Humanities Friday Lunches showcase the work of UW-Madison humanities faculty and 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.
Molly Wright Steenson
Assistant Professor, School of Journalism & Mass Communication, UW-Madison
A Brief History of Interactivity Friday, February 27, 2015 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
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.
Assistant Professor, Department of History, UW-Madison
'Street Archives' of the Socialist City: Dar es Salaam's Underground Publishing Industry, 1967-1985 Friday, March 6, 2015 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
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.
Professor, Department of Educational Policy Studies, UW-Madison
Tariffs on Textbooks: The United States in a Global Knowledge Economy, 1800-1830 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.).
Assistant Professor, Department of Medical History and Bioethics, UW-Madison
The Early Modern Caribbean and the Imagination of the World Friday, April 24, 2015 @ 12:00pm Banquet Room, University Club
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.
Hannah Vandegrift Eldridge
Assistant Professor, Department of German, UW-Madison
(Extra-)Ordinary Language: The Lyric and Forms of Life 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.
AW Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Frontier Futurisms: Popular Music, Culture Work, and the Brazilian Amazon 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.
AW Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
“States of Exception” in the Modern Middle East: the Politics of Heritage, Culture, and Tourism from Israel to the G.C.C. 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.
AW Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
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 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.
Assistant Professor, Department of History, UW-Madison
Morale and the Politics of Citizenship in Twentieth-century Britain 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.
AW Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Reflections on Fieldwork into the Future of the Book 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.
Assistant Professor, Department of English, UW-Madison
Epistolary Acts in the Middle Ages 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.
AW Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
#JusticeForTrayvon: Digital Media Responses to the George Zimmerman Verdict 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.
Assistant Professor, Department of Gender & Women's Studies, UW-Madison
Realms of Biocertification: Regulating Identities in the Modern Era 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.
Assistant Professor, UW-Madison Law School and Legal Studies Program
Poisoning in British India 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.
Michael Jay McClure
Associate Professor, Department of Art, UW-Madison
Coming Together: Wolfgang Tillmans and the End of Likeness 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.
Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for the Humanities and the Department of English, UW-Madison
Mapping the Middle Ground: Sensational Literature and Republican Space in the Old Northwest, 1830-1860 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.