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Humanities Council hosts 'Being Human' festival

20 Nassau Jammin
Jammin’ Crepes at 20 Nassau Street
Zachary Shevin / The Daily Princetonian

The Princeton University Humanities Council, in partnership with the Program for Community-Engaged Scholarship (ProCES), is currently hosting the program “Being Human: a Festival of the Humanities.” Last year, the University became the first American university to host the British festival, which is led by the School of Advanced Study at the University of London. 

According to the Humanities Council, the festival, whose theme this year is “Discoveries and Secrets,” will host about 20 activities in total and “reveal untold stories, hidden histories, and mysteries of our towns or cities.”  


The programming kicked off on Oct. 11 with “Belonging(s) in Movement,” a performative celebration of indigenous and immigrant tales from the Americas. The festival will run through Dec. 19. All events are free, and most are fully open to the public. 

Kathleen Crown, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Humanities Council at the University, expressed enthusiasm about hosting the festival in an email to The Daily Princetonian.

“What’s exciting and new for the Humanities Council about being part of the international Being Human festival is the grassroots nature of the program,” she wrote.  “We are putting the University’s excellent humanities researchers — whether students, staff, or faculty — into hands-on, participatory engagements with community members, where they can share their humanities research in ways that are unique and transformative.”

Additionally, Crown noted the Humanities Council’s desire to establish interdisciplinary programs and collaborations.

“For 65 years, the Humanities Council has focused on building bridges across departments within the University, encouraging faculty to reach beyond their disciplinary homes and to establish collaborative partnerships,” she added. “We have also hosted blockbuster public lectures featuring distinguished figures in the world of arts and letters.”

On Tuesday, Dec. 3, the Council will host a workshop and interactive exhibit titled “Queer Letters: Writing Stories About Identities, Families, Gender, Cultures, and Communities.” On Saturday, Dec. 7,  during the “Refugee Oral History Convention,” University students will interview approximately 20 resettled refugees, who will receive training in oral history and professional development. 


Ruby Shao ’17, a former News Editor and Senior Writer for the 'Prince,’ now serves as Project Coordinator for the Humanities Council and helped to organize this year’s program by seeking out speakers and planning individual events. 

Shao told the ‘Prince’ that she and the Humanities Council were “looking for events that would be unusual and exciting, bringing a creative spin on topics of broad interest to people in New Jersey.”

As examples, she pointed to hands-on events such as Dec. 18’s “Illuminating Incarceration in Antiquity Through Digital Humanities,” a lecture and workshop that will explore ancient prisons through 3D modeling and printing and virtual reality technologies, and Dec. 10’s “Prescription Vegetable?,” a plant-based dinner accompanied by talks on the health and values of conscientious eating. 

According to Shao, these fun and interactive events help to make the humanities more accessible, allowing all to appreciate the wisdom of various fields in a thought-provoking way. 

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“In the humanities, people are often trying to defend the value of their endeavor, like, why do we need philosophy or literature, or the arts?” she said. “And the Being Human festival serves as a friendly demonstration of the timeless and universal worth of the humanities, precisely by anchoring them in time and place.” 

“Without needing to be polemical or argumentative, the Being Human festival shows people how much joy and depth and wisdom lie in the humanities and I would say that’s been extremely encouraging to witness in a time of divisiveness in many other realms,” she added.