Why Do We Do This? is the question at the heart of a conversation with award-winning cultural critic and Princeton Belknap Fellow Soraya Nadia McDonald and Dexter Thomas, ACLS (American Council of Learned Societies) Emerging Voices Fellow and Postdoctoral Research Associate in Princeton’s Humanities Council. The discussion will explore finding purpose and passion in theater in a world where history keeps repeating itself with a look at 1921, 2021, and beyond. This conversation continues themes from the fall 2021 centennial symposium, “Reactivating Memory: Shuffle Along and the Tulsa Race Massacre,” which examined these seemingly disparate events in 1921 and what can be learned from them today.

Belknap Short-Term Visiting Fellows are selected each year by Princeton’s Humanities Council. During intensive three- to five-day visits, these Fellows lecture and participate in classes, colloquia and informal discussions. This event is presented by the Humanities Council and co-sponsored by the Lewis Center for the Arts.

Join the Conversation

The virtual conversation will take place via Zoom Webinar and is free and open to the public; registration required. Register for the Zoom Webinar


black square with open captioning symbolThe webinar will include open/live captioning (CART) via Zoom. Guests in need of other access accommodations are asked to contact the Lewis Center at at least one week prior to the event date.


soraya nadia mcdonald with dark short curly hair, wears red frame glasses and colorful jewelry

Photo courtesy Soraya Nadia McDonald

Soraya Nadia McDonald is the award-winning cultural critic for The Undefeated, ESPN’s premiere platform covering race, sports, and culture. She writes about film, television, and the arts. She is the 2020 winner of the George Jean Nathan prize for dramatic criticism, a 2020 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism, and the runner-up for the 2019 Vernon Jarrett Medal for outstanding reporting on black life.





dexter smiling with tall black hair, round glasses, wearing black shirt by grass and trees

Photo by Karen Ye

Dexter L. Thomas Jr. is an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Emerging Voices Fellow and a postdoctoral research associate in the Humanities Council. A scholar of international music and youth cultures, he holds a Ph.D. in Asian Studies from Cornell University, where he wrote his dissertation on Japanese hip-hop. As a journalist, he has most recently worked as an on-camera correspondent for VICE News Tonight, with documentaries appearing on HBO, VICE TV, and Showtime. Originally from San Bernardino, California, Thomas is a Fulbright Scholar, a News-Emmy winner, and he contributed to Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage while at the LA Times.

Presented By

  • Lewis Center for the Arts
  • Humanities Council