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Note from the Director, 2023-2024


I send you this warm welcome as the leaves are turning, the air is getting crisp, and new students have arrived on campus eager to join our community. Not all of them know it yet, but the humanities are essential to their becoming well-rounded, critical thinkers, capable of navigating the personal, social, and planetary challenges that define our world today.  

How do we reckon with the multiple forces that threaten lives and livelihoods all over the world? Rising sea levels, wildfires, floods, and heat records. Invasions and armed conflict. New diseases and famine.  Xenophobic authoritarianism. Resurgent attacks on women’s bodies. State violence towards Black and brown bodies. The intensified economic deprivation of the middle and lower classes. 

The humanities provide complex and critical perspectives on these timely issues by illuminating the historical, the social, the philosophical, and the creative. 

SOVEREIGNTIES, the Kaplan Institute’s theme for this year, explores important yet often overlooked dimensions of how people engage with those forces that trouble the pursuit of life. This fall we launch a layered, year-long, interdisciplinary inquiry into sovereignties—bodily, artistic, intellectual, geopolitical—and their global histories, contemporary challenges, and possible futures. 

The 2022-2023 Humanities Council selected this theme, under the exceptional directorship of Interim Director Kelly Wisecup. I thank them for landing on such an important and capacious theme, and Kelly in particular for her creative and thoughtful leadership last year. 

Please join us in the Sovereignties Dialogue, and visit for updates on Kaplan initiatives including talks, funding calls, and other opportunities for faculty and students. We also invite you to follow us on X/Twitter (@KaplanHum). 

winegar_jessica_168x210_20230929_151938.jpgJessica Winegar
Director, Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities
Professor of Anthropology
Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani Chair in Middle East Studies

The Northwestern campus sits on the traditional homelands of the people of the Council of Three Fires, the Ojibwe, Potawatomi, and Odawa as well as the Menominee, Miami and Ho-Chunk nations.