Humanities Friday Lunches showcase the work of UW-Madison humanities scholars and faculty and offer an informal opportunity for conversation across disciplines. Attendance is by reservation only, and space is limited. To reserve space at one of the lunch programs, please send an email including your UW-Madison affiliation to RSVP@humanities.wisc.edu. The reservation deadline for each program is noon on the Monday prior to the event. The series is open to members of the UW-Madison faculty, graduate students, and staff. Visiting scholars and fellows are welcome to attend; others should contact the Center to determine eligibility.
Lunches are hosted by the Center for the Humanities with thanks to the Anonymous Fund of the College of Letters & Science.
Visit our past events for a complete overview of the program.
Directions and information about the University Club building.
The Intimacies of Paper in Early America
Assistant Professor, School of Library and Information Studies, UW-Madison
Friday, April 7, 2017 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
By the late nineteenth century paper became closely associated with forms of modern disenchantment like bureaucracy and mechanical mass reproduction. But from paper production’s beginnings in colonial America in 1690 through the end of the nineteenth century, it was widely understood as an intimate material medium, one that could literally and figuratively bring bodies into contact with one another.
This has to do with the materia construction of paper itself: before 1867 it was predominantly made from cast off or recycled cotton and linen rags, materials which were often stripped from the bed or the body before being taken to a mill and remade into the substrate for writing, printing, and other uses. But this process invested paper with more than inert shredded rags; writers and readers frequently noted how the raggy content of paper created narrative, communication, and textuality within itself, regardless of, or in addition to, what was printed on it. An example from a 1777 issue of the North Carolina Gazette illustrates how both material and imaginative processes produced the page. A paper mill issued the following call and promise to young female readers: “The young ladies are assured, that by sending to the paper mill an old handkerchief, no longer fit to cover their snowy breasts, there is a possibility of its returning to them again in the more pleasing form of a billet doux from their lovers.” Here, the actual material process of sending cloth to the paper mill both figures the public sphere as an intimate circuit and dictates the content that will be written on the freshly made paper.
In this Friday Humanities Lunch talk, Jonathan Senchyne will discuss how the work of writers including Anne Bradstreet, Benjamin Franklin, and Herman Melville make visible the intimacies that inhere within rag paper. The talk previews the book he is completing for the "Studies in Print Culture and History of the Book" series at the University of Massachusetts Press: Intimate Paper and the Materiality of Early American Literature.
Jonathan Senchyne teaches the history of the book and print cultures of the US in the School of Library and Information Studies, where he is also the director of the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture. His research has been published or is forthcoming in Book History, PMLA, Technology and Culture, Early African American Print Culture, and Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016. His work has been supported by fellowships from the NEH, the American Antiquarian Society, the New York Public Library, and the CUNY Graduate Center where in 2017-2018 he will be the Pine Tree Foundation Distinguished Visiting Fellow in the Future of the Book in a Digital Age.
Roman standpoint in low genres: Views from below in Latin Literature
Assistant Professor, Department of Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies, UW-Madison
Friday, April 21, 2017 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
Applying modern theoretical frameworks to two scenes of unrequited love in ancient literature, this paper suggests that the marginalized characters of low genres have fuller knowledge of real life in the ancient world than their elite counterparts. In the first scene from Plautus’s comedy, The one about the asses, an insolvent elite adolescent tries to procure the services of his prostitute-lover from her procuress, only to get a lecture about economic life and symbolic capital reminiscent of Brecht and Bourdieu. In the second scene, from Petronius’ Satyricon, an avowed scalawag laments the loss of his boy-lover and uncovers the basis of elite sentimentality in the experiences of outlaw populations. Applying frameworks derived from Marxist and feminist analyses, the paper suggests that ostensibly modern categories like class and standpoint carried epistemological – and political – weight for ancient authors in spite of their elite affiliations or those of their audience.
Alex Dressler uses literary criticism, especially the interpretation of figurative language, to do the history of mentalities in classical and post-classical Latin literature. Paying special attention to the concepts of subjectivity and individuality, Dressler has studied the personification of abstract nouns as women in republican and early imperial authors in his monograph Personification and the Feminine in Roman Philosophy (CUP 2016) and is currently considering the role of monetary metaphors in concepts of ethical and aesthetic value in the transition from the classical to the Christian periods.
Invisible City: Speaking Silences in the Poetic Landscape of Augustan Rome
Assistant Professor, Department of Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies, UW-Madison
Friday, March 3, 2017 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
We often read poetry for what it says about a particular time, place, and culture. This is certainly true for Latin elegy, which vividly depicts life and love in the city of Rome in the age of Augustus. This talk will look at what elegy does not say about Augustan Rome. Pandey focuses on Ovid's parodic remapping of Rome for erotic purposes in his how-to book for lovers, the Art of Love. Ovid palpably omits one important monument from his survey: the forum that the emperor had recently built to launch military expeditions. In its place, Ovid anticipates the triumphant return of Augustus' grandson Gaius, who had just set out from this space on a campaign to the east. Gaius' premature death would add a tragic note to Ovid's ostensibly comic poem, rendering its silence on Augustan military monuments an eloquent testament to the many lives lost in pursuit of Roman glory.
Nandini Pandey is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Classics and Ancient Near Eastern Studies (CANES) at UW-Madison. Her research focuses on Latin poetry in its relationship with politics and visual culture during Rome's transformation from a republic into an empire. Her current book, The Poetics of Power in Augustan Rome, shows how poets like Vergil and Ovid shaped political discourse and subsequent historical narratives through subtle but provocative public readings of nascent imperial iconography. She is grateful to have received a 2016 First Book Prize from the Center for the Humanities in support of the project.
Latin America and the Making of Global Human Rights Politics
Patrick William Kelly
2015-2017 A.W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Friday, February 10, 2017 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
We live in a world where the idea of “human rights” animates people across the globe. But what are the roots of our era of global human rights politics? Kelly's talk draws on case studies of Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and the United States to explore how and why transnational and local actors began to deploy the language of human rights and its effects on the development of a distinct transnational practice that centered on civil and political rights by the end of 1970s. His talk connects the voices and experiences of a diverse array of actors, including church and solidarity activists, political exiles, and members of Amnesty International to Ford Foundation officers, international lawyers, and bureaucrats at the United Nations and the Organization of American States. In charting this history, he argues it makes less sense to isolate a particular region of the world, whether that be the United States, Latin America, or Europe, than to show how human rights ideas percolated through a series of transnational encounters in different regions of the world.
Containing complexities: Producing knowledge about psychiatric disorders in an animal behavior genetics laboratory
Assistant Professor, Department of the History of Science, UW-Madison
Friday, November 18, 2016 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
The laboratory is a powerful site for producing knowledge, one where scientists can control and make legible unruly natural phenomena. But what happens when natural phenomena repeatedly overflow the boundaries of the experiments that researchers have so carefully constructed to contain them, and the control afforded by the laboratory is insufficient to create the kinds of knowledge scientists desire? This talk examines how animal behavior geneticists deal with surprises, reversals, and stochasticity in their experimental work. Rather than treating these events as problems with the laboratory, researchers attribute them to the “complexity” of the psychiatric disorders that they study. I examine how researchers’ assumptions about the complex nature of behavior structure their work practice, and their expectations about the kind of knowledge they will be able to produce.
Nicole Nelson is an Assistant Professor in the History of Science department at UW Madison. She works on the history and sociology of the recent life sciences; in particular, the way that genetic understandings of human disorders are investigated, materialized, and circulated in different institutional and sociocultural settings. She is also a Collaborating Editor for the journal Social Studies of Science.
Aimé Césaire and Another Face of Europe
2015-2017 A.W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Friday, November 4, 2016 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
In 1939, the Martinican poet Aimé Césaire published his poem Notebook of a Return to My Native Land, which became a symbol of the struggle of black people everywhere. However, Césaire did not write this poem about the return to his native land in Martinique, but on the coast of Croatia, where he stayed with his Yugoslav friend Petar Guberina. In this talk, Anja Jovic-Humphrey uses archival materials, such as an unknown documentary she found in Zagreb film archives, in which - seventy years after their first encounter in Paris - Césaire and Guberina reminisce about their lives’ work and friendship. Jovic-Humphrey takes this Caribbean-Yugoslav postcolonial friendship as a starting point for a broader examination of the historical conditions that create illuminating parallels between African, Caribbean, African-American, and Balkan culture, theory, and art.
Anja Jovic-Humphrey is an A. W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is currently completing a book manuscript on parallels between Balkan, African, and Caribbean philosophy, history, and poetics. She is also working on a shorter project - "Can a Postcolonial Author Be Dead?" - which examines the role of biography in postcolonial writing. Her second big project, “A Silence of Their Own,” explores the experience of motherhood and loss in women’s public and private writing across different cultures, as well as the work of grassroots support groups created by women for women.
The Human in Pain or the Revolutionary Body?: Contested Meanings of Torture in Iranian Political Discourses, 1965-1979
2015-2017 A.W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Friday, October 14, 2016 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
The 1979 Iranian revolutionary movement was once hopefully referred to as “the revolution against torture,” in no small part because of prevalence of painful punishment in pre-revolutionary Pahlavi Iran. In the years leading up to the success of the revolution, Marxists, Islamists, nationalists, liberals, and those professing eclectic mixes of the above were all united on the question of torture in their anti-shah efforts, so much so that the issue of Pahlavi punishment became not only a major national concern but also an international cause célèbre. How do we understand the place of torture and embodied pain in these disparate anti-Pahlavi discourses? What sorts of political subjectivities, collectivities, and imaginaries are produced through the set of practices we call torture? This talk, which looks at both emergent guerrilla discourses on punishment as well as the nascent international human rights campaign against Pahlavi prison abuses, examines projects of meaning-making regarding the body in pain in pre-revolutionary Iranian discourses.
Golnar Nikpour is currently an A.W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at UW-Madison. She received her Ph.D. from Columbia University in 2015, with a dissertation entitled “Prison Days: Incarceration and Punishment in Modern Iran.” She has received research fellowships from the Social Science Research Council and the Giles Whiting Foundation at Columbia University, and has published in forums including International Journal of Middle East Studies, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, Tehran Bureau, Jadaliyya, and Humanity. She is also co-founder and co-editor of B|ta’arof, a journal for Iranian arts and histories, where she has written extensively on Iranian intellectual and cultural history. She is currently at work on a history of prisons and punishment in modern Iran that particularly examines the public life of the prison in political, cultural, and popular texts. Her research interests include political philosophy, comparative revolutions, transnational feminisms, postcolonialism, and critical prison studies in the context of modern Iran and the Middle East.
Mortal Doubt: Maras and Murder in Guatemala City
Anthony W. Fontes
2015-2017 A.W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Friday, September 23, 2016 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
Since the end of Latin America’s longest and bloodiest civil war (1960-1996), Guatemala City, like other cities in Central America’s Northern Triangle, has become a hotbed of homicidal violence. Maras (transnational gangs) have become the erstwhile emissaries of this new order. They are victims and perpetrators of spectacular violence and pivotal figures in a politics of death reigning over post-war society. In this talk, which will highlight stories drawn from my book manuscript (under review with UC Press), I draw from a mix of participant observation ethnography, media analysis, and oral histories to explore the evolution of both the maras’ modus operandi and the rumors, nightmares, and fantasies swirling about their image in the social imaginary. However, while gangs and gang members play starring roles in this account of extreme peacetime violence, they are not the problem. They are a hyper-visible expression of a problem no one can name. They make a deafening scream and a smokescreen obscuring innumerable and diffuse sources of everyday brutality. Maras in fact moor a collective sense of existential uncertainty over the terms of everyday survival—what I call mortal doubt—that has come to dominate post-war urban life. Ultimately, I aim to capture and convey how the specter of out-of-control criminal violence can become utterly entwined with the making of lived and symbolic landscapes, defying every effort to fix it in time and space.
Anthony W. Fontes is a geographer with interests in theories of violence, illicit networks, and innovative ethnographic research and writing methodologies. He holds a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley and is a second year Mellon fellow in the Center for Humanities at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His written and photographic work in Central American cities explores the blurred boundaries between the underworld, the state, law-abiding society, legacies of civil war, the meaning of justice, and violence in its most extreme and banal forms. His research has been supported by grants from the OSF/SSRC Drugs, Security, and Democracy Program, the International Center for Global Conflict and Cooperation, the Woodrow Wilson Center, and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. His book project Mortal Doubt is under review with the University of California Press, and his most recent article, “Extorted Life: Protection Rackets in Guatemala City”, will be published with Public Culture. Read more at Anthony's website: http://www.anthonyfontesiv.com
The Emancipation Circuit: Black Political Organizing after the Civil War
Assistant Professor, Department of Afro-American Studies, UW-Madison
Friday, April 22, 2016 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
This presentation will show the building of African American political formations in the post-Civil War South was the first mass black movement, built on circuits of settlements with origins in slavery and flight towards federal troops during the war. Using maps of black organizing, Davis will show the development of black political hubs in rural agricultural belts where mass participatory democracy was the practice. The maps show as well the systematic assault--using violence and voter repression-- on the circuits from their margins towards their origins on economic lifelines--waterways and rail lines.
Thulani Davis is an Assistant Professor in Afro-American Studies and a Nellie Y. McKay Fellow. Her research interests are in black political thought and African American arts and letters. She is currently at work on a book on late 19th century black political formations.
Polish Towns? Jewish Towns?: Urban Development in Eastern Poland on the Eve of the Holocaust
Assistant Professor, Department of History, UW-Madison
Friday, April 8, 2016 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
With their central market squares, churches and synagogues, and mixed Polish-Jewish populations, the small towns of interwar eastern Poland have come to be viewed, somewhat simplistically, as places of either prewar inter-ethnic tolerance or simmering ethnic tensions on the eve of the Holocaust. The story was of course more complicated—and more interesting. This talk will explore how Polish modernizers in the borderlands framed their attempts to create explicitly “modern” urban spaces—with paved streets, regulated borders, and orderly town councils—through a national lens. In what ways did Poles on the supposedly more “tolerant” wing of the political spectrum seek to transform towns into anti-Jewish spaces? How did the local context intersect with broader ideas about nationalism, civilization, and modernity? Ultimately, to whom did these towns belong—and who decided the answer to this question? By illuminating local stories from the archives, this presentation invites us to explore how global ideas about civilizational hierarchies and the construction of a European-centric civilizing project were used to marginalize certain populations as “foreign” in the very places that they called home.
Kathryn Ciancia is an assistant professor in the History department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received her PhD in History from Stanford University in 2011 and went on to work as a postdoctoral lecturer in two of Stanford’s liberal arts programs before moving to Madison in 2013. She is currently completing her first book manuscript, Civilizers in Their Own Backyard: Interwar Poland and Its Eastern Borderlands; an article based on part of the book, entitled “Borderland Modernities: Poles, Jews, and Urban Spaces in Interwar Volhynia,” will appear this year in the Journal of Modern History. She is also beginning work on a second book project, which will explore the everyday role of Polish consulates in Western Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas between the wars.
‘All right / you want a STYLE out of America’: Transnationalism and the Remaking of American Ballet in the 1930s
Assistant Professor, Department of Dance, UW-Madison
Friday, March 4, 2016 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
The 1930s brought unprecedented changes to all of the arts in America, but especially to ballet. For at least a century prior, ballet had been seen as the ancestor of a decadent European court culture and a threat to republican values, but events of the 1930s created a new opportunity to redefine it as a modern art form with a vital role to play on the front lines of the international economic, political, and cultural crisis. Dance history has long held that a uniquely “American” form of ballet arose from this period, primarily due to the immigration of Russian choreographer George Balanchine in 1933. But the redefinition of ballet in the 1930s was actually the product of a much longer and broader dialogue between authors across continents and generations over the persistent problem of the artist in American society—a history of which Balanchine was the outcome, not the driving force.
Andrea Harris is an assistant professor of Dance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Certified Movement Analyst. Her current book, Making Ballet American, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press. Her essays have appeared in Dance Chronicle, Interrogating America through Theatre and Performance, Discourses in Dance, and Avant-Garde Performance and Material Exchange, and she is the editor of Before, Between, and Beyond, the most recent collection of dance historian Sally Banes’s works. Dr. Harris has also taught at Texas Christian University, the University of Oklahoma, and the Universidad de las Américas. Her performance credits include the Martha Graham Dance Company and Li Chiao-Ping Dance.
To ‘The Land of Social Revolution’ and Back: American Encounters with Soviet Russia
Professor, Department of History, UW-Madison
Friday, February 19, 2016 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
In the 1920s, Americans traveled to the Soviet Union to witness the Russian Revolution up close. Some saw a daring social experiment that wedded scientific planning with ideals of equality in all areas of human endeavor. Others saw a vast prison system in the making. What was Soviet Russia? No question proved more contentious for the many Americans who sought inspiration from “the land of social revolution.”
Tony Michels is the George L. Mosse Professor of American Jewish History at UW-Madison. He is author of A Fire in Their Hearts: Yiddish Socialists in New York (Harvard), winner of the Salo Baron Prize awarded by the American Academy for Jewish Research for the best first book in Jewish Studies. He is editor of Jewish Radicals: A Documentary History (New York Univ.), co-editor of the forthcoming Cambridge History of Judaism: The Modern Period, and co-editor of the quarterly journal Jewish Social Studies: History, Culture, Society. He is completing a new book tentatively entitled "The Last International: American Jews and the Russian Revolution.”
The Other Lords of the Andes: An Archaeology of Human-Mountain Relationships
2014-2016 AW Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Friday, November 20, 2015 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
In the Inca Empire, mountains were elite social actors who could speak, own property, pay taxes, and commit acts of violence. Some were even executed by the state for treason. Quite unlike a modern nation-state, which generally only takes human beings to be members of the body-politic, the Inca polity invested heavily in efforts to transform mountains into compliant and loyal political subjects. Such processes can be examined through a range of archaeological traces, which serve to highlight the importance of nonhuman beings in the politics of the ancient Andes. This talk will consider a series of pre-colonial coca plantations situated in the eastern Andes, presenting them not as efforts to maximize the extraction of goods from productive land, but rather as attempts to bring the a community of sentient mountains into line with the the Inca's imperial project.
Darryl Wilkinson is an anthropologist whose work examines religion in the precolonial Andes, especially as approached through landscapes and other forms of material culture. He received his PhD in anthropology from Columbia University in 2013. His present research project focuses on the political lives of mountains in the Inca Empire, through a combined study of archaeological remains and ethnohistoric sources.
Choice by Design: Marital Law and the Politics of Making in the Era of Reform
Assistant Professor, Department of Art History, UW-Madison
Friday, November 6, 2015 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
Shira Brisman, Assistant Professor in the History of Art, arrived at UW in the Fall of 2014. She teaches Northern European art of the Early Modern Period, and thematically organized courses, such as “The Artist as Scientist,” and “The Origins of Abstraction.” She received her PhD from Yale University in 2012, and taught for two years at Columbia University as Andrew W. Mellon Lecturer and Postdoctoral Fellow. Her research has also been supported by the Albrecht Dürer Fellowship at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg, Germany, the Samuel Kress Foundation, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, and the American Center for Learned Societies. Her first book, Albrecht Dürer and the Epistolary Mode of Address, investigates the impact of letter writing culture and the early modern postal systems on the imagery and circulation of prints. The book will be published in 2016 by the University of Chicago Press. Prof. Brisman is currently working on two new book projects. Contriving Balance is a historical portrait of the concept of symmetry in the early modern period. The other book project, Choice, by Design, which explores the relationship between metalwork and marital law in the era of Reform, will be the subject of her Humanities Friday Lunch talk.
Three Poetics of the Drum: Ethnographic Approaches to a Caribbean Non-Savoir
Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, UW-Madison
Friday, October 9, 2015 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
Guadeloupean choreographer Lena Blou once commented to me that a straight reading of her island was impossible. Indeed, as a former colony of France that chose to decolonize through political incorporation within the French state, Guadeloupe resists any narrative that would simply oppose resistance to accommodation and political independence to colonization. Instead, strategies of evasion, feinting, and masking prevail. While these strategies first emerged in the creolizing spaces at the edges of the plantation in an effort to resist the colonial gaze, today, as Blou reminded me, they are equally effective against the gaze of the ethnographer. Drawing from Edouard Glissant’s theory and my ongoing research on gwoka—Guadeloupe’s secular drumming tradition—this presentation examines three poetics: the forced poetics heard in gwoka modènn (modern gwoka), the poetics of the detour that informed gwoka’s recent inscription onto the UNESCO’s list of intangible heritage, and the poetics of instability found in Blou’s choreographies. I propose that sounds and movements constitute traces through which the ethnographer gains a partial and contingent access to postcolonial ways of being in the world and what Glissant calls a non-savoir (non-knowledge).
Jerome Camal is an assistant professor at the UW-Madison where he teaches in the Anthropology Department and the Transdisciplinary Global Music Studies program. Prior to coming to Madison, Camal was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at UCLA. He earned his doctorate in musicology at Washington University in St. Louis. Camal is currently finishing a book manuscript on the music of Guadeloupe tentatively titled Le Tambour du Tout: Guadeloupean Gwoka and the Poetics of Postnationalism.
Private Devotion, Public Theology: Hinduism and the Public Sphere in Early Modern South India
2014-2016 A.W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Friday, October 2, 2015 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
Elaine M. Fisher is a scholar of South Asian religions and Indian intellectual history. She received her PhD in 2013 from Columbia University in Middle Eastern, South Asian and African studies, and her MA in 2007 from the University of Chicago Divinity School. As a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Religious Studies Program at UW-Madison, she is pursuing her long-term research interests on the role of religion in early modernity, in particular, rethinking the nature of publicity and the “public sphere” in early modern India. Her first book manuscript, Hindu Pluralism: Religion and the Public Sphere in Early Modern South India, historicizes the emergence of the Hindu religion as a synthesis of spatially intersecting, parallel public spheres. In the process, she aims to re-situate the interaction between Hindu sectarian communities as a pre-colonial, and distinctively non-Western form of religious pluralism.
The Early Modern Caribbean and the Imagination of the World
Assistant Professor, Department of Medical History and Bioethics, UW-Madison
Friday, April 24, 2015 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
How does a history of the early modern world look if we take seriously non-European strategies and visions concerning the exploration of the natural world and the history of the body? Pablo Gómez’s talk will explore how the early modern Caribbean offers a lens through which we can investigate in novel and transformative ways these and other questions related to knowledge creation. Records from the 17th-century Caribbean reveal a region of fluid and vast migrations from all over the globe, a place in which two-thirds of the population was of African descent and free. Gómez’s talk will explore this fantastic yet ferociously tangible world where beasts, numinous entities, plants, minkisi, blood, and humors functioned as powerful tools for the creation of truth in a place in which the causes and cures of hurricanes and plagues were explained alongside recipes for cleaning teeth and curing diseases caused by yerbas. Gómez’s talk explains the central role black Caribbean ritual practitioners played in shaping novel early modern epistemologies that transformed intellectual, political, and social landscapes across the Atlantic. In this revised narrative, the European “New Science” of the seventeenth century appears as just one (and often marginal) competitor in a vibrant and complex world of encounters between unstable traditions of multifarious and un-circumscribed geographical and intellectual origins.
Pablo Gómez is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical History at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His work examines the history of medicine and corporeality in the early modern African and Iberian Atlantic worlds. Dr. Gómez’s current book project explores belief making and the creation of evidence around the human body and the natural world in the early modern Caribbean. He holds an MA and PhD in History from Vanderbilt University. Before becoming an historian, he earned his MD at the Universidad CES and did his residency in Orthopaedic Surgery at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana.
Tariffs on Textbooks: The United States in a Global Knowledge Economy, 1800-1830
Professor, Department of Educational Policy Studies, UW-Madison
Friday, March 20, 2015 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
In 1816, the U.S. Congress passed the nation's first protective tariff, which, among other provisions, tripled an earlier tariff on imported books. What began with a debate over tariffs quickly escalated into a larger debate over the United States' place in a global knowledge economy. Protectionists and free-traders struggled for control in a conflict that extended beyond the importation of foreign books to include the importation of scientific instruments and even the immigration of foreign scholars. At stake in this debate were crucial questions about the global flow of knowledge, the production and consumption of knowledge, the educational needs of elite and non-elite students (and readers), and, ultimately, the international political economy of intellectual labor. This lecture asks: in an era often cited as the cradle of classical liberalism (a presumed source of today's neoliberal globalist ideologies), how did students, scholars, printers, publishers, and other "knowledge workers" react to tariffs on books?
Adam R. Nelson (Ph.D., History, Brown University, 1998) is Professor of Educational Policy Studies and History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of Education and Democracy: The Meaning of Alexander Meiklejohn, 1872-1964 (2001) and The Elusive Ideal: Equal Educational Opportunity and the Federal Role in Boston’s Public Schools (2005). He is also the co-editor of Education and the Culture of Print in Modern America (with John L. Rudolph, 2010) and The Global University: Past, Present, and Future Perspectives (with Ian P. Wei, 2012). He is currently writing a pair of books—Capital of Mind: The United States in a Global Knowledge Economy and Empire of Knowledge: Nationalism, Internationalism, and American Science—on the international dimensions of American scholarship in the early republic (c. 1780-1830). His research has been funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, the Advanced Studies Fellowship Program at Brown, and the Vilas Associate Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was a 2011-2012 Fellow at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard and is President-Elect of the History of Education Society (U.S.).
'Street Archives' of the Socialist City: Dar es Salaam's Underground Publishing Industry, 1967-1985
Assistant Professor, Department of History, UW-Madison
Friday, March 6, 2015 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
From the mid-1970s, the migration of African youth from rural areas to cities has occurred alongside economic crisis, infrastructural collapse, and the shrinking capacity of states to provide services. This urban growth, occurring in the absence of centralized urban planning and economic growth, gave rise to new forms of urbanism characterized by the informal, the ephemeral, and the improvisational. These postcolonial urban predicaments, while the subject of numerous recent ethnographies, present a challenge to historians because they elude conventional forms of documentation that appear in national and institutional archives. Historians have much to contribute to understandings of city life in Africa and the global south since the economic crises of the 1970s, but to do so will require a new methodological toolbox.
In this talk, Emily Callaci proposes a methodological approach in which historians identify, assemble and study what she calls "street archives": sites of vernacular documentation of urban life outside of the official purview of the state and other durable institutions that conventionally hold archives. Pulp fiction Swahili publishing in socialist-era Dar es Salaam, Tanzania offers one such "street archive." The emergence of a vibrant underground publishing industry coincided with the height of economic crisis in Dar es Salaam in the 1970s and early 1980s. Callaci traces the emergence of a network of young men who wrote, published, and disseminated pulp fiction novellas throughout the city's markets, establishing robust reputations and urban audiences without ever having a legal address or permanent location in the city. Collected, assembled and approached as an archive, these novellas reveal not only literary productivity in a time of material scarcity, but also the composition of social networks and informal economies, experimentation with new modes of masculinity, and critical evaluation of the promises of postcolonial citizenship.
Emily Callaci is an historian of modern East Africa, with a research focus on twentieth century urban Tanzania. Her teaching interests include urban African history, gender and sexuality, popular culture, Islam in Africa, and African intellectual history.
A Brief History of Interactivity
Molly Wright Steenson
Assistant Professor, School of Journalism & Mass Communication, UW-Madison
Friday, February 27, 2015 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
We interact with computers constantly: not only are they in our pockets and on our desks, they are embedded in our cars, buildings, and cities. Interactivity extends human experience through a responsive, two-way flow of information, in which systems respond to their users. In this talk, Molly Wright Steenson looks at how contemporary notions of interactivity have developed over the last 50 years through collaborations between architecture and artificial intelligence, an enmeshing of computer architectures and architectural practice.
Molly Wright Steenson is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication at UW-Madison, where she focuses on digital media studies. Her research focuses on the nexus of architecture, urbanism, infrastructure, design, technology and communication from the 19th to the 21st centuries, and she is working on a book about the history of interactivity. Prior to the UW, Steenson was a professor at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea in Ivrea, Italy, where she led the Connected Communities research group, and an adjunct at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena in the Media Design Practices master's program. She began working professionally with the web in 1994 here at Madison, then worked for at a number of prominent technology companies. She holds a PhD in architecture from Princeton University, a Master's of Environmental Design from Yale University School of Architecture, and BA in German with honors and distinction from UW-Madison. Her personal site is http://girlwonder.com and on Twitter, she's @uwmolly.
(Extra-)Ordinary Language: The Lyric and Forms of Life
Hannah Vandegrift Eldridge
Assistant Professor, Department of German, UW-Madison
Friday, December 5, 2014 @ 12:00pm Fireside Lounge, University Club
In this talk, Hannah Vandegrift Eldridge argues that the view of language developed by American philosopher Stanley Cavell—an amalgamation of J.L. Austin’s ordinary language philosophy and the post-Tractatus thought of Wittgenstein—opens up possibilities for the reading of lyric poetry as engaged in the working through of central human concerns, rather than (merely) as a series of interacting themes, codes, forms, or patterns. Eldridge examines questions of “what we mean” and “what we say” as ways of testing and instantiating communities of speakers based on convention and agreement rather than universal rules. She then turns to the vision of community presented in the extraordinary language of Friedrich Hölderlin’s draft poem, “The Nearest the Best,” to consider what kind of communities such difficult, fractured, and apparently hermetic language might present and what that vision might reveal about what it means to be finite, language-possessing subjects.
Hannah Vandegrift Eldridge is Assistant Professor of German at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her interests include late 18th through 20th-century literature, culture, and philosophy, in particular lyric poetry, music, and the relationship between sound and text. She has published on Hölderlin, Goethe, and the American philosopher Stanley Cavell, with a forthcoming article on Rilke and Wittgenstein, and is putting the final touches on book project titled Lyric Orientations: Hölderlin, Rilke, and the Inhabitation of Finitude.
Frontier Futurisms: Popular Music, Culture Work, and the Brazilian Amazon
AW Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Friday, November 7, 2014 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
Throughout much of the 20th century, Brazilian technocrats confidently asserted that Brazil was “the country of the future.” For the majority of Brazilians, however, this was a future that largely failed to arrive. Over the last decade, Brazil has ridden a new wave of economic growth and optimism to a place of prominence on the global stage, casting itself as a model of “holistic development.” This presentation considers how this euphoric spirit of national optimism has been projected onto an upstart electronic dance music scene from the seemingly remote region of eastern Amazonia. It suggests that this otherwise marginal scene has become central to debates over the future of the nation and the creative economy because of the way it breathes new life into the myths of entrepreneurial uplift, technological redemption, and the Amazonian frontier. Drawing on ethnographic research, this presentation asks what kind of futures those Amazonian singers, DJs, and producers whose precarious work animates today’s futurisms anticipate for themselves and their nation.
Darien Lamen is an ethnomusicologist specializing in the music and culture of Brazil and the circum-Caribbean. His research interests range from labor and political economy to social poetics and discrepant cosmopolitanisms. He has been the recipient of fellowships from the Social Sciences Research Council (IDRF 2008) and the American Council of Learned Societies (NFF 2012). He is currently a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for the Humanities and Institute for Research in the Humanities at UW-Madison, where he is working on a book project on popular music, cultural work, and the imagination of the future in the Brazilian Amazon.
“States of Exception” in the Modern Middle East: the Politics of Heritage, Culture, and Tourism from Israel to the G.C.C.
AW Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Friday, October 24, 2014 @ 12:00pm Fireside Lounge, University Club (location subject to change)
This presentation draws from Rogers' forthcoming book, Semiotics of Rebellion From Morocco to Egypt: Advertising Revolution and Marketing Allegiance Beyond the Arab Spring (University of Pennsylvania Press, International Relations and Public Policy Series). Each of the comparative monograph’s five North African case studies focuses on the increasing prominence of politicized culture industries for nation-state security, focusing on the visual, performative, and rhetorical discourses used to mobilize political actors: by both mass social movements that galvanize protest, as well as regime enforcers of the status quo that suppress dissent. In the contemporary era of digitized globalization, contextualization of regional instability, strategic inter-state alliances, and the rise of consumerist "nation branding." This talk applies the text’s fundamental theoretical findings beyond North Africa. Rogers will discuss prevalent trends in a group of nations purportedly exempted from the ramifications of the Arab Spring. These states also face demographic explosions and internal pressures similar to pre-2011 North Africa, yet prove largely immune to the threat of regime change. Nonetheless, Arab Spring reverberations have inadvertently drawn increased international attention to these nations; global democratization debates engender harsher scrutiny of corruption, political alliances, and records of human rights abuse. Uniting these diverse "states of exception" are concerted, government-led efforts to "get out in front" of potential fault lines. Tactical maneuvers to establish control over the narrative of political legitimacy—at home, and abroad—entail considerable resource allocation for the retention of public relations experts, and massive investments in heritage, culture, and tourist industries: key tools in the new arsenal of diversified soft-power.
Amanda Rogers received her PhD from Emory University in 2013, with primary fields of concentration in Art History and Middle Eastern Studies. In addition to her academic career, she is also a photographer, political analyst, and journalist, whose work has appeared in a number of forums, including: the Frontline Club, the BBC World Service, Al-Jazeera, The New York Times, and Kifah Libya. Amanda also serves on the editorial board of the Postcolonialist, as staff writer for Muftah, and columnist at Aslan Media Initiatives. Her current book project, Semiotics of Rebellion From Morocco to Egypt: Advertising Revolution and Marketing Allegiance Beyond the Arab Spring, is presently under contract with University of Pennsylvania Press (International Relations and Public Policy series). Drawing upon extensive fieldwork throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe, this book offers a novel analytical framework that foregrounds the politicization of image.
At Home in the Great Northern Wilderness: What New York State's Adirondack Mountains Can Tell Us About Nature and Culture in the Nineteenth-Century US
AW Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Friday, October 3, 2014 @ 12:00pm Fireside Lounge, University Club
The Adirondacks: they’re the mountains in northern New York State, long celebrated as one of the US’s most famous wilderness areas. As all wilderness areas do, they also have a history of contestation: one person’s unsullied wilderness is another’s home or place of work. But the Adirondacks, known in the nineteenth-century as the Great Northern Wilderness, have another, little-known history that is a mix of radical black abolitionism, utopian socialism and anarchism, wilderness, and agrarianism. This talk begins with the geographer D.W. Meinig’s argument that all landscapes are composed “not only of what lies before our eyes but what lies within our heads.” By taking the intellectual route to the Great Northern Wilderness, Daegan Miller hopes to reveal an Adirondack landscape where wilderness is inhabited, a home, a good place—eutopia.
Daegan Miller is a cultural and environmental historian of the 19th-century United States. His work uses landscape--that thick mixture of the material world and human culture--to explore how Americans have posed (and continue to pose) questions such as: is ours the best of all possible worlds? What alternatives have existed? What alternatives still do exist? A bit more concretely, he studies how nineteenth-century Americans conceived of alternative, countermodern landscapes, ones that contested the legacy of Manifest Destiny, scientific racism, and the cultural hegemony of capitalism. And so his work draws heavily on cultural landscape studies, visual culture, radical politics, the history of science and technology, and the histories of space, cartography, and geography.
Morale and the Politics of Citizenship in Twentieth-century Britain
Assistant Professor, Department of History, UW-Madison
Friday, April 11, 2014 @ 12:00pm Fireside Lounge, University Club
Since the Second World War ‘morale’ has become a ubiquitous and potent concept through which we have come to understand the proper function of mass-democratic societies. Understood as vital for achieving victory, wartime Britain saw the first orchestrated effort to observe and manage morale. While few could explain what morale actually was, for many it seemed to explain the conduct of Britons fighting a total war. By the 1950s, morale had come to define proper managerial practice appropriate for the democratic age, and it was central to the programs that underpinned the postwar state. By that time it had acquired an air of inevitability, a-historicity, scienticity, and political neutrality. This talk, which is part of a book-length critical history of morale, will suggest that far from a-historical or politically neutral, morale was central to the government of democratic citizenship and its boundaries in twentieth-century Britain.
Daniel Ussishkin is an Assistant Professor at the Department of History, UW - Madison, where he teaches courses on modern imperial Britain, European history, and war and society. He is now completing a book manuscript on the history of the idea of 'morale' and its management in modern Britain.
Reflections on Fieldwork into the Future of the Book
AW Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Friday, February 21, 2014 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
This talk will report back on anthropological fieldwork into the mass digitization of books, an engineer-led effort to shepherd books into a long-awaited electronic future. Mass digitization—the industrial-scale retrospective conversion of entire libraries into digital form most often associated with Google’s Library Project—began in earnest in the early 2000s, when it sent a shock through the “traditional” book system. Delving into the intense contestation that mass digitization provoked, Murrell considers the book not, as is often the case, an old medium on the verge of obsolescence or as a technology in the midst of a transition from print to electronic forms, but rather as a dynamic field of social relation. Focusing specifically on one aspect of mass digitization—that is, the “datafication” of books—she will examine the social relations in play around books once they become “data.”
Mary Murrell received her Ph.D. in sociocultural anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2012. Her work at Berkeley was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, an NSF dissertation improvement grant, a Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities Fellowship, and an ACLS-Mellon Dissertation Fellowship. Before earning her Ph.D., Mary was an acquisitions editor at Princeton University Press, where she acquired titles in the humanities and social sciences.
Epistolary Acts in the Middle Ages
Assistant Professor, Department of English, UW-Madison
Friday, February 7, 2014 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
What makes early medieval English epistolarity unique is that it is not merely about letters per se, but about what Jordan Zweck calls epistolary acts, the moments when authors represent or embed letters within vernacular texts, attempting to adapt a Latin epistolary tradition to Germanic or Anglo-Saxon contexts and audiences. After a brief overview of her book on Anglo-Saxon epistolarity, the talk takes as its focus the relationship between messages and messengers in two texts: the Old English prose romance Apollonius of Tyre and Ælfric's Life of Abgar, in which an ailing king exchanges letters with Jesus of Nazareth. Both texts are emblematic of the ways in which Anglo-Saxon epistolarity defamiliarizes our understanding of medieval letters by relying less on form and function than on imagining the storage, transmission, materiality, and affect of communicative acts. Taking up the question of how the body of a text or messenger might escape the asynchronicity and absence inherent in communication by letter, they explore how communication networks do not just involve the movement of bodies through space, but also how contact with the container of the letter can transfer its message to those bodies, making messages legible in and through the bodies of those who carry them.
Jordan Zweck specializes in early medieval vernacular literatures, including Old English. Her current book project examines medieval documentary culture, focusing on letters from heaven in medieval England, Ireland, and Iceland. The book pays particular attention to the circulation and reception of the Sunday Letter, an early chain letter in which Christ admonishes the people to keep proper Sunday observance or face terrible punishment. Other research interests include the history of the book, the history of the English language, and medieval lay piety and pastoral care. She teaches courses on Old English, Beowulf, Chaucer, Medieval Marvels and Monstrosities, and Medieval Media Studies.
#JusticeForTrayvon: Digital Media Responses to the George Zimmerman Verdict
AW Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Friday, January 31, 2014 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
At approximately 10 p.m. on Saturday July 13, 2013, a Florida jury returned a not guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teen. The verdict brought race to the surface of U.S. culture, causing many commentators to compare it to previous eruptions of racial tensions such as the 1992 acquittal of LAPD officers in the beating of Rodney King and the murder of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till in 1955. Though these comparisons are apt, the Zimmerman verdict occurred in vastly different socio-cultural and technological moment – one in which many Americans see their country as “postracial” and where digital and social media have created unprecedented levels of connectivity and participation in media creation. The complicated intersection of racial politics and technology are exemplified by the response to the verdict of the independent Black media company This Week in Blackness (TWiB!). Beginning with the spontaneous broadcast of a call-in show at 1 a.m. EST, just hours after the verdict announcement and throughout the following months, TWiB! used their podcasts and their surrounding social media networks to create spaces for both catharsis and critique. They created both synchronous and asynchronous enclaves for geographically dispersed listeners to process and respond to the verdict as well as the mainstream media coverage and the political aftermath.
Sarah Florini received her Ph.D. in communication and culture from Indiana University in 2012. Her dissertation explores how the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, one of the largest contemporary Black Nationalist groups in the U.S., uses its website and its annual Black August Hip Hop Project concerts to construct and circulate counter-memories and counter-histories that offer an alternative lens through which to understand contemporary U.S. racial politics. She is currently developing a new project that will focus on the use of trans-media social networks to address racial politics and mobilize political engagement.
Realms of Biocertification: Regulating Identities in the Modern Era
Assistant Professor, Department of Gender & Women's Studies, UW-Madison
Friday, November 22, 2013 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
In this talk, Ellen Samuels explores the latter-twentieth-century phenomenon of biocertification: the production and enforcement of government certification that purports to validate a person’s biological identity and that is required to access certain rights and resources. She examines three contemporary locations of biocertification: blood quantum requirements for Native peoples of North America and Hawai’i; the bureaucratic and cultural discourses shaping definitions of disability in the United States; and sex testing in sports, particularly the 2009 controversy surrounding South African runner Caster Semenya. These examples serve to illustrate how the idea of a physical basis for race, sex, and disability far exceeds any material reality and yet has material effects on our daily lives. This talk thus exposes the paradoxes inherent in modern realms of biocertification and explores—but does not resolve—the question of whether more just alternatives exist.
Ellen Samuels is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Gender & Women’s Studies and English and a member of the UW Disability Studies Initiative. Her critical work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Feminist Disability Studies, GLQ: Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, and MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the United States, and was awarded the Catherine Stimpson Prize for Outstanding Feminist Scholarship in 2011. Her book, Fantasies of Identification: Disability, Gender, Race, will be published by NYU Press in 2014.
Poisoning in British India
Assistant Professor, UW-Madison Law School and Legal Studies Program
Friday, November 15, 2013 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
This talk uses the history of poisoning in colonial India to explore conceptions of truth and trust in empire. Colonial authorities in British India regarded poisoning as a special problem, and one that fit into larger stereotypes of indigenous dissembling and medical quackery. Reported cases of poisoning were several times higher in India than in Britain, and the British suspected that many more cases were going undetected. Poisoning was regarded as a weapon of the weak, and was contrasted with the more noble or manly use of physical violence. Sharafi will focus on a particular anxiety among colonial authorities: the fear of fabrication in the legal process. The British believed that the planting of false evidence and creation of false charges (like perjury and forgery) were rife in India. The talk explores two particular areas in which manipulation of the system was a special focus: alleged snakebite cases and the work of a figure known as the Imperial Serologist.
Mitra Sharafi is a legal historian of South Asia. She holds law degrees from Cambridge and Oxford and a doctorate in history from Princeton. Her first book, Law and Identity in Colonial South Asia: Parsi Legal Culture, 1772-1947 is forthcoming in 2014 with Cambridge University Press. Her second book project is on medical jurisprudence (particularly poisoning) in South Asia during the 19th-20th centuries. Sharafi’s research has been funded by the Institute for Advanced Study through the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the Social Science Research Council. In addition to teaching at the UW Law School, she is a core faculty member of UW’s interdisciplinary undergraduate Legal Studies program and is affiliated with the History Department and Center for South Asia.
Coming Together: Wolfgang Tillmans and the End of Likeness
Michael Jay McClure
Associate Professor, Department of Art, UW-Madison
Friday, November 8, 2013 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
This talk will consider the work of the contemporary German-British photographer Wolfgang Tillmans. Attention will focus on how—in his individual images and in their erratic combination—Tillmans presents a circulating human subject that cannot be reduced to a representative body, type, or understood under a common name. This “coming together” of unlike bodies, I will argue, speaks to photography as a medium, while pointing toward systems of alliance and desire in which subjects and objects continually rotate. In this way, the spectator encounters work that recasts concepts of repetition and representational likeness, concepts that stand as foundational to the history of art and to the humanities writ large.
Michael Jay McClure, PhD, is an associate professor teaching the history and theory of contemporary art in the Departments of Art and Art History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Mapping the Middle Ground: Sensational Literature and Republican Space in the Old Northwest, 1830-1860
Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for the Humanities and the Department of English, UW-Madison
Friday, October 4, 2013 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
Beginning in the 1830s, a host of vibrant literary cultures began springing up in the industrializing cities of the Mississippi Valley, including Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and St. Louis. This talk examines one of the most prolific of those cultures, the “sensational” literature industry in Cincinnati, as a case study of the role of print culture in forging regional identity. Adapting a model of “cognitive mapping” from perceptual geography and critical theory, I argue that these violent, quasi-pornographic pamphlet novels stage vivid scenes of vision across the landscape that articulate a regional form of republican ideology that responded to fears about the civic effects of industrial development in the Old Northwest. Where literary critics and historians have examined Eastern “city mysteries” novels and frontier outlaw tales as ambivalent documents of the rise of the modern city and the spread of U.S. empire, this talk brings these popular genres together to tell a different story about the neglected spaces between the metropolitan center and the imperial periphery. As sensational literature grapples with the legacies of settler colonialism and capitalist development in the “middle ground,” it gives a glimpse of alternative modernities that unsettle familiar configurations of print, people, and land.
Jerome Tharaud is an A.W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he teaches American literature and culture in the English Department. He received his Ph.D. in English from the University of Chicago in 2011. His research focuses on the rise of mass print in antebellum America and its role in orienting readers within imagined spaces other than the nation, from the region to the cosmos.
Evolution, Positivism, and the 'Metaphysical Club', 1859-1879
Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for the Humanities and the Department of Philosophy, UW-Madison
Friday, April 5, 2013 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
Late in life, Charles Sanders Peirce recalled that in the early 1870s "a knot of us young men in Old Cambridge, calling ourselves, half-ironically, half-defiantly, 'The Metaphysical Club,'—for agnosticism was then riding its high horse, and was frowning superbly upon all metaphysics,—used to meet, sometimes in my study, sometimes in that of William James." In this talk Pearce argues that the more philosophically inclined members of this club—Chauncey Wright, C.S. Peirce, F.E. Abbot, William James, and John Fiske—were deeply engaged with questions about the continuing role of philosophy in the wake of positivist and evolutionary ideas that promoted scientific approaches to everything from psychology to theology. The 'pro-science/anti-metaphysics' approach of positivism did not leave much room for traditional philosophy. Likewise, the idea—championed by Herbert Spencer—that evolution could explain everything from the formation of the solar system to the development of civilization seemed to promise a new scientific method that would supersede humanistic approaches more generally. What was left for philosophy to do? Although this question was not often taken up directly by the club members, it lies in the background of their frequent discussions of the nature of science and the changing relationship between science and philosophy.
Trevor Pearce is a philosopher and historian of science, focusing on biology. His research explores how different models of the organism-environment relationship have shaped (1) recent debates about the causes of evolution and (2) the exchange of ideas between biology and philosophy. His current book project, "Pragmatism’s Evolution," argues that developments in the life sciences at the end of the nineteenth century influenced many of the core conceptions of the American pragmatist philosophers, leading to important innovations in ethics and epistemology.
The Promise of a New Humanity: Imagining Bio-Mimetic Futures
Elizabeth R. Johnson
Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for the Humanities and the Department of Geography, UW-Madison
Friday, March 1, 2013 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
The emerging field of “biomimicry" offers the promise of building a new relationship between humans and nonhumans into our very practices of production. While biomimicry remains a diverse--and often contentious--field, many of its practitioners agree that modeling technological materials on the morphology and biology of nonhuman life forms will likely result in more ecologically sustainable products and resource-efficient production processes. But, biomimicry's most ardent advocates go further, claiming that biomimetic design will also affect a transformation in human consciousness. Through mimicking the nonhuman world, they suggest, we may find ourselves viewing the earth's material and biological processes with reverence rather than rapacity; that we will replace the hubris of industrial production with awareness and respect for the "genius" of the evolutionary process. In this talk, Johnson will draw on the rhetoric of the biomimicry movement and recent trends in the humanities to explore the mimetic faculty's potential to forge a new humanity and, with it, 'new creative assemblages' of social, political, and ecological significance. She further places the utopian aspirations of the biomimicry movement alongside an analysis of its real world manifestations, finding that the practice of biomimetic production seldom lives up to its hype. This talk concludes by offering a reevaluation of the political and social potentials inherent in biomimicry.
Elizabeth R. Johnson is an A.W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, working on a book project entitled, "Life’s Work: the labor of biomimetic science in a time of empire." She received her PhD from the University of Minnesota for doctoral work that focused on how “biomimetic” sciences remake knowledge of nonhuman nature as a resource for production.
Constitutive Visions: Indigeneity and Commonplaces of National Identity in Republican Ecuador
Assistant Professor, Department of English, UW-Madison
Friday, February 22, 2013 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
Images of indigenous people proliferated during the long process of nation formation in Ecuador (1857 to 1946). Such depictions circulated across political texts, periodical illustrations, and works of art. Even as indigenous people themselves were largely excluded from active participation in Ecuadorian civic life, those ubiquitous images of indigeneity helped authorize the nation-state, justify systems of governance, and sustain a sense of national identity within changing circumstances. As present-day scholars question the coherence of the nation-state as a unit of analysis, this talk suggests that those concerns have deep roots. Tracking how commonplace images of indigeneity constituted and sustained national identity, this talk draws attention to the porous, partial, and decidedly rhetorical nature of nationalism and sovereignty.
Christa Olson is Assistant Professor of English and a faculty affiliate in the Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies program and with the Center for Visual Cultures. She specializes in 19th and 20th century visual cultures in the Americas; historical methods and methodological pedagogy; publics, democracy, nationalisms, and transnationalism; coloniality and post-colonialism. She is particulalry interested in the role of the visual (photography, fine arts, performance, etc.) in social movements. She teach courses in visual rhetoric, research methods, and the history of rhetoric.
Curability and the Promise for Inclusion: Managing Leprosy
Assistant Professor, Department of Gender & Women's Studies, UW-Madison
Friday, February 8, 2013 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
In this presentation, Eunjung Kim focuses on Hansen’s disease (leprosy) – in particular its management and representations – to explore the reconfiguration of family around disability and cure. The discourse around marriage between former (male) patients and nondisabled women cast their union as a symbolic bridge between the segregated space of Hansen-in and the “uninfected,” as well as a “remedy” to the colonial and state violence of incarceration and sterilization. Kim also interrogates curability constructed as a precondition for the promise of inclusion and the transnational politics of medical aid between the US and South Korea.
Eunjung Kim's research interests include historical and cultural factors that shape disabled women's experiences in South Korea; the politics of cultural representations of disability, gender, and sexuality; transnational disability studies theories; and asexuality representations. She is currently working on a cultural history of disabled women in Korea. She is a member of Disability Studies Cluster and affiliated with the Center for Visual Cultures and Center for East Asian Studies.
To Perfect and Preserve: Metamorphosis and Temporality in 19th-century Art and Culture
Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for the Humanities and the Department of Art History, UW-Madison
Friday, February 1, 2013 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
The pursuit of perfection pervades 19th-century American art and culture. While historical interpretations of this era posit a binary opposition of competing desires—an embrace of progress and new technologies, versus anti-modernist nostalgia—Foutch's work identifies and analyzes a previously unstudied phenomenon: the desire to stop time at a “perfect moment,” pausing the cycle of growth, decay, and rebirth to arrest and preserve a perfect state, forestalling decay or death.
This talk will focus upon the butterfly projects of Titian Ramsay Peale (1799-1885), an artist and naturalist who was obsessed with butterflies, creating thousands of drawings and over a hundred glass specimen boxes bound in leather and marbled paper. These works developed not only from his family’s engagement with natural history and preservation, but also from the butterfly’s cultural associations: with their fragile wings and dramatic metamorphosis, butterflies emblematized change, vanity, and the evanescence of beauty as well as Christ’s resurrection and the human passage from earthly body to heavenly soul, thereby embodying both the ephemeral and the eternal. Peale’s scientific and artistic preservation attempted to immortalize butterflies’ “perfect state,” imposing order and control on these fluttering, changeable creatures.
Ellery Foutch is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for the Humanities and the Department of Art History, University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received her PhD in Art History from the University of Pennsylvania in 2011 with a dissertation entitled "Arresting Beauty: The Perfectionist Impulse of Peale's Butterflies, Heade's Hummingbirds, Blaschka's Flowers, and Sandow's Body." She earned her MA from the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art and a BA from Wellesley College. Her work has been supported by fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Terra Foundation for American Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Philadelphia Area Center for the History of Science.
Transnational Nationalism and the Politics of Diasporic Claim-making: South Asians in Colonial Kenya
Assistant Professor, Department of History, UW-Madison
Friday, December 7, 2012 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
This talk traces the political aspirations of South Asians in Kenya who transitioned from being sub-imperialists in East Africa, demanding to be made equal partners in the colonial project, to developing an anticolonial critique by linking their claims in Kenya with both the anticolonial Khilafat, non-cooperation movement in India and an African anti-settler agitation led by a Kikuyu, Harry Thuku, in the early 1920s. Highlighting the connections between these three movements, Aiyar uses the Indian Ocean as the main unit of spatial analysis to study the political strategies, rhetoric, and specific claims of South Asians in colonial Kenya. She explores diasporic expressions of political “belonging” as multiple rather than singular affiliations to both India and Kenya. This project broadens the contours of colonial and national history to accommodate the experience of diasporic South Asians from whose perspective the neat historiographical spatial separation of India and Kenya does not adequately reflect the reality of the interracial, transcolonial – and eventually transnational – economic and political spaces within which they operated. This presentation hopes to demonstrate the usefulness of the Indian Ocean realm as a horizon from which to study local histories in a transnational, connective framework. In doing so the talk brings into relief the possibilities and limitations of transnational nationalism by placing diasporic politics squarely within two homelands.
Sana Aiyar is a historian of South Asia, with a particular interest in the modern Indian Ocean and the Indian diaspora. She is currently completing a book manuscript on the political history of South Asians in Kenya from c.1890 to 1968. In it she looks at the different political postures adopted by Indians as they transitioned from being sub-imperialists in Kenya who were invested in the colonial project to becoming a diaspora that transcended territorial and racial boundaries in the public political realm, and developed a critique of colonialism in both India and Kenya.
The Experience of the New: New Media and Fashion in Early Nineteenth-Century Spanish America
Assistant Professor, Department of Spanish & Portuguese, UW-Madison
Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
Focusing on early nineteenth-century debates on the acceleration of cultural change and on emerging forms of discursive authority (such as “originality” and the ability to be “up to date”), this talk analyzes the impact that periodicals (understood as new media) and fashion (defined as a pattern of cyclical renovation) had upon Argentine, Chilean, and Cuban cultures, in order to trace the concept of the new from its initial, often deprecatory meaning of puzzlement or disruption, to its modern use as an expression of praise.
Víctor Goldgel-Carballo specializes in nineteenth-century Spanish American literature. His research interests include media history, material culture, transatlantic studies, and the question of peripheral modernities. He is currently finishing a book manuscript entitled The Experience of the New, in which he analyzes the cultural process by which the new acquired its modern sense and legitimacy in early nineteenth-century Spanish America.
Coming out of the Closet, Coming out of the Shadows: From Appropriation to "Undocuqueer"
Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Arts, UW-Madison
Friday, November 2, 2012 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
In 2010, "coming out" became a predominant strategy of the undocumented youth movement, particularly among those advocating for the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act. Given the queer leadership of this movement, the appropriation of the LGBTQ political strategy made sense, and it has since become a regular strategy among migrant youth activists, even those who oppose the DREAM Act. This talk argues that the appropriation strategy provides a unique lens to understand coalitional possibilities among queer and migrant rights and justice movements. The appropriation also helps to view the differences between movements, the risks and opportunities for differently-positioned groups using the same strategies for different ends, as well as how groups imagine the conditions of their politics and belonging.
Karma R. Chávez is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Arts. She is co-editor of the forthcoming collection, Standing in the Intersection: Feminist Voices, Feminist Practices in Communication Studies (SUNY, 2012) and author of several articles on feminism, queer theory and politics, migration, and social movements. She is currently finishing her book manuscript titled, "Queer Migration Politics: Activist Rhetoric and Coalitional Possibilities."
Recent Discoveries at the Archaeological Site of Troy
Professor, Department of Classics, UW-Madison
Friday, October 5, 2012 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
With 4,500 years of nearly uninterrupted settlement at a crossroads between Europe and Asia, Troy is fundamental for questions about the development of civilization in Europe and the Near East. Homer's epic poems about a lost age of heroes and the legendary Trojan War have endured as sources of inspiration for art and literature across the ages. Recent geomagnetic prospection at Troy has shown that the citadel and lower town covered 22 hectares -- far more than Heinrich Schliemann and his successors ever imagined. Ongoing excavations attempt to fill gaps in our knowledge about the identity and lifeways of the prehistoric Trojans, the location of their principal cemeteries and the nature of their writing system. The enduring question of the historicity of the Trojan War is also unexplained. This illustrated presentation features recent archaeological discoveries at Troy.
William Aylward is an archaeologist who has participated in the annual expedition to Troy since 1996. He has supervised UW-Madison undergraduate research at Troy since 2002. Elsewhere in the Mediterranean his fieldwork has involved study and publication of ancient monuments at archaeological sites in Greece, Italy, France, Spain and Germany. His edited volume on rescue excavations at the ancient Graeco-Roman frontier city of Zeugma, which was flooded by a reservoir for a dam on the Euphrates River in southeastern Turkey in 2000, is forthcoming with The Packard Humanities Institute.
So-called "Uncontacted" Tribes and the Ends of Man
Jimmy Casas Klausen
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, UW-Madison
Friday, September 21, 2012 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
What effects do advocacy organizations such as Survival International and Cultural Survival produce when they adopt the rhetoric of “cultural survival” and pressure states to grant and administer protections to vulnerable populations? What assumptions about “humanity” are wrapped up in the liberal or multicultural “right to culture”? In this talk, Jimmy Casas Klausen explores these assumptions and effects through the limit case of “uncontacted” tribes. Focusing especially on Brazilian policies in regard to self-isolating indigenous communities, he analyzes the problems and promise of according rights or recognition and demarcating territorial reserves on behalf of peoples who presumably do not legitimate or recognize the nation-states surrounding them. Finally, drawing on both Freud and strands of twentieth-century Francophone philosophy that interrogated the “ends of man,” he speculates on alternative languages for theorizing survival as thriving rather than as vulnerability.
Jimmy Casas Klausen is a former IRH Race, Indigeneity, and Ethnicity Fellow and recipient of a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies. He teaches modern and contemporary political theory in a global frame. His research brings together critical anthropological theory, the history of political thought, and concepts and arguments from postcolonial analysis and poststructural philosophy.
On Autonomous Spaces
Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, UW-Madison
Friday, March 16, 2012 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
Recent turns within philosophy toward nonhuman and ‘object-oriented’ perspectives present key challenges to popular conceptualizations of the world, its workings, and the place of the human within it. Nevertheless, many of these thinkers, in passing beyond the human to once again put questions to objects themselves, retain a language of relations that is often explicitly spatial. These perspectives challenge a widespread understanding of space and relationality, which have been, since Kant, the site of exclusively human life and experience.
Thus, autonomous political spaces (such as squats, community centers, and so on) are said to be spaces that enable and promote human autonomy. But what of recent representations of spaces that are divorced from human relations? Can we conceive of spaces that are autonomous from the human? Looking to both philosophical and geographic treatments of space, as well as recent work in ‘site ontology,’ this talk asks what it means – or if it is even possible – to conceive of space and spatiality apart human life or the subject of experience. Drawing upon perspectives from Husserl to Deleuze, it extends the character of autonomy beyond the limits of political organization to a theory of different kinds of spatial formation.
Keith Woodward is Assistant Professor of Human Geography in the Department of Geography. He is a social theorist whose work explores the intersections between spatia theory, affect, and social movements. His current research includes a multi-sited, trans-Atlantic collaboration studying laboratory collaborations between artists and scientists (funded jointly by the National Science Foundation (US) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK)).
Voices From Afar: Gems from the Mayrent Collection of Yiddish 78 rpm Recordings
Director, Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture, UW-Madison
Friday, March 9, 2012 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
Henry Sapoznik is an award winning author, radio and record producer and performer of traditional Yiddish and American music. He co-produced the 10 part series the “Yiddish Radio Project” for National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” in the spring of 2002, which won the prestigious Peabody Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism. The same year, he was nominated for an Emmy for his music score to the biographical film The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg.
Tokyo Tower and Japanese Kitsch
Assistant Professor, Department of East Asian Languages and Literature, UW-Madison
Friday, February 10, 2012 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
Tokyo Tower, completed in 1958, presents as perfect evidence of Japans's imitation problem--a near replica of Eiffel but slightly taller, made of steel, and painted bright orange. A close look at the cultural discourse in Japan on the tower, however, reveals a more complex story. In this presentation, Ridgely will track the shifting signification of Tokyo Tower from an engineering triumph in the 50s to an incon of kitsch in the 70s, then on to a symbol of melancholia and decline in recent years.
Steve Ridgely is an assistant professor of modern Japanese literature and author of Japanese Counterculture: The Antiestablishment Art of Terayama Shuji (University of Minnesota Press, 2010).
Midwestern Modernism: “Wrightification” and Domestic Architecture in Madison, Wisconsin, 1930-1970
Associate Professor, Department of Art History, UW-Madison
Friday, February 3, 2012 @ 12:00am Banquet Room, University Club
This talk discusses the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright in Madison, focusing on different ways in which architects and builders, particularly in Madison's middle-class westside suburbs, borrowed and transformed elements of the master's work. Whether consciously or not, their appropriation of Wright - a trend Andrzejewski calls Wrightification - contributed to the development of a regionalist and more populist form of modernism, which perpetuated Wright's philosophy and iconography (albeit in a highly mannered way). Recognizing this trend of Wrightification allows for fresh understandings of Wright's influence in a context of placemaking as well as a means of rethinking conventional ideas about modernism in twentieth-century American architecture.
Anna Vemer Andrzejewski is Associate Professor of Art History, where she teaches courses in American Art, architectural history, and material culture. She also co-directs the Buildings-Landscapes-Cultures Ph.D. Companion Program with colleagues at the UW-Milwaukee. Andrzejewski's first book, Building Power: Architecture and Surveillance in Victorian America, was published by the University of Tennessee Press in 2008. She is currently working on a second book entitled, "One Builder: Marshall Erdman and Postwar Building and Real Estate Development in Madison, Wisconsin," which represents a micro-history oriented toward writing the history of trends in the building industry during the second half of the twentieth century. This project is supported through a resident fellowship from the Institute for Research in the Humanities, where Andrzejewski will be in residence in the Spring of 2012.
Treaty History as Allo-History in Settler States
Assistant Professor, Department of History, UW-Madison
Friday, November 4, 2011 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
This talk examines how a new historical narrative in Anglophone settler states that Johnson calls ‘treaty history’ presents an alternative account of settler colonization and the relations between settlers and indigenous people in the past for the purposes of the political present. Johnson argues that treaty history, a localized story of social contract, provides a rationale for ‘settling with’ indigenous people and for ‘indigenizing’ settler people in a new, old, narrative of political belonging. She frames this talk by posing a question of comparison: why has treaty history become so important to national debates about identity and belonging in the Commonwealth settler states of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand and not in the United States?
Miranda Johnson is a historian of indigenous peoples and settler colonialism in the Anglophone post/colonial world, most specifically in North America and the Pacific. She is currently completing a book manuscript that explores the significance of indigenous rights discourses and their deployment across Australia, Canada and New Zealand as both a transnational and a very local phenomenon. The legal cases that indigenous people have brought in order to defend their rights have changed how indigenous communities consider their relationship to the state and settler society and how states and settler societies imagine their own relationship to indigenous people. She is interested particularly in how these changes have affected state practices and the imagined community of the nation, a change she calls in general terms the "re-founding" of the settler state. She teaches classes in indigenous history, the history of settler colonialism, historical justice, postcolonialism and decolonization.
Creative Composites: Race, Modernism, and the Stieglitz Circle
Assistant Professor, Department of Art History, UW-Madison
Friday, October 14, 2011 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
In turn-of-the-century New York, the photographer and modern art impresario Alfred Stieglitz and his allies embraced pluralism, miscegenation, and syncretism as appropriate expressions of art and identity in the modern era. Examining their racialized aesthetic discourse and highlighting the often-neglected role played by immigrant artists and critics in the Stieglitz circle, this talk argues for a new understanding of early American modernism as a “composite modernism.” It analyzes episodes in the Stieglitz circle’s use of diverse new media (photography, caricature, film, and collage) to frame their modernist practice as part of the ongoing national dilemma of integrating difference, an understanding which contextualizes the formalist theories of medium-specificity that often isolate the study of art from other modes of history writing.
Lauren Kroiz is Assistant Professor of Art History. She received her Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Before moving to Madison in 2010, she was a visiting professor at Bowdoin College and a postdoctoral fellow at the Phillips Collection Center for the Study of Modern Art in Washington, DC. Her first book manuscript, Creative Composites: Race, Modernism, and the Stieglitz Circle, was awarded the 2010 Phillips Book Prize and will be published by University of California Press.
Staging Biographies: The Liminal State of Latin American Documentary Theatre
Paola S. Hernández
Assistant Professor, Department of Spanish & Portuguese, UW-Madison
Friday, April 22, 2011 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
This talk will explore the use of a new style of documentary theatre in Latin America in which fiction and reality mix in a complex and convoluted fashion. Documentary theatre has the potential to stage historiography with a certain factual legitimacy. Hernández contends, however, that the more contemporary use of this type of theatre has embraced the political manifestations of retelling history as factual, especially of traumatic times, while simultaneously expanding the notion of the factual into a parody of political and social events, and thus calling attention to the “reality” of smaller, everyday life through humor and sarcasm.
Paola Hernández is Assistant Professor in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese. Her areas of interest include globalization theories, memory studies, issues of identity, and reception theory. She has published articles on the role of memory, trauma, and reconciliation in the postdictatorial theatre of Argentina, Chile, and Brazil. She is the author of El teatro de Argentina y Chile: Globalización, resistencia y desencanto.
Piercing the ‘Veil’: African Americans, Inoculation, and Vaccination in Philadelphia, 1730-1923
Dayle B. DeLancey
Assistant Professor, Medical History & Bioethics and History of Science, UW-Madison
Friday, April 1, 2011 @ 12:00pm Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, 330 North Orchard Street
From the eighteenth century through the early twentieth century, Black Philadelphians comprised the largest African American community in the northern United States – a status that made their social, cultural, and political fortunes the focus of analysts from Benjamin Rush to W. E. B. DuBois. This presentation explores this community’s experiences of smallpox inoculation and vaccination, examining the ways in which Black Philadelphians wrote and spoke about smallpox prophylaxis from 1730 (the year that smallpox inoculation arrived in Philadelphia) through 1923 (the year of the city’s last smallpox epidemic). The presentation illustrates that, while municipal public health officials characterized the city’s African Americans as simply disinclined toward smallpox prophylaxis during this period, other sources indicate that Black Philadelphians mediated inoculation and vaccination in complex ways that stressed autonomy, access, and their community’s shifting social, cultural, and political concerns.
Dayle B. DeLancey is Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical History and Bioethics. She is currently working on a book manuscript that explores how African Americans viewed and experienced smallpox vaccination in the 19th and early-20th centuries and smallpox inoculation (‘variolation’) in the 18th century. This work encapsulates her broader research and teaching interests in the 19th- and 20th-c. history and ethics of African-American health experiences, U.S. public health (esp. vaccination and disaster relief campaigns), medical technologies (esp. vaccines and pharmaceuticals), the public understanding of medicine (esp. fears, myths, and rumors), and race and gender in medicine.
Rethinking the Challenge of Democratic Citizenship
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, UW-Madison
Friday, March 11, 2011 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
Contemporary democratic theory increasingly poses a choice between understanding democracy as the power of the people resisting all institutionalized rule and understanding democracy as rule by the people through carefully specified procedures and institutions. Drawing on recent work on ancient Athenian democracy, Zumbrunnen argues instead that rebelliousness and institutionalization are best understood as simultaneous and contrasting impulses within democracy. Against the backdrop of both traditional understandings of citizenship and current debates in democratic theory, he argues that democratic citizenship involves negotiating the tension between these impulses.
John Zumbrunnen is an Associate Professor of Political Science. Interested in the intersection of Greek thought and contemporary democratic theory, he is the author of Silence and Democracy: Athenian Politics in Thucydides’ "History." His work has appeared in The American Political Science Review, Political Theory, Polity, History of Political Thought and Political Behavior. He is currently at work on a book-length project on Aristophanes entitled "Ordinary Citizenship."
Vanishing Bees and the Social Production of Ignorance: The Case of Colony Collapse Disorder
Daniel Kleinman and Sainath Suryanarayanan
Professor and Postdoctoral Researcher, Community and Environmental Sociology, UW-Madison
Friday, February 25, 2011 @ 12:00pm Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, 330 North Orchard Street
The boundaries of what scientists consider a legitimate experiment, the tools they believe appropriate, and the error thresholds they consider acceptable, define what they (can) know and the matters about which they are ignorant. In their talk, Kleinman and Suryanarayanan consider the perplexing phenomena of widespread honey bee deaths in the United State and how the epistemic culture and forms of entomologists affect current knowledge and ignorance about the so-called Colony Collapse Disorder.
Daniel Lee Kleinman is Professor and Chair in the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology. He is also the Director of the UW's Holtz Center for Science & Technology Studies. Among his books is Impure Cultures: University Biology and the World of Commerce. In addition to his work on Colony Collapse Disorder, he explores a number of issues in his research; among them are the commercialization of the university and the relationship between democracy and expertise. Kleinman's collaborator, Sainath Suryanarayanan, has a PhD in Entomology. His doctoral work on social wasps found that nest vibrations generated by socially dominant wasps pre-dispose brood to develop into workers. Currently, he is a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology. As a hybrid-in-becoming, Suryanarayanan is interested in mediating fruitful dialogues between practices in Entomology and Science & Technology Studies.
Ambivalent Poetics: Transnational North American Poetry
Associate Professor, English and Asian American Studies, UW-Madison
Friday, February 11, 2011 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
How does American poetry look different through a transnational lens? This talk will examine the work of three twentieth-century poets--Claude McKay, José Garcia Villa, and Fred Wah--with an emphasis on physical and aesthetic border-crossing. McKay was a Jamaican-born writer who became a major figure of the Harlem Renaissance; Villa was the first modern poet of the Philippines but spent most of his career in the United States; and Wah, a Chinese Canadian poet, draws on US avant-garde poetics to connect his Chinese heritage with the Canadian prairie. These writers develop an ambivalent poetics, characterized by tentative and provisional identifications that acknowledge the pull of multiple histories while remaining at a critical distance from any single location.
Timothy Yu is an Associate Professor of English and Asian American Studies. He is the author of Race and the Avant-Garde: Experimental and Asian American Poetry Since 1965. His current book project, "Diasporic Poetics," examines English-language poets of Asian descent working around the Pacific Rim—in the United States, Canada, the Philippines, and Australia. The project draws on interviews and archival work while offering a theoretical model that bridges diasporic and ethnic studies paradigms.
Zen and the Art of Mumbo Jumbo: The Invented Tradition of 'Haiku'
Associate Professor, East Asian Languages and Literature, UW-Madison
Friday, November 5, 2010 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
Presenting preliminary research for The Penguin Book of Haiku, this talk interrogates the grand narrative of the haiku, as it has been widely promulgated, contending that the haiku is less an ancient Japanese form of Zen poetry than a recently invented tradition in the service of modernization and Westernization.
Adam Kern is an Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Literature and the Director of the Center for Visual Cultures. He is the author of Manga from the Floating World: Comicbook Culture and the Kibyôshi of Edo Japan and the editor of The Penguin Book of Haiku (forthcoming). He is currently working on a new book manuscript, "Discourses of Incoherence: Literary Nonsense in Early Modern Japan."
American Übermensch: Reading Nietzsche’s Fan Mail
Merle Curti Assistant Professor of History, UW-Madison
Friday, October 29, 2010 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
This talk analyzes the fan mail written by Nietzsche’s American readers in the broader context of his influence on American thought and culture. It examines how admirers young and old, female and male, from all parts of the country wrote for his signature, for his photograph, or simply to document in exquisite and haunting detail how reading his philosophy transformed their views of themselves and their world. By examining American readers’ images of Nietzsche the personalist philosopher, the genius, the secular savior, and the cultural critic, this talk will explore how and why Nietzsche’s philosophy was employed to do extensive cultural work in late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century American life.
Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen specializes in U.S. intellectual and cultural history. She has published extensively on Nietzsche’s influence and image in American culture. This past year, the Center for the Humanities selected her book manuscript for the 2009 First Book Project. Her broader research interests include the history of philosophy; political and social theory; religion, literature, and the visual arts; the transatlantic flow of intellectual and cultural movements; print culture, and cultural studies.
Materialisms: Medieval, Modern, Postmodern
Associate Professor, English Literary Studies, UW-Madison
Friday, October 15, 2010 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
Medieval views of matter have traditionally been left out of discussions of materialism, in part because philosophers and historians of science have considered them to be too “metaphysical” in orientation. Materialism has therefore taken its cue from the definitions of matter in vogue during the Enlightenment (primarily physicalism and Cartesian dualism). The effects of this omission are still felt in the materialist perspectives that underwrite work in literary criticism, intellectual history, and the history of science and philosophy. This talk traces the genealogy of such an omission--one that has subtly reinforced boundaries among these disciplines—and outlines how a return to medieval ideas about matter can help us situate the plural representational projects of “textualizing” the material world currently offer.
Kellie Robertson is an Associate Professor of English and the Director of the Medieval Studies Program. She is the author of The Laborer’s Two Bodies: Labor and the ‘Work’ of the Text in Medieval Britain, 1350-1500 and the co-editor (with Michael Uebel) of The Middle Ages at Work: Practicing Labor in Late Medieval England. Her current research explores the interconnection between medieval poetry and Aristotelian natural philosophy.
The Composer's Muse: The Music of Laura Elise Schwendinger
Associate Professor of Composition, UW-Madison
Friday, April 16, 2010 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
In her talk, Laura Schwendinger will play excerpts from her works and discuss her process with examples from recent premieres. Featured will be her works High Wire Act, her violin concerto Chiaroscuro Azzurro and her cello concerto Esprimere, amongst others.
The first composer to win the prestigious Berlin Prize Fellowship, Laura Schwendinger, Associate Professor of Composition and Artistic Director of the Contemporary Ensemble, has been performed by Dawn Upshaw, the Arditti Quartet, Jennifer Koh, ICE, Janine Jansen, Eighth Blackbird, Christopher Taylor and Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra; At Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, BargeMusic, Wigmore Hall, the Berlin Philharmonie and the the Theatre du Chatalet. Her setting of "In Just-spring," toured by Ms. Upshaw, is on Voices of Our Time, a TDK/Naxos DVD. Her honors include those from the Guggenheim, Koussevitzky and Fromm Foundations, Radcliffe Institute, Copland House, Harvard Musical Association, MacDowell, Yaddo, Rockefeller Bellagio Center, and she was the first-prize winner of the ALEA III Competition. In 2009, she was awarded an American Academy of Arts and Letters-Leiberson Fellowship, given to “mid-career composers of exceptional gifts". She is also a recipient UW honors including the Romnes and Emily Mead Baldwin fellowships. Recent premieres include a Miller Theater commission for recording artist Jennifer Koh and a concerto for Matt Haimovitz. Upcoming commissions and performances include those for SUNY Stonybrook, Boston Musica Viva, the Aspen Ensemble, Jack Quartet and the Empyrean Ensemble. An entire evening of her works will be featured on the Four Score Festival at the Music Institute of Chicago in March and three CDs of her work will be released on Centaur and Albany in the coming year.
The New Color of Class: Race, Service Work and the Welfare State
William P. Jones
Associate Professor of History, UW-Madison
Friday, March 19, 2010 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
Increased demand for health care, sanitation, education and other public services created a new class of low-wage public service workers in the United States following the Second World War. Those jobs were particularly attractive to Africa Americans, who were seeking alternatives to agricultural and domestic service employment in the Jim Crow South but were still largely excluded from manufacturing jobs in the urban North. Many white workers attempted to leave public service jobs in the postwar period, however, because they considered them degrading and because public employment—like agriculture and domestic service—was not covered by New Deal collective bargaining and social security laws that transformed industrial workers into what some called a “New Middle Class.” In this lecture, Jones will examine how African Americans sought to revalue public service employment in the 1940s by claiming the legal rights and living standards that the New Deal had given to industrial workers in the previous decade.
William P. Jones, author of The Tribe of Black Ulysses: African American Lumber Workers in the Jim Crow South, is Associate Professor of History at UW-Madison. He is writing a book titled The New Color of Class: Race and Inequality in the Service Economy.
What is Project Bamboo?
Robin Valenza, Jim Muehlenberg, Lee Konrad, and Jon McKenzie
Associate Professor of English; Assistant Director within DoIT Academic Technology for Library, Instructional & Research Applications; Director of Memorial Library; Associate Professor of English, UW-Madison
Friday, March 5, 2010 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
Project Bamboo brings together researchers and practitioners in the arts and sciences to ask how their work in the humanities can benefit, and benefit from, developments in digital technology. Faculty, librarians, information technology professionals have joined forces across disciplines and universities to consider how digital research, digital arts, and digital pedagogy can make use of shared technological tools and services. The University of Wisconsin-Madison is one of the leaders of this Mellon-sponsored initiative, and Madison's faculty and staff in the humanities, in technology services, and in the library have committed themselves to identifying and addressing the technological needs and desires of academic research and the practice of the arts both on campus and in the broader world. By pursuing this set of goals as a part of the Project Bamboo effort, UW-Madison contributes to and benefits from technologies developed to serve these needs created with a jointly-ratified set of standards for reusability, interoperativity, and sustainability.
What does Project Bamboo promise a humanities faculty member (or a future faculty member) with a research project that might make use of technology in a new way, or in a way that is new to that faculty member's field? It promises that he or she will not have to reinvent the wheel. It promises that Bamboo will make readily available previous solutions to the technological questions at hand and a community of users who can help speak to those needs. What does it promise the information technologist or the librarian? It promises that he or she will neither have to reinvent the wheel nor reinvent the speech in which he or she explains that the wheel already exists. It also holds out the additional promise of avoiding the failed Field of Dreams problem (What happens if you build it and nobody comes?) by keeping all partners in these research, pedagogical, and creative processes in conversation with one another about real needs and abilities to meet those needs.
Beyond Nature Versus Nurture: Changing Views of Infant Language Acquisition
Professor of Psychology, UW-Madison
Friday, February 12, 2010 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
Jenny Saffran is Letters & Science Distinguished Professor of Psychology at UW-Madison. Her research is focused on the learning abilities that infants bring to the task of learning their native language(s). She is the director of the Waisman Center's Infant Learning Lab, where her students work with infants and toddlers from across Dane County. Dr. Saffran has been recognized for her research by numerous organizations, including early career awards from the American Psychological Association, the International Society for Infant Studies, and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers presented by President Clinton. In 2009, she was a recipient of the University of Wisconsin's Chancellors Award for Distinguished Teaching.
The Rise and Fall of the Passive in Academic Writing
Professor of English Language and Linguistics, UW-Madison
Friday, December 4, 2009 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
The language of academia is known to be impersonal. However, our conception of the scientist/researcher has changed from someone who "discovers the truth" to someone who actively engages in a process of "shaping knowledge." Warner will discuss the linguistic implications of this shift, with an emphasis on the use of the passive and other seemingly agentless constructions.
Human/Animal Chimeras: Being Human, Being Animal, and Everything in Between
Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Bioethics, UW-Madison
Friday, November 13, 2009 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
The introduction of human stem cells into developing animals is an important research tool, but has stirred up considerable public controversy. This talk explores the ethical issues raised by creating individuals that are part animal and part human.
Clanship and Public Healing in Buganda, East Africa
Assistant Professor of History, UW-Madison
Friday, October 23, 2009 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
This lecture explores the relationship between the domains of politics and public healing in Buganda, a kingdom located on the northwest shores of Lake Victoria in present-day Uganda, from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries. Drawing on insights from a variety of disciplines - history, historical linguistics, archaeology, and anthropology - as well as extensive fieldwork, I examine how efforts to ensure collective prosperity lay at the heart of community-building processes in Buganda. In so doing, I seek to offer a novel approach to the use of oral sources and to open up new possibilities for researching and writing histories of more distant periods in Africa's past.
Neil Kodesh is a historian of precolonial East Africa. His research interests focus on health and healing, political complexity, and the use of oral sources for writing early African history. His first book, Beyond the Royal Gaze: Clanship and Public Healing in Buganda, will be published by The University of Virginia Press in Spring 2010.
Deterritorialized Rhetoric, or, What Happens When We Forget We are Exiles
Professor of English and Jewish Studies, UW-Madison
Friday, May 1, 2009 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
A few years ago, a sister-city proposal partnering Madison with Rafah in Gaza created a perfect example of a dysfunctional public sphere. In part the discourse was so fraught because the discussion was framed as a communitarian one: how might one community forge a relationship with another. With the Rafah sister city discussion as my point of departure, I want to lay the groundwork for a rhetoric that depends less upon notions of belonging and rootedness than it does upon the idea that one will always be at least in part a stranger in one’s home. This exilic sensibility – that when one writes, one speaks both one’s identity and location, but also one’s placelessness and otherness – has become more pronounced, ironically, since the establishment of Israel, a ‘Jewish homeland,’ since that home was established in the face of the near-destruction of the Jewish people in Europe and through the displacement of many of the region’s non-Jewish residents. In my discussion I’ll hazard some guesses about what might happen if we start discussions of the Israel-Palestine conflict not with questions of community, or inclusion, or filiation, but rather with questions of exile, non-belonging, and ethical engagement with others. My hypothesis is that another kind of rhetorical engagement, another kind of writing can change the terms of the conflict, and might make for a more productive (though not necessarily less fraught) discussion not just of Israel-Palestine, but also conflict more generally.
Inventing the Invention of Molière: The Magnificent Lies of Madeleine Béjart
Professor of French & Italian, UW-Madison
Friday, April 10, 2009 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
A presentation of the questions arising from writing a fictional version of the lives of Molière and his mistress, the actress Madeleine Béjart, followed by a reading from the manuscript of the novel.
The Art and Science of Remembering the American Revolution
Professor of History and Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Research in the Humanities, UW-Madison
Friday, April 3, 2009 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
Between the Battles of Lexington and Concord (1775) and the centennial of Independence (1876), Americans created multiple narratives--individual, regional, and national--depicting the nature and meaning of the Revolution. In a nation created with the stroke of a quill pen in 1776, these narratives significantly fostered national identity, yet also played into antebellum sectional divisions and the outbreak of the Civil War. The fullness and complexity of this process is revealed in texts, material culture, and music. In addition, current understandings of the neurophysiology of memory offer humanities scholars understandings with which to assess memories of eighteenth-century political upheaval and war.
The Danger of Digital Publics: Lessons from Vernacular Christian Fundamentalism Online
Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Arts, UW-Madison
Friday, November 7, 2008 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
The popularity of online participatory media has created both new opportunities and new problems for researchers of communication and culture. Today, individuals are able to by-pass old media institutions like publishers or network television producers and offer their vernacular creations to Internet audiences. At the same time, individuals are given greater personal control over the media content they choose to consume. In both of these ways, communication technologies offer significant means for individual empowerment. The evidence presented in this talk, however, points to one way in which these technologies can also function to disempower their users. Based on 15 years of ethnographic work in the online community emergent from vernacular communication about the End Times, this paper suggests that a danger emerges when individuals aggregate information through interactive feedback loops arising from their use of an ideologically specific vernacular web of online communication. The danger of this behavior lies in the fact that some individuals are isolating themselves from the shared inventional resources that enable public deliberation. Rejecting the very grounds upon which their local and global communities make decisions, the individuals trapped in these ideologically specific vernacular webs are disempowered because their voices are left out of the discourse that shapes the broader social and media worlds in which they must live. While this case presents an extreme, the possibilities it points to are inherent the very mechanisms of empowerment offered by network communication technologies.
From Golden Abundance: German Song in the Middle of the Nineteenth Century
Professor of Voice, UW-Madison
Friday, October 10, 2008 @ 5:23pm Main Dining Room, University Club
The Nuremberg Trials and the Making of the USSR as an International Power
Associate Professor, Department of History, UW-Madison
Friday, September 12, 2008 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
The talk will focus on the emergence or making of the USSR as a "superpower" through the learning experience of Nuremberg--and about how the USSR's internal policies and practices made it difficult for it to grow into its new role on the international stage. The focus will be on the USSR's informal foreign relations apparatus--Soviet legal experts, journalists, and so on who were thrust into the world of foreign affairs as the USSR became an international actor. I'l talk in large part about a critical archival find that forms an important backbone of this part of the project--a treasure trove of correspondence between "Moscow" and Soviet personnel abroad (Nuremberg and London) that documents the course of negotiations about the trials, the trials themselves, life in Nuremberg, and the large and small triumphs and failures of the Soviet delegation.
Romanticism After Auschwitz
Assistant Professor, Department of English and Mosse/Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies, UW-Madison
Friday, May 2, 2008 @ 5:17pm Banquet Room, University Club
Assistant Professor, Afro-American Studies, UW-Madison
Friday, April 25, 2008 @ 4:54pm Banquet Room, University Club
On Corpulence: Body Size, Power, and Prestige in African Political Cartoons
Louise Durham Mead Professor of English and Department of African Language and Literature, UW-Madison
Friday, April 4, 2008 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
Political cartoonists portray figures who are bodily large nearly always as critical commentary on wealth and power relations. But in contexts where ampleness of body is commonly accepted as evidence of both health and social wellness, cartoonists face special problems of style, communication, and meaning-encoding. The line, for instance, between caricaturing normative ampleness and an abnormal one is often blurry and ambiguous. Plus, the conventional equation between corpulent men and power is far easier to make than a similar logic for women. No, there are no corpulent women, only fat and powerless ones...
Violence Over the Land: Lessons from the Early American West
Associate Professor, Department of History, UW-Madison
Friday, February 8, 2008 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
In his award-winning study of the early American West, Ned Blackhawk charts the changing forms and relations of violence that accompanied the expansion of European settlements in first New Mexico and later the American territories of Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. Locating various Shoshone, Ute, and Paiute Indian communities at the center of his narrative, Blackhawk uncovers uncommon and previously under-recognized forms of indigenous adaptation and resistance to European colonization. His talk will examine aspects of this dramatic narrative, examining in particular the early territorial histories of New Mexico and Colorado as well as the impact of the Civil War in the American West.