Q & A with Professor Ben-Shai on his Spring 2016 Course!

Q & A with Professor Ben-Shai on his Spring 2016 Course!

The Hurford Center is offering several amazing classes next semester, one of which will be Professor Roy Ben-Shai’s “Between Being and the Gods: Heidegger and the Art of Thinking.” We asked him some questions about the course and would like to share them with the tri-co community! Who was Heidegger and why is he important to the study of philosophy and thought? Martin Heidegger was a German philosopher, born in 1889 and died in 1976. He is notorious for having been a member of the Nazi party (after the war he was suspended from teaching for a few years because of this), and for having had extramarital affairs, the most famous of which is with Hannah Arendt who was his student (she was 17 and he was 33). Heidegger is also widely considered, along with Ludwig Wittgenstein, as the most influential, some would say “towering”, philosopher of the 20th century. He is certainly one of the most important philosophers in the continental tradition: his influence on phenomenology*, French Existentialism, deconstruction, and post-structuralism is definitive. Studying his work is therefore quintessential for anyone with interest in 20th century philosophy in Europe. Besides this historical centrality, Heidegger is remarkable for his capacity to incite original thought. The list of his students includes some of the finest minds of the century, including Levinas, Leo Strauss, Arendt, Marcuse, Derrida, and Agamben. Most indicative is how different these philosophers are from one another and from their teacher. To put it simply: studying Heidegger makes one a better thinker, and that’s a gift. *Professor Ben-Shai’s definition of “phenomenology”: The easiest way I can think of...
The Process of Cultural Mapping

The Process of Cultural Mapping

Over the past few weeks, I have frequently visited Chester and the surrounding area. The city of Chester is situated on the Delaware River between Philadelphia and Wilmington. Once the commercial and industrial hub of Delaware County, the decline of heavy industry in the region has caused prolonged urban flight.  In the last 60 years, the population has dwindled from its peak of 66,000 in 1950 to 34,000 today. Yet in the past few years, local residents and the city of Chester have looked at ways to recognize the thriving arts and culture scene in Chester as an opportunity to highlight the region’s cultural assets to visitors and residents alike. Artists like Ethel Waters and Bill Haley lived in Chester and today it is home to many grassroots art, theater, and dance groups. To emphasize the region’s cultural vitality, the Chester Cultural Corridor was envisioned, which sought funding for an innovative city planning initiative to bring arts to the forefront of downtown Chester. Yet before any future plans could be discussed regarding land use and city planning, a project called “Chester Made” was developed in order to construct a cultural map listing places of existing and historic artistic and cultural significance to help inform and assist promoters of a downtown arts and culture district. This summer, one of the projects that I have been working on as an intern with the Pennsylvania Humanities Council is the production of such a cultural map. The catch with the development of such a map was that every data point and location placed on it needed to be identified by local residents in order...
Memory, Monuments, and Urban Space: Alliyah Allen ’18 on Monument Lab

Memory, Monuments, and Urban Space: Alliyah Allen ’18 on Monument Lab

This semester, Alliyah Allen ’18 is working with Writing Fellow Paul Farber on Monument Lab: Creative Speculations for Philadelphia, a massive public art and urban research project he co-curated that is taking over Philadelphia’s City Hall starting May 15th.  Through a series of art installations, public events, and community-sourced maps, the project asks a central guiding question: What is the appropriate monument for the current city of Philadelphia? Supported by the Hurford Center’s Tuttle Fund for the Development of Visual Culture across the Curriculum, Alliyah is one of a number of Haverford students, staff, and faculty working on the project.  Below, she shares her thoughts on Monument Lab, its timeliness within current national discourse on race, class, and the usages of public space, and how her work fits into her larger academic projects at Haverford. HCAH: How did you become interested in monuments and involved in the project? What is your role in Monument Lab? ALLIYAH ALLEN ’18: Last semester I took Professor Paul Farber’s Memory, Monuments, and Urban Space class for my Haverford Writing Seminar, and since then my perspective on the relationship between public art, monuments, and history has shifted drastically. I am from Newark, New Jersey and have been immersed in urban culture for the majority of my life. Prior to my work in this course and participation in the lab, I didn’t have much of an appreciation for public art or monuments. The deterioration and lack of resources had given me the impression that success was not welcomed in my community and that history could not be made there. However, taking this course and my participation in the Monument...