My dissertation studies how the constant pest-making in modern Chinese history enacts the pursuit of biosocial purity through scientific, visual, and ideological storytelling. Starting with the 1930s, where verbal and audio-visual education introduced new ways of seeing and imagining the harmful, my dissertation tracks the (re)inventions of the pest through two mass campaigns in the socialist era, and finally into post-socialist reconstruction of order that casted the social pest into comic visualizations. In each of the historical moments, the anxiety over biosocial purity was scientifically validated, visually animated, and projected onto the nonhuman other. Yet the produced boundary between the clean and the unclean, between the human and the pest, was never stable and always disturbed identity and order by feeding back to the sociopolitical context. Mapping the ramifications of biosocial abjection, my research rethinks the rhizomatic subject formation in modern China’s vicissitudes of war, nation-building, and mass mobilization.
I am a PhD candidate in the department of Asian Languages and Cultures at UW-Madison. My current research focuses on pest-making as facilitated by science education, visualization, and mass mobilization in modern China. Theoretically, my dissertation investigates and interrogates larger questions of subject formation and the multifold transborder encounters that biopower conjures up and/or erases. My research and teaching interests also include modern Chinese literature, culture, and cinema, visual culture studies, animal studies, environmental humanities, and history of science, medicine, and disease. In 2017-18, I co-organized the Borghesi-Mellon workshop “Space-Relations” funded by UW-Madison Center for the Humanities. This year at IRH, I am working on completing my dissertation tentatively entitled “Away/With the Pest: Biosocial Abjection and Subject Formation in China, 1930s-1980s."
My dissertation re-examines claims to Filipino nationhood during the American colonial period (1902-1942) when debates about nationalism were made not only in the political arena but also on the theatrical stages of Manila. This period saw the transformation of the Spanish genre of zarzuela into a new music-theatrical form that came to be seen, heard, and imagined as distinctly Filipino. I argue, however, that the overtly nationalist themes found in zarzuelas prevented scholars from examining critically overlooked repertoire and the impact that specific works had on its contemporary audience. My project brings to the fore works that do not conveniently fit within the narrative of anti-colonial nationalism but instead reveal the contradictions and ambivalences in the performance of zarzuelas. The repertoire I am particularly interested in commented on existing social hierarchies and fueled questions of race and ethnicity, religion, and gender in relation to emerging notions of Philippine modernity. As a popular form of entertainment in early-twentieth century Philippines, the Tagalog zarzuelas echoed a multiplicity of voices, with playwrights and intellectuals expressing varied and sometimes competing ideas about the role of the performing arts in a modern Filipino society. My project takes the “multi-vocal” approach even further as I examine the role of performers—female zarzuelistas in particular—and their specific performances as an important example of musical authorship usually reserved for playwrights and composers. By examining the contributions of these different groups (playwrights, composers, performers, and critics), I highlight the collaborative production of zarzuelas as well as the multi-layered meanings created in its various performances.
Isi earned her music undergraduate degree from the University of the Philippines and her Master’s degree in violin performance and musicology at Western Illinois University. At WIU, she performed with the Julstrom String Quartet, the strings faculty ensemble in residence, and wrote a thesis on music and theater in Theresienstadt, a concentration camp in German-occupied Czechoslovakia during World War II. As a graduate student, Isi was a Wisconsin Musicology Fellow and a Center for Southeast Asian Studies Fellow. She is also the recipient of various research fellowships including the American Musicological Society’s fellowship at the Newberry Library and the Council for Library and Information Resources-Mellon fellowship for her dissertation on the Tagalog zarzuelas. Currently, Isi is a member of the local band Forró Fo Sho, which plays Northeastern Brazilian dance music.
Abandoned lots and buildings are a ubiquitous feature of post-industrial U.S. cities, markers of the recent housing crisis, and perennial sources of concern for policymakers, researchers, and residents alike. In cities like Philadelphia, which is currently experiencing a development boom, properties deemed ‘vacant’ are increasingly contested. In this project, I argue that within these emerging conflicts the frequent disjuncture between the use, value, and ownership of these spaces provides critical analytical openings in which to reconceptualize the (im)materialities of law, property, and the commons. In doing so, I put forward a politically productive framework for reconsidering geographies of vacancy.
Elsa Noterman is a doctoral candidate in the Geography Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her work brings together feminist and critical geographies, legal scholarship, decolonial theory, and a focus on grassroots organizing in order to examine the socio-spatial contradictions that emerge through struggles over the everyday spaces of social reproduction – especially those related to housing and land. In particular, she is interested in how these contradictions destabilize normative institutions and what alternatives they might offer. Elsa centers social justice in her research practices, teaching, academic service, and scholarship in ways that aim to push academia in new directions. In doing so, she participates in interdisciplinary, collaborative, and action-oriented projects that seek to contribute to social change. Her work has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies/Mellon Foundation, National Science Foundation, and UW-Madison. She is currently completing her dissertation, entitled “Vacant Geographies: (Dis)possession, Resistance, and Speculative Futures in Philadelphia’s Abandoned Properties."
In arguing for renewed focus on imagination, the purpose of this project is to enrich thinking about traits needed for effective democratic citizenship today. Imagination is not often studied for its role in democracy. Usually, it is confined to serious study as of value to art proper or subsumed as part of practical wisdom. Joining other studies of phenomena undervalued in democratic life, this project illuminates today's civic need for imagination in its role in creativity, innovation, and even resistance. Through an original interpretation of works by various early modern political thinkers, it shows how imagination functions in politically relevant moral activities—like empathizing and perspective-taking—while demonstrating the benefit of democracy for its expression and cultivation.
Katherine M. Robiadek is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her first field of study is Political Theory with a second field in Comparative Politics, along with a minor in Early Modern Studies and a graduate certificate in European Studies. Her primary research focuses on early modern political thought.
My project explores the use and utility of a term ubiquitous yet undertheorized across much contemporary literary criticism, particularly concerning diasporic and postcolonial authors - "niche." It argues that this term offers a conceptual basis for a mode of literary production wherein such authors turn to their advantage the structural constraints specific to their geocultural location. Through combining analyses of texts from or about the Malay world and the Indian subcontinent with theorizations of 'niche' in disciplines ranging from ecology, economics, and international relations, this project shows that the formal choices of diasporic and postcolonial authors can be thought of as more than just acts of resistance or adaptation to the cultural legacies of European empire in Asia.
Jacqulyn Teoh is a doctoral candidate in the Department of English at UW-Madison. Her current research examines twentieth and twenty-first century Southeast and South Asian literary production with insights drawn from postcolonial, diasporic, and world literary studies. Her work has been supported by the Social Science Research Council and UW-Madison's Graduate School.