Spotlight Lecture Series

2020-21 Spotlight Lecture Series: Polarization and Identity

The University of Minnesota Spotlight Series (formerly known as both the Honors Lecture Series and Northrop Lecture series) is a collaborative partnership between Northrop, the Institute for Advanced Study, and the University Honors Program to present lectures, panel discussions, exhibits, and other events throughout the academic year around a topic of timely interest. The 2020-21 series, "Polarization and Identity," features a series of six events inspired by both the 2020 Presidential Election and the polarization that has appeared in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. All events will be moderated by John Rash, an editorial writer for the Star Tribune. All lectures will be presented as Zoom webinars on Thursdays from 3:30-5pm. You must register in advance to receive access to the webinar.

 

Lectures
  • Thursday, September 24: Depolarizing America. Featuring William R. Fry Jr. and Rob Weidenfeld, members of Braver Angels. Braver Angels is a citizens’ organization uniting Americans from different political parties in a working alliance to depolarize America. The mission of both red and blue members alike is to try to understand the other side’s point of view, even if they don’t agree with it; engage those they disagree with; look for common ground and ways to work together; and support principles that bring communities together rather than divide them. William and Rob, a “Red/Blue Pair” from Ohio, will model these practices to launch the Spotlight Series 2020-21.
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  • Thursday, October 8: Identities and Creative Process. Featuring LaTasha Barnes and Gaby Cook, members of Swing Out. Swing Out is a captivating stage presentation with artists in residence at Northrop in Fall 2020 in anticipation of a Fall 2021 performance. The production celebrates the passion and power of the African-American born dance form—the Lindy Hop, which started in the community of Harlem, but swept the globe. The re-popularization of Swing Dance in the 1990s significantly altered the representation of African-Americans in the art form, while the cultural values held within the dance moved beyond to create a global community. Swing Out brings together a cast of performers who inhabit many roles within the art form; as such it is a model for how people with potentially polarized identities can communicate and collaborate. Swing Out members LaTasha Barnes and Gaby Cook will discuss the artistic process of creating the performance.
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  • Thursday, November 12: Will COVID-19 Turn the Generation Gap into a Chasm? Featuring Tom McBride and Charles Westerberg, Co-Authors of Marist Mindset List. McBride and Westerberg offer opposing views on how the COVID-19 pandemic may affect the current American generation gap. The Marist Mindset List is meant to reflect the world views of that year’s incoming class of college students and to help faculty understand those students. In the 20 years since its creation, the Mindset List has been a valuable marker of social, economic, and cultural change for successive generations. Tom McBride and Charles Westerberg rely on their own thinking and research as they debate whether the pandemic will unite the generations around fighting a common foe or if it will exacerbate already gaping differences.
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  • Thursday, February 11: The Rural/Urban Divide. Featuring Elissa Hansen, President & CEO, Northspan; Peter Lindstrom, Metropolitan Council Member, District 10; Shannon Smith Jones, Executive Director, Hope Community. Geography is an important aspect of how citizens identify themselves, and an increasing number of people are finding themselves classified in the media and elsewhere as urban dwellers, out-state, or various other terms representing core identities. People also have created new geographic identities over the past five decades, including the suburbs and exurbs. Hear panelists from a variety of locations discuss how their geography shapes their identity and that of others.
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  • Thursday, March 13: Religious Identities and Polarization. Featuring Emmy Kegler, Pastor, Grace Community Lutheran Church; Chris Stedman, Author, Faitheist; Tahil Sharma, Regional Coordinator for North America, United Religions Initiative (Interfaith Youth Core Alum). Issues of faith, religious practices, and even the abstaining from religion have long polarized different communities. These topics are also key aspects of many individuals' identities, including forms of monotheism, atheism, humanism, agnosticism, or others. This panel discussion will feature speakers from a variety of different backgrounds discussing how their religion or lack of religion is a core part of their identity and what is important to them about these practices.
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  • Thursday, April 15: Politics in Higher Education. University of Minnesota faculty members whose research focuses on the Spotlight Series topic for this season will present a response discussion in which they reflect on the first five events of the series. They will frame these events in the context of the larger issue of polarization and identity in America—past, present, and future. Featuring Kathryn Pearson, Bill Doherty, and Colin Agur.