Brenda E. Stevenson's lecture "Performing Social Status in Slavery and Freedom: Southern Black Marriage Rituals, 1840-1900" explores antebellum slave marriage rites/rights in contrast to some of the ways in which the first generation(s) of freedmen and women interpreted and experienced their emancipation in marital ritual, performance, and celebration during the last decades of the nineteenth century. The South, she notes, as enslaved people had known it during the antebellum era, was profoundly changed after 1865 and the region’s Civil War defeat. The end to the war brought general emancipation for four million people and, with it, their legal right to claim marital relations, control over the intimate aspects of their bodies, and to bear, take care of, socialize and maintain their children. Hundreds of thousands of couples who had been married while enslaved, or wanted to marry after slavery ended, did not hesitate to participate in public nuptials. To do so drew a line between slavery and freedom.
In today’s culture, the bonds of female friendship are taken as a given, but only a few centuries ago the idea of female friendship was completely unacknowledged, even pooh-poohed. Only men, the reasoning went, had the necessary qualities to develop and sustain such meaningful relationships. Surveying history, literature, philosophy, religion, and pop culture in her book The Social Sex: A History of Female Friendship, Stanford University historian Marilyn Yalom illuminates the story of women as friends throughout the ages: in medieval convents, in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century literary salons, in nineteenth-century romantic relations, among early twentieth-century working girls, and on today's Internet. The Social Sex demonstrates how women ultimately co-opted the public face of friendship.
In the United States, the sharing economy is accelerating toward a “freelance society,” explains journalist and Holtzbrinck Fellow Steven Hill, wherein tens of millions of workers will find themselves with no regular jobs or steady work, lower pay, and a weaker safety net. Hill asked in his May 10 lecture, "The Future of Work: How the 'Uber Economy' and Runaway Capitalism Are Threatening Workers' Livelihoods," if the sharing economy might work better in a place like Germany -- here, as he notes, the welfare state is more developed and a stronger tradition of labor unions and government regulation has fostered more broadly shared prosperity. What might Americans learn from this model of what Hill calls "the visible hand of government." A close observer of political institutions and practices in Europe since the 1990s, Hill proposes several policy-based solutions and reforms that would encourage American economic policymakers to adapt to this new reality.
The world is confronted by a growing list of "grand challenges," from large-scale migration to climate change. What escapes us at the moment, says Earl Lewis, president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is an integrated approach to tackling those challenges. This, he argues in his Stephen M. Kellen Lecture, is where the arts, humanities, and sciences need to partner—or else fail to provide the necessary perspective.
The 50,000 objects in The Metropolitan Museum of Art's comprehensive collection of European sculpture and decorative arts reflect the development of various art forms in Western Europe from the early fifteenth through the early twentieth century. Marina Kellen French Curator Wolfram Koeppe's wide-ranging interests have contributed to acquisitions now included as essential masterpieces in this historically significant collection. In his lecture, Koeppe speaks about building The Met's expansive compendium of central European sculpture, woodwork and furniture, goldsmithwork, and horological and mathematical instruments.