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The Time and Revolution Symposium was held at the Kislak Center of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. Credit: Jesse Zhang

Wolf Humanities Center held a “Time and Revolution” symposium on Feb. 23 as part of its yearlong forum on the topic of revolution. 

The multidisciplinary symposium, which took place in Van Pelt-Dietrich Library, consisted of a series of sessions from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The panels featured scholars and artists who explored the relationship between the revolution and the past, present, and future. 

Wolf Humanities Center's 2023-24 research associate Josué Chávez organized the event along with doctoral fellows and postdoctoral fellows in the center's Mellon Research Seminar. Attendees included Penn faculty members, students, and members of the greater Philadelphia community, with as many as 40 people in attendance at a given event. 

Chávez said that the goal of Wolf Humanities Center is to “encourage interdisciplinary humanities work.” He said that it was important to include the perspective of artists, scholars, and activists to bridge the worlds of academics and activism. 

“That is one of the main goals of this programming, to really show how the humanities can help us think through the world and like think through very difficult questions,” Chávez said. 

Writer and multidisciplinary artist Hamed Sinno delivered the keynote address. They spoke about their work as a musician, focusing on how lyrics and creative visuals can carry activist messages related to causes such as freedom of expression, gender justice, and the Arab Spring. Sinno then played one of their music videos. 

Panel discussions were organized around periods of time rather than academic disciplines. “Vital Pasts” looked to answer how history shaped our thinking about practices of revolution, while “Unruly Presents” explored how transformations in artistic and food production affect experience in the present. 

Guest speakers included Nicaraguan printmaker Carlos Barberena, professor of Art History at Northwestern University Hannah Feldman, and composer Flannery Cunningham, among others.

The panel “Revolutionary Horizons” focused on the future of revolution, agency, and the debate over mass incarceration. Panelist Geo Maher, who is a Philadelphia-based educator and abolitionist, said that prior struggles regenerate and strengthen the work of organizers like himself who look to “create, spread, and generalize new understandings of the world, new concepts, and new arguments for abolitionism.” 

Tara Faik, who graduated from Temple University in 2018 and frequently attends events at Penn, said she decided to attend the symposium after learning that Sinno would be a speaker. Faik said that she had been aware of Sinno's activism since 2017. 

Kency Cornejo, a professor of Art History at the University of New Mexico, also attended the symposium. 

“The theme is very relatable to what I do," Cornejo said. 

Every academic year, the Wolf Humanities Center chooses a topic around which to center its programming, which includes workshops, film screenings, and guest speaker events. The topic for 2024-25 will be “Keywords.”