What are the meanings of “agency” in various disciplines and interdisciplines of the humanities? To what extent is it theorized or assumed? Does agency mean the freedom to act? To think? To feel? Is agency individual or collective? Does agency imply autonomy? How does agency relate to structure? Institutions? Oppression? Political Activism? Subjectivity? Identity? Emotion? Morality? Religion? How does agency relate to victims, torture, human rights? Is agency inherent in all forms of creativity? Is agency exclusively “human”? Do (non-human) animals have agency? Plants? Microbes? Do machines have agency? (Remember, “Open the pod door, Hal,” from 2001!)?
“Agency” means something quite different across cultures, including the different academic cultures of the humanities and interpretative social sciences. Agency is also often hotly debated in such fields as feminist theory, race theory, and poststructuralist theory. Is “agency” a product of Enlightenment thought, a keystone of “liberalism”? Or do different cultures and times produce varying notions of individual and/or communal agency? Within the framework of a Foucauldian discourse theory, agency appears as a fiction; within the framework of social movement theory, agency is foundational for change. How do we negotiate the different meanings of agency in our fields and disciplines?
Ask yourself: in your own research, do you assume some form of agency to be at work in what you study? If so, what do you mean by it? Panelists will make short presentations (6-7 minutes) on the meaning(s) of agency in their research for one hour. We will then have one hour of general discussion, so please bring your ideas about agency (especially in relation to your own work) to share with others.
Refreshments available by 2:45 PM.
Pink globalization, the spread of cute goods from Japan to other parts of the world, has been a stronghold of consumption in various parts of the industrial world in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, particularly with Hello Kitty as its mascot. The Japanese icon that has gone global represents some of the most far-reaching aspects of kawaii (cute) soft power, creating what Yano calls an “empire of cute” that references the character’s global reach, as well as her broad power as a national (Japan) and ethnic (Asian American) icon. This presentation addresses ways by which kawaii (cute) presents a fraught regime in its infantilized familiarity, its unthreatening nature, and its “demand for care.” The critics’ voices rise from their own collective demographic of originary fans – Asian-American, female -- to complicate the picture. In short, the critics decry the stereotype that lives in part through the putative persistence of Hello Kitties in their midst, reinforced by the sexual politics of multicultural America.
Presented in partnership with the Burdick-Vary Lecture Series: Asian Americans and the Pleasures of Fantasy.
Christine R. Yano, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Hawaii, has conducted research on Japan and Japanese Americans with a focus on popular culture. Her publications include Tears of Longing: Nostalgia and the Nation in Japanese Popular Song (Harvard, 2002), Crowning the Nice Girl; Gender, Ethnicity, and Culture in Hawaii’s Cherry Blossom Festival (Hawaii, 2006),Airborne Dreams: “Nisei” Stewardesses and Pan American World Airways (Duke, 2011), and Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty and its Trek Across the Pacific (Duke, 2013). She curated a major exhibition at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, “Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty,” which ran from 2014 to 2015, and continues to travel. During 2014-2015, she served as Visiting Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University, resulting in a book project with Asian American undergraduates there entitled Straight A’s: Asian American Academic Achievement.
This is an extraordinary true-life story. It's a tale of murder, human rights, and social justice in the Americas. It's about the power of music in tumultuous times – and also, the power of historical knowledge and the humanities in the wake of atrocity. This is a traveling story – from the 1960s to our times, from a sports stadium in Santiago, Chile to a U.S. federal court in Orlando, Florida. It is the story of Chile's iconic "New Song" artist, Víctor Jara.
Steve J. Stern is the Alberto Flores Galindo and Hilldale Professor of History at UW-Madison. He researches Latin American history, and recently published The Human Rights Paradox: Universality and Its Discontents (2014), co-edited with Scott Straus. Stern's research demonstrates the inventiveness of Latin American responses to unequal structures of power, with sometimes surprising impact on world history. Honors include election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; the Bolton-Johnson Prize for best book in Latin American history, for Battling for Hearts and Minds: Memory Struggles in Pinochet’s Chile, 1973-1988; and fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Program, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Social Science Research Council. Stern is a founding editor, with Scott Straus, of the "Critical Human Rights" series at the UW Press, and has won a UW-Madison Distinguished Teaching Award. He is at work on a project entitled "Between Human Rights and Social Justice: Latin America and the World in Film and History."
Anne Hansen's book project examines conceptions of time and history in the Theravada Buddhist world, focusing on cosmological notions of “Dhammic decline” (the waning influence of the Buddha’s Dhamma or teachings over time) that have served as alternative interpretive frameworks for understanding global experiences of large-scale societal upheaval, violence and political oppression such as those that took place in the context of the Cold War in Southeast Asia and particularly the Khmer Rouge Cambodian genocide from 1975-79. She argues for the importance and religio-political potency of “Dhammic decline” as a re-occurring motif in the Buddhist world and use it to think about the larger question of how and why certain scriptures/texts emerge as key interpretive media at different critical moments of historical change. To this end, Anne traces out the historical lifeworlds of a genre of Buddhist prophetic (“damnāy”) texts, both oral and textual, that foretell the catastrophic events tied to Dhammic decline, exploring how they have both figured in and configured religious, political and literary responses to social violence in the Buddhist world.
Anne R. Hansen is Professor of History and Religious Studies at UW Madison in the Department of History and Program in Religious Studies, where she researches and teaches about the history and development of Theravada Buddhism, Southeast Asian religions, modern Buddhist reform movements, religion and colonialism, Buddhist ethics and moral history, and theory and method in the study of religion. She received a PhD in religious studies from Harvard University and a MDiv from Harvard Divinity School. Hansen is the author of How to Behave: Buddhism and Modernity in Colonial Cambodia, 1860-1930 (2007) and editor of At the Edge of the Forest: Essays on Cambodia, History and Narrative (2008). She is currently working on two books, one on Buddhist conceptions of time, social change and millenarianism in Cambodia, and another on Buddhist ethics of care in Southeast Asian visual culture. Her most recent article “Painting Ethics: Death, Love, and Moral Vision in the Mahāparinibbāna,” appears as part of a symposium on visual ethics in Journal of Religious Ethics 44.1 (March 2016): 17-50.
In my book project I provide a new, comprehensive reading of Plato’s Phaedo, a dialogue set on the last day of Socrates’ life. I argue that Plato appropriates and transforms Pythagorean and Orphic views in order to present a radical new account of the soul, the good life, and the nature of reality. According to this new account, the life of knowledge is the best life possible, but we are unable to fully realize this life while embodied. This ethical view, I argue, is grounded in a new account of the nature of the soul, which is in turn grounded in a new account of Plato’s forms. I show how the different elements of the dialogue fit together to form a cohesive philosophical vision.
David Ebrey (Ph.D., UCLA) works on ancient Greek philosophy, primarily on Plato and Aristotle. So far his research on Plato has focused on Socratic inquiry, the value of knowledge, moral education, and Platonic forms. His research on Aristotle has focused on matter in Aristotle's natural philosophy and syllogisms in his logic. He has published in journals such as Journal of the History of Philosophy, Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie, and British Journal of the History of Philosophy, and he has edited a volume, Theory and Practice in Aristotle’s Natural Science (Cambridge, 2015). He has received a Mellon Postdoc (2007-2009), Alice Kaplan Humanities Institute Fellowship (2011-2012), and a Spencer Foundation Grant (2012-2013). He was a visiting fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge in 2013. He is currently working on a book on Plato’s Phaedo.
My book project examines the impact of new time-keeping technologies on rhythms of life in seventeenth century France. Specifically, I tell the story of how the appearance of the minute and second hands on clocks gave a new richness and texture to the very experience of time: of time passing, of haste, and of slowness. Time came to govern sexuality in new ways: from certain socio-sexual tempos (paces of courtship, bereavement, reproduction) to the regulated speed of seduction onstage. Early modern theater staged a wide range of desires, from the homoerotic and deviant to the heteronormative. The performing arts were in fact an essential cornerstone of Louis XIV’s glittering Absolutist spectacle. However, instead of analyzing the explicitly political uses of theater, I turn instead to theater’s more insidious and subtle forms of managing the population, or biopower. As Foucault argues in the History of Sexuality, disciplinary power, rather than deciding on the citizens’ right to live or to die, sought instead to manage bodies and lives through the controlled flourishing or strategic diminishing of life’s capacities. One essential component of this management, I argue, includes temporal speeds. The theater both modeled and contested new types of embodiment, new body politics, and new temporalities that were on the horizon in the seventeenth century. Each play I analyze showcases a different form of delay or haste that critically interrupts the normative temporality of marriage, motherhood, mourning, or sovereignty. In this light, I argue that queer velocities onstage hijack aesthetic and temporal disciplinary norms to offer counter-hegemonic erotic sensations, forms of intimacies, and circulations of affect.
Jennifer Row is an assistant professor of French at Boston University and affiliate faculty with BU’s Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and World Languages and Literatures, and received her PhD in Comparative Literature (2014) from Cornell University. Her research and teaching interests include early modern theater (17th and 18th c), queer and feminist theory, and affect theory. Her book project, Queer Velocities, looks at the impact of newly precise timekeeping technologies on queer erotics in seventeenth-century French theater. She was a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota and organizes a “Premodern Temporalities” research group with the UMN Center for the Study of the Premodern World. She has previously taught at the Université de Paris-Sorbonne (Paris-IV) and at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand.
For over 260,000 Hmong Americans living in the U.S., mobile media now play a key role in maintaining connections and identities. Yet what role are Hmong women playing in shaping the use of these digital media technologies? How are Hmong women able to use media to influence new cultural practices, or to challenge patriarchal conditions? This research project is based on an ethnographic analysis of Hmong women and the groundbreaking ways that they adapt mobile phone technologies to their own specific needs.
Lori Kido Lopez is Assistant Professor of Media and Cultural Studies in the Communication Arts Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is also an affiliate of the Asian American Studies Program and the Gender and Women’s Studies Department. She is the author of Asian American Media Activism: Fighting for Cultural Citizenship (2016, NYU), and co-editor of the forthcoming Routledge Companion to Asian American Media. She is the founder of the national Race & Media Conference, and was a recipient of the Outstanding Women of Color Award in 2015.
How does the mundane object serve as a catalyst for exploring the relationship between aesthetics and political injury? Is race always bound to the circulation of negative feeling? We understand the harm embodied by the mammy cookie jar. Yet in the 21st-century, the anthropomorphic object has found new life: geisha cars, Harajuku Lovers perfume bottles, Chanel’s “China Doll” handbags, Alessi’s “Mandarin” juicer. Do these forms of racial kitsch—the Asian figure as salt shaker, decor, or toy—evade contextualization as racist kitsch? This lecture engages the Japanese style known as kawaii or cute style since the 1970s as it finds expression in a specific racial form. In looking at the feeling that the “cute” enables or forecloses, this talk explores the vacillation between pleasure and pain underlying Asian American spectatorship of racialized things. Exploring the convergence among theories of aesthetic form, affect, and stereotyping, this talk seeks to uncover the utility of fantasy and force of nonhuman actants.
Presented in partnership with the Burdick-Vary Lecture Series: Asian Americans and the Pleasures of Fantasy.
Leslie Bow is Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor and Mark and Elisabeth Eccles Professor of English and Asian American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of the award-winning, ‘Partly Colored’: Asian Americans and Racial Anomaly in the Segregated South; Betrayal and Other Acts of Subversion: Feminism, Sexual Politics, Asian American Women's Literature; and editor of Asian American Feminisms.
This book investigates how people with disabilities defined and were defined by early modern representations of bodies, spaces, and narratives. It builds on insights that I have gleaned from investigating the relations between experimental genres, visuality, and vulnerable cultural identity, focusing this knowledge on the theorization of disability in the global Renaissance. Understanding how early modern writers normed, located, and related disability not only provides us with more accurate genealogies of disability, but it also helps us to nuance current aesthetic and theoretical disability formulations.
I consider conduct books and treatises, travel writing, wonder books, and essays. The cross-section of texts is comparative, putting canonical European authors such as Castiglione and Cervantes into dialogue with transatlantic and Anglo-Ottoman literary exchange. Its methodology takes a formal and philosophical approach to pre-modern formulations of monstrous bodies, spaces, and narratives, which continue to shape our understandings of disability today.
Professor Elizabeth B. Bearden is a scholar and teacher of early modern literature with training in Comparative Literature, Classics, the History of Rhetoric, Visual Culture Studies, and Disability Studies. She received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from NYU in 2006 and her A. B. in Comparative Literature at Princeton in 1998. She is an Associate Professor in the English department at UW-Madison. Her first monograph, The Emblematics of the Self: Ekphrasis and Identity in Renaissance Imitations of Greek Romance, was published by the University of Toronto Press in 2012 and has been positively reviewed in leading journals. She has published articles in PMLA, The Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, Ancient Narrative Supplementum, and Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies. Additionally, she directed a Digital Humanities project on Philip Sidney’s funeral, which appeared in a Folger Shakespeare Library exhibition in Washington, DC.
By examining the bodies of women as they conceive, miscarry, give birth, and lactate in Anglo-Saxon texts that are medical, legal, religious, historical, and literary, I show that the policing of these bodies contradictorily highlights the authority of women over both body and progeny. By placing genres of texts that rarely speak to one another in conversation, I offer a fuller vision of the experience of maternity. Despite the fact that the monastic literary tradition only rarely offers representations of women, the variety of genres examined here allow us to see past exceptional women by examining the corporeal experience of maternity. I reveal that women sought to control the reproductive processes of their bodies, knowing full well the dangers of doing so, and that they used their maternal labors as a means of self-authorization.
Dana Oswald is author of the book Monsters, Gender, and Sexuality in Medieval English Literature, as well as articles on Old and Middle English literature and translation, and gender and sexuality studies. Her focus on the embodied experience of life in medieval England is a means by which contemporary readers can connect to people, characters, and problems existing in an age that can seem very foreign.
My current research project studies the development of novel ways of thinking about the human body and disease that appeared in Atlantic slave trading circuits during the seventeenth century. Specifically, it explores the emergence of ideas about fungible and universal bodies that were measurable in reproducible ways, and of diseases as ontological entities. I argue that these ideas, which today scholars identify as modern and “scientific,” first emerged in slave trading circuits. Their genesis was intimately linked to the unprecedented rise in the size and complexity of the commerce of human bodies in the early modern South Atlantic.
Pablo F. Gómez is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical History and Bioethics and the Department of the History of Science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He holds a PhD from Vanderbilt university, a MD from CES University and did his residency in Orthopaedic surgery at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana. Pablo’s work examines the history of health and corporeality in the early modern Atlantic world. He has published numerous articles and book chapters. His forthcoming book, The Experiential Caribbean: Creating Knowledge and Healing in the Early Modern Atlantic (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017), explores belief making and the creation of evidence around the human body and the natural world in the early modern Caribbean and black Atlantic. Pablo is currently working on a history of the universal quantifiable body and risk in the early modern world.
My project is the first cultural history of the most ubiquitous mechanical interface of the modern world, the pushbutton. Less a history of a technological device than a cultural study of one particular interface between people and machines, it argues that the button affirms and reproduces core liberal values, especially those associated with individual agency, interiority, and the privileges and prerogatives of men. Because the button is a surprisingly recent invention, dating to the mid-nineteenth century, this project could also be seen as a Victorian pre-history of the digital, which might be better understood in terms of the privileging of the fingers—the digits—as the primary locus of human agency. By studying the relationship between pushing buttons and activities such as playing with toys, having sex, or shooting a gun, this project attempts to show how this most mundane activity continues to have powerful social and political effects.
Jason Puskar is Associate Professor of English at the UW–Milwaukee, specializing on late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American literature and culture, with recent emphasis on business and economic history and the history of science and technology. He is the author of Accident Society: Fiction, Collectivity and the Production of Chance (Stanford 2012), and he has published articles in journals including American Literary History, Daedalus, Nineteenth-Century Contexts, and Mosaic.
How did transatlantic writers use “I” in their discourse? When did “I” become the familiar protagonist of American letters? Julia's project uses the first-person observations at the heart of natural history writing to interrogate the models of personhood developing between 1783 and 1830. Critics have traditionally emphasized forms of first-person prose associated with Puritan spiritual autobiography, especially narratives about personal transformation. She argues that natural history revolves around an equally significant form of first-person prose, one that prioritizes exterior experience rather than interior life. By focusing on empirical observation and its legacies, Julia identifies a wider net of narrators and strategies garnering authority in early American prose. Empirical observation shapes prose writing across contexts, forcing us to reconsider the models of personhood and individuality circulating in the period. Her project constellates a series of cases in which observation, personhood, and narrative agency meet their limits.
Julia Dauer is a PhD candidate in the Department of English at UW-Madison. Her research focuses on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American literature and the history science. Her dissertation uses natural history to access a much larger crisis of personhood that characterized literary, scientific, and political discourse at the turn of the nineteenth century and continues to resonate in the contemporary United States. Dauer has taught literature and composition courses at UW-Madison and worked as an instructor in the Writing Center. Her dissertation research has been supported by fellowships from the Department of English, the Graduate School, and the Library Company of Philadelphia. She is currently at work on her dissertation entitled “Natural History and First-Person Prose in Early America, 1783-1830.”
The Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient Jewish manuscripts discovered in caves in the 20th century in the area of the Dead Sea, have been objects of mystery and intrigue for seventy years. In particular, the subcollection known as the Qumran scrolls, found in eleven caves in close proximity to the ancient ruins of Khirbet Qumran, continue to fascinate and confound modern scholarship. Three questions about the Qumran scrolls have been paramount in the history of research: How did the scrolls come to be in the caves? Who were the inhabitants of Qumran and did they own the Qumran scrolls? Why did they establish a settlement at this inhospitable site, and why did they abandon their manuscripts in the nearby caves? My book project, Scribes, Scrolls and Scripture: The Story of Qumran, narrates the story of the foundation of the Qumran settlement as a library and scribal center staffed by scribes and priests who were part of the Essenes, a first century BCE Jewish movement active in the events of first century BCE Judea. It breaks new ground by focusing on the scribes of Qumran and their role in collecting, copying, preserving, and in a few cases composing the Qumran scrolls.
Sidnie White Crawford is Willa Cather Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she teaches in the areas of Hebrew Bible, Second Temple Judaism, and Hebrew language. She is an internationally recognized scholar in the areas of Dead Sea Scrolls and Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible. Her most recent book, edited with Cecilia Wassen, is The Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran and the Concept of a Library, published by E. J. Brill (2016). Sidnie currently serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, the American headquarters for archaeological research in the Holy Land, and as a member of the Society of Biblical Literature Council. She is also a member of numerous editorial boards, including Hermeneia: A Commentary Series (Fortress Press), The Textual History of the Bible (Brill), and The Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition (SBL Press). In her free time Dr. Crawford enjoys international travel, classical music, in particular early music and opera, and watching sports, especially Husker football and women’s volleyball. She usually lives in Lincoln, NE with her husband, Dr. Dan D. Crawford, and their cat, Mollie, but is delighted to be spending the year at the IRH and enjoying all that Madison has to offer.
By drawing attention to the under examined category of loyalty, this book argues for the centrality of loyalty to figurations of modernity. Rather than focus on political loyalty alone--a context in which loyalty gets most prominence--I examine interlocking formulations of loyalty across three evolving sites of modernity in nineteenth-early twentieth century Britain and its empire: that of the state, the family, and the economy. In querying how and why ideas of loyalty were idealized at a moment marked both by massive industrialism and high imperialism, I study literary genres and modes that stabilize the seemingly counterintuitive relation between loyalty and modernity. In so doing, I also identify the “transimperial” as a heuristic for studying the expansive yet connected multilingual literary systems of empire.
Sukanya Banerjee is Associate Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She works at the intersection of Victorian studies, postcolonial studies, and studies of South Asia. She is the author of Becoming Imperial Citizens: Indians in the Late-Victorian Empire (Duke, 2010), which was awarded the NVSA Sonya Rudikoff Prize for best first book in Victorian studies (2012). She is co-editor of New Routes for Diaspora Studies (Indiana, 2012), an her essays have appeared in journals such as Victorian Studies, Victorian Literature and Culture, Prose Studies, and Diaspora. A recipient of a previous fellowship at the IRH, she has also received support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Japan built a wartime empire in Asia in the 1930s, and after losing that empire in 1945 created trading imperium under the American cold war umbrella. What are the lessons that imperial Japan can teach us about the global moment of the twenties and thirties, when the rise of anti-colonial nationalism brought new pressures on longstanding imperial structures? After the cataclysm of World War Two shattered the foundations of colonial empires and divided the globe up into the first, second, and third worlds, what did this moment of rupture and the end of empire mean for Japan and Asia?
Louise Young is Vilas Distinguished Professor in the Department of History. Her work focuses on modern Japan, especially social and cultural history. She is the author of Japan's Total Empire: Manchuria and the Culture of Wartime Imperialism (winner of John K. Fairbank and Hiromi Arisawa prizes) and Beyond the Metropolis: Second Cities and Modern Life in Interwar Japan. She is currently working on a history of the idea of class in nineteenth and twentieth century Japan.
Religion is omnipresent in modernity, and in spite of twentieth-century theorists who saw secularization as intrinsic to the process of modernization, shows no signs of disappearing. After discarding secularization as a plausible historical model, how do we understand the changes in religion that made way for the experience of modernity around the globe? From India to Ethiopia to Latin America to Safavid Iran, religion has remained a vital force in shaping the trajectories of non-Western modernities. And yet, no scholarship to date has provided an adequate model to account for changes that take place in religion around the world starting in the early modern period (ca. 1500-1800), which played a crucial role in shaping the varied experience of modernities that arose independently outside of the European Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment. In this conference, we aim to rethink global transformations in religion during the early modern centuries by raising the following questions in global perspective: Did religions across regions of the globe experience a synchronic series of reformations integral to their entry into the modern age? Do we witness any changes in the concept of religion or its place in society across continents as a result of these reformations?
Over the past few decades, scholars across disciplines have raised scrutiny to the singularity of the concept of modernity, such that the concept of multiple modernities has gained widespread currency across the humanities at large. As a result, recent scholarship has begun to lift the veneer of universalism once associated with the concept of a singular modernity: namely, the historical transformations experienced in Western Europe. And yet, the decline of religion—and the secularization of public space and discourse—stands out among metanarratives of European modernity that has left the study of religion today with a rather ambiguous legacy. In the contemporary Western world, observers have expressed considerable dismay at the apparent reversal of secularization, previously understood as an intrinsic aim of modernity itself. Many seeming anomalies of religion in the contemporary world—pluralism, communalist conflict, sectarian rivalry, the resurgence of religion in the public sphere—demand a more nuanced contextualization in both historical and global perspective.
We propose, succinctly, to center our inquiry on the following sub-themes of religion in global early modernity: 1) Religion and the Public Sphere, 2) Religion and Philology, 3) Sectarianism and Religious Conflict, and 4) Religion and the Concept of History. We aim to foster interdisciplinary approaches from across the humanities and social sciences and projects that cross geographical boundaries, as a diverse methodological toolbox will serve us well in addressing questions that defy the confines of disciplinarily and Area Studies. Our fifteen total participants examine the global reformations of diverse world regions of the globe and religious traditions, bringing together disciplinary perspectives including History, Religious Studies, Comparative Literature, the History of Science and Medicine, and Archaeology.
All conference presentations will be free and open to the public. For more information and conference program, click here.
What does microeconomics—the study of small-scale consumer decisions—have to do with the modern novel? Microeconomics seems to have more to do with mathematical formalism than with literary form, and yet its emphasis on the desires and pleasures of the individual shares much with the modern novel’s increased fascination with psychological interiority. Taking microeconomics and the novel as concomitant developments in the theory of the individual in society, this talk explores the difference between humanist and anti-humanist individualism, turning in its conclusion to the problem of the individual in a period of capitalist crisis.
Annie McClanahan is an Assistant Professor of English at UW Milwaukee. Her book Dead Pledges: Debt, Crisis, and 21st Century Culture will appear from Stanford University Press in fall 2016. Her new project, “A Cultural History of Microeconomics,” will explore the ways in which microeconomics has both drawn on and shaped critical theory and cultural production. Her work has appeared in Representations, The Journal of Cultural Economy, Journal of American Studies, Post45, South Atlantic Quarterly, symploke, and qui parle.
In his famous second book on Egypt, Herodotus (ca. 484-425 BCE), the so called “father of history” and ethnographic writer from Halicarnassus (present-day Bodrum in southwestern Turkey), emphasizes that of all peoples, the Egyptians are “the most exceedingly religious/pious.” Yet what did the concept of “religiosity” mean at this time? And how did Herodotus translate his understanding of Egypt and its religious world for his Greek audience? By incorporating key concepts from religious studies, including aesthetics, psychology, and the sociology of religion, this talk explores Herodotus' narratives on foreign religion in his Histories and elucidates his method of narrating and understanding foreign religion.
Andreas Schwab is an Assistant Professor of Classics at the Ruprecht-Karls-University of Heidelberg in Germany. He published his first book on the sophisticated Late Antique (4th cent. CE) hexameter poetry and theology of Gregory of Nazianzus, Peri Pronoias On Providence: Text, Translation and Commentary, Classica Monacensia series (Tübingen 2009). In his second book, Thales of Miletus in Early Christian Literature,Studia Praesocratica series (Berlin/Boston 2012), he focuses on the reception of this early Greek philosopher, astronomer and sage of the 6th century BCE. He has written articles on the hermeneutics and the reception of ancient Greek philosophy, Herodotus, the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, and early Christian literature. In 2015 he co-edited a volume entitled Le Travail du Savoir / Wissensbewätigung: Philosophie, sciences exactes et sciences appliquées dans l’Antiquité. He is also a co-editor of The Reception of the Homeric Hymns (Oxford University Press, forthcoming). His current book project is on “The Translation of Foreign Religion in Herodotus.”
In 1633, the French philosopher René Descartes, living in self-exile in the countryside of the province of Holland, was putting the final touches on what was supposed to be his first published treatise. For some years he had been working on a variety of scientific topics. These included grand cosmological questions about the origin of the universe and the forces governing its phenomena, and more particular topics, such as the trajectory of comets, the operation of the magnet, the dynamic behavior of fluids, and the causes of the tides. Descartes was especially interested in resolving a number of geometrical problems in optics and the science of light. He investigated the colors of the rainbow and the material and mental processes involved in visual sensation. Writing in 1629 to his friend, the Minim friar Marin Mersenne, who operated a far-flung intellectual network from his rooms in Paris, Descartes boldly said that his treatise will contain nothing less than “all the phenomena of nature.” Its title, appropriately, was Le Monde, or The World.
Descartes was certainly concerned about how the planned work—which was to include an essay on the human being, titled L’Homme (Treatise on Man)—would be received by religious authorities. In his speculations on the origins of the cosmos, he was afraid of being drawn into debates about whether the universe is created or eternal, finite or infinite, theologically dangerous terrain that had doomed many an earlier thinker. Descartes also knew that what was likely to strike contemporary theologians as the most problematic feature of The World, should he publish it, was his rejection of the Ptolemaic or geocentric model of the universe in favor of the Copernican heliocentric model.
Still, by autumn, Descartes decided that The World was ready for publication. And then, just when everything seemed set, Descartes learned about the condemnation of Galileo in Rome for defending the Copernican system. Descartes was now scared. He claimed that the heliocentric model “is so closely interwoven in every part of my treatise that I could not remove it without rendering the whole work defective.” He decided “not to publish the treatise I have written and to forfeit almost all my work of the last four years in order to give my obedience to the Church, since it has proscribed the view that the earth moves.” This was, in fact, not so much an act of faithful obedience by a devoted Catholic but a defensive tactic within his general strategy to preserve his “repose and peace of mind.
The first part of The World, the physics and cosmology, would eventually be published in 1664, fourteen years after Descartes’s death. As for the second part, the Treatise on Man, it too would appear only posthumously, in 1662 (in a Latin edition) and 1664 (a French edition). It was this latter work, a thoroughly mechanistic account of the human body, devoid of any Aristotelian “forms” or “qualities” and functioning, like any natural body, solely through the motion and rest of minute parts of matter, that would turn out to be truly revolutionary. It was perhaps Descartes’s most influential book in the seventeenth century.
The Treatise on Man ushered in a new era of philosophy. The latter half of the seventeenth-century was dominated by Cartesian thought, but a Cartesianism that had been supplemented, modified, and “corrected” by Descartes’s latter-day followers. The Treatise on Man was also highly controversial, especially insofar as Descartes seemed to some readers to be saying that the human soul played no role in the operations of the human body. If the human body really does function as a purely mechanistic device, then what need is there of the immortal soul so dear to the Christian religion? His theological critics regarded it as a book that could only foster materialism and atheism.
As Margaret Atwood writes, the female body has always seen as a “hot topic” in cultures across the globe. Thus regions throughout the world have employed standardized systems of mapping and dissecting the female body, and the Indian subcontinent in the twentieth century, with its diversity of religions and cultures, was no exception. Yet how did women writers themselves negotiate the tense relationship between their bodies, ascribed cultural values, and a sense of self? Devaleena Das will explore these issues by tracing the writings of 20th century writers from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
Devaleena Das was a former Assistant Professor of English and Gender Studies at Jesus and Mary College, University of Delhi. Currently she is teaching in the Department of Women's and Gender Studies, University of Wisconsin at Whitewater. She received her Ph.D. from Calcutta University in 2012. Her dissertation examines postcolonial and gendered space in Australia and she works in the field of intersectional feminism.
In this talk, Drewal explores the vital role of the senses with an approach he calls sensiotics. While Drewal focuses on the Yoruba peoples of West Africa and their cultural sensorium, he argues that sensing is constitutive of thinking and that sensiotics can help us understand the shaping of persons, cultures, histories and the arts universally, as suggested in trans-disciplinary research that documents the crucial role of embodied knowledge.
While a teacher in Nigeria, Henry Drewal apprenticed himself to a Yoruba sculptor. That transformative experience led him to interdisciplinary studies at Columbia University in African art history and culture where he earned two Masters' degrees and a PhD in 1973. He has taught at Cleveland State University, UC-Santa Barbara, and SUNY-Purchase, and served as Curator of African Art at The Cleveland Museum of Art and the Neuberger Museum. Since 1991 he has been the Evjue-Bascom Professor of Art History and Afro-American Studies and Adjunct Curator of African Art at the Chazen Museum of Art, UW-Madison. He has published several books, edited volumes, exhibition catalogues, and many articles on African/African Diaspora arts and curated or co-curated several major exhibitions, among them: Introspectives: Contemporary Art by Americans and Brazilians of African Descent; Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought; Beads, Body, and Soul: Art and Light in the Yoruba Universe; Mami Wata: Arts for Water Spirits in Africa and Its Diasporas; Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria; Soulful Stitching: Patchwork Quilts by Africans (Siddis) in India, and most recently, Double Fortune, Double Trouble: Art for Sacred Yoruba Twins. Among his numerous awards are several NEH grants, two Fulbright Research Awards (Brazil and Benin), two AIIS Senior Fellowships for research in India, a Metropolitan Museum of Art Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
In 1974, Joan Little, a young, impoverished, African American woman killed her white guard in a Southern jail after he sexually assaulted her. Indicted for first degree murder and facing a death sentence if convicted, her case quickly became a national and international cause celebre. During and after her murder trial, Little was imprisoned at the North Carolina Correctional Center for Women. There, women inmates organized a sit-down strike and, in a joint effort with the Triangle Area Lesbian Feminists and the North Carolina Hard Times Prison Project, they published a prison pamphlet: Break de Chains of U$ Legalized Slavery, a collection of inmate poems, exposes and illustrations. By examining women’s prison organizing in the 1970s on both sides of the prison walls this talk suggests a more expansive view of both the women’s liberation movement(s) and the “long civil rights movement.”
Christina Greene is an Associate Professor in the Department of Afro-American Studies, UW-Madison. She is the author of the award-winning book, Our Separate Ways: Women and the Black Freedom Movement in Durham, North Carolina, 1940-1970 (University of North Carolina Press, 2005). She has been published in Frontiers: A Journal of Women's Studies, Feminist Studies, Journal of Southern History, and Journal of African American History. She has also been published in several edited collections: Hidden Histories of Women in the New South (1994); From the Grass Roots to the Supreme Court: Brown v. Board of Education and American Democracy(2004); and The War on Poverty: A New Grassroots History, 1964-1980 (2011). Greene is also a contributor to Civil Rights in the United States (2000) and Oxford Research Encyclopedia in American History (forthcoming), and a contributor and subject editor for African American National Biography (2008). She is currently working on a book-length monograph of the 1970s Free Joan Little Rape-Murder Campaign.
Jean-Pierre Bekolo (1966, Yaounde) is an avant-garde filmmaker and socio-cultural activist whose imaginative work overturns stereotypes of Africa and African cinema. His entertaining films operate on multiple layers, engaging viewers with thrilling stories, biting humor and dramatic aesthetics.
An advocate of artistic freedom, Bekolo is committed to realizing Africa’s philosophies and cultures. Quartier Mozart shows the hybridity, complexity and humor in urban Yaounde in a playful, hip-hop reinvention of a traditional tale about gender, power, magic and politics. Aristotle’s Plot parodies rules and definitions, action movies and ‘African’ cinema made for European audiences, while aesthetically reflecting on the nature of existence, its ambiguities and absence of rigid categories. Aiming to incite viewers to conceive an alternate reality, his fake documentary The President is a hilarious, biting satire on African leaders who cling to power, and his dystopian, sci-fi comic thriller with stunning surreal visuals, Les Saignantes, presents extreme corruption, feminism, social decay and intergenerational conflict for review.
Bekolo’s work on the re-representation of Africa also includes insightful documentaries that seek to educate, such as Grandmother’s Grammar on groundbreaking Senegalese filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambety, and Les Choses et Les Mots de Mudimbe on the renowned Congolese philosopher, multi-linguist and uber-polymath.
Part of a Screening and Lecture Series
2:25pm, 104 Van Hise : "Life after Life," for a discussion on the film "Les Saignantes" in Vlad Dima's undergraduate class
2:25pm, 483 Van Hise : Visit with Prof. Névine El-Nossery's graduate course on Francophone literature and film.
12pm, 206 Ingraham Hall : Africa-at-Noon series, an informal interview with the director
Title: "Conversations: Jean-Pierre Bekolo and Cinema" (led by Prof. Dima) on various issues.
4pm, L160 Elvehjem : A Germaine Brée Lecture Series : "Le Président: Africa for the Future"
Campus-wide presentation (in English) on the current state of African cinema, followed by a screening of one of the director's films and a brief Q&A
4pm at the French House : Informal presentation (in French) on Mr. Bekolo's general artistic process, reasons for making films, politics etc.
Reception to follow.
Narratives in which leather-winged demons or dragons face off against bird-winged angels and heroes have millennia of history behind them. In the nineteenth century, however, discoveries of fossil pterosaurs (flying reptiles) and Jurassic birds invited new interpretations of old tales. How did British paleontological texts and visual restorations treat these winged curiosities? By investigating these sources, Caitlin Silberman traces how restorations that place leather-winged, reptilian pterosaurs in conflict with ancient birds like Archaeopteryx lithographica provide an unexpected window into Victorian perspectives on progress, evolution, and humanity’s place in nature.
Caitlin Silberman is a PhD candidate in Art History at UW-Madison. Her research centers on intersections between art, visual culture, and the sciences in nineteenth-century Britain. Her dissertation considers Victorian strategies for visualizing difference between humans and non-human animals. Silberman has taught Art History and History of Science at UW-Madison and worked at a variety of museums, archives, and libraries, including the Stanley Kubrick Archive, London's Natural History Museum, and the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, CA. Her Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellowship is bracketed by two semesters as a 2015-16 CIC/Smithsonian Institution Predoctoral Fellow, where she is based at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. She is at work on her dissertation entitled "Thinking with Birds in British Art and Visual Culture, 1840-1900."
How can we begin to understand multi-ethnic community formation in contexts where there are no written records and only the faintest material traces of ancient lives have survived? What kinds of material practices, and the social, political, and ritual behaviors implicated by them, did people use to negotiate their differences? Based on archaeological research at the 13th century site of Jonathan Creek supplemented by work at other prominent sites across the southeastern United States that were variously occupied between the 11th and 14th centuries AD, and analogies drawn from later ethnohistoric and ethnographic documents, my presentation explores the ways in which the forms, aesthetics, and symbolism of perishable architecture connected with the social, political, and cosmological processes that helped shape these communities.
Sissel Schroeder is a Professor of Archaeology in the Anthropology Department at UW-Madison. Her research intersects with the humanities, social sciences, and physical and biological sciences, and includes the investigation of ancient architecture, ecological and agency-based considerations of emerging sociopolitical complexity, historical ecology, and the history of archaeology. Her research has been published in edited volumes and journals, including the American Antiquity, Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, Antiquity, Southeastern Archaeology, Journal of Biogeography, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. She is a recipient of the Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award, and served as the Director of the College of Letters & Science Honors Program in 2012-2015. She is at work on a project entitled "Building Place and People: Materiality, Hybridity, and Community Formation among Ancient Native Americans in the Midcontinent, AD 1000-1600."
In the six years since the nadir of the Great Recession, debt has attracted scholarly attention across the humanities. Debt names not only student loans, underwater mortgages, and consumer credit but also, more significantly, a form of life molded by debt: the everyday practices, desires, virtues, and vices of the indebted. In other words, debt offers a way of exploring the concrete, lived experiences that result from neoliberal economic policies. Debt is not colorblind: in the United States, Blacks and Latinos are affected most severely. The foreclosure rate at the peak of the Great Recession for Blacks was 7.9%, for Latinos 7.7%, and for whites 4.5%. A significantly higher percentage of Blacks than whites take on student loan debt, and the credit card interest paid by Blacks makes up a significantly greater share of their income. Debt severely distorts the lives of people of color in the US.
Race and debt have long been connected, and together entwined with property. Classically, in The Merchant of Venice, it is the racial other, the Jew, who demanded repayment of debt in flesh when property was unavailable. Treating flesh as property was the principle animating the slave trade, a business sustained by debt secured by Black human “property.” Post-emancipation, Black sharecroppers remained tied down by debt and by lack of property ownership. The hyper-incarceration of poor Blacks today justifies itself by extracting a debt owed to society. Calls for reparations claim that society owes a debt to Blacks or to other communities that have suffered injustices. A variety of Black social movements for decades have called for property ownership as a means of Black empowerment.
This symposium will bring together a dozen senior and junior scholars of history, literature, anthropology, and law to reflect on the conjunction of race, property, and debt. Looking both at and beyond Black experience in the Great Recession, presenters will share their own research and place it in dialogue with the research of colleagues, clarifying the often elusive spider-web of concepts and practices that entangle, entrap, and ruin the lives of people of color in the US and beyond. Drawing on a variety of sites and methods, the symposium will encourage research cross-fertilization while featuring state-of-the-art scholarship on this timely and important set of issues.
All conference presentations will be free and open to the public.
The recent trend toward favoring the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines over the humanities is a manifestation of a centuries-long struggle between quantitative fields of inquiry like physics and mathematics and qualitative fields like art and literature. In his monumental cycle of novels, The Human Comedy, Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850), one of the greatest of all French writers, brilliantly dramatizes this struggle, as his portrayal of humanity owes much both to qualitative notions of character, morality, and psychology and to quantitative notions like that of the “average man” (l’homme moyen) developed by his contemporary, Belgian statistician and sociologist Adolphe Quetelet (1796-1874). This talk will delve into one of Balzac’s most thought-provoking novels, The Search for the Absolute, the story of a chemist who sacrifices his marriage, his children, his place in society and ultimately his humanity to the failed quest for what he believes to be the single chemical component common to all materials. In this love story between a once-devoted husband and father and his adoring but ultimately disabused wife and daughter, the conflict between two fundamentally opposed notions of human values brings out compelling and surprising truths that help us to understand what is at stake today as we attempt to balance these opposing schools of thought.
Richard Goodkin has been a member of the Department of French and Italian since 1988. He previously taught at Yale University. He has published monographs on seventeenth-, nineteenth-, and twentieth-century French literature, including The Tragic Middle: Racine, Aristotle, Euripides (1991), Around Proust (1991), Birth Marks: The Tragedy of Primogeniture in Pierre Corneille, Thomas Corneille, and Jean Racine (2000), and How Do I Know Thee? Theatrical and Narrative Cognition in Seventeenth-Century France (2015), this most recent book having been supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has also edited two collections, Autour de Racine: Studies in Intertextuality (Yale French Studies, 1988) and In Memory of Elaine Marks: Life Writing, Writing Death (2007), and recently published his first novel, Les Magnifiques Mensonges de Madeleine Béjart (2013), a historical novel about Molière’s mistress and collaborator. The present talk is taken from a book project entitled Connecting the Dots: The Calculus of Personality in French Fiction and Film, for which he received a Senior Fellowship at the Institute for Research in the Humanities (2009-2014).
The Food and Drug Administration’s number one job is to protect public health by ensuring the safety and efficacy of consumable products. And yet, pervasive financial relationships with industry often raise questions as to just how effectively the FDA safeguards the public. Accordingly my book manuscript, Conflicted: Tracing Industry Influence in Federal Pharmaceuticals Policy, investigates the systemic effects of pharmaceuticals industry relationships on patient health, FDA decision making, and public trust. In this presentation, I will investigate the adverse effects of conflicts of interest at FDA advisory committee meetings.
S. Scott Graham is an Associate Professor in the Department of English and Director of the Scientific and Medical Communications Laboratory at the UW-Milwaukee. His work is primarily devoted to investigating the role of argument and communication in scientific and medical boundary spaces (e.g., interdisciplinary science and science-policy). Graham's The Politics of Pain Medicine: A Rhetorical-Ontological Inquiry (Chicago, 2015) chronicles the work of interdisciplinary pain management specialists to found a new science of pain and a new approach to pain medicine grounded in a more comprehensive biopsychosocial model. He is currently working on a second book entitled Conflicted: Tracing Industry Influence in Federal Pharmaceuticals Policy.
Eating, we know, is both necessary for our survival and ecologically consequential: agriculture has profoundly altered our planet. Writing and reading, too, have human advantages and ecological consequences—and on a scale that we have not yet honestly admitted in our stories about the history of the book. In “Toward a Natural History of the Book,” I ask questions like: How might we write history of the book that accounts for negotiations among humans and non-humans in the act of creating material records of ideas? This talk explores the ecological materials that made Renaissance books possible, on the ecological choices that, by extension, made the writings of Shakespeare and his contemporaries possible.
Joshua Calhoun is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who specializes in Shakespeare, sixteenth- and seventeenth-century poetry, and the history of media. As a Faculty Affiliate at the Nelson Institute’s Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE), he also teaches courses in the environmental humanities. His work has been published in PMLA, Shakespeare Studies, and Environmental Philosophy. He is currently writing a book about poetry, papermaking, and ecology titled The Nature of the Page in Renaissance England. Drawing on original archival research, environmental history, and the poetry of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, the book tells a vibrant natural history of the ecological negotiations and technological contrivances used to store and transmit human ideas.
Join us for a discussion of the state of academic publishing in the humanities and the process of working with a university press--from project to proposal to publication. The workshop will include brief presentations from Eric Zinner (NYU Press) and UW-Madison faculty members Ron Radano and Pernille Ipsen. Moderated by Susan Stanford Friedman.
Refreshments available by 2:45pm.
Space is limited. Please RSVP to email@example.com.
Sponsored by the UW Institute for Research in the Humanities and Center for the Humanities. With support from the Scholarly Publishing Series, sponsored by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education, the Graduate School, UW-Madison Libraries, and the Office of the Provost.
Earl Lewis is President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. A well-regarded social historian, he has been a champion of the importance of diversifying the academy, enhancing graduate education, re-visioning the liberal arts, exploring the role of digital tools for learning, and connecting universities to their communities. Before joining the Mellon Foundation, he served as Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of History and African American Studies at Emory University, and as vice provost and dean of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies at the University of Michigan. He held faculty appointments at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Michigan. The author and co-editor of seven books including the eleven-volume Young Oxford History of African Americans, he has written numerous essays, articles, and reviews on different aspects of American and African American history. His recent books include The African American Urban Experience: Perspectives from the Colonial Period to the Present (2004), and Defending Diversity: Affirmative Action at the University of Michigan (2004).
Are our bodies the sum of our (chemical) parts, or are we more than that, the products of our particular background and culture? This talk delves into the question by examining a debate between chemistry and medicine about how to provision troops during the U.S. Civil War. At issue was an 1864 proposal by the chemist Eben Norton Horsford for a condensed ration that purported to contain all of the nutrients needed by a soldier in an ultraportable format. Horsford’s plan was opposed by Union Army physicians, who held that tradition and culture were the only reliable guides to diet, not science.
Through examining this conflict, I explore the fraught relationship between science and medicine in the mid-nineteenth century. Can scientific discoveries reliably engender improvements in medicine? How can we harmonize a materialist, universal vision of the human body with a holistic and particular one?
Molly Laas is a PhD Candidate in the Program of the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology at UW-Madison. Her work explores the intellectual cultures of science and medicine in the nineteenth century, focusing on the trans-Atlantic circulation of ideas about chemistry, physiology, health, and the interplay between science and social thought. Her work has been supported by a University Fellowship and a Chancellor's Fellowship from the University of Wisconsin, a research assistantship from UW-Madison Center for German and European Studies, and the History of Science Department's Lindberg, Coleman, and Richardson fellowships. She received her B.A. in comparative literature from Smith College in 2004, and worked as a science journalist before receiving a Master's degree in the history of science from UW-Madison in 2012. She is currently at work on her dissertation entitled "From Regimen to Regime: The Social Meaning of Nutrition, 1840-1910."
Europe today is often described as ‘Christian’, at least in the cultural sense. But how did it get to be this way? Was the slow tide of Christianity that swamped indigenous European paganism ultimately irresistable, as medieval sources seem to present it? A starting premise of this talk is that the very notion of a Christian/pagan dichotomy is problematic. Medieval people had conflicting ideas about what ‘proper’ Christianity involved – and, just as important, what it didn’t involve. Christianity could take many different forms, especially when it became a new ingredient in old political conflicts. In this paper I will examine one especially fraught conflict in eighth-century Europe, and use a careful interdisciplinary approach to reveal the deep complexities and ambiguities of religious conversion. What was it to be 'Christian' in this context, and who got to define the term?
John-Henry Clay is a Lecturer in Medieval History at Durham University (UK). There, his teaching focuses on the history of western Europe from the end of the Roman empire to 1000 AD. His particular interests include the end of Roman Gaul, the origins of monasticism and Europe's conversion to Christianity. His first monograph, In the Shadow of Death: Saint Boniface and the Conversion of Hessia, 721-754 (Brepols, 2010) drew together history, archaeology, and landscape studies in a detailed exploration of an early medieval missionary community in Hessia, and he has published numerous articles and book chapters in related areas. A secondary interest is the relationship between academic history and the creative imagination, especially with respect to wider public engagement and education, which has led to two published historical novels: The Lion and the Lamb (Hodder & Stoughton, 2013) and At the Ruin of the World (Hodder & Stoughton, 2015). He is at work on a project entitled "Bringers of Light: The Christianisation of Early Medieval Germany under the Carolingians."
Contemporary observers of England’s burgeoning late-sixteenth century literary culture believed their country’s emerging canon of vernacular literature might help foster consensus around a collective cultural and political identity. But were they right? My talk relates this literary-historical question to a modern theoretical debate between Jürgen Habermas and Chantal Mouffe about the value of consensus as a political concept. To what extent could a shared literary culture foster consensus around common values and transcend the bitter religious divisions of the Reformation? To what extent did the literature of this period allow religious minorities to assert their non-participation in this putative consensus? As a poet writing in the wake of Reformation Europe’s bloody religious conflicts, Edmund Spenser offers a perspective with unique historical purchase on these questions, which still today factor into different rationales for the humanities.
Victor Lenthe is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of English at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. His research focuses on early modern literary culture and post-Reformation Europe’s experience of religious difference. His dissertation is entitled “The Question of the Early Modern Public: Consensus and its Limits in the English Literary Renaissance.” It examines early modern writers like Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, and Ben Jonson for historical perspectives on debates between modern political theorists about the nature of pluralism and the role of literature in public life.
Scientific conferences are not known for their excitement, but what happens when large numbers of your constituency choose to boycott your meeting? And further, what can transpire when rowdy AIDS activists use your meeting as a stage to air their grievances with government and scientific inaction and disrupt business as usual? What is the appropriate relationship between science and politics, especially when people are dying at alarming rates? This presentation will consider these questions and more through analysis of the rhetoric of the boycotts of the 1990 and 1992 International AIDS Conferences, which are key turning points in the global history of HIV/AIDS.
Karma R. Chávez is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Arts and affiliate in the Program in Chican@ and Latin@ Studies and the Department of Gender and Women's Studies at UW-Madison. She is co-editor of Standing in the Intersection: Feminist Voices, Feminist Practices (with Cindy L. Griffin, SUNY Press, 2012), and author of Queer Migration Politics: Activist Rhetoric and Coalitional Possibilities (University of Illinois Press, 2013). Karma is also a member of the radical queer collective Against Equality, an organizer for LGBT Books to Prisoners, and a host of the radio program, "A Public Affair" on Madison's community radio station, 89.9 FM WORT. She is at work on a project entitled AIDS Knows No Borders: AIDS Activism and the Rhetoric of Immigration.
For more than 150 years, US black music has stood at the center of the American entertainment industry, frequently proclaimed to be the driving force in popular expression. Why has this been so? Why do so many people think black music is so entertaining, so important, so valuable? Why, moreover, has this perception been so widely embraced around the world? My presentation will tackle the problem head on, proposing that matters of black musical value are not simply musical matters. They are embedded in the very processes by which racially conceived musical forms have been constituted within and against the forces of capitalism, which, in turn, have given to black music a uniquely “animated” valuation.
Ronald Radano is a Professor of African Languages and Literature and Music at UW-Madison. He is the author of two award-winning books, New Musical Figurations: Anthony Braxton’s Cultural Critique (Chicago, 1993; Italian translation, forthcoming) and Lying up a Nation: Race and Black Music (Chicago, 2003), and coeditor of Music and the Racial Imagination (Chicago 2000) and Audible Empire: Music, Global Politics, Critique (Duke, in print). His work has appeared in numerous journals, including Musical Quarterly, Daedalus, Critical Inquiry, Modernism/Modernity, and Radical History Review. His discussion of black musical value will also appear in the February 2016 issue of boundary 2. He is coeditor of two book series, Refiguring American Music (Duke) and Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology (Chicago). Radano has held research residencies and fellowships at numerous institutions, including the Du Bois Institute (Harvard), the Smithsonian Institution, and the University of Pennsylvania (as a Rockefeller Fellow). He was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1997-1998. He is at work on a project entitled "The Secret Animation of Black Music."
What was the function of royal genealogy in the early modern period? How did royal genealogy engage with debates on the ethnic and political identity of national communities? In Britain, more than in any other early modern European country, royal genealogies interwove the origins of the monarch and people through the use of mythical ancestors who were both the first kings and ethnic founders of national communities. With the help of genealogical rolls and prints, historical and literary texts, this talk explores the early seventeenth-century genealogical construction of a British kingship in racial terms, through origin myths linking the monarch to Adam, Noah, Troy, ancient Egypt, and Greece.
Sara Trevisan is a Solmsen Fellow at the Institute for Research in the Humanities and will be Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance at the University of Warwick from May 2016, for three years. She earned a PhD in English Literature at the University of Padua, in Italy, and has held fellowships at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich and the University of Warwick, as well as a lectureship at Brunel University London. She has published on early modern literature and culture in journals such as Renaissance Quarterly, Renaissance Studies and The Seventeenth Century. She is particularly interested in the intersections between court and popular drama and poetry, and European intellectual history, geography, cartography, visual iconography, the history of the book, and theories of monarchical rule and nationhood. She is currently writing a book on royal genealogy, and discourses of national and ethnic identity in Britain between 1558 and 1640, provisionally entitled From Noah to King James: Genesis, Fabulous Genealogies and the Myth-Making of Kingship in Early Modern Britain.
What is cinema and where was cinema? How might the ontological inquiries of the cinema be unpacked in a colonial context? Inspired by transmedia archaeology, this talk explores early cinematic modernity through the magic lantern activities in colonial Taiwan. Among the missing puzzle pieces in the visual culture of colonial Taiwan, the magic lantern show (gentō-kai) is a crucial yet less-discussed event of seeing that provokes issues concerning optical modernity, images of colonial edification, and the projection of empires. On the surface, the magic lantern show seemed to be an extension of colonial power, yet, the process of its projection and mediation also revealed the disintegrated temporality between the colony and the imperial screen.
Laura Jo-Han Wen is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of East Asian Languages & Literature at UW-Madison. Her research explores issues at the convergence of colonial modernity, visual culture, media archaeology, the history of early cinema, and transnationalism. As a Taiwanese, she is interested in thinking about the ways in which her Taiwan experience might contribute to, or sometimes confront, current scholarship and intellectual fields. From 2012 to 2013, she served as the president of the North American Taiwan Studies Association (NATSA), a US-based NPO dedicated to Taiwan studies and transdisciplinary research. She is at work on her doctoral dissertation concerning Taiwan's early film history and cinematic culture, tentatively entitled, "Screen Culture, Visual Power, and the Beyond: A Transmedia Archaeology of the Cinema in Colonial Taiwan, 1895–1945."
How did pre-modern empires negotiate imperial boundaries while facilitating inter-imperial trade? What was the political place of transimperial diplomat and merchant communities in this trade? This talk highlights the Iranian Armenian community of Esfahan and the Ottoman Latin-rite community of Istanbul, examining comparatively how their fluid legal status in Ottoman and Safavid lands played an important role in shaping the Eurasian silk routes to Venice.
Ali Humayun Akhtar is an Assistant Professor at Bates College and is an historian of government, religion, and economy. His research focuses on networks of diplomats, scholars, and merchants who connected Mediterranean Europe with the Middle East and Central Asia in the medieval and early modern eras. His first book traces the political debates over Graeco-Arabic philosophy and Sufism from Cordoba to Cairo (10th-12th centuries) as a larger window into the contested nature of political and religious authority in the medieval world. He is currently working on a new book on law and economy along the Safavid and Ottoman silk routes to Venice (16th-17th centuries). Before arriving at Bates College in 2012, he taught at Bard College and New York University. He earned a Ph.D. and M.A. at New York University in History and Middle Eastern Studies and a B.A. at Cornell University.
Between the late 1960s and the early 1980s, after the initial euphoria of African national independence and before the era of market liberalization, hundreds of thousands of young East Africans left their rural homes and became the first generation in their families to make lives in the city. This demographic shift occurred in the absence of economic growth and far exceeded the interventions and visions of urban planners and policymakers. What kind of city did these urban sojourners envision and create? How did they reconcile the promises of decolonization and political liberation with the realities of inequality, scarcity and urban infrastructural collapse? Based on research in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, this talk explores Africa’s urban revolution as encountered by popular artists and intellectuals including investigative journalists and newspaper gossip columnists, songwriters and musicians, Christian women’s advice writers, nurses and social workers, and Swahili underground pulp fiction publishers. It examines how migrants in the city theorized the postcolonial predicament based on their urban experiences, using the urban landscape they encountered as the raw material with which they pose broader questions about African liberation, gender roles, adulthood, community and social justice.
Emily Callaci is an Assistant Professor of modern African history at UW-Madison. Her research and teaching interests include global cities, African popular cultures, comparative socialisms and the global history of reproductive politics. Her work has appeared in the Journal of African History and Urban History. Building on her work on urban cultural and sexual politics in Africa in the 1960s and 1970s, she has recently begun preliminary research for a second project on the transnational history of the family planning movement in Africa. She is spending her semester at the IRH working on a book that explores popular forms of urbanism in Tanzania during its socialist era, from 1967 through 1985.
Fear is one of the most salient political emotions. The philosophers Hobbes and Lucretius each considered fear in their writings on civil war. Lucretius argued that the fear of death led to civil war. Although Lucretius deeply influenced Hobbes, Hobbes promoted a fear of death, arguing that this fear prevented civil war. What are we to make of the place of the fear of death in Hobbes' and Lucretius' philosophies? And how does this difference shape their eirenic projects—their work to ensure peace?
Daniel Kapust is Associate Professor of Political Science, and affiliated with the Department of Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies and the Center for Early Modern Studies. A political theorist, he centers his research on rhetoric and republicanism, themes he explores in Roman, early modern, 18th century, and contemporary political thought. His work includes Republicanism, Rhetoric, and Roman Political Thought (Cambridge University Press, 2011), and he has published or had accepted for publication articles and chapters on Cicero, Sallust, Livy, Tacitus, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, and Adam Smith. His research has appeared in the American Political Science Review, Journal of Politics, Political Theory, History of Political Thought, European Journal of Political Theory, Political Studies, and Journal of the History of Ideas. Currently, he is working on a book project on flattery and political theory, and articles on Hobbes and Lucretius and deliberative democracy and the justification of war.
What new things can personal digital photography tell us about gendered lives? Does digital photography provide a wider range of gendered activities and gendered images? What can we learn about women's lives and senses of self as "photographers"? How to process and make sense of digital photography collections? How to (and who gets to) determine the biographic relevance and significance of the photos? Using the personal photos I collected in China from women who lived through the Mao era, I discuss how the changing materiality of digital photography affects women's auto/biographical photo practices, the opportunities and challenges this brings to the study of women's lives, and the challenges in collecting (scanning and copying), categorizing, and analyzing the digital photographs.
Xin Huang is an Assistant Professor in Women's and Gender Studies at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Huang received her Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia in Women's and Gender Studies in 2010. Her main area of research is gender and sexuality in contemporary China, particularly the representation of gender and sexuality in oral narrative and visual forms. She has recently finished a book project entitled "The Gendered Legacy of Mao: A Study of Women's Live Stories in Contemporary China." The talk is part of a larger project entitled "The Taming of the Maoist Women: Changing Representations of Gender In China in Personal Photo Albums," which analyzes the visual/bodily manifestation of gender as recorded in personal photo albums and women’s narratives about them.
The lecture analyzes how Tino Sehgal's museum installation "Kiss" establishes the normative temporal scheme of contemporary heterosexual sex, and how a series of performances by Brennan Gerard & Ryan Kelly (who work as Gerard & Kelly) comment upon and transform that scheme. Especially at issue is the role that the rhythms established by synchrony, reciprocity, and endurance play in the discourse of "good" sex gay and straight, and the role of arrhythmia in fostering queer sexual possibilities.
Elizabeth Freeman is Professor of English at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories (Duke University Press, 2010) and the co-editor of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. In 2007 she edited a special issue of GLQ on "Queer Temporalities." Her first book, The Wedding Complex: Forms of Belonging in Modern American Culture was published by Duke University Press in 2002.
This lecture is co-sponsored by the Art History Department, Center for Visual Culture, Communication Arts Department, Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies Department, Digital Studies Program, English Department, Gender and Sexuality Caucus, and the Gender and Women's Studies Department.
How did Charlemagne confuse Palm Sunday processions and triumphal entries? Why was the early Quaker leader James Nayler charged with blasphemy for riding a horse into Bristol? Was he imitating Christ or mocking Oliver Cromwell? Why were life-size processional images of Jesus on a donkey vandalized both by sixteenth-century Protestant iconoclasts and by eighteenth-century Roman Catholic archbishops? My presentation explores Palm Sunday processions and other public representations of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem as embodied sites for the celebration, display, contestation, diffusion, and mockery of religious justifications for war and other exercises of power.
Max Harris is an independent scholar and Executive Director Emeritus of the Wisconsin Humanities Council. He has taught at the University of Virginia and, as a visiting professor, at Yale University. He is the author of five books: Theater and Incarnation (1990, 2nd ed. 2005), The Dialogical Theatre (1993), Aztecs, Moors, and Christians: Festivals of Reconquest in Mexico and Spain (2000), Carnival and Other Christian Festivals: Folk Theology and Folk Performance (2003), and Sacred Folly: A New History of the Feast of Fools (2011). His work has won the Otto Gründler Book Prize, and (twice) the David Bevington Award for the Best New Book in Early Drama Studies.
How does war affect every day life for those involved? I analyze the role of sleep in the United States-led counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2001, which was part of the larger U.S.-led overseas contingency operations. Nowhere more than in the capacity to sleep—the dreams and nightmares it enables, its relation to the body and to the soul, its interruptions by trauma and sometimes its failure to be interrupted by conscience, its categorization as a military logistic, and its manipulation as such—is the complexity of war's effects illuminated.
Helen M. Kinsella is an Associate Professor in the Political Science Department at UW-Madison. Her research and teaching interests include contemporary political theory, feminist theories, international law, especially international humanitarian and human rights, armed conflict, and gender and armed conflict. She is a graduate of University of Minnesota-Minneapolis and, prior to her appointment at Wisconsin, held pre and post doctoral fellowships at, respectively, Harvard University and Stanford University. Her first book, The Image Before the Weapon: A Critical History of the Distinction Between Combatant and Civilian (Cornell UP, April 2011), received the 2012 Sussex International Theory Prize (The Centre for Advanced International Theory, University of Sussex) and Honorable Mention for the 2012 Lepgold Book Prize (The Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Mortara Center for International Studies, Georgetown University).
It is not only activists and public intellectuals who are concerned about the injustice of mass incarceration in the United States. Incarcerated men and women have examined the "justice" of the American criminal justice system as well, often through memoir. Incarcerated writers do intellectual work, advancing understandings of justice that run counter to the justice system incarcerating them. Further, incarcerated writers often structure their writing using religious themes, such as sin, guilt, and redemption. Reading together the religion and politics implicit in prison memoirs, I argue that a dramatic shift took place in this genre over the past half century. Expansive visions of social justice have contracted into tales of personal suffering and redemption.
Vincent Lloyd is Assistant Professor of Religion at Syracuse University. His research focuses on the intersection of religion, politics, and race, drawing on the resources of critical theory. Lloyd has written The Problem with Grace: Reconfiguring Political Theology and Black Natural Law: Beyond Secularism and Multiculturalism (forthcoming), and he has edited or co-edited the books Race and Political Theology, Sainthood and Race, and Race and Secularism in America. He edits the journal Political Theology. Lloyd has held fellowships from Emory's James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference, the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study, and the American Council of Learned Societies. He is at work on a project entitled "Religion and Mass Incarceration."
What do we mean when we call something—art, culture, history—"contemporary"? While scholars tend to refer to the contemporary as if it were the name for a clearly demarcated historical period, the contemporary isn't really like other historical periods—for the simple reason that, as something ongoing and open-ended, it is not yet historical. This talk considers how the not-quite-historical category of the contemporary first emerged as a framework for literary studies in the mid-twentieth century, and how it has challenged some of the basic methodological assumptions of the discipline in ways that are still being reckoned with today. What would it mean, I ask, to think of the contemporary not as a stable period but as a conceptual problem? And what it would mean to see certain forms of contemporary fiction as a vital resource for resolving that problem?
Theodore Martin is Assistant Professor of English at the UW-Milwaukee. He specializes in post-1945 American and British fiction. His work has appeared in Modern Language Quarterly and Novel: A Forum on Fiction, and is forthcoming in the edited volume Postmodern/Postwar and After (University of Iowa Press). He is currently finishing a book titled "Contemporary Drift: Genre and the Forms of the Present." He is also writing the entry on "Temporality" for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature.
What does folklore have to do with literature? The usual answer would involve shared content: writers borrowing song, stories, or motifs from traditional materials. However, the history of folklore study or discourses surrounding it—what people thought folklore was and why it mattered—can be just as important for literature, indeed for how the very notion of the literary evolves at certain historical junctures. Considering the example of nineteenth-century France, I ask how failed efforts to document or collect popular traditions actually made questions of tradition, orality, and cultural preservation all the more important for French writers of the day and what this means for our own concepts of literary history.
Jennifer Gipson is Assistant Professor of French at UW-Madison. She holds a Ph.D. in French (2011) with a Designated Emphasis in Folklore from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research focuses on literature and folklore in nineteenth-century France as well as French in the United States, especially Louisiana and the Upper Midwest. Her article "'A Strange, Ventriloquous Voice': Louisiana Creole, Whiteness, and the Racial Politics of Writing Orality" is forthcoming in the Journal of American Folklore. She is currently preparing a book-length manuscript entitled "Phantom Storytellers: A Literary History of Folklore in Nineteenth-Century France."
What are the functions of roads, both "materially" and "symbolically"? Since 1950, several highways have been built to connect Tibet with the rest of China. These roads' meanings are subject to constant construction and reinterpretation, being understood variously as heroic, monumental, liberating, mysterious, exotic, purifying, splendid, and having the ability to incite pilgrimages. This talk contributes to a broader study of "roadology," to which the speaker has been collaborating with a group of interdisciplinary scholars over the past several years.
Yongming Zhou is a Professor of Anthropology at UW-Madison. He received his Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from Duke University. In 2001-2002, he was a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars. He is the author of Anti-Drug Crusades in Twentieth-Century China: Nationalism, History, and State-Building (Rowman & Littlefield, 1999) and Historicizing Online Politics: Telegraphy, the Internet, and Political Participation in China (Stanford University Press, 2006). He has also been a Mellon Fellow at the Needham Research Institute at Cambridge and a visiting fellow at the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore. He served as the president of the Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs in 2012. His latest "roadology" project focuses on the socio-cultural impacts of transnational road building on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau and in the Great Mekong Subregion, where he has conducted fieldwork since 2006. He is at work on a project entitled Chasing Happiness: The Unhappy Life of a Western Ideal in China, 1890-2010.
Can we trace the social pathways that ancient Christianity followed as it traveled from the Roman Mediterranean to India? Evidence of these pathways is laden with epistemic baggage. Likewise, numerous societies have produced their own testimonies for Christianity’s movement, but it is often hard to establish the relationship among such testimonies and thus their referential value. How might this evidence be navigated?
Nathanael Andrade is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Oregon. His past research has principally focused on topics relating to the Roman and late Roman Near East and its broader Mediterranean context. Since receiving his PhD at the University of Michigan in 2009, he has written Syrian Identity in the Greco-Roman World (Greek Culture in the Roman World; Cambridge University Press, 2013) and has conducted research as a regular member at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ (2012-2013). His research has also appeared in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies, the Journal of Early Christian Studies, and many other journals and edited collections.
"Humanities by the Numbers" was the theme for the annual conference of the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes, hosted by the Center for the Humanities in Madison in June. The status of "numbers" in humanities research sparked sharp debate—some attacking the loss of nuance and individualized specificity or uniqueness; some suggesting that numbers and counting invisibly undergird analysis that appears singular; others promoting the promise of the digital and 'big Data'; and still others probing the very concept, status, and deployment of numbers in human experience as well as humanities research.
The question of 'what counts as evidence in humanities research' broadens the issue beyond numbers per se. But some of the same debates apply, particularly as we move across the varied disciplines and interdisciplines that make up the humanities and as the humanities works collaboratively with the social sciences, sciences, and arts.
Panel Presentations (1 hour) and Open Discussion (1 hour)