Pre-Texts in India



In June 2018, Pre-Texts facilitators Polly Lauer and Jahnvi Singh traveled to Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu in South India to begin a year-long Pre-Texts project with the CSI Girls Higher Secondary School (grades 6-12). A er receiving an invitation from CSI Bishop Appasamy College of Arts & Science (BACAS) and the Church of South India, which operates a network of schools for underprivileged children, the Pre-Texts team (Anshul Kumar, Lauer, Singh) secured a grant from Harvard University’s Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute’s Seed for Change grant program to work with a team of teachers in the school. Nestled in the Western Ghats, Coimbatore is famous for its textile legacy, with a deep tradition of handloom weaving that still continues in its rural outskirts. Students at the school come from both the city and farther away communities, the latter boarding at the school’s on-campus hostel. Some teachers, as well, travel daily from cities up to two hours away.

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Pre-Texts in Ireland


For the 2018 summer session of Aceti’s Comparative Cultural Policy and Administration course, which later took students to Dublin and London, Pre-Texts chose Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish as raw material for training. Facilitated at Harvard’s Peabody Museum, the workshop once again offered opportunities to connect the museum’s exhibits to the target text as students developed confidence in speaking and writing while exercising their creative skills towards academic and professional goals. The first session began as always, with ice breakers, followed by the text read out loud as participants designed book covers. After book covers, everyone asked a 

question of the text, so that students had the chance to examine it both for basic language use and for high-order concepts. They later led a gallery “amoeba tour” of the Peabody's third floor: each student took a turn to adopt a line from Foucault for interpreting an object on display and then guided the others to reflect on the proposed connection. In another particularly effective student-designed activity, the novice facilitators selected keywords from the text and randomly assigned them to participants. The participants then had to write a poem of at least six lines from phrases in the text to develop references to the assigned word. After each poem was read out loud, the group had a round table discussion about how some words stimulated similar poems and what that indicated about themes of the text. It was especially useful for the Chinese students as a mature and meaningful way to build vocabulary. "What Did We Do?", a key Pre-Texts moment that concludes every activity, requires participants to share reflections on the particular process. It caught on quickly, with outspoken and insightful comments from the Chinese students who appreciated the responsibility to speak, which relieved a hesitation to use English publicly.


Download the Report in PDF


Open Internship Position at Cultural Agents

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Pre-Texts Workshop at Waltham Public Schools

  • WHEN: December 5 & 12 | 3:30 -5:30pm
  • WHERE: High School Library, Waltham Public Schools, MA
  • WHAT: The team of Pre-Texts facilitators will be finalizing the series of Pre-Texts training workshop for education leaders of Waltham Public Schools. 

Cultural Agents Student Fair

  • WHEN: December 7 | 4:00 -6:00pm
  • WHERE: 1737 Cambrdige St, Cambridge, MA 02138. (CGIS) Knafel Cafe
  • WHAT: Students from the Cultural Agents Course: "Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding" at Harvard University will be presenting their final projects. The assignment required students to design a creative aesthetic intervention to address social issues pertinent to our times. The Cultural Agents Student Fair is open to everyone. We look forward to sparking dialogue about innovative forms of intervention and posible collaborations! 

XVI Anual Reunion of IDB Group and Civic Society Dominican Republic


XVI Anual Reunion of IDB Group and Civic Society, 

Dominican Republic

On November 8th and 9th, Professor Doris Sommer was invited to the Dominican Republic to participate in the XVI Anual Reunion of the Inter-American Development Bank Group and Civic Society as a panelist in a session dedicated on the topic: The use of Innovation and its Impact in Sustainable Development. In addition to the panel, she led a forum on theAlternatives for Sustainable Growth and Human Capital. In this this talk, Sommer shared Cultural Agents’ vision for promoting innovation, literacy, and citizenship. Among the topics discussed were: the idea of civic art as participative; the importance of pleasure in achieving change; admiration, not tolerance, as the basis of citizenship; artists as agents that break paradigms and create new solutions; the need to develop the faculty of judgment in order for democracy to thrive; Latin America and its creativity, traditions, and human capital as catalysts for innovation, sustainable growth, and development. 

To view the forum on “Alternatives for Sustainable Growth and Human Capital”, please visit:

Language Acts and Worldmaking in Conversation with Cultural Agents, King's College London 

On November 18th and 19th, Prof. Doris Sommer presented her groundbreaking work in the areas of civil agency and public humanities at the King's College and the University of Westminster in London as part of The Language Acts and Worldmaking project, promoted by the Open World Research Initiative (OWRI) of the British Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC). After offering a talk on Cultural Agents, Prof. Sommer facilitated a workshop session on Pre-Texts, which opened opportunities for new collaborations by showing how the Pre-Texts methodology contributes to complement The Language Acts and Worldmaking project's (and OWRI's) goals in language learning. Lead by Professor Catherine Boyle (Professor of Latin American Cultural Studies at King's College) this project aims to regenerate and transform modern language research and learning by foregrounding language's power to shape how we live and make our worlds.

Open Internship Position at Cultural Agents

XVI Anual Reunion of BID Group and Civic Society


"Alternatives for Sustainable Growth and Human Capital”

November 8, 2016

The Cultural Agents Initiative Director, Professor Doris Sommer, was been at Dominican Republic in the "XVI Annual Meeting IDB Group Civil Society” leading the Forum "Alternatives for Sustainable Growth and Human Capital”

Visit the forum web site at:

We invite to check out the forum at:

"Music as a Catalyst for Change" Cultural Diplomacy Panel

Last Tuesday November 1st, Prof. Doris Sommer, Director of the Cultural Agents Initiative, participated in a panel on Cultural Diplomacy at Berklee College of Music in Boston. This event, organized and guided by mezzo soprano and cultural entrepreneur Carla Dirlikov, also included the participation of the following world-class experts and leaders in the arts: Courtenay Casey, Director of Artistic Planning at National Sawdust; Manuel Bagorro, Artistic Director of the Harare International Festival of the Arts; and David Rothkopf, CEO at the Foreign Policy Group.
As part of the weeklong series on Music as a Catalyst for Change, this insightful conversation explored the role that cultural entrepreneurship plays as an agent for social change today by asking important questions and reflecting on the unique innovative experiences of the panelists. This is how, after offering thought-provoking reflections on the concept of “culture” and its roles in the construction of a truly democratic society, Prof. Sommer explained the vision behind her work with the Cultural Agents Initiative and Pre-Texts. Following these ideas, the panelists also discussed the meaning of “cultural diplomacy” and “cultural IQ”, as well as other professional aspects such as programing socially-committed cultural contents and using the arts to promote human development. Towards the end of this event, all the experts also engaged with the audience members by answering inspiring questions and by offering useful examples on how to become both successful cultural entrepreneurs and engaged artists in today’s interconnected global world.  

- Federico Olivieri, 
Cultural Agents

8th Worldwide Meeting on Human Values


On October, the 8th Worldwide Meeting on Human Values took place in Monterrey, Mexico. This year, efforts focused on "Coping Social Crisis With the Value of Justice" with three anchor themes: Social Justice, Fair Economy and Restorative Justice.

Prof. Doris Sommer, director of Cultural Agents Initiative at Harvard University and founder of Pre-Texts methodology, together with Verónica Dávila, director of Pre-Texts Mexico, presented the talk “Pre-Texts model of Educational and Civic Transformation”. The incredible lecture highlights the interconnectedness of art, politics, civility, education, innovation and the importance of cultivating critical thinking in our learning spaces, while simultaneously exposing the Latin American influences that inspired the Pre-Texts methodology. 

To view the talk, please click on the Youtube link:

We hope you enjoy it! 



Cultural Agents: Why Art?  and Pre-Texts Workshop

  • WHEN: November 3 & 4 | (Lecture) 4:10pm, (Workshop)  8:00am - 4:00pm
  • WHERE: 27 Memorial Drive West, Bethelehem, PA 18015 
  • WHAT: Join Professor Doris Sommer for the lecture "Cultural Agents: Why Art?" at the University of Lehigh's Public Humanities Series, co-sponsored with the Southside Initiative and Literature and Social Justice. A Pre-Texts workshop will be held on the following day. 

XVI Anual Reunion of BID Group and Civic Society


  • WHEN: November, 8 & 9 | 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
  • WHERE: Sheraton  Hotel, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
  • WHAT: The Inter-American Development Bank’s mission is  to provide long-term financing for institutional, social, and economic development in Latin America and the Caribbean. It also realizes vanguard investigations and offers political consultation, training, and technical assistance to public and private clients around the region.

    Professor Doris Sommer will be participating as a panelist in a session dedicated for the topic “The use of innovation and its impact in sustainable development”. She will be speaking about the Pre-Texts methodology and its recent implementation in Nassau, Bahamas in collaboration if IDB for a group of art professors. Sommer will also share Cultural Agents Initiative’s vision for promoting innovation, literacy, and citizenship.

    Professor Doris Sommer will also lead the forum: "Alternatives for Sustainable Growth and Human Capital” from 2:30 pm to 3:20pm. To check out a live transmission of the forum visit:

For the forum website, please visit:


Pre-Texts Workshop at Waltham Public Schools

  • WHEN: November, 14 | 3:30pm – 5:30pm
  • WHERE: High School Library, Waltham Public Schools, MA
  • WHAT: Professor Doris Sommer and her team of Pre-Texts facilitators will lead a training workshop for education leaders of Waltham Public Schools. 


Language Acts and Worldmaking in Conversation with Cultural Agents

  • WHEN:  November, 18 | 6:30 pm 
  • WHERE: Anatomy Lecture Theatre, King's College London, UK 
  • WHAT: Language Acts and Worldmaking is a flagship project funded by the AHRC Open World Research Initiative, which aims to regenerate and transform modern language research and learning by foregrounding language's power to shape how we live and make our worlds. To mark the launch of Language Acts and Worldmaking, Professor Doris Sommer will discuss her groundbreaking work with Cultural Agents Initiative, which promotes the divergent thinking of arts and humanities in the service of solutions to real life problems. Pre-Texts workshops will also be held at King’s College London and the University of Westminster.

For more details of the project and event schedule, please visit:

For the full overview of the whole month, see November's newsletter:

Pre-Texts at the Derek Bok Center, Harvard University


From September 21 – 23, multiple graduate students and professionals from different fields came together at Harvard's Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning to rediscover learning through play. The three-day workshop not only provided an introduction into the workings of the Pre-Texts methodology, but it also created a space for critical thinking about how and why we learn. Through a series of warm ups, creative dynamics, artistic responses, and process reflection, attendees were able to experience profound curiosity with a literary work and explore ways in which civic engagement can be fostered among students. Participants also had the chance to come up with their own ideas of how to interact with the text and the opportunity of facilitating their initiatives with the group.  Many of those who attended these activities were left inspired in how there are a myriad of innovative ways to bring literary works to life and create a respectful environment where everyone’s voice is valued. Pre-Texts reminded us that learning should be fun, and that the key for encouraging literacy is igniting our imagination!    

- Stephanie Soler
Intern at Cultural Agents Initiative, Harvard University

For more photographs and videos of this workshop, please visit:



Implementing UDL through Pre-Texts at Harvard Ed Portal

  • WHEN: October 3rd, 17th & 24th | 4:00-6:30pm
  • WHERE: Harvard Ed Portal, 224 Western Avenue, Allston
  • WHAT: A five-week professional development for 4th grade Boston Public Schoolteachers with Professor Doris Sommer, and then led by Trecia Reavis, Pre-Texts facilitator and weaver; Hilary Shea, Inclusion Specialist in the Boston Public Schools; and Paul Tritter, Boston Teachers Union, Director of Professional Learning.

    *Training enrollment has already closed.*

Civic Education is Aesthetics, Necessarily

  • WHEN: Monday, October 3rd |  8:00 am - 9:30 am
  • WHERE: University of Los Andes, Building TX, Room 601
  • WHAT: The initiative that professor Doris Sommer congregates is a web of academics, artists, educators and organizers that work for the arts, humanities and social sciences to be recognized as resources for social and educational development. In that way, the talk Civic Education is Aesthetics, Necessarily,presents a program of investigation based in the arts for the development of critical thinking and citizenship. 

Pre-Texts Workshop at University of Los Andes, Colombia

  • WHEN: Monday, October 3rd |  2:00 pm - 6:00 pm
  • WHERE: University of Los Andes, Building TX, Room 601 
  • WHAT: After the talk Civic Education is Aesthetics, Necessarily, professor Doris Sommer will lead a Pre-Texts workshop that will enrich attendees' work in the fields of education, the arts and humanities. 

“Tinker User Tracer Human” lecture series by the MIT Program in Art, Culture, and Technology

For the full overview of the whole month, see October's newsletter:

Pre-Texts Short Documentary


In March 2016, Professor Doris Sommer,  human rights lawyer Marco Abarca, and artist Jay Critchley, collaborated with the Inter American Development Bank to host a Pre-Texts workshop in Nassau (Bahamas). This four-day intensive training, held within the beautiful wrap-around verandas of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, bloomed with creativity. Critchley recorded a glimpse of the unforgettable  experiences lived during Pre-Texts workshops in a short documentary.  

To view the film, clink on the Vimeo link and type in the code: 'pretexts'.  

We hope you enjoy it! 

Vehicle of Massive Instruction at Medellin's Book and Culture Festival


[On September 18th,] the Book and Culture Festival of Medellin came to a close. Catalina and I participated in a project inspired by Raul Lemesoff’s “Weapons of Mass Instruction”, which [Doris Sommer] showed us.

Our project, “Vehicle of Mass Instruction”, consisted in taking to the Festival a car that at a certain moment had represented the war, but which now carried books to lend those who passed by. We had the Army’s support, which facilitated two of their soldiers who were in charge of attracting different spectators and participants towards the Vehicle during the weeklong festival.  In addition to the Army, we also received support from Medellin’s Secretariat of Education, who helped us find many books and diffuse the project.
The “Vehicle of Mass Instruction” was a total success! People got close, grabbed books, [and] took photographs. The Secretariat of Education and the Army were pleased, and we were even featured on television! Even though the Book and Culture Festival of Medellin came to an end, the project allowed a strengthening of relations between the Army and the Secretariat of Education to begin to work together towards the city’s education.

Catalina and I want to extend to [Doris Sommer] a special acknowledgement and gratitude for having brought us the inspiration, and want to let you know that our desire of working with you continues. The “Vehicle of Mass Instruction” was the first of many projects to come.

- Luisa Gomez Angel & Catalina Roa Beuth

Pre-Texts in Coyhaique, Chile


I want to comment that the Pre-Texts methodology has been a very enriching experience that [during August 2016] has allowed us to re-signify our processes of teaching-learning, not only of texts, as much outside the classroom as inside. It has convened us to look again at our ways of working and our way of being in the encounter with others, whether students, partners, or equals.  The follow-up meetings on Saturdays have given us feedback and allowed us to improve the process.

- Patricia Rivera, 
Pre-Texts Weaver

September 2016


  • WHEN: Wednesday - Friday, September, 21-23
  • WHERE: Science Center 318, The Bok Community Space, MA
  • WHAT: The Derek Bok Center and Professor Doris Sommer, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, invite faculty and Teaching Fellows to participate in a 3-session workshop to explore the possibilities of Pre-Text training for adaptation in the Harvard classroom. Graduate students who participate in the workshop will be able to count their participation toward one Seminar requirement for a Bok Center Teaching Certificate by doing a follow-up project in their classrooms and meeting with other participants to explore the results. 

To register please visit:

For more information see:



  • WHEN: Friday, September 23 | 7:30pm
  • WHERE: Boston Marriott Burlington, MA
  • WHAT: Pre-Texts is one of the 2016 Finalist Projects of NEACOL's 2nd Annual Gala "Keeping Dreams Alive." The first grant provided by the New England Association for Colombian Children was in 2014, which supported an initiative focused on education and impacted the lives of 270 impoverished Colombian children. Early in 2015, it funded a second project in nutrition that benefited 156 Colombian children and their families. In 2016 NEACOL funded projects such as Social Football , helping more than 100 children, and Learning Under a Roof supporting 50 students directly, and 300 students total.

    Currently, there are four projects nominated for 2016. These include: 

    "Deja tu Huella de Paz" based in Cali and Yumbo (Valle del Cauca), looks to give tools that permit students to strengthen their leadership capacities in order to design and execute projects of social impact in their own context.

    "Lactancia Amor Natural“, based in Medellín (Antioquia), looks to educate mothers in refugee populations about the health and nutritional advantages of breastfeeding, to decrease the levels of malnutrition in the community.

    "Alimentando la esperanza de los niños campesinos", based in Albán (Cundinamarca), looks to improve nutritional safety and increase nutritional coverage in up to 84% of vulnerable children in the rural communities.

    "Pre-Textos" based in Quibdó (Chocó), looks to increase and develop critical reading and reasoning by educating teachers to stimulate reading and writing creativity. This project is under the umbrella of literacy, leadership and civic education.

For more information on previous projects, the event, or register to donate,
please visit: NEACOL

For our full newsletter, see the link below:


Doris Sommer is selected as a Fulbright Specialist Roster candidate

We at Cultural Agents Initiative would like to congratulate Doris Sommer, Director of Cultural Agents Initiative, Ira and Jewell Williams Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard University, on being recommended for the Fulbright Specialist Roster by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and the Institute of International Education’s Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES).

The Roster is a list of all candidates who are eligible to be matched with incoming project requests from overseas academic institutions for Fulbright Specialists. As a Roster candidate, she will be considered for project requests that require her expertise. 


ECA and CIES congratulate you on being selected as a Fulbright Specialist Roster candidate. Whether or not you ultimately receive a Fulbright Specialist grant, we appreciate your interest in international scholarly exchanges and trust that you will continue to support this endeavor, which is so vital to academic and professional communities around the world.

 - María de los Ángeles Crummett
Executive Director,
Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES)


August 2016

Artist Imagines A Healthcare System That Doesn’t Fail Women Of Color



“The Waiting Room" at the New Museum in New York is the latest work of artist Simone Leigh. Through this piece she pays tribute to the life of Esmin Elizabeth Green who spent 24 hours in a hospital waiting room expecting to be seen, and collapsed after a blood clot in her leg spread to her lungs. The hospital’s surveillance footage showed hospital’s staff negligence towards her that resulted in her losing her life in the waiting room floor. 

In “The Waiting Room”, Leigh demands that the concerns, roles, and rights of women of color be recognized as central, rather than pushed to the margins. For her exhibition and residency at the New Museum, the artist considers the possibilities of disobedience, desire, and self-determination as they manifest in resistance to an imposed state of deferral and debasement. Whereas discourses of patience, pragmatism, and austerity often underscore political debates surrounding the failures of public health care and related conditions, Leigh finds inspiration in parallel histories of urgency, agency, and intervention within social movements and black communities, past and present. Troubling the notion of separate narratives, she implicates violent, institutionalized control and indifference as the conditions under which forms of self care and social care can become radical or alternative.

Focusing specifically on an expanded notion of medicine, “The Waiting Room” references a wide range of care environments and opportunities—from herbalist apothecaries and muthi[medicine] markets in Durban, South Africa, to meditation rooms and movement studios—and involves a variety of public and private workshops and healing treatments that the artist refers to as “care sessions.” Blurring the distinction between bodily and spiritual health, or between wellness and happiness—and, in doing so, countering the perception of holistic care as a luxury good—Leigh has convened practitioners who view social justice as integral to their work. The all women led “care sessions”, evoke the words of writer and activist Audre Lorde when she wrote: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Leigh's installation inaugurates the Department of Education and Public Engagement’s annual R&D Summers, a research and development residency and exhibition program that will foreground the New Museum’s year-round commitment to community partnerships and to public dialogue at the intersection of art and social justice.

“The Waiting Room” is on view until Sept. 18, 2016 at the New Museum in New York. For care sessions and public lectures visit:

For the Huffington Post article see:

For the rest of the news this month and more, please see our newsletter:

July 2016

The City of Boston partners with MassPoetry

During the month of May, in honor of National Poetry Month, the City of Boston collaborated with MassPoetry to bring Raining Poetry to the streets.  By utilising biodegradable water-repellent spray and stencils made by local artists, the city's Mural Crew set out to place poems throughout Boston. The spray vanishes once dry, so the poems were invisible until it rained. Once wet, the area around the poems darkened, and Bostonians were treated to short poems as they walk around the city. Boston's Poet Laureate, Danielle Georges, selected four poems for the initial art installation, including three by Massachusetts poets. With Raining Poetry, the City of Boston and MassPoetry hoped to bring more poetry into the everyday lives of citizens. They are hoping to expand the project to other neighbourhoods throughout Boston, and feature poetry in multiple languages.

For further information see:

For the full overview of the whole month, see July's newsletter: