apartheid and colonial era have been focal points for protest in South Africa since the Rhodes Must Fall movement erupted at the University of Cape Town in 2015. The student protests led to the removal of the statue of the arch-colonialist Cecil John Rhodes from his plinth on the UCT campus and sparked protests and removals of monuments across South Africa.

Doherty’s research project was provoked by the discovery that the memorial to the Irish Volunteer Brigade on a ridge above Johannesburg had disappeared during the time of the Rhodes Must Fall protests. It had not been vandalized or broken – it had disappeared.

One of the more obscure monuments of the apartheid era, the memorial celebrated the volunteers of the Irish Brigade who had joined the struggle of the Afrikaaners against the British Empire in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899 – 1902. Why had it been removed? Was the removal connected to the Rhodes Must Fall protests? What had happened to the memorial?

The search for the Irish Brigade memorial was both absurd and quixotic, and led eventually to the remote semi-desert of the Northern Cape. It was a search which raised profound questions about the meaning of public memory in South Africa and the relationship between anti-Imperialist and contemporary decolonial struggles in the global South.


The conversation following Doherty’s presentation will include:

  • Valerie Babb, Andrew Mellon Professor of the Humanities in African American studies and English, Emory University
  • Malinda Maynor Lowery, associate professor of history and director, Center for the Study of the American South, University of North Carolina
  • Akela Reason, associate professor and director, Museum Studies Certificate Program, department of history, University of Georgia
  • Sheffield Hale, president and CEO, Atlanta History Center (moderator)


This event is associated with the Global Georgia Initiative research group in Global Studies of the American South, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

It is presented in partnership with the UGA department of history, the Atlanta History Center, the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina, and the department of African American studies at Emory University.


NoViolet Bulawayo – Betty Jean Craige Annual Lecture

Author and Professor of English, Stanford University

Title: “The Immigrant Experience in America”
 April 15, 2019 4 pm
Location: UGA Chapel

NoViolet Bulawayo grew up in Zimbabwe. She earned her MFA from Cornell University, where she was a recipient of the Truman Capote Fellowship, and has also held fellowships at Princeton, Harvard, and Stanford, where she now teaches fiction. Bulawayo’s debut novel, We Need New Names, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and The Guardian’s First Book Award, was named a New York Times Notable Book, and won the PEN/Hemingway Prize, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and many other honors. Bulawayo’s short story “Hitting Budapest,” which became the first chapter of We Need New Names, won the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing, sometimes called the African Booker.

Bulawayo’s talk is the department of comparative literature’s annual Betty Jean Craige Lecture. Betty Jean Craige is University Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature and a former director of the Willson Center.

The event is presented in partnership with the department of comparative literature, the African Studies Institute, the Institute for African American Studies, and the Institute for Women’s Studies.

NoViolet Bulawayo

Barry Lopez – The Georgia Review Earth Day Lecture & Odum Environmental Ethics Lecture

Author and environmentalist

Title: “What Horizons Next?””
 April 22, 2019, 7 pm
Location: Georgia State Botanical Garden Conservatory

Barry Lopez is an essayist, author, and short-story writer, and has traveled extensively in remote and populated parts of the world.

He is the author of Arctic Dreams, for which he received the National Book Award; Of Wolves and Men, a National Book Award finalist, for which he received the John Burroughs and Christopher medals; and eight works of fiction, including Light Action in the Caribbean, Field Notes, and Resistance. His essays are collected in two books, Crossing Open Ground and About This Life.

His most recent books are Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape (2006), a reader’s dictionary of regional landscape terms, which he edited with Debra Gwartney, and Outside (2015), a collection of six stories with engravings by Barry Moser. His new book, Horizon, will be published in March 2019 by Penguin Random House.

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Lopez contributes regularly to Harper’s, Granta, The Georgia Review, Orion, Outside, The Paris Review, Manoa, and other publications in the United States and abroad. His work is widely translated and appears in dozens of anthologies.

Lopez has served as the Welch Professor of American Studies at the University of Notre Dame and the Glenn Distinguished Professor at Washington & Lee University. He has also taught at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and other venues, and read or spoken at nearly a hundred universities. He travels regularly to Texas Tech University where he is the university’s Visiting Distinguished Scholar. He is a recipient of the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the John Hay Medal, Guggenheim, Lannan, and National Science Foundation fellowships, Pushcart Prizes in fiction and nonfiction, the St. Francis of Assisi Award from DePaul University, the Denise Levertov Award from Image magazine, and honors from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Association of American Geographers, the New York Public Library, the Nature Conservancy, and the American Society of Magazine Editors. In 2002 he was elected a Fellow of The Explorers Club.

In addition to being part of the Global Georgia Initiative public event series, Lopez’s talk is presented as The Georgia Review‘s Earth Day Lecture and the Odum Environmental Ethics Lecture.

This event is associated with the Global Georgia Initiative research group in Coastal Studies, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

It is presented in partnership with The Georgia Review, the Environmental Ethics Certificate Program, the Sustainability Certificate Program, and the department of English.

Barry Lopez

2017 – 2018

Qiu Xiaolong – Betty Jean Craige Lecture in Comparative Literature


Title: “A Chinese Cop in the Global Age” – Betty Jean Craige Annual Lecture in Comparative Literature
 February 8, 4 pm
Location: Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries Auditorium

Qiu Xiaolong was born in Shanghai, China. He published prize-winning poetry, translation and criticism in Chinese in the eighties, and became a member of the Chinese Writers’ Association. In 1988, he came to the United States as a Ford Foundation Fellow, started writing in English, and obtained a Ph.D. in comparative literature at Washington University. 

The event will include readings by Qiu and a conversation with Nicholas Allen, Franklin Professor of English and director of the Willson Center. It is presented as the Department of Comparative Literature’s annual Betty Jean Craige Lecture. Betty Jean Craige is University Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature and a former director of the Willson Center.

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Qiu Xiaolong is the author of Death of a Red Heroine (2000), A Loyal Character Dancer (2002), When Red Is Black(2004), A Case of Two Cities (2006), Red Mandarin Dress (2007), The Mao Case (2009), Don’t Cry, Tai Lake (2012), Enigma of China (2013), Shanghai Redemption (2015), and Becoming Inspector Chen (in French and Italian, 2016 and 2017) in the critically acclaimed, award-winning Inspector Chen series; a collection of linked stories Years of Red Dust (first serialized in Le Monde, 2010); three poetry translations, Treasury of Chinese Love Poems (2003), Evoking T’ang (2007) and 100 Classic Chinese Poems (2010); and his own poetry collections, Lines Around China (2003) and Poems of Inspector Chen (2016).

Qiu’s books have sold over two million copies worldwide and have been published in 20 languages. He currently lives in St. Louis with his wife and daughter.

Qiu Xiaolong

Kishi Bashi

Musician and filmmaker

Title: “A Conversation on the Japanese Incarceration Through Song and Film”
 February 15, 8 pm
Location: Seney-Stovall Chapel

The acclaimed violinist Kishi Bashi will present a multimedia event built around Omoiyari, his film and song project exploring the history and legacy of Japanese incarceration in the United States during World War II. He will be joined by collaborators Julian Saporiti and Erin Aoyama, musicians and graduate student researchers in American studies at Brown University, as well as by a string quartet. Following the music, film, and spoken word performance, John Morrow, professor of history at the University of Georgia, will moderate a panel discussion with Kishi Bashi, Saporiti, and Aoyama.

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Kishi Bashi is the pseudonym of singer, multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter Kaoru Ishibashi (born November 4, 1975). Born in Seattle, Washington, Ishibashi grew up in Norfolk, Virginia where both of his parents were professors at Old Dominion University. As a 1994 graduate of Matthew Fontaine Maury High School, he went on to study film scoring at Berklee College of Music before becoming a renowned violinist. Ishibashi has recorded and toured internationally as a violinist with diverse artists such as Regina Spektor, Sondre Lerche, and most recently, the Athens, Georgia-based indie rock band, of Montreal. He remains based in Athens.

Saporiti is the guiding force behind No-No Boy, a music and research project on which he collaborates with Aoyama, whose own grandmother was incarcerated in a Japanese-American concentration camp. No-No Boy is a multimedia concert featuring Saporiti’s music interwoven with stories he has collected, performed against a backdrop of projections displaying archival photographs and films.

Kishi Bashi

Willson Center / Grady College Conversation

Journalists’ Panel

Title: “Journalism and the Contemporary South”
 February 22, 4 pm
Location: UGA Chapel

Join us for a conversation on journalism in the contemporary South with six panelists with national experience in the modern media and the challenges they face in telling the stories that speak to a tumultuous time.

  • Eliza Borné, editor, Oxford American
  • Valerie Boyd, professor, UGA Grady College of Journalism
  • Richard Fausset, Atlanta bureau chief, The New York Times
  • Alysia Nicole Harris, editor, Scalawag
  • Pete McCommons, editor & publisher, Flagpole
  • Chuck Reece, editor in chief, The Bitter Southerner

Dean Charles Davis of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication will moderate the discussion.

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The event is presented in partnership with the Grady College, The Bitter Southerner, FlagpoleOxford American, and Scalawag.

Southern Journalism

Robert Spano

Artistic Director, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Title: “Conversation with Student Composers: Experimentation, Preparation, and Performance”
 March 23, 2018, 12:30 pm
Location: Edge Recital Hall, Hugh Hodgson School of Music

Robert Spano, artistic director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, will visit UGA for a day of events supported by the President’s Venture Fund, the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, and the Willson Center.

Spano and the ASO will take part in the UGA-Atlanta Symphony Composers Workshop in Hodgson Hall from 1:30-4 p.m., in which the symphony, conducted by Spano, will read and rehearse orchestral compositions by UGA student composers. Works were selected through a call-for-scores competition among UGA students.

The reading session will be preceded by a panel discussion with Spano and the selected composers, moderated by Peter Van Zandt Lane, assistant professor of composition in the Hodgson School and director of the Roger and Phylis Dancz Center for New Music, in Edge Hall from 12:30-1:15 p.m. The discussion is an event in the Willson Center’s 2018 Global Georgia Initiative.

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Spano, a conductor, pianist, composer, and teacher, has won six Grammy Awards with the Atlanta Symphony during his 17 years as artistic director. The ASO established the Atlanta School of Composers under Spano’s leadership, a reflection of his commitment to American contemporary music. He serves on the faculty of Oberlin Conservatory and is music director of the Aspen Music Festival and School. Spano is one of two classical musicians inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

Robert Spano

Sinéad Morrissey


Title: Reading
 April 4, 7 pm
Location: Seney-Stovall Chapel – 200 N Milledge Ave. Athens, GA 30601

Sinéad Morrissey was born in Northern Ireland in 1972 and grew up in Belfast. As an undergraduate, she studied English and German at Trinity College, Dublin, and went on to gain a PhD in eighteenth-century literature.

Morrissey served as Belfast’s inaugural Poet Laureate (2013-2014), undertaking an extensive program of poetry workshops in schools, prisons, and other community settings. In 2016, Parallax was selected as the most important Irish artwork of any genre for the year 2013 in Modern Ireland in 100 Artworks, edited by Fintan O’Toole.

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She has published six collections of poetry with Carcanet Press: There Was Fire in Vancouver (winner of an Eric Gregory Award in 1996), Between Here and There (winner of the Rupert and Eithne Strong Award and shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize in 2002), The State of the Prisons (winner of the Michael Hartnett Poetry Prize, shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Commonwealth Literature Prize and the T S Eliot Prize and a Poetry Book Society Recommendation in 2005), Through the Square Window (shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection and the T S Eliot Prize, Poetry Book Society Choice and winner of the Irish Times Poetry Prize in 2009), Parallax (shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection and winner of both the T S Eliot Prize and the Irish Times Poetry Prize in 2013), and On Balance (Poetry Book Society Choice and winner of the Forward Prize for Best Collection, 2017). In 2015, Parallax and Selected Poems, published by Farrar Straus & Giroux (New York) was a finalist in the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for Poetry. In 2016 she received the E.M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Further awards include a Lannan Literary Fellowship and first prize in the UK National Poetry Competition.

She is the co-editor of The Future Always Makes Me So Thirsty: New Poets from the North of Ireland (Blackstaff Press, 2016) and collaborated with composer Piers Hellawell and Fidelio Trio on a voice/music co-production, Up by the Roots, broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s “In Tune” in July 2016 and performed at the Cheltenham Festival.

A former assistant director of the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s University, Belfast, she has recently taken up position at Newcastle University as a Professor of Creative Writing and Director of the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts (NCLA). She will also be teaching on the MA in Creative Writing and supervising Creative Writing PhD students with a focus on poetry.


2016 – 2017

Demain (Tomorrow) – Screening and Panel Discussion

Screening and Discussion

Screening: “Demain (Tomorrow)”
January 11, 8 pm
Location: Ciné – 234 W Hancock Ave, Athens, GA 30601, USA
$5 GENERAL or FREE for Cine Members and Students with valid ID

Ciné will host a special one-night only presentation of Demain (Tomorrow), winner of France’s 2016 César Award for Best Documentary. The screening will be preceded by a public reception and followed by a panel discussion. The event is sponsored by the Consulat Général de France à Atlanta, the UGA French Program, UGA Film Studies, and the Willson Center as part of the 2017 Global Georgia Initiative.

A reception catered by The National and Trader Joe’s will begin at 7 p.m. prior to the 8 p.m. screening, which in turn will be followed by a panel discussion with UGA faculty involved in environmental studies: Professors Nik Heynen, Geography, Gene M. Pesti, Poultry Sciences, and Patricia Yager, Marine Science. The panel will be moderated by Richard Neupert, Film Studies.

The film follows a team of young people as they explore the world in search of solutions to the world’s most pressing social, economic and environmental issues. According to La Nouvelle Observateur, “Demain is incredibly pertinent because it demonstrates that all the positive, important initiatives covered in this film have a common thread: They privilege the local investment by engaged citizens in small-scale projects that matter for all of us.”

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The event is part of Ciné’s Science On Screen series, a grant program sponsored by the Coolidge Corner Theatre and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation that creatively pairs film screenings with lively presentations by notable science and technology experts.


Alonzo King

Founder and choreographer, LINES Ballet

Title: “A life in Art”
January 17, 11 am
Location: New Dance Theatre

LINES Ballet Performance
January 17, 8 pm
Location: Fine Arts Theatre

Choreographer Alonzo King and his LINES Ballet company will visit the University of Georgia and Athens for a series of events Jan. 15-18, including a lecture by King for the Global Georgia Initiative of the Willson Center and a performance by the company presented by the UGA Performing Arts Center.

King’s Global Georgia talk, “A Life in Art,” will be Jan. 17 at 11 a.m. in the New Dance Theatre in the Dance Building. LINES Ballet will perform Jan. 17 at 8 p.m. in the Fine Arts Theatre. A pre-concert lecture will be offered 45 minutes prior to the performance in the Fine Arts Building Balcony Theatre.

Tickets for the Fine Arts Theatre performance are $41 to $52 and can be purchased at the Performing Arts Center, online at or by calling the box office at 706-542-4400 or toll free at 888-289-8497. UGA students can purchase tickets for $6 with a valid UGA ID, limit one ticket per student. All other events are free and open to the public.

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King founded the San Francisco-based Alonzo King LINES Ballet company in 1982 with a mission to create bold new dance innovations that break the mold of what ballet can be. LINES Ballet thrives on collaboration, pairing music from all over the globe with King’s unique choreography that digs into the mysteries of movement, bringing honesty and spirituality to the stage.

In addition to its biannual home seasons, the company’s international tours have included the Venice Biennale, Montpellier Danse, Maison de la Danse, the Wolfsburg Festival, the Edinburgh Festival, the Spoleto Festival and Monaco Dance Forum.

The residency by King and the company will also include master classes for students in the department of dance and a talk in the APERO Lecture Series hosted by the Institute for African American Studies and the African Studies Institute. The master class workshop with King and members of the LINES company will take place at 2 p.m. Jan. 17 in Room 272 of the Dance Building. King’s APERO lecture and conversation will be at 12:20 Jan. 18 in Room 480 of the Tate Center.

Additionally, King and members of the company will take part in a “Day of Dance” in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Jan. 16 at the East Athens Educational Dance Center. Details may be found at

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for UGA and the Athens community to have such a world-class artist and company on our campus and in our midst,” said Lisa Fusillo, professor and head of the department of dance. “Alonzo King is an internationally renowned choreographer and his company is in demand around the world. A Georgia native, King will be bring LINES Ballet ‘home’ for the very first time during the company’s 30th anniversary season.”

Sponsors of the performance and residency include South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Georgia Council for the Arts, the President’s Venture Fund, the Office of the Provost, the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, the UGA Parents & Families Association, and the Southern Company.

Alonzo King

Viet Thanh Nguyen


Title: “Nothing Ever Dies: Ethical Memory and Radical Writing in The Sympathizer” – Betty Jean Craige Annual Lecture in Comparative Literature
 February 13, 4 pm
Location: UGA Chapel

Title: “Vietnam/War/Memory/Justice: A Conversation with Viet Thanh Nguyen”
 February 14, 4 pm
Location: Dean Rusk International Law Center

Viet Thanh Nguyen is a winner of a Pulitzer Prize for his 2015 novel The Sympathizer. His follow-up, 2016’s Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, was shortlisted for a National Book Award in nonfiction. A collection of short stories, The Refugees, will be published in February 2017.

Nguyen will visit UGA for a February 13 talk in the Willson Center’s Global Georgia Initiative speaker series, as well as a public conversation hosted by the Dean Rusk International Law Center on February 14.

“Vietnam/War/Memory/Justice: A Conversation with Viet Thanh Nguyen” will be held at 4 p.m. February 14 in the Larry Walker Room on the 4th floor of Dean Rusk Hall. Joining him will be Tiana S. Mykkeltvedt, a Georgia Law alumna and partner at the Atlanta law firm Bondurant Mixson & Elmore who was flown out of  Vietnam as an orphan in April 1975, and Rusk Center Director Diane Marie Amann, Associate Dean for International Programs & Strategic Initiatives and Emily & Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law at Georgia Law, who also serves as the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s Special Adviser on Children in & affected by Armed Conflict.

Nguyen’s visit is co-sponsored by the Department of Comparative Literature, the Dean Rusk Center for International Law, the President’s Venture Fund, the Office of the Dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, the Office of International Education, and the Georgia Asian Pacific American Bar Association.

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Born in Ban Me Thuot, Viet Nam in 1971, Nguyen and his family came to the United States as refugees in 1975. He earned his undergraduate and doctoral degrees from the University of California, Berkeley before accepting a teaching position at the University of Southern California, where he is now the Aerol Arnold Chair of English and Professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity.

Other honors for The Sympathizer include the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the Edgar Award for Best First Novel from the Mystery Writers of America, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction from the American Library Association, and the Asian/Pacific American Literature Award from the Asian/Pacific American Librarian Association. His first book, Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America, was published in 2002.

Nguyen’s February 13 Global Georgia talk is presented as the Department of Comparative Literature’s annual Betty Jean Craige Lecture. Betty Jean Craige is University Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature and a former director of the Willson Center.

Nguyen’s visit is co-sponsored by the Department of Comparative Literature, the Dean Rusk Center for International Law, the President’s Venture Fund, the Office of the Dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, the Office of International Education, and the Georgia Asian Pacific American Bar Association

Viet Thanh Nguyen

Seed Life Skills Symposium

Student Cooking Competition and Panel Discussion

Title: “Food, Culture, and Community”
 February 22
Location: Multiple Venues
Seed Life Skills Benefit Dinner $100; all other events FREE

The Willson Center and Seed Life Skills present a symposium on “Food, Culture, and Community” with multiple public events on February 22 as part of the Willson Center’s 2017 Global Georgia Initiative.

Seed Life Skills is a nonprofit, research-based curriculum founded by Chef Hugh Acheson that is dedicated to providing young people with essential knowledge and skills in family and consumer sciences, also known as home economics.

The symposium is presented in partnership with Five & Ten, Creature Comforts, The Bitter Southerner, the Clarke County School District, Family Connection-Communities in Schools, the University of Georgia Press, the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, and the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute.

See “Read More” below for the Program of Events

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12 p.m. – Student Cooking CompetitionClassic City High School, 440-3 Dearing Extension, Athens GA

4 p.m. – Panel discussion: “Food, Culture, and Community” • Featuring Almeta Tulloss, director, Seed Life Skills; Helen Rosner, executive editor, Eater; Rashid Nuri, president and CEO, Truly Eating Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture; Chef Tom Collicchio, author, restaurateur, and head judge, “Top Chef”; and Chef Michel Nischan, author, food equity advocate, and founder & CEO, Wholesome Wave. Moderated by Chef Hugh Acheson, author, restaurateur, founder, Seed Life Skills • UGA Chapel

6:30 p.m. • Seed Life Skills Benefit Dinner presented by Five & Ten, the Willson Center, and Creature Comforts Brewing • Snackies and four courses by Hugh Acheson, Richard Neal, and Matthew Palmerlee • Specialty beers from Creature Comforts Brewing • $100 per person including tax and gratuity • Tickets available soon at

Seed Life Skills

500 Years – Screening with director Pamela Yates and producer Paco de Onis

Screening and Discussion

Title: “500 Years”
 March 2, 7 pm
Location: Ciné – 234 W Hancock Ave, Athens, GA 30601, USA

The Sundance-selected 2017 documentary 500 Years continues the story of the Guatemalan indigenous Mayan peoples’ human rights struggle that began in director Pamela Yates’s earlier films When the Mountains Tremble (1983) and Granito: How to Nail a Dictator (2011). Yates and Paco de Onís, producer of 500 Years and Granito, will take part in a discussion following the screening.

The event, part of the Willson Center’s 2017 Global Georgia Initiative, is presented in partnership with the IntLawGrrls blog, the School of Law’s Georgia Women in Law Lead initiative, the Institute of Native American Studies, the Women Law Students Association and International Law Society, the American Society of International Law and its Women in International Law Interest Group, and the Planethood Foundation.


Pamela Yates and Paco de Onís

2015 – 2016

Natalie Chanin

Business owner and designer

Title: “Alabama Chanin: Design, Making, and Meaning”
January 29, 5 pm
Location: UGA Chapel

Natalie “Alabama” Chanin is the owner and designer of Alabama Chanin. She has a degree in Environmental Design with a focus on industrial and craft-based textiles from North Carolina State University. After graduation, Natalie worked in the junior sportswear industry on New York’s Seventh Avenue, before moving abroad. For over a decade, Natalie worked as a stylist and costume designer, travelling the globe. In 2000, Chanin returned to her home to begin the sustainable work that has become Alabama Chanin.

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Since 2000, Alabama Chanin has expanded to include a family of businesses: the Alabama Chanin collection, The School of Making, The Factory Store + Café, and Building 14 Design + Manufacturing Services. All facets work together to create a collaborative community and idea exchange, healthy growth, and a love of quality goods that last.

In 2013, Chanin won the CFDA/Lexus Eco-Fashion Challenge, an award competition that identifies and celebrates the greatest American designers working in the realm of sustainable fashion. Chanin continues to learn and to teach craft traditions, using them to bridge generational, economic, and cultural gaps. Chanin is also a mother of two, an avid gardener, and an enthusiastic cook from her home in Florence, Alabama.

Natalie Chanin

Assaf Gavron

Author and translator

Title: “The Hilltop: An Israeli Author’s Perspective” – Betty Jean Craige Lecture
February 4, 2016, 4 pm
Location: UGA Chapel

Assaf Gavron is a writer and translator. He grew up in Jerusalem, studied in London and Vancouver, and lives in Tel Aviv. He has published five novels, a collection of stories, and a collection of Jerusalem falafel reviews. Among the numerous international awards he has won are the Prix Courrier International in France, Buch fur die Stadt in Germany, the DAAD artists-in-Berlin residency, and the Bernstein Prize in Israel. His fiction has been translated into ten languages, adapted to the stage, and four of his books are optioned for films.

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Gavron’s first publication in the United States, Almost Dead (HarperCollins, 2010) was chosen by the Los Angeles Times as one of the ten best books of the year. His second, The Hilltop, was published by Scribner in October 2014.

Gavron is also one of the noted translators in Israel. Among the authors he has translated from English are J.D. Salinger, Philip Roth, Jonathan Safran-Foer and J.K. Rowling.

Gavron is currently teaching literature and creative writing at the University of Nebraska in Omaha.

Gavron’s talk is presented in partnership with the department of comparative literature as the annual Betty Jean Craige Lecture. Betty Jean Craige is University Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature and a former director of the Willson Center.

Assaf Gavron

Mark Sanders

Professor of African American Studies

Title: “Blackness and Nationality: The Case of Ricardo Batrell and the Cuban Racial Narrative”
February 11, 4pm
Location: UGA Chapel

Mark Sanders is Professor of African American Studies and English at Emory University. He specializes in early twentieth-century American and African American literature and culture, more specifically, the connections between “mainstream” American modernism and the Harlem Renaissance. His research interests also include American and African American poetics, race theory, the African American novel, African American autobiography, and Afro-Cuban and Afro-Latino literature and culture. Professor Sanders teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first century African American literature and culture, exploring issues of racial and cultural identity, citizenship, and freedom. He also teaches courses on Afro-Cuban literature and culture of the colonial, republican, and revolutionary eras.

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Professor Sanders recently published A Black Soldier’s Story: The Narrative of Ricardo Batrell and the Cuban War of Independence, a translation of Batrell’s original memoir, Para la historia: Apuntes autobiograficos de la vida de Ricardo Batrell Oviedo, 1912. Professor Sanders is now working on a republication of the original for a Cuban audience. Sanders is also working on a collected volume of poetry by Anne Spencer.

Professor Sanders has served as Chair of African American Studies from 2008 to the present; he currently serves on the MLA Executive Committee on English Literature Neither British or American, 2009-present; and he served as the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program Co-Coordinator 2001-2008

Mark Sanders

William R. Ferris

Professor of History

Title: “The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists”
February 18, 4pm
Location: Griffith Auditorium, Georgia Museum of Art

William R. Ferris, a widely recognized leader in Southern studies, African American music, and folklore, is the Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the senior associate director of UNC’s Center for the Study of the American South. The former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Ferris has conducted thousands of interviews with musicians ranging from the famous (B.B. King) to the unrecognized (Parchman Penitentiary inmates working in the fields). He has written or edited 10 books and created 15 documentary films. He co-edited the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (1989), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. His most recent book is The Storied South: Voices of the Writers and Artists (2013). Bill Ferris’ films include Mississippi Blues (1983), which was featured at the Cannes Film Festival. He has produced numerous sound recordings and hosted “Highway 61,” a weekly blues program on Mississippi Public Radio for nearly a decade. He also has published his own poetry and short stories.

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Presented in conjunction with “Pictures of Us: Photographs from the Do Good Fund Collection,” a multi-venue photography exhibition sponsored by The Do Good Fund, the Willson Center, the Georgia Museum of Art, the Georgia Review, the Lamar Dodd School of Art, the Richard B. Russell Special Collections Libraries, the Lyndon House Arts Center, Ciné, and the Athens-Clarke County Library

The Do Good Fund is a public charity that focuses on building a museum-quality collection of contemporary Southern photography, including works by emerging photographers, and encourages complimentary, community-based programming to accompany each exhibition.

Ferris’s talk and “Pictures of Us” are part of the Willson Center’s Global Georgia Initiative, which brings world class thinkers to Georgia. It presents global problems in local context by addressing pressing contemporary questions, including the economy, society, and the environment, with a focus on how the arts and humanities can intervene. Global Georgia combines the best contemporary thinking and practice in the arts and humanities with related advances in the sciences and other areas.

Sven Beckert

Author and historian

Title: “Empire of Cotton: The Global Origins of Modern Capitalism”
February 25, 4pm
Location: UGA Chapel

Sven Beckert, Laird Bell Professor of History at Harvard University, researches and teaches the history of the United States in the nineteenth century, with a particular emphasis on the history of capitalism, including its economic, social, political and transnational dimensions. His recent book, Empire of Cotton: A Global History, was winner of the Bancroft Prize and selected as a Pulitzer Prize Finalist.

Beckert’s talk is part of the Willson Center’s Global Georgia Initiative, which brings world class thinkers to Georgia. It presents global problems in local context by addressing pressing contemporary questions, including the economy, society, and the environment, with a focus on how the arts and humanities can intervene. Global Georgia combines the best contemporary thinking and practice in the arts and humanities with related advances in the sciences and other areas.

Sven Beckert

Paul Sutter

Environmental Historian

Title: “Let Us Now Praise Famous Gullies: Providence Canyon and the Soils of the South”
March 24, 5pm
Location: Athens Cine

Paul Sutter is Associate Professor of History and a Faculty Affiliate in Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Kansas in 1997, and he was a member of the History Department at the University of Georgia from 2000-2009.

Sutter is the author of Driven Wild: How the Fight against Automobiles Launched the Modern Wilderness Movement (University of Washington Press, 2002) and Let Us Now Praise Famous Gullies: Providence Canyon and the Soils of the South (University of Georgia Press, 2015); he is co-author of The Art of Managing Longleaf: A Personal History of the Stoddard-Neel Approach (University of Georgia Press, 2010), and co-editor of Environmental History and the American South: A Reader (University of Georgia Press, 2009).

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He has published numerous articles and book chapters on the American wilderness movement, southern environmental history, U.S. imperial environmental history, and environmental historiography – including a recent state-of-the-field essay in the Journal of American History. He is the series editor for “Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books,” published by the University of Washington Press, and he was the founding editor of the “Environmental History and the American South” book series published by the University of Georgia Press.

Sutter has held fellowships from the Smithsonian Institution, the Huntington Library, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Institutes of Health, and he will be a Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment & Society in Munich in 2016. He is currently working on a book, tentatively titled Pulling the Teeth of the Tropics: Environment, Disease, Race, and the U.S. Sanitary Program in Panama, 1904-1914, which interprets American expansion and imperial public health through the lens of environmental history.

Paul Sutter

2014 – 2015

Loung Ung

Author, human rights activist

Title: “First They Killed My Father,” Betty Jean Craige Annual Lecture
January 29, 4 pm
Location: Rusk Hall, Larry Walker Room, 4th Floor

Loung Ung is an author and human rights activist dedicated to promoting equality, human rights, and justice in her native country, Cambodia, and worldwide. Her talk is presented in partnership with the Department of Comparative Literature.

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Loung Ung was only 5 years old when the Khmer Rouge soldiers stormed into her native city of Phnom Penh. Four years later, in one of the bloodiest episodes of the 20th century, some two million Cambodians – out of a population of seven million – had died at the hands of the infamous Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge regime. Among the victims were both Loung’s parents, two sisters, and 20 other relatives. In 1980, Loung and her older brother Meng escaped to the United States.

Loung’s memoir, First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, published in 2000, became a national bestseller and received the Asian/Pacific American Librarians’ Association award for “Excellence in Adult Non-fiction Literature” in 2001. In 2013, she worked on the film, Girl Rising, directed by Academy Award nominee Richard Robbins as a writer, which explored the stories of nine girls from nine different countries suffering under human rights violations and the role of education in bringing positive change.

The World Economic Forum selected Loung as one of the “100 Global Youth Leaders of Tomorrow,” and she has been featured in The New York Times,Washington Post, USA Today, London Sunday Times, Glamour,and more. Loung has also appeared on numerous televisions and radio shows, including CNN International, Talk of the Nation, Weekend Edition, Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and The Today Show.  Loung has shared her messages of activism and peace at schools, universities, and other forums throughout the United States and abroad, including Taipei American School, Singapore American School, UN Conferences on Women in Beijing, Against Racism and Discriminations in Durban, South Africa, and Child Soldiers in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Loung Ung

Paul Seawright

Photographer, head of Belfast School of Art

Title: “Things Left Unsaid”
Date: February 5, 4 pm
Location: Georgia Museum of Art, Griffith Auditorium

Paul Seawright is Professor of Photography and Head of Belfast School of Art at the University of Ulster. His talk, “Things Left Unsaid,” will be delivered in partnership with the Lamar Dodd School of Art.

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Seawright’s photographic work is held in many museum collections including The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Tate, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, International Centre of Photography New York, Arts Councils of Ireland, England and N.Ireland, UK Government Collection and the Museum of Contemporary Art Rome. In 2002 he was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum London to undertake a war art commission in Afghanistan and his photographs of battle-sites and minefields have subsequently been exhibited in North America, Canada, Ireland, Spain, France, Germany, Korea, Japan and China. In 2003 he represented Wales at the Venice Biennale of Art and in 1997 won the Irish Museum of Modern Art/Glen Dimplex Prize. He is represented by the Kerlin Gallery Dublin.

Paul Seawright 2

Ann Powers with Patterson Hood

NPR music critic and correspondent; Drive-By Truckers

Title: “Our Back Pages: The Music, Books and Movies That Fed Two Creative Lives”
Date: February 12, 4 pm
Location: UGA Chapel

Ann Powers is NPR Music’s critic and correspondent. One of the nation’s most notable music critics, Powers has been writing for The Record, NPR’s blog about finding, making, buying, sharing and talking about music, since April 2011. Powers served as chief pop music critic at the Los Angeles Times from 2006 until she joined NPR. Prior to the Los Angeles Times, she was senior critic atBlender and senior curator at Experience Music Project. From 1997 to 2001 Powers was a pop critic at The New York Times and before that worked as a senior editor at the Village Voice. Powers began her career working as an editor and columnist at San Francisco Weekly.

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Patterson Hood is an American singer-songwriter and co-founder of the band, Drive-By Truckers. Hood and co-founder Mike Cooley released their first Drive-By Truckers album, Ganstabillly, in 1998. The group has released a total of 14 albums, drawing influence from country music and rock and roll.

Ann Powers and Patterson Hood 2

Randy Borman

Conservationist, Chief of Ecuadorian Cofan tribe

Title: “An Amazon Contribution to Global Survival”
Date: February 19, 4 pm
Location: UGA Chapel

Randy Borman is a conservationist and Chief of the Ecuadorian Cofan tribe. The Cofan people are a small indigenous group of about 1200 people in northeastern Ecuador and southeastern Colombia. The rain forest provides most resources necessary to maintain their subsistence lifestyle. Borman’s parents arrived in Ecuador in the 1950’s as missionaries, and Borman was raised among the Cofan people. Oil companies began drilling in the region in the 1960’s, and towns appeared around the oil activity. These events interrupted the Cofan people’s way of life, and they began resisting further expansion into the rain forest. Today Borman and the Cofan people advocate for the protection of the rain forest. Through partnerships with the Ecuadorian government and other indigenous peoples, they seek to raise awareness around the world of the importance of preserving natural resources.

Randy Borman

John T. Edge

Writer, Southern Foodways Alliance director

Title: “Grits, Greens, and Gochujang: The Emergence of a Newer Southern Cuisine”
Date: February 27, 4 pm
Location: UGA Chapel

John T. Edge is a writer and the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, where he documents, studies, and celebrates the diverse food cultures of the American South. On February 27 at 4pm, Edge will give his talk, “Grits, Greens, and Gochujang: The Emergence of a Newer Southern Cuisine,” in the UGA Chapel. His visit to the University of Georgia is presented in partnership with the University of Georgia Press.

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Edge has written or edited more than a dozen books, including Southern Belly: The Ultimate Food Lover’s Companion to the South and The Truck Food Cookbook, a catalogue of modern American street food. Edge is editor of the foodways volume of the New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. He is general editor of the book series, Cornbread Nation: The Best of Southern Food Writing. And he is series editor ofSouthern Foodways Alliance Studies in Culture, People, and Place.  

He has served as culinary curator for the weekend edition of NPR’s All Things Considered, and he has been featured on dozens of television shows, from CBS Sunday Morning to Iron Chef. His magazine and newspaper work has been featured in eleven editions of the Best Food Writing compilation. In 2012, he won the James Beard Foundation’s M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award. In 2009, he was inducted into Beard’s Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America.

Edge will teach in the new UGA Low-Residency MFA Program in Narrative Nonfiction

John T Edge

2013 – 2014

Karima Bennoune

Author, legal scholar

Date: November 15, 4 pm
Location: The Chapel

Karima Bennoune is professor of law at the University of California–Davis. Her talk is derived from her new book, Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism.

Bennoune’s appearance is a special presentation of the Global Georgia Initiative for UGA’s annual Spotlight on the Arts festival. It is co-sponsored by the University of Georgia School of Law, the Dean Rusk Center for International Law and Policy, the International Law Students Association, the UGA African Studies Institute, and the Georgia Society of International and Comparative Law.

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Bennoune’s book was released by W.W. Norton & Company in August, 2013. The book addresses resistance to fundamentalism through accounts of interviews of more than 280 people of Muslim heritage, many of which have channeled their resistance through various forms of artistic expression. Bennoune conducted the interviews in Algeria, where she was born, and many other countries throughout the world.

Her scholarship, which examines international law, international human rights, terrorism, counterterrorism, religious extremism, and women’s rights, has appeared in journals such as the American Journal of International Law, the Berkeley Journal of International Law, and the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law. In 2008, Oxford University Press named Bennoune’s piece “Terror/Torture” one of the year’s top 10 global security law review articles.

The New York Times, The Guardian, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Nation,, and many other press outlets have published Bennoune’s articles or excerpted her book. She has spoken on National Public Radio, Fox TV, the Australian Broadcasting Service, HuffPost Live, and “The MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour,” and has been interviewed by the International Herald-Tribune and The Guardian.

Bennoune has served as a member of the executive council of the American Society of International Law and on the board of directors of Amnesty International USA. She is currently on the board of the Women Living Under Muslim Laws network. She has lectured around the world, including at Harvard Law School, UC-Berkeley School of Law, and the Yale Law School in the U.S., as well as for the UN Department of Political Affairs, the University of London, the London School of Economics, the University of Oslo, the Feminist Leadership Institute in Senegal, CODESRIA (The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa) and the Second Istanbul Conference on Democracy and Global Security.

Karima Bennoune

Tania León

Composer, conductor, educator

Title: “Border Crossings: Cultural Thresholds in the Syncretic Evolution of Music”
Date: January 30, 4 pm
Location: The Chapel

Introduction by Susan Thomas, Associate Professor, Hugh Hodgson School of Music and co-director, Athens Music Project, a Willson Center Faculty Research Cluster

Tania León is highly regarded as a composer and conductor and recognized for her accomplishments as an educator and advisor to arts organizations. She has been profiled on ABC, CBS, CNN, PBS, Univision, Telemundo, and in independent films. She was born in Havana, Cuba and lives in New York City.

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León’s opera Scourge of Hyacinths, based on a play by Wole Soyinka with staging and design by Robert Wilson, received over 20 performances throughout Europe and Mexico. Commissioned by Hans Werner Henze and the city of Munich for the Fourth Munich Biennale, it took home the coveted BMW Prize. The aria “Oh Yemanja” (“Mother’s Prayer”) was recorded by Dawn Upshaw on her Nonesuch CD, The World So Wide.

Commissions include works for the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, New World Symphony, Koussevitzky Foundation, Fest der Kontinente (Hamburg, Germany), Cincinnati Symphony, National Endowment for the Arts, NDR Sinfonie Orchester, American Composers Orchestra, The Library of Congress, Ensemble Modern, The Los Angeles Master Chorale, and The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, among others.

Her works have been performed by such orchestras as the Gewaundhausorchester, L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the China National Symphony, and the NDR Orchestra. She has collaborated with authors and directors including John Ashbury, Margaret Atwood, Rita Dove, Jamaica Kincaid, Mark Lamos, Julie Taymor, and Derek Walcott.

León has appeared as guest conductor with the Symphony Orchestra and Chorus of Marseille, the Orquesta Sinfonica de Asturias, L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Orquesta Filarmonica de Bogota, the Gewaundhausorchester, Chamber Orchestra of Geneve, Switzerland, the Guanajuato Symphony Orchestra, Mexico, Symphony Orchestra of Johannesburg, and the WaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra, South Africa, as well as the Orquesta de la Comunidad y Coro de Madrid and the New York Philharmonic, among others.

She has lectured at Harvard University and in the prestigious Mosse Lecture series at the University of Humboldt in Berlin, and was the Andrew Mellon Foundation’s Distinguished Scholar at the Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, South Africa. León was also a visiting professor at Yale University, and a guest composer/conductor at the Hamburg Musikschule, Germany and the Beijing Central Conservatory, China.

A founding member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, León instituted the Brooklyn Philharmonic Community Concert Series, co-founded the Sonidos de las Américas festivals with the American Composers Orchestra, and is the founder of the Composers Now festival in New York City. She also served as Latin American Advisor to the American Composers Orchestra and New Music Advisor to the New York Philharmonic.

Her honors include the New York Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Symphony Space’s Access to the Arts, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, and the Fromm, Koussevitzky, and Guggenheim Fellowships. In 2012 she received both a Grammy nomination (for “Best Contemporary Classical Composition”) and a Latin Grammy nomination (for “Best Classical Contemporary Composition”), and in 2013 she was the recipient of the prestigious 2013 ASCAP Victor Herbert Award.

León has also received honorary doctorate degrees from Colgate University, Oberlin, and SUNY Purchase College, and has served as U.S. Artistic Ambassador of American Culture in Madrid, Spain. A Professor at Brooklyn College since 1985, she was named Distinguished Professor of the City University of New York in 2006. In 2010 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Tania León

Pete McCommons

Editor and publisher, Flagpole magazine

Title: “The Stuff of Journalism: Death, Kudzu, and the Unexamined Life”
Date: February 6, 4 pm
Location: The Chapel

Introduction by James C. Cobb, B. Phinizy Spalding Distinguished Professor in the History of the American South

Pete McCommons is editor and publisher of Flagpole magazine and has been involved in weekly journalism in Athens for most of the last 40 years, beginning as co-founder of The Athens Observer.

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He earned a degree in political science from the University of Georgia and studied political philosophy at Columbia University. He was head of the State Government Section in the UGA Institute of Government until he was arrested as a result of his support for a student sit-in at the president’s office.

McCommons writes a weekly column, “Pub Notes,” composed of observations on the local political scene, eulogies, occasional attempts at humor and, when nothing else presents itself, reminiscences on growing up in a small Georgia town.

He is married to Gay Griggs McCommons, who is retired from the University of Georgia English department but not from the Town & Gown stage. They have one daughter, Molly.

Pete McCommons

Paul Pressly

Author, historian, educator

Title: “Colonial Georgia: Caribbean Influences and the British Atlantic World”
Date: February 20, 4 pm
Location: The Chapel

Introduction by Lisa Bayer, Director, University of Georgia Press

Dr. Paul Pressly is Director of the Ossabaw Island Education Alliance, a partnership between the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and the Ossabaw Island Foundation, and author of Georgia and the British Atlantic: Caribbean Roots, 1750-1775 (University of Georgia Press, 2013). Dr. Pressly is a former Rhodes scholar and earned a D. Phil. from Oxford University, an M.P.A. from Harvard, and a B.A. from Princeton. Dr. Pressly is former Headmaster at the Savannah Country Day School and taught at the Webb School in Knoxville, Tennessee. He has won a Georgia Governor’s Award in the Humanities and is an expert on Savannah’s role in the British Atlantic world.

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How did colonial Georgia, an economic backwater in its early days, make its way into the burgeoning Caribbean and Atlantic economies where trade spilled over national boundaries, merchants operated in multiple markets, and the transport of enslaved Africans bound together four continents?

In On the Rim of the Caribbean, Paul M. Pressly interprets Georgia’s place in the Atlantic world in light of recent work in transnational and economic history. He considers how a tiny elite of newly arrived merchants, adapting to local culture but loyal to a larger vision of the British empire, led the colony into overseas trade. From this perspective, Pressly examines the ways in which Georgia came to share many of the characteristics of the sugar islands, how Savannah developed as a “Caribbean” town, the dynamics of an emerging slave market, and the role of merchant-planters as leaders in forging a highly adaptive economic culture open to innovation. The colony’s rapid growth holds a larger story: how a frontier where Carolinians played so large a role earned its own distinctive character.

Georgia’s slowness in responding to the revolutionary movement, Pressly maintains, had a larger context. During the colonial era, the lowcountry remained oriented to the West Indies and Atlantic and failed to develop close ties to the North American mainland as had South Carolina. He suggests that the American Revolution initiated the process of bringing the lowcountry into the orbit of the mainland, a process that would extend well beyond the Revolution.

Paul Pressly

Xiaolu Guo

Author, filmmaker

Film: UFO in Her Eyes, screening & discussion
: February 27, 7 pm
Location: Ciné

Post-screening discussion with Antje Ascheid, Associate Professor, Department of Theatre and Film Studies and Willson Center Associate Academic Director for Arts and Public Programs, and Andrew Zawacki, Associate Professor of English and Director, Creative Writing Program

Lecture: “Beyond Chinamerica”
Date: February 28, 4 pm
Location: Zell B. Miller Learning Center, Rm. 148

Xiaolu Guo was born in a fishing village in south China. She studied film at the Beijing Film Academy and published six books in China before she moved to London in 2002. The English translation of Village of Stone was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Her first novel written in English, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers was shortlisted for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction, and 20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth, published in 2008, was longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize. Xiaolu’s film career continues to flourish; her feature, She, A Chinese, was released in 2009 and her documentary Once Upon a Time Proletarian has been screened at international film festivals. In 2013 she was named as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists.

Xiaolu Guo

Nathalie Handal

Poet, playwright, editor, theatre & film writer/director/producer

Date: March 18, 7 pm
Location: Ciné

Introduction and discussion with Ed Pavlić, Professor of English

Nathalie Handal is an award-winning poet, playwright, and editor. She has lived in Europe, the United States, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Arab world.

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Her poetry collections include The Neverfield; The Lives of Rain, shortlisted for The Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize and the recipient of the Menada Literary Award; and Love and Strange Horses (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010), winner of the Gold Medal Independent Publisher Book Award for 2011 and an Honorable Mention at the San Francisco Book Festival and the New England Book Festival. The New York Times says it is “a book that trembles with belonging (and longing).”

Her new collection, Poet in Andalucía (University of Pittsburgh Press, Spring 2012) is “a unique recreation, in reverse, of Federico García Lorca’s Poet in New York, considered one of the most significant books ever published about New York City.” Alice Walker lauds Handal’s work as “poems of depth and weight and the sorrowing song of longing and resolve.” Handal is a Lannan Foundation Fellow, a Fundación Araguaney Fellow, recipient of the Alejo Zuloaga Order in Literature 2011, the AE Ventures Fellowship, an Honored Finalist for the 2009 Gift of Freedom Award, and was shortlisted for New London Writers Awards and The Arts Council of England Writers Awards. Pulitzer Prize winner Yusef Kumunyakaa writes: “This cosmopolitan voice belongs to the human family, and it luxuriates in crossing necessary borders.”

Handal’s work has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, such as The Guardian, Virginia Quarterly Review, Poetrywales, Ploughshares, Poetry New Zealand, Crab Orchard Review, and The Literary Review, and has been translated into more than 15 languages. She has read her poetry worldwide, and has been featured on PBS’s “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” and NPR Radio, as well as in The New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Reuters, Mail & Guardian, The Jordan Times and Il Piccolo.

She has been involved either as a writer, director or producer in over twenty theatrical or film productions worldwide. Most recently her work was produced at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Bush Theatre, and Westminster Abbey in London. Ed Ochester writes, “If there is such a thing as a Renaissance figure among younger poets writing in America, that person is Nathalie Handal.”

She has promoted international literature through translation, research, and the editing of the groundbreakingThe Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology, an Academy of American Poets bestseller and winner of the Pen Oakland Josephine Miles Book Award, and the co-editing along with Tina Chang and Ravi Shankar of the landmark anthology, Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond (W.W. Norton & Co). Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer writes: “Assembled here not the Tower of Babel, but the astonishment and subtlety inherent in many languages and their experimental modes to expand the power of words. The editors have boldly envisaged and compiled a beautiful achievement for world literature.”

Handal received an MFA in Poetry from Bennington College, a Master of Philosophy in Drama and English from the University of London, and has studied contemporary literature in Russia, France, and Spain. She teaches and lectures nationally and internationally, most recently in Africa, and as Picador Guest Professor, Leipzig University, Germany. She is Books Review Editor and Tutor for Sable Literary Magazine and Forum, UK; an executive board member for Palfest; a member of the Laboratory of Frontiers Studies at the Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil; and an advisory board member for the Center for Literary Translation and for the Levantine Center, Los Angeles. She is currently a professor at Columbia University and part of the Low-Residency MFA Faculty at Sierra Nevada College. Handal writes the blog-column “The City and The Writer” for Words without Borders magazine.

Nathalie Handal

2012 – 2013

James C. Cobb

B. Phinizy Spalding Distinguished Professor in the History of the American South
University of Georgia

Title: “De-Mystifying Dixie: Southern History and Culture in Global Perspective”
Date: January 29, 4 pm
Location: The Chapel

James C. Cobb is widely recognized as one of the foremost scholars of Southern history and culture—and among the first to write broadly about the South in a global context. Cobb has written more than 40 articles and 12 books, mostly about the impact of changing economic conditions on the South. Two of these, Away Down South: A History of Southern Identity and The Most Southern Place on Earth, his book about the Mississippi Delta, are considered classics in the field. The latter quickly became a model for studying other regional cultures and subcultures, such as those of Appalachia and New England.

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Committed to reaching beyond the scholarly community, Cobb has written pieces for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, the New Republic, The Times Literary Supplement, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  His latest book, The New America: The South and the Nation Since World War II, was published in 2010 by Oxford University Press. Cobb’s work has won him a string of awards and prizes, named lectureships, offices in professional associations, most notably the presidency of the Southern Historical Association—and a dedicated audience of both academics and lay history buffs who eagerly follow his work.

The lecture is co-sponsored by Flagpole magazine.

Introduction by Pete McCommons, Editor/Publisher, Flagpole.

James Cobb

Barry C. Smith

Director, Institute of Philosophy
School of Advanced Study
University of London

Title: “Coming to Our Senses, Anew”
Date: February 5, 2013
Location:  The Chapel

Barry C. Smith is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Institute of Philosophy in the School of Advanced Study, University of London, where he co-directs the Centre for the Study of the Senses. He has written mostly on the philosophy of mind and language, on the topics of self-knowledge and our knowledge of language. He co-edited The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Language (2006) with Ernest Lepore. Following his 2007 collection, Questions of Taste – The Philosophy of Wine (Oxford University Press), he began working with psychologists, neurologists and neuroscientists on flavor perception and is now the co-organizer of an international research project on the Nature of Taste, jointly run by the University of London and NYU. He has been a Visiting Professor at the University of California at Berkeley and at the Ecole Normale Supèriere, and was the writer and presenter of the BBC World Service radio series, The Mysteries of the Brain.

Introduction by David Lee, UGA Vice President for Research.

Barry C. Smith

John Lowe

Barbara Lester Methvin Distinguished Professor of English
University of Georgia

Title: “The Tropical Sublime in the 19th Century CircumCaribbean”
Date: February 12, 5:30 pm
Location: Ciné, 234 W. Hancock, Athens

John Lowe, recipient of the MELUS Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Ethnic American Literatures, was Robert Penn Warren Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Founding Director of the Program in Louisiana and Caribbean Studies at Louisiana State University. He has authored and edited numerous books in Ethnic American and Southern literature, published dozens of essays, and presented over 80 papers in North America, Europe, and Asia, including invited lectures at the Sorbonne, the University of Paris VI, Venice, Kiel, Munich, Dresden, Budapest, and Hyderabad.

Introduction by Richard Gordon, Director, Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute, UGA.

John Lowe

Bertis Downs

Entertainment lawyer and adjunct professor, actively retired
R.E.M. advisor since earliest times

Title: “Bertis Downs in Conversation: Don’t Get Me Started – on Athens, music lessons, and of course, good schools for all kids…”

Date:  February 18, 2013, 4 pm
Location:  The Chapel

Since graduating from Davidson College in 1978, Bertis Downs has lived in Athens, Georgia, where he received his law degree in 1981 from the University of Georgia’s School of Law.  He represented the band R.E.M. throughout the band’s illustrious thirty-year career and remains an advisor to the group’s various business endeavors even after its disbandment in 2011.

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In 1988 Downs originated the Entertainment Law course at the University School of Law and for a short while was even referred to as the Adjunct Dean Emeritus on the university website (until he pointed out the “mistake” and the honorific distinction was summarily removed).  Downs has always maintained his interest in teaching by speaking at various state and national continuing legal education and music industry conferences and groups such as the Practicing Law Institute, the Future of Music Coalition, South By Southwest, and the American Bar Association Forum Committee on the Entertainment Industries. Throughout his career, he has lectured widely at universities and law schools including William and Mary, the University of Chicago, Harvard, Duke, Emory, Vanderbilt, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Emory, the University of Milan, the University of British Columbia and University College Dublin. His civic and sociopolitical interests include advocating for a vital public resource: our nation’s public education system. His main academic and professional focus is, like most everyone else in the creative industries these days, the changing legal and business landscape relating to the digital age of ubiquity.

Downs is active in various organizations and has served on the boards of People for the American Way, Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation, Georgia Conservation Voters, Georgia Appleseed, First Presbyterian Church of Athens, Georgia and the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.

Bertis Downs

Ntone Edjabe

Writer, journalist and DJ
Founding editor of Chimurenga magazine

Title: “Diagnosing the Chimurenga Chronic”
Date: February 26, 2013, 4pm
Location:  The Chapel

Ntone Edjabe is a DJ, critic, and the founder and editor of Chimurenga magazine, a pan-African publication of writing, art and politics based in Cape Town, South Africa.

Edjabe’s Feb. 26 lecture will be followed by a DJ session that evening at the 40 Watt, 285 W, Washington St. in downtown Athens.

Edjabe was profiled in a June segment of CNN’s “African Voices” – article and video clips available here.

Introduction by Akinloye Ojo, Director, African Studies Institute, UGA.

Ntone Edjabe

Valerie Babb

Professor of English and of African American Studies
Director, Institute for African American Studies 
University of Georgia

Title: “In the Footfalls of Diaspora: Reflections on the Wanderer
Date: March 5, 5:30 pm
Location: Ciné, 234 W. Hancock, Athens

Valerie Babb is Professor of English and of African American Studies, as well as Director of the Institute for African American Studies, at the University of Georgia. She received her Ph.D. and M.A. from the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, her B.A. at Queens College, The City University of New York. She has been a professor at Georgetown University and is a faculty member of the Bread Loaf School of English, Middlebury College.

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Her fields of expertise include African American literature and culture and American literature and culture, with particular interests in constructions of race and gender. Among her publications are Whiteness Visible: The Meaning of Whiteness in American Literature and Culture. Other works include Black Georgetown Remembered, described as “the history behind the Oprah Book Club selection River, Cross My Heart,” and Ernest Gaines.

Professor Babb’s talk will be preceded by a cocktail reception at 5 pm.

Introduction by Barbara McCaskill, Co-Director, Civil Rights Digital Library Initiative.

Valerie Babb

Ambassador James A. Joseph

Title: “Leadership as a Way of Being: Reflections on Nelson Mandela, Servant Leadership and Personal Renewal”
Date: May 16, 4 pm
Location: The Chapel

James A. Joseph has served in the administrations of four U.S. Presidents. He was U.S. Ambassador to South Africa from 1995–1999, the only holder of that office to present his credentials to President Nelson Mandela. In 1999, President Thabo Mbeki awarded Joseph the Order of Good Hope, the highest honor the Republic of South Africa bestows on a citizen of another country. He is currently Professor of the Practice of Public Policy Studies at Duke University and executive director of the United States – Southern Africa Center for Leadership and Public Values at Duke and the University of Cape Town.

Ambassador Joseph’s talk is presented in partnership with the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, which organized his visit to UGA.

James Joseph