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Three-day conference will examine “The City as Utopia: Bethlehem and Beyond”

Lehigh University will host an interdisciplinary conference entitled “The City as Utopia: Bethlehem and Beyond” on April 10-12.

The conference, which is free and open to the public, will offer the community an opportunity to examine the relationship between the city and the history of the striving for human perfection, amidst a period of dramatic transformation for Bethlehem’s South Side on the former site of Bethlehem Steel.

The conference is sponsored by the American Studies Program and Lehigh’s South Side Initiative, which brings together the university community, the people of Bethlehem, government officials, experts and developers to learn about the Bethlehem Steel site plans and address the needs of the community.

“One of the priorities of the South Side Initiative has been to include as many members of the Bethlehem community as possible in our events and conversations,” said Seth Moglen, associate professor of English and co-director of the South Side Initiative. “We also hope that these events will help people think broadly about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”

In addition to academic sessions, the three-day conference will feature artistic and photographic and renderings of the South Side and the former Bethlehem Steel, and a performance of a Bethlehem-inspired opera.

The conference will open the evening of April 10 at the Banana Factory. Sharon Holt of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities at Rutgers University and ArtsQuest President Jeff Parks will speak on their imaginings of Bethlehem in 2025. The evening will include a photographic presentation of images of Bethlehem.

Academic sessions, held April 11-12 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., will address three crucial time periods and subject areas in the life of Bethlehem: the mid-18th century Moravian founding of Bethlehem, late-19th and early-20th century industrial history, and early twenty-first century imaginings of the post-industrial city.

On the evening of April 11 at the Hotel Bethlehem, Lehigh and professional musicians and singers will perform associate professor Bill Warfield’s original composition “Beneath The Stacks: The Second Line of the Industrial Revolution,” based on the history of Bethlehem, from its earliest days as a Moravian settlement to the aftermath of Bethlehem Steel’s departure from the city.

The conference will conclude April 12 with a lunch and discussion at Timezones, which will feature “The Steel” paintings by Nazareth Area High School students. Pre-registered attendees can join a tour of the former Bethlehem Steel site.

For a detailed schedule of “The City as Utopia: Bethlehem and Beyond” and event locations, visit the South Side Initiative Web site.

--Tricia Long

Posted on Wednesday, April 09, 2008

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