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UW Madison Resident Faculty Fellows

Cindy I-Fen Cheng
History, UW-Madison
Asian American Studies
Resident Fellow
Race, Immigration, and Urban Poverty: The Growth of California’s Skid Rows, 1945-1990

“Race, Immigration, and Urban Poverty: The Growth of California’s Skid Rows, 1945-1990” is a book-length study that examines how the residence of Central American refugees in Los Angeles Skid Row and Southeast Asian refugees in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco during the 1980s shaped the broader history of homelessness in the U.S. Their residence in California’s skid rows contributed to the rise of homeless women and children, expanded the multiracial character of the extremely poor population, and revealed how skid rows emerged as key sites of refugee resettlement. The attention to U.S. Cold War politics adds a new dimension to the study of homelessness, where the nation’s intervention in the affairs of Southeast Asia and Central America worked together with deindustrialization and deinstitutionalization to affect the rise in extreme poverty. This study is well positioned to appeal to a broad audience, bringing together the themes of war and society, refugee resettlement, and urban poverty.

Cindy I-Fen Cheng is Associate Professor of History and Asian American Studies at UW-Madison. She is the award-winning author of Citizens of Asian America: Democracy and Race during the Cold War (NYU Press, 2013) and editor of The Routledge Handbook of Asian American Studies (Routledge Press, 2016). Her articles have appeared in the American Quarterly, Journal of Asian American Studies, and other academic journals and anthologies. In spring 2018, she will be the next Director of Asian American Studies. Cindy is the recipient of numerous teaching awards, most recently the UW-Madison Distinguished Teaching Award – Chancellor’s Inclusive Excellence Award and The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program Award for Service as Outstanding Mentor. She is a member of the 2017 American Studies Association Program Committee, the Immigration and Ethnic History Society Theodore Saloutos Book Award Committee, and the Organization of American Historian Liberty Legacy Foundation Book Award Committee.

Joseph Dennis
History, UW-Madison
Resident Fellow
Songs to Encourage the Cessation of Litigation: Printing, Orality, and Legal Knowledge in China, 1595-1949

How do people form attitudes towards law and what is law's significance in society? In China, “cease litigation” (xisong 息訟) has been a key term in legal culture and practice since antiquity and was a core concept in mass legal education from the late- sixteenth to the early-twentieth centuries. Increasing conflicts in a commercializing society led to an anti-litigation backlash among officials. By disseminating songs about the dangers and costs of litigation, overburdened local magistrates hoped to reduce their caseloads and stabilize turbulent local societies. People were hired to ring bells and sing songs while walking through towns and villages, and lyrics were cut into stone stelae erected near government buildings and schools. In the 1600s and 1700s, the songs were printed as broadsheets and posted in public. By the late-1800s they appeared in newspapers and magazines, and in the 1920s-40s, the songs were sung at village meetings. This project will combine approaches from legal history, print culture, and orality/aurality/soundscapes to examine formations of legal consciousness.

Joseph Dennis is an Associate Professor of History at UW-Madison and a member of the local gazetteer research group at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin (MPIWG). He is the author of Writing, Publishing, and Reading Local Gazetteers in China, 1100-1700 (Harvard, 2015), and former president of the Society for Ming Studies. His research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, the National Library of France, the Vilas Trust, the MPIWG, and other institutions.

Ramzi Fawaz
English, UW-Madison
Resident Fellow
Queer Forms

In my new book, Queer Forms, I explore how the central values of movements for women's and gay liberation in the 1970s—including consciousness-raising, separatism, coming out of the closet, and alternative kinship—came to be translated into a range of American popular culture forms. Throughout the 1970s, movements for women's and gay liberation fought a range of social and political battles to expand, transform, or wholly explode definitions of normative gender and sexuality; one long-term effect of this project was to encourage artists, writers, and filmmakers to invent new ways of formally representing, or giving shape to, non-normative genders and sexualities. Perhaps counter-intuitively, such aesthetic projects to represent queer gender and sexuality often appeared in a range of traditional, or seemingly generic, popular forms including the sequential format of comic strip serials, the token figures of science fiction genre, the narrative conventions of film melodrama, and the serialized rhythm of installment fiction among others. I unpack how each of these mediums and genres were creatively reworked or innovated to account for, and make meaningful, the heterogenous experience of gender and sexual non-conformity, consequently infusing the popular imagination of Americans in the 1970s and after.

Ramzi Fawaz is assistant professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is the author of The New Mutants: Superheroes and the Radical Imagination of American Comics (NYU Press, 2016). The New Mutants won the 2012 Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies Fellowship Award for best first book manuscript in LGBT Studies. His work has been published in numerous journals including American Literature, GLQ, ASAP/Journal, Feminist Studies, Callaloo, and Anthropological Quarterly. He is currently co-editing a special issue of American Literature with Darieck Scott titled "Queer About Comics," and a special issue of GLQ with Shanté Smalls titled "Queers Read This: LGBTQ Literature Now."  His new book Queer Forms, explores formal innovations in the art and culture of movements for women’s and gay liberation in the 1970s and after. Queer Forms is forthcoming from NYU Press.

Jennifer Gaddis
School of Human Ecology, UW-Madison
Resident Fellow
The Labor of Lunch: A New Economics of Care in American Public Schools

The seventy-year history of the US National School Lunch Program (NSLP) embodies the contested values, ideologies, and unequal power structures that govern both social reproduction and food systems. This book-in-progress uses ethnographic, archival, and participatory research to examine school lunch as a political arena where grassroots activists, powerful “Big Food” companies, and state agencies fight for control over children’s diets, women’s reproductive labor, and the future of the domestic food system. Despite recent legislative reforms, the NSLP continues to suffer from low student-participation, excessive plate waste, and high employee-turnover. Thus, a central project of the book is to rethink the social organization of school lunch, asking how it could be changed, and to what ends for economic, racial, environmental, and reproductive justice. By inviting readers to imagine a politics of the possible, The Labor of Lunch aims to spark a much-needed conversation about organizing for food justice in school kitchens and cafeterias.

Jennifer Gaddis is an assistant professor of Civil Society and Community Studies at UW-Madison. Before joining the faculty at UW-Madison in 2014, she received her PhD in Environmental Studies from Yale University. As a transdisciplinary scholar, her research lies at the intersection of critical food studies, feminist economics, US political and social history, and environmental sociology. She has received fellowships and grants from the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Agriculture, and multiple private foundations to support this work. Currently she is finishing her book manuscript The Labor of Lunch: A New Economics of Care in American Public Schools (under contract with University of California Press) while in residence at the Institute for Research in the Humanities.

Elizabeth Hennessy
History, UW-Madison
Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
Resident Fellow
On the Backs of Tortoises: The Past and Future of Evolution in the Galápagos Islands

Since Charles Darwin rode on the backs of the Galápagos giant tortoises in 1835, the animals have morphed from a favorite food of pirates and whalers to conservation icons protected in a place often called a “natural laboratory of evolution.” My book manuscript tells the tortoises’ story to show that attempts to restore the islands to their pristine state as a living museum to Darwin actually jeopardize their prized nature. Instead, it reimagines how to conserve the islands as a laboratory of co-evolution where biological, economic, and social histories enmesh humans and non-humans alike in the web of life.

Elizabeth Hennessy is Assistant Professor of World Environmental History in the History Department and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW-Madison. She is part of the Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE) and serves as the faculty advisor for CHE’s graduate-student-run digital magazine, Edge Effects. She is also affiliated with the Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies program (LACIS) and the Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies. Trained as a geographer, she works at the intersection of political ecology, science and technologies studies, animal studies, and environmental history. Hennessy was formerly a fellow of the SSRC, ACLS, and Rachel Carson Center at LMU in Munich, Germany. Her first book will be published with Yale University Press in 2019. 

Yuhang Li
Art History, UW-Madison
Resident Fellow
Reproducing a Bodhisattva: Women's Artistic Devotion in Late Imperial China

What difference does gender make in terms of religious practice?  Are religious practices mediated differently when the practitioners or the deity are female?  I explore such questions in a specific context by examining material practices by women around a Guanyin, a deity who was once male and then became the most popular female deity in late imperial China. My book project is primarily concerned with women’s material practices in relation to the cult of Guanyin. I investigate how secular Buddhist women pursued religious salvation through creative depictions of Guanyin in different media such as painting and embroidery, and through bodily portrayals of the deity incorporating jewelry and dance.  I focus on the unique ways in which women produced images of Guanyin via various womanly skills and things as well as by means of their own bodies to express a world-view that provided an alternative to the Confucian patriarchal system.

Yuhang Li is an assistant professor of Chinese art in the Department of Art History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. Before joining the faculty at the UW-Madison in 2013, she was a Postdoctoral Associate at Yale University and a Mellon Postdoc at the Grinnell College. She received a fellowship to be a research associate at the Women’s Studies in Religious Program at Harvard Divinity School during 2015-16.  Her primary research interests cover a wide range subjects and mediums, including gender, material and visual practice in late imperial China. Her articles on hair embroidery Guanyin, Empress Dowager Cixi dressing up as Guanyin in paintings and photographs and other essays have been published recently.  She is the co-editor of the exhibition catalog Performing Images: Opera in Chinese Visual Culture. Currently she is finishing her book manuscript entitled Reproducing a Bodhisattva:  Women's Artistic Devotion in Late Imperial China.


Michael G. Titelbaum
Philosophy, UW-Madison
Resident Fellow
Constitutive Points of View

My project develops a constitutivist theory of normativity, on which rules for correct belief and action arise not from the external world, but from the nature of humans engaged in believing and acting. I seek a constitutivism that acknowledges the authority and objectivity of norms in deliberation—the sense in which norms guide our reasoning, and seem to be not entirely up to us. Yet constitutivism must also recognize the diversity of subjective points of view; an agent may only be guided by norms compatible with her standpoint on the world. The great challenge of normative theorizing is to incorporate appropriate subjectivity while maintaining authority. This balancing act is especially important in light of persistent normative disagreement among individuals and cultures, and the need to respect other points of view while retaining what's valuable about our own.

Michael G. Titelbaum is Associate Professor of Philosophy at UW-Madison.  He received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley and an A.B. in philosophy from Harvard College.  He has had multiple visiting positions at the Australian National University; at UW-Madison, he has been a Vilas Associate and a Romnes Faculty Fellow.  His first book, Quitting Certainties: A Bayesian Framework Modeling Degrees of Belief, received the Council of Graduate Schools' Gustave O. Arlt Award for best book in the humanities, and an Honorable Mention for the American Philosophical Association's Book Prize.  He received the 2013 Sanders Prize in Epistemology for best essay written by a scholar within 15 years of the Ph.D., and has twice (2009 and 2016) been recognized by The Philosopher's Annual for publishing one of the ten best articles in philosophy in a given year.  His next book, Fundamentals of Bayesian Epistemology, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.