Research theme chosen

The UC Merced Center for the Humanities has turned the world upside down.

The center, which received a $2 million gift in 2012 to expand its activities, selected “The World Upside Down: Topsy-Turvy” as its first two-year research theme, which serves as a guide for its offerings in the 2013 and 2014 academic years.

For its first Distinguished Lecture in the Humanities, the center brought Yale University professor James Scott to campus on Tuesday.

Scott’s talk, “How We, Homo Sapiens, Came to be Domesticated: An Account of the Late-Neolithic Multi-species Resettlement Camp,” looked at how we ended up living in great concentrations of people, with domesticated plants and animals, in social formations that were less healthy and amenable to the creation of states by which we are all now governed.

The talk was just one of the many events the center has supported since the school year began. It has held a biweekly seminar series and co-sponsored the Black Arts Movement conference, which included academic presentations and performances.

Coming events supported by the center include:

• The Marcus Shelby Quartet: Harriet Tubman and the Blues – Teacher and musician Marcus Shelby will tell the story of Harriet Tubman, a woman who rose out of humble beginnings, escaped slavery and dedicated her life to challenging injustice. 8 p.m. Monday in Lakireddy Auditorium. Free and open to the public.

• Thirty Years of Mass Incarceration: Where Do We Go from Here? – The daylong symposium looks at the past, present and future of mass incarceration. The 1984 Crime Control Act, which established mandatory minimum sentences, was the first in a series of laws passed in the 1980s and 1990s that created mass incarceration: the number of people behind bars increased 450 percent. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday in the California Room.

• Graduate Students Conference – Professor Rachel Klein from the University of California, San Diego, will deliver the keynote talk, “The Metropolitan Museum on Trial: Cypriot Antiquities and the Transformation of Culture in the Late Nineteenth Century United States” at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Merced Theatre. Free and open to the public.

Bobcat Art Show

UC Merced artists will showcase their talent at the annual Bobcat Art Show, which started its monthlong run on Monday.

The show, now in its ninth year, features works submitted by university students, faculty and staff. This year, the show received 52 entries that cover a variety of media including painting, drawing, photography, digital media, sculpture and mixed media.

The exhibit is being held simultaneously in the UC Merced Art Gallery in Room 106 of the Social Sciences and Management Building, and on the second floor of Kolligian Library. A reception is scheduled from 4 to 5:30 p.m. April 24 at the gallery.

Gail Benedict, the exhibit’s organizer, said the show is a great opportunity for all artists, from novices to those who are more seasoned, to show their work publicly.

“The feedback regarding the show has always been very positive,” Benedict said. “I think what people like about it is that it includes everyone. I’m always pleasantly surprised by the quality of the work we receive. It’s amazing to see the talent we have at our campus.”

Students are a driving force behind the Bobcat Art Show as they contribute the most submissions. Student exhibitors have a chance to compete for a best student artist award in five categories.

“We leave it up to the public to decide what good art is,” Benedict said.

Students play a significant role behind the scenes, too. Students enrolled in professor ShiPu Wang’s curatorial studies course are assisting in the show’s installation, judging and marketing.

To see the exhibits, visit the gallery from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and the library during regular operating hours.