Global Port Cities

In collaboration with Moroccan author Driss Ksikes and a multinational network of partners, this initiative brings together scholars, curators, artists and activists based in port cities on five continents—including New Orleans, Tangier, Doha, Dakar, Mumbai, Naples, Barcelona, Havana and Rio—to engage and learn from each other.

Two central premises ground this project. First, port cities share certain characteristics, both positive and negative, such as high levels of complexity, multilingualism, environmental crisis, income disparity, and particularly rich cultural sectors. Second, there is a special potential for such cities to mobilize their creative economy for positive change, and individuals we call “organic connectors” are uniquely positioned as agents of transformation.

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The first stage of the project (New Orleans–Tangier–Doha) is underway and will feature gatherings—expositions, symposia, workshops, community events—and a range of deliverables.

We break down the typical boundaries between university and community to facilitate the emergence of new ideas and mobilize the energies and intelligence found throughout. Urgent challenges such as those we grapple with are the purview of all and the project summons the creative energies of stakeholders from all sectors.

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Tangier
Paul Bowles in Fez

The Paul Bowles Book

Part biography of the controversial American expatriate writer-composer-translator, part cultural history of Tangier in the 1990s, and part exploration of Edwards’s own attempts to develop a means by which to write about Morocco during the dynamic period between the end of the cold war and 9/11, this book project is a hybrid of creative non-fiction, travel writing, literary history and memoir. It is the extended counterpart to Edwards’s podcast episode developed with The Organist, a McSweeney’s channel, and his essay "The Moroccan Paul Bowles," which appeared in the Michigan Quarterly Review.

Anti-Racism and the Disciplines

Conceived during the summer of 2020, this project emerged in the context of a commitment to understanding protests as disruptive in a positive sense—that is, to disrupt the status quo and interrupt the structures that inhibit true change.

The central premise is that many of the liberal arts disciplines themselves have complicated relationships to racism, colonialism and/or imperialism, which arguably are structured into the "rules" of the disciplines themselves.

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The first stage of the project is a series of events, launched in January 2021 and scheduled into spring 2022, during which leading scholars interrogate their own disciplines and identify strategies for the next generation of anti-racist scholarship. These are spaces for thinking through the legacies as well as the ongoing challenges in doing anti-racist work in various liberal arts disciplines. The second stage, in development, is a podcast that amplifies these important voices from across a range of fields in the social sciences and humanities.

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Anti-Racism in the Disciplines
The Future of Liberal Arts

The Future of Liberal Arts Education

As dean of Tulane’s School of Liberal Arts, overseeing thirty-four departments and programs and more than sixty majors in the humanities, social sciences, fine and performing arts, Edwards is passionate about the value of a liberal education for the challenges of the next generation. His vision for the liberal arts combines an enhanced version of traditional justifications—that a broad education is crucial to the formation of citizens and prepares graduates for diverse careers by teaching them to learn—with a 21st-century approach that focuses on complexity, strategic thinking and global sophistication.

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Edwards believes that Generation Z brings a unique set of experiences, talents and demands that present exciting opportunities for educators and learners alike.

His current book project is about how to understand the massive historical shift in our culture and politics ushered in by the digital revolution—well underway already but accelerated dramatically by the Covid-19 pandemic and crisis—and how to prepare the next generation for the rapidly transforming world they will need to remake. The focal point is the generation born since 1997, who came of age during a tumultuous period of political, economic and cultural upheaval, and who are now making their way through high school and college. The book seeks to reimagine liberal arts education to prepare for the careers—and conditions—of the future, both for Generation Z and for anyone ready to embrace the coming paradigm. His writing toward this project has appeared recently in The Hill and the edited collection International Education at the Crossroads.

As a creative administrator, Edwards is also engaged in rethinking of others aspects of higher education. He has recently published on hiring and equity (see this article in The Chronicle of Higher Education) and is currently working with economist James Alm on a project on predictive hiring in academic job searches.

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