Each year the Center organizes most of its programming around one or two major themes. These are broadly conceived and will be illuminated from a variety of different historical, artistic, and critical angles. In 2017-18, the Center is focusing on a single theme: Homelands.
The word homeland evokes thoughts of pleasure and pain, belonging and exile, flight and shelter. Is home a place, a state of mind, an imagined community, a commodity, or, as Charlotte Perkins Gilman writes, a fundamentally “human institution?” James Baldwin suggests we can only know home by its absence, while for Robert Frost it’s the place “they have to take you in.” For some, the idea of home promises shelter, identity, authenticity, and stability, while for others it evokes loss, exile, oppression, constriction, and the impossibility of return. The idea itself has shaped and been shaped by gender, race, class, geography, religion, and ethnicity while being deployed to both offer protection and propagate terror.
The idea of home has defined family relationships and, as a physical space, it serves as a metaphor for a sense of community that can extend to a neighborhood, a city, a state, and now even the planet itself. Some of the earliest works of art and literature, from Homer’s Odyssey to the Diné creation story and the Summarian Kesh Temple Hymn revolve around stories about leaving and returning home. Immigration and exile feature in art, music and literature from across the world, as does the ethical imperative to show hospitality to the stranger who has ventured away from home. Homelands, however, also evoke the idea of difference and exclusion and thus open the way for campaigns of ethnic and religious “cleansing.” Home, in short, is an essential element of the human condition and throughout the 2017-18 academic year, the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities will explore its myriad human dimensions through an array of programs including concerts, performances, film screenings, exhibitions, discussions, lectures, debates, and workshops.