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Honorary Fellows

Portrait image of Hall Bjørnstad wearing a brown shirt and with his hand at his chin
Hall Bjørnstad
French, Indiana University-Bloomington; Director, Renaissance Studies Program
Honorary Fellow (2018-2019)
The Crowning Example: Louis XIV and the Crisis of Royal Exemplarity

To speak of absolutism in the context of politics or culture is to invoke the figure of Louis XIV of France. Indeed, known by various superlative epithets – God-Given (Dieudonné), Louis the Great, or more famously, the Sun King – Louis represents for the historian as well as for the lay person the ultimate paradigm of the absolutist monarch. His 72-year long reign (1643-1715; born in 1638) was characterized from his early adult years by extravagant (not always rational) military campaigns and exuberant cultural displays, as epitomized by the opulence of Versailles. Yet, as modern historians have noted, the study of this period has resulted in “the contradiction of an absolutism that we know incomparably well in its details but without a good grasp of its totality or coherence” (Cosandey and Descimon). My project aims to fill that conceptual gap by bringing into conversation the detailed historical accounts of absolutist cultural production with recent scholarship on early modern sovereignty that surprisingly barely makes a passing reference to the cultural construction and symbolic authority of Louis XIV. To do so, I intend to recuperate the logic of exemplarity, which, I argue, undergirds the overarching project of royal glory, in order to show the complex ways in which a constitutive excess at the conceptual core of absolutism marks its importance as the beginning of our cultural and political modernity. This project will show that much more than the citizen as imagined by Jean-Jacques Rousseau or the Declaration of the Rights of Man resulting from the French Revolution, we must imagine Louis XIV as the first example of what cultural historian Christopher Lasch has called “a culture of narcissism.” Louis’ very “example” would no longer be seen as the tail end of medieval monarchy but emerge as the beginning of the glorification of the “me” that reigns supreme on Facebook and social media in today’s world.

As a scholar of French seventeenth-century literature and culture, I explore the meaning of the syntagm “early modern”: a presumed conceptual and experiential proximity, which can only be constructively explored by acknowledging a simultaneous remoteness and otherness. I am particularly drawn toward material where the threshold character of the early modern is legible in the unresolved tensions between tradition and innovation, hierarchy and autonomy, authority and experience, feeling and reason, sacred and profane, human and non-human. I am the author of Créature sans créateur: Pour une anthropologie baroque dans les “Pensées” de Pascal (Presses de l’Université Laval, 2010; Hermann Éditeurs, 2013); translator of Pascal’s Pensées to Norwegian (2007); co-editor, with Katherine Ibbett, of an issue of Yale French Studies titled “Walter Benjamin’s Hypothetical French Trauerspiel” (vol. 124, 2014) and with Helge Jordheim and Anne Régent-Susini of Universal History and the Making of the Global (Routledge, 2018); and the editor of Borrowed Feathers: Plagiarism and the Limits of Imitation in Early Modern Europe (Oslo, 2008).

Portrait image of Benjamin Marquez outdoors
Benjamin Marquez
Political Science, UW-Madison
Honorary Fellow (2018-2019)
Race, Philanthropy, and Identity: The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund

My project is a book length study of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) the largest and oldest Latino civil rights law organization in the United States. It is an analysis of the relationship between legal activists, foundations, and social movements. Established in 1968, MALDEF is an organization of cause lawyers, attorneys who devote most or part of their professional lives to or who are closely identified with social justice movements. My work draws on the large literature exists on cause lawyering as well as that of philanthropy and social movements. MALDEF is primarily dependent on the Ford Foundation, which issued its first major grant and closely supervised its construction. Ford along with the Rockefeller and Carnegie Foundations are MALDEF’s largest contributors that sustain this important organization and its legal reform mission. My narrative begins with MALDEF’s first five years of operation, a time when Chicano Movement activists pressured its lawyers for legal representation while the Ford Foundation insisted that it concentrate on legal reform as stipulated in its mission statement. These irreconcilable demands and MALDEF’s compliance with the Ford Foundation’s demands illustrates the impact that lawyers and philanthropy can have on the course of Latino social movement politics. This research also points to the impact that foundations, corporations, or wealthy individuals can have on the articulation of minority political interests.

Benjamin Marquez is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and former Director of the Chican@/Latin@ Studies Program. 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, 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 (University of Texas Press, 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 currently writing a book on the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Cover of Barbara Obrist's book "Les débuts de l'imagerie alchimique..."
Barbara Obrist
Centre national de la recherche scientifique, Université Paris Diderot (Laboratoire SPHERE, Sciences, Philosophie, Histoire)
Honorary Fellow (1993-2019)
A History of Twelfth-Century Cosmology

The current project concerns volume two of a history of medieval cosmology, focusing on the twelfth century, and taking into consideration both verbal and pictorial documents (La cosmologie médiévale. Textes et images II: le XIIe siècle). There exists no synthetic history of cosmology for this pivotal period of the Middle Ages. The twelfth century is considered from the point of view of its dependence on pre-twelfth-century Roman cosmology on the one hand and the assimilations of newly-made translations from the Arabic and the Greek on the other hand. The volume replaces the currently made distinction between scientific and non-scientific activities by that of specialized and non-specialized domains.  It identifies and analyze major trends by making a distinction between a cosmology that was predominantly astronomical and mathematical in approach and a cosmology that focused on natural philosophy. Moreover, it takes into consideration the cosmological tradition which interpreted the corporeal universe to be a symbol of spiritual values, and which is usually termed “symbolic".

Barbara Obrist holds a PhD degree in Art History from the University of Geneva. She is currently Directeur de recherche émérite at the /Centre national de la recherche scientifique and the Université Paris Diderot (Paris). She is a scholar of medieval history of science and philosophy and of scientific images, specializing in history of alchemy and cosmology. Among her books are Les débuts de l'imagerie alchimique: XIVe-XVe siècles (Paris: 1982) and La cosmologie médiévale. Textes et images. I. Les fondements antiques (Florence: 2004). She is co-editor (with Irene Caiazzo) of Guillaume de Conches: philosophie et science au XIIe siècle (Florence: 2011). A study of Abbo of Fleury’s computistical works and their edition, by Alfred Lohr, are to be published in Corpus Christianorum, Continuatio Mediaevalis (Turnhout: forthcoming).

Portrait image of Keren Omry in front of a beige-yellow wall
Keren Omry
English Language and Literature, University of Haifa
Honorary Fellow (2018-2019)
Slipping Sideways; Or, Alternate Histories, Contemporaneity, and the Practice of Digital Posthumanities

"Slipping Sideways" proposes alternativity as a key to redefining the individual as subject and citizen within the contemporary in literature. The project attempts to theorize the contemporary by concentrating on slipstream literature and other forms of speculative fiction, examining how they disrupt teleologies of the Novel form and thus offer alternatives to idealized narratives of justice. Inspired by challenges only partially addressed by Digital Humanities, this project expands on the traditional scholarly monograph through a persistent mode of collaboration and digitization, moving past limits of the Humanities in form and not only in content, attempting a digital posthumanities.

Keren Omry is Assistant Professor of American Studies at the Dept. of English Language & Literature at the University of Haifa. Her work concentrates on literature of the late 20th early 21st century, jazz & hip hop aesthetics in literature, and speculative fiction and alternative histories, as they intersect with stories of personal and collective accountability. Omry was awarded her PhD in English Literature at the University of London, where she explored the relationship between jazz and African-American literature of the twentieth century. Her publications include Cross-Rhythms: Jazz Aesthetics in African-American Literature (Continuum, 2008); “Bond, Benjamin, Balls: Technologised Masculinity in Casino Royale”, in Revisioning 007 (Wallflower Press, 2010); “Literary Free Jazz,” in African American Review (2007); “A Cyborg Performance: Gender and Genre in Octavia Butler,” in Phoebe (2005); and “A Capital Alternative: Alternative Histories And The Futural Present," in Paradoxa (2016).

Portrait image of Jonathan Pollack outdoors wearing a black sweater
Jonathan Z. S. Pollack
History, Madison Area Technical College; Honorary Scholar, George L. Mosse/Laurence A. Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies
Honorary Fellow (2007; 2012-2019)
Success from Scrap and Second-hand Goods: Jewish Business in the Midwest, 1890-1930

We are living in an “economic moment” in the field of Jewish history. Scholars around the world are examining how Jewish entrepreneurs, who were often excluded from full participation in national economies, nonetheless managed to build networks that spawned and sustained Jewish communities. Traditionally, scholars in the Jewish economic history of the United States have focused on the clothing business, from sweatshops to department stores. However, outside of the New York-to-Philadelphia corridor, a dominant Jewish economic niche has been the trade in scrap, surplus, and second-hand materials. Beginning in the late 19th century, Jewish immigrants from Eastern and Central Europe rode booming markets in these areas but, due to scrap’s unsavory, “dirty” associations, were excluded from philanthropic activity outside of Jewish communities. As a result, Jewish dealers in scrap, surplus, and second-hand materials created Jewish institutions from synagogues to Jewish day schools to Jewish community centers. My project will exhume this past from the scrap heap, due to the stigma of earlier generations. In a broad sense, my project sheds light on the ways that ethnic economic networks, even among marginalized people, can lead to the creation of strong ethnic communities.

Jonathan Z. S. Pollack earned his PhD in History from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 1999, and he has been a full-time Instructor in History at Madison Area Technical College since 1998, where he teaches courses in African-American History, Native American History, the history of the Vietnam War, and Jewish history. He has published articles in American Jewish History, Journal of Jewish Identities, and several conference volumes. His article, “Shylocks to Superheroes: Jewish Scrap Dealers in Anglo-American Popular Culture,” will be published in Business History later this year. This fall, he will be completing his book, Wisconsin, The New Home of the Jew: 150 Years of Jewish Life at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. He held an Honorary Fellowship at the IRH in Fall of 2007, and served as the first Madison Area Technical College Fellow at IRH from 2008-2011. He has continued his affiliation with IRH during summers from 2012 to the present, and has been an Honorary Fellow during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 academic years.

Portrait photo of Ari Sekeryan in a library aisle surrounded by book shelves.
Ari Şekeryan
Oriental Studies, Hertford College, University of Oxford
Honorary Fellow (2018-2019)
The Armenians in the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey after the First World War

This project is a historical study of the Ottoman Armenians in the Ottoman Empire from 1918-1923. It seeks to delineate how the Ottoman Armenians reorganised their political position against the massive socio-political crises that led to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. This study employs Armenian and Ottoman Turkish media sources published in Istanbul and Anatolia during the Armistice years (1918-1923) to track the post-war interrelationship of Ottoman society in general and the Armenian community in particular, the social and political reorganisations of the Armenian community and the transformation of the Armenian political position in the last years of the Ottoman Empire.

Ari Şekeryan recently received his DPhil from the University of Oxford Faculty of Oriental Studies. His thesis was entitled “The Armenians in the Ottoman Empire After the First World War (1918-1923)”. His PhD thesis sought to bridge the disciplines of history, international relations, and area studies by analysing the minority-majority relations in the final years of the Ottoman Empire, primarily focusing on the relations between the Armenians and Turks. The research was grounded in detailed archival research conducted at the library of the Armenian Mekhitarist Congregation in Vienna, Austria; the Prime Minister’s Ottoman Archives in Istanbul, Turkey; and the State Archives and the National Library of Yerevan, Armenia. Ari Şekeryan’s main research interests include the theories of minority-majority relations and the Muslim-non Muslim relations in the Ottoman Empire. He edited The Adana Massacre 1909: Three Reports and An Anthology of Armenian Literature 1913. His latest articles appeared in the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, the Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association and War in History. His research has been supported by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

Portrait of Timothy Yu seated on a red bench with open notebooks near him
Timothy Yu
English; Asian American Studies, UW-Madison
Honorary Fellow (2018-2019)
Diasporic Poetics: Asian Poets in the United States, Canada, and Australia

Asian American writers have historically been read as minority writers within U.S. national culture, responding to practices of exclusion, racism, and discrimination that have characterized American relations with Asian immigrants and their descendants. Recently, the study of Asian Americans has moved toward diasporic frameworks that reject cultural nationalism in favor of an emphasis on the ongoing connections between Asian Americans and their countries of origin. Diasporic Poetics investigates diasporic Asian writing not through reference to origins, but through comparisons among “Asian” writers in majority-white Anglophone societies: the U.S., Canada, and Australia. The perspective on diaspora that emerges from this study emphasizes intellectual and textual circulation among groups racialized as “Asian” in divergent national spaces. The panethnic racial category of the “Asian” is revealed as a traveling concept that has circulated and adapted in three different national contexts.

Timothy Yu is professor of English and Asian American studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of Race and the Avant-Garde: Experimental and Asian American Poetry since 1965 (Stanford UP, 2009), which won the Book Award in Literary Studies from the Association for Asian American Studies, and the editor of Nests and Strangers: On Asian American Women Poets (Kelsey Street, 2015). He is also the author of a collection of poetry, 100 Chinese Silences (Les Figues Press, 2016). His writing has recently appeared in the New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, and Poetry. He has served as director of the Asian American Studies Program at UW-Madison and as editor for Contemporary Literature.