Histories of Race Explored at Shasha Seminar Keynote, Discussions, Class

Author Nell Irvin Painter delivered the ninth annual Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns keynote lecture April 9 in Memorial Chapel. Her talk was titled, “What the History of White People Can Tell Us about Race in America.” Painter is the Edwards Professor of American History, Emerita, at Princeton University, and the author of seven books.

The Shasha Seminar, endowed by James J. Shasha ’50 P’82 GP’14, is an educational forum for Wesleyan alumni, parents, students, and friends that provides an opportunity to explore issues of global concern. The topic of this year’s seminar was the Histories of Race.

As part of the Shasha seminar, Andrew Curran, professor of romance languages and literatures, spoke on “Negotiating the Histories of Race” on April 8. He provided a broad assessment of several overlapping tendencies in European race theory. Beginning with an examination of the basic Judeo-Christian understanding of humankind’s origins, Curran discussed how a series of early-modern anatomical “discoveries” led thinkers to overlay a relatively fluid conception of “human varieties” with more rigid classification schemes.

Shasha Seminar participants listen to Curran’s talk.

Participants mingle at a Shasha Seminar reception on April 8. President Michael Roth made remarks.

This year, Wesleyan offered a semester-long undergraduate course as a complement to the Shasha Seminar. Students from this class, “Histories of Race: Rethinking the Human in an Era of Enlightenment” taught by Andrew Curran, joined seminar participants for discussion. (Photos by Emily Brackman ’11 and Nick Lacy)