The Portuguese and Spanish Department along with the Department of Africology at UWM continued its celebration of the Year of the Humanities with a lecture titled Lisbon Stories from Professor Fernando Arenas of the University of Michigan. The College of Letters and Science as well as the centers for International Studies and Latin American and Caribbean Studies also helped to organize the event for students and the community. Arenas, a Professor of luso-phone studies, spoke to students about the experience of immigrant in post-colonial Portugal.
Lusophone is the term used to describe the world community of Portuguese speakers.
Professor Sandra Sousa, of the Portuguese Department heralded Arenas as “one of the most important living contributors to lusophone studies.”
Sousa shared that she was excited to invite Arenas to UWM in order to help “bring more awareness to the Portuguese world here in Milwaukee.”
Arenas delivered an interactive lecture analyzing the experience of migrants to Portugal with the use of contemporary films and texts. He discussed issues in the context of immigrations to Portugal; however, much of the discussion was easily extrapolated to ideas of a global scope.
Sousa felt Arenas’s lecture effectively conveyed the core values of humanities studies, such as the understanding of other cultural experiences, into his lecture.
According to Arenas, “The humanities offer a way to understand the framework of the world.”
Arenas believes an education in the humanities helps one develop a “coherent” understanding of the world. He feels this level of understanding is intrinsic to becoming an informed citizen. Citizenship, Arenas believes, is a concept “much vaster” than “the country listed on one’s passport”.
According to Arenas, as far as the Humanities are concerned, “It is my life.” This was a sentiment shared by some in attendance, such as senior Madeline Brancel.
“Quite literally, the Humanities are my life.” said Brancel.
Brancel noted that the lecture delivered by Arenas was the first time she had encountered the discussion method, wherein literature and cinema were used to contextualize and discuss specific societal issues such as migration and development.
“I’m actually interested in going into something similar to what he was talking about.” said Brancel.
Arenas lamented that most people don’t understand what a career in the humanities entails. He believes that too often the work generated by those studying the humanities appears “a bit intangible”.
Arenas said that the work done by himself and his colleagues involves reflection and analysis of many “very difficult and complicated questions”.
“The kind of work that we do is to kind of provide or gain an understanding of how the world operates.”