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Themester 2015 takes on the idea of work: past, present and future

Students and faculty explore 'The Nature of Labor on a Changing Planet'

  • Aug. 27, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- This fall the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington will present a semester-long exploration of labor and work, its history and future.  

The 2015 Themester, "@Work: The Nature of Labor on a Changing Planet," examines the topic at a time when the future of human work is thrown into question by technology and internationalization.

"Labor is the distinctly human activity; it's where we devise tools, organize efforts, create novelty out of nature," said Benjamin Robinson, co-chair of the Themester 2015 advisory committee and associate professor in Germanic studies. "Of course, it's also where we concentrate our power to exploit, to despoil and expropriate. If labor is how we make the world in our image, then its past is the picture of who we've been, its future is what we're capable of becoming."

Each fall, Themester invites the Bloomington campus and community to explore an idea from multiple perspectives through a variety of courses and events. Exhibits, plays, invited speakers, films and service-learning activities provide opportunities for investigation and dialogue on the theme. 

Themester 2015 highlights include "Labor and Civil Rights: Bold Legacies and New Directions," a discussion with the Rev. William Barber and Richard Trumka on Nov. 4. Barber is the president of the North Carolina NAACP and a national civil rights leader known for organizing North Carolina's Moral Monday rallies, regular statehouse protests and acts of civil disobedience reacting to a range of issues such as voter disenfranchisement and cuts in social programs. Trumka is the president of the AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor federation.

On Oct. 15 and 16, a symposium called "Politics, Promises and Possibilities: The 1965 Immigration Act at 50" will focus on immigration in the United States today. The act changed the face of America by facilitating an unprecedented influx of millions of people from non-European countries. The symposium's keynote address will be presented by Ai-Jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and a 2014 recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, often called the "Genius Grant."  

A lecture by sex educator and artist Annie Sprinkle will launch the Kinsey Institute's fall exhibition, "For Love or Money," on Sept. 11. IU's Latino Cultural Center, La Casa, will present "Remembering the Heritage of the Filipino and Latino United Farm Workers," a talk by Aide Acosta of Chicago's Noble Network of Charter Schools, on Oct. 8. The College Arts and Humanities Institute will host a lecture by Ed Burtynsky, an award-winning photographer whose arresting and beautiful images document the environmental and social consequences of labor, on Oct. 14. 

Themester gallery and museum exhibitions include "Archaeologists @ Work," opening Sept. 18 at the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology. The exhibition commemorates archaeological work conducted during the Great Depression, when New Deal programs funded the work of archaeological surveyors, excavators and laboratory technicians at Angel Mounds State Historic Site in Evansville, Ind. 

IU Art Museum will showcase how photographer Lewis Hine documented the lives of impoverished immigrants in "Lewis Hine and Child Labor," on view through Dec. 20. 

IU Cinema will offer labor-themed films, including "Modern Times," "Norma Rae," "Food Chains" and "Garbage Dreams."

Partnering with Themester, Bloomington's Cardinal Stage Company will produce two plays that address the theme of labor. "Of Mice and Men," based on the novel by John Steinbeck, will run Sept. 11 to 20 at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. "The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," Mike Daisey's controversial performance piece on the relationship between Apple and Chinese factory workers, will run Nov. 5 to 22 at the Ivy Tech Waldron Firebay. 

Themester 2015 partners include IU Cinema, IU Art Museum, the Kinsey Institute, Lilly Library, Mathers Museum of World Cultures, Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology and Monroe County History Museum.

Themester is an initiative of the College of Arts and Sciences. With the exception of theater events, Themester events are free and open to the public, but some require registration or tickets. 

Related Links

Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin works on an assembly line in the 1936 film "Modern Times." | Photo by Janus Films

Print-Quality Photo

Ai-Jen Poo

Ai-Jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, will speak Oct. 16.

Print-Quality Photo

Media Contacts

Tracy Bee

Director of academic initiatives, College of Arts and Sciences

  • Office 812-856-7183
  • tbee@indiana.edu