CHAZY - A new discussion series based on the impact of society on individuals will be held at the Alice T. Miner Museum through the coming months.
According to series facilitator John Davies, "The Individual in a World Gone Global" refers to the concept that "our lives are shaped by larger forces in a global society that is new in many ways, but has roots in developments going back centuries."
Davies, a history teacher at the StateUniversity of New York at Plattsburgh, was asked to be facilitator by museum curator Amanda Palmer, after the museum received a grant from the New York State Council for Humanities.
"I was interested in the series because it relates to my teaching," said Davies. "In teaching Modern Global History at SUNYPlattsburgh, I tell my students that we can't understand the world we live in without understanding the history of global interactions. This series goes beyond a strict historical approach to reach that understanding."
The grant will provide four books, on loan for the series, to participants - chosen by Kate Hallgren, a graduate student at the City University of New York.
The series is a part of NYSCH's reading and discussion program "Reading Between the Lines," and according to Davies, "are meant to reflect a wide range of perspectives - historical, literary, political and economic - in trying to understand the place of the individual in the modern world."
The four books, according to NYSCH's Web site, www.nyhumanities.org, are:
• "African Queen:The Reality Life of Hottentot Venus," by Rachel Holmes: A biography of an early 19th century African woman who was taken from her home in southern Africa and put on display in London and Paris. The book uses this woman's story to explore the historical connections of colonial trade, military conflict and ideas of racial difference between Europe and the people of its colonies.
• "White Teeth," by Zadie Smith:It picks up on the themes of "African Queen" by looking at the effects of European empires on the modern world. The novel is set in the late 20th century London. It focuses on the experiences of immigrants to that city, recreating the smells, sounds and feel of life in immigrant communities there.
• "The 9/11 Report:AGraphic Adaptation," by Sid Jacobsen and Ernie Colon: Uses a comic book format to report the key findings of the 9/11 Commission. It provides a serious and unique perspective on the tragic events of that day, and allows readers to consider another way of understanding the role of the individual in history.
• The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities of Our Time," by Jeffrey Sachs: An analysis of international economic policy and its effects on local life in developing nations. It asks us to consider our own roles and responsibilities as individuals in a world gone global, and how we hope to address the future of the world.
"Each book relates to the others and each adds to a larger understanding of the overall theme of the series, the relationship between the individual and the modern world," Davies explained. "My job is to set the stage for the discussion and then step back and let the participants deal with the many meanings of these interesting books."
"I hope that people will have a better understanding of the problems ... that the modern world presents us with," he added. "Along with the many problems of globalization, we now have an opportunity to understand, and positively influence other cultures and societies as never before."
Although the series may sound similar to a book club, both Palmer and Davies feel it is so much more than that.
"The discussion is guided by a college professor who knows the series topic well, can keep us all on track, and can help guide our reading," said Palmer. "The books are also not necessarily ones you find on Oprah's book list, or on the best-seller list. This helps us to move out of our comfort zone and read something we may think we know nothing about ... and maybe we'll find we really all have something in common."
Palmer first applied for the grant based on the books offered in the series.
"The various series the council offers looked like books I and others would enjoy reading," she said. "As a post-college professional, I do not often have the opportunity for discussions on a specific topic like this grant offers. What Ialso find exciting is the chance to have a humanities professor to facilitate an intelligent discussion - something we are not often blessed with once out of college."
Each session is 90 minutes and will be held once a month. At the first meeting, planned for Tuesday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m., participants will receive the first book. The following meetings will be held March 15, April 19, May 17, and June 21, all at 7 p.m.
To sign up to take part in all four sessions, contact Palmer by e-mailing her at email@example.com or calling 846-7336.