Public Humanities Initiative

Building Publics: Humanities Combating Isolation: Walking, Mapping, and Reimagining the Environment

Wednesday, May 27, 2020  4:00pm Online Event; 4:00pm (New York)


Free and open to the public

Registration required

Hosted by the Public Humanities Initiative at the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University, this Zoominar features the projects developed by our 2019-2020 Public Humanities Graduate Student Fellows over the course of the past year, followed by discussion with fellow scholars, community members, and civic partners. An interdisciplinary group of emerging scholars, these Public Humanities Fellows have worked both together and independently to implement projects that bridge humanistic thinking with civic engagement and social justice, scholarly research with public building and communication. They will discuss how their projects promote humanistic thinking beyond the university, from different disciplinary perspectives and through a variety of media, such as audio media and podcast producing, walking and mapping, and curatorial and pedagogical practices aimed at serving under-resourced communities.  They will also discuss the origins of their projects in a commitment to break out of academic silos, the challenges they faced in the recent foreclosure of public spheres, and their current thinking about the methods and urgency of the Public Humanities in these critical times—both in the public sphere and in the context of higher education. 

This series will take place as public Zoom meetings starting at 4:00 pm EDT. Please REGISTER HERE in advance. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email on the day of the event containing information about joining the meeting.


Scot McFarlane is a PhD candidate in history at Columbia University. Scot's dissertation on the Texas' Trinity River extends from the antebellum period in the middle of the 19th century to the emergence of the environmental movement in the middle of the 20th century because of the ways the river changed in response to the legacy of slavery and urbanization. His research shows how rivers have uniquely heightened and transcended divisions of race, gender, and space to shape our democracy. Scot is currently teaching his own course, "Rivers, Politics and Power in the US" in the history department. Prior to arriving at Columbia, Scot taught writing and history at high schools in Oregon and Massachusetts. He has published in the leading journals of his field including an article on Maine's Androscoggin River and its influence on the environmental movement and passage of the the Clean Water Act.  In 2005 Scot produced and directed a documentary on the culture and ecology of Texas' Neches River that played a key role in the movement to prevent Dallas from damming another portion of the river.  He also produced a website on the history of a racist massacre in Texas that continues to engage and educate a wide audience. "Confluence" brings together Scot's experience in the digital humanities and environmental humanities by encouraging collaboration between river historians and community activists to present the historical value of rivers throughout North America. 

Wright Kennedy specializes in geographic information systems (GIS) and spatial analysis to study past and present health, environmental, and socioeconomic issues in cities. He has investigated a wide range of urban history topics with GIS, including epidemics, streetcar corruption, hurricane recovery, residential segregation, and environmental injustices. He is a lecturer in the History Department at Columbia and the project lead on Mapping Historical New York, a spatial history project on immigrants and neighborhood development in the city during the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. His teaching interests include spatial history methods, urban history, environmental history, and the history of public health. His current book project uses GIS to reexamine the shifting environmental disease burdens linked to Jim Crow and residential segregation in New Orleans.


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