The School of Liberal Arts Dean’s Speaker Series brings prominent scholars, writers, and practitioners in the humanities, fine & performing arts and social sciences to Tulane University to foster an ongoing conversation about the vitality of the liberal arts in addressing topics that matter to society.

Upcoming Events

Northwestern University President Emeritus Henry Bienen

“Higher Education Leadership During Challenging Times”

Featuring Henry Bienen, President Emeritus, Northwestern University  
Monday, March 4, 2024, at 12pm, Diboll Gallery

Henry Bienen was President of Northwestern University for 15 years, from 1994-2009 — a time during which the university transformed dramatically. These were also years of major transformation globally, including September 11 and the economic crisis of 2008, which had impacts on higher education.  

President Emeritus Bienen will visit Tulane in March 2024 for a discussion with School of Liberal Arts Dean Brian Edwards, in which the two will address the current challenges facing higher education, as well as the challenges and opportunities for leaders during times of crisis.  


Past Events

Sanford Panitch (SLA ‘89), President of Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group

Transformations In Entertainment - Challenges and Opportunities

Sanford Panitch (SLA ‘89), President of Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group  
Wednesday, December 6, 2023, at 6:30pm, Diboll Gallery

Sanford Panitch is President, Motion Picture Group, Sony Pictures Entertainment. Sony’s film labels include Screen Gems, Sony Pictures Animation, Tri-Star Pictures, Sony 3000, Affirm Films, and the storied flagship film label Columbia Pictures. In this role, Panitch oversees the studio’s motion picture production domestically and internationally. Earlier in his career, Panitch spent nearly two decades at 20th Century Fox in roles including Executive Vice President of Production, President of New Regency, and President of International Production. After recognizing the growth of the international box office and seeing a large percentage of market share for locally produced films around the world, Panitch founded Fox International Productions. He served as its chief until 2015, when he joined Sony Pictures as President of International Film and Television.

Having “began” his entertainment career as a Tulane undergraduate when he founded a company to distribute genre films at the Prytania Theatre, Panitch will visit his alma mater for a careers conversation geared towards students interested in a similar path. Panitch will speak with Dean Brian Edwards about how he came to his position, and the state of the entertainment industry today. He will address how major movies are produced, marketed, and distributed today; local film production and the kinds of long-form content that are breaking through theatrically; and the challenges in engaging audiences indoctrinated by TikTok. Together, the two will explore how film circulation opens up questions of globalization and offers an unexpected window into politics, as well as how a global liberal arts education optimally prepares the next generation for a constantly changing world.



Ali Behdad, Dean's Speaker Series

"Jack of All Trades; Master of None!"

Featuring Ali Behdad, John Charles Hillis Chair in Literature, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, and the Director of the Center for Near Eastern Studies at UCLA.  
Monday, October 30, 2023, at 6pm, Stone Auditorium

Ali Behdad is John Charles Hillis Chair in Literature, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, and the Director of the Center for Near Eastern Studies at UCLA. He has published widely on issues of travel, immigration, Orientalism, photography, and Postcolonialism, including three books, Belated Travelers: Orientalism in the Age of Colonial Dissolution (Duke University Press, 1994), A Forgetful Nation: On Immigration and Cultural Identity in the United States (Duke University Press, 2005), and Camera Orientalis: Reflections on photography of the Middle East (U. of Chicago Press, 2016) He is also the co-editor of A Companion to Comparative Literature (Blackwell, 2011) and Photography’s Orientalism: New Essays on Colonial Representation (Getty Research Institute, 2013).

This reflexive talk addresses the challenges of engaging in literary studies in an era marked by the expansion of the literary globe. It argues that there is a value in viewing the work of literary comparison as a form of scholarly amateurism that embraces intellectual mobility and shuns specialization that academic institutions often valorize. It elaborates a model of literary scholarship that is critical towards the narrowness of disciplinary formation and the lure of mastery that comes with the cult of expertise.



Anti-Racism and the Disciplines participants


Anti-Racism and the Disciplines at Tulane University School of Liberal Arts

2021-2023 Series: Anti-Racism and the Disciplines

Many of the liberal arts disciplines have complicated relationships to structural racism, colonialism, and/or imperialism, which arguably are structured into the “rules” of the disciplines themselves. Scholars working in those disciplines, including those featured in the series, are working to uncover those histories in the effort of thinking about and staging work for the next generation(s) of scholars. Each speaker gave a public talk; and also met in a smaller group with faculty and students for a workshop on anti-racist research and scholarship.

Final Symposium: Anti-Racism and the Disciplines

Friday, March 31, 2023  
1–6 pm  
Rogers Chapel

As a formal close to the Dean’s Speaker Series on the theme of Anti-Racism and the Disciplines, School of Liberal Arts Dean Brian Edwards invited all previous participants to Tulane’s campus for an all-day symposium of panels and presentations. While addressing and combatting racism is an ongoing uphill battle, the agenda included critical debates and conversations about the role of racism in numerous liberal arts academic disciplines.

In addition to the cast of participating scholars (names and institutions listed below), the symposium featured a keynote by American literary critic, Black Feminist scholar and Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor at Vanderbilt University, Hortense J. Spillers, who spoke on Anti-Racism and Literary Studies.

Symposium Participants:

  • Keynote on Literary Studies: Hortense Spillers  
    Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor Emerita of English, Vanderbilt University
  • Anthropology: Lee D. Baker  
    Professor of Cultural Anthropology, Sociology, and African and African American Studies, Duke University
  • Classical Studies: Dan-el Padilla Peralta  
    Associate Professor of Classics, Princeton University
  • Communication Studies: Sarah J. Jackson  
    Presidential Associate Professor and Co-Director of the Media, Inequality and Change Center, University of Pennsylvania
  • Economics: Gary Hoover  
    Professor of Economics and Executive Director of the Murphy Institute, Tulane University
  • Philosophy: Lionel McPherson  
    Associate Professor of Philosophy, Tufts University
  • Sociology: Mary Pattillo  
    Harold Washington Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Department of African American Studies, Northwestern University


1:00 – 2:15 pm: Anti-Racism and the Humanities  
Sarah J. Jackson | Lionel K. McPherson | Dan-el Padilla Peralta  
Chair: Nghana Lewis (Associate Professor of English and Africana Studies, Tulane University)

2:30 – 3:45 pm: Anti-Racism and the Social Sciences  
Lee D. Baker | Gary Hoover | Mary Pattillo  
Chair: Andrea Boyles (Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity and Belonging, and Associate Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies, Tulane University)

4:00 pm: Keynote on Literary Studies  
Hortense J. Spillers

Supplemental Content:  
Host Brian Edwards, Dean of the School of Liberal Arts at Tulane University, interviews leading Black scholars to examine the complex histories of the disciplines in the liberal arts and to reimagine the kind of anti-racist scholarship and teaching that the next generation might do. Listen to all eight episodes now!



Dan-el Padilla Peralta, Dean's Speaker Series'

Anti-Racism and Classical Studies

Featuring Dan-el Padilla Peralta, Associate Professor of Classics at Princeton University.  
Monday, April 25, 2022, at 6 pm

Dan-el Padilla Peralta is Associate Professor of Classics at Princeton University, where he is affiliated with the Programs in Latino Studies and Latin American Studies and the University Center for Human Values. A Dominican by birth and New Yorker by upbringing, he holds degrees from Princeton, Oxford, and Stanford. He is the author of Undocumented: A Dominican Boy’s Odyssey from a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League (Penguin, 2015) and Divine Institutions: Religions and Community in the Middle Roman Republic (Princeton University Press, 2020); and he has co-edited Rome, Empire of Plunder: The Dynamics of Cultural Appropriation (Cambridge University Press, 2017). His current projects include a co-authored study of 338 BCE and the origins of Roman imperialism (under contract with Harvard University Press), A People’s History of Rome (under contract with Princeton University Press), a co-edited volume on new approaches to the Middle Roman Republic, and a co-authored book-length essay on race and racism in the disciplinary identity of Classics.  
Watch video on Youtube.

Kim Gallon

Anti-Racism and the Digital Humanities

Featuring Kim Gallon, Associate Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University.  
In conversation with Liz McMahon, Associate Professor of History at Tulane University.  
Wednesday, April 13, 2022, at 6 pm

Kim Gallon is Associate Professor Africana Studies at Brown University. Her work investigates the cultural dimensions of the Black Press in the early twentieth century. Gallon earned her Ph.D. in History from the University of Pennsylvania, and she holds an MS in Learning and Design Technology from Purdue University. Author of Pleasure in the News: African American Readership and Sexuality in the Black Press (University of Illinois Press, 2020) and the field-defining article “Making a Case for the Black Digital Humanities” (in Debates in the Digital Humanities, University of Minnesota Press, 2016). she is also the founder and director of two black digital humanities projects: The Black Press Research Collective and COVID Black: A Taskforce on Black Health and Data. Gallon’s current projects include Technologies of Recovery: Black Digital Humanities, Theory and Praxis (University of Illinois Press), a book about the black digital humanities as a site of resistance and liberation, and Fiction for the Harassed and Frustrated (Johns Hopkins University Press), which examines the role and significance of popular literary expression in the Black Press in the early twentieth century.

Lionel McPherson, Dean's Speaker Series'

Anti-Racism and Philosophy

Featuring Lionel K. McPherson, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University.  
Tuesday, October 12, 2021, at 6 pm

Lionel K. McPherson received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard University. McPherson’s research focuses on the fields of ethics and political and social philosophy. McPherson has published a number of essays on normativity, the basis and extent of obligations, war and terrorism, and race in venues such as the Journal of American Philosophical Association, Ethics, and the Journal of Philosophy. His first book, The Afterlife of Race, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press (2022).

Anti-Racism and Communication Studies

Anti-Racism and Communication Studies

Featuring Sarah J. Jackson, Presidential Associate Professor and co-director, Media, Inequality & Change Center, University of Pennsylvania.  
Thursday, April 29, 2021, at 6 pm  
Watch video on Youtube.

Anti-Racism and Anthropology

Anti-Racism and Anthropology

Featuring Lee D. Baker, Mrs. A. Hehmeyer Professor of Cultural Anthropology, Sociology, and African and African American Studies at Duke University.  
Tuesday, March 30, 2021, 6 pm  
Watch video on Youtube.

Anti-Racism and Sociology

Anti-Racism and Sociology

Featuring Mary Pattillo, Harold Washington Professor of Sociology and Chair, Department of African American Studies, Northwestern University.  
Tuesday, March 2, 2021, 6 pm  
Watch video on Youtube .

Anti-Racism and Economics

Anti-Racism and Economics

Featuring Gary Hoover, Director, Murphy Institute and Professor of Economics, Tulane University.  
Thursday, January 28, 2021, 6 pm  
Tulane Press Release

2020 Events:

 A Reading and Conversation

Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women: A Reading and Conversation

Featuring E. Patrick Johnson, Carlos Montezuma Professor of African American Studies and Performance Studies, Northwestern University  
February 3, 2020, at 6 pm in the Commons in Diboll Gallery  
Event Details