Current Fellows

IPRH Campus Fellows: Race Work

Faculty Fellows

Verena Höfig Germanic Languages and Literatures
“Vikings, Vinland, and White Nationalism”

Maryam Kashani Gender and Women’s Studies and Asian American Studies
“Kinship by Faith: Race, Displacement, and Islam in the Bay Area”

Natalie Lira Latina/Latino Studies
“The Pacific Plan: Race, Disability, and Sterilization in California Institutions for the Feebleminded, 1920s–1950s”

Rini Bhattacharya Mehta Comparative and World Literature, and Religion
Mens Hierarchicus: Race’s Intellectual Labor and the Global Right”

John Murphy Communication
“Protean Texts of Civil Rights: Baldwin, Hamer, and King”

Krystal Smalls Anthropology and Linguistics
“The Pot and the Kettle: Young Liberians and the Semiotics of Anti/Blackness in the Making of Contemporary Black Diaspora”

Andrea Stevens English
“Racial Masquerade and the Caroline Court, 1625–1649”

Graduate Student Fellows

Marcelo Boccato Kuyumjian Music
“Performing Samba: Aesthetics, Transnational Modernisms, and Race”

Heather Freund History
“A Negotiated Possession: Law, Race, and Subjecthood in the Ceded Islands, 1763–1797”

John Marquez History
“Freedom’s Edge: Slavery, Manumission, and Empire in Rio de Janeiro, 1761–1808”

Erica Melko English
“Literatures of Decolonial Love: Intimacy and the Colonial Entanglements of Race and Indigeneity”

Juan Suarez Ontaneda Spanish and Portuguese
“Mobilizing the Stage(s): Race, Gender, and Performance in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru (1940–2000)”

Megan White History
“Rice Empires: Japanese rice, the USDA and the Inter-Imperial Development of the Gulf Coast Rice Industry, 1880–1924”

Rea Zaimi Geography and GIS
“Afterlives of Disinvestment: Revitalization and Infra-Structural Labor in Chicago”

Emerging Areas in the Humanities: Bio-Humanities Research Group

Faculty Fellow

Samantha Frost Political Science/Gender and Women's Studies

Samantha Frost is a Professor who teaches political theory and feminist theory in the Department of Political Science and the Gender and Women’s Studies Department at the University of Illinois. Her research focuses on the ways that philosophical and scientific accounts of matter and embodiment shape the way we think about subjectivity and politics. Her first book, Lessons from a Materialist Thinker: Hobbesian Reflections on Ethics and Politics (Stanford UP, 2008), received the First Book Award from the Foundations of Political Theory section of the American Political Science Association. Her second book, New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics (Duke UP 2010), was co-edited with Diana Coole. In 2010-11, Frost received an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship through which she undertook training in molecular and cellular biology. Her most recent book, Biocultural Creatures: Towards a New Theory of the Human (Duke UP, 2016), draws on that training to develop an account of humans as thoroughly biocultural. Currently, she is investigating some of the political implications of the idea that humans are biocultural creatures. She is also developing interdisciplinary curricula that integrate the humanities, the social sciences, and the sciences.

Post-Doctoral Fellows

Rosine Kelz PhD, Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford, 2014

“‘Beyond the human?’: Concepts of Humanity, Responsibility, and Agency in Political Theory and Biotechnology.”

'Beyond the human?' investigates the proposition that biotechnology poses novel moral and political challenges, which exceed the perspective of the autonomous human individual. In order to properly define and address these challenges a relational view of human existences is necessary. Only if continuities and connections between human and non-human forms of life are taken into account can we develop suitable notions of responsibility and agency. The project thus seeks to develop a conceptual framework that enables us to assess the effects of genetic engineering in terms that consider the interrelations between genetic research and its applications in the fields of agriculture and human medicine. To do so, it draws on current research in biology, trends in the humanities such as 'posthumanism' and 'new materialism', and debates in the philosophy of biology.

First, my project thus assesses how current moral arguments in fields such as bioethics, animal ethics and the ethics of ecology define notions of value and responsibility in relation to their conceptions of 'life'. Exploring the different ways in which natural and humanistic sciences disinguish between different forms of life, the project questions whether these distinctions are feasible and productive when questions about the moral justifications for practices such as genome editing or cloning arise. Second, concepts of agency are considered, which argue that outcomes of biotechnological interventions cannot be ascribed solely to autonomous human agency. Here specific emphasis is placed on the question, in how far humans would be able to foresee and control the outcomes of genetic modifications in complex environments. Finally, the project seeks to highlight that the costs, risks, and benefits of biotechnology are distributed within human and non-human communities in terms that are influenced by pervasive inequalities of power and 'visibility'. Evaluations of the political and moral effects of biotechnology thus have to include a thorough analysis of social and political structures in globally interconnected research communities, human societies, and 'natural' environments.

Rosine Judith Kelz's research concentrates on intersections between political theory, moral philosophy, science studies and biology. She received her MA in Sociology of Nation, Citizenship and Human Rights from the University of Essex, UK, and her D.Phil in Political Theory from the University of Oxford, UK. During her doctoral studies a DAAD stipend for the return of German scholars from abroad allowed her to visit the Philosophy Department of Goethe-University, Frankfurt, Germany. Her first monograph, 'The non-sovereign self, responsibility and otherness. Hannah Arendt, Judith Butler and Stanley Cavell on moral philosophy and political agency' explores how notions of selfhood are interwoven with concepts of community and responsibility for 'others'. Continuing her investigation of notions about the formation of political communities and solidarity with non-members, Rosine Kelz has also worked on the ethics and politics of movements for migrants' rights. Her most recent project explores the roles concepts of 'life', 'the animal' and 'the human' play in moral thought. Dr. Kelz has taught Social and Political Theory at the School of Visual Arts, New York, Humboldt University, Berlin and the University of Hamburg, Hamburg.

Daniel Liu PhD, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2016
“Visions and calculation of living matter”

How do our approaches and understandings of life change when our approaches and understandings of matter change? For over a century biologists have been adopting different physical and chemical theories of matter, at various times emphasizing the importance of colloidal aggregates of heterogenous substances, finely detailed molecular structures, molecules as merely information, and dense networks of interaction. Each of these materialisms has its own technical vocabulary and instrumentation, but they also carry different analogies, representational strategies, and assumptions about function, causality, structure, and resilience in living things. I propose here that the bio-humanities can expand the scope of its recent turn to new kinds of “materialism” by examining how biologists have used these very different theories of matter to understand life and living organisms. In particular I suggest that it would be most fruitful to look at the differences between conceptions of living matter that privilege either visual observation on the one had, and calculative and computational approaches on the other. Quantitative approaches have tended to trade visual and observational evidence in favor of the epistemic surety of precision measurement and calculation, and these different approaches have been historically viewed as incompatible, even incommensurable approaches in biology. Can computational approaches to life (popular in cell systems biology) that rely on probabilistic reasoning be compatible with continuing exploration of biochemical pathways, or microscopic observation of cellular anatomy?

Dan Liu is an historian of the modern biological, physical, and material sciences, and received his Ph.D. in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2016. Broadly speaking, Dr. Liu’s research examines how historical assumptions about the fundamental nature of matter are shaped by the human imagination, scientific vocabulary, and research into exemplary materials. His current research topics include the history of research in cell ultrastructure and cell systems biology, the history of advanced microscopy, the history of colloid and materials science, the use of metaphorical language in biology, and the relationship between visual, tactile, and mathematical reasoning in the life sciences. His recently-completed dissertation, “Molecules in Biology Before Molecular Biology, 1839–1941,” looks at how biologists thought about “living matter,” and how biologists came to believe that individual molecules in a “biological microworld” were capable of assembling and aggregating themselves into a living cells and organisms. Dan was the 2014–15 Charles C. Price Dissertation Fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia; he has been a Chancellor’s Fellow, a Mellon-Wisconsin Fellow, and a John Neu Distinguished Graduate Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He received his BA in History from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and moved to the Upper Midwest in 2009 by biking from Portland to Duluth along U.S. Highway 2 and the BNSF’s Northern Transcontinental route. When Dan is not at his office in the Levis Faculty Center prattling on about colloids or a U of I library reading about dead German biologists, you will probably find him in the Urbana-Champaign area riding his bicycle, scaling walls, or obsessing over vegetables, noodles, or strange cuts of meat at any number of local Asian grocery stores.

Daniel Liu's facebook / Daniel Liu's Instagram.

Pre-Doctoral Fellows

Robert Rouphail History
“Embodying Resilience: Race, Gender, and Natural Disaster in Mauritius, 1890s-1970s”

This study examines the relationship between nature and gender in Mauritius. An island nation in Africa’s Indian Ocean, Mauritius is historically unique for both its multiracial population and for its vulnerability to landfalls from powerful tropical cyclones. Drawing on untapped archival and ethnographic sources, this project argues that debates over what it meant to be a man, a woman, and a family in modern Mauritius were critical to projects aimed at making Mauritius ecologically “resilient.” It does so by narrating the collisions between state attempts to mitigate natural risk and the responses of both elite and subaltern Mauritians to these state projects.

Michael Uhall Political Science
“Companion Ecologies”

I intend to formulate a novel theory of the human subject. To do so, I attend closely to the ecologically porous and productive conditions of the human. Accordingly, I propose a theoretical innovation – “companion ecologies” – which refers our attention to the organic and inorganic agencies that environ and affect our existence as distinctive personal subjects with political agency and social identity. After all, our subjectivity emerges in ecological contexts necessarily, and the vocabulary of the companionate is useful because it emphasizes the degree to which we are accompanied continually by the ecologies we traverse – and which traverse us.

Undergraduate Interns

Victoria Halewicz Psychology, minor in Communication

Hyun Park Psychology and English

Henry Yeary English

Emerging Areas in the Humanities: Environmental Humanities Research Group

Faculty Fellow

Bob Morrissey History

A native of Oak Park, IL, Bob Morrissey is Associate Professor of History, Helen Corley Petit Scholar (2016-17), and Conrad Humanities Scholar (2016-2021) at U of I. A specialist on early American history, his scholarship has focused on the relationship of people and non-human nature in the early modern period, and particularly in the Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley regions of North America. In his current projects, he explores how the special ecological transition zone of the mid-continent—the former tallgrass prairie peninsula which covered much of Illinois, Iowa, Southern Minnesota and Wisconsin—shaped a dynamic and often overlooked human history between the fall of Cahokia and the arrival of the steel plows that utterly transformed the tallgrass in the mid-19th century. A major premise of this project is that the middle of North America was one of the most important ecological and cultural borderlands of early America. In a larger sense, Morrissey’s intellectual projects have explored the important role of the North American heartland in environmental history and thought. Bob has published work widely in journals such as Journal of American History, William and Mary Quarterly, Environment and History, and Early American Studies. His book, Empire by Collaboration: Indians, Colonists, and Governments in Colonial Illinois Country, is available from University of Pennsylvania Press.

IPRH New Horizons Summer Faculty Research Fellows

Jessica Greenberg Anthropology
“Ghosts in the Machine: Rights, Sovereignty and (post)Institutional Crisis in Europe”

My research asks how legal actors and human rights advocates are redefining the practice of democracy through the very pan-European, technocratic institutions that many blame for the crisis of Europe’s liberal democratic order. If social actors are looking to judicial institutions to fix a European democratic crisis what kind of democracy or vision of justice might such institutions produce? This project focuses on the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), in Strasbourg, France. It is one of the world’s most successful international human rights courts and adjudicates rights violations across the 47 Council of Europe member states. It is also an institution that is exemplary of both Europe’s commitment to social justice and the sluggishness and disappointments of its technocratic regimes. Based on ethnographic field research with lawyers, judges, activists and officials, I will analyze how people invested in the ethical possibilities of institutions of liberal and democratic governance make sense of unruly and illiberal democratic orders. I examine how judicialized and rights-based visions of democracy are mediated by legal practices, genres and forms. I argue that the Court has provided a legal blueprint for redefining state sovereignty, rights regimes and the epistemological anxieties that define 21st century democratic practice.

Junaid Rana Asian American Studies
“The Life of Dada Amir Haider Khan”

This project proposes to re-edit and publish the memoirs of Dada Amir Haider Khan called Chains to Lose, develop a digital archive and website, and create a short documentary. It requires archival investigation, the collection of oral histories, and the filming and production of an accompanying short documentary. The main task is the digital recovery of the original manuscript of the memoir of Dada Amir Haider Khan Chains to Lose available in the Pakistan Study Centre (PSC) Archive of the University of Karachi, Pakistan.

Emmanuel Rota French and Italian
“Before Unemployment: Work, Idleness and the Uber-working Class. ”

Until the end of the 1970s, Western Societies still cultivated the dream of a very short working week. Many economists, philosophers, politicians and journalists believed that the improved efficiency of our production system would translate in a new society, where leisure time was as important as working time. Then, something did not work out as planned. The length of the working week, if anything, has increased, and the prospect of a society liberated from labor has disappeared from the public discourse. The war against idleness, which was once waged in the name of efficiency but also with the prospect of a future with leisure, has chased the dreams of a labor-less future from the industrious world. My research reconstructs the European and American battle for an industrious society as a way to reconstruct the social and economic history of the Western attitudes toward laziness. Kavya Nair and Maria Grigortsuk are conducting the research on the representation of Idleness in Japan and Russia as my Research Assistants.

Ragdale Fellow

Melissa Pokorny Art + Design

Melissa Pokorny’s research focuses on the sense of place, and its role in structuring memory and identity. Her large-scale sculptures, mixed media tableaus, and installations incorporate fragmented images of landscape and nature that highlight contested spaces, edges and boundaries between the natural world and our presence in it. She is an Associate Professor in the School of Art + Design. During her residence at Ragdale Professor Pokorny plans to extensively photograph and map the fifty-acre prairie at Ragdale. As in past residencies in Wyoming and Iceland, she’ll be using this immersive experience to create sculptural situations that initiate a perception of collapsing or telescoping boundaries between temporal, locational, cultural, and physical relationships.