Cultivating Critical and Humane “Young Intellectuals”:
or, how some formal and conceptual mandates from performance studies have contributed to NOCCA’s Integrated Humanities curriculum
In this talk, Dr. Kate Kokontis will discuss how an innovative interdisciplinary humanities curriculum – which was created collaboratively by scholars with backgrounds in fields such as performance studies, critical race theory, history, and literature – has been implemented at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. The Integrated Humanities program is a four-year course that meets Louisiana state requirements for History and English/Language Arts (ELA) coursework; it is a unique, and uniquely interdisciplinary, high school humanities program framed around four years of world history or global studies. Students read literature, examine visual culture, study the arts, look at primary documents, and read social and political theory that is situated historically or thematically within our field of study at any given time, so that their encounters with the arts, governments, economies, religions, social life, and cultural production are contextualized. It is, at its heart, a critical cultural studies program. The faculty members have PhDs in humanistic and social science disciplines and expect a level of intellectual rigor and critical thinking that is in keeping with what students do in colleges and universities. Dr. Kokontis will attend both to the particularities of the curriculum itself – its content, arc over four years, interdisciplinary structure, team-teaching model, pedagogical approaches, implementation of differentiated learning, and examples of the questions and projects that students engage – and to the ways in which it is both indebted to, and aspires to challenge some of the limitations of, the epistemological, pedagogical, and political frameworks that are articulated within critical humanistic disciplines in universities.
Kate M. Kokontis earned her Ph.D. in Performance Studies at UC Berkeley in 2011, a post-baccalaureate certificate in painting from Studio Art Centers International | Florence in 2005, and her B.A. from Yale in 2004. Currently she teaches and develops curriculum at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), a public arts conservatory high school. There she is Assistant Chair of the Humanities department, and was founding member of the Academic Studio. She teaches Integrated Humanities, and is very involved in the Plessy Project, an endeavor shared by the Plessy & Ferguson Foundation, the Crescent City Peace Alliance, the NOCCA Institute, students, and other community organizations to commemorate and continue the long history of the Black freedom struggle in New Orleans and beyond. She is working on a novel and an academic book project emerging from her dissertation, “Performative Returns and the Rememory of History: genealogy and performativity in the American racial state,” and is involved in anti-racist organizing in New Orleans, within and outside her home institution.