Washington University announces spring Assembly Series

Legal expert Kevin Ray kicks off series Feb. 4

The presidential race is on as contenders kick into high gear for the start of the primary season. Anticipation also runs high throughout the campus community of Washington University in St. Louis, where preparations are underway for the Oct. 9 presidential debate.

Reflecting this focus, the spring 2016 semester Assembly Series lineup will feature two speakers whose close associations with the Obama administration will provide singular perspectives on the presidential campaign.

Ruminations on the interpretation and impact of images also are themes running through the lineup. Artistically, the talks range from the legal challenges of determining whether an artist has “borrowed” too much from another artist, to learning about the history of visual representations of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. Another program illuminates how the telling of another’s story can change one’s perception of that person.

Full biographies and updated event information will be available on a new website, assemblyseries.wustl.edu that debuts soon. It will include announcements, schedule changes, and a sampling of some of the series’ more luminous speakers from the past. An interactive component also will be built into the site, inviting users to comment and get involved through social media.

All Assembly Series programs are free and open to the public, although seating may be limited to the public for specific events.

The spring semester schedule follows:

kevin ray assembly series spring 2016
Kevin Ray

Thursday, Feb. 4

Kevin Ray, “What’s Fair: Street Art, Appropriation Art, and the Law”

12 p.m., Anheuser-Busch Hall Room 305

Ray, JD, PhD, a legal expert in the field of cultural assets, notes the popular saying that bad artists imitate, but great artists steal. In the contemporary art world, the act of using some or all of another artist’s (or musician’s or author’s) work in the process of making your own new work is usually described as “appropriation.”

Ray will draw on recent high-profile cases to illustrate how courts try to parse out an objective decision based largely on subjective considerations; to decide, in effect, whether the work in question was stolen or whether it is a “fair use” of another’s material.

Ray is an attorney for Greenberg Traurig LLP focusing on art and cultural heritage law. He represents and advises artists, art galleries, art collectors, museums and cultural institutions in a variety of transactions, including consignments, questions of title, provenance, and compliance with national and international law. In addition, he advises on issues unique to art, antiquities and other cultural property in a variety of lending and commercial transactions.

Prior to practicing law, Ray served as head of special collections for University Libraries at Washington University, and taught at the School of Art, now part of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts.

He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Pittsburgh, and a JD and PhD from Washington University. In 2014, Ray earned his LLM in international art and cultural heritage law from DePaul University College of Law.

His presentation is part of the School of Law’s Public Interest Law & Policy Speaker Series, and is co-sponsored by the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute.

Read Ray’s posts on the Cultural Assets blog.

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Christiane Gruber

Thursday, Feb. 11

Christiane Gruber, “The Praiseworthy One: Devotional Images of the Prophet Muhammad in Islamic Traditions”

4 p.m., Umrath Hall Lounge

Gruber, PhD, is an art historian whose research interests span medieval Islamic art to contemporary visual culture, with a predominant focus on Islamic book arts, paintings of the Prophet Muhammad, and Islamic ascension texts and images.

In her talk, she will explore the ways in which — within a variety of Islamic expressive cultures — artists and viewers alike used pictorial language to express devotion to the Prophet Muhammad.

Gruber’s presentation is sponsored by the Center for the Humanities’ Faculty Book Celebration.

Listen to Gruber’s NPR interview on the role of art in the Arab Spring Uprising.

David Axelrod

Thursday, Feb. 18

David Axelrod, “America’s Future: Insights from a Presidential Adviser”

7 p.m., Graham Chapel 

In a career spanning four decades, campaign strategist Axelrod has influenced the outcomes of more than 150 Democratic campaigns, many of which were considered landmark victories. But in 2008, he orchestrated his most historic campaign, helping elect the first African-American as the 44th president of the United States.

Axelrod accompanied President Barack Obama to the White House and served as his closest adviser until 2011. His bestselling memoir, “Believer: My Forty Years in Politics,” was released in 2015.

His address is part of the SU Speaker Series sponsored by the Washington University Political Review.

Listen to Axelrod’s podcast.

PLEASE NOTE: Seating may be limited for the public.

Elijah Anderson

Wednesday, March 9

Elijah Anderson, “The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Challenges for a Civil Society”

12 p.m., Anheuser-Busch Hall, Bryan Cave Moot Courtroom

Anderson, PhD, is one of the nation’s most influential scholars in the field of urban inequality, cultural sociology and race relations.

His 2011 book, “The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life,” describes his concept of urban islands of civility that exist among the segregated enclaves. Within these “canopies,” all kinds of city dwellers co-exist, and by doing so, spread tolerance through contact and mutual understanding.

A 2016 Washington University Distinguished Visiting Scholar, Anderson’s lecture is supported in part by the Office of the Provost, and his appearance is sponsored by the Department of Sociology in Arts & Sciences, and the School of Law.

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Juana Rodriguez

Thursday, March 24

Juana Maria Rodriguez, “The Women of Casa Xochiquetzal: Corporeal Encounters, Queer Feelings”

4 p.m., Anheuser-Busch Hall, Bryan Cave Moot Courtroom

Rodriguez, PhD, a noted scholar of sexuality studies and queer theory, examines the different ways in which a person’s life story can be interpreted, based on how the story is told. Her work with elderly sex workers of Casa Xochiquetzal in Mexico shows that combining visual documentation with biographical narratives can alter the interpretative process.

A 2016 Washington University Distinguished Visiting Scholar, Rodriguez’s lecture is supported in part by the Office of the Provost, and her appearance is sponsored by the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies in Arts & Sciences.

Daniel Mendelsohn

Thursday, April 7

Daniel Mendelsohn, “An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic”

4 p.m. Knight/Bauer Hall, Emerson Auditorium

The 2016 Biggs Lecturer in the Classics is Mendelsohn, PhD, an acclaimed memoirist, essayist, and cultural critic who is also a classicist, and whose work moves seamlessly between high and low culture, displaying a writing style that combines scholarly rigor with conversational ease.

He is best known for the 2006 international bestseller, “The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million,” which details his search for the truth behind his family’s personal story of the Holocaust, and won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Jewish Book Award, as well as France’s Prix Medicis.

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Eddie Huang

Monday, April 11

Eddie Huang, “An Evening in Eddie’s World”

7 p.m., Graham Chapel

In his book, “Fresh Off the Boat,” chef/food personality turned memoirist Huang tells the story of growing up within two often competing cultures, and of finding his way through that bifurcated world to become the person he is today — the person who never let race define who he was or who he could be.

The New York Times review praised Huang’s book as “a surprisingly sophisticated memoir about race and assimilation in America … as much James Baldwin and Jay-Z as Amy Tan.” He serves as a producer for the ABC comedy series that is loosely based on his book.

His address is part of the SU Speaker Series sponsored by the Chinese Students Association.

Listen to Huang’s TED talk.

PLEASE NOTE: Seating may be limited for the public.

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Eric Schultz

Friday, April 15

Eric Schultz, “From Washington University to the White House”

4 p.m., College Hall, South 40

In 2014, Eric Schultz became principal deputy White House press secretary, following a distinguished career serving prominent political leaders, including Democratic U.S. senators Charles Schumer, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Al Franken.

As a sophomore, the 2002 alumnus served as Speaker of the Congress of the South 40. For the Assembly Series, he will share how his experiences as a student helped prepare him for a career in politics, then invite the audience to engage in a dialogue.

Schultz’s presentation is sponsored by the Congress of the South 40.

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