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UCLA receives $1.65 million from Mellon Foundation to continue urban humanities program

By Margaret MacDonald

 

A $1.65 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will strengthen UCLA’s Urban Humanities Initiative. The program, initially launched by a $2 million award from the Mellon Foundation in 2013, is dedicated to studying contemporary issues in Los Angeles, Tokyo, Shanghai and Mexico City.

The new funding will help UCLA provide graduate and undergraduate students with vital scholarly skills, support curricula and new faculty research on historical as well as contemporary urban issues, and pay for scholars to travel to cities around the Pacific Rim.

Together, the two Mellon grants are the largest received by UCLA for curricula that span the School of Arts and Architecture, the Division of Humanities, and the Luskin School of Public Affairs. The grant continues UCLA’s participation in the Mellon Foundation’s Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities initiative, which since 2012 has provided funding to a total of 16 institutions in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and South Africa.

At UCLA, urban humanities scholars use innovative means to study cities, merging approaches from architecture and urbanism with historical-critical approaches from the humanities and, in particular, cutting-edge film and mapping techniques from digital humanities.

“The study of urban life in the Pacific Rim embraces global issues that are particularly situated and made visible through the overlapping lenses of design, history, ethnography, visual and literary studies, and spatial analysis,” said Dana Cuff, a UCLA professor of architecture and urban design.

Cuff is the project’s lead principal investigator, along with Todd Presner, a professor of digital humanities; Maite Zubiaurre, a professor of Spanish and Portuguese; and Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, a professor of urban planning.

In its first three years, the Urban Humanities Initiative engaged 75 graduate students from across campus in a certificate program, supported more than 30 faculty members, held symposia and produced numerous publications. The program will be extended to undergraduate students in the next three years. After the Mellon funding concludes, it will be administered jointly by the deans of the schools of arts and architecture and public affairs, and the humanities division in the UCLA College.

“We are immensely gratified that the Mellon Foundation is continuing to support our efforts, ensuring that this excellent program will continue to serve our students for many years to come,” said David Schaberg, dean of the humanities division.

Founded in 1969, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies by supporting exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work.

 

First Director of Jewish Studies and Israel Studies at UCLA gives major lecture on Israel Independence Day

By: Todd Presner, Sady and Ludwig Kahn Director, UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies

 

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Arnold Band, Professor Emeritus of Hebrew and Comparative Literature, University of California at Los Angeles, delivered the Annual Arnold Band Distinguished Lecture in Jewish Studies, on May 12th to a crowd of 150 people at UCLA. Coinciding with Israeli Independence Day, the lecture was sponsored by the UCLA Alan. D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies, and honors the research and teaching of Band, one of the leading scholars of modern Hebrew literature in the world. His lecture was entitled: “The First Decade of Israeli Literature: The Case of Aharon Appelfeld.” Rabbi William Cutter, Steinberg Emeritus Professor of Human Relations at Hebrew Union College, moderated and gave a response.

Band, 86, has taught at UCLA for over 50 years. He founded the department of comparative literature and also established the recently endowed Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies and was the first director of the UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies. Band is the author of Nostalgia and Nightmare: The Fiction of S.J. Agnon (1968) and The Tales of Nahman of Bratlav (1978), as well as more than 125 articles in Hebrew and English on a wide range of topics in modern Jewish literature and Jewish cultural life. Center Board member and major donor, Alan D. Leve, said “I’m delighted that on this Israeli Independence Day the Center presented a program with distinguished professor Arnold Band, the Center’s founding director.”

The lecture was based upon research Band undertook at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum to investigate the nexus between Hebrew writers S. Y. Agnon and Aharon Appelfeld. He showed how the writing styles and themes of Nobel Prize laureate Agnon, widely considered the leading Hebrew prose writer of the 20th century, influenced the literary works of Appelfeld, who is universally recognized as the most significant Holocaust writer in Hebrew.

Far from forgotten or ignored, Band showed how the Shoah emerged as a central theme in Israeli literature during the crucial first decade of state formation. The history and memory of the Shoah was integral to Israeli collective identity, he argued, and this is reflected in the literary continuity shared between Agnon and Appelfeld. At the same time, Band suggested that the further we advance from the first decade, the more we realize that Israeli literature is more varied and richer than early historians have described it.

For the Leve Center for Jewish Studies, Band’s lecture caps an extraordinary year of programming that also saw the inauguration of a new series in the Archaeology of Ancient Israel. Organized by Aaron Burke (Associate Professor of the Archaeology of the Levant and Ancient Israel in the Near Eastern Languages and Cultures department and a faculty member with the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, UCLA), the inaugural lecture drew nearly 100 people and was delivered by one of the founding figures in biblical archaeology, Professor Lawrence E. Stager (Harvard University), Dorot Professor in the Archaeology of Israel and former director of the Harvard Semitic Museum.

Expressing his appreciation of the work of the Leve Center, David Schaberg, UCLA Dean of the Humanities, said that “the Center’s diversity of programs in all aspects of Jewish Studies – from biblical times to the present-day – reflects the goals of the Center to educate, engage, and reach the broadest possible community.” He added that the “vibrancy of its programming is a testament to its strength and purpose as part of public research and teaching institution.”

Band’s lecture was made possible by a generous endowment by Leve Center Board Member, Milt Hyman, a former student of Band’s, and his wife, Sheila. Cosponsors included the UCLA Y. & S. Nazarian Center for Israel Studies and the UCLA Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. More information can be found online: http://cjs.ucla.edu

 

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Jared Diamond: A dispassionate look at religion over the course of history

Jared Diamond, UCLA’s Pulitzer Prize-winning professor of geography and an astute intellectual observer of human life in multiple practices, faced a standing-room-only audience who came to hear his compelling lecture titled “The Evolution and Function of Human Religion” at a celebration of the 20th anniversary of UCLA’s Center for the Study of Religion.