New for 2021, the Buffalo Humanities Festival welcomes Daemen College as a partner institution. We are happy to have Lisa K. Parshall, Professor of Political Science, Daemen College and Public Policy Fellow at the Rockefeller Institute of Government and Dan Shanahan, Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurism and Program Director, Daemen College/co-founder and Artistic Director, Torn Space Theater present on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2:30pm in the Design Studio at Silo City.

Photograph of a large tree in a grassy field with smoke blanketing the ground like mist, in the background the large imposing concrete grain elevator, with individual audience members seated in wooden chairs, each distanced from one another, around the tree.
Image from “Silence” (2020 RESPONSE Performance Series) courtesy of Torn Space Theater/Photographer: Michael Thomas

Lisa and Dan will present a joint presentation on the possible formation of a utopia by analyzing the policy of dissolving a community and rebuilding a progressive society through community ritual, civic engagement and placemaking strategies.

Narrative Persuasion and Utopian Ideals in the Creation and Dissolution of Village Governments

Lisa K. Parshall is a Professor of Political Science at Daemen College in Amherst, NY, specializing in State and Local Politics. As a public policy fellow at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, her research focuses on municipal reorganization and the dissolution of village governments. Her presentation will address how this policy debate over dissolving villages can be understood through a humanistic perspective and a narrative policy framework. While many residents reject dissolution as a policy solution, driven by idealized notions of village life, local autonomy, and nostalgia, some proponents view dissolution as progressive step forward. How does place, community ritual, and shared community values shape the debate—and how might the debate be further shaped by creative placemaking strategies?

The Formation of Utopian Societies by way of Public Ritual

Dan Shanahan is Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurism and co-founder and Artistic Director of Torn Space. His work in contemporary performance incorporates the talents of the community by working with both professional and non-professional actors. This approach is firmly rooted in the traditions of the ancient Greeks, who believed “amateur” provided vitality to performance while encouraging greater civic engagement through the enactment of the public ritual. His presentation will examine the historical context of public ritual in performance through the theorist and playwright Antonin Artaud (1896-1948) and his concept of public ritual along with contemporary examples of Torn Space’s work at Silo City that intersect with creative placemaking strategies. The presentation will explore whether the foundation of a utopia can occur when a community participates in the construction of meaning, mythology and symbolism to create an authentic sense of place.