The Institute for the Humanities has awarded fellowships to nine faculty members and nine graduate students to support research projects they will pursue during 2015-16.
Alison Cornish, professor of romance languages and literatures, Mary I. and David D. Hunting Family Fellow
The phenomenon of what media theorists call remediation is at least as old as the shift from speech to writing, from scroll to codex, and from one language to another. In Dante’s time, engagement with literature was being transformed by the use of paper instead of parchment and by widespread translation of Latin texts into local vernaculars. With the adoption of new media comes an awareness of the ephemeral nature of all material supports and of what gets lost (as in translation) in the substitution of one for another. Dante’s considerations of the materiality of the medium of sound — from infernal examples of involuntarily excreted words and human speech metamorphosed into inhuman noise to the musical passages of the “Purgatorio” and “Paradiso” — are connected with poignant concerns about the contingent life of the vernacular: inevitably entwined, as it is, in a relentless process of re-mediation.
Andreas Gailus, associate professor of Germanic languages and literatures, Helmut F. Stern Fellow
“Forms of Life”
The notion of “life” has become a focal point of study and dispute in diverse fields, from political theory to ethics, and from animal studies to aesthetics. Gailus’ work engages these contemporary debates by way of an historical detour. It explores the rich discourse of life in German literature, philosophy and politics from the a late 18th to the mid-20th century, analyzing, in particular, its sustained attention to questions of form and formation. Part historical study, part philosophical essay, the work seeks to develop a vocabulary that helps us articulate the many lives — biological and biographical, political and psychical, aesthetic and ethical — that we live and are.
Phoebe Gloeckner, associate professor of art and design, Richard and Lillian A. Ives Fellow
“The Return of Maldoror”
The aim of this project is to create a hybrid prose/graphic novel based on nearly a decade of experiential research in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and the U.S.-Mexico border region. This span of time included several years where cartel violence made Juarez “the most dangerous city in the world.” Gloeckner is constructing scale models of Anapra, a colonia in the northwestern extreme of Juárez. Jointed handmade dolls populate the highly detailed sets to create hyperreal images, some of which will be animated in an electronic version of the book.
Christiane Gruber, associate professor of history of art, Charles P. Brauer Fellow
“Gezi Graffiti: Resistance and Visual Culture in Contemporary Turkey”
In her book, Gruber explores how individuals experience and perform political dissent and war in a contemporary Middle Eastern context. It focuses in particular on the Turkish Gezi Resistance Movement, which created an array of powerful self-images and creative forms of dissent during summer 2013. “Gezi Graffiti” is rooted in multiple disciplines, most especially art history, visual culture, media, museum, and memory studies, sociology, and anthropology. It utilizes a range of methodological and theoretical approaches drawn from these various disciplines within the humanities in order to pose a number of critical questions about the dynamic role and power images play in the social, cultural, and political conflicts unfolding in Turkey today.
Gabrielle Hecht, professor of history, Mary I. and David D. Hunting Family Fellow
“Toxic Tales from the African Anthropocene”
The Anthropocene signals a new epoch in which human activity shapes geophysical processes on a planetary scale. The term’s remarkable resonance has made it a rallying point for interdisciplinarity across the humanities, arts, and natural and social sciences. Yet these conversations easily falter, especially when critics observe that the notion can obscure massive inequalities by attributing the unfolding planetary catastrophes to an undifferentiated “humanity.” How can humanists theorize temporal and spatial scales that hold the planetary and the particular in the same frame? How can they gain purchase on the nexus of waste, toxicity and violence that forms the core of the Anthropocene? In tackling these questions, Hecht’s new project explores material histories of toxic waste in and beyond Africa.
Arvind Mandair, associate professor of Asian languages and cultures, Helmut F. Stern Fellow
This book will explore ways of engaging Western and Indian thought that go beyond conventional techniques of reasoning deployed in comparative philosophy, literature and religion, which often remain entangled in representational logics. The preferred concept for the engagement Mandair pursues is “encounter,” although a more formal name for it might be “disjunctive synthesis” — a term which appears in Deleuze’s early philosophy, but which is very much akin to poetic critiques of self-production that appear in the writings of the medieval Indian poets Mandair is working with. “Disjunctive synthesis” or critique of self-production are therefore modes of encounter. One is essentially philosophical, the other poetic, but each in its own way enables the association of two or more series (concepts, cultures, persons, events, etc.) that may have no historical or geographical connection, but which can nevertheless belong together without one being reduced to the other. Mandair sees this project as a form of conceptual experimentation that may be helpful for thinking about spheres of existence that routinely bring into heterological association different languages, traditions, modes of thought, and time-periods (premodern/modern). In this way the book project joins contemporary efforts to rethink the nature of colonial diasporas.
Farina Mir, associate professor of history, Norman and Jane Katz Fellow
“Producing Modern Muslims: Everyday Ethics in Colonial India”
This book is a study of Urdu-language akhlaq (ethics) literature published in colonial India, in the late 19nth and early 20th centuries. Akhlaq literature, while essential to Muslim high theological discourse, had also become a popular site for exploring questions of everyday ethics in colonial India. The broader aims for the project are to deepen our understanding of how Muslims developed modern forms of subjectivity that included negotiating the relationship between Islam and the secular. While popular representations of Islam would lead one to believe that secular and Muslin forms of subjectivity are paradoxical, if not antithetical to one another, the history of Islam is modern South Asia (and elsewhere) suggests otherwise. But the relationship between the two — Islam and secularity — and a deep understanding of the constitution and historical development of a subjectivity that could be described as that of a “secular Muslim” still eludes us.
Mireille Roddier, associate professor of architecture, Steelcase Professor
“Tactical Urbanism: The Politics of Interventionist Practices”
Recent architectural discourse upon shrinking cities and economically disinvested sites is divided between two poles. On one hand is design work that directly addresses the political circumstances of the people and places it engages, and on the other are opportunistic practices that exploit the potential of these “overlooked” and underfunded areas to provide venues for self-referential creative endeavors. This project examines the schism between “spontaneous interventions” as “design actions for the common good” and “unsolicited architecture” as an independent practice able to recoup the political agency of architectural autonomy. Through an in-depth study of these interventions, their relationship to authorship, dependence upon the aesthetics of blight, capitalization by the curatorial agendas of cultural institutions, and alleged role in urban gentrification, the project seeks ways to relate the immediate circumstances of specific locales to socio-economic trends at large and emergent aesthetic practices.
Megan Sweeney, associate professor of English language and literature, and Afroamerican and African studies, John Rich Fellow
Interweaving personal reflection and interviews with a range of artists, “Mendings” explores the roles that clothing, fabric and fiber arts play in constituting identities, relationships, communities, and histories. Sweeney is particularly interested in the act of mending as a framework for understanding individual and collective efforts to wrest meaning and beauty from legacies of loss and violence. “Mendings” is divided into two sections: “Selvedge” and “Salvage.” Evoking the roles that clothing and fabric play in defining the borders of the body and in maintaining the boundaries of the self, “Selvedge” addresses questions such as the following: Why and how do some children turn to self-adornment as a strategy for surviving challenging or traumatic experiences? How does clothing serve as a tool for negotiating complex power dynamics within families? What might some girls’ and women’s engagements with clothing reveal about their efforts to navigate the complicated terrains of embodiment, sexuality, self-care and pleasure? “Salvage” — evoking the 19th-century rag-and-bone men’s practice of searching for useful refuse — explores a series of questions related to mending: How does a tool for survival become a life-sustaining passion? What is artistic passion, and how does it differ from addiction? How do creative practices related to fiber and clothing enable individuals to reclaim life-affirming aspects of relationships and histories marked by brokenness and violence? How might such practices — including repurposing, mending, knitting, quilting, curating, and gifting — function as embodied forms of epistemology or metaphors for living? Finally, how might the concept of mending complicate reductive accounts of the therapeutic potential of storytelling and art-making?
Graduate Student Fellows
Andrea Brock, classical art and archaeology, Sylvia “Duffy” Engle Graduate Student Fellow
“Environment and Urban Development in the Archaic Forum Boarium in Rome, Italy”
This project is aimed at evaluating the role played by environmental threats and human response in Rome during the eight-sixth centuries BCE. This period relates to early processes of urban development in central Italy and the birth of Roman culture. Specifically, this dissertation is focused on the Forum Boarium valley, which not only served as the setting for Rome’s earliest river harbor, but also for one of the first monumental temples built in the city. Despite the region’s prominent position in commercial and ritual life, floodwaters would have devastated any activity in the valley on an annual basis. This daunting environmental challenge led the Romans to pursue early attempts at landscape modification and flood mitigation. By utilizing a combination of archaeological, historical and environmental data, this project aims to reconstruct the natural environment of Rome’s dynamic river valley and elucidate the human response to environmental stress during the early centuries of urban growth.
Michelle Cassidy, history, A. Bartlett Giamatti Scholar
“Both the Honor and the Profit: Anishinaabe Warriors, Soldiers, and Veterans from Pontiac’s War through the Civil War”
From 1863 to 1865, 136 Anishinaabe men served in Company K of the First Michigan Sharpshooters. In order to understand why these Odawa, Ojibwe, and Potawatomi men fought in the Civil War, this project examines changes in Anishinaabe masculinity, leadership and status from Pontiac’s War (1763) through the 1890s. Military records, missionary correspondence and battlefield memoirs suggest that many Anishinaabe soldiers used Christianity, as well as military service, to acquire or sustain leadership positions and preserve rights to land. They claimed the rights and responsibilities of male citizenship while also actively preserving their status as Indians and Anishinaabe peoples. This history complicates the binary of black and white racial categories that dominates many discussions of the Civil War and citizenship, while also stressing the diversity of Indian country during a period dominated by Indian removal and reservations.
Elizabeth Hutton, English and education, James A. Winn Graduate Student Fellow
“New Reasons for Reading: Progressive Experiments in Cultural and Literary Literacy”
This project argues for a refreshed view of the composition-literature divide that structures most post-secondary departments of English in America. Returning to the interwar period, Hutton consolidates a milieu of disciplinarily permeable thinkers who encouraged alternative models for a critically sophisticated higher education in literacy, literature, and the reading of culture. Through the early, transatlantic career of the reading theorist Louise Rosenblatt, an ongoing conversation is charted between her work and Boasian anthropology, interwar French historicism and comparatism, Dewey’s philosophies of education, experience and culture, and I.A. Richards’s experiments in criticism, rhetoric and psycholinguistics. Hutton poses the question: How might this recovered moment inspire us to rethink our long-held assumptions about how and why literacy and literature ought to be taught at the college level?
Yanay Israeli, history; Early Modern Conversions Graduate Fellow
“Negotiating the Republic: Violence, Propaganda, and Government in Castillian Cities, 1391-1520”
This project explores the relations between emerging republican discourses, social conflicts and administrative practices in late medieval and early modern Spain. Drawing on extensive archival materials — administrative correspondence, municipal records, petitions, and judicial inquiries and testimonies — Israeli’s work examines how different Spaniards appropriated concepts such as “the common good,” “good government,” and “tyranny” to make various political claims, mobilize collective action, and legitimize forms of violence and authority. Analyzing the political language that informed phenomena such as urban protest and revolt, the growing of central administration, the structuring of public spaces in cities, or the eruption of violence against ethnic and religious minorities, this project proposes the struggles over the meanings of republican concepts as a new perspective from which to examine the history of Spain in a period of significant social and cultural transformations.
Lavrentia Karamaniola, anthropology, Marc and Constance Jacobson Graduate Fellow
“Bucharest Barks: Stray Dogs, Urban Lifestyle Aspirations, and the ‘Non-Civilized’ City”
This dissertation shows how Bucharest’s stray dogs are related to post-socialist class formation, to the mechanisms that produce marginalization, and to patterns of urban inhabitance and management. The objectives are to analyze how these domains intersect with discourses about compassion and morality, with ideas of responsible citizenship and animal rights, and with practices relating to the expulsion of marginal populations from the city. Karamaniola works through ethnographic and archival data gathered in urban neighborhoods, public and private dog shelters, protests against and for euthanasia, a vet clinic, and two different archives. Semiotic and post-humanist theories to study marginalization are deployed, and the urban environment as an assemblage of humans, animals, and materials is analyzed. The dissertation will show how the study of stray dogs illuminates patterns of social change and continuity, and how people’s urban lifestyle aspirations promotes the understanding of post-socialist class formation, and of political economy change.
Katherine Lennard, American culture, Mary I. and David D. Hunting Family Fellow
“Made in America: Costume, Violence, and the Ku Klux Klan, 1905-1940”
In the first half of the 20th century, millions of men across the United States donned white uniform robes that designated their affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan. This organization was dedicated to ensuring the supremacy of “native born,” white, heterosexual, Protestant men, and these garments were strategically created to be visual and material representations of this ideological project. This project is a cultural history of the design and industrial manufacture of these garments in a series of Atlanta fraternal supply factories, as well as the national distribution, use, and maintenance of these garments. I trace these processes through archival research with documents, images, and garments in order to better understand how Klan leaders and members alike dressed up racial violence for 20th century Americans by using the modern tools of consumer mass culture.
Shana Melnysyn, anthropology and history, Mary I. and David D. Hunting Family Fellow
“Rum & Revenge: Portuguese-Angolan Trade and the Bailundo Revolt of 1902”
This project is an anthropological history of an uprising against Portugal, during its colonial invasion of Angola (southwest Africa). In 1902, the Bailundo Kingdom refused to recognize Portuguese authority. Bailundo people began attacking rum traders and plundering commercial goods, and violence spread across the region. The revolt followed a decades-long pattern of continuous anticolonial resistance throughout Angola. European settlers, seeking fortunes in trade, were threatening local people’s lands, possessions, and autonomy with increasing frequency and brutality. Portuguese officials lamented their own ineffectiveness, often admitting that Angolans had legitimate grievances against traders. In this laboratory of unregulated capitalism, traders enforced a twisted version of justice in remote areas where they were sometimes the only face of colonialism, sparking widespread moral anxiety about power and authority. Using oral history interviews and diverse archival sources, this work explores in detail the cultural (mis)understandings and conflicts that marked this time of rapid social change.
Sarah Suhadolnik, School of Music, Theatre & Dance, Richard and Lillian A. Ives Graduate Fellow
“Navigating Jazz: Music, Place, and New Orleans in the Twentieth Century”
A new method of understanding how ideas of and about place intersect with and influence musical life is introduced in this dissertation. Designed to traverse the rich musical terrain of New Orleans jazz over the last century, the project addresses place in music as a form of “navigation,” a creative act of cultural negotiation. A variety of artistic responses to the city are examined in relation to the ongoing cultural construction of prominent New Orleans musical landmarks — specifically Congo Square, Basin Street, The French Quarter, and Tremé — tackling New Orleans as a complex intermingling of sound, terrain, worldview, and artistic imagination acting upon popular conceptions of jazz. The approach meshes the work of cultural geography with musicological analysis of works by Wynton Marsalis, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and more to reconceive notions of musical place — often presumed to be static, predictable, and historically fixed — as fluid, dynamic, and continually contested.
Emily Waples, English language and literature, Mary Fair Croushore Graduate Fellow
“Vitiated Nature: Heredity, Environment, and the American Etiological Imagination, 1785-1875”
Approaching medicine and literature as mutually imaginative domains, this dissertation examines the preoccupation with physical degeneration and the concomitant promotion of self-care as a civic duty in the 19th century United States. In particular, it explores how, prior to the rise of genetics and microbiology in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, American domestic and public health literature and contemporary Gothic, abolitionist, and sentimental fiction conceptualized heredity and environment as reciprocally implicated mechanisms of pathological transmission. Considering intersections of disease, race, and sex in 19th-century medical and literary texts, it illustrates the ways in which American authors differently theorized the coaction of hereditary and environmental variables in an effort to predict and prevent the declension of the body politic. Ultimately, through an analysis of the prognostic and prophylactic imperatives in the biopolitical discourses of the antebellum era, this project proposes an interdisciplinary approach to the kinds of interpretive and therapeutic practices that continue to inform understandings of health in our own historical moment.