The Chicago Tribune

By Mark Caro, April 10, 2012

“The Chicago Humanities Festival will look for America this fall, and an eclectic array of speakers and performers will be joining the search.”

“The festival on Tuesday announced its 23rd annual theme, ‘America,’ as well as its first batch of presenters. It includes world-renowned Alinea and Next chef Grant Achatz, who will discuss his innovative work in the context of American and international cuisines; New York Times columnist David Brooks, who will deliver the annual Franke Lecture on Economics; baritone Nathan Gunn, who recently starred in the Lyric Opera’s ‘Show Boat’ and will sing and discuss selections from the Great American Songbook; New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik, who will address what Americans can learn from French cuisine; Stanford University Vice Provost Harry Elam discussing playwright August Wilson’s contributions to American theater and culture; and presentations by Brown University Africana Studies professor Tricia Rose (who wrote the influential 1994 book ‘Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America’), architectural historian Gwendolyn Wright (who co-hosts PBS’ ‘History Detectives’) and historian Charles Mann (who wrote the acclaimed ‘1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus’).”

“The main chunk of the festival runs Nov. 1-11, which means that Election Day, Nov. 6, falls smack in the middle of it. Humanities Festival artistic director Matti Bunzl said Tuesday that he viewed that elephant (or donkey) in the room as the jumping-off point for programming this year’s events.”

“’For me the selling point was, what should an election be?’ he said on the phone from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he is an anthropology professor. ‘What it should be, to me, is a conversation about the past, present and future of the country, and that’s an intellectual, cultural and historical conversation. That’s what the festival will be. It will be the kind of conversation the election should be but can’t be because of the reality of politics.’”

Ripan Malhi will also participate in the Festival events, presenting insights from his work in genetics and our understanding of the peopling of the Americas.

Read the full Tribune article, and learn more from Matti’s overview on the Festival web site.