Wolf Humanities Center Forum on Revolution

Friday, February 23, 2024 - 9:45am to 6:00pm

Class of 1978 Orrery Pavilion
Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
6th floor, Van Pelt Library, 3420 Walnut Street

This location is ADA accessible

Time and Revolution




What is the relationship between revolution—as the tipping point of a project that ushers a new order—and our lived experience of time? How does the unique temporality of revolution, as a disruption followed by a taking of accounts, compel convictions that transform intimate and individual projects into shared investments and collective commitments? As genocidal warfare, mass incarceration, climate catastrophes, and global inequality increasingly become normalized aspects of everyday life, societies everywhere have experienced the formidable organizing of movements demanding social change and institutions of all kinds that sustain themselves by suppressing and coercing new potentials. In other words, we live in a contemporary moment that alternates between revolution and impasse. How can the humanities help us make sense of this peculiar oscillation that rips apart ideal conceptions of linear progress, ever more urgent given the violence implied by its ongoing movement? In this multidisciplinary symposium, scholars, artists, and activists will come together to reflect on how the time of revolution and impasse disrupts neat boundaries between past, present, and future.

9:45 am–10:00 am
Welcome Remarks

  • Jamal J. Elias, Director, Wolf Humanities Center; Walter H. and Leonore C. Annenberg Professor of the Humanities; Professor of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania
  • Huda Fakhreddine, Topic Director, Wolf Humanities Center; Associate Professor of Arabic Literature, University of Pennsylvania

10:00 am–11:30 am
Vital Pasts
Moderator: Melissa Reynolds, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Wolf Humanities Center

How does the past inform our thinking about practices of revolution? Through artistic and scholarly reflections on the relation between revolution and suffering, participants in this panel discuss the role of the past in the experience and imagination of revolutionary times. 

1:00 pm–2:30 pm
Unruly Presents

Moderator: José Carlos Díaz Zanelli, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Wolf Humanities Center

How do critical interventions potentially revolutionize our experience of the present? The speakers in this session explore how transformations in artistic and food production redefine the parameters of what is possible in the present. 

2:45 pm–4:15 pm
Revolutionary Horizons

Moderator: Timothy Malone, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Wolf Humanities Center

What is the relation between future horizons and the re-assigning of agency? This panel examines how new structures of feelings and the public debate of mass incarceration put at the forefront of revolutionary futurity the reconfiguration of margin and center in all aspects of social life. 

  • Orisanmi Burton, Assistant Professor, Anthropology, American University
  • Nour El Rayes, Assistant Professor, Ethnomusicology, Johns Hopkins University
  • Robert Saleem Holbrook, Executive Director, Abolitionist Law Center; Lecturer in Law, University of Pennsylvania
  • Geo Maher, Abolitionist educator, organizer, and writer

4:20 pm–5:00 pm
Closing Remarks

  • Josué Chávez, Research Associate, Wolf Humanities Center; Ph.D. Candidate, Hispanic Studies, University of Pennsylvania

5:00 pm6:00 pm

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