Humanities Symposium

What is the Humanities Symposium?

In the simplest formulation, the humanities are academic disciplines that study human culture. The study of languages, literature, history, linguistics, jurisprudence, philosophy, archaeology, comparative religion, ethics, and the arts—use methods that are primarily critical and have a significant historical element—as distinguished from the empirical approaches of the natural sciences. The study of humanities “tell us where we have been and help us envision where we are going.” (The Heart of the Matter, Report of the American Academy of Arts & Science’s Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences to the U. S. Congress in June 2013). As a part of Show Me Research Week and the Spring Research and Creative Achievements Forum, the Humanities Symposium will spotlight the scholarship of undergraduate students working in these important fields, allowing them to help us envision where we are going together. 

About the 2023 Humanities Symposium

For 2023, the Humanities Symposium is being co-sponsored by the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures with a unifying theme of Surveillance and the Self. Dr. Linda Reeder and Dr. Seth Howes will be co-coordinating the Humanities Symposium programming.

About the theme Surveillance and the Self

From closed-circuit monitoring of public spaces, through the smartphone cameras and microphones we keep with us at all times, to the profiling of our lives, behaviors, and desires by advertisers, health insurers and credit rating agencies–surveillance shapes our lives in countless ways, both large and small. For the Humanities Symposium this year, students are invited to submit proposals for research and creative projects connecting with the theme Surveillance and the Self. Questions that may be considered include: How do we produce knowledge about ourselves, and others, through practices of observation and recording? In what ways do governments, corporations, and even private citizens engage in gendered and racialized practices of surveillance that produce or reproduce inequality? And how, when we are under examination, can we find ways to look back?

The keynote speaker for the Symposium will be Dr. Sara Blaylock, associate professor of Art History at the University of Minnesota Duluth and author of Parallel Public (MIT Press, 2022.)

Dr. Sara Blaylock, keynote speaker for the 2023 Humanities Symposium.

Currently Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Minnesota Duluth, Dr. Sara Blaylock’s primary research has concerned the experimental art, film, and visual culture of the German Democratic Republic during the 1980s. Broader interests include official cultural policy in state socialism, documentary film from the GDR, as well as the intersections of visuality, gender and class in 20th and 21st century Europe and the United States. Sara’s research has appeared in a number of academic and arts forums, both in English and in translation, including in Third Text, Cinema Journal, and The Oxford Handbook of Communist Visual Cultures. She is the recipient of Historian of German Scandinavian and Central European Art’s 2021 Emerging Scholars Publication Prize, and chairs the committee that established the International Association of Visual Culture’s Early Career Researcher Prize which awards the authors of winning essays the chance to publish in the Journal of Visual Culture. She has served as the Midwest Exhibitions Field Editor for since 2020. Sara’s first book Parallel Public: Experimental Art in Late East Germany appeared with the MIT Press in March 2022. You can find more information about her at

Check this space and the Office of Undergraduate Research for further information about the Humanities Symposium, Student Poster Presentations, and Student Panel Presentations, including online information sessions sessions on how to present humanities research.


The above video is of the “Humanities Symposium; Information Session” held on February 3, 2022 led by Dr. Seth Howes and Dr. LInda Reeder, the organizers of the 2022 Humanities Symposium. It has a lot of great information about what the Humanities Symposium is, definition of the theme “Borders and Boundaries”, how students may participate, and some of the many benefits of participation.