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 is an expert on the experimental art, film, and visual culture of the German Democratic Republic during the 1980s. Her first book, Parallel Public: Experimental Art in Late East Germany, appeared with the MIT Press in March 2022, and she has published widely in forums including Third Text, Cinema Journal, and The Oxford Handbook of Communist Visual Cultures. Her website is

About her presentation on Friday, April 21st:

Title: Being Seen and Unseen: Surveillance Art in Context

Abstract: In this talk, Dr. Sara Blaylock (Associate Professor of Art History, University of Minnesota Duluth) will describe the ways in which contemporary artists have captured the theme of surveillance. Her examples will draw from her expertise in the state security operations of the former East Germany, with a particular focus on a work titled “The Stasi Series” made by the painter Cornelia Schleime in 1993. As a means to discuss the gendered dimensions of surveillance, Schleime’s work will be set in comparison to feminist artworks created by artists in western contexts, such as Sophie Calle and Cindy Sherman. Blaylock will also describe how recent examples of surveillance art by people like Hito Steyerl and Zach Blas help to explain present-day concerns with surveillance systems, including the desire to remain unseen to the challenges that race and gender fluidity pose to surveillance technologies.

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.