Brown Bag Lecture Series

The International Brown Bag Series has been an integral part of the Alworth Institute's programming since its inception in 1987. In the fall of 2013, it was renamed the Martha B. Alworth International Brown Bag Series. It provides the audience the opportunity to share in the international travel experiences of numerous individuals from the University, local, national and international communities. Many presentations are travelogues; some are reflections of the current issues confronting a country's people; others capture the cultural character of distant societies; but, each allows a unique insight into places many would never have the opportunity to visit.

The objectives of this series are to:

  • help fulfill the overall objectives of the Alworth Institute;
  • introduce students, staff and the wider community to interesting aspects of foreign culture, society and history;
  • raise awareness of political life and conditions in diverse parts of the world;
  • create opportunities for sharing insights developed during professional and leisure interest travel and other programs of study abroad;
  • create opportunities for visiting faculty to share relevant topics with the wider University;
  • involve students, staff and community members in exchanging ideas and reflecting on international and any related domestic policy issues.

To learn more about the renaming of the International Brown Bag Series.

If you are interested in proposing a topic for discussion, finding a qualified speaker, or co-sponsoring a lecture; check the suitability of the topic and the speaker against the objectives above and contact the Alworth Institute at [email protected]du or (218) 726-7753.

Fall 2020 Schedule

Thursday, October 1 – 12:00 p.m. - Brown Bag Presentation - My Time as Sage: Eastern Escapism and the Self-Reinvention of Study Abroad – Presented by Sage Johnson, UMD Senior, College of Liberal Arts Interdisciplinary Major and 2019 recipient of the Alworth Institute Study Abroad Scholarship. Johnson studied abroad in Japan in 2019. She will discuss her time in Japan and her journey of reinventing herself. See this presentation here.

Thursday, October 8 – 12:00 p.m. - Brown Bag Presentation - Living La Vida Matizada: Participatory Video Making with a Creative Indigenous Community in the Ecuadorian Andes – Presented by  Dr. David Syring, UMD Department of Anthropology, Sociology, and Criminology – Indigenous peoples such as the Saraguros of southern Ecuador respond to the challenges of globalization in fascinating ways. Telling stories and creating art that expresses Saraguro identity provide foundational strategies for individuals and communities simultaneously to assert their continuity with the past and dynamically engage with their future. Saraguros create through beadwork, spinning and weaving, pottery, music, painting and other plastic arts to affirm ideas and values. In addition to self adornment and traditional reciprocal gifting, Saraguro artisans sell their work in venues such as the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market and elsewhere, bringing their culture into transnational conversations about identity. For fifteen years Syring hasworked with Saraguro collaborators to learn about unique aspects of their daily lives and their cosmovision, and to develop representations of their daily worlds as well as their artistic expressions. Basic ethnographic research has led to the idea of “la vida matizada,” the “blended life,” as a metaphor for the “good life” in local terms. This presentation will share several videos created as participatory media with Saraguro collaborators, and will include examples of unique Saraguro bead art. Register at 

Thursday, October 15 – 12:00 p.m. - Brown Bag Presentation - The Aesthetics of Remembrance: Documentary Films on Persecution and Political Incarceration during Spain’s Dictatorship – Presented by Dr. Maureen Tobin-Stanley, Professor of Hispanic Studies, UMD Department of World Languages and Cultures – Tobin Stanley explores three documentaries based on Ángel Fernández’s testimonial narratives. Resistant fighter, sixteen-year political prisoner in Franco’s jails and current expatriate, Ángel Fernández has penned several written testimonies, participated in the documentary films Te doy mi palabra (I Give You My Word2012, dir. Quino González) and Au temps des roses rouges (Time of the Red Roses, 2013, dir. Francis Lapeyre) , and protagonizes the biopic Ángel (2016, dir. Stéphane Fernandez). These works are a testament to his commitment to justice through memory. As a survivor of the cumulative traumas of war, exile and political imprisonment, his journey to make his story known through memory activism reach the apex of communication in the documentary Ángel, a film that embodies what Brett Ashley Kaplan and Marianne Hirsch have respectively termed unwanted beauty and the aesthetics of remembrance. Register at  (Co-sponsored by the UMD Department of World Languages and Cultures) 

Thursday, October 29 – 12:00 p.m. – Brown Bag Presentation - We Keep Us Safe: Afro-Colombian Perspectives on Alternatives to Policing – Presented by Orlando Castillo, Afro-Colombian social leader and member, Inter-Ethnic Truth Commission for the Pacific – Castillo is an Afro-Colombian social leader from the Naya river basin and Buenaventura in Colombia’s Pacific Southwestern coast. Orlando has dedicated his life to the defense of AfroColombian rights, territory, and self-determination. He helped establish a Humanitarian Space as a non-violent strategy of civilian protection against acts of political violence committed by right-wing paramilitary groups and narcotrafficking organizations. Register at  (Co-sponsored by the UMD Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Department of World Languages and Cultures, and Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective Midwest) 

Thursday, November 5 – 12:00 p.m. – Brown Bag Presentation - Devils in the Piazza (and in the Details): Excavating Evidence of Spectacular Performance in Medieval Siena – Presented by Dr. Jenna Soleo-Shanks, UMD theatre historian and director, UMD Theatre Department – Every summer for more than 800 years, the city of Siena has staged a celebration that combines civic pride with religious devotion, in an event that looks to outsiders like a horse race. Il Palio, however, is much more than that. In fact, Siena’s famous tradition is merely a shadow of a long history in which festive and ephemeral traditions functioned to help construct, articulate, and promote the city’s distinctive identity. Soleo-Shanks’s research focuses on the ways in which medieval performance traditions shaped the Siena during its Republican era (12th-16th centuries). From the architecture of its central piazza to its relationship with holy patron, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Siena is indebted to the power of performance. In this presentation, Soleo-Shanks will discuss the ways Siena used theatrical spectacles throughout its history and the challenges of excavating evidence of such performance practices today. Register at 

Wednesday, November 11 – 12:00 p.m. – Brown Bag Presentation - Irish Heritage Explored: An Experiential Learning Initiative – Presented by David Woodward, UMD History Instructor, Director of Museum Studies Certificate Program and Dr. Stephen Matthews, Associate Professor, UMD Department of History – This presentation will focus on the multi-year Irish learning and research initiative by Matthews and Woodward. The project began as a pilot internship program in Dublin, Ireland and a rural life/Forge study in Galway, Ireland. Over the past few years the project has been expanded to include internships in both Dublin and Galway and to develop hands-on research opportunities for UMD students in Historic Preservation, Cultural History, and Archaeology through investigating historic landscapes and early Christian sites. Register at 

Thursday. November 19 – 12:00 p.m. – Brown Bag Presentation – A Friendship Born in Argentina: New York meets Buenos Aires – Presented by Sandra Christian, Vice President, Senior Division, RiseBoro Community Partnership, New York City and Sergio Casco, Instructor of Psychoanalysis, Universidad Abierta Interamericana and Owner of Serleo, Mesadas con bacha de acero inoxidable – Christian and Casco will discuss the friendship they developed when Sandra visited Buenos Aires in 2013. Since then, she has returned to the city and Sergio has visited New York City. They will share images of Buenos Aires and other Argentine regions as well as highlights of their friendship. They will show pictures of their participation at the Buenos Aires Gay Pride March. Casco will also offer some insights into Argentina’s gay rights history. Register at 

CANCELLED (This presentation will be rescheduled in Spring 2021)                            Thursday, December 3 – 12:00 p.m. – Brown Bag Presentation – Band Tradition in Valencia, Spain – Presented by Dr. Mark Whitlock, UMD Professor of Music, Director of Bands and Head of the Department of Music – Whitlock will share his experiences conducting and running clinics in Valencia where there is a history of band music. Register at