Ideas matter. Concepts such as revolution, tradition, and hell have inspired social movements, shaped political systems, and dramatically influenced the lives of individuals. Others, like immigration, universal basic income, and the university play an important role in contemporary debates in the United States. All of these ideas are contested, and they have a real power to change lives, for better and for worse. In this one-unit class, we will examine these “dangerous” ideas. Each week, a faculty member from a different department in the humanities and arts will explore a concept that has shaped human experience across time and space.
Speakers and Topics
James Campbell, History
James Campbell is the Edgar E. Robinson Professor in United States History. His teaching and research focus on African American history and the wider history of the black Atlantic. In recent years, he has also begun to explore “public history”: that is, the ways in which societies tell stories about their pasts, not only in textbooks and scholarly research, but also in historic sites, museums, memorials, movies, and political movements. He is the author or editor of several books, including Songs of Zion: The African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States and South Africa (1995); Slavery and the University: Histories and Legacies (2019); and Middle Passages: African American Journeys to Africa, 1787-2005, which was a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in History. Campbell has also served as a historical consultant for numerous documentary films, public school curricula, and museum exhibitions, including the “Power of Place” exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture. If you enjoy his lecture for Dangerous Ideas, you might check out some of his other classes at Stanford, including History of South Africa and Nineteenth-Century America.
Universal Basic Income
Juliana Bidadanure, Philosophy
Juliana Bidadanure is an assistant professor of philosophy. Her research explores issues at the intersection of philosophy and public policy, especially inequalities between age groups and generations and the question of what it means to treat young adults as equals. She is currently working on a book entitled Justice Across Ages: Treating Young and Old as Equals. In addition, Bidadanure is the Research Director of the Basic Income Lab (BIL) at Stanford’s McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society. BIL convenes scholars, policymakers, business leaders, and foundations around the politics, philosophy, and economics of universal basic income policies. If you enjoy her lecture for Dangerous Ideas, you might check out some of her other classes at Stanford, including Universal Basic Income: The Philosophy Behind the Proposal, The Philosophy of Public Policy, and Ethics of Sports.
Youth and Old Age
Alexander Nemerov, Art and Art History
Alexander Nemerov is the Carl and Marilynn Thoma Provostial Professor of Arts and Humanities in the Department of Art and Art History. A scholar of American art and visual culture, Nemerov writes especially about the presence of art, the recollection of the past, photography, and the importance of the humanities in our lives today. His many books include Soulmaker: The Times of Lewis Hine (2016), Wartime Kiss: Visions of the Moment in the 1940s (2013), and Acting in the Night: Macbeth and the Places of the Civil War (2010). In 2011 he published To Make a World: George Ault and 1940s America, the catalog of an exhibition he curated at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Nemerov's popular introductory art history course, How to Look at Art and Why: An Introduction to the History of Western Painting, regularly draws large crowds of students. Some of his other classes include The American West, American Photography Since 1960, and Caravaggio, Vermeer, and the Life of Paintings.
Creative Agency in the Pandemic World
Mark Applebaum, Music
Mark Applebaum is the Leland & Edith Smith Professor of Composition in the Department of Music. His solo, chamber, choral, orchestral, operatic, and electroacoustic work has been performed throughout North and South America, Europe, Africa, Australia, and Asia. Applebaum is the subject of multiple documentary films, such as Blue Dot Productions’ I Live for Art, and his TED talk “The mad scientist of music” has been seen by more than five million viewers. At Stanford, he has won multiple awards for outstanding teaching, including the 2003 Walter J. Gores Award. If you enjoy his lecture for Dangerous Ideas, you might check out some of his other classes, including Creative Agency in the Pandemic World (discussed in this recent interview), Rock, Sex, and Rebellion, and Musical Genius: Exemplars in the History of Organized Sound. Note: This short video, recorded at the onset of the quarantine in late March, is an excerpt from his full lecture for Dangerous Ideas, on the twin dangers of tradition and progress. Here, he speaks about how we might reframe our thinking to embrace the creative constraints imposed by sheltering in place.
The Decline and Fall of Nations?
Caroline Winterer, History
Caroline Winterer is the William Robertson Coe Professor of History and American Studies, as well as former director of the Stanford Humanities Center. Her research and teaching focus on American history before 1900, especially the history of ideas, political theory, and the history of science. Some of her books include Time in Maps: From the Age of Discovery to Our Digital Era (2020), American Enlightenments: Pursuing Happiness in the Age of Reason (2016), and The Culture of Classicism: Ancient Greece and Rome in American Intellectual Life, 1780–1910 (2004). In 2013 she received an American Ingenuity Award from the Smithsonian Institution for her work mapping the social network of Benjamin Franklin. You can learn more about her work in this recent talk at the Commonwealth Club of California and in her 2017 TEDx Talk, “Think you know how to pursue happiness? Think again.” If you enjoy her lecture for Dangerous Ideas, you might check out some of her other classes, including the Humanities Research Intensive and a forthcoming seminar on The American Enlightenment.