images description

public humanities 

Public Humanities is an interdisciplinary research group concerned with questions of how the humanities fosters civic engagement, how humanities scholarship is a public good, and how a collaborative and critical humanities perspective might be used to tackle contemporary educational and political issues.

The group is committed to three intersecting principles of praxis:

1. Transdisciplinarity | Generative Discourse

The goal of the Critical Humanities group is to create networks of practice across disciplines, even those classically considered ‘outside’ of the humanities. This generates projects that are ‘transdisciplinary.’ For example, the notion of vision and ‘visuality’ has both a ‘hard science’ and humanities discourse practice, which when combined, form a synergy and create possibilities for new knowledge production (generative discourse).  

2. Qualitative Research & Pedagogy

Making any ‘implicit’ phenomena ‘explicit’ (research) demands moving beyond a positivist methodology. The Critical Humanities research group is interested in exploring different ways of conducting research, using methods that emphasize qualitative modes of assessment by looking to narrative and affective modes of inquiry and knowledge production.

3. Ethical-Political Horizons

The Critical Humanities group intends to engage in ethical-political practices that produce sustainable and socially just futures. Futures that are inclusive and rest upon a principle of creating intellectually creative communities to come, with the goal of generating social change. 

News & Announcements

The Taft Research Center is proud to congratulate Center Director Adrian Parr, Dr. Sean Hughes, and Dr. Jon Hughes, members of the public humanities group, for their work on the documentary, The Intimate Realities of Water.  The film has received a number of accolades.  The Hollywood International Independent Documentary festival awarded the film crew with a number of honors including the "First-Time Filmmaker" award, the "Best Cultural Feature" award, the "Best Writer" award, and the "Best Narration" award.   The North Carolina Film Awards festival recognized the documentary for the best directors award.  The United International Film Festival, based in Los Angeles, California, awarded The Intimate Realities of Water the best documentary prize.  The documentary made the finalist list for "Best Documentary" at the Paris Art & Movie Awards International film festival. In addition,the piece made the Louisville International Film Festival's official selection.


Intimate Realities of Water

The trailer for this documentary is viewable by clicking on the image below. The film was also shown at an exhibition during the 50th Anniversary of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Water Programmes during the 38th UNESCO General Conference, as part of the “50 Years, 50 Movies on Water,” in December.  Click here to see photos of Dr. Parr's UNESCO presentation. To see the schedule of the conference, click here.

As a part of the 50-year celebration, UNESCO also produced a book entitled, "Water People and Cooperation: 50 Years of Water Programmes for Sustainable Development at UNESCO.  To read the book, click here.

The documentary will also be screened in Australia during the "City of Sydney's Art &  About Public Art Program," which will be from Feb. 11-28, 2016. The program is a way to commemorate the country's new H20: Water Bar, a laboratory-style installation which allows visitors to sample water sourced from diverse regions in Australia. For more information, please click here to visit the H20: Water Bar's Web site.

Intimate Realities of Water - Documentary Trailer - front image

In other news, the Public Humanities Interdisciplinary Research Group organized the Žižek Studies Association Conference, which occurred toward the end of the last school year, from May 27 to the 29.  The internationally, well-known conference featured lectures by Slavoj Žižek himself. Žižek is also the international director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities.  Other speakers included Graham Harman and Frances Restuccia.  Restuccia is a professor at Boston College, and she is the author of such books as James Joyce and the Law of the Father (1989) and The Blue Box (2012).  Harman is a philosophy professor at the American University in Cairo.  In addition, more than 100 scholars attended from Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, the Philippines, Slovenia, the United Arab Emirates, UK, and the United States.

Group Membership

Sean Hughes, an educator assistant professor in the Department of Journalism, has more than 25 years of professional documentary, photojournalism, and design experience. His work covers a broad range, from working with the NCAA basketball finals to extensive documentary studies in Cuba and India. He also served as the official photographer for the Bunbury Music Festival, and his work can be seen in a number of magazine features. Hughes also served as the photography director for the first-ever, U.S. held World Choir Games, which was held in Cincinnati, in 2012. In addition, the Ohio Humanities Council chose Hughes as one of six photographers to create a "re-photographic" survey of Ohio sites documented as part of President Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930s. This photo survey project is now a touring exhibet, with a featured exhibit as part of the FotoFocus Biennial in 2012: Images of the Great Depression: A Documentary Portrait of Ohio 1935-2010.

Adrian Parr, Chair of Taft Faculty and Director of the Charles Phelps Taft Research Center, is an internationally recognized social and environmental theorist. She holds a joint appointment in the Department of Political Science and the School of Architecture and Interior Design. Her research focuses on environmental politics, water access, and the built environment. In 2011 Parr received the distinguished Rieveschl Award for Scholarly and Creative Work. In 2013 she and Prof. Dion Dionysiou were appointed as UNESCO Co-Chairs of Water Accessibility and Sustainability.

Parr has authored four books, edited three anthologies, and published numerous chapters in books and journal articles. Her most recent publications include: The Wrath of Capital: Neoliberalism and Climate Change Politics (Columbia University Press), Hijacking Sustainability (MIT Press), and New Directions in Sustainable Design, edited with Michael Zaretsky (Routledge). She is one of the founding editors of the online peer review journal Drain: Journal of Contemporary Art and Culture. Reviews of her work have appeared in the Guardian, The Chronicle, Deleuze Studies, Radical Philosophy, the Electronic Green Journal, Spontaneous Generations, and the American Book Review. She has been invited to speak on her work at Cornell University, the University of California Berkeley, Duke University, Harvard University, William and Mary College, the Ohio State University, the University of New South Wales, Shanghai University, Calgary University, the University of Uppsula, Arup Engineers Shanghai, ZKM Germany, WCPO Nightly News, and the Fresh Outlook Foundation.

Jon Hughes, McMicken Professor (Journalism) and Professor Emeritus (English), is an author, playwright and photojournalist. He is the author, editor or major contributor to eleven books. Hughes was the producer of an award-winning documentary on Cuba and the executive producer of a syndicated National Public Radio drama series (funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts).

His photojournalism and documentary images have been exhibited at venues including Fototeca de Cuba (Havana), Indiana University, The Taft Museum, The United States Air Force Academy, and Earlham College. Press publications include The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Associated Press, The Australian Broadcasting Company (website), The Christian Science Monitor, and The Village Voice. Literary/art/music publications including The Sun Magazine, Boulevard, New Letters, Literatura na swiecie (Poland), maize (The Writers’ Center of Indiana), and Cadence Magazine.

Hughes’s documentary photography often focuses on sense of place, sustainable development and/or the intimate realities of everyday life. His projects, all exhibited and/or published, include documenting the sustainability of urban existence in Thailand, Fernald (environment and processing plant), the camps of the Cincinnati homeless, the Padaung tribe of Thailand/Burma, and the work of family practice physicians along the headwaters of the Amazon. He provided images for: a book of poems about Elvis by celebrated poets (University of Arkansas Press); a book on John Updike in Cincinnati (Ohio University Press); and two books on Cincinnati neighborhoods by Zane Miller (Ohio State University Press).

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