What's the VALUE of Your Humanities Research?
The final seminar of the year provides time and space for self-reflection, collaborative and individual. It’s a fair guess to say that NO ONE did as much work as they hoped to during their fellowship term. That’s par for the course. But it’s also a fair guess to say that EVERYONE’S concept of their project and specific ideas within it grew, expanded, contracted, shifted, turned corners, refocused, got turned upside down or right side out: in short—changed, even transformed.
Eight IRH fellows drawn from a variety of fields, methodologies, historical periods, and areas of the world will reflect on these questions for about 5-7 minutes each (c. 1 hour). Their remarks are intended to spark a second hour of open discussion, with all fellows urged to participate.
Visit the panel page for more information.
On Not Defending Poetry: The Economics of Sidney's Golden World
One of the foundational texts of early modern poetics, Philip Sidney's Defence of Poetry (1595) makes the case that poetry profits both the individual and the state to which he or she belongs by promoting ethical ideals of heroic love and political action. That, at least, is how most critics interpret the text. This talk reconsiders Sidney's famous image of the poet's golden world in order to suggest an alternative reading: one in which the Defence is shown to reveal a profound discomfort with the model of profitability and to feel its way toward a radically different - and modern - aesthetic.
Queering Pan-Americanism: Sexuality, Politics, and Performance in Tulio Carella's Recife Diaries, 1960-1961
This presentation focuses on the diary Argentine playwright and theater professor Tulio Carella (1912-1979) wrote during an 18-month stay in Recife, Brazil, in the politically charged period leading up to the 1964 coup. The apprehension of the manuscript (published a few years later as Orgia) by the military deployed additional fissures to Carella's writing of exclusion and pain, and provided further evidence that private practices were receiving political significance at a time of growing repression in South America. In this paper I undertake a critical reading of the extensive changes Carella made to his text upon his return to Argentina, including the framing of his Recife experience in terms of politics, a gendered performance, and his particular take on Pan-Americanism.
The larger project calls for a rethinking of the entire approach to Carella’s writings. A reconsideration of his contributions should begin with the exact reason(s) behind the virtual ignorance Orgia has been relegated to in Argentina, Brazil, and elsewhere. Carella’s Recife writings and his 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, liminality, and theater and performance.
City Powdering: Materiality, Pedagogy, and Sexuality in Thomas Middleton’s Michaelmas Term
Professor Bromley writes: In my talk, I will examine the representation of the epistemological and material construction of urban sexuality in Thomas Middleton’s Michaelmas Term, what the play refers to as the “city powdering.” In the play, cloth facilitates otherwise impossible relations between men, and the cloth trade is depicted as involved in the circulation of sexual knowledge. Most readers of the play would find it an unlikely candidate for a utopian reading, given that its negative depiction of the cloth trade has been explained as a product of anxieties about the risk of abuse and victimization in commercial, social, and sexual relations in early modern London. I suggest instead that the play exposes how such anxieties circulating in the period inhibit the development of London as a space that could offer material and epistemological support for queer practices of selfhood, comportment, pleasure, and relationality. In its glimpses of a queer sexual culture that has utopian affordances without being pastoral, Michaelmas Term, I hope to suggest, can provoke us to query tacit assumptions that underwrite responses to the intersection of materiality, pedagogy, and sexuality.
Romanticism, Desire or Fetish Fashion: 'Sindoor Feminism' as a way to emancipation
In her paper, Das will first trace the cult of vermillion in Hinduism (its representation in festivals, cultural and religious practice) and examine how this spiritual-passionate-emotional-sexual sign has been related to the paradigmatic Sati, the virtuous good wife of the ascetic god Shiva, and the practice of “sati,” or bride burning. Crucially, she will argue that the application of red vermilion in India may be interpreted as the objectification of the female body as both sexualized and de-sexualized, and that the practice of sindoor is exploited by epis-temic authorities to marginalize unmarried women and widows as the “other.” After scrutinizing the ritualized practice of sindoor, Das will then address how Indian cinema’s use of sindoor as a romantic sign language reveals not merely its obsession with ‘sindoor seduction’ and sexual allure, but also its preoccupation with sindoor as a symbol of fertility, sexist iconography, and feminine essence. In modern India, the practice of sindoor sexism does not escape the grasp of class and gender politics. Das asks, how might we imagine the deconstruction of this patriarchal “magic formula” which for centuries has represented a woman’s only quest in life? Analyzing power-resistance theory, Das proposes an alternative, Sindoor Feminism, that reconfigures sindoor as a new tool that conveys a sense of undermining the sexist implication.
For Blood or for Glory: A History of Cuban Boxing, 1898-1962
As the first sustained examination of boxing's rise and popularization within Cuba and its diaspora, Anju Reejhsinghani's project should prove relevant not only to cultural historians, but also to scholars of diaspora, gender, race, and transnationalism. In the wake of the Spanish-Cuban-American War, U.S. government, religious, and business interests nurtured a culture of pugilism that tried, but failed, to embed a rigid color line in Havana's prize rings. In the 1920s, the Cuban state's regulation of the sport opened the floodgates to aspirants from the provinces as well as the capital, who soon formed a transnational workforce that gradually shaped diasporic identity and influenced U.S. racial attitudes. While Fidel Castro's revolutionary government did not initially envision major reforms to boxing, its hemispheric isolation led it to ban professional sport in 1962—fueling an exodus of Cuba's top talent and forcing it to rebuild its boxing program in line with socialist ideals.
Ectoplasmic Modernities: Materialization Photography at the Turn of the Century
This 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 of science.
Passing as Open Secret: Race and Fictions of Identity in Nineteenth-Century Cuba
Passing 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. Victor Goldgel-Carballo's corpus includes novels, theater, court cases, and advertisements.
The Ptolemaic Empire (323-30 BCE)
Christelle Fischer-Bovet is working on a book that aims at developing a better understanding of state formation and imperialism in Egypt after the conquest of Alexander down to the inclusion of Egypt into the Roman Empire (332-30 BCE). It provides a critical narrative of the Ptolemaic empire based on Greek and Egyptian papyri and inscriptions as well as archaeological material, coins and ancient Greek authors. At the same time the study uses the evidence to evaluate different theories of empire. This book proposes that the resilience of state institutions (political, economic, and military) and above all of state ideology that were borrowed, developed and adapted by the Ptolemies, explain the long-lasting success of their state, which was made possible through the incorporation of the local elites. This approach offers a new framework for understanding Ptolemaic Egypt and social integration in multicultural states and for rethinking the phenomena of state expansion, stability and decay.
Borderlands: Intercultural Encounters in the Medieval French Pastourelle
This project shows how pastoral literature—especially pastourelle poetry—became a privileged site for French explorations of cultural and linguistic difference in the Middle Ages. The generic framework of the pastourelle poem—in which an errant knight encounters, and subsequently often rapes, a shepherdess—entangles cultural and linguistic difference with sexual power and class hierarchy. Borderlands turns to Occitania, Flanders, the Basque Country and England as imagined in francophone poetry.