‘In/Common’ to Focus on Human Connections

‘In/Common’ to Focus on Human Connections


SUNY Cortland will explore book and poetry readings, film screenings and discussion topics offered by host speakers that all raise questions about the common humanity shared by peoples across the globe as well as their ethnic and socio-economic divides.

Titled “In/Common,” the year-long event series is the eighth organized by the College’s Cultural and Intellectual Climate Committee (CICC) around a single theme. All the activities are free and open to the public.

“We in the committee hope for a vibrant campus-wide discussion of The Kite Runner, Afghanistan and Islamic culture this fall,” said Scott Moranda, an associate professor of history and the chair of the CICC. “The film screenings, speakers, discussions and poetry reading will provide an opportunity for faculty, staff and students to engage the themes and issues raised by this heart-wrenching novel. Given our country’s continued — and often forgotten — involvement in Afghanistan, the book is as timely as ever.”

The series kicks off on Tuesday, Oct. 16, with a screening of “Restrepo” in Sperry Center, Room 105. The 2009 documentary by Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington tells the story of the Second Platoon as it manned a remote outpost in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. The filmmakers try to provide a window into soldiers’ lives that has rarely been highlighted by American media outlets.

This semester’s “In/Common” events also include:

• Eamon Coyne will offer his perspective as an honorably discharged veteran from the U.S. Navy, at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 18, in Brockway Hall Jacobus Lounge. Currently an MBA candidate at Ithaca College’s Park School of Sustainable Enterprise, he will discuss “Combat, Afghanistan and Millenials.” Coyne was an information systems technician, 2nd class, also known as an enlisted aviation warfare specialist, and served from 2004 to 2008 in many capacities in both combat and shipboard operations including tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He will build from his personal experiences of combat in Afghanistan to discuss the meaning of the war for college-age students.

• A discussion of The Kite Runner will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6, in Brockway Hall Jacobus Lounge. This work of fiction tells the story of two friends kept apart by ethnic and class differences. SUNY Cortland faculty who are using the book written by Khaled Hosseini in their classrooms will guide the conversation.

• Siddiq Barmak’s 2003 film "Osama" will be shown at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 8, in Sperry Center, Room 105. "Osama," the first film shot entirely in Afghanistan since 1996, tells the story of a girl living under the Taliban regime. The story allows audiences to reflect on Afghanistan’s economic and political upheaval and, in particular, gender politics in the years between the Soviet invasion in 1979 and NATO’s American-led invasion in 2001.

• Howard Lindh, a lecturer in SUNY Cortland’s Performing Arts Department, has organized a poetry reading in many languages, titled “In Translation: A Multilingual Poetry Reading,” for Tuesday, Nov. 13, in Brockway Hall Jacobus Lounge. Poetry is common to all languages and cultures. Much of a poem’s meaning is contained in the sound and rhythm of the language it is written in and, often, that part of the poem’s resonance is lost when it is translated. The presentation will feature readings of poems in their original languages, read by exchange students and faculty who are native speakers, with the English translations read by their counterparts.

• Award-winning artist and scholar Rachel Lehr will speak on “Women Mending Afghanistan” at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 15, in Brockway Hall Jacobus Lounge. Her talk will bring attention to aspects of Afghan culture underrepresented in The Kite Runner. Currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago, Lehr’s academic training in linguistics and Persian, at Barnard College and the University of Chicago, took her traveling across Central Asia during the 1970s and 1980s. Lehr will discuss Afghan culture, in particular the role of women in public and private. She works with Afghan women through Rubia, a New Hampshire-based, non-profit organization that helps Afghan women translate their craft heritage and textile skills into sustainable livelihoods and economic development opportunities. More information is available at www.rubiahandwork.org.

• Concluding the fall common reading will be a screening of “The Kite Runner” at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 28, in Sperry Center, Room 105. Afterward, the audience is invited to discuss the creative choices made by the film’s writers and directors and compare the film with the book.

“We chose the theme ‘In/Common’ for three reasons,” Moranda said. “First, we wanted to have the college community share a common reading experience,” Moranda said, announcing the slightly new program format.

“In other words, we hope to not just invite the community to talks and film screenings, but also encourage the discussion of intellectual theme in the classroom and beyond,” he said. “Thus, students attending events may have read something related to the talk and be better prepared to engage with the material or the speaker.

“We believe the common reading can create a shared academic experience that helps us continue discussions of ethics, civility, and global citizenship, foster connections among students, faculty and staff, and increase cross campus participation in and awareness of the yearly theme.”

Secondly, the series focuses on two chosen books, The Kite Runner this fall and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks in the spring semester, he said. Both volumes look at the shared nature of human connections amid the many geographical, cultural and socio-economic differences. College faculty members are encouraged to assign their students the book readings, which could be featured in a variety of settings and disciplines, such as health, science, humanities, social science, international studies, education and professional studies.

“Third, we wanted to build on last year’s discussion of civility and incivility by using these two books to gain greater perspective on the dangers of incivility and the importance of community building and civil behavior,” Moranda said.

The “In/Common” series is funded by the offices of the President and the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. The Brooks Museum and the James M. Clark Center for International Education are supporting the Rachel Lehr lecture; and the Campus Artist and Lecture Series and the student Web magazine NeoVox will help underwrite the Eamon Coyne presentation and “Restrepo” screening.

To stay current with announcements regarding the series’ events, visit the committee’s Facebook page. For more information, contact Moranda at (607) 753-2052.