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“Boston Coastline Future Past,” Andi Sutton and Catherine D’Ignazio

Interdisciplinary Arts MFA coordinator and Associate Professor Sarah Kanouse is the Associate Director of  National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute, “Space, Place, and the Humanities.” Hosted by the Humanities Center at Northeastern University from July 24 to August 11, 2017, the three-week summer institute focuses attention on the emerging, interdisciplinary field of Geohumanities, which focuses on the role that analytic methods take at the intersection of geography, history, literature, social justice, and the creative arts. 

Spatial forms of interpretation have surged across the arts and humanities in recent decades, accelerated by the advent of geolocated data and GIS tools for understanding and analyzing humanistic problems and questions. Yet the genesis of the ‘spatial turn’ is much older and more widespread than the advent of GIS and can be traced back to the analysis of the power relationships underpinning specific spatial configurations articulated by thinkers such as Foucault, Lefebvre, de Certeau, and Virilio in the 70s and 80s.

In Literary Studies, starting with the groundbreaking work of Raymond Williams and Edward Said, geographical imaginations have become active modalities for the interpretation of literature and other representational forms. Similarly, Environmental History has emerged as a vital sub-field in which space, place, and ecology are no longer regarded as mere backdrops for human action, but are themselves actors in the unfolding of historical events and conditions.

In the creative arts, “site-specific” is a modifier attached to place-attuned projects ranging from the visual arts to electroacoustic music to choreography. Other stories of engagement with space and place can be seen in Philosophy, American Studies, Religious Studies, Cultural Studies and many other constituent parts of the humanities.

Geographer Tim Cresswell, of Trinity College, and literary scholar Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, of Northeastern University, are co-PIs on the NEH grant that funded the institute. They brought in Professor Kanouse as Associate Director in order to strengthen the representation of visual studies and the creative arts.  Boston artists Catherine D’Ignazio and Andi Sutton will present a recap of their 2016 project “Boston Coastline Future Past.” Tim Cresswell will lead a GeoHumanist’s tour of the Museum of Fine Arts. A companion exhibition of Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Shapiro’s “NonStop Metropolis” maps are just a few of the arts-related events at the institute.