This event took place on February 9-10, 2018.
Watch the panel conversations on our YouTube playlist.
Read “Provocations” written for the Los Angeles Review of Books by our invited speakers.
The United States is facing a peculiar time in which it’s unusually difficult to take stock of ourselves. If we had to say what underpins America today, if we were forced to choose our core beliefs or values as a nation, it’s not clear that we could readily do so.
Do we still believe, for example, in liberty, life, and the pursuit of happiness? That all men are created equal? Do we still believe in the right to religious freedom? In free speech and freedom of the press? How about our electoral system? Due process? Do we still believe in democracy and representative government? Do we still care, or even give lip-service to caring, about the poor, the marginalized, the vulnerable at home and around the world? Do we still hesitate to use weapons of mass destruction?
These are all questions with which the Trump presidency, the rise of the extreme right, and recent gerrymandering lawsuits have forced us to reckon. Do we instead believe, with the president, that might and money should rule the country and the world? Do we believe that political parties have the right to shape the electorate to keep themselves in power? Do we believe that some Americans are more American than others?
Our keynote speaker and our panels, which comprise thinkers and visionaries from all over the world along with a diverse group of American experts, will focus on the many complicated ways to address and to answer the most important question of all: Who do we think we are?
Keynote Speaker: Jill Lepore, author of The Secret History of Wonder Woman
Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University and a staff writer at The New Yorker. She writes about American history, law, literature, and politics. Her essays and reviews have also appeared in The New York Times, The Times Literary Supplement, The Journal of American History, Foreign Affairs, the Yale Law Journal, The American Scholar, and the American Quarterly. The Secret History of Wonder Woman (2014) was awarded the 2015 American History Book Prize.
“Who Do We Think We Are?” is presented by UCI’s Forum for the Academy and the Public and organized by Professor Amy Wilentz. It is co-sponsored by the School of Humanities, the School of Law, the Literary Journalism Program, the University of California Humanities Research Institute, Illuminations, and the Los Angeles Review of Books.