English and Asian American Studies, UW-Madison
Racist Love: Asian Americans and the Fantasy of Race
Has oppression gone metaphoric? My project explores the ways in which fantasy underwrites contemporary understanding of racial difference in the U.S. With specific emphasis on the visual representation of Asian Americans, I analyze displaced portrayals of social injustice where the rhetoric of social movements becomes leveraged not on behalf of Asian Americans per se, but on behalf of their object substitutes, whether talking animals, computer-generated portraiture, the supernatural, multicultural dolls, or fetish objects. I’m interested in sites where racial difference is experienced as a form of ambivalent pleasure—as “racist love”: kawaii, children’s literature, pornography. The cultural narratives generated here invoke and displace the “wounded” subject of grievance; all enmesh non-human substitutes within fields of visual and textual representation that rely upon post-Civil Rights narratives of visibility, inclusion, and equal rights. What national desires come to be expressed through the imaginary and what are the implications underlying the increasingly metaphoric circulation of race?
Leslie Bow is the Eccles Professor of English and Asian American Studies at UW-Madison. She is the author of the award-winning ‘Partly Colored’: Asian Americans and Racial Anomaly in the Segregated South (New York University Press, 2010); Betrayal and Other Acts of Subversion: Feminism, Sexual Politics, Asian American Women's Literature (Princeton University Press, 2001); and editor of Asian American Feminisms (Routledge, 2012). Her work has appeared in the Utne Reader, the Michigan Quarterly Review, the Southern Review, as well as in numerous academic journals and anthologies. Formerly the Director of Asian American Studies at UW-Madison, Leslie was previously on the faculties of Brown University and the University of Miami. She has been named Exceptional Professor, recognized for Excellence in Teaching, and received a UW System Outstanding Women of Color in Education Award, in addition to being nominated for Professor of the Year and Excellence in Mentoring. She served on the advisory boards of American Literature, Contemporary Woman Writers, and the Society for the Study of American Women Writers. Leslie is also a contributor to the Progressive Media Project through which her op-ed columns appear in newspapers across the United States. She is at work on a project entitled "Racist Love: Asian Americans and the Fantasy of Race."
Slavic and Comparative Literature, UW-Madison
The Secret of Translation: Emerging Border Cultures
Using theoretical apparatus of translation studies, I explore mechanisms of cultural exchange and ways in which they inform material and symbolic exchanges, persistent and emerging forms of ideological discourse and new forms of nationalism. This study will provide a model for understanding the value of cultural contact and exchange from the perspective of Slavic and East European studies. While based on the analysis of particular literatures and cultures, this project is conceptualized on a broader scale I plan to engage through extensive comparative analysis of the way imagination, gender and media are translated across cultures.
Tomislav Longinović is a Professor of Slavic and Comparative Literature at UW-Madison. His books include Borderline Culture (1993); Vampires Like Us (2005); co-edited and co-translated volume, with Daniel Weissbort: Red Knight: Serbian Women Songs (1992); edited volume, with David Albahari, Words are Something Else (1996). He is also the author of several books of fiction, both in Serbian (Sama Amerika, 1995) and English (Moment of Silence, 1990). His new book Vampire Nation: Violence as Cultural Imaginary was published by Duke University Press in 2011 and was awarded the 2012 Mihajlo Miša Đorđević prize for best book in South Slavic studies. His research interests include South Slavic literatures and cultures; Serbo-Croatian language; literary theory; Central and East European literary history; comparative Slavic studies; translation studies; cultural studies. He is at work on a project entitled "The Secret of Translation: Emerging Border Cultures."
Mr. Hobbes’ Monster: The Story of Leviathan / Spinoza Stoicus
Steven Nadler is currently working on two projects. One is a book-length study of Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan: the biographical, historical, political, philosophical, and religious contexts of its composition, its major themes, and the vicious reaction that the book provoked. The other is a series of papers on the influence of ancient Stoicism on early modern philosophy, with particular attention to Spinoza’s moral philosophy.
Steven Nadler is the William H. Hay II Professor of Philosophy and the Evjue-Bascom Professor in Humanities at UW-Madison, where he has been teaching since 1988. He specializes in the history of early modern philosophy (especially the seventeenth century) and in medieval Jewish philosophy. His books include Spinoza: A Life (Cambridge, 1999, winner of the Koret Jewish Book Award); Rembrandt's Jews (Chicago, 2003, named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize); The Best of All Possible Worlds: A Story of Philosophers, God, and Evil (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2008); A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza's Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age (Princeton, 2011); and The Philosopher, the Priest, and the Painter: A Portrait of Descartes (Princeton, 2013). He is the editor of the Journal of the History of Philosophy. He is at work on two projects.
History of Science, UW-Madison
The Biological Individual in the Nineteenth Century
What makes an individual, biologically speaking? This question stood at the center of European biological research in the middle four decades of the nineteenth century. My project (co-authored with Scott Lidgard at the Field Museum) seeks to explain why, on multiple levels. It proposes a new intellectual history of individuality as a fundamental problem underlying mid-nineteenth-century biology, a history of social relations within an international community of biologists, and a cultural history of the discursive relations between the languages of nature and society. In this way, I hope to provide a multilayered account of how science mediated questions of autonomy, interdependence, and hierarchy that preoccupied Europeans in an age of social modernization and state formation.
Lynn K. Nyhart is a Vilas Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Nyhart’s main research interests lie in the history of European and American biology in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the relations between popular and professional science. Her 2009 book Modern Nature: The Rise of the Biological Perspective in Germany analyzes the pre-history of German ecology in popular and museum science of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; it won the University of Chicago Press’s 2009 Susan E. Abrams Prize for best UCP book in the history of science. She is also the author of Biology Takes Form: Animal Morphology and the German Universities, 1800-1900 (University of Chicago Press, 1996). Nyhart received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2011-12, which allowed her to begin archival research on her IRH project on biological individuality. She is the immediate past-president of the History of Science Society. She is at work on a book entitled The Biological Individual in the Nineteenth Century.
The Secret Animation of Black Music
My project explores the quality of aliveness ("animation") that listeners world-wide commonly experience in US black music. Whereas animation is typically theorized as an inversion of the economic processes of reification (an alienated, reified person/laborer gives way to an animated, sentient thing), I argue that black music's origin as a product of slave labor introduced a unique set of animated properties that underlies its immense cultural value. Originating as an audible extension of an ambiguous, living property-form under the regime of US slavery, black music—a veritable property of a property—became imbued with fleshly presence, carrying forward into the global modern a racially anachronistic sense of livingness-in-sound.
Ronald Radano is a Professor of 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, forthcoming). His work has appeared in numerous journals, including Musical Quarterly, Daedalus, Critical Inquiry, Modernism/Modernity, and Radical History Review. 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."
Sociology and the "Social Question" in Prewar Japan
Sociology and the "Social Question" in Prewar Japan is a monograph that explores the history of social ideas in Japan and their engagement with global currents of thought. Tracing the development of sociology as an academic discipline from the late nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries, Young argues that the core ideas as well as the institutional configuration for the study of society were shaped by two key factors: the influence of Western philosophy on Japanese thought; and the political struggles over government policy to counter the social disruptions of industrialization.
Louise Young is a Professor of History at UW-Madison and is affiliated with the Center for East Asian Studies, where she served as director from 2005-2008. As an historian of modern Japan, her successive major research projects have focused on the relationship between culture and empire, urban modernism between the wars, and most recently, sociology and social policy. She is the author of Japan’s Total Empire: Manchuria and the Culture of Wartime Imperialism (University of California Press, 1998; winner of John K. Fairbank and Hiromi Arisawa prizes and a Choice Outstanding Academic Book) and Beyond the Metropolis: Second Cities and Modern Life in Interwar Japan (University of California Press, 2013). Young spent time as a visiting researcher at Tokyo University, Waseda University, and Kyoto University and conducted research at multiple local archives in Japan, with support from the Fulbright Foundation, Social Science Research Council, the National Endowment for Humanities, among other sources. With a B.A. from UW-Madison and a Ph.D. from Columbia University, Young held appointments at Georgetown University and New York University before joining the UW-Madison faculty in 2003. She is at work on a project entitled "Sociology and the 'Social Question' in Prewar Japan."
Chasing Happiness: The Unhappy Life of a Western Ideal in China, 1890-2010
This project examines the travel of and subsequent changes in the Western concept of "happiness" as it has been exported to East Asia from the late nineteenth century onwards. It focuses on the term’s diverse reinterpretations by the Chinese in the process of its naturalization as a cultural keyword and organizing aspiration in contemporary China. Drawing on existing theoretical inquiry regarding traveling theory, translation, cultural translation, and globalization by literary critics, anthropologists, historians, and linguists, this interdisciplinary project aims to contribute to the discussion by 1) historicizing the transnational circulation of the concept of "happiness" over the last century; and 2) adding a contemporary dimension to deciphering the meanings and implications of the concept through ethnographic research.
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 books 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 at a project entitled Chasing Happiness: The Unhappy Life of a Western Ideal in China, 1890-2010.
UW-Madison Resident Faculty Fellow
Spanish & Portuguese, UW-Madison
Cruising the Ruins: Sex, Performance, Displacement, and Race in Tulio Carella’s Recife DiariesThis project focuses on the sexually explicit diary Argentine playwright and theater professor Tulio Carella (TC) (1912-1979) wrote during an 18-month stay in Recife, Brazil, in the chaotic period leading up to the 1964 military coup. The apprehension of the manuscript (published a few years later as Orgia) by the military at a time of intense repression in South America deployed additional fissures to Carella’s writing of exclusion and pain. The book undertakes a critical reading of the diary and a rethinking of the entire approach to his writings. A reconsideration of Carella’s contributions should begin with the exact reason(s) behind the virtual ignorance the diary has been relegated to in Argentina and Brazil. Orgia and Carella’s entire Brazil experience touch on too many issues that are central to contemporary theory to have been so blatantly ignored by scholars of gender, race, and theater and performance.
Severino J. Albuquerque is a Professor of Portuguese at UW-Madison, where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in Portuguese language and Brazilian literature and culture. His main area of research is contemporary Brazilian theatre and gender. He is the author of Violent Acts: A Study of Contemporary Latin American Theatre (1991); Tentative Transgressions: Homosexuality, AIDS and the Theater in Brazil (2004); co-author of the revised edition of Português para principiantes (1993); editor of Joaquim Nabuco: Conferências nos Estados Unidos (2010); and co-editor of Performing Brazil: Essays on Identity, Culture, and the Performing Arts (forthcoming 2015). He has also published numerous articles in journals and critical anthologies. He is the co-editor of the Luso-Brazilian Review (Brazilian literature and culture); Brazilian literature drama editor for the Handbook of Latin American Studies; and an editorial board member of Hispania and the Latin American Theatre Review. Professor Albuquerque's book, Tentative Transgressions, has received the 2005 Roberto Reis Award of the Brazilian Studies Association (for best book on Brazil published in English between 2003 and 2005) and the 2008 Elizabeth Steinberg Award for best book published by the University of Wisconsin Press between 2003 and 2008. He is at work on a book entitled Cruising the Ruins: Sex, Performance, Displacement, and Race in Tulio Carella’s Recife Diaries.
UW-Madison Resident Faculty Fellow
Diaspora’s Homeland: Modern China in the Age of Global MigrationPart of the modern world’s first wave of migration, over twenty million Chinese moved and settled overseas between 1840 and 1940. As many transformed societies elsewhere, what was their impact on China? This project explores how a century of mass emigration contributed to the rise of “diaspora” in Chinese global consciousness, just as China rapidly became a “homeland.” Based on ideas of fixed, essential ties, the diaspora remade Chinese nation and culture by conjuring new actors, agendas, and knowledge about China in the world. Appearing to cross the purported divides of East and West, native and foreign, feudal and revolutionary, the diaspora also represented a unique promise and threat to the homeland and beyond. In sum, diaspora in the Chinese experience seemed less like a set of communities, and more as a series of moments in which Chinese ties emerged and re-emerged for adaptation and debate in a globalized world.
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.
UW-Madison Resident Faculty Fellow
Art and Life in Latin Literature: Emergences of a Dualistic Structure in an Ancient ArchiveDressler'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.
UW-Madison Resident Faculty Fellow
Spanish & Portuguese, UW-Madison
Passing as Open Secret: Race and Fictions of Identity in Nineteenth-Century CubaPassing is often understood as a divergence between the private and the public identities of a given subject — with the public identity perceived as fraudulent or as a simulacrum that aims at keeping the private one secret. The study of late nineteenth-century Cuba, however, reveals the need for an alternative analytical model, one that allows us to conceptualize those cases in which this divergence is disregarded or disavowed, and in which an ostensibly false identity is validated by social norms. The project focuses on a kind of passing that depended on open secrets, investigating the active forms of not-knowing — ranging from tactful silence and reserve to hypocrisy and disavowal — at the core of racial constructions at a pivotal moment in Cuban history. My corpus includes novels, theater, court cases, and advertisements.
Víctor Goldgel is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese at UW-Madison. His research and teaching focus on 19th-century Latin American literature, media history, visual culture, and race studies. He is the author of Cuando lo nuevo conquistó América. Prensa, moda y literatura en el siglo XIX (Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI, 2013), the recipient of the Latin American Studies Association’s “Premio Iberoamericano,” an international prize awarded to the best book on Latin America in the social sciences and humanities published in Spanish or Portuguese. He is at work on a book entitled Passing as Open Secret: Race and Fictions of Identity in Nineteenth-Century Cuba.
UW-Madison Resident Faculty Fellow
Reading African American Literature Now: History, Fiction, and the Problem of DesireSince 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.
UW-Madison Resident Faculty Fellow
Hagakure and “The Way of the Samurai"“The Way of the Samurai is death.” This iconic phrase, originally found in the 1716 Japanese work Hagakure, exhorted Japanese to die during World War II and has since flourished in popular media around the world. This project both situates this renowned formulation of Japanese warrior ethics in its original, eighteenth-century context and traces its dissemination and reinterpretation over time. Avoiding ahistorical assertions about Japanese “spirit” or “ethnomentality,” this project examines how writers, publishers, and politicians have repeatedly altered the meanings and impact of this seemingly static text – whether reducing its complex message to a simple exhortation to throw away one’s life for the state, or using its stories to shape, and reshape, our ideals of loyalty and service, heroism and compassion. In examining the history of Hagakure, this project explores not only a key area of popular Japanese ethics, but issues common to anti-intellectual, isolationist, or suicidal movements worldwide.
Sarah Thal is an Associate Professor of History at UW-Madison, and is an affiliate of the UW’s Center for East Asian Studies, Religious Studies Program, and Center for History and the Environment. A scholar of the religious, social, and political history of early modern and modern Japan, she seeks to understand the intersection of religious ideals and practices with the myriad stresses of everyday life. She is the author of Rearranging the Landscape of the Gods: The Politics of a Pilgrimage Site in Japan, 1573-1912 (University of Chicago Press, 2005), as well as several articles and essays on Shinto in modern Japan. She is at work on a book project entitled Hagakure and “The Way of the Samurai."
Race, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity Fellow
Indigeneity in Southeast Asia: The Geopolitics of the Expansion and Localization of an Increasingly Global MovementThis project is a study of Indigenous Peoples movements in Southeast Asia. While the concept of "Indigenous Peoples" (IPs) has largely become naturalized in the Americas, Australia and New Zealand, it remains highly contested in Asia. Up until the 1990s not a single country on the continent recognized the existence of groups of people legally defined as IPs. The concept, however, has gained traction, with both the Philippines and Cambodia now legally recognizing IPs. In other countries in Southeast Asia the concept is increasingly being evoked, even if most governments continue to reject the existence of IPs within their state boundaries. This project focuses on the geopolitics, at various scales, of the expansion and localization of IP movements in Southeast Asia. In particular, it examines how the concept of indigeneity is being interpreted, negotiated, contested, accepted, adapted and hybridized in various socio-cultural, political, and geographical contexts.
Ian G. Baird is an Assistant Professor of Geography at UW-Madison. He received his Ph.D. in Geography from the University of British Columbia. He lived and worked in Laos, Thailand and Cambodia for more than 20 years. He will spend the semester conducting research and writing about social movements in Southeast Asia associated with the concept of indigeneity. He will also organize an international workshop at UW-Madison regarding the concept of indigeneity in Southeast Asia. His primary research interests are land and resource management and tenure; the political ecology of large-scale hydropower dam construction in the Mekong River Basin; Indigenous Peoples movements in Southeast Asia; marginal histories in mainland Southeast Asia; and Hmong, Lao, Thai, Brao and Khmer Studies. He is at work at a project entitled Indigeneity in Southeast Asia: The Geopolitics of the Expansion and Localization of an Increasingly Global Movement.
Race, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity Fellow
Political Science, UW-Madison
Legalizing a Social Movement: The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and the Evolution of an Ethnic IdentityThis 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.
Madeleine Doran Dissertation Fellow
Oracular Romance: Heliodoran Fiction and Suspended Providence in Early Modern English LiteratureClassical oracles were denounced in the Renaissance as either shams staged by charlatans or as engines of deceit run by demons. In Renaissance literature, though, oracles escaped these official interpretations. Why did early modern writers include oracles in their fictions, and what work did these oracles do? I approach these questions by focusing on oracles as an understudied narrative device of the Greek romance tradition. Classical Greek romances, especially the Aethiopica of Heliodorus (c. 4th century CE), were influential narrative models for writers in the Renaissance. I argue that early modern imitators of Greek romance used oracles to stage elaborate thought experiments regarding future knowledge and divine providence, cultivating suspense and doubt in the process. I trace this oracular temporality and its effects in Heliodorus, Philip Sidney, Robert Greene, Shakespeare, and Francis Bacon.
Brian Knight is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English Literature at UW-Madison. His research interests include Renaissance drama and prose, the classical tradition, and the history of science. He received an M.A. in English Literature from UW and a B.S. in Biology from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He is at work on his dissertation, entitled "Oracular Romance: Heliodoran Fiction and Suspended Providence in Early Modern English Literature."
The Place With No Edge: Boundaries and Permeability in the Mississippi River Delta, 1845-2010Even 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."
Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow
Charity, Cosmopolitanism and Culture in coastal East Africa, 1750s to 1940sMy dissertation 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."
Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow
Art History, UW-Madison
Ectoplasmic Modernities: Materialization Photography at the Turn of the CenturyThis project explores the trans-Atlantic interest in psychical research at the fin-de-siècle, focusing on the textual and photographic archives of “ectoplasmic” materializations. Though seemingly an eccentric and marginal practice, I argue that parapsychology research and imagery intervened in larger cultural debates concerning the nature of memory, the matter of materialism, and issues of social justice. The “ectoplasmic” forces us to rethink modernism’s visual and conceptual relationship to the occult, it recharges and complicates the presumed role of doubt and artifice in the production of evidence, and it puts pressure on existing narratives about photography’s relationship to the history.
Lucy Traverse is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Art History at UW-Madison, where she also received an M.A. in 2010. She is a broad modernist interested in fin-de-siècle transatlantic visual culture, the history and theory of photography, the gendering and imaging of psychosomatic eccentricity, and visual experiences of the urban. Her dissertation has also been supported by Chancellor’s Fellowships and a CLIR/Mellon Fellowship for Dissertation Research in Original Sources. Work from her dissertation research will appear in the forthcoming anthology Photography in Doubt (Routledge, 2015). She is at work on her dissertation entitled "Ectoplasmic Modernities: Materialization Photography at the Turn of the Century."
William Coleman Dissertation Fellow
History of Science, UW-Madison
Astronomy, Optics, and Theology: Fathallah al-Shirwānī’s Commentary on Ṭūsī's TadhkiraMy dissertation evaluates the intellectual career of Fatḥallāh al-Shirwānī, a 15th-century Islamic astronomer, theologian, and teacher whose writings are critical for understanding the transmission of science from Central Asia to Constantinople, and potentially to Europe. Shirwānī’s work addresses three key topics in Islamic science: attempts to reform Ptolemaic astronomy with new models for planetary motion, the rediscovery of Ibn al-Haytham’s revolutionary project in optics, and the status of science in a tradition of religious scholarship. In my analysis of Shirwānī’s oeuvre I challenge previous scholarly assessments of this period as one of sharp decline in the creative character of Islamic scientific thought. In a broader comparative context, my research sheds new light on late medieval Islamic science during the generations of increasing intellectual and cultural exchange between Europe and the Islamic world that preceded the European Renaissance.
Scott Trigg is a Ph.D. candidate in the Joint Ph.D. program in the Departments of History of Science and History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His research interests cover the history of science and philosophy in Islamic societies, medieval scientific education and institutions, and the process of transmitting knowledge within and across cultures. His dissertation has been supported by the History of Science department as well as a grant from the Division of International Studies for archival work in Istanbul. Scott was a Fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad at the American University in Cairo, and is also the Coordinator of UW-Madison’s summer APTLII language immersion program. He received a B.A. in mathematics and physics from Lawrence University and Master’s degrees in Mathematics and the History of Science from UW-Madison. He is at work on his dissertation entitled "Astronomy, Optics, and Theology: Fathallah al-Shirwānī’s Commentary on Ṭūsī's Tadhkira."