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Senior Fellows

Portrait image of Guillermina De Ferrari in front of book shelves with text at left side of image
Guillermina De Ferrari
Spanish and Portuguese, UW-Madison
Senior Fellow (2018-2022)
Community under Duress: Moral Luck and the Caribbean Novel

This project explores in contemporary Caribbean literature how one lives a moral life, a life worth living, in circumstances that are overwhelmingly beyond one’s control. I organize my readings through the conceptual lens of “moral luck,” a term I borrow from moral philosophy that helps explore what responsibility means when people’s choices are drastically conditioned by unpredictable forces. Precarity in the region originates from its insularity — that is, its political and geophysical isolation— but also from the legacy of slavery, environmental vulnerability, poverty, volatile social relations and the persistence of colonial institutions, which have hindered the development of a strong civil society. Using a theoretical framework that combines postcolonial studies, ecocriticism, and disaster studies with moral philosophy, this project analyzes a comprehensive and representative selection of contemporary novels from various Caribbean islands to study the role violent conditions play in human autonomy and integrity, and how they contribute to the constitution or disruption of the collective. This project breaks new ground by recasting the terms of current debates on the cultural legacy of the Caribbean. First, it fills a significant gap in the theoretical account of the region’s cultural production: on the one hand, postcolonial studies have approached Caribbean literature from the point of view of imperialism and oppression; that is, in relation to forces that reside outside the individual. On the other, identitarian politics have focused almost exclusively on individual agency. By studying the complex interaction between external forces and moral freedom, I seek to reconcile these two dominant paradigms in order to gain a deeper understanding of Caribbean culture. Second, by exploring longstanding concerns such as racial, political and economic injustice in a continuum with disaster studies and ecocriticism, I shed light on the deeper connections that exist between old and new forms of vulnerability as constitutive social factor.

Guillermina De Ferrari is professor of Caribbean Literature and Visual Culture at University of Wisconsin. She is the author of Vulnerable States: Bodies of Memory in Contemporary Caribbean Fiction (Virginia, 2007) and Community and Culture in Post-Soviet Cuba (Routledge 2014), also published in Spanish (Verbum 2017). She has curated the exhibition Apertura: Photography in Cuba Today (Chazen Museum of Art 2015). She has also published articles on Caribbean literature, performance, and photography in The Latin American Literary Review, The Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, The Hispanic Review, The Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies, among others. She is co-editor, with Ursula Heise, of the Routledge Series Literature and Contemporary Thought. She is currently working on a book project on ethics and catastrophe in the Caribbean tentatively entitled Community Under Duress.

Portrait image of Steve Hutchinson
Steven Hutchinson
Spanish and Portuguese, UW-Madison
Senior Fellow (2016-2020)
Imagining Africa: Early Modern Iberian Textual Cartographies

During the early modern era (15th-18th centuries), when contact between Europeans and Africans increased exponentially, countless testimonies and maps attest to a compulsion to describe and imagine Africa and its peoples. In this project I explore the ever evolving European configurations of Africa particularly by way of the writings and maps of Spanish and Portuguese captives, slaves, ransomers, missionaries, diplomats, adventurers and cartographers. Besides coastal West Africa, the literature focuses primarily on the Maghreb as well as on the quasi-mystical land of “Ethiopia” – which in most maps covered much of sub-Saharan Africa – and produced a vast amount of knowledge framed in certain ways for a European readership, even as cartography revealed enormous voids filled with unstable names of places and peoples as well as capricious depictions of landscapes, boundaries, fauna, and so on. The project also aims to trace how this diverse corpus of Iberian writings about Africa would selectively filter into other European languages and traditions long before the European colonization of Africa.

Steven Hutchinson is a Professor of Spanish at UW–Madison. He received his doctorate in Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago, and works primarily on Spanish literature of the 16th and 17th centuries.  He is author of Cervantine Journeys, which delves into the relations between narrative and travel, and Economía ética en Cervantes, which posits the notion of ethical economy in human relations through systems of value, “debts” and “payments”. He has also published some sixty essays in journals and edited volumes on poetics, rhetoric, genre, emotion, ideology, gender, eroticism, religion, conversion, captivity, martyrdom, modes of mutual understanding, etc. He recently co-edited a multidisciplnary volume entitled Cervantes and the Mediterranean, and has finished a book manuscript entitled Writing the Early Modern Mediterranean, which draws on a wide variety of sources from different languages and engages with how writers represented the Mediterranean world of that era. His awards include a Fulbright Research Fellowship in Madrid and fellowships at the IRH. He is  president of the Cervantes Society of America.

Portrait image of Lea Jacobs wearing a scarf
Lea Jacobs
Communication Arts, UW-Madison
Senior Fellow (2018-2022)
John Ford in the Hollywood Studio System: Case Studies from the Sound Period

Director of over one hundred films and with a career that spanned fifty years, John Ford had a profound influence on Hollywood filmmaking. He shaped the careers of important stars, such as Henry Fonda and John Wayne, but also created a stock company of character actors known for their supporting roles. He worked with some of the best cinematographers in Hollywood such as Arthur Miller, Bert Glennon and Joseph August and, along with William Wyler and Gregg Toland, among others, helped to pioneer long-take cinematography in the 1930s and early 1940s (Orson Welles claimed to have watched Ford’s Stagecoach forty times before shooting Citizen Kane). He won a record six Academy Awards during his lifetime and his achievements have been frequently celebrated by other directors: Peter Bogdanovich, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg are among those who have paid him tribute. Yet there has been surprisingly little written based on primary-document research about the production of the films. John Ford in the Hollywood Studio System will illuminate how John Ford developed as a director within the studio system as the system itself changed over time. It will draw on script drafts, memos and correspondence preserved in studio legal or script files as well as Ford’s papers. This complex of materials will provide the basis for establishing the production process, and the textual history, of each film discussed. The point is not to argue for Ford as the sole author of his films, but rather to document the collaborations which gave rise to the films, and to understand the shape of the films in the light of the tensions, constraints and possibilities of their production context.

Lea Jacobs is a Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor in the Department of Communication Arts at UW-Madison. She has published on the history of the American studio system, performance in film and theater, melodrama and the woman’s picture, and film music. She is the author of The Wages of Sin: Censorship and the Fallen Woman Film, Theatre to Cinema (written with Ben Brewster), The Decline of Sentiment: American Film in the 1920s, and Film Rhythm After Sound: Technology, Music and Performance. She has been a Guggenheim and ACLS fellow.

Portrait image of Stephen Kantrowitz
Stephen Kantrowitz
History, UW-Madison
Senior Fellow (2017-2021)
Citizenship and Civilization: A Ho-Chunk History

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, both Native Americans and the politicians, bureaucrats, soldiers, and scholars who oversaw the unfolding colonial project of "Indian policy" understood questions of culture and of political belonging to be intimately related. Natives and non-Natives debated what constituted "Indian" and "American" cultures, whether and how Indians could become Americans, and what appropriate forms of governance and inclusion should follow the achievement (or imposition) of that status. Citizenship and Civilization explores that matrix of discourses, debates, and experiences by focusing on the Ho-Chunk people's confrontation with two overlapping aspects of the colonial project: the federal government's program of assimilation and incorporation; and the contemporary scholarly axiom that Indian culture represented the survival into the present day of a static, "prehistoric" way of life. 

Stephen Kantrowitz is a Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor in History and an affiliate faculty member in Afro-American Studies and American Indian Studies at UW-Madison, where he teaches courses on race, politics, and citizenship in U.S. history. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton and his B.A. from Yale. He is the author of More Than Freedom: Fighting for Black Citizenship in a White Republic, 1829-1889 (Penguin, 2012) and Ben Tillman and the Reconstruction of White Supremacy (UNC Press, 2000). He is currently working on two book projects: Citizenship and Civilization, described above; and a briefer work that pulls together the threads of his work on white supremacist, free black, and Native American visions of citizenship in the era of the Fourteenth Amendment.

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Lawrence Shapiro
Philosophy, UW-Madison
Senior Fellow (2017-2021)
Abusing Science: How Scientists and Christians have Misused Science to Answer the Big Questions

Recent scholarship disputes the common idea that science and religion have always been in conflict, and today we often see Christian apologists appealing to science to answer questions that strike at the core of human experience. Likewise, we see secular scientists claiming expertise for answering these same questions, but in very different ways. Interestingly, both Christians and scientists misunderstand the limits or implications of science for addressing questions that are fundamentally philosophical in nature. I propose a book that will examine how both scientists and Christians misuse science to answer the Big Questions, further illuminating the nature of these questions.

Lawrence Shapiro received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and is now a Professor of Philosophy at UW-Madison. His main research areas are in philosophy of mind and philosophy of psychology. Among his books are The Mind Incarnate (MIT Press, 2004), the award-winning Embodied Cognition (Routledge, 2011) and, with Professor Thomas Polger, The Mutliple Realization Book (Oxford, 2016). Relevant to his project with the IRH is his The Miracle Myth: Why Belief in the Resurrection and Supernatural is Unjustified (Columbia, 2016), in which he presents some fundamental epistemological principles that are relevant to assessing justification in beliefs about extremely improbable events and applies these to claims about miracles.

Portrait image of Cherene Sherrard-Johnson outdoors
Cherene Sherrard-Johnson
Sally Mead Hands-Bascom Professor of English, UW-Madison
Senior Race, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity Fellow (2017-2021)
Mapping Blackness: An Intimate Cartography of the Archipelagic Diaspora

I’m researching and writing a trio of essays that consider belonging and global black identity through the theoretical frameworks of Island and Archipelagic American studies. The first follows nineteenth-century abolitionist life-writer Mary Prince’s journey from slavery to emancipation through colonial Bermuda’s archipelagic plantocracies; the second explores the significance of salt as commodity, practice, and pan-Caribbean archetype; the final takes up the notion of sanctuary from an ecological, legal, and experiential perspective. These essays will ultimately fold into a larger book project addressing the flow of insurgency, of anti-colonial thought and action, manifest in the literature of the Americas through the hybridized bodies of black women.Some of the broader questions I address include: how is racial difference elided as we reconfigure the studies of early American literature or Afro-Caribbean literature along transnational lines? Why do particular locations, like Haiti, occupy a fractious space within the global South? In this book, “new world" literary mappings intertwine with personal inquiry and critical investigations about the nature of belonging, identity and indigeneity as I follow an elastic circuit that unveils relationships between fragile environments, dynamic objects, and the human/nonhuman beings that circulate through the archipelagic diaspora.

Cherene Sherrard-Johnson is the Sally Mead Hands-Bascom Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches nineteenth and twentieth century American and African American literature, cultural studies, and feminist theory.  Recent publications include: A Companion to the Harlem Renaissance (Wiley, 2015), Dorothy West’s Paradise: A Biography of Class and Color (Rutgers, 2012), “Insubordinate Islands and Coastal Chaos: Pauline Hopkins Literary Land/Seascapes” in Archipelagic American Studies (Duke, 2017), and Vixen, a poetry collection (Autumn House Press, 2017).