Events 2016-2017

Monday, September 12, 2016 3:00 – 5:00
Banquet Room University Club Building (lower level)

Agency: What Does It Mean Across the Humanities?

What are the meanings of “agency” in various disciplines and interdisciplines of the humanities? To what extent is it theorized or assumed? Does agency mean the freedom to act? To think? To feel? Is agency individual or collective? Does agency imply autonomy? How does agency relate to structure? Institutions? Oppression? Political Activism? Subjectivity? Identity? Emotion? Morality? Religion? How does agency relate to victims, torture, human rights? Is agency inherent in all forms of creativity? Is agency exclusively “human”? Do (non-human) animals have agency? Plants? Microbes? Do machines have agency? (Remember, “Open the pod door, Hal,” from 2001!)?

“Agency” means something quite different across cultures, including the different academic cultures of the humanities and interpretative social sciences. Agency is also often hotly debated in such fields as feminist theory, race theory, and poststructuralist theory. Is “agency” a product of Enlightenment thought, a keystone of “liberalism”? Or do different cultures and times produce varying notions of individual and/or communal agency? Within the framework of a Foucauldian discourse theory, agency appears as a fiction; within the framework of social movement theory, agency is foundational for change. How do we negotiate the different meanings of agency in our fields and disciplines?

Ask yourself: in your own research, do you assume some form of agency to be at work in what you study? If so, what do you mean by it?  Panelists will make short presentations (6-7 minutes) on the meaning(s) of agency in their research for one hour. We will then have one hour of general discussion, so please bring your ideas about agency (especially in relation to your own work) to share with others.

Refreshments available by 2:45 PM. 


Wednesday, September 14, 2016 7:30 – 5:00
Conrad A. Elvehjem Building room L140, 800 University Avenue
Christine Yano

Kawaii: Fraught Innocence in Asian (American) Commodity Culture

Pink globalization, the spread of cute goods from Japan to other parts of the world, has been a stronghold of consumption in various parts of the industrial world in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, particularly with Hello Kitty as its mascot. The Japanese icon that has gone global represents some of the most far-reaching aspects of kawaii (cute) soft power, creating what Yano calls an “empire of cute” that references the character’s global reach, as well as her broad power as a national (Japan) and ethnic (Asian American) icon. This presentation addresses ways by which kawaii (cute) presents a fraught regime in its infantilized familiarity, its unthreatening nature, and its “demand for care.” The critics’ voices rise from their own collective demographic of originary fans – Asian-American, female — to complicate the picture. In short, the critics decry the stereotype that lives in part through the putative persistence of Hello Kitties in their midst, reinforced by the sexual politics of multicultural America.

Presented in partnership with the Burdick-Vary Lecture Series: Asian Americans and the Pleasures of Fantasy.

Christine R. Yano, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Hawaii, has conducted research on Japan and Japanese Americans with a focus on popular culture.  Her publications include Tears of Longing: Nostalgia and the Nation in Japanese Popular Song (Harvard, 2002), Crowning the Nice Girl; Gender, Ethnicity, and Culture in Hawaii’s Cherry Blossom Festival (Hawaii, 2006),Airborne Dreams: “Nisei” Stewardesses and Pan American World Airways (Duke, 2011), and Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty and its Trek Across the Pacific (Duke, 2013). She curated a major exhibition at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, “Hello!  Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty,” which ran from 2014 to 2015, and continues to travel.  During 2014-2015, she served as Visiting Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University, resulting in a book project with Asian American undergraduates there entitled Straight A’s: Asian American Academic Achievement.


Monday, September 19, 2016 3:30 – 5:00
212 University Club Building
Steve Stern

The Trial Nobody Expected: A Tale of Torture, Music, and Human Rights in the Americas

This is an extraordinary true-life story.  It’s a tale of murder, human rights, and social justice in the Americas.  It’s about the power of music in tumultuous times – and also, the power of historical knowledge and the humanities in the wake of atrocity.  This is a traveling story – from the 1960s to our times, from a sports stadium in Santiago, Chile to a U.S. federal court in Orlando, Florida.  It is the story of Chile’s iconic “New Song” artist, Víctor Jara.

Steve J. Stern is the Alberto Flores Galindo and Hilldale Professor of History at UW-Madison. He researches Latin American history, and recently published The Human Rights Paradox: Universality and Its Discontents (2014), co-edited with Scott Straus. Stern’s research demonstrates the inventiveness of Latin American responses to unequal structures of power, with sometimes surprising impact on world history. Honors include election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; the Bolton-Johnson Prize for best book in Latin American history, for Battling for Hearts and Minds: Memory Struggles in Pinochet’s Chile, 1973-1988; and fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Program, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Social Science Research Council. Stern is a founding editor, with Scott Straus, of the “Critical Human Rights” series at the UW Press, and has won a UW-Madison Distinguished Teaching Award. He is at work on a project entitled “Between Human Rights and Social Justice: Latin America and the World in Film and History.”


Monday, September 26, 2016 3:30 – 5:00
212 University Club Building
Anne Hansen

History, Time and Mass Atrocity in Cambodia

Buddhist prophesies about the end of our time and the dawning of a new era tied to the enlightenment of the fifth buddha in our kalpa or “epoch” have circulated widely across the Buddhist world for nearly two millennia.  In Cambodia, these millenarian prophesies have also served as a powerful and pervasive response to and explanation for the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, one that is rarely acknowledged in scholarly interpretations of recent Cambodian history. This talk draws on interdisciplinary research investigating the Buddhist prophesies that have inspired millenarian Buddhism in Cambodia from the colonial era to the post-Socialism of the 1990s.  It will raise intertwined questions of whether and how Buddhist prophetic conceptions of temporality might serve as an alternative frame for understanding the Cold War in Cambodia as well as questions about the ethics of representing the suffering of others in scholarship.

Anne R. Hansen is Professor of History and Religious Studies at UW Madison in the Department of History and Program in Religious Studies, where she researches and teaches about the history and development of Theravada Buddhism, Southeast Asian religions, modern Buddhist reform movements, religion and colonialism, Buddhist ethics and moral history, and theory and method in the study of religion.  She received a PhD in religious studies from Harvard University and a MDiv from Harvard Divinity School. Hansen is the author of How to Behave: Buddhism and Modernity in Colonial Cambodia, 1860-1930 (2007) and editor of At the Edge of the Forest: Essays on Cambodia, History and Narrative (2008).  She is currently working on two books, one on Buddhist conceptions of time, social change and millenarianism in Cambodia, and another on Buddhist ethics of care in Southeast Asian visual culture.  Her most recent article “Painting Ethics: Death, Love, and Moral Vision in the Mahāparinibbāna,” appears as part of a symposium on visual ethics in Journal of Religious Ethics 44.1 (March 2016): 17-50.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016 3:30 – 5:00
212 University Club Building
David Ebrey

Plato’s Phaedo: The Initiation of a Philosopher

Plato’s Phaedo is one of his literary and philosophical masterpieces, set on the last day of Socrates’ life. How should we understand Socrates’ reference to Pythagorean and Orphic religious views in the dialogue? Is this a separate feature of dialogue, independent of the detailed philosophical arguments? Instead of being religious window-dressing, I argue that Socrates gives these views precise accounts and an important role in the arguments, appropriating and transforming Pythagorean and Orphic views to present a radical new account of the soul, the good life, and the nature of reality. This reading allows us to see how the different elements of the dialogue fit together to form a cohesive philosophical vision.

David Ebrey (Ph.D., UCLA) works on ancient Greek philosophy, primarily on Plato and Aristotle. So far his research on Plato has focused on Socratic inquiry, the value of knowledge, moral education, and Platonic forms. His research on Aristotle has focused on matter in Aristotle’s natural philosophy and syllogisms in his logic. He has published in journals such as Journal of the History of Philosophy, Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie, and British Journal of the History of Philosophy, and he has edited a volume, Theory and Practice in Aristotle’s Natural Science (Cambridge, 2015). He has received a Mellon Postdoc (2007-2009), Alice Kaplan Humanities Institute Fellowship (2011-2012), and a Spencer Foundation Grant (2012-2013). He was a visiting fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge in 2013. He is currently working on a book on Plato’s Phaedo.


Friday, October 7, 2016 12:00 – 5:00
Elvehjem L140 and Vilas 4070
DumbfoundeadAwkwafinaRekstizzyLyricksPamela TomTad NakamuraYizhou Xu

Madison’s Asian American Media Spotlight

Join us for a weekend celebrating brand new Asian American documentaries and filmmakers, brought to you by the Asian American Studies Program at UW-Madison. All films are free, open to the public, and followed by Q&A.

BAD RAP – Friday Oct. 7, 7pm at Elvehjem L140 followed by Q&A with Producer Jaeki Cho.  This documentary follows the careers of four Asian American rappers – including Dumbfoundead, Awkwafina, Rekstizzy and Lyricks — who must literally and figuratively battle for a space in a hip hop culture that fails to acknowledge their existence.

TYRUS – Saturday Oct. 8, 2pm at Vilas 4070 followed by Q&A with Director Pamela Tom.  This documentary reveals the epic achievements of 104-year old Chinese American painter Tyrus Wong, whose watercolors provided the inspiration for Disney’s animated feature BAMBI.

MELE MURALS – Saturday Oct. 8, 7pm at Vilas 4070 followed by Q&A with Director Tad Nakamura. This documentary by Tad Nakamura tells the story of Native Hawaiian youth who are combining indigenous forms of spirituality with the contemporary art of graffiti in order to build community.

PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF LOVE – Sunday Oct. 9, 2pm at Elvehjem L140 followed by Q&A with Producer Yizhou Xu. Produced by University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate student Yizhou Xu, this documentary examines the cultural, economic, and political implications of contemporary love in China.


Monday, October 10, 2016 12:00 – 5:00
Banquet Room, University Club (lower level)
Ken Wissoker

Book Publishing in the Humanities of Today

PLEASE NOTE: this workshop is open to graduate students, faculty, and academic staff. Registration is required: The reservation deadline is 12:00pm on Wednesday, October 5.

Join us for a discussion of the state of academic publishing in the humanities and the process of working with a university press—from project to proposal to publication. The workshop will include a presentation from Ken Wissoker (Duke University Press and CUNY), who will talk about writing first and subsequent scholarly books at a time of significant changes in the academy, in publishing, and in the ways ideas circulate. Moderated by Susan Stanford Friedman.

Sponsored by the UW-Madison Institute for Research in the Humanities and Center for the Humanities. Space is limited. Registration is required. RSVP to

Ken Wissoker is the Editorial Director of Duke University Press, acquiring books in anthropology, cultural studies and social theory; globalization and post-colonial theory; Asian, African, and American studies; music, film and television; race, gender and sexuality; science studies; and other areas in the humanities, social sciences, media, and the arts. He joined the Press as an Acquisitions Editor in 1991; became Editor-in-Chief in 1997; and was named Editorial Director in 2005. In 2014, in addition to his duties at the Press, he became Director of Intellectual Publics at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City. He has published more than 900 books which have won over 100 prizes, and has contributed to the Cinema JournalChronicle of Higher Education, and Prof. Hacker.

Moderated by Susan Stanford Friedman, Director of the Institute for Research in the Humanities, Hilldale Professor in the Humanities, and Virginia Woolf Professor of English and Gender & Women’s Studies at UW-Madison. Her most recent book is Planetary Modernisms: Provocations on Modernity Across Time from Columbia University Press in August 2015.


Monday, October 10, 2016 3:30 – 5:00
212 University Club Building
Jennifer Row

Queer Velocities: Untimely Matter in Racine’s Andromaque

From “one’s ticking biological clock” to “grow up, be a man,” sex and gender norms are often seamlessly intertwined with temporality in our modern world. But did time always impact sexuality the same way?   I examine a mid-seventeenth-century moment in France when the appearance of precise minute and second hands on newly portable clocks revolutionized the very experience of time, offering a new texture to time passing, to haste, and to slowness.  Time calibrated sexuality in new ways: from certain socio-sexual tempos (paces of bereavement, reproduction) to the regulated speed of seduction onstage. The performing arts were in fact an essential cornerstone of Louis XIV’s glittering Absolutist spectacle. However, instead of analyzing the explicitly propagandistic uses of theater, I explore theater’s capacity to manage the population through its lived relationship to time. As Foucault argues, biopower, rather than deciding on the citizens’ right to live or to die, sought instead to manage bodies and lives through the controlled flourishing or strategic diminishing of life’s capacities. One essential component of biopower, I suggest, includes the management of speeds and slownesses.  My talk will focus on Jean Racine’s Andromaque (1667) and competing temporalities of mourning, strange animacies and queer object attachment.

Jennifer Row is an assistant professor of French at Boston University and affiliate faculty with BU’s Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies. She received her PhD in Comparative Literature (2014) from Cornell University. Her research and teaching interests include French and English early modern theater, queer and feminist theory, and affect theory. Her book project, Queer Velocities: Time, Sex and Biopower on the Early Modern Stage, looks at the impact of newly precise timekeeping technologies on queer erotics onstage in seventeenth-century France; a chapter stemming from this project will appear in Exemplaria (29.1) in 2017.  She has also published on masochism and nineteenth century commonplace books  in The Canadian Review of Comparative Literature (38.4)  and on early modern anal aesthetics, dance, disability and contemporary art (“The Adapted Anality of Versailles: Othoniel’s Les Belles Danses” forthcoming in ASAP/Journal, (2.2) May 2017). She has previously taught at the Université de Paris-Sorbonne (Paris-IV) and at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand.


Monday, October 17, 2016 3:30 – 5:00
212 University Club Building
Lori Lopez

Gendered Dynamics in Hmong American New Media Cultures

For over 260,000 Hmong Americans living in the U.S., mobile media now play a key role in maintaining connections and identities.  Yet what role are Hmong women playing in shaping the use of these digital media technologies?  How are Hmong women able to use media to influence new cultural practices, or to challenge patriarchal conditions?  This research project is based on an ethnographic analysis of Hmong women and the groundbreaking ways that they adapt mobile phone technologies to their own specific needs.

Lori Kido Lopez is Assistant Professor of Media and Cultural Studies in the Communication Arts Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is also an affiliate of the Asian American Studies Program and the Gender and Women’s Studies Department.  She is the author of Asian American Media Activism: Fighting for Cultural Citizenship (2016, NYU), and co-editor of the forthcoming Routledge Companion to Asian American Media.  She is the founder of the national Race & Media Conference, and was a recipient of the Outstanding Women of Color Award in 2015.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016 7:00 – 5:00
Conrad A. Elvehjem Building room L140, 800 University Avenue
Leslie Bow

Fantasy as Microaggression?: Racial Caricature, Kawaii-style, and the Anthropomorphic Asian

How does the mundane object serve as a catalyst for exploring the relationship between aesthetics and political injury? Is race always bound to the circulation of negative feeling? We understand the harm embodied by the mammy cookie jar. Yet in the 21st-century, the anthropomorphic object has found new life: geisha cars, Harajuku Lovers perfume bottles, Chanel’s “China Doll” handbags, Alessi’s “Mandarin” juicer. Do these forms of racial kitsch—the Asian figure as salt shaker, decor, or toy—evade contextualization as racist kitsch? This lecture engages the Japanese style known as kawaii or cute style since the 1970s as it finds expression in a specific racial form. In looking at the feeling that the “cute” enables or forecloses, this talk explores the vacillation between pleasure and pain underlying Asian American spectatorship of racialized things. Exploring the convergence among theories of aesthetic form, affect, and stereotyping, this talk seeks to uncover the utility of fantasy and force of nonhuman actants.

Presented in partnership with the Burdick-Vary Lecture Series: Asian Americans and the Pleasures of Fantasy.

Leslie Bow is Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor and Mark and Elisabeth Eccles Professor of English and Asian American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of the award-winning, ‘Partly Colored’: Asian Americans and Racial Anomaly in the Segregated SouthBetrayal and Other Acts of Subversion: Feminism, Sexual Politics, Asian American Women’s Literature; and editor of Asian American Feminisms. 


Monday, October 24, 2016 3:30 – 5:00
212 University Club Building
Elizabeth Bearden

“Signing in the Seraglio”: Global Disability in European spatial representations of the Ottoman Court

Drawn from the forth chapter of her current book project, Monstrous Kinds: Body, Space, and Narrative in Renaissance Representations of Disability, this talk analyzes European representations of the dwarfs, mutes, and eunuchs who served the Ottoman sultans. Accounts of these boon companions emphasize their relative privilege and mobility within and without the sequestered space of the seraglio. Their increased mobility, facility in communication through sign language, and overall access to Ottoman space contribute to imperial envy in Europeans’ accounts, limited as they were for being told by outsiders. The talk draws on a variety of travel texts, including works by Osier Busbecq (d. 1592), Otaviano Bon (1552–1623), and Paul Rycaut (1629–1700). The transnational presence of people with physical impairments, illustrated by the Ottoman court, reinforces European understandings of the alternative capacities that sensory impairment generates. Ultimately, people with physical impairments do not simply serve as marvels, but rather demand reassessments of European verbal and visual representational strategies and definitions of abnormality.

Professor Elizabeth B. Bearden is a scholar and teacher of early modern literature with training in Comparative Literature, Classics, the History of Rhetoric, Visual Culture Studies, and Disability Studies. She received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from NYU in 2006 and her A. B. in Comparative Literature at Princeton in 1998. She is an Associate Professor in the English department at UW-Madison. Her first monograph, The Emblematics of the Self: Ekphrasis and Identity in Renaissance Imitations of Greek Romance, was published by the University of Toronto Press in 2012 and has been positively reviewed in leading journals. She has published articles in PMLA, The Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, Ancient Narrative Supplementum, and Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies. Additionally, she directed a Digital Humanities project on Philip Sidney’s funeral, which appeared in a Folger Shakespeare Library exhibition in Washington, DC.


Thursday, October 27, 2016 7:00 – 5:00
6191 Helen C. White Hall, 600 N. Park St.
Charles Yu

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe: An Evening with Writer Charles Yu

What do cowboy robots, hapless yeomen, time machine repairmen, and third class superheroes have in common?

They all issue from the imagination of Charles Yu. Charles Yu is the author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, which was named one of the best books of the year by Time magazine. He received the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Award for his story collection Third Class Superhero, and was a finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award. His work has been published in The New York Times and Slate, among other periodicals. He is currently a screenwriter for HBO’s Westworld.

Presented as part of the Burdick-Vary Lecture Series Asian Americans and the Pleasures of Fantasy.


Monday, October 31, 2016 3:30 – 5:00
212 University Club Building
Jason Puskar

Playing with Buttons: Liberal Subjects at the Binary Switch

The pushbutton is one of the simplest mechanical interfaces in the modern world, and one of the most prevalent. But what accounts for its enormous appeal, and what kinds of effects does it have on the people who use it? In this talk, Jason Puskar will present part of his research on the cultural and political history of the pushbutton, a device that scarcely existed before the mid-nineteenth century, but that has proliferated wildly ever since. What happens when buttons mediate childhood, even infancy? How might they influence the process of subject-object differentiation? And to what extend do they inform people’s perceptions of their own agency, freedom, or will? By looking at children’s toys, autistic gamers, and women typists, we can see that the button has an especially complex relationship to liberal subjectivity, and especially for children, women, and the disabled.

Jason Puskar is Associate Professor of English at the UW–Milwaukee, specializing on  late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American literature and culture, with recent emphasis on business and economic history and the history of science and technology. He is the author of Accident Society: Fiction, Collectivity and the Production of Chance (Stanford 2012), and he has published articles in journals including American Literary History, Daedalus, Nineteenth-Century Contexts, and Mosaic.


Monday, November 7, 2016 3:30 – 6:00
212 University Club Building
Pablo Gomez

Risky Bodies: Quantification, Fungibility, and Slave Trade in the Seventeenth Century Atlantic

How did early modern governments, and slave traders’ and their financiers’ quantify disease and risk? How did they develop tools that allowed them to trade and invest in human corporeality and its afflictions? In this presentation, coming from my new research project, I explore the emergence of ideas about corporeality in sixteenth and seventeenth-century Atlantic slave trading circuits that scholars have traditionally associated with the rise of the New Science and biomedicine in Western Europe. The appearance of a quantifiable, universal body, as the evidence I examine in this project shows, was intimately linked to the unprecedented rise in the size and complexity of the commerce of human bodies in the early modern South Atlantic.

Pablo F. Gómez is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical History and Bioethics and the Department of the History of Science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He holds a PhD from Vanderbilt university, a MD from CES University and did his residency in Orthopaedic surgery at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana. Pablo’s work examines the history of health and corporeality in the early modern Atlantic world. He has published numerous articles and book chapters. His forthcoming book, The Experiential Caribbean: Creating Knowledge and Healing in the Early Modern Atlantic (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017), explores belief making and the creation of evidence around the human body and the natural world in the early modern Caribbean and black Atlantic. Pablo is currently working on a history of the universal quantifiable body and risk in the early modern world.


Monday, November 14, 2016 3:30 – 6:00
212 University Club Building
Dana Oswald

Anglo-Saxon Maternal Bodies

What can we know about women’s bodies when the only people writing about them were men, and those men were generally monks? In a culture that is largely silent about the lives and bodies of women, how can we understand their embodied experiences of the world? By looking at Anglo-Saxon medical texts that features remedies, charms, and diagnostics, some of which are superstitious, some learned, and some frighteningly ignorant regarding basic physiology, we can begin to understand how the real bodies of Anglo-Saxon women functioned in a world that often left them out of the literary record.

Dana Oswald is author of the book Monsters, Gender, and Sexuality in Medieval English Literature, as well as articles on Old and Middle English literature and translation, and gender and sexuality studies. Her focus on the embodied experience of life in medieval England is a means by which contemporary readers can connect to people, characters, and problems existing in an age that can seem very foreign.


Monday, November 21, 2016 3:30 – 6:00

No seminar this week

There will be no seminar this week. Happy Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 28, 2016 3:30 – 6:00
212 University Club Building
Julia Dauer

Natural History and Personhood in Early America

How did transatlantic writers use “I” in their discourse?  When did “I” become the familiar protagonist of American letters?  What can first-person prose tell us about the category of the “person”?  My dissertation approaches these questions by considering the relationship between natural history, personhood, and first-person prose in the United States between about 1780 and about 1830.  In this talk, I’ll focus especially on John James Audubon’s Ornithological Biography and its account of flocking birds.  These flocks overwhelm first-person observational norms and threaten the boundaries of the human person.  I’ll suggest that the Biography’s first-person prose and its impersonal tendencies direct our attention towards the gaps in and alternatives to more masterful models of American individuality.

Julia Dauer is a PhD candidate in the Department of English at UW-Madison.  Her research focuses on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American literature and the history science.  Her dissertation uses natural history to access a much larger crisis of personhood that characterized literary, scientific, and political discourse at the turn of the nineteenth century and continues to resonate in the contemporary United States.  Dauer has taught literature and composition courses at UW-Madison and worked as an instructor in the Writing Center.  Her dissertation research has been supported by fellowships from the Department of English, the Graduate School, and the Library Company of Philadelphia.  She is currently at work on her dissertation entitled “Natural History and Personhood in Early America.”


Monday, December 5, 2016 3:30 – 6:00
212 University Club Building
Sidnie Crawford

Passing on Texts in the Ancient World: A Case Study with the Biblical Texts from the Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls

When we think of “the Bible” in the 21st century, we usually think of a fixed text, in an ancient language, that is revered by one or more religious communities as “the word of God.”  How did ancient Jews think about the texts that became the Bible?  How were those texts handed down by scribes?  How did communities preserve them?  The seminar will discuss the biblical manuscripts from the Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls in order to answer those questions.

Sidnie White Crawford is Willa Cather Professor of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she teaches in the areas of Hebrew Bible, Second Temple Judaism, and Hebrew language. She is an internationally recognized scholar in the areas of Dead Sea Scrolls and Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible. Her most recent book, edited with Cecilia Wassen, is The Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran and the Concept of a Library, published by E. J. Brill (2016). Sidnie currently serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, the American headquarters for archaeological research in the Holy Land, and as a member of the Society of Biblical Literature Council. She is also a member of numerous editorial boards, including Hermeneia: A Commentary Series (Fortress Press), The Textual History of the Bible (Brill), and The Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition (SBL Press). In her free time Dr. Crawford enjoys international travel, classical music, in particular early music and opera, and watching sports, especially Husker football and women’s volleyball. She usually lives in Lincoln, NE with her husband, Dr. Dan D. Crawford, and their cat, Mollie, but is delighted to be spending the year at the IRH and enjoying all that Madison has to offer.


Thursday, December 8, 2016 7:00 – 6:00
6191 Helen C. White Hall, 600 N. Park St.
Lori Kido Lopez

Limits of Racebending in the Struggle for Asian American Representation

Studies of fandom and fan culture have always centered on the complex feelings of fascination and frustration that motivate audiences.  When we consider the way that race is represented in beloved texts, there are clearly political consequences to these emotional connections.  But what about texts that are ambiguously racialized, such as cartoons and animated imagery?  How have fans of animated worlds been able to convert their racialized fandoms into political actions, and what does this engagement with “racebending” reveal about race and the media?  This talk explores the fan-activism surrounding The Last Airbender and connects it to the broader politics of Asian American representation.

Light refreshments will be provided.

Lori Kido Lopez is Assistant Professor of Media and Cultural Studies in the Communication Arts Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is also an affiliate of the Asian American Studies Program and the Gender and Women’s Studies Department.  She is the author of Asian American Media Activism: Fighting for Cultural Citizenship(2016, NYU), and co-editor of the forthcoming Routledge Companion to Asian American Media.  She is the founder of the national Race & Media Conference, and was a recipient of the Outstanding Women of Color Award in 2015.


Monday, December 12, 2016 3:30 – 6:00
212 University Club Building
Sukanya Banerjee

Troubling Conjugal Loyalties

How is it that monogamy came to serve as one of the markers of “modern” marriage? Which nineteenth century literary genres did it play on? What kind of a transimperiality does conjugal loyalty, as defined along a register of monogamy, engender?

In addressing these questions, Sukanya Banerjee will draw from her current book project, “Loyalty and the Making of the Modern.” The project focuses on the under read category of loyalty, arguing for the centrality of loyalty to figurations of modernity. But rather than focus on political loyalty alone-a context in which loyalty gets most prominence-, Banerjee examines interlocking formulations of loyalty across three evolving sites of modernity in nineteenth-early twentieth century Britain and its empire (particularly in South Asia): that of the state, the family, and the economy. In querying how and why ideas of loyalty were idealized at a moment marked both by massive industrialism and high imperialism, she studies literary and cultural modes that stabilize the seemingly counterintuitive relation between loyalty and modernity. In so doing, she also identifies the “transimperial” as a heuristic for studying the expansive yet connected multilingual literary systems of empire.

Sukanya Banerjee is Associate Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She works at the intersection of Victorian studies, postcolonial studies, and studies of South Asia. She is the author of Becoming Imperial Citizens: Indians in the Late-Victorian Empire (Duke, 2010), which was awarded the NVSA Sonya Rudikoff Prize for best first book in Victorian studies (2012). She is co-editor of New Routes for Diaspora Studies (Indiana, 2012), an her essays have appeared in journals such as Victorian Studies, Victorian Literature and Culture, Prose Studies, and Diaspora. A recipient of a previous fellowship at the IRH, she has also received support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Monday, January 23, 2017 3:30 – 6:00
212 University Club Building
Tina Chronopoulos

The Altercatio Ganymedis et Helene – It All Comes Together in the End (?)

Have you always wondered what a discussion about the pros and cons of same-sex versus opposite-sex sex might have looked like in 12th-century France? In today’s talk I focus on just such a discussion which survives in the form of a debate-poem in Latin. Helen (of Troy) and Ganymede (water-bearer to the gods) are having it out, with Helen carrying away the prize. Why and how does she win? I’ll spend some time laying out the cultural and historical background, before delving into a close reading of a couple of stanzas from the end of the poem. I will argue that these stanzas contain some key concepts of/for the debate (both in the poem and the 12th-century context) and will suggest an interpretation that may or may not be as radical as it first appears.

Tina Chronopoulos is an Assistant Professor of Classics and Medieval Studies at the University of Binghamton, State University of New York, where she teaches a range of courses in Latin language and literature, as well as in Classical civilization and medieval studies. She is a Medieval Latinist, with particular interests in twelfth-century Latin literature written in the Anglo-French cultural realm and the manuscripts in which these texts survive. Her past research has focused on the reception of Classical Latin literature in the medieval period and the medieval Latin legend of St Katherine of Alexandria.


Monday, January 30, 2017 3:30 – 6:00
212 University Club Building
Kimberley Reilly

Is Love All You Need? Household Labor and Marriage Vows (1870-1920)

How did a wife earn her keep? This was a question a wide range of American reformers and jurists asked in the late nineteenth century. As middle-class women agitated for a greater political voice and economic independence, they appeared to be more emancipated than ever before. At the same time, marriage remained a legal arrangement in which wives exchanged their bodies and labor for their husbands’ economic support. After a brief overview, my talk will examine how this contradiction played out in one area of the law, where courts employed a modern ideal of marital love to rethink wives’ household obligations.

Kimberley Reilly is an Assistant Professor of Democracy and Justice Studies; History; and Women’s and Gender Studies at UW-Green Bay. She received her Ph.D. in History from the University of Chicago. A recipient of grants from the Social Science Research Council and the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation, Reilly has published articles in Law and History Review and the Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.


Thursday, February 2, 2017 4:30 – 6:00
212 University Club Building
Ari Friedlander

Desiring History, Historicizing Desire

Ari Friedlander, assistant professor of English (University of Mississippi) and editor of the Journal of Early Modern Cultural Studies (JEMCS) special issue “Desiring History and Historicizing Desire” will lead a special seminar for any interested graduate students and faculty. The JEMCS special issue takes up the question of historicist and queer critical methodologies, and brings to the fore cutting-edge debates both in queer theory and in early modern studies.  Prof. Friedlander will also discuss the publication process with students (curating a special issue, editing, etc.) Refreshments will be served

Seminar participants should read the following:

The JEMCSspecial issue “Desiring History and Historicizing Desire” (especially the introduction and the roundtable discussion)

“Queering History,” Jonathan Goldberg and Madhavi Menon. PMLA Vol. 120 No. 5 (Oct. 2005)

“The New Unhistoricism in Queer Studies,” Valerie Traub. PMLA Vol. 128, No. 1 (Jan 2013)

Please e-mail Jennifer Row ( with any questions.


Friday, February 3, 2017 12:00 – 6:00
212 University Club Building
Tina Chronopoulos Ari FriedlanderDana OswaldJennifer Row

Show and Tell: Evidence, Erotics, and Embodiment in the Premodern World

When researching the history of sexuality, or thinking about past desires, erotics, and intimacies, what counts as evidence? What methods are crucial for some fields, and forgotten by others? Four scholars share their thoughts on their own unique approaches to interweave erotics, intimacies, and intensities from the past, cobbling together fragments, tracing sensations in literature, unearthing unexpected archives. The roundtable explores how sexualities in the past can be both incomprehensibly foreign and strangely familiar.

Sponsored by the IRH and the Center for Early Modern Studies

A light lunch/refreshments will be served; RSVP and questions may be directed to Jennifer Row (


Monday, February 6, 2017 3:30 – 6:00
212 University Club Building
Anne Stiles

Recovering the New Thought Novel

Did you know that many well-loved children’s classics contain hidden Christian Science and New Thought messages? My book shows how classic children’s fiction written around 1900 – works such as Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden (1911), L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables (1908), Eleanor H. Porter’s Pollyanna (1913), and Arthur Munk’s The Little Engine that Could (1930) – helped spread awareness of Mary Baker Eddy’s Christian Science and a related religious movement known as New Thought, which promoted positive thinking as a means to health and prosperity. While historians have ably discussed how New Thought and Christian Science principles permeate aspects of modern life, from corporate culture to talk shows, twelve-step groups, diet fads, and prosperity gospel, literary scholars have had little to say about the role played by popular fiction in diffusing these faiths. Recovering the New Thought Novel fills this gap by showing how beloved children’s books have influenced us, our children, and our society, focusing especially on self-help and psychotherapy concepts like the inner child.

Anne Stiles is Associate Professor of English and Director of Medical Humanities at Saint Louis University. She is the author of Popular Fiction and Brain Science in the Late Nineteenth Century (Cambridge UP, 2012) and the editor of Neurology and Literature, 1866-1920 (Palgrave, 2007). She also co-edited two volumes published by Elsevier in 2013 as part of their Progress in Brain Research series. Stiles serves as Victorian section co editor of the Wiley-Blackwell journal, Literature Compass. Her most recent work focuses on literary authors’ responses to Christian Science and New Thought on both sides of the Atlantic.


Monday, February 13, 2017 3:30 – 6:00
212 University Club Building
Kristin Phillips-Court

Machiavelli’s Tragic Geography

Machiavelli’s writings substantiate more than their distillation into a political theory that stripped morality from politics. This seminar focuses on Machiavelli’s frequent recourse to images of the Italian terrain as a means of communicating knowledge in The Prince and his other literary works. My driving questions regard how Machiavelli’s descriptions and figurations of the land reveal the liminality of his thinking, which combined reasoned observation with a singular poetic imagination.

Kristin Phillips-Court is Associate Professor in the Departments of French and Italian and Art History at UW-Madison. She is the author of The Perfect Genre: Drama and Painting in Renaissance Italy (Ashgate, 2011), which was awarded the MLA Scaglione Prize. Her second book, Vasari’s Literary Art, provides close readings of seminal lives and episodes in Giorgio Vasari’s Vite (1550 and 1568) with attention to how Vasari negotiated the legacies of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio. Professor Phillips-Court’s work has appeared in the Sixteenth Century Journal, MLN, Renaissance Drama, Annali d’ Italianistica and other peer-reviewed journals. After completing her PhD at UCLA she was granted a Fulbright Fellowship to study 20th-c. Italian Visual Poetry, but has since focused primarily on 15th- and 16th- century Italian literature, visual art, and intellectual culture. Professor Phillips-Court currently holds a Vilas Associates Fellowship Award (2016-18) for her new research on Niccolò Machiavelli.


Monday, February 20, 2017 3:30 – 6:00
212 University Club Building
Samantha Herrick

Networks of Shared Imagination: Medieval Legends and the Construction of History

What can we learn about the past from sources long dismissed as worthless? Medieval legends recount a version of early Christian history starkly at odds with reality. They also repeat each other again and again. For these reasons, they have been branded as unreliable and unoriginal. But what happens if we take them seriously – not as sources for early Christian history, but as evidence of how medieval people constructed and used history? This talk explores the hidden value of these supposedly worthless sources.

Samantha Kahn Herrick is Associate Professor of History at Syracuse University. Her research focuses on medieval Europe and, in particular, the uses and significance of hagiographical legends. In addition to studying how and why medieval people fashioned and disseminated stories about the past, she is also interested in how historians can use problematic but abundant hagiographical legends to supplement the very limited number of more “reliable” sources. Her first book demonstrated the political significance of legends celebrating largely imaginary saints. She is currently writing a monograph about a neglected body of apostolic saints’ lives and co-editing a volume on history and hagiography. She has been a fellow at the Syracuse University Humanities Center (2014-15) and a Scruggs Faculty Research Scholar (2012-15), a member of the Institute for Advanced Study (2011-12), and Professeur invitée at the Université Paul Verlaine, Metz (France) (2007).


Wednesday, February 22, 2017 5:30 – 6:00
Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L140
Louise Young

Rethinking Empire in the Twentieth Century: Lessons from Imperial and Post-Imperial Japan

Japan built a wartime empire in Asia in the 1930s, and after losing that empire in 1945 created trading imperium under the American cold war umbrella. What are the lessons that imperial Japan can teach us about the global moment of the twenties and thirties, when the rise of anti-colonial nationalism brought new pressures on longstanding imperial structures? After the cataclysm of World War Two shattered the foundations of colonial empires and divided the globe up into the first, second, and third worlds, what did this moment of rupture and the end of empire mean for Japan and Asia?

Louise Young is Vilas Distinguished Professor in the Department of History. Her work focuses on modern Japan, especially social and cultural history. She is the author of Japan’s Total Empire: Manchuria and the Culture of Wartime Imperialism (winner of John K. Fairbank and Hiromi Arisawa prizes) and Beyond the Metropolis: Second Cities and Modern Life in Interwar Japan. She is currently working on a history of the idea of class in nineteenth and twentieth century Japan.


Monday, February 27, 2017 3:30 – 6:00
212 University Club Building
Larry Nesper

Anishinaabewaki and the “mixed bloods, belonging to the Chippewas of Lake Superior”

This project began as an effort to problematize the legal permitting process by muddying up the chain of title to the Penokees of northern Wisconsin where Gogebic Taconite was proposing to build the largest open-pit iron mine in North America in 2014. It is becoming an account of the interaction between competing conceptions of belonging and difference in the dispossession of the Lake Superior Ojibwe mixed bloods, who had won a treaty stipulation in the mid-nineteenth century for 80-acre individual reserves of land in the areas ceded in two previous treaties, and the consequences of that dispossession for the Ojibwe polities.

Larry Nesper is Professor of Anthropology and American Indian Studies at UW-Madison. His research focuses on the legal and political development of the tribes in the western Great Lakes Region. He is the author of The Walleye War: The Struggle for Ojibwe Indian Spearfishing and Treaty Rights. He has worked closely with several tribal governments as well as the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. Apart from this research project on the historical trajectory of Lake Superior Ojibwe mixed bloods, he researching the development of the tribal courts in Wisconsin.


Friday, March 3, 2017 1:15 – 6:00

New Illuminations: Art-NATURE-History

 In conjunction with: “Martha Glowacki’s Natural History, Observations and Reflections”
(Chazen Museum of Art)

“Natural History : Natural Philosophy: An Exhibit in Special Collections”
(Memorial Library, Room 984)

This symposium brings together contributors to a newly burgeoning mode of work that sits at—and defies—the boundaries between scholarly research and creative art related to nature and the history of science.  How does research on past scientific ideas and practices inform art? How do present-day scientific, historical, and experiential methods help us understand the relations between artistic and scientific practices of the past and open new relations in the present? Just how does work that bridges science, history, and art, or that merges scholarship and creative production, disrupt the traditional conventions of artistic and scholarly spaces? Conversely, what sorts of spaces can provide suitable homes for such work? Scholars, artists, and scholar-artists at all career levels at the UW-Madison will join invited external speakers to present their responses to these questions and engage in group reflection on how we might advance this work in all its forms.


Friday March 3: (Memorial Library Special Collections) 

1:15-1:30: registration and viewing of Special Collections exhibition

1:30: Welcome and Introduction to Symposium: Lynn Nyhart, Professor, History of Science, UW-Madison

1:45-3:15: Part  1: Interdisciplinary Spaces

Sarah Anne Carter, Curator and Director of Research, Chipstone Foundation (Milwaukee), “Apparent Categories: Material Stories for the 21st Century”

Carin Berkowitz, Director, Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry, Chemical Heritage Foundation (Philadelphia), “Anatomy Folios and Dissection Rooms as Spaces of Interdisciplinary Collaboration and Conflict”

Discussion moderator: Ann Smart Martin, Professor, Art History and Director, Material Culture Program, UW-Madison

3:15-3:45: Break (look at Special Collections exhibit!)

3:45-5:15: Keynote Lecture (Memorial Library Special Collections):

Pamela H. Smith, Seth Low Professor of History and Director, Center for Science and Society, Columbia University: “Making Art and Knowing Nature in Early Modern Europe: The Making and Knowing Project”

Abstract: Through large scale interdisciplinary collaboration and “expert crowd sourcing,” the Making and Knowing Project explores the history and nature of craft knowledge and its relationship to art and science. The Project reconstructs in a laboratory the instructions and “recipes” for technical procedures contained in a sixteenth-century French compilation of artistic and technical recipes. This lecture will introduce the structure, activities, and aims of the Project, highlighting the insights into materials, techniques, pre-modern understandings of nature, and craft knowledge that have resulted from the Project since its founding in 2014.

Introduction and Discussion moderator: Florence Hsia, Professor and Chair, Department of the History of Science, UW-Madison

Dinner (on your own)

Saturday, March 4: Part 2: Making Interdisciplinarity Between Scholarship and Art (Pyle Center 313)

9:00: Continental Breakfast (Pyle Center 313)

9:30-11:30: Single-Scholar Interdisciplinarity

Shira Brisman, Assistant Professor, Art History, UW-Madison, “The Inside of Art”

Gregory Vershbow, Lecturer, Art, UW-Madison, “Inventing Folly”

Helen J. Bullard, Interdisciplinary Special Committee Ph.D. candidate, UW-Madison, “Hard Lines”

Discussion moderator: Robin Rider, Curator of Special Collections, Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison

11:30-1 pm: lunch on your own

1-2 pm: Martha Glowacki, Gallery talk, Chazen Museum

2-2:15: Break: make your way back to the Pyle Center!

2:15-3:45: Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Catherine Jackson, Assistant Professor, History of Science, UW-Madison, and Tracy Drier, Master Glassblower, Dept. of Chemistry, UW-Madison, “Glass in the Flame of a Proper Lamp”

3:45-4:00: Break (Snack available at Pyle Center)

4:00-5:15: Final discussion: Panel: Lynn Nyhart, Martha Glowacki, Shira Brisman (7 min. ea.) and then lead discussion

6:00: Dinner for presenters and moderators


Monday, March 6, 2017 3:30 – 6:00
212 University Club Building
Andrew Zolides

Weaponizing Identity: Doxing as Cultural Practice and Political Tool

Doxing – the publicizing of private, identifying information about an individual without consent – is a fascinating cultural practice that has emerged in our digital culture. Relating to issues of surveillance, whistle-blowing, and battles over political ideologies, this talk presents doxing as a weapon of visibility, wherein the tools of online publishing and self-promotion like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media become the very same instruments meant to attack, threaten, or discipline. By approaching doxing as a larger social practice, my talk looks to take a more nuanced understanding of doxing and its role in larger political struggles and the changing nature of identity in the age of social media.

Andrew Zolides is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Communication Arts Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is also currently a Fellow at the Institute for Research in the Humanities at UW. His research explores the influence economy, an economic framework for understanding the strategies celebrities and brands utilize through social media to generate audiences with significant value. Comparing these practices reveals how influence is generated and evaluated in contemporary neoliberal culture. Andrew has served as an editor for Antenna and The Velvet Light Trap, as well as teaching courses such as Survey of Contemporary Media, Critical Internet Studies, and Television Industries. His work appears in Persona Studies, Horror Studies, Antenna, and the forthcoming books Childhood & Celebrity and The New Television Industries. He received his B.A. in Philosophy and Media Studies from the University of South Carolina and his M.A. in Media, Culture, and Communication from New York University.


Elvehjem L140
Department of Art HistoryChazen Museum

Mount Athos in Context

Welcome and Introductory Remarks

Dean Karl Scholz
Bp. Demetrios of Mokissos

Thomas Dale
Historical Perspectives on Mount Athos and Byzantine Monasticism

Leonora Neville

Alice-Mary Talbot

Lunch Break

Stillness on the Holy Mountain: Sacred Topography, Sacred Space and Liturgy

Christos Kakalis

Derek Krueger

LauraLee Brott

Coffee Break

Icons from Mount Athos

Kristin Edwards

Michelle Prestholt

Mateusz Ferens


Pyle Center
Organized by Louise Young

Histories of the Present: Postimperial Asia in the World

How has the history of imperialism and colonialism brought us to the current conjuncture? This symposium brings together specialists from different fields to rethink possibilities for a critical history of the East Asian present within the larger context of the postimperial world. We plan morning and afternoon sessions for a one-day symposium. Each session will be composed of five speakers making short (15-20 minute) presentations.


Monday, March 13, 2017 3:30 – 5:00
212 University Club Building
Marjorie Elizabeth Plummer

A View from the Choir: Sharing Sacred Space in Pluriconfessional Convents in Early Modern Germany

Differences between religious groups coexisting in the same nation remain one of the thorniest sources of controversy and violence in many regions of the world. The vital role of women in creating means of transmitting religious identity and arbitrating differences has been often noted. Beth’s seminar examines how nuns of diverse confessional beliefs shaped their devotional lives and negotiated their everyday lives in non-coreligious monastic, parish, and political communities after the early German Reformation (c.1520-c.1745). The overlooked presence of Protestant nuns in the Holy Roman Empire is evidence of a more complex lived experience of religious change and confessional accommodation than traditional histories of early modern Christianity would indicate. Her research questions focus on the fluidity of devotional lives of these women, the interplay between peaceful and violent resolution of religious differences, and the role these women played in shaping official and popular attitudes towards religious freedom.

Beth Plummer is Professor of History at Western Kentucky University. Her research focuses on the impact of the reform movement on family, gender roles, and religious identity in early modern Germany. Her publications include From Priest’s Whore to Pastor’s Wife: Clerical Marriage and the Process of Reform in the Early German Reformation (Ashgate, 2012), which won 2013 SCSC Gerald Strauss Book Prize, and articles on monastic marriage, concubinage, bigamy, historical memory, and Protestant nuns. She is also co-editor of Ideas and Cultural Margins in Early Modern Germany: Essays in Honor of H.C. Erik Midelfort (Ashgate, 2009) and Archaeologies of Confession: Writing the German Reformations, 1517-2017 (forthcoming). She is currently working on a book-length monograph on the experience of nuns and former nuns during the dissolution and reform of monastic life in early modern Germany.


Monday, March 27, 2017 3:30 – 5:00
212 University Club Building
Jennifer Pruitt

Building the Caliphate: Construction, Destruction, and Sectarian Identity in Fatimid Architecture (909-1031)

The Ismaili Shi’i Fatimid dynasty is most famous for founding the city of Cairo in 969.  Generally considered a golden age of multicultural tolerance, the Fatimid era witnessed an efflorescence of art and architecture and a relative peaceful coexistence between the religious communities in their realm.  The single exception given to this tale of interfaith utopia is the reign of the “mad” caliph, al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah (r. 996-1021).  Al-Hakim is known as a psychotic destroyer of churches and synagogues; cruel persecutor of Christians, Jews, and women; killer of dogs, and God incarnate to the later Druze faith.  In this seminar, I ask: what do we find when we delve into the exception to this narrative of peaceful coexistence?  How can destruction play a productive role in medieval architecture?  How does medieval architecture operate as a stage and battleground in the quest for political legitimacy?  How are the contours of Shi’ism and Sunnism expressed in medieval architecture?  Is it true that Fatimid religious cooperation could only be disrupted by a mad man?

Jennifer Pruitt is an Assistant Professor in Islamic Art History at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Her research interests include art and architecture in the medieval Islamic world; the role of the caliphate and sectarian identity in architectural production; the status of Christian art in medieval Islam; and cross-cultural exchange in the medieval world.  She is also interested in artistic production in the wake of the Arab Spring; the re-imagining of the “medieval” in contemporary arts in the Middle East; and architectural patronage in the Arabian Gulf.  She received her PhD in the History of Art and Architecture from Harvard University in 2009 and is currently completing her book manuscript, Building the Caliphate: Construction, Destruction, and Sectarian Identity in Fatimid Architecture (909-1031).


Thursday, March 30, 2017 4:00 – 5:00
HC White 7191
Susan Schweik

Unfixed: How the Women of Glenwood Changed American IQ, and Why We Don’t Know It

“Dull Babies Made Normal By Feeble-Minded Girls’ Care: Increase of as Much as 40 Points in IQ Reported,” a science magazine headline trumpeted in 1939, describing an experiment led by psychologist Harold Skeels in which orphanage toddlers were transferred to the State Institution for “the Mentally Defective” in Glenwood, Iowa to be nurtured by women incarcerated there. Other “contrast” children left behind in the orphanage did worse by any measure. By 1940, this experiment came under scathing scholarly attack. But by the late 1960s, Harold Skeels’ work, which depended on these women, was credited as key inspiration for the development of Special Education and the notion of learning disability. This talk explores how that the systematic forgetting of what actually happened at Glenwood eroded the effectiveness of the various projects Skeels was praised for inspiring. Raising the children in tandem with the low-wage women workers who were their attendants, the women of Glenwood developed a radically interdependent kinship model that profoundly (but very briefly, and under conditions of domination) called the usual terms and stratifications of “intelligence,” “normal,” “cure,” “care,” and of “research” itself into question.


Monday, April 3, 2017 3:30 – 5:00
212 University Club Building
John Boonstra

Encounters in Qraiyeh: Imperial Ideology and French Industry in a Lebanese Village, 1900-1930

The history of European imperialism in the Middle East tends to follow a familiar script: competing powers developed “spheres of influence” within the late-stage Ottoman Empire, furthering economic interests and building on national traditions of religious alliance and cultural association, before establishing formal colonial regimes after the First World War. The historic ties between France and Lebanon seem to exemplify this model, as commercial and political involvement followed from a legacy of French protection of Lebanese Christians allegedly dating back to the Crusades. But how did these idealized bonds appear on the ground, in interactions between individual French and Lebanese men and women, and at sites of supposed national interests and imperial influence? What tensions arose between languages of sentiment, imperatives of production, and structures of Orientalist knowledge? By analyzing everyday conflicts at a French silk factory and orphanage complex in early twentieth-century Mount Lebanon, this talk reasseses the formation of modern imperial ideologies, arguing in the process for a shift in scale in approaching questions of formal and informal colonial regimes.

John Boonstra is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at UW-Madison. His work focuses on sites of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century European colonial encounters, particularly in ambiguously imperial contexts. Research for his dissertation has been supported by a Social Science Research Council IDRF, a Fulbright Fellowship, and the Mellon Foundation, among other sources. His teaching interests include European gender and colonial history and the modern Mediterranean. He received a BA with High Honors from Swarthmore College in 2007, and an MA in History from UW-Madison in 2012. An article based on previous research recently appeared in the December 2015 issue of German History. He is currently working on his dissertation, “A Mandate to Protect: Imperial Encounters and Affective Ideologies between France and Lebanon, 1900-1930.”


Monday, April 10, 2017 3:30 – 5:00
212 University Club Building
Mitra Sharafi

Corruption and Forensic Experts in British India

Corrupt British forensic experts undermined race-based narratives about truth-telling and corruption in colonial India, as well as ideological claims made for western science and the rule of law. This talk examines two such cases circa 1900 that threatened credibility claims made for the new field of Indian medical jurisprudence. Under Indian criminal procedure, the scientific expert differed from his counterpart in England in significant ways. What can this tell us about the perceived imperatives of colonial rule, and the heightened risk of corrupt experts going undetected?

Mitra Sharafi is a legal historian of South Asia and Associate Professor of Law and Legal Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (with History affiliation). Her first book, Law and Identity in Colonial South Asia: Parsi Legal Culture, 1772-1947 (2014) was awarded the Law and Society Association’s 2015 Hurst Prize. In addition to her second book project, she is also writing an article on abortion during the Raj and another on Asian and African law students who were expelled from the Inns of Court. Since 2010, her South Asian Legal History Resources website has shared resources for the historical study of law in South Asia. She is a regular contributor to the Legal History Blog.


Monday, April 17, 2017 3:30 – 5:00
212 University Club Building
Nicholas Jacobson

Calculating Conversion: The Role of Mathematical Deliberation in Arabic Language Schools of Iberia and North Africa, ca. 1240-1300

In the middle decades of the thirteenth century, Dominican and Franciscan missionaries established schools devoted to the study of “oriental” languages in the Christian-occupied regions of Arabic Iberia and North Africa. At these sites friars studied Arabic and Hebrew grammar as well as Arabic natural philosophy and Jewish law for use as weapons in a sort of spiritual warfare against their adversaries. Curiously, although the friars mastered the midrash to better challenge Jewish scholars in disputation, they rarely marshalled the Qur’ān or hadith in analogous conversion attempts among Muslims. Rather, they adopted the logical and mathematical techniques of analysis, which they called “natural reasons” (rationes naturales), in order to challenge their Muslim interlocutors. It might seem that the missionaries based anti-Muslim polemics on rational foundations as a way of creating a neutral epistemic space for argument. In fact, this was not the case. Rather the ideal Muslim whose authority they sought to challenge took the form of a deliberative philosopher almost as a religious or even ethnic stereotype, which they applied to elite Arab culture generally.  How did this ethnographic stereotype come to figure in the Latin missionary imagination, and what were its social consequences?

Nicholas Jacobson is a doctoral candidate in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research interests focus on the interplay of mathematical and moral conceptions of civil society in the thirteenth-century Mediterranean world.  His research has been generously supported through two UW-Madison Global Studies’ FLAS Scholarships for the study of the Arabic language and two UW-Madison University Fellowships, as well as the William Coleman Dissertation Fellowship through the Institute for Research in the Humanities. His teaching interests include networks of cross-cultural scholarly exchange during the Global Middle Ages and the development of practical knowledge alongside the “religions of the book” and the theoretical sciences of the Medieval Mediterranean World. He received his BA in 2007 at Seattle Pacific University Summa cum laude, and his MA in 2011 from the UW-Madison. He is currently working on his dissertation, “The Ends and the Means: Trans-Mediterranean Networks of Calculation and the Development of a Civil Theory of Proportion (1215-1315).”


Monday, April 24, 2017 3:30 – 5:00
212 University Club Building
Paola Hernández

Exploring the Real: New Modes of Documentary Theatre in Contemporary Mexico

Why do we see a renaissance of documentary practices in contemporary theatre? Where and how does the idea of the affective of a staged biography or the autobiographical enter the scene? And what is the place that this genre of documentary fictions take on different stages around Latin America? One way to tackle these questions could be through the understanding the personal stories affect us, the audience, in a very direct way. The need to return to the “real” or authentic could be a way to respond to many other forms of simulacra and virtual episodes of our times. However, I also believe that an effect of this type of implosion of this genre has been to give agency to those other voices that are rarely heard or considered.

Paola S. Hernández specializes in contemporary Latin American theatre and performance. She has published numerous articles on Southern Cone theatre, performance, memory politics, sites of memory, and human rights. She is the author of El teatro de Argentina y Chile: Globalización, resistencia y desencanto (Corregidor, 2009), and co-editor (with Brenda Werth and Florian Becker) of Imagining Human Rights in Twenty-First-Century Theater: Global Perspectives (Palgrave, 2013). Hernández is the South American drama editor for the Handbook of Latin American Studies, Library of Congress, as well as Book Review editor for Latin American Theatre Review. Her current research project examines the role of the “real” in theatre and visual arts with an emphasis on contemporary documentary theatre and urban ethnography in Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Mexico, and Peru.


Monday, May 1, 2017 3:30 – 5:00
212 University Club Building
Aparna Dharwadker

Modernism, Theatre, and the Axis of Language in India

The global turn in modernist studies has offered scholars of India the first significant opportunity to position modern Indian literature and theatre in the new time-space of modernism. However, the long premodern history of these cultural forms, and their embeddedness in a complex system of multilingual literacy outside the Europhone fold, raises a range of critical issues that need systematic articulation. What are the implications of using language as a specific vector of analysis in modernist interpretation, in addition to the spatio-temporal and vertical vectors of the new modernist studies? Are Indian modernisms more easily “readable” in plastic, visual, and visual-verbal forms such as architecture, painting, and cinema? This presentation takes up these questions in relation to post/colonial Indian modernisms in general, and the interlinked genres of drama, theatre, and performance in particular.

Aparna Dharwadker is Professor of English and Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and works primarily in the areas of modern Indian and postcolonial theatre, comparative modern drama, theatre theory, and the global South Asian diaspora. Her book, Theatres of Independence: Drama, Theory, and Urban Performance in India Since 1947, received the Joe A. Callaway Prize in 2006 as the best book on drama or theatre published in 2004-05. Aparna’s articles and essays have appeared in journals and collections such as PMLA, Modern Drama, Theatre Journal, New Theatre Quarterly, Theatre Research International, Studies in English Literature, Studies in Philology, South Central Review, English Postcoloniality, Representing the Past: Essays in Performance Historiography, The Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, and The Routledge Handbook of Asian Theatre. She has received fellowships from the NEH, the American Institute of Indian Studies, the International Research Centre (Freie Universistät, Berlin), the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the Newberry Library, among others; at UW-Madison, she held the multi-year H. I. Romnes Fellowship for outstanding scholarship in the humanities. Aparna’s collaborative translation of Mohan Rakesh’s modernist play, Ashadh ka ek din (One Day in the Season of Rain, 1958) was published by Penguin Modern Classics in 2015, and A Poetics of Modernity: Indian Theatre Theory, 1850 to the Present, an edited collection of source-texts in theatre theory from multiple Indian languages, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press in 2017.


Monday, May 8, 2017 3:00 – 5:00
Banquet Room, University Club Building

Research in the Humanities: Past, Present, and Future

Panelists are invited to reflect on the following questions; please come and share your ideas and memories on these as well:

How might your discipline or interdisciplinary research area contribute to the future direction of the Humanities? How has your discipline’s relationship to the Humanities changed over the last ten years? How has the Institute for Research in the Humanities enhanced your scholarly work or your understanding of your discipline? Do you have an IRH “ah-ha” or “eureka” moment to share? What role to you see for the IRH in the future of the Humanities?

Moderator: Steven Nadler, Philosophy

Panelists, UW-Madison:
Tejumola Olaniyan, English and African Languages and Literatures
Cindy I-Fen Cheng, History and Asian American Studies
Laurie Beth Clark, Art
Alex Dressler, Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies
Michael Titelbaum, Philosophy

Following the panel, we invite all attendees to take up these questions at their tables with discussion facilitators:

Jonathan Pollack (Honorary Fellow, Madison College), Robert Wolensky (UW System Fellow, UW-Stevens Point), Max Harris (Honorary Fellow, IRH), Tina Chronopoulos (Solmsen Fellow, SUNY Binghamton), Jennifer Row, (Solmsen Fellow, Boston University), Nevine El-Nossery (Resident Fellow, UW-Madison) and Andrew Zolides (Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow, UW-Madison).

Closing remarks: Associate Dean Sue Zaeske, College of Letters and Science


Banquet Room, University Club Building, 803 State Street
A. Naomi PaikJ. Daniel ElamToussaint LosierMichael FarquharGolnar NikpourA.J. Yumi LeeAnthony Fontes

Imprisonment, Encampment, Incarceration: Prison Studies in a Global Frame

Never before in  history have as many people around the world been confined in carceral sites — penitentiaries, prisons, interrogation centers, supermax facilities, military detention camps, labor camps, and more — as they are today. This exponential increase in prisons and imprisoned populations over the last several decades reveals a seeming paradox of modernity — that is, the modern era, in all its global diversity, has nonetheless been the era of the prison. The global history of the prison reveals a troubling alternative genealogy of political modernity, insofar as modern conceptions of citizenship, rights, and political emancipation have often been produced through their multiple entanglements with modern regimes of surveillance, policing, and incarceration. Yet too often studies of penal regimes or punishment practices remain limited in their regional or theoretical scope, seeking to answer questions about particular carceral, policing, or legal realities without making links between the global economies or interlinked histories or logics of punishment. This conference seeks to address this issue by encouraging a comparative and transnational investigation of carceral and policing practices across borders, eras, and academic disciplines by bringing together several leading scholars working in the emerging and interdisciplinary field of global prison studies.