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Message from the Director

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Dear Friends,

Recent events have made 2020 the most challenging year in the forty-year history of our Center. Our project of producing knowledge now takes place in a society that has been beset by plague and damaged by ignorance and bad faith. We’ve reached a moment of crisis in the systemic racism, especially the anti-Black racism, that has been the shame of this country for centuries. 

The staff and community of the Humanities Center reaffirm that justice and equality are inseparable from the intellectual values that drive our mission. We strive to honor those values in ways both large and small. We believe that the work sponsored here—whether it rethinks fundamental questions, acquaints us with an unfamiliar past, or expands the understanding of global cultures in the present—contributes to the kind of society that all Americans and citizens of the world deserve. 

In our commitment to free inquiry, we renew our determination to promote thinking that raises penetrating, sometimes uncomfortable questions about the world as we find it. Some of the events we had planned for this year before the global health crisis, such as the Presidential Lecture in the Humanities by philosopher Achille Mbembe or a new series of events on "How Knowledge Makes Justice," would have addressed this moment incisively—and will do so when they take place later this year or in early 2021.

More programs of this kind are on the way. A year or two from now, the Humanities Center will have the capacity to share the insights of our fellows with the world, and to hear what the world says in response, on an open-access digital platform. Change starts with conversation, the more informed the better, and these initiatives should make for informed, even difficult or painful conversation.

I urge the extended community of former fellows and visitors, humanities faculty, alumni, and friends to watch our efforts over the next few years and let us hear how we’re doing. Your support and trust over these forty years mean everything to us.

With best wishes,


Roland Greene
Director, Stanford Humanities Center

Anthony P. Meier Family Professor in the Humanities
Mark Pigott KBE Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences
Professor of English and Comparative Literature