For the second year, the High Stakes Culture series explores the “culture wars” that have recently been ignited across the country. Activists from all points of the political spectrum, even the President of the United States himself, are turning to beloved cultural objects to stake a claim for their differing beliefs in a politically fraught moment. Black athletes are taking a knee. Anti-immigration voters are rallying for a wall. Long-standing Confederate monuments are coming down.

What is at stake in the ways we understand culture and cultural conflict? High Stakes Culture is a series, presented by the Institute for the Humanities and the Humanities Collaboratory, that brings humanities perspectives to bear on current debates. Join us as we ask: How and why does culture matter so much now?

Fall 2018

Please join the Institute for Humanities and the Humanities Collaboratory for a pair of linked conversations about high stakes culture and digital meaning-making in the Trump era.

“This is America”: Who are We and What Can We Learn from Childish Gambino in the Twittersphere?
September 20, 2018, 5:30-7pm, North Quad Space #2435


We are in a moment in which a ‘culture war’—in large part about race—has been ignited and is being stoked daily by activists across the political spectrum and by the President of the United States himself. This high stakes culture war is playing out across digital media in ways that we need to better understand.

Please join us for a conversation about Childish Gambino’s “This is America” and the sprawling, contentious conversation it sparked across the internet. What is he trying to say? How did the internet respond? How are our meaning making practices evolving? Why does culture matter so much now to so many, and who gets to decide what it means?

Come talk to humanities scholars Megan Ankerson (communication studies), Anita Gonzalez (theater), Robin Wilson (dance), Stephen Berrey (American culture & history), and moderator Angela Dillard (Afroamerican and African studies & Residential College) about these questions and others you might have about Childish Gambino’s America and yours.
How Did We Become a Troll Nation and What Can Humanists Do About It?October Date TBA


The digital is cultural and it has gotten ugly. The tone of online discourse is increasingly one of complaining, mistrust, and disapproval. The seemingly innocent "like" can unleash a torrent of attention-grabbing incivility. Platforms give trolls undue influence with the effect of normalizing emotional responses and off-topic discussions. What do we do?

Please join us for a conversation about what humanists can contribute to a reimagining of digital platforms. What do we know about how today's polarizing discourse has evolved? What can we learn from previous times in history where discourse was thought to be degenerating? How can the humanities help us form thoughtful communities of diverse opinions?

Come talk to Kamilah Taylor and Daniel Burke—co-founders of Swaay, a start-up dedicated to rebuilding digital platforms to encourage thoughtful exchange—and a panel of faculty and journalists about their work and the challenges they are encountering.