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Credit: Katharine Cocherl

The Wolf Humanities Center held a research conferenced called "Pushing Daisies" on Mar. 16, to showcase the work of undergraduate fellows about afterlives.  

The Center's 19th annual Undergraduate Humanities Forum Research Conference took place in the Kislak Center of Van Pelt Library. This year’s theme, Afterlives, a topic chosen by Penn Professor Emily Wilson, focused on the meaning and the importance of afterlives. The research spanned from multiple disciplines and addressed themes such as historical tragedies and recurring ideas.

The forum comprised of three sections, Requiem, Reform, and Rebirth, each with three to four students and a professor moderator, totaling to 11 students or undergraduate fellows presenting their long-term research projects.  

The panels were chosen by the similarities between the students’ research projects. The alliteration behind the themes “touches on the idea of something happening again,” UHF executive board member and College senior Kyra Schulman said. 

In preparation for the forum, the UHF designed the programs, set up the groups and came up with the name “Pushing Daisies.” College senior Claudia Kassner, the Undergraduate Humanities Forum Chair, said that the name represents “the idea of generations after death, the process from beginning to end, but in flowers growing on a grave.”

Credit: Julio Sosa

Kassner said that the forum is a “way for people from all different kinds of disciplines within the humanities to come together and collaborate with each other, have some interdisciplinary conversation, and forge connections between research.” 

The Wolf Humanities Fellows have been developing their research projects for the last eight months. College senior Rive Cadwallader said it is gratifying to see the final projects of her peers after working on them for so long.  

“We’ve been learning about each other’s projects as we moved through this research process, so to see where people are ended up is really fun and exciting," Cadwallader said.  

The first panel, Requiem, emphasized remembrance as a form of a literary afterlife. 

The second panel, Reform, focused on a cultural afterlife pertaining to incorporation of old ideas into new. 

Kassner, under the theme of Reform, centered on the afterlife of Greek slavery in a collection of inscriptions at the Sanctuary called Delphi. Her research questioned, “After generations of objectifying and alienating and oppressing slaves, how do you reverse that process, and what type of legacy does it carry with it?”

Credit: Katharine Cocherl

The third panel, Rebirth, focused on “the idea of an afterlife in the wake of destruction or sort of like a phoenix rising from the ashes type for thing, as a form of afterlife, comprised of students who are mostly looking at how these different historical and cultural legacies have been devised over time,” Kassner said.

For this panel, Schulman presented about the Dreyfus Affair in Vichy France, and specifically, “how the French collaborating Vichy government, along with Vichy supporters, used the affair as a means to justify their actions during the Holocaust, particularly pertaining to genocidal actions,” she said. 

Other projects included "Jacques Derrida's Ghostly Archive of Poetry," “How the Civil Rights Movement Inadvertently Created Dark Money in Politics,” and “Conceptions of Death and the Afterlife in Modern American Comedic Films."

Schulman said she appreciated the creativity the forum's theme allows. 

“What’s cool about it is how people are able to interpret it so differently from all different areas of the humanities,” Schulman said. “It’s not science research, it’s not Wharton, it’s humanities, and it’s encouraged. It is fun to see how everyone interprets the theme just a little bit differently.”

Each year, a different theme is chosen. Next year's theme is "Stuff." 

In hopes for the future of the forum, Cadwallader said, “I think it probably has a different energy, a different flavor every year so if I’m in Philadelphia this time next year, I’d love to see how it changes.”

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