Apart from its regular seminars, the ISI hosts a number of related activities. We are delighted to invite eminent figures for our Annual Lecture, which supplements and corresponds to our seminar in any given year; sometimes this takes on other formats, such as a symposium or panel presentation. We also host other panels and presentations from time to time, and co-sponsor other events on campus. Details on current and past activities are below.

ISI Cosponsors Steven Feld Events

ISI cosponsored a day of events with Steven Feld, distinguished professor emeritus of Anthropology and Music at the University of New Mexico. In the afternoon, Feld gave a talk, "Hearing Heat: An Anthropocence Acoustemology" in the Integrative Learning Center. In the evening, Feld's film "J.C. Abbey: Ghana's Puppeteer" was screened and he participated in a discussion of the film afterward. The event was cosponsored with the Department of Communication, History, and Anthropology at the University of Massachusetts, and with the Amherst College Film and Media Studies Program and Hampshire College's Music Program. 


Parents of James Foley Discuss Documentary 'Jim' With UMass Community

On September 19, the first evening of the Task of Witnessing: A Symposium in Honor of James W. Foley, Jim's parents Diane and John attended the film's screening and answered students' questions about Jim and journalism in conflict areas around the world. Diane and John Foley were joined by Heather MacDonald, who helped produce the film and was Jim's friend as well. A video clip of the event, produced by the University of Massachusetts's Office of News and Relations, can be found here

WAMC Radio Interview: James Foley to be Honored at UMass Symposium

Ahead of 'The Task of Witnessing: A Symposium in honor of James Foley,' ISI Director Stephen Clingman was interviewed on WAMC: Northeast Public Radio about James Foley and symposium's vision. 

The symposium commences on September 19, at 7 p.m. with a screening of Jim: The James Foley Story documentary in S215 in the Integrative Learning Center. We are excited to spread the word that the documentary was awarded 'Exception Merit in Documentary Filmmaking' at the 2016 Emmy Awards. 

ISI Hosts Symposium in Honor of James W. Foley

The Interdisciplinary Studies Institute hosted a symposium titled “The Task of Witnessing: A Symposium in Honor of James W. Foley” in collaboration with the Journalism Department and the MFA Program for Poets and Writers, University of Massachusetts on September 19-20, 2016.

James W. Foley was a student at the University of Massachusetts from 1999 to 2003, in the MFA Program for Poets and Writers in the English Department. Both while he was on our campus, and afterwards when he worked for Teach for America in Arizona and Chicago, he was dedicated to working in and with marginalized communities, helping students to widen their educational range and find their own voices. At UMass he volunteered at a local care center for unwed mothers, helping them earn their GEDs; both as teacher and journalist he was active in mentoring others. He worked on development projects in Iraq, and became an embedded journalist with the Indiana National Guard, and then with the US Army in Afghanistan and Iraq, before becoming a freelance journalist working on the front lines in both Libya (where he was abducted and released) and in Syria. There he was kidnapped and ultimately executed in the most horrific and public way by the so-called Islamic State in August 2014. This campus, along with many others, mourned his loss deeply.

Our symposium was offered in memory of James Foley, to pay tribute to him by considering a range of issues that not only affected his life but have also impacted the lives of many around the world. Since 2001, if not before, we have been caught up in various forms of undeclared and undefined war. Both in the US and around the world we face a baffling array of developments which are hard to contain in any coherent form of understanding. We live in a context of shifting boundaries, large-scale movements of people, strange mixtures of enmity and belief, the unnerving event and its instant reproduction. What, in these circumstances, are the complex tasks of witnessing, of giving voice, of attempting to tell the truth? How do we see, how do we write, how do we report? How and where do we operate in the borderlands—both lived and conceptual—of encounter? What are the obligations of witnessing—and what are the dangers? How do we give voice to the otherwise unreported, to the unknown, to those whose voices would otherwise go unheard? How do we, as readers and viewers, witness atrocity? What, in short, are the tasks and perils of witnessing in our current world?

Funding for The Task of Witnessing came from the Chancellor, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; the Provost, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; College of Humanities and Fine Arts; College of Social and Behavioral Sciences; Interdisciplinary Studies Institute; Department of Journalism; Department of English; Department of History; Department of Communication; Commonwealth Honors College; Nexus, Mt Holyoke College; and the Creative Writing Center, Amherst College.

Please click "Symposia" in the menu bar above for the full schedule and biographies of panelists.