Over the summer, Seattle University hosted participants from the Study of the U.S. Institute (SUSI) for Scholars on Contemporary American Literature. The director of the program, Charles M. Tung, invited Stesha Brandon, Board President at Seattle City of Literature, to address the participants at their closing event.
The Institute hosted eighteen scholars and educators—from eighteen different countries—who visited the United States for four weeks of academic residency at Seattle University, and two weeks of a study tour to San Francisco, Berkeley, Los Angeles, and Washington DC.
This year's participants were from Algeria, Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, Cote d'Ivoire, India, Indonesia, Israel, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Slovak Republic, Suriname, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, and Ukraine.
This Fulbright-related program is funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the Department of State. SUSI's goals include more diverse and complex understandings of U.S. literature and culture, an enhanced set of pedagogies for teaching such complexity, stronger research and curriculum development in participants’ home countries, and the possibility of further opportunities for meaningful exchange of ideas and experiences.
Brandon touched on this last point when she addressed the scholars at their farewell banquet. Her remarks highlighted the power of literature to bind us to one another despite the disparate circumstances of our lives:
"As you all well know, literature can act as a window. And it can act as a mirror. It can reflect our experiences or introduce us to new ones. It allows us to build empathy and understanding; to pay witness; and to grapple with difficult concepts and emotions. You come to this conference at a time when our country and our community is exploring and redefining what it means to be American, what it means to have literature of, and for the United States. While Seattle, as a UNESCO City of Literature continues to be dedicated to upholding the ideals that UNESCO stands for, it’s clear that America is currently grappling with difficult concepts. We’re asking: what is true? And who gets to define the narrative? And how can we build empathy if we’re building walls?"
Learn more about SUSI and the 2018 program here.