Newsletter, June 2015


Arts and Humanities Civic Engagement


Cultural Agents is an interface between academic learning and civic engagement. The Initiative promotes arts and humanities as social resources.


Upcoming Events

  • Boston Civic Media: Metrics and Methods 
  • WHEN: Tuesday, June 9, 2015, 9am-8pm
  • WHERE: Microsoft New England Research and Development Center, 1 Memorial Drive #1, Cambridge, MA 02142
  • WHAT: Organized by the Engagement Lab at Emerson College, Boston Civic Media: Metrics and Methods will bring together researchers and practitioners to discuss the state of civic media research in the Boston area. Researchers from fields such as sociology, education and communications alongside practitioners in government, advocacy and community organizations will discuss evaluation, measurement and co-design.
  • Panelists Doris Sommer, Peter Levine, and Ethan Zuckerman will speak during the first session “Foundations.” Moderated by Eric Gordon, this panel will explore questions of digital civic engagement.
  • For more information and a link to the registration page, please visit:
  • The Writivism Festival 
  • WHEN: June 17-21, 2015
  • WHERE: Makerere University and National Theatre, Kampala, Uganda
  • WHAT:  An annual literary festival, featuring leading contemporary African writers.
  • The festival will include Pre-Texts showcases organized by Naseemah Mohamed, which will be held at 10am and 1pm on June 20 and 21 at the National Theatre Auditorium. These events will showcase student work including dance, visual art, music, drama and poetry which resulted from their engagement with Pre-Texts and resulting interpretations of a selected text. Local artists and educators were introduced to Pre-Texts in June by Naseemah and her undergraduate assistants, Joel Ostdiek of the University of Notre Dame and Javier Aranzales of Harvard.
  • After the festival, Naseemah will work with teachers from two schools, training educators to incorporate the Pre-Texts teaching method into their syllabi and teaching practices, with the goal of carrying out a study on the impact of art-education on student academic and social outcomes.
  • For more information on the festival, visit:
  • For more information on Pre-Texts, visit:
  • The Choreography of Choreography with Liz Lerman
  • WHEN: Sunday, June 28, 7pm and Monday, June 29, 9am-3pm
  • WHERE: Julie Ince Thompson Theatre, The Dance Complex, 536 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139
  • WHAT: Liz Lerman–choreographer, author, teacher and MacArthur Award recipient–will offer a lecture to benefit the Dance Complex’s “Dance Building Building Dance” campaign on Sunday, June 28. The lecture will focus on her unconventional methods of working with “non-dancers” such as shipbuilders, lawyers and scientists alongside professional dancers, thus expanding the definitions of art and performance.
  • Lerman will facilitate a hands-on workshop on Monday, June 29.
  • For more information visit: and

General News

Symbolic Reparations 
The Cultural Agents Initiative’s symbolic reparations working group has begun to draft a preamble to the guidelines and recommendations that they will offer the Inter-American Court on how to interpret symbolic reparations in Colombia. Members from this team will continue to explore related themes and will work to finalize this text in Colombia this summer. We look forward to sharing their progress in the coming months.

A number of Pre-Texts workshops were held at Harvard University in May, including a full training for a group comprised of local collaborators, high school students from United Somali Youth, and undergraduate and graduate students training to become Pre-Texts ambassadors, capacity builders and facilitators.

A group of participants including Luz Helena Cano–a medical doctor and ballet dancer from Colombia who just completed the online version of the Cultural Agents course last term–create literary figures inspired by Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.

On May 21, the Cultural Agents Initiative partnered with Harvard’s Public School Partnerships to organize a family event at the Harvard Ed Portal in Allston. Children and adults used an excerpt from The Little Prince to make art based on their interpretations. The multilingual event introduced the public to Pre-Texts, showing children and adults ways to build literacy skills through art making.

Cultural Agents

Summer Interns
A number of distinguished undergraduate and graduate students will join the Cultural Agents team this summer, including Amanda Bennett of The University of Alabama, Kelly McGee of Harvard University, Maria Isabella Paez of Boston University, Amanda Wu of Rutgers, Joel Ostdiek of the University of Notre Dame, and Javier Aranzales of Harvard.

We are appreciative of the dedication of these students to further the work of the Cultural Agents Initiative and to examine how it connects to their own research. In addition, we are grateful for such programs as Harvard’s Summer Humanities and Arts Research Program and the Summer Research Opportunities at Harvard for sponsoring selected students to intern with our Initiative. In the coming months, we will share our interns’
research and reflections.To begin, here is a reflection from Joel Ostdiek about his work with the Cultural Agents last summer and his current work with Pre-Texts in Uganda:When I first encountered Cultural Agents, I was thrilled to find others who were interested in how culture can  address complicated issues, and I knew that I wanted to be involved with this team.  I’ve since had a blast interning for Cultural Agents in a couple of ways — helping last summer with profiling public humanities institutions and presently leading Pre-Texts workshops and research in Kampala, Uganda.  It’s an adventure bringing Pre-Texts to Uganda, and piecing together my passions for both this project and this part of the world has been an exciting process.  Throughout my entire Cultural Agents internship experience, I’ve loved collaborating with a group of people who aren’t afraid to ask big questions and think in innovative ways. Thanks to everyone on the Cultural Agents Team!


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Caminos de Paz Cases for Culture Cultural Agents Opportunities Partners Pre-Texts Rennaisance Now
June 1, 2015
by Rodriguez