Amherst College’s Center for Humanistic Inquiry (CHI) is one of 11 founding members of the New England Humanities Consortium, which aims to illuminate and expand the critical importance of the humanities in higher education and public life through intellectual collaboration, interdisciplinary exchange and innovative educational programming. The consortium was recently awarded a $100,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that will fund its administrative development and a pilot program.
The pilot program is Times Up: What Now?, a speaker series hosted by Amherst, the University of Connecticut and Wellesley College that is intended to serve as a model for future speaker series and events. “We’re delighted to have received the grant, which will allow us to begin generating cross-institutional collaborations as part of our mission,” says Martha Umphrey, Amherst’s Bertrand H. Snell 1894 Professor in American Government and director of the CHI. “This first collaborative venture will bring cutting-edge humanities scholars to some of our campuses to address how we want to write, teach and live in our current political climate.”
The first such scholar is Kate Manne, assistant professor at the Sage School of Philosophy at Cornell University, whose work explores issues of moral philosophy, especially metaethics and moral psychology, as well as feminist philosophy and social philosophy. As part of the Times Up: What Now? series, she visited Amherst on Oct. 29 to meet with students in Associate Professor of Sexuality, Women’s and Gender Studies Krupa Shandilya’s course “The Cross-Cultural Construction of Gender,” and to give a public lecture at the CHI titled, “More Than Fair: How Excessive Sympathy (“Himpathy”) for Privileged Men Masks and Causes Misogyny.”
Manne’s talk referenced and expanded ideas from her recently published book, Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny, which examines misogyny as a system that enforces a patriarchal social order by rewarding those who comply and punishing those who resist. She also explored misogyny’s connection to “himpathy,” a word she coined to define the overextended sympathy society often bestows on privileged boys and men. She’s hopeful—but not optimistic, she says—that defining and clarifying these terms might positively impact public discourse and lead to better education about these issues.
The second scholar featured in the Times Up: What Now? series is Mark Rifkin, who will visit Amherst and other NEHC campuses in the spring. Rifkin is director of the women’s and gender studies program and professor of English at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. His research explores Native American writing and politics from the 18th century to today.
“We’re excited to host these younger scholars who are able to connect with themes and ideas our students, faculty and wider community are eager to explore,” Umphrey says. “We’re also continuously working on additional programming and opportunities to expand the impact of the humanities throughout the region.”
To learn more about the consortium, visit the NEHC website.