Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Bates College


Joshua D. Rubin has taught in Bates College’s Department of Anthropology since 2013, and he is also a member of the program committee for Africana (formerly African American Studies). His scholarship to date has centered on sports, art, and videogame development. At Bates, Rubin has offered courses on these topics as well as on race and gender, sensory perception, popular culture in Africa, ethnographic writing, and the discipline of anthropology and its histories. He was a co-winner of Bates’ Ruth M. and Robert H. Kroepsch Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2020.


How Video Games Work

This presentation introduces the complexities of video games as a medium. Its goal is to prepare audiences to think carefully and critically about video games they encounter in the world and to better identify how games interact with, and work on, their players. Some topics considered in this presentation include video game violence, accessibility in gaming, game design and game mechanics, and the politics of representation in video game worlds.

The Politics of Rugby in South Africa

Viewers of the film "Invictus" will know something of the political importance of rugby in South Africa, particularly its role in the country's transition to a non-racial democracy. This presentation, based on over 10 years of research, adds significant complexity to this story. It takes rugby's significance beyond flags, anthems, and political leaders and into the lives of South Africans who viewed rugby as a core part of their struggle against white supremacy and who continue to find political meanings in rugby today, in South Africa's post-apartheid present.

Portland, Maine Poet Laureate


Maya Williams is a religious Black multiracial nonbinary suicide survivor who is currently the poet laureate of Portland, Maine ("21-"24). Maya was one of three artists of color selected to represent Maine in The Kennedy Center's Arts Across America series in 2020, and listed as one of The Advocate's Champions of Pride in 2022. Maya received their MSW with certificate in Applied Arts and Social Justice from the University of New England as well as their MFA in Creative Writing with a focus in Poetry from Randolph College. Her book Judas & Suicide is available now. You can find more of eir work at


When God Gives Us a Lot We Can't Handle

Something simultaneously apparent and subtle that plays a role in our mental health is religion, whether we still identify with the religion we were raised in or not. Maya Williams' poetry collections Judas & Suicide and Refused a Second Date addresses the impacts of religious related trauma. This talk involves a reading of poems and conversation about poetry in relation to religion and mental health.

Assistant Professor of History, University of Southern Maine


Ashley Towle is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Southern Maine. Her research and teaching interests include nineteenth century United States history, the history of enslavement and emancipation, and the history of gender and sexuality.

Dr. Towle's most recent scholarship uses death as a lens for examining shifting power relations in the post-emancipation South. Analyzing funerals, cemeteries, and monuments, Dr. Towle explores how white and Black Southerners made sense of the mortal losses of the Civil War era.


Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower in Fact and Fiction

How did the history of slavery and Jim Crow influence Octavia Butler’s groundbreaking book, Parable of the Sower? This talk explores the ways in which Butler drew on the history of enslavement and Jim Crow to craft the post-apocalyptic setting of her novel..

In exploring the connections between American history and Parable of the Sower, this talk also offers insights into how we can use the lessons of history to shape a more socially just future.

This talk is made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this presentation do not necessarily represent those of the NEH.

Maine in the Civil War and Reconstruction

While the experiences of famous men such as Hannibal Hamlin and Joshua Chamberlain are well-known to many, this talk explores the lesser-known stories of white and Black Mainers who influenced the Civil War and Reconstruction. Attendees will learn about Civil War nurses, self-liberating refugees from slavery, idealistic reformers, and an imperiled Reconstruction-era governor.

Confederate Monuments and the Memory of the Civil War

This talk contextualizes current debates around the status of Confederate monuments in the United States. Rather than viewing these debates as a recent development, this talk demonstrates that these monuments have always had a controversial and contested history. 

Through an examination of counter-memorials created in the South such as national cemeteries, and African-American monuments and cemeteries, this talk explores the complex and fraught historical memory of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Maine State Poet Laureate


Julia Bouwsma is the sixth Maine State Poet Laureate (2021-2026) and author of two poetry collections, Midden (Fordham University Press, 2018) and Work by Bloodlight (Cider Press Review, 2017), both of which received Maine Literary Awards. She is the Library Director for Webster Library in Kingfield, ME and also teaches intermittently in the Creative Writing department at the University of Maine at Farmington. Bouwsma lives and works on an off-the-grid homestead in the western mountains.


Our Arms Spread Out around It All: A History of Malaga Island through Poems

In 1912 the State of Maine forcibly evicted an interracial community of roughly forty-seven people from Malaga Island, a small island off the coast of Phippsburg that had been their home for generations. The erasure of the Malaga Island community included the removal of all dwellings and the island’s schoolhouse, the involuntary commitment of nine residents to the Maine School for the Feeble-Minded, and the exhumation and mass reburial of seventeen graves. This atrocity was followed by a century of socially-enforced silence and as a result, many Mainers today still do not fully know the story of Malaga.

This talk will pair a discussion of Malaga Island and its residents with a reading of poems from Julia Bouwsma’s award-winning collection Midden, considering the history of this shameful event, the relevancy of this history to our current moment, and also the process and implications of writing poems based on historic research.

An Introduction to Maine’s Current Poet Laureate

Maine Poet Laureate Julia Bouwsma will introduce her poetry by presenting poems from her two books, Midden and Work by Bloodlight, as well as newer poems from projects in progress. This talk, which incorporates a Q&A, will focus on the arc and progression of her work thus far, provide insight into her poetic process, consider the vital role that Maine plays in her poetry and poetic development, and explore thoughts about the particular necessity and relevance of poetry in times of isolation and division. Bouwsma will also explore her vision for the Poet Laureate position, providing an overview of recent projects designed to help Mainers gain greater comfort with poetry and connect with one another through this powerful medium. 

Master Drummer of Sangbarala, Guinea, West Africa


Namory Keita, Master Drummer, is a sought after teacher and performer with a unique style and a wealth of traditional knowledge very rare to find outside the villages of Guinea. His resources include not only his wonderful ability to engage any audience but also his relationships with dancers and drummers locally and around the world.


Drums of West Africa

Namory's presentation builds bridges of understanding and acceptance through engaging audiences in the musical art forms of the Humana region, West Africa.

Executive Director, H.O.M.E., Inc.


Tracey is the Executive Director of H.O.M.E., Inc., a non-profit organization serving homeless and low-income families where she has worked for the last eighteen years. Homeless for most of her childhood, she was raised by her mother, who was a sex worker with a serious addiction. Tracey came to Maine as a teenager from Australia twenty-seven years ago where she met her spouse. She has spent decades working towards citizenship and advocating for fair treatment for LGTBQ+ couples under immigration law. Now a citizen, Tracey is a member of boards across Maine advising on challenges impacting the daily lives of people in poverty.


Impossible Choices

The Unites States is peopled by the displaced and divided by belonging. Who it accepts and who it rejects have been basic questions throughout the country’s history—the ramifications reach into our homes and relationships. This talk offers a lived perspective of an LGTBQ+ woman at the intersection of two marginalized communities and shares her two-decade long journey through the family-based immigration system. The talk unpacks a system that presents impossible choices for LGTBQ+ families at every turn and examines what has been done and what work is still needed to achieve immigration equality.

Homelessness and Poverty

Tracey is a survivor of homelessness and an active witness to poverty. This talk offers insight into her experience of homelessness and work as a homeless services provider, covers the homeless response system, and tells her personal journey out of violence and trauma into safe, stable housing.

George Lincoln Skolfield, Jr. Professor of Religion, Bowdoin College


Robert Morrison is George Lincoln Skolfield, Jr. Professor of Religion at Bowdoin College in the United States. A scholar of science in Islamic societies and Jewish cultures, he is currently finishing a book on cultural exchange in the Eastern Mediterranean. His teaching includes courses on astrology, Islam, Judaism, science and religion, and religion and the environment.


Decolonizing Nature in Afrofuturism

Nature often seems to be a good thing. Mother nature deserves our respect and natural foods are better than processed foods. Nature can often be a refuge from the crazy world around us. Yet ‘nature’ is not a neutral or universal term.

In the New Testament, homosexual sex is condemned as contrary to nature. In the United States, the history of the national parks is far from pristine. This talk focuses on the Afrofuturist film Space is the Place as a source for an alternative refuge, space, and Octavia Butler’s alternative, challenging presentation of the non-human world in Parable of the Sower.

This talk is made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this presentation do not necessarily represent those of the NEH.

Religion and Nature in Parable of the Sower

In Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Sower, natured is portrayed as being harsh. While day still follows night and food sometimes comes forth from the ground, precipitation is unpredictable and animals are even more emboldened to attack humans.

This talk explores how a breakdown of natural order coincides with a breakdown of human society and a re-evaluation of morality. We will also investigate how Butler’s protagonist, Lauren Olamina, theorizes a new God for the dystopian world she lives in. Her challenging ideas empower her and her younger, previously marginalized companions.

This talk is made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this presentation do not necessarily represent those of the NEH.

Professor of Literature, University of Maine-Farmington


Michael K. Johnson teaches courses in American literature, multicultural literature, and African American literature. He is the author of several books, including a biography of Montana-born African American singer Taylor Gordon, "Can’t Stand Still: Taylor Gordon and the Harlem Renaissance," published in 2019.

Along with Kalenda Eaton and Jeannette Jones, Johnson is the co-editor of “New Directions in Black Western Studies,” a special issue of the "Journal of American Studies." Most recently he is a co-editor (with Kerry Fine, Rebecca Lush, and Sara Spurgeon) of "Weird Westerns: Race, Gender, Genre.” Johnson has been living in Maine for 22 years and is originally from Tennessee.


James Weldon Johnson and the Spirituals Revival of the 1920s

Civil rights activist and poet James Weldon Johnson was also a major figure in early twentieth-century music. Co-writer with brother J. Rosamond Johnson of the enduring anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” Johnson also helped bring about a revolution in the understanding and reception of African American spirituals in the 1920s as a serious and distinctively American contribution to world folk music. My talk examines the impact of The Book of American Negro Spirituals, an anthology of spirituals collected and arranged by the Johnson brothers and promoted nationally and internationally by a series of concerts featuring tenor Taylor Gordon.

This talk is made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this presentation do not necessarily represent those of the NEH.

Afrofuturist Westerns

Afrofuturism looks both backwards and forwards, taking into account the realities of the African American past as it also maps out the African American future. My talk looks at the way Afrofuturist texts use the science fiction convention of time travel to reexamine an often forgotten element of American history: African American experience in the American West. Time travel adventures to the historical West help us remember Black western heroes (such as U. S. Marshal Bass Reeves) and offer new perspectives on the tragedies of Black western history (such as the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921).

This talk is made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this presentation do not necessarily represent those of the NEH.

Life Writing and the Recovery of African American History

Biographical writing has often replicated social hierarchies, telling the stories of famous figures and “great men” and ignoring the life histories of women and people of color. Drawing on my own biographical writing about the African American Gordon family (who were pioneer settlers in Montana), my talk argues for the importance of biography as means of recovering historical African American figures whose stories have been neglected. The stories of siblings Taylor and Rose Gordon, respectively a nearly-forgotten singer and a contributing writer to a Montana newspaper, reveal the value of listening for the voices that biographical writing too often doesn’t hear.

This talk is made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this presentation do not necessarily represent those of the NEH.