Area Special Events

These events include renowned speakers whose appearance is sponsored by the various areas of inquiry and caucuses represented by the organization.


On this page:

Michael Bérubé, Pennsylvania State University, "Cancel Classes: Social Justice and the Future of Academic Freedom"

Pedagogy, Professional & Composition, Cultural Studies & Media Studies, Graduate Student Caucus, and CAITY Caucus Special Event

Saturday, March 13, 2021, 12 PM

Michael Bérubé.

Michael Bérubé is Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Literature at Pennsylvania State University and the author of ten books to date, including Public Access: Literary Theory and American Cultural Politics (Verso, 1994); Life As We Know It: A Father, A Family, and an Exceptional Child (Pantheon, 1996; paperback, Vintage, 1998); and What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts? Classroom Politics and "Bias" in Higher Education (W. W. Norton, 2006). Life as We Know It was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year for 1996 and was chosen as one of the best books of the year (on a list of seven) by Maureen Corrigan of National Public Radio. His most recent books are The Secret Life of Stories: From Don Quixote to Harry Potter, How Understanding Intellectual Disability Transforms the Way We Read (NYU Press, 2016) and Life as Jamie Knows It: An Exceptional Child Grows Up (Beacon Press, 2016).

Professor Bérubé's talk proposes to revisit the ideal of academic freedom in the wake of the activism inspired by the protests of the summer of 2020, which were ignited by the murder of George Floyd. These protests led to long-overdue reassessments of the legacy of racism and white supremacy in American academe and in American cultural life more generally. But while universities have been willing to rename a Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (as did Princeton) or grapple with their role in the slave trade (as did Georgetown), no one has yet asked the uncomfortable question of whether academic freedom extends to professors who defend colonialism, slavery, and theories of white supremacy.

This event is organized by the Pedagogy, Professional & Composition Area, the Cultural Studies and Media Studies Area, the Graduate Student Caucus, and the CAITY Caucus.

Grace L. Sanders Johnson, University of Pennsylvania, "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Multi-modal and Eco-literacy Approaches to Transnational Feminist Research"

American/Transnational, Global Anglophone, Diversity Caucus, and WSGC Special Event

Friday, March 12, 2021, 12 PM

Grace Louise B Sanders Johnson.

Grace L. Sanders Johnson is Assistant Professor of Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her PhD in History & Women's Studies at the University of Michigan, where she specialized in Modern Caribbean and Latin American History, Transnational Feminisms, Oral History, and African Diasporic Studies. She has been awarded fellowships from the Thomas J. Watson Foundation, the Andrew C. Mellon and Ford Foundations, the Canadian Embassy, and was awarded an Emerging Scholar Fellowship from the Haitian Studies Association for her dissertation La Voix des Femmes: Women’s Rights, National Politics, & Black Activism in Port-au-Prince and Montréal, 1934-1986. She has worked with various archival projects including Concordia University's Oral History Project Histoire de Vie (Montreal 2011). She has published work in several journals and books including Reconstruction, The Journal of Haitian Studies, Sisters or Strangers? Immigrant, Ethnic, and Racialized Women in Canadian History (University of Toronto Press, 2016; edited by M. Epp and F. Iacovetta), and Caribbean Military Encounters (Palgrave MacMillan, 2017; edited by S. Puri and L. Putnam). In addition to her study of 20th-century gender, sexuality, migration, and Haitian women's social and political organizing, she is currently collaborating with colleagues in Haiti and throughout the diaspora to establish a Haitian women's oral history archive. In addition to her study of gender and politics in Haiti, she is the founder of Harriet’s Hike, an ecological literacy program for girls and elder women in North Philadelphia.

This event is organized by the American Literature and Transnational/Diaspora Studies Area, the British and Global Anglophone Studies Area, the Diversity Caucus, and the Women's & Gender Studies Caucus.

Sophia McClennen, Penn State University, "What Does Latin American Cinema Teach Us About Cultural Globalization? How an Interdisciplinary Case Study Can Offer a New Critical Paradigm"

Comparative Literature and Spanish & Portuguese Special Event

Saturday, March 13, 2021, 7 PM

Sophia McClennon.

Sophia A. McClennen is professor of international affairs and comparative literature at Penn State University and founding director of the Center for Global Studies. She has published twelve books including Pranksters vs. Autocrats with Srdja Popovic (Cornell, 2020), Globalization and Latin American Cinema (Palgrave, 2018), and The Routledge Companion to Literature and Human Rights (Routledge, 2015).

Professor McClennen will offer an overview of a 25-year interdisciplinary project that used the case study of Latin American Cinema to offer a revised critical paradigm for how we understand the effects of globalization on cultural production. She will give insights into how to effectively use empirical research methods, interdisciplinary approaches, and humanistic perspectives to offer concrete and meaningful theories about culture and power.

This event is organized by the Comparative Literature Area and the Spanish & Portuguese Studies Area.

Mame-Fatou Niang, Carnegie Mellon University and Julien Suaudeau, Bryn Mawr College, "Reinventing Universalism for Postcolonial France"

French & Francophone Special Event

Saturday, March 13, 2021, 7 PM

Mame-Fatou Niang.



Mame-Fatou Niang is a director and Associate Professor of French at Carnegie Mellon University. She co-directed the documentary Mariannes Noires (2012). She is the co-author of a photo series on Black Islam in Paris (2018) and the author of Identités Françaises: Banlieues, féminités et universalisme (Brill, 2019).



Julien Suaudeau. Credit: Nicolas Guérin.

Credit: Nicolas Guérin

Julien Suaudeau is the Coordinator of the Non-intensive French sequence and the Director of Film Studies at Bryn Mawr College. He is the author of four novels—Dawa (2014), Le Français (2015), Ni le feu ni la foudre (2016), Le Sang noir des hommes (2019)—and of Le Spectateur zéro (2020), a conversation with film editor Yann Dedet. His work focuses on contemporary France seen through the lenses of colonial and postcolonial history, immigration, laïcité, terrorism, and socioeconomic inequalities. His books explore the blind spots of the Great French Narrative, in search of repressed voices and counter-accounts. He also writes about France and the Americas on He has directed three documentaries and has published extensively on film history, film theory, and French cinema in Positif.

Universalism, as a philosophical concept and a political ideology, was molded by the Enlightenment. Like all ideas, it is an intellectual construct with a history, a function, promoters who had an agenda of their own. Yet, some argue on both sides of the French political spectrum, universalism should be held as a self-evident truth: unquestionable, unchangeable, central to the assumed republican identity as it is challenged by "separatist" forces. How can a framework that was engineered in the 18th century bear any relevance for postcolonial France? How would an outdated and biased roadmap reflect a mosaic that is always in flux? Deconstructing French universalism as any study object, but not junking it, we argue that its perceived antagonism with antiracism is a superficial, sterile, and dangerous commonplace. Looking beyond pseudo-universalism, we propose to reconcile the universalist project with both postcolonial studies and the humanistic wisdom of Montaigne.

This event is organized by the French and Francophone Studies Area.

Imke Brust, Haverford College, "Borders and Boundaries: Reunification and Reconciliation Challenging the Nation in Post-Apartheid South Africa and Post-Wall Germany"

German Special Event

Saturday, March 13, 2021, 7 PM

Imke Brust.

Imke Brust is associate professor of German and chair of the German department at Haverford College. Her book manuscript Reunification versus Reconciliation: Challenging the Nation in Post-Wall Germany and Post-Apartheid South Africa, is a comparative study of South African and German culture, literature, and film in recent decades. Brust's research and teaching interests focus on 20th- and 21st-century German literature and film, nationalism, globalization, and European and African studies. Her scholarly essays engage issues of gender and race and investigate the images of, and the tensions between, nation and state in contemporary literature and film. She has presented nationally and internationally at conferences, such as the GSA, MLA, WiG, the European Network for Cinema and Media Studies, and the European "Psychoanalysis and Politics Symposium."

Professor Brust's talk addresses Germany's colonial legacy in Southern Africa, explores the racist ideologies prevalent in the two countries, and presents the parallel and dissimilar ways in which the Cold War affected the political situation in both Germany and South Africa historically. After the end of the Cold War, both nations sought to overcome former internal divisions, address economic disparities, and confront their violent racist pasts. Both countries struggled with changing borders into boundaries while effectively reunifying and reconciling their people. A border is based on legal treaties, marked by walls or border controls, while a boundary is cultural, historical, or natural, and usually more porous. Within this context, Professor Brust argues that literary and cinematic narratives enabled citizens to begin the process of psychological unification, develop representations of the nation for an international audience, address taboo topics, and form new identities within European and African communities.  

This event is organized by the German Studies Area.

Alessandro Vettori, Rutgers University, "Dante, Lady Poverty, and the Donation of Constantine"

Italian Special Event

Saturday, March 13, 2021, 7 PM

Alessandro Vettori.

Alessandro Vettori is Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He currently serves as Director of Graduate Studies in the Italian Department and as editor of Italian Quarterly. He has published a book on Francis and Iacopone, Poets of Divine Love (Fordham University Press, 2004), a monograph on Giuseppe Berto, La passione della scrittura (Marsilio, 2013), and his latest book, Dante's Prayerful Pilgrimage (Brill, 2019), is on pilgrimage and prayer in Dante. He has edited or co-edited three collections of essays (on Boccaccio, Giuseppe Berto, and contemporary Italian poets), and has written articles on Dante, Boccaccio, Francis of Assisi, Iacopone da Todi, Giuseppe Berto, Diego Fabbri, and Pirandello. He is currently researching the Donation of Constantine and its relation to Franciscan poverty for a future book-length project. He is also working on a collection of essays on forged documents that changed history entitled Fake News.

What was Dante’s relation to money? Why did he view wealth as the source of church corruption? Was he a Franciscan? At the root of all these questions is a document known as the Donation of Constantine, on whose legitimacy Dante casts strong doubts, but whose inauthenticity will be confirmed much later. Radical Franciscan thinkers offer an answer to all these complex historical and theological issues with a proposed return to the church's purer past. The parallel quest for an idealized Lady in Sacrum commercium and in Vita Nova highlights similar poetic-rhetorical goals in Franciscan writers and Dante, while the poet's admiration for the Mendicant Order culminates in his exaltation of Francis as exemplary reformer in Paradiso XI and in the hard-fought philosophical and existential battle between Saint and Devil for Guido da Montefeltro's soul in Inferno XXVII. Riches, reconciliation, and love govern the poet’s intense interaction with Franciscanism.

This event is organized by the Italian Studies Area.