Humanities Council Invites the Community to ‘Being Human’

October 31, 2018

This November, Princeton University will become the first U.S institution to join the international Being Human: A Festival of the Humanities.” Organized by the Humanities Council at Princeton, the annual festival, which originates in the U.K., brings humanities research to life in hands-on events. Events in which the humanities can inspire and enrich our everyday lives, help us to understand ourselves, our relationships with others, and the challenges we face in a changing world.

The 2017-18 Acting Chair of the Humanities Council, Esther Schor, spearheaded Princeton’s involvement in the festival this year. “Launching the first Being Human festival in the United States, the Humanities Council engages Princeton in a worldwide celebration of the humanities, with a focus on collaboration between the University and the community. Undergrads, grads, faculty and members of the community are coming together to roll up our sleeves, jointly make and do, and enjoy the exchange of ideas and insights.” she said.

“It has become very clear that we share a fundamental belief in the need to connect research in the humanities to everyday life and to demonstrate its relevance beyond the academy. “Being Human” works with universities around the world to do this, and are very excited that Princeton will be the first university in the United States to host a program of festival activity in 2018,” added Sarah Churchwell *98, Director of the Being Human festival, School of Advanced Study, University of London.

Starting Saturday, November 10, and continuing into early December, the Being Human festival presents a range of events on the theme of “Origins and Endings,” ranging from the delicate of art of paper cutting to archaeology on the Princeton Battlefield. They also include a showing of artefacts of slavery in North and South America, a screening of a documentary that reflects on the experience of east-west migration and life in a diaspora through the experiences of the rap artist M.I.A., a special tour of the Nature’s Nation exhibition tailored for New Jersey’s organic farming community, and a symposium to discuss the impact of climate change on indigenous communities.

All events are free and open to all. Sign-up through individual event links.

Community partners include Labyrinth Books, Princeton Battlefield Society, Princeton Garden Theatre, Princeton Public Library, and Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart.

Saturday, November 10, 9:00am-3:00pm, The Princeton Battlefield: Public Archaeology Day. Join students, faculty, and professionals in the archaeological and historical exploration of the Princeton Battlefield! What are the material traces of the Battle of Princeton? How can battle remains be recovered and interpreted? How might the cultural landscape be presented and preserved? Come and participate in excavation, metal-detection, ground-penetrating radar, and artefact study, and learn first-hand what archaeology is all about. All ages are welcome; no experience required.

Monday, November 12, 7:30pm, Princeton Garden Theatre MATANGI/MAYA/M.I.A.: Princeton Clay Project presents a screening of MATANGI/MAYA/M.I.A. The documentary is a personal profile of critically acclaimed artist, M.I.A, chronicling her journey from Sri Lankan refugee in London, U.K., to pop star. Come earlier for snacks and drinks and stay after the screening for an open discussion with film producer Lori Cheatle, students, professors and community members on the topic of diasporahood and local migration activism. Free admission.

Thursday, November 15, 5:30pm, in Chancellor Green 105, Princeton Campus: Studying the Past by Digging in the Dirt. How do we study history? How can we use archaeology to understand how people lived in the past? In this workshop, you will be introduced to the principles of archaeological excavation. We will learn how to think with the materials that humans leave behind, what burial practices can tell us about societies and cultures, and the importance of the careful use of scientific data. You will also have the chance to participate in a mini-excavation, as we “dig” away at some delicious cake and practice your new skills.

Monday, November 26, 6:15-7:45 pm, Labyrinth Books, Nassau St.: An Evening of Paper Cutting with Dan Landau. Have you ever made a snowflake with folded paper and scissors in school? If so, you’ve engaged in the ancient art of paper-cutting. This art form has been around since the Chinese invented paper and has been infinitely adapted by different artists and cultures. Learn about the history of paper-cutting, as well as how to cut paper into artworks with contemporary artist, Dan Landau. Participants will receive materials, templates and hands-on instruction. No experience is necessary, and the class is open to all community members aged 16+. Space is limited, and registration is required. Register at Eventbrite

Friday, November 30, 4:00-6:30pm, 161 Louis A. Simpson Building, Princeton Campus: Slavery in Princeton and Brazil. Slavery in Princeton and Brazil focuses on the experience of captivity in northern states in the U.S. and on the way Americans witnessed slavery in Brazil (the last country to abolish enslaved labor in the late 1880s). Princeton high school student Andre Biehl will speak about the role of slave-owners in the development of Princeton township and about the fate of runaway slaves. The historian Miqueias Mugge will draw from Firestone Library’s archival sources to discuss how American officers and businessmen stationed in Brazil reported on slavery. After a discussion over refreshments, the audience will visit Firestone’s Rare Books and Special Collections, where librarian Fernando Acosta-Rodríguez will present documents on slavery.

Thursday, December 6, 5:00pm Princeton University Art Museum: Examining an Agricultural Nation’s Nature. Agriculture has long dominated human consciousness and animated national expansion efforts. Members of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey will join Princeton students and faculty for a special tour of the Princeton Art Museum’s exhibit Nature’s Nation: American Art & the Environment.  The tour will examine the role of agriculture in the collection and in the American imaginary.

Thursday & Friday, December 6 & 7, Princeton Public Library and Woodrow Wilson School: The International Symposium on Indigenous Communities and Climate Change brings together activists, journalists, and scholars to discuss impacts on indigenous communities from the changing climate. Throughout New Jersey people live on land that was that of the Lenni-Lenape people. Local high school students who have drafted a recognition of Lenni-Lenape history and home on this land will lead a session discussing their recognition text and participate in the wider conference discussion. The conference is organized by Princeton Canadian Studies and the Program in Journalism.

For information about the Being Human festival event in Princeton, please contact Sara Brooks,, 609-258-3898.

About the Being Human festival

The Being Human festival originated in the United Kingdom. In 2018 it marks its fifth year based at the School of Advanced Study in the University of London. An umbrella for creative public events has grown to host over 250 events in a ten-day festival of humanities research done in universities every day. Find out more at

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