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Campus to Host Examination of Democracy During Humanities Festival September 21

Campus to Host Examination of Democracy During Humanities Festival September 21

Posted: September 16, 2019

At a time when democracy and civil discourse seem under increasing attack, Buffalo State is co-hosting an examination of the many facets of democracy during the 2019 Buffalo Humanities Festival.

“Democracy—Of the People? By the People? For the People?” is the theme of the three-day festival that begins September 19 off campus and concludes with a daylong mix of presentations, discussions, and performances on September 21 in Rockwell Hall. 

Presented by the UB Humanities Institute (HI) in collaboration with Buffalo State, Canisius College, Niagara University, and Humanities New York, the Humanities Festival is now in its sixth year. It typically attracts close to 1,000 individuals over the three days.

The festival steering committee chose democracy as this year’s theme because of what they saw as a need to reclaim a better future amid a crisis in democracy, said David R. Castillo, HI director.

“The humanities have a responsibility and an opportunity to re-engage our community by hosting face-to-face conversations on the big challenges of our time” Castillo said.  “A lot of what’s out there under the moniker of information is nothing but punditry and screaming matches. We’re looking to reclaim fact-based, evidence-based exchanges of information.”

The festival’s keynote speaker is bestselling author and Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi. He will present “Democracy in the Age of Post-Truth” on Friday, September 20, at 8:00 p.m. in Asbury Hall at Babeville Buffalo, 341 Delaware Avenue.

Taibbi cofounded the Buffalo-based alternative biweekly newspaper the Beast in 2002. He then worked as a columnist for the New York Press, and in 2004, began covering politics for Rolling Stone. He’s also authored the New York Times bestsellers The Great Derangement; GriftopiaThe Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap; Insane Clown President; and I Can’t Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street. A Q&A session facilitated by Investigative Post reporter Geoff Kelly and a book signing follow the talk.

Three Buffalo State faculty members are participating in the September 21 lineup that begins at 10:30 a.m. Ruth Goldman and Marguerite “Meg” Knowles, both associate professors of communication, will present “#TimesUp Hollywood! Or Is It?” at 11:30 a.m. in Rockwell 302, and Anthony Chase, assistant dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, will present “Theatre/er: Riots, Censorship, Racism, and the Democratic Impulse” at 2:30 p.m. in Rockwell 301.

“In the theme of democracy, the history of live theater is instructive,” said Chase, who will share the story of the bloody 1840 Astor Place riot in New York City, which stemmed from a rivalry between American and English actors playing the same Macbeth role in different theaters.

“Beneath it was great resentment from the working class over the continued British domination of culture and the upper class in this country,” he said.

Chase also will discuss subversive voices in theater, including Mae West and Lenny Bruce.

“Live theater still has the potential to sustain subversive and democratic impulses that aren’t available in books, films, or anything that is repeatable,” he said.

Other sessions that day include the panel discussions “The Gender of Democracy” and “Don’t Stop the Presses.”

Renowned academics and writers Ibram X. Kendi and Chenjerai Kumanyika kick off the festival with a town hall–style conversation, “Democracy and the Legacy of Racism,” on Thursday, September 19, at 6:30 p.m. in Asbury Hall. Kendi is the author of How to Be an Antiracist, founding director of the Antiracist Research & Policy Center, and professor of history and international relations at American University. Kumanyika is the co-executive producer and co-host of the political podcast Uncivil and assistant professor of journalism and media studies at Rutgers University. Kendi and Kumanyika’s event is free, but registration is required.

Tickets for Taibbi’s talk are $20 for the general public and $15 for students. Tickets for the Saturday-only events at Buffalo State are $15 for the general public and $10 for students. Two-day festival passes are $30 for adults and $20 for students. There also are VIP options ranging from $40 to $100. See the full schedule and purchase tickets on the Buffalo Humanities Festival website.

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