Everyone likes a good happy hour, but on the third Wednesday of every month at Top of the Hill’s Back Bar, bar patrons will also hear lectures and discussion on topics in the humanities.
Humanities Happy Hour is a free program hosted by the Carolina Public Humanities and the Institute for the Arts and Humanities to create an informal space for conversations about the humanities to take place.
Lloyd Kramer, director of Carolina Public Humanities, said the purpose of the program is to help public audiences discuss humanistic issues in an environment that is not specifically academic.
“The idea is that the discussion of ideas doesn’t have to take place just in a classroom,” Kramer said. “The discussion of ideas can take place anywhere, and our goal at Carolina Public Humanities and with Humanities Happy Hour is to help people connect to ideas outside the University.”
Last semester, the director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, Mark Katz, gave the first lecture of the semester. Kramer will follow suit by speaking at this semester’s first happy hour event on Wednesday at 6 p.m., where he will discuss nationalism in the United States and Europe.
“I chose to talk about nationalism because it’s a big issue right now — how do people define national identity, how does it influence politics, why do people have such strong emotions about nationalism – and this is a topic that I’m very interested in, because I wrote a book about it,” he said.
Max Owre, executive director of Carolina Public Humanities, creates the roster of lecturers alongside Jennifer Ho, the associate director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities.
“We want good topics that are timely – I think the best Humanities Happy Hours have been addressing topics that are somewhat timely and interesting,” Owre said. “Also, of course, looking for good scholars, because not every faculty can stand in a bar and give a talk. It’s a very different type of lecture.”
Owre said while Carolina Public Humanities offers many programs for the public, all of which are free for UNC students, Humanities Happy Hour is unique due to the accessibility. There is no ticketed price or pre-registration for the public and students alike.
“What I think is the most encouraging is to see undergraduate students together with people throughout the community, people from the age range from 18-80,” he said. “Very rarely do you get an event that can pull in different constituencies like that, and that to me is perhaps one of the most satisfying aspects.”
Senior Madeline Hollingsworth, one of Owre's students and a past Happy Hour attendee, said the lectures offered students the opportunity to learn about topics not necessarily covered in their classes.
“I really liked that it was open to the public, because I think it’s really important for University students to kind of break out of their bubble and see different kinds of people who live in Chapel Hill,” she said. “It’s just a good way learn about different kind of topics. We’re at college, so I think that’s kind of what we’re here for.”
Kramer said his favorite part of the program is the connections it allows professors to make with people not typically in their classrooms while discussing important humanistic issues.
“Our overall goal of this program is to show that the humanities are as important for the life of our state and community as medicine or business or law,” Kramer said. “UNC serves the state because we help people understand different cultures and different ideas and different traditions. In order to have a good democratic society, you need to have a shared base of knowledge, understanding and certain issues, and that’s what the humanities help create.”
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