Humanities Friday Lunches, a series of salons showcasing the work of UW-Madison humanities faculty, offer an informal opportunity for conversation across disciplines. An RSVP is required to attend these events. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your full name, UW affiliation, and the lunch you are interested in.
Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for the Humanities and the Department of Philosophy, UW-Madison
Evolution, Positivism, and the 'Metaphysical Club', 1859-1879 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.
Elizabeth R. Johnson
Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for the Humanities and the Department of Geography, UW-Madison
The Promise of a New Humanity: Imagining Bio-Mimetic Futures 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.
Assistant Professor, Department of English, UW-Madison
Constitutive Visions: Indigeneity and Commonplaces of National Identity in Republican Ecuador 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.
Assistant Professor, Department of Gender & Women's Studies, UW-Madison
Curability and the Promise for Inclusion: Managing Leprosy 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.
Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for the Humanities and the Department of Art History, UW-Madison
To Perfect and Preserve: Metamorphosis and Temporality in 19th-century Art and Culture 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.
Assistant Professor, Department of History, UW-Madison
Transnational Nationalism and the Politics of Diasporic Claim-making: South Asians in Colonial Kenya 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.
Assistant Professor, Department of Spanish & Portuguese, UW-Madison
The Experience of the New: New Media and Fashion in Early Nineteenth-Century Spanish America 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.
Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Arts, UW-Madison
Coming out of the Closet, Coming out of the Shadows: From Appropriation to "Undocuqueer" 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."
Professor, Department of Classics, UW-Madison
Recent Discoveries at the Archaeological Site of Troy 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.
Jimmy Casas Klausen
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, UW-Madison
So-called "Uncontacted" Tribes and the Ends of Man 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.