Blog - Oklahoma Center for the Humanities

Join us December 2 from 5p-6p for an introductory showcase of the “Road of Flight” exhibit. Event will be held in the Zarrow Center downtown and will feature the work of TU student journalists.

Route 66 holds a special, iconic place in the heart of America. From Dust Bowl migrants fleeing black blizzards to Baby Boomers gassing up to get their kicks, historic Route 66 was the road of flight for more than half a century of American motorists. Tulsa was central to that tale– from the highway’s earliest planning stages to current efforts at revitalizing the historic route in time for its centennial.

Prior to the First Friday unveiling of our “Road of Flight” Route 66 exhibit, the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities will be hosting a panel of student journalists at the University of Tulsa for a discussion of their work on the exhibit. Each student will give a brief overview of their portfolio, present a short audio/visual excerpt, and answer follow-up questions. The event will be moderated by President’s Professors of Media Studies at TU, Ted Genoways and Mary Anne Andrei–both of whom planned, curated, and organized “Road of Flight.”

This exhibit seeks to answer the question: What does Route 66 mean to Tulsans today? Student journalists compiled photographs, interviews, audio, and archival research to create a composite journalistic story that considers the people and places that make up this stretch of road in Tulsa. Together, these student reporters explore such spaces as the motor courts of East 11th Street, the neon-lit restaurants and cafes west of TU’s campus, and the iconic art deco buildings on the edge of downtown. Click the links below to see a sample of each student’s work:

The Oklahoma Center for the Humanities is thrilled to host TU professor of anthropology, Danielle Macdonald, for a launch of her most recent book: More Than Shelter from the Storm. Co-edited with Brian Andrews of Rogers State Univ., this collection brings together anthropologists from all over the world to think about the concept of “home” and the “built environments” of hunter-gatherer communities. Conversation will be moderated by Anna Goldfield, host of “The Dirt Podcast.” Event to take place 7pm on Thursday, November 17 at the Zarrow Center downtown.

The OCH was able to speak with Danielle Macdonald about the collection this past week. See below for an abbreviated transcript of the interview.


OCH: What is More Than Shelter from the Storm about? What does this collection accomplish?

DM: More Than Shelter from the Storm explores how we think about the concept of ‘home’ through the lens of mobile hunter-gatherer communities. In this volume, we brought together authors who work in different regions of the world and across different time periods to discuss the archaeological evidence for houses in non-sedentary cultures. The authors challenge the notion that the concept of ‘home’ begins with sedentism and agriculture, showing that hunter-gatherers have a deep connection to ‘place’ and to the homes that they create, even if these houses are temporary.

OCH: Why is it important to consider the idea of “home” as it relates to hunter gather societies?

DM: We often think of our own homes as a place of refuge and comfort. As an industrialized, sedentary, society, we also link the concept of home to a specific place and a specific building. Thinking about how temporary structures can also hold a deep meaning for people helps us think differently about where and how people make their houses, and how this relates to our own concepts of home.

OCH: As you compiled the essays (and wrote your own), were there any ideas or findings that struck you as particularly interesting?

DM: One of the patterns that emerged for me is how so many cultures and communities had a deep symbolic connection to the built environment. Literature on mobile hunter-gatherers rarely discusses the houses of these communities, and when they do, it is often essentialized to the utilitarian view– that shelters are meant for protection from the elements. However, through the case studies in the book we see how symbolic artifacts are found in different home contexts across the world, whether it is through placement of special and rare artifacts within the home or burying peopling inside the house.

OCH: The OCH theme for the year is freedom. Could you say a few words about how the idea of “freedom” relates to hunter gatherers and their “built environment”?

DM: The thought of freedom of movement is an interesting concept. It is true that for many hunter-gatherer communities (but not all), movement is tied to their subsistence practices. However, for agricultural communities, sedentism is tied to their food collection, so it is not fair to equate a lack of freedom to food gathering or production (we all need to eat, after all). What I really want to interrogate though is the concept of ‘movement.’ There is a general conception that hunter-gatherers freely roamed the landscape, moving from one area to another, in search of prey or other food. However, we see both archaeologically and in modern hunter-gatherer communities that this is not the case. Hunter-gatherer communities have a deep connection to and knowledge of the landscape; they might move, but often return time and time again to the same location.

OCH: How has this idea appeared in your own research?

DM: At the site I excavate in Jordan, Kharaneh IV, we have evidence of repeated occupation at the same site for over 1,000 years. This place and this landscape held deep meaning for the inhabitants; it was somewhere they returned to build their homes over generations and bury their dead. There is a freedom in being able to call different places ‘home’, to be unconstrained by modern political boundaries and borders, to be able to move across the landscape without worry of removal. This is a freedom that has been taken from many modern hunter-gatherer communities as their traditional territories have been divided by modern political borders.

OCH: The content of this collection is impressively global in scope. What was your experience like putting this collection together?

DM: My co-editor, Brian Andrews, and I were lucky to work with an amazing group of authors! We strived to find people who worked in different countries and in different time periods to get a broad sense of the diversity of hunter-gatherer homes. The volume resulted from a conference session at the Society for American Archaeology Meeting, so we had a chance to meet many of the authors in person, talk about our ideas, and learn from each other before we started writing the book.  Archaeology is an inherently collaborative discipline (it is impossible to excavate a site on your own!) so it was a lot of fun to collaborate with so many different authors on this project.

OCH: Any closing words you’d like to add about the collection?

DM: Anthropology challenges our own world view through learning about the perspectives of other cultures and communities. Understanding that there are a myriad of ways that both modern and ancient people can live in the world forces us to look at our own lives and beliefs through a new lens. I hope that More Than Shelter from the Storm will widen the reader’s perspective about the diverse ways people construct ‘home’ in the past and present and will help the reader think a little differently about their own relationship to the built environment.

Join us 7:00 pm on Thursday, December 1 to hear the somber, yet beautiful lyrics of Joe Goodkin. Event to take place in Meinig Auditorium in the University of Tulsa’s Lorton Performance Center.

Trauma has become a common word in the past few decades, one that can describe a variety of experiences. It is most often used to as a medical term describing physical violence to one’s body and a psychological term that encompasses mental and emotional abuse. As a word, trauma has an interesting history. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, in the 19th century psychologists defined it as “thorns in the spirit” and “a morbid nervous condition.” In the 20th century it passed through several schools of thought to smooth out to a definition today with which many of us are familiar: “a psychic injury, especially one caused by emotional shock, the memory of which is repressed and remains unhealed.”

It’s in this context that Joe Goodkin’s music asks us to consider what psychic healing looks like after the trauma of war. For almost two decades, Chicago-based musician and Classics degree holder Joe Goodkin has toured the United States. Recently Goodkin has created a 17-song adaptation of the Iliad steeped in ancient and modern war literature. He plays his music at VA hospitals as part of recreational therapy for veterans experiencing PTSD and other related war traumas. Joe’s first-person songs capture the horror, grief, and love that permeate the Iliad and the combat experience. Sung from the perspective of Achilles, Priam, Patroklus, Briseis, Helen, Andromache, and more, The Blues of Achilles evokes “the truths that the Iliad conveys [through] songs that [are] real and now” in the words of Tom Palaima, Robert M. Armstrong Centennial Professor of Classics at The University of Texas at Austin.

Goodkin’s work addresses directly the challenges caused by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition that afflicts soldiers everywhere and often impacts their ability to reintegrate back into society to lead happy, healthy lives. These songs and performances ask what we owe to those who fought and sacrificed, not their lives, but their health and mental well-being. In thinking about the OCH theme of freedom, Goodkin’s work considers how war experiences limit a veteran’s freedom, autonomy, and outlook on the world. What does freedom mean for soldiers after the trauma of war? How can art help to restore a veteran’s a sense of dignity and well-being? How can art help them begin healing?

Joe Goodkin is a Chicago-based musician and songwriter. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Wisconsin with a Bachelor’s Degree in Classics. Since 2002, Joe has been traveling the United States as a modern bard performing his one-man folk opera retelling of Homer’s Odyssey to high school, college, and general audiences, over 300 performances at such institutions as Harvard, Brown, UC-Berkeley, Stanford, Duke, Princeton, Indiana University, Phillips Exeter, and more. He has performed his Odyssey in 43 US States as well as Canada, Greece, Italy, and The Netherlands.

Road of Flight will be featured in the Zarrow Center gallery December 2-22, 2022.

From Dust Bowl migrants fleeing black blizzards to Baby Boomers gassing up to get their kicks, historic Route 66 was the road of flight for more than half a century of American motorists. Tulsa was central to that tale from the highway’s earliest planning stages to current efforts at revitalizing the historic route in time for its centennial. But as that anniversary approaches, we ask: What does Route 66 mean to Tulsans today?

This exhibit, generated by Media Studies students at the University of Tulsa, seeks to answer that question through photographs, interviews, audio, archival research, and observation. Together, these student reporters document the people and places of Tulsa’s legendary roadway from the motor courts of East 11th Street to the neon-lit restaurants and cafés west of campus to the iconic art deco businesses on the edge of downtown.













The latest post from our research fellows comes from Dr. Sara Beam, Applied Associate Professor of English and Director of the Writing Program. This video essay demonstrates how to read (analyze) a space for accessibility. The captions in the video are generated by Google Slides. This small project is my contribution to our ways of thinking about freedom. Who is welcome in/by your spaces? How does the simple design of your spaces pose barriers to access? What does reading spaces and everyday objects through the lens of accessibility tell you about freedom of movement and inclusivity?


The University of Tulsa’s Oklahoma Center for the Humanities seeks to hire a Special Programs Coordinator.  This full-time position reports to the Director and is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of a dynamic arts and humanities center while supporting other large-scale projects including the Switchyard Festival, the World of Bob Dylan, and exhibitions at the Zarrow Center.  The Coordinator should be able to juggle multiple projects independently, communicate effectively, have strong writing skills, and be comfortable working in an environment that values equity, diversity, and inclusion.

We particularly welcome applicants with bachelor or masters degrees in fields related to the arts and humanities. This position is based at TU’s Zarrow Center in the Arts District and typical hours are Tuesday through Saturday, with some evening hours required to accommodate events. Salary and benefits are competitive.  The initial review of applications will begin on October 28 and continue until the position is filled.

Please contact the OCH Director, Sean Latham, with any questions.


Travis Scott Lowe is a faculty fellow at the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities and Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Tulsa. In this essay, Lowe discusses the myth of equal opportunity and the concept of freedom in America. Lowe concludes with a proposal for ensuring, as best we can, equal rights for our nation’s children.

One of the most pernicious myths in American society is that everyone has access to equal opportunity. Even the poorest of us, the conventional wisdom goes, can transcend their circumstances and raise themselves to prosperity with talent and hard work. We find it difficult to resist the Siren song of this myth, largely because it gives us the illusion of freedom and control. Many examples of such rags-to-riches stories are readily available in our popular media. We may know someone who achieved this feat, or perhaps we have even accomplished it ourselves. The problem is that despite their ubiquity, such stories are outliers. When we look at the overall patterns, the typical experience for most folks is that they end up staying in the social class in which they were born, even those with an incredible work ethic.

This makes a lot of sense when we think about how opportunity really works. It is obvious that children born into wealthy families have more opportunity than children born into poverty. Consider what would need to happen to have truly equal opportunity. We would have to prevent parents from helping out their kids. This would mean no private schools, no working at the family business, no networking, and no guidance. It would require that each child be given the same resources as everyone else and nothing more. Only under these conditions would true equal opportunity be possible, let alone probable. Of course, this is not what people envision when they say they want equal opportunity because they would see it as an infringement on their freedom to raise their children as they see fit.

In reality, most folks just want a fair shake, a chance to work with dignity and earn a decent living. They crave the freedom to pursue their dreams and, if they have children, to help them pursue theirs. To that end, we should abandon the myth of equal opportunity entirely. Its only purpose is to paper over the social and economic arrangements that hold people back and reinforce the lie that the inability to escape poverty is an individual moral failing. In other words, it only functions as a mirage that works to maintain the status quo for the elites who benefit from it.

Instead, I propose implementing a minimum standard of opportunity, or the basic level of resources and circumstances that are necessary for children to live, learn, and grow into thriving adults. Achieving such a minimum standard of opportunity would require that every child receive the following, year-round and free of cost to their families:

  1. A rewarding educational experience, including the possibility for extracurricular activities
  2. Nutritious meals
  3. Easily accessible health care
  4. Safe housing
  5. Durable and comfortable clothing

While we can debate the merits and drawbacks of providing such things for adults, we cannot afford to do so for children. I have chosen children as the beneficiary of this concept for two major reasons. The first is that children grow up to be adults. If we want adults to thrive, we need to ensure that their childhood allows for that possibility. The second reason is that children have no control over their families’ financial circumstances. They do not get to decide where to live, if they have food that day, or if they can go to the doctor’s office when they feel sick. They are among society’s most vulnerable populations, and as such, should not be subjected to the cruel vagaries of market logic.

One might ask, “This sounds expensive. People are free to provide these things on their own. Why is it our responsibility to do it?” My rejoinder to this is to ask, “What is freedom without opportunity?” Is having a shorter lifespan because you are poor the kind of freedom we want? What about not ever having a chance to save enough to retire? Or foregoing a doctor’s visit because you are afraid it will financially ruin you? The freedom that people in these situations experience is an empty freedom, a routine that is devoid of real agency.

More than that, it is an oppressive freedom, for we are all being gaslit into believing that we have all the resources we need to change our circumstances while simultaneously being robbed of them. Elites place their hands on the levers of power and move them dispassionately, seeking growth and profit above all else. For ordinary people, livelihoods vanish, and our country offers scant help in picking up the pieces. Despite living in one of the wealthiest nations in human history, millions of Americans experience this profound disempowerment. What is the value of such freedom to them? Why should they ignore their thirst for opportunity when freedom has turned to ashes in their mouths?

Join us for Swanson’s talk on November 11, 5:30p, at the Henry Zarrow Center for Arts and Education in downtown Tulsa.

Law enforcement and its role in our communities has become a lightning-rod issue in recent years. The debate follows a predictable split along political lines, “thin blue line” conservatives who wholly embrace law enforcement and activist, progressive groups such as Black Lives Matter who challenge police malpractice. While contemporary politics polarizes these issues, history (and historians who tell those stories) often reveals the complexity behind such debates.

Frontier Battalion company in Alice, Texas.

Professor Doug Swanson is the author of a recent book entitled Cult of Glory: The Bold and Brutal History of the Texas Rangers that explores the complex 200+ years of the Texas Rangers. For Swanson, the main order of business in the book is to separate the glorifying mythology surrounding the rangers and the realities of the organization’s history. As Swanson writes, “The Rangers have long been admired for their bravery, heroism, and application of frontier justice. But the ‘Tales of the Texas Rangers,’ as Hollywood liked to put it, also have a dark side that often has been overlooked or twisted into false myth.” Swanson takes care to point out both the positive impact of the Rangers and their morally fraught, “brutal” moments. From the successful pursuits of outlaws such as Bonnie and Clyde to racialized violence enacted on Mexican citizens and soldiers, African Americans, and Native Americans, Swanson’s research into the Rangers is an important look into the creation and maintenance of the American Southwest.

Manuel Trazazas Gonzaullas pictured. Served as a Texas Ranger from 1920-1933.

Swanson’s work gets at an interesting tension between freedom and the control that law enforcement enacts. At its best, law enforcement maintains the boundaries between individual freedoms, stopping those whose actions jeopardize another’s rights. But, as Swanson’s research shows, ideals of justice and fairness are not always the case. Sometimes the privileges and rights of certain groups are prioritized above those of others. While Swanson’s Cult of Glory helps us consider our own time, it is also an illustration of how to grapple with historical narratives, especially ones so enmeshed in mythology spun by novels, movies, and TV shows that glorify the role of law enforcement. Join us for what promises to be an insightful and urgent discussion over the Texas Rangers and the implications of their complex history.

Doug Swanson is a veteran investigative reporter and editor. He has written five novels and two non-fiction books. His most recent book is Cult of Glory: The Bold and Brutal History of the Texas Rangers, published in 2020 by Viking. His novel Big Town was a finalist for the Edgar Award and won the John Creasey Award from the British Crime Writers Association. Swanson was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing, and was a John S. Knight Fellow in Journalism at Stanford University. Before joining Pitt in 2016, he taught journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of North Texas.

Carly Treece is a Native American artist, community builder, and advocate.  She is one of the 2022-23 public fellows exploring the theme of Freedom at the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities. In this essay, Treece explores the relationship between art, the community, and individual health. 

“Women’s Voices at Council” by Joan Hill, acrylic on canvas, Oklahoma State Art Collection, Oklahoma Arts Council,

When I look at the painting “Woman’s Voices at the Council” by Mvskoke/Cherokee artist Joan Hill, I think of freedom for women. I think of sovereignty over land and body as well as the power that speaks through the work of art. This painting is important to me because it shows the importance of Mvskoke women within their tribe. It shows that their voice matters on issues that not only affect themselves, but the entire community.

We all know the power that art holds. It is one of the universal languages of life, along with music and food. It not only speaks to us on personal levels, but also helps us engage others within our communities. Art brings us together from all walks of life: different cultures, races, socioeconomic backgrounds, ages, genders, and all sides of the railroad tracks. It gives a voice to the unheard, inspires our lives, and serves as a bridge to worlds that may differ from our own.

Art can be a tool for healing and help us understand our inner selves as well as our communities since creativity helps reduce the negative physiological and psychological impact of trauma. Engaging such activities can enhance your mood and emotions, and have a calming physiological effect as well. These same benefits are seen when people simply observe the arts.

Because access to art is beneficial for the health of the entire community, especially vulnerable communities, it can double as a public health initiative. According to a review published by the World Health Organization, the arts can impact the prevention, promotion, management, and treatment of both physical and mental illnesses. The American Journal of Public Health Access published a similar review that demonstrates the health benefits of art.

Creative expression in my own life has helped me overcome worry by allowing my brain to work through problems and untangle thoughts in a visual language. I can recall exactly what I was going through when I created much of my own work– and how it helped me work through a problem. Observing art in galleries and museums produces a calming effect both mentally and physically, helping me to relax and find a sense of calm. Taking a community art class is also one of my favorite ways to connect with people of all ages, cultures, and areas of town within our community.

I encourage you to break out and experience the sense of freedom that art gives you. First Friday in the Tulsa Arts District, The Tulsa Artist Fellowship, Living Arts, The Zarrow Center, and AHHA are all wonderful places to meet different artists to follow from various cultures, ages and parts of town. Donate to organizations in your town that provide access to art for all. Organize an art drive for a community center that provides classes to the community. And, of course, buy from and support your local artists!

When we do little things, we can make a significant impact on our own lives and the lives others.

Crystal Zanders is a poet, educator, activist, and pug-parent from Tennessee. She is one of the 2022-23 public fellows at TU’s Oklahoma Center for the Humanities. In this essay, Zanders explores the lyrics of Billie Holiday’s “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do” to ultimately ask the question, When is it our responsibility to care for other people?

Portrait of Billie Holiday. Credit: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

In the first few weeks of the seminar, we explored the theme of freedom through the lens of musical history. The music chosen, however, was specific and (one could argue) integral to the histories and identities of the folks presenting in those weeks. This lead me to consider my own musical history and the artists and songs that connect me to my history, shape my identity, and inform my views on freedom. And so, I began thinking about Billie Holiday.

The first time I heard Billie Holiday’s “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do” as a teenager, I felt conflicted. Part of me loved the song, but I found myself disturbed by the lyrics. I was fully engaged in the opening lines:

There ain't nothing I can do
Or nothing I can say
That folks don't criticize me
But I'm going to do
Just as I want to anyway
And don't care just what people say.

The budding feminist in me cheered for the speaker. I have always admired folk who live on their own terms, make their own rules, folk who don’t wait for permission to live life.

Then, lyrically, there is a shift. The lines, “if I should take the notion to jump into the ocean, ain’t nobody’s business if I do…” gave me pause. Is she talking about going on a swim or this about suicide?  Now, I wonder if the fact that she doesn’t specify is an illustration of the song’s central message. It doesn’t matter why she is in the ocean, because her choice is no one else’s business.

The next lines also have multiple interpretations. “If I go to church on Sunday, then cabaret all day Monday” could be the speaker pushing back against a judgmental public, fighting back against accusations of hypocrisy. However, a cynical person might argue that “go[ing] to church on Sunday” and “cabaret[ing] all day Monday” can be vastly different activities with the same goal: to release emotions, cleanse the soul, empty the mind, and fill it with joy.

Therein lies the complexity of this song. Even in the lightest parts, within the celebrations of freedom, you can hear the pain. The song ends on a particularly dark note:

Well, I’d rather my man would hit me
than for him to jump up and quit me.
Ain’t nobody’s business if I do.
I swear I won’t call no copper
if I’m beat up by my papa…

At what point do our choices become someone else’s business? Where do we draw the line between individual freedom and societal responsibility? Does the government have a duty to protect its citizens, even from themselves? Is there a such thing as too much freedom?

Holiday performing. Credit: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Billie Holiday struggled with sexual violence, domestic violence, and substance abuse, as well as the racial trauma that was part of being a Black woman in that time in the United States.  She spent much of her life trying to silence the howls of the demons this world put inside her as a child; she died at age 44. I have heard it said that once your mind is free then it doesn’t matter what folks do to your body. I ask myself if Billie Holiday ever truly experienced that freedom, that peace.

Then I imagine what kind of world we could live in if we collectively decided that it was our business to protect the most vulnerable among us. What would this world be like if we could find a way to respect folks’ autonomy while building stronger, more cohesive, comprehensive systems of support for those who need it most?

How many more years of Billie Holiday’s grit, grace, dignity, determination, and talent could we have had if we lived in that world? How many more years of [fill in the blank with name of someone you love or admire whose struggles with mental health, substance abuse, and/or domestic violence stole time from their lives] would we have had? What would happen if we collectively, made it our business to care?


* If you or someone you know is struggling with domestic violence, there are folks who care and want to help. Call the national domestic violence hotline at 800-799-7233 or visit their website here:

**If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call 988 to be connected to the Suicide/Crisis Lifeline or visit their website:

“My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love” by Dmitri Vrubel, 1990, eastern side of Berlin Wall

The Cold War marked an important shift in global politics. Divisions were erected between first, second, and third “worlds” (which were historically based on political and economic distinctions). There were several postcolonial movements and burgeoning nation states in the wake of dissolving European empires. And, of course, there were international tensions between USSR and the United States, much of which was based on the potential for nuclear war.

While these issues were playing out on a global stage, American politics had its own share of complex changes during the Cold War era. The Civil Rights movement legally ended Jim Crow segregation and moved the US towards racial equality with advancements in voting rights, education, employment, and housing. Second wave feminism fought against, among other issues, discrimination in the workplace and domestic violence. Anti-Vietnam War sentiments and protests abounded. And then there was the “Reagan Revolution”– towards the end of the Cold War era– that marked a conservative backlash against the social change of the preceding decades.

GerShun Avilez’s work probes directly at the intersection of global and American politics during this time: How did international politics during the Cold War era shape our national culture? What role did Gay Rights and Queer activists play in national debates over equality, freedom, and identity? What does “freedom” mean in a time of paranoia and social conflict? In this talk, University of Maryland professor GerShun Avilez will explore how the Cold War conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union led to a tremendous reorganization of how Americans thought about identity, especially queer identity. Avilez will discuss the activism of homosexual organizers who worked against state repression and then will trace the shifting ways Cold War-era novels, plays, and poetry take up the subject of queerness and re-imagine the social possibilities for the homosexual citizen. Ultimately, this talk will illustrate how ideas of queer freedom arise and transform in the shadow of repression.

Join us Thursday, September 29, 7-8:30p in Tyrell Hall to hear Avilez’s work. This event will be in-person at the Tyrrell Hall auditorium at TU and online on Zoom. To join the Zoom stream, please click here.

GerShun Avilez is a cultural studies scholar who specializes in contemporary African American and Black Diasporic literatures and visual cultures. His teaching also covers 20th century US literature. Much of his scholarship explores how questions of gender and sexuality inform artistic production. In addition, he works in the fields of political radicalism, spatial theory, gender studies, and medical humanities. He serves as the Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Maryland. His first book, Radical Aesthetics & Modern Black Nationalism (Illinois), appeared in 2016 as a part of “The New Black Studies” Series. His second book, Black Queer Freedom (Illinois), explores Black Diasporic queer artists and questions of social space. He edited a special issue of the journal Women’s Studies (2019) and recently co-edited the 10th edition of the Norton Anthology of American Literature, 1945-Present (2022). He has written articles and book chapters on a range of historical and cultural subjects, including the Cold War, segregation narratives, early African American writing, race & terror, social death, queer life, experimental poetry, Black women’s writing, literary & cinematic satire, the Harlem Renaissance, Black Power Politics, and the Black Arts Movement.

In her introduction to Ink in the Grooves: Conversations on Literature and Rock ‘n’ Roll, Florence Dore aligns the book’s premise with her experience as a college student. As a student, Dore found herself reading elite, high-art literature and playing the popular, low art of rock music. This experience, of straddling two distinct camps in the art world, led to questions about the division between high and low culture. “There has always been bleed” between these two categories, she writes, “but at present we are witness to its utter erasure.” The book goes on to feature several artists and writers who explore or exemplify the dissolved boundaries between high and low art, between the literary and the musical. In considering our theme of freedom, how might such a mindset enable critics and fans in thinking about the relationship between so-called high and low art? How does liberation from a primarily elite thinking about literature and high art impact our critical conversations? Conversely, how does the liberation of pop music/rock from the status of low art impact our conversations?

Florence Dore is an academic and artist, a literary scholar and musician. And so her visit will reflect these interests: academic lecture and musical performance. Dore’s lecture will explore the intersection between two major figures in American folk music, Lucinda Williams and Lead Belly, and their relationship to American fiction more broadly. The other half of the event will feature music by Dore herself, a singer and songwriter whose new album, Highways and Rocketships, emerges from the same American folk-rock tradition as Williams and Lead Belly while weaving together such disparate influences as surf rock and country western. With this event, the OCH is thrilled to meld these two facets of the humanities, to bridge music and the intellectual thought that helps us to understand the role and significance of the arts and humanities. We are thrilled to explore the theme of “freedom” in such an interesting, nuanced way.

Join us Friday September 23, 5:00p-6:30p, at the Henry Zarrow Center for Arts and Education for what promises to be an electric (but also acoustic) evening. Part rock, part talk!

Florence Dore, musician and author, is touring on her new record Highways and RocketshipsFlorence recently played opening slots for Steve Earle, Son Volt, Sarah Shook & the Disarmers, and Southern Culture on the Skids and has had  airplay on SiriusXM radio shows hosted by Steve Earle and Mojo Nixon on Outlaw Country.  With Joe Swank at the helm doing radio, her record has been out a week and she’s already managed to get to the top 20 on the chart. As a literary scholar, Dore joined the University of North Carolina faculty in 2010. She is a singer/songwriter and an academic, having published books and articles as well as released albums, and teaching in both the creative writing and literature programs at Carolina. She has held fellowships at New York University, the National Humanities Center, and the Institute for Arts and Humanities at UNC, has won grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. A member of the Steering Committee for Post45, a collective of scholars working on American Literature and Culture since 1945, Dore was also a founding co-editor for the Post45 Book Series at Stanford University Press. She sits on the advisory board for the Institute for Bob Dylan Studies at the University of Tulsa’s Bob Dylan Archive.

In a 2014 article for Science Magazine, Michael Madison and colleagues outlined the complex issue of intellectual property in the internet age. The thrust of their thinking is simple: knowledge and ideas are like resources that, if made free and open to the public, are often exploited. And this has negative consequences for the ways in which knowledge is produced and disseminated.

One potential solution to this problem are “knowledge commons,” which the authors define as “institutionalized community governance of the sharing and, in many cases, creation and curation of intellectual and cultural resources.” Examples of this concept range from “scientific research commons, including data, literature, and research materials… to intellectual property pools, entrepreneurial/user innovation commons, rare-disease clinical research consortia, open-source software projects, and Wikipedia” (1240). Inherent to the idea of knowledge commons is the potential to share widely important information for the public and professionals in a variety of fields. There is also the potential to educate and empower communities without adequate access to educational resources. With the internet readily accessible for millions of people and many iterations of knowledge commons already in place, it would seem that effective solutions are here.

But the answer isn’t that simple, and complications still remain for our “information society.” We have access to more information, more culture, and more science than ever before in human history, much of it free. But free information hasn’t set us free. Why not, and what can we do about that?

On September 15, from 7-8:30p, join the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities in welcoming University of Pittsburgh professor Michael Madison for this exciting lecture on the complications of freedoms in the information age. This event will be in person at Tyrrell Hall’s auditorium and streamed simultaneously. You can join our Zoom link here.

Michael Madison is a professor in the school of law at the University of Pittsburgh. His interests span a wide range of applications: copyright and other intellectual property law; high technology; research science and data: Enlightenment arts and culture; higher education and universities; innovation policy; 21st century urbanism; and global football (soccer).  He is a co-founder of the emerging research discipline known as “knowledge commons.” Professor Madison is the author of more than 50 journal articles and book chapters, the co-author of The Law of Intellectual Property (Wolters Kluwer, 5th edition 2017) and the co-editor of Governing Knowledge Commons (Oxford University Press 2014) and Governing Medical Knowledge Commons (Cambridge University Press 2017). He is also the co-founder of the global research network titled the Workshop on Governing Knowledge Commons and co-leader of a virtual think tank on the futures of the professions, globalization, and higher education, titled Future Law Works.

The Oklahoma Center for the Humanities at the University of Tulsa is pleased to announce its 2022-2023 class of fellows.  Throughout the academic year, they will collaborate on research and programming focused on this year’s theme: Freedom.  This class includes a diverse collection of students, faculty, and members of the community representing different areas of expertise, exploration, and practice.

Kaveh Bassiri is an Iranian-American writer and translator. He is the author of 99 Names of Exile, winner of the 2019 Anzaldúa Poetry Prize, and Elementary English, winner of the 2020 Rick Campbell Chapbook Prize. His poems have been published in several anthologies, including Best American Poetry 2020, Best New Poets 2020The Heart of a StrangerEssential Voices: Poetry of Iran and Its Diaspora, and Somewhere We Are Human. His writing can also be found in Poetry DailyVerse DailyVirginia Quarterly ReviewBeloit Poetry JournalPoetry NorthwestNimrod International JournalThe Cincinnati Review, and Shenandoah. His translations have appeared in the Chicago ReviewThe CommonDenver QuarterlyThe Massachusetts ReviewTwo LinesGuernicaWorld Literature Today, and Colorado Review. Bassiri is the recipient of 2022-2023 Tulsa Artist Fellowship, a 2021 Individual Artist Fellowship from the Arkansas Arts Council, and a 2019 translation fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Arkansas.

Sara Beam (she/they) is an Applied (teaching) Associate Professor and Director of the University Writing Program in the Department of English and Creative Writing at TU. They love teaching first-year writing, technical writing, composition pedagogy, and English as a global language, and working with writers at all levels of experience in all subjects, in all genres. Storytelling, however, remains their favorite way of sharing information, making arguments, and connecting with people. All the better if the storytelling happens on a porch or around a table of food! Descended from German and Italian immigrant settlers, Sara seeks to amplify histories and voices of Muscogee Nation peoples via teaching, writing, and scholarship. Their current projects and teaching approaches are actively anti-racist, trauma-informed, and access-centered. Disability justice and abolition are key motivators for their work, as are Sara’s lived experiences as a queer person diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. You can read their writing in books such as Voices from the Heartland, Vol. 2, and Children’s and YA Literature in the College Classroom, as well as in periodicals such as Disability Studies QuarterlyLegacy: A Journal of American Women Writers, and Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature. 

Josh Corngold is an associate professor of education at The University of Tulsa and a former high school English teacher. His research brings tools of philosophical inquiry (e.g. close reading of texts, careful analysis of concepts and arguments, detection of unstated assumptions, etc.) to bear on normative questions surrounding educational policy and practice.  Examples of such questions include: What should the primary aims of education be in a diverse democratic society?  How should authority over education be allocated, and how should competing interests be prioritized?  What principles should guide the regulation of public, private, parochial, and home schools?  And how should various stakeholders—policymakers, teachers, students and their guardians—respond to social, cultural, and philosophical differences?

Jennifer Lynn Jones is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Film Studies at the University of Tulsa. She holds a Ph.D. in Film and Media Studies from Indiana University’s Communication and Culture program. She is a feminist media scholar with a background in documentary production focused on issues of identity and embodiment across media. Her dissertation is on celebrity, corpulence, and convergence, and her writing has been published in Camera Obscura and The SAGE Handbook of Television Studies. For the 2022-2023 OCH fellowship, she plans to examine the meanings of “women’s liberation” in the work of woman-identified moving image artists from the post-war period to now. Understanding the meanings of this term to these artists over time is essential to understanding its meanings in our current moment, and to comprehend what freedom has meant to these artists and their identities– how it has mattered, how it has evolved, and how fights for it continue, especially as we enter this emergent post-Roe period.

Travis Lowe is an associate professor of Sociology at the University of Tulsa who specializes in the areas of inequality, urban sociology, and work and occupations. His recent work centers on the connection between broader labor market trends, job characteristics, and workers’ perceptions of job and labor market insecurity. He is currently exploring the relationship between inequality and freedom, focusing on how the social structure of society facilitates individual agency for some and constrains it for others.

Emma Palmer is a second year English MA student at The University of Tulsa, her academic interests include semiotics, design and literature, and film adaptation. She received her undergraduate degree at The University of Tulsa in 2021, with a BA in English, creative writing, and art.

Robert Spoo is a Chapman Distinguished Professor of Law and Professor of English at The University of Tulsa, where he teaches copyright law, property, contracts, law and literature, and other subjects, and is co-editor of the James Joyce Quarterly. He received his Ph.D. in English from Princeton University and his J.D. from the Yale Law School. After serving as a judicial clerk for the Honorable Sonia Sotomayor when she was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Spoo was an attorney with law firms in New York, San Francisco, and Tulsa. In recent years, Spoo’s interdisciplinary articles have appeared in the Stanford Law Review, UCLA Law Review, Law & Literature, Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal, Journal of Modern Literature, James Joyce Quarterly, Journal of Modern History, and other venues. His book Without Copyrights: Piracy, Publishing, and the Public Domain was published by Oxford University Press in 2013. In 2016, he was awarded a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in the Humanities, which supported his writing of Modernism and the Law, published in 2018 by Bloomsbury Academic. In 2020-2021, he was on leave with a Law and Public Affairs (LAPA) Fellowship from Princeton University, where his project was “Lawful Piracy and Trade Courtesy in the American Copyright Vacuum.”

Alex Thomason is in his third year of undergraduate at the University of Tulsa where he is studying political science and history. He has a keen interest in American political development and the American judiciary. In particular, his studies center on the history and politics of the Supreme Court and the evolution of constitutional law. After I graduate, I plan to attend law school and eventually work in public interest litigation.

Carly Treece, a citizen of the Muscogee Nation and of Cherokee descent, is an advocate for Indigenous and womxn’s rights. She is also an artist, activist, gardener, community volunteer and mother. Her artwork focuses on Indigenous womxn’s lives and abstracts of Native landscapes. She works in multimedia with a focus on oils and cold wax. She is driven to pursue diversity, equity and inclusion in all facets of her life. Her current interests include land and body sovereignty, and their complicated relationship.

Crystal J. Zanders is a poet, educator, and doctoral candidate in the Joint Program in English and Education at the University of Michigan. Her research explores dialect, literacy, language, (dis)ability, digital pedagogy, and historical educational inequity in writing classrooms. Her creative work has been featured in Mud Season ReviewRigorous, |tap|lit, and elsewhere. In her writing, she engages with themes of personal, historical, and generational trauma. Currently, she is working on her dissertation in Tulsa alongside her faithful furry family, Rex the Wonder-Pug and Tyrion Zannister, chug extraordinaire.

The first lecture of the 2022-23 school year gets right at the heart of this year’s theme of “Freedom.” The Oklahoma Center for the Humanities is pleased to welcome Victor Tan Chen, an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, whose interests explore the intersections between individual freedoms and social obligations, between meritocracy and social equality, between civic engagement and economic participation, and disenchantment, despair, and doubt. At its most broad, Chen’s work investigates the relationship (and often the distance) between American ideals and American realities.

As an extension of the concept of freedom, Chen’s talk will be focused on the values and beliefs that undergird American conceptions of fairness and of identity. Foremost in this vein, Chen will discuss the American Dream as rooted in meritocracy, while also paying particular attention to the consequences and trade-offs of those beliefs—what is gained, what is lost, and how various facets of the Dream are inherently at odds with others. Chen uses the phrase “cultural contradictions” to describe tensions that are inherent within meritocracies and contemporary politics, writing in a recent essay “If meritocracy promotes personal growth and self-actualization, it can also worsen inequality… If fraternalism fosters feelings of solidarity and community, it can also feed bigotry and nepotism.”

How do these contradictions play out on a collective, national level? How do they play out for individuals and families? While Chen is interested in the complications and that emerge from the American Dream, he also offers a vision for a better, more sustainable and ethical future—one that is rooted in “grace,” a concept that for Chen involves building and fostering communities based on empathy rather than income or status. Part dissection of American culture and ideals, part hope for the future, Chen’s talk promises to be a fascinating one.

Join us Thursday, September 8th at 7pm to hear Chen’s lecture “The Limits of Freedom: Seeking a Better Balance in America between Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.” This event is hybrid, and will be live in-person and simultaneously streamed. Join us in person at the Tyrrell Hall auditorium on the University of Tulsa campus, or online at this Zoom link.


Victor Tan Chen is an associate professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University who studies economic inequality. He is the author of Cut Loose: Jobless and Hopeless in an Unfair Economy, a study of long-term unemployment in America and Canada. Chen’s latest book, co-edited with Katherine K. Chen (no relation), is Organizational Imaginaries: Tempering Capitalism and Tending to Communities through Cooperatives and Collectivist Democracy, a peer-reviewed collection of cutting-edge scholarship on worker cooperatives and other decentralized and collectively owned enterprises. Chen is also the author of The Missing Class: Portraits of the Near Poor in America, written with Katherine S. Newman, named by Library Journal as one of the best business books of the year. For more information about the author and his work, visit his website.