This Year's TTU Humanities Center Theme: Justice

Oct 4, 2019

Each year, the Humanities Center at Texas Tech chooses a theme on which to base lectures from guest speakers, film screenings, art exhibitions, and scholarly collaborations with those across various disciplines. The group’s board of advisors selects a theme. Last year’s was Play. This year it is Justice.

Michael Borshuk, the center’s interim director and an associated professor of English, says the board’s 13 faculty members, himself included, picked the topic

“The board is always looking for programming that will reveal the strengths of what we are doing among the humanities faculty at Texas Tech, and also looking to showcase, I think, the contemporary relevance of that scholarship here at Texas Tech. Justice is certainly timely, in that it’s a big part of our public conversation, all around, and this ranges from debates we have about contemporary controversies or contemporary political questions around the prison system or the border. One of the things that we’re interested in is showcasing for the public how our scholarship on what it means to be human is so relevant to all of those timely discussions.”

Borshuk says the center aims to bring in speakers to showcase a broad context for the year’s theme.

Paul Allen Miller from the University of South Carolina will speak about “Plato as World Literature” on Nov. 11. Borshuk says Miller’s work will engage more broadly with philosophical questions looking back to classical traditions in thinking about justice and ethics.

On Nov. 14, poet, memoirist and teacher Reginald Dwayne Betts will present a lecture in what will be the year’s biggest event. It will be in the Lanier Auditorium at the Texas Tech School of Law.

Betts, who won two fellowships last year, spent eight years in prison for a carjacking he was involved in when he was 16. He then graduated from prestigious law school.

“All of his writing engages that- I mean the dehumanization of people who are incarcerated. But his story is incredible because after that incarceration, as I said he went on to become a notable creative writer and also a graduate of Yale Law School and is a nationally recognized activist against problems with incarceration and the justice system. He’s a Guggenheim fellow, a National Endowment for the Arts fellow, and someone who’s very public in helping us think through these questions around justice and the unequal distribution of justice in this country.”

In the spring, two additional speakers will come to campus in conjunction with the theme. David Dow, a legal scholar of the death penalty, will speak in February. Alisa Roth, an author, will be on campus in March.

“There’s a legal scholar who will be talking about capital punishment. He’s a very visible public intellectual, you can find his Ted Talk. Yeah, he will be here in February, talking about capital punishment. We also have a journalist named Alisa Roth, who will be coming in, she’s the author of a book called Insane: America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness. One of the things she’s doing in that book is investigating how jails and prisons have become this sort of defecto mental healthcare system in America.”

On Nov. 4, there will be a screening of ‘Fruitvale Station’ at Alamo Drafthouse. It’s an independent film about the relationship between people of color and law enforcement and the exaggerated use of force.

In February, also at the Alamo, the center will show Dead Man Walking.

Borshuk is thankful for Tech English professor Jill Patterson, who writes social justice narratives for capital defendants, and Tech law school professor Patrick Metze.

“They really are the architects for much of the programming, including the guest speakers and we’ll be working with them some more developing a podcast. We’re going to do a podcast, one episode each semester about some theme related to the broader conversation, and that’s in development.”

For more information, call the Humanities Center at 806-834-7822