September 15, 2014
3:30 P.M., 212 University Club Building

Bethany Moreton
History and Women's Studies, University of Georgia

'White-Collar Discipline and the Theology of Work'

The "revenge of God"—the broad failure of the secularization thesis after World War II—is in part the story of religious responses to the feminization of work; the commodification of reproductive labor; the restructuring of the household; and the growth of "occult economies" whether they involve witchcraft, Ponzi schemes, or mortgage-backed securities. Rather than a zero-sum showdown between "jihad and McWorld" theorists of alternative modernities suggest that we have been witnessing their recombination in unexpected ways. Emphasizing the apparent contradiction of liberal, secular economic policies embraced by orthodox adepts of demanding Catholic spiritual disciplines, for example, Chilean intellectual Arturo Fontaine Talavera has asked whether Latin America "will develop an alternative modernity that is morally conservative and family oriented, but at the same time free and open in its economics."

This research into a specific transnational combination of professional training, economic liberalism, and Catholic devotion seeks to understand how the labor of service—whether white-collar, pink-collar, or domestic—is consciously practiced as spiritual discipline and, in turn, how that spirituality has cultivated the virtues demanded by the postindustrial workplace and the social networks in which it is embedded, virtues like concentration, detail-orientation, self-discipline, and cheerful "people skills." Given the extraordinary psychic demands of post-industrial labor, what kinds of spiritual practice have been effective for those coping with the high-tech, "high-touch" stretch-out in offices, hospitals, schools, and cyberspace? How have these practices articulated with a religious worldview that combines moral traditionalism and economic innovation?

Bethany Moreton is an Associate Professor of History and Women's Studies at the University of Georgia and a series editor for Columbia University Press’s Studies in the History of U.S. Capitalism. Since receiving her doctorate in history at Yale University in 2006, she has been a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge and at the Harvard Divinity School. Her first book, To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise (Harvard University Press, 2009) won the Frederick Jackson Turner Prize for best first book in U.S. history and the John Hope Franklin Award for the best book in American Studies. She is a founding member of the Tepoztlán Institute for the Transnational History of the Americas and a founding faculty member of Freedom University, which offers college coursework without charge to qualified Georgia high school graduates regardless of immigration status.


September 22, 2014
3:30 P.M., 212 University Club Building

Alexander Dressler
Classics, UW-Madison

'Art and Life in Latin Literature: Emergences of a Dualistic Structure in an Ancient Archive'

Dressler's current project argues that, from an early "pagan" comic playwright to a subsequently sainted Christian poet, through "classic" Classics of the early Empire, Latin literature presumes a dialectic of "Greek" idealism and "Roman" materialism; while neither tendency adequately describes or determines social practice, their very inadequacy opens a space for under-determined and spontaneous, even countercultural activity: materialist demystification (Plautus), aesthetic autonomy (Horace, Ovid), sexual revolution (Ovid), and altruism (Seneca, Paulinus). While the results of the Romans' "social aesthetics" are partly inadvertent, their very inadvertence proves their spontaneity and makes them instructive models for enduring explication of the interrelation of aesthetics and politics.

Alex Dressler is an Assistant Professor of Classics at UW-Madison. He teaches the Greek and Roman Classics as an evolving canon rooted in European tradition but aimed at redefining the modern sense of past and present, life and art, politics and personal flourishing. Publications include articles in journals such as Helios, Ramus, and Classical Antiquity on feminism and the ancient novel, exemplarity and ancient rhetoric, deconstruction and the sociology of literature, and aesthetic thought and psychoanalysis. His first book, entitled Personification and the Feminine in Roman Philosophy, currently undergoing final revisions, is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press. This book argues that the Roman philosophers Lucretius, Cicero, and Seneca, use metaphors and other forms of figurative language to "do philosophy by other means," thereby integrating problematic conceptions of personhood, gender, and property into philosophical texts aimed at transforming the reader's emotional, social, and aesthetic existence. He is at work on a book project entitled Art and Life in Latin Literature: Emergences of a Dualistic Structure in an Ancient Archive.


September 29, 2014
3:30 P.M., 212 University Club Building

Aida Levy-Hussen
English, UW-Madison

'Reading African American Literature Now: History, Fiction, and the Problem of Desire'

Since the late twentieth-century decline of the modern Civil Rights Movement, African American literary studies has been consumed with an increasingly contentious debate about whether the task of black literature is to memorialize the slave past, or to put it behind us. Levy-Hussen puts this debate in new perspective, by foregrounding the questions of how critical fantasies of memory and forgetting are constituted, and why they have accrued such powerful currency in contemporary black literary discourse.

Aida Levy-Hussen is an Assistant Professor of English at UW-Madison. Her areas of specialization include twentieth and twenty-first century African American literature, trauma and memory studies, and feminist and queer theory. Her scholarly articles and reviews have appeared in African American Review, South Atlantic Quarterly, and Modern Fiction Studies. She is currently completing a book about the post-Civil Rights proliferation of black historical fiction and the critical idiom of historical memory. She is at work on a book entitled Reading African American Literature Now: History, Fiction, and the Problem of Desire.


October 6, 2014
3:30 P.M., 212 University Club Building

Benjamin Marquez
Political Science, UW-Madison

'Legalizing a Social Movement: The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and the Evolution of an Ethnic Identity'

This project examines the role of cause lawyers in the history of Mexican American identity politics by analyzing the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). Created in 1968, MALDEF has emerged as the legal voice of Latino rights, yet little is known of this elite organization and its impact on the working class groups and individuals it represents. Marquez analyzes the way its cause lawyers and community activists understood and negotiated their relationship. This research locates that negotiation within the confines of the judiciary, limited social assimilation, anti-immigration politics, and the influence of MALDEF’s financial supporters.

Benjamin Marquez is a Professor of Political Science at UW-Madison. His research interests include social movements, urban politics, and minority politics. He has published numerous articles and books on the relationship between race, political power, social identities, and public and political incorporation. He is the author of Power and Politics in A Chicano Barrio: A Study of Mobilization Efforts and Community Power in El Paso (Lanham: The University Press of America, 1985), LULAC: The Evolution of a Mexican American Political Organization (Texas, 1993), and Mexican-American Political Organizations: Choosing Issues, Taking Sides (Texas, 2003), which won the 2004 Best Book Award by the Race, Ethnicity and Politics (REP) Section of the American Political Science Association. His recent book, Democratizing Texas Politics: Race, Identity, and Mexican American Empowerment, 1945-2002, was published by the University of Texas Press in 2014. He is at work on a book entitled Legalizing a Social Movement: The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and the Evolution of an Ethnic Identity.


October 13, 2014
3:30 P.M., 212 University Club Building

Shelly Chan
History, UW-Madison

'Tricky Business: Divorce and Diaspora in Mao's China'

This seminar draws on a larger book-in-progress, entitled "Diaspora's Homeland: Modern China in the Age of Global Migration," and a forthcoming article in The Journal of Asian Studies (February 2015), entitled "The Case for Diaspora: A Temporal Approach to the Chinese Experience," to rethink "diaspora" conceptually as a series of moments, rather than as a set of communities. In Chinese history, "diaspora moments" emerged whenever emigrants and their kin were recognized as key players, positively and negatively, in China's restructuring vis-à-vis others in the world—a process that often revealed the depth and politics of global connections and their impact on China. The seminar will focus on one such moment in the early 1950s when the new Communist Party-state promoted free marriage and divorce rights to women living in transnational marriage with overseas men. Portrayed in the archival record as hopelessly dependent on remittances and too oppressed to realize their feudal conditions, these rural women seemed to stand in the way of China's transition to socialism. Surprisingly, the campaign quickly backfired, revealing how the women and their villages had been thoroughly embedded in global circulations, as well as how China itself was also dependent on them for socialist constructions.

Shelly Chan is an Assistant Professor of History at UW-Madison, holding the new position of Asian diasporas since 2011. Her work focuses on diaspora in the Chinese experience, asking how it created and transformed Chinese history, culture and identity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. With articles soon to appear in The Journal of Chinese Overseas and The Journal of Asian Studies, Chan is also the recipient of a Junior Scholar Grant from the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange in 2014-15. Chan received her Ph.D. from the University of California-Santa Cruz in 2009, where she trained in modern Chinese, East Asian and world history. Her other interests include gender, ethnic, postcolonial and cultural studies, as well as Southeast Asia. Before coming to UW, she was Assistant Professor of Pacific and Asian Studies at the University of Victoria in Canada. She is at work on a book entitled Diaspora’s Homeland: Modern China in the Age of Global Migration.


October 20, 2014
3:30 P.M., 212 University Club Building

Scott Trudell
English, University of Maryland, College Park

'Song and Mediation in Early Modern England'

Trudell's current book project traces the development of verse with a musical dimension in the poetic and theatrical cultures of early modern England, beginning with the renewed interest in musical humanism among Sidney and his peers, and continuing through Milton's fascination with musical language and experience. Song was an essential part of the literary canon, and it circulated ubiquitously in written format. Yet it was also highly performative, inseparable from the rhythmic, vocal and instrumental conditions of its recital. As such, song brings out the extensive interaction between writing and sound in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century literary culture. Song resists the notion that literature can be confined to a particular media format, subject as it was to a constant series of feedback loops between scriptive, acoustic, visual and other media. Persistently understood as poetic yet irreducible to script, song invites us to re-imagine literature as a process of mediation, adapted and redefined by the competing influences of technologies, formats, authors and performers.

Scott A. Trudell is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park, where his research and teaching focus on early modern literature, media theory and music. In addition to his current book project about song and mediation from Sidney and Shakespeare to Jonson and Milton, he has research interests in gender studies, digital humanities, pageantry and itinerant theatricality. His work has been published in Shakespeare Quarterly, Studies in Philology and edited collections. He is at work on a book entitled Song and Mediation in Early Modern England.


October 27, 2014
3:30 P.M., 212 University Club Building

Alexander Angelov
Religious Studies, The College of William & Mary

'Conversion and Empire: Byzantine Narratives and Imperial Christianity across the Frontier, 300-900'

The work of Byzantine missionaries between 300 and 900 extended Christianity into such disparate regions as the Caucasus, Nubia (modern Sudan), Himyar (modern Yemen), and the Balkans. According to modern tradition, these foreign conversions brought about Eastern Orthodoxy’s largest expansion to date. In order to understand the nature of the Byzantine contribution, therefore, this project focuses on the imperial perspectives and puts the foreign conversions in a comparative framework. The cross-regional approach also makes clear how and why modern historians and politicians have selected certain episodes of conversion to turn them into monumental events with ethnic and nationalistic overtones.

Alexander Angelov is an Assistant Professor in Religious Studies and a faculty member in the interdisciplinary programs in Russian and Post-Soviet Studies and Medieval and Renaissance Studies at the College of William & Mary. He specializes in Byzantine history, medieval Christianity, the modern Balkans and Eastern Orthodoxy. His work has been published in the Journal of Medieval History, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies, as well as in edited volumes. In addition to his current book project on conversion, he is researching the relationship of Eastern Orthodox national churches with the Communist ideology and apparatus in the Balkans.


November 3, 2014
3:30 P.M., 212 University Club Building

James Bromley
English, Miami University

'Style, Subjectivity, and Male Sexuality in Early Modern Drama'

As the population and economic activity of early modern London rapidly increased, dramatists explored and shaped the way early modern Londoners related to each other, to dominant ideologies of gender and sexuality, and to material culture. This book project zeroes in on the representation of clothing in early modern plays set in London. Known as city comedies or citizen comedies, these plays were highly popular in their day and have typically been read as reinforcing a broader, monolithic cultural condemnation of excessive apparel. Through a more supple method of historical contextualization, this project recovers the queer forms of male embodiment and eroticism that these plays offered their audiences. In drawing attention to the dissidence in these plays, this project assesses their potential to provoke a reimagining of present modes of being and social relations outside of the frameworks of subculture and identity that dominate current politics of sexuality and urban space. The seminar draws from this larger project and will focus on how early modern city comedies memorialize and idealize the affordances of public sexual culture through their representation of extravagantly dressed men who "cruise" Saint Paul's Cathedral.

James M. Bromley is an Associate Professor of English at Miami University. He is the author of Intimacy and Sexuality in the Age of Shakespeare (Cambridge, 2012) and the co-editor of Sex before Sex: Figuring the Act in Early Modern England (Minnesota, 2013). He won the 2011 Martin Stevens Award for the Best New Essay in Early Drama Studies from the Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society. He is currently working on a book project entitled Style, Subjectivity, and Male Sexuality in Early Modern Drama.


November 10, 2014
3:30 P.M., 212 University Club Building

Louis Betty
Languages and Literatures, UW-Whitewater

'Spiritism and Progress: A Study in Otherworldly Utopia'

The Spiritist movement that emerged from the work of Hippolyte Rivail in 1850's France is not the typical fodder of scholars interested in the utopian and progressive spirit of the nineteenth century. Relying on the revelations of "spirits" speaking through mediums to make its philosophical and "scientific" claims about afterlife, reincarnation, and the peopling of other worlds, Spiritism tends to strike observers as perversely fascinating at best and absurd at worst. However, Dr. Betty's contention is that Spiritism's relegation to the margins of the occult ignores the affinities that the movement shares with less metaphysical but no less progressive or utopian concerns of the nineteenth century, and that this seemingly aberrant movement represents a kind of "hypermodernism" wherein Progress is understood to operate not only through human history, but also through multiple incarnations on multiple worlds. The project also addresses the practice of Spiritism in contemporary Brazil, which since the end of the nineteenth century has served as a laboratory for the viability of Spiritist beliefs.

Louis Betty is an Assistant Professor of French at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he teaches courses in French and Humanities. He has written extensively on French novelist Michel Houellebecq, with articles appearing in Nottingham French Studies, Literature and Theology, and L'Érudit franco-espangol. He has also recently completed a book-length manuscript on Houellebecq and is awaiting decisions on several other articles. In addition, he has published opinion pieces in The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed as well as reviews of Houellebecq's recent fiction and poetry. He received his Ph.D. in French from Vanderbilt University in 2011. He is at work on an article entitled "Spiritism and Progress: A Study in Otherworldly Utopia," which focuses on the Spiritist movement in Second Empire France and its relation to other religious-utopian philosophies of the nineteenth century.


November 17, 2014
3:30 P.M., 212 University Club Building

Stephen Pierce
History, UW-Madison

'Wakf and the Social Logics of Urban Development in Zanzibar'

This seminar is based on my dissertation, which examines the historical role played by Islamic charitable endowments in Swahili cities during the late precolonial to early colonial period (roughly late 1700s to early 1900s). Specifically following the development of wakf (Islamic endowments) in the burgeoning capitol port of Zanzibar and its cosmopolitan competitor Mombasa, my research argues that over time inhabitants of Swahili towns articulated notions of charity both deeply rooted in African social discourse but also responsive to a variety of trans-oceanic strains of Islamic morality. These intersections demonstrate how centrally charitable behavior was inscribed upon Swahili ideas about moral citizenship in their world and how they imagined the topography of the city in moral terms. Tracing the changes ushered in by successive Omani and British regimes also challenges the problematic ways modern historiography has linked the western notion of caritas with philanthropy, which effectively envisions charity as a modern concept. Rather, my project opens up the possibilities of investigating African altruism prior to European intervention.

Stephen Pierce is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at UW-Madison. His research explores the historical development of Islamic institutions of charity, especially along the East African coast, but also focuses on how cosmopolitanism, the multiple trajectories of Islam among its many adherents, and the intersection of culture and religion with these histories challenge traditional definitions of charity and philanthropy. His doctoral work has been funded by a Mellon-Fulbright Doctoral Dissertation Research Fellowship, a UW-Mellon Summer Dissertation Fellowship, a UW Chancellor’s Fellowship and the Dana-Allen Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship. He received a B.A. in history and social studies from Cedarville University and an M.A. in world history from Northeastern University in Boston. He is at work on a dissertation entitled "Charity, Cosmopolitanism and Culture in coastal East Africa, 1750s to 1940s."

Seminar cancelled

November 24, 2014


December 1, 2014
3:30 P.M., 212 University Club Building

Adam Mandelman
Geography, UW-Madison

'The Place With No Edge: Boundaries and Permeability in the Mississippi River Delta, 1845-2010'

Even after Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana residents have struggled to make the problem of subsidence and land loss in the Mississippi River delta a visible, national crisis. My research examines the history of both that crisis and its invisibility by focusing on the uncertain boundaries of the region’s watery terrain. Created over several thousand years by the muddy Mississippi, the delta is defined by flood, sediment, and muck. Yet the ambiguity of the landscape—a "place with no edge"—has often been interpreted as an invitation to eliminate environmental uncertainty in pursuit of rigid, impermeable boundaries. Since the early 18th century, Euro-American attempts to inhabit, rationalize, and render profitable this messy "wetlandscape" have left residents mired in unintended consequences. By following the flow of water through river levees, swamp logging frontiers, oil and gas canals, a subsiding city, and even human skin, my research suggests the perils of pursuing edges in a deltaic environment. More broadly, the project examines the changing social and ecological values at work in places where land and water meet. I argue that understanding how people negotiated the watery places of the past is essential for confronting the drowned worlds of the future.

Adam Mandelman is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Geography at UW-Madison. His work draws from scholarship in environmental history, cultural and historical geography, political ecology, ecocriticism, and science studies. His research has been supported by a Wisconsin-Mellon Summer Dissertation Fellowship; the Department of Geography's Whitbeck and Trewarth Awards; a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship; and a University Fellowship from UW-Madison. He received his M.S. in 2008 from UW-Madison’s Department of Geography for research on indigenous identity and historic preservation in Hawai'i. He received his B.A. in 2003 from Sarah Lawrence College. He maintains a blog about watery places and other themes in nature-society geography. Adam is completing a dissertation entitled "The Place With No Edge: Boundaries and Permeability in the Mississippi River Delta, 1845-2010."


December 8, 2014
3:30 P.M., 212 University Club Building

Luke Whitmore
Philosophy, UW-Stevens Point

'Mountain, Water, Rock, God: Shiva's Abode of Kedarnath in the Twenty-First Century'

In June of 2013 early monsoon rains of unexpected intensity hit the Himalayas in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. Floods and landslides washed away thousands of lives and decimated the economic landscape of the state. One public face of this disaster has been the near-destruction and ongoing rebuilding of the Hindu sacred place of Kedarnath. I am writing a book that situates what is unfolding in Kedarnath today relative to factors critical for life in the twenty-first century: environmental change, religion, nationalism, development, tourism, local-translocal connections, virtual networks, embodiment, and the perennial human need for orientation in the face of tragedy.

Luke Whitmore received his M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School in 1999 and his Ph.D. in West and South Asian Religions from the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University in 2010. He also studied for two years at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. Broadly, his research and teaching interests include South Asian and Himalayan religions, Shaivism, Judaism, theory and method in religious studies, pilgrimage, myth, visual culture, network theory, phenomenological anthropology, and the study of place and space. His research focuses on the Hindu pilgrimage place of Kedarnath, and the mountainous region of Garhwal (located in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand) in which it is found. He is at work on a book entitled Mountain, Water, Rock, God: Shiva's Abode of Kedarnath in the Twenty-First Century.

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