Humanities for Humanity: Towards an Ethic of Encounter & Civic Engagement

Event details

  • Thursday | September 10, 2020
  • 7:30 pm
  • Zoom

An evening panel exploring the humanities, as a field of study & creative expression, and how they strengthen our civic engagement.

Join the Collegium Institute and the Program for Research on Religion & Urban Civil Society (PRRUCS) for “Humanities for Humanity: Towards an Ethic of Encounter & Civic Engagement” to explore the ways in which the humanities–both as a field of study and as an area of creative expression– provides ways of thinking that strengthen our civic engagement. The hope is to consider the deep value of humanities for human life in a way that does not subordinate it to politics but also does not detach it from the life of political communities. We will consider the value of humanistic study both as a timeless pursuit and in relation to the pressing challenges of civic engagement that confront us now.



Panelists from four different disciplines and universities have been invited to think critically and constructively about the contemporary practice of academic humanities: what relation does it currently have, if any, to political community and polarization? How might it become part of the solution to a more humane politics? Are there ways in which conceiving the humanities as primarily a political exercise might both advance and frustrate its civic function? How can the humanities prepare us for civic life without themselves becoming partisan? How can the integrity of the humanist and citizen be promoted at the same time and in mutually supportive directions? How do Catholic approaches to the humanities effect our understanding of both the humanities and civic engagement? How does having loyalties to two cities, the earthly and the heavenly, effect our engagements with the earthly city?


Herman Beavers, is Professor of English and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as recently being appointed as faculty director of Civic House and the Civic Scholars Program. Beavers has taught at Penn since 1989, and is a distinguished poet and a widely published scholar of 20th-century American and African American literature, especially the novels of Toni Morrison, the traditions of jazz and jazz writing, and the work of 20th-century Southern writers.

Katie Peterson, is the Director of the Graduate Creative Writing Program at the University of California at Davis. Peterson is the author of four books of poetry: This One Tree (New Issues, 2006), Permission (New Issues, 2013), The Accounts (University of Chicago, 2013), and A Piece of Good News (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2019). She is a fellow at the Berkeley Institute and collaborates on film and artists’ books with her husband, the photographer Young Suh.

Veronica Roberts Ogle, is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Assumption University, where she teaches courses on the history of philosophy. Her research focuses on the intersection between theology and political philosophy in classical and patristic thought, and she is the author of a forthcoming book, Politics and the Earthly City in Augustine’s City of God (Cambridge, January 2021).

Jason Blakely, is Associate Professor of Political Science at Pepperdine University. His expertise is in political philosophy and hermeneutics. His newest book was just released this summer from Oxford, We Built Reality: How Social Science Infiltrated Culture, Politics, and Power. His writing has appeared in venues like the Atlantic and Commonweal.


This event is co-sponsored by: Penn’s Year of Civic Engagement, Wolf Humanities Center at Penn, Beatrice Institute, The Morningside Institute, Genealogies of Modernity Project, Portsmouth Institute, Penn Comparative Literature department, Penn English department, Penn History department, Penn Philosophy department, Penn Pi Sigma Alpha Political Science Honor Society, Villanova Department of Humanities, and America Magazine–The Jesuit Review.