This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Program encourages civic discussion

Participants to examine significant American themes in historical context

Published: February 9, 2006

Contributing Editor

"Reading Between the Lines for Adults," an evolving state and national program designed to encourage informed civic discussion, began this week and will run through May.

The program, sponsored by the New York Council for the Humanities (NYCH), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and UB's Humanities Institute, is designed to engage the public in facilitated conversations about significant themes in American history, culture and life.

Two reading/discussion groups of 20 members each will meet once a month for four months to discuss books that illuminate a specific theme selected by the facilitator and endorsed by the NEH. Each group member will be loaned copies of the four books to be discussed.

The themes and proposed books were selected by the facilitators, doctoral candidates in the Department of American Studies, College of Arts and Sciences, who received competitive fellowships from the sponsoring agencies to lead the discussions.

The first group will focus on "Immigration and the Idea of America." It will be led by Luke Goble at the Amherst Museum, 3755 Tonawanda Creek Road at 7 p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month. The sessions began yesterday and will run through May 10.

Goble says the readings and discussions will address the relationship between immigrants' "imaginings" of America—as articulated by themselves and others—and the reality of the immigrant experience throughout American history.

Those interested can enroll if openings still exist by contacting Betty Lerner at the Amherst Museum at 689-1440. The books to be discussed are available to be borrowed. More information can be found at http://www.amherstmuseum. org/.

Goble received bachelor's and master's degrees from Harvard University. His Ph.D. dissertation at UB is a study of indigenous peoples and nationalism in the Americas. He is working under the direction of Galen Brokaw, assistant professor of romance languages and literatures and a specialist in Latin American colonial and indigenous culture.

A second group will consider "Branding of Place: How Corporate-style Branding is Changing Where and How We Live." It will be led by Alex Bitterman at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, 25 Nottingham Court, from 1:30-3 p.m. on Feb. 26, March 26, April 30 and May 6.

Bitterman's group will explore the phenomenon of community "branding," which, he notes, is rooted in the marketing and promotion of "place" to tourists. The group also will explore past and present methods used to brand communities like the Niagara Frontier and consider how recent increases in community branding will affect the places and spaces we call home.

To enroll, contact the historical society at 873-7644, ext. 319.

Bitterman is an assistant professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology and previously served as a research assistant professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, UB School of Architecture and Planning.