Chicago Humanities Festival to host speakers at International House

By Global Voices Metcalf Interns: Sophie Desch and Renee Wehrle


On Saturday, Nov. 3, the International House Global Voices Program will present two lectures as part of the city-wide Chicago Humanities Festival. Since 1989, the Chicago Humanities Festival has presented hundreds of programs that aim to expose individuals to important ideas in Humanities-related disciplines.

The 2018 Fallfest will explore this year’s theme—Graphic!—through thought-provoking programs featuring Marion Nestle and David Scott Kastan, who will discuss their recently published books at International House and share their perspectives on the Fallfest theme.

When one thinks about the fight for a healthier America, Marion Nestle should come to mind. Nestle, the Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, fights for honesty in the food industry and combats nutrition misinformation spread by large corporations. She blogs frequently for and has appeared in various documentaries including Super Size Me and Food, Inc., among others. She boasts several award-winning books, including Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health; Eat, Drink, Vote; and Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (And Winning).

At 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 3, Nestle will discuss her new book Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat. This talk will examine how corporations like Coca-Cola fund biased research that is deeply damaging to the health of the American public. When asked about the consequences of misinformation, Nestle remarks, “People are very confused about what they’re eating. They think the research changes all the time; I don’t think it does, but that’s how it appears. It influences dietary guidelines, so dietary guidelines are less clear and directive than they would be if industry funded research wasn’t used as a basis for them, and it induces a lot of distrust.”

This confusion translates into real-world health problems like obesity, Nestle said. “The one consequence of the food environment we have and the food marketing system that we have is making food available at very low costs everywhere and socially acceptable to eat 24/7 in very large amounts.”  It is estimated that we spend $147 billion dollars on obesity-related healthcare and on average 300,000 Americans die from obesity-related causes every year. Although this situation seems dire, Nestle remains optimistic, “I’d like to see people be a little bit more skeptical and I’d like to see reporters pay more attention to who pays for studies when the results are so evidently in favor of one product or another.”  Nestle’s book promises to do just that: open readers’ eyes to the insidious practices of the food industry to push products at the expense of American health.

At 12:30 p.m., David Scott Kastan, University of Chicago alumnus and the George M. Bodman Professor of Literature at Yale University, will discuss his new book, On Color, in which he explores the complex ways that color exists in our cultural, scientific, and moral imaginations, in collaboration with artist Stephen Farthing. Featuring fluid shifts between stunningly beautiful prose and good-humored wit, Kastan hopes that his work will reveal to readers not only that color is “something our visual system creates in collaboration… with the world,” but also that in our society, we use color to construct ourselves. To that end, Kastan leaves no stone unturned as he examines the many dimensions of ten fascinating colors. Across his investigation of colors from violet, “the shimmering, fugitive color of the sky at sunset” to black, the “color of both our beginnings and our ends,” Kastan navigates politics, physics, and economics as well as paintings and photographs to develop a narrative as dynamic as the colors themselves.

Throughout that journey, Kastan emphasizes that “No color has a single or a stable meaning.” This means that even though all humans have similar visual systems, our different cultural backgrounds and experiences mean that when it comes to colors, “we experience them differently and attach different meanings to them.” As a result, Kastan’s project is a difficult, but rewarding one; he notes that after writing this book, he is “now much more sensitive to the colors around [him].” It would be hard not to experience color differently after reading Kastan and Farthing’s stunning work.

Kastan has previously held teaching positions at Dartmouth College, Columbia University, and University College London. He is the author of numerous books, including A Will to Believe: Shakespeare and Religion, and Shakespeare and the Book; the editor of the Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature; and a 2004 recipient of the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship. Stephen Farthing has taught at the Royal College of Art and Oxford University, among other institutions. His publications include 1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die and 501 Great Artists. Farthing’s artwork can be found in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Fallfest will be held on Saturday, November 3, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. (Marion Nestle), and from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. (David Scott Kastan) in the International House Assembly Hall at 1414 E. 59th St. The program is co-sponsored by the International House Global Voices Performing Arts and Lecture Series and the Chicago Humanities Festival. Both lectures are open to the public; tickets can be purchased online at, by phone at 312-605-8444 during business hours, or at the door (subject to availability). Persons with disabilities who need assistance should contact the Office of Programs and External Relations in advance of the event at (773) 753-2274 or email