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Bringing people together

with expert guides to think expansively about a really big question

2022: What if…?

Really big questions are the questions that all of us find ourselves asking in the course of our lives, and that we have to keep on asking, because there isn’t just one answer. Each year, we find one of these questions and invite a handful of guides with very various expertise and interests to get us all thinking by sharing how they ask and answer it.

In 2022 The Big Question was, and is, What if…? This year’s asynchronous event jump-started our multi-year engagement with Afrofuturism and Africanfuturism. You can see the Guides’ presentations and work through the whole program, ask and keep asking what if…?

Explore This Year’s Program!

this year's guides

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

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

Professor of History, University of New England

Professor of Literature, University of Maine-Farmington

Coordinator, Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition

What if we knew and shared more about shellfish reproduction, with less concern for money?

Founder and Director, Franco-American Women’s Institute

What if we could all really see who we are?

20th and 21st century African American Literature

Historian, Educator

President, Board of Directors Abyssinian Meeting House

Visiting Scholar, Brown University, Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice

Assistant Professor, School of Legal Studies, Husson University

Writer, Educator

Staff Writer, Sun Journal

Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education, University of Southern Maine

Professor of History, University of Maine

Assistant Professor, Teacher Education University of Southern Maine

Poet, Writer, Organizer

Scholar of Cultural Narratives

Historian, scholar, independent museum professional

Assistant Professor of Media Studies, University of Maine

Associate Professor of Africana Studies

Storyteller and oral historian

Professor of Political Science, University of Maine at Farmington

Poet, Writer, Archivist

Community Support Coordinator, Lewiston Public Schools

Associate Professor, Professional Communication and Journalism

What if there were no gender?

Associate Professor of East Asian Studies, Colby College

Professor in Philosophy, Social Theory, and Peace Studies, College of the Atlantic

ETEP Coordinator, University of Southern Maine

Chair, Native American Programs and Director of Native American Research, University of Maine

Professor of Religion and Philosophy, Maine College of Art

Executive Director, Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting

Writer, Veteran

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Education, Bowdoin College

Occupational Therapist, Writer, Teacher

Cultural Historian, Penobscot Nation

Journalist, Historian

Octavia E. Butler’s life and work

Speculative fiction and multimedia installation art

Assistant Professor of Creative Writing, Colby College

Independent Historian

Assistant Professor of Arts and Sciences, Maine Maritime Academy

Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Maine

Educator, Community Interpreter

No Speaker for this Selection

This is such a fantastic ideato have a multidisciplinary approach to these issues to encourage collaboration.”

—PARTICIPANT

Past Questions

How should life be?

One way we engaged with Maine’s bicentennial was to ask How should life be? through four lenses: Many Maines, Migration & Borders, Race & Ethnicity, and Wabanaki Voices.  And to broaden our perspective even further, we heard from Lisa Margonelli, author of Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology.  From a termite’s perspective, how should life be?  Smooth-walled and a little stinky.

Who is we?

The question “Who is we?” is urgent and political: we the people… we hold these truths to be self evident… who is we?”  But it is also timeless, and both smaller and larger than politics: we friends… we family… we who have suffered… we who breathe the air, bask in the sunshine, swim in the sea… every time we can stop and pay attention. We can say, “Wait, Who is we?

We heard from an astrophysicist, a printmaker, the founder of the Portland Food Security Council, an economist in UMaine’s Forest & Landscape Management program, and the director of USM’s Center for Compassion.

How can we know?

Expert guides shared how they seek answers when they want to know:

  • how can we know what our prognosis is when we’re ill?
  • what a cookbook can tell us about a place?
  • how to transmit emotions through dance?
  • what’s making spots on this blueberry leaf?
  • how to talk about it all?

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