IPRH Campus Fellows: Race Work
Verena Höfig Germanic Languages and Literatures
“Vikings, Vinland, and White Nationalism”
During my time as IPRH Campus Fellow, I will expand two ongoing projects devoted to nationalism, whiteness, and the creation of ethnic identity during the Middle Ages. The first project, Icelandic Origins, is my tenure book, which addresses and scrutinizes notions about whiteness in the Viking Age. This work is dedicated to the Viking colonizers of Iceland, and their (mostly female) Celtic slaves. My second project, Norse Mythology and White Nationalism in Trump's America, investigates how white supremacist and radical Neopagan groups in the United States use Norse mythology for the creation of whites-only spaces.
Maryam Kashani Gender and Women’s Studies and Asian American Studies
“Kinship by Faith: Race, Displacement, and Islam in the Bay Area”
Kinship by Faith explores the work that race does in relation to religion and place by examining multiracial and multi-classed Muslim formations in the San Francisco Bay Area. Drawing on seven years of ethnographic research and filmmaking, I bring together theory and methods of anthropology, ethnic studies, gender studies, film and visual studies, and geography to situate the emergence of a Muslim liberal arts college within histories of Black Power and Third World liberation movements; Bay Area countercultures; and technology and knowledge economies and industries.
Natalie Lira Latina/Latino Studies
“The Pacific Plan: Race, Disability, and Sterilization in California Institutions for the Feebleminded, 1920s–1950s”
My book examines Mexican-origin women and men’s experiences of sterilization and institutionalization in California during the early to mid-twentieth century. Combining theories of racialization and Critical Disability Studies, I analyze sterilization requests, consent forms, and records from one state institution, Pacific Colony. My analysis shows how ideas about race, disability, sexuality, and criminality worked together to mark Mexican-origin bodies as threats to the racial health of the state. I argue that racial and gendered tropes of mental deficiency conveyed through psychological diagnoses of “feeblemindedness” converged with concerns over the state’s Mexican-origin community resulting in targeted and disproportionate confinement and sterilization.
Rini Bhattacharya Mehta Comparative and World Literature, and Religion
“Mens Hierarchicus: Race’s Intellectual Labor and the Global Right”
Mens Hierarchicus traces the intellectual deployment of race in the global resurgence of right wing politics. From Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) ideology in its current form in India to the rise of exclusionary nationalism in the United States, increasing global electoral mandates for far-right policies all share a deep and long history of engagement with race. Race has labored hard for the success of the far-right to come to fruition, and in the current era of extraordinary media convergence, such labors of race remain traceable and interpretable on both global and local levels. My project is a study of these traces.
John Murphy Communication
“Protean Texts of Civil Rights: Baldwin, Hamer, and King”
This project studies three iconic texts of the civil rights era. I read the rhetoric of James Baldwin, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Martin Luther King, Jr. as protean texts, works that imagine and enact in their texture the movement they wish in the world. This rhetoric requires protean criticism that engages the amplifications, allusions, metaphors, typology, associations, and more that refigure race, destabilizing, doubling, and troubling the rigid structures of white supremacy. I argue the copious qualities of this rhetoric offer useful models to our current polarized political climate.
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”
This project explores the ways race, and blackness in particular, is made and maintained across various discursive scales and modalities. It does so through the completion of a book-length manuscript that centers the lives of young transnational Liberians and considers how they, despite pervasive antiblack structures and sentiment, manage to sincerely, deviantly, and fugitively make meaning of and through their bodies, minds, and social worlds. It takes place in the urban and digital spaces they intermittently inhabit and, in addition to the institutional discourses that shape their lives, it looks at how they use linguistic and other signs to construct black intersubjectivity. Drawing on more than nine years of ethnographic research, the completed book will also offer a theory of contemporary diaspora as a praxis rooted in the body and the present.
Andrea Stevens English
“Racial Masquerade and the Caroline Court, 1625–1649”
This project assembles and explicates an archive of performance texts and more ephemeral theatrical events, at court and in the public all-male theatre, involving the trope of the Maid-as-Moor: the plot device of an aristocratic white woman who temporarily masquerades as an African but whose true identity is revealed at the play’s end. Examines the centrality of this trope to court entertainments attached to the Stuart Queen Consort Henrietta-Maria, and shows how the convention is used to promote the Queen’s brand of conservative feminism, in particular its idealization of marriage. As a work of theater history, contributes both to scholarship on the performance of race on early English stages as well as scholarship on the Caroline period more generally; finally, seeks to use a variety of contemporary accounts of cultural appropriation and racial masquerade to theorize the trope’s involvement in the solidification of ideas of European ‘whiteness’ in the early modern period.
Graduate Student Fellows
Marcelo Boccato Kuyumjian Music
“Performing Samba: Aesthetics, Transnational Modernisms, and Race”
My dissertation studies commercial recordings of samba from 1958 to 1974 and asks how racism, racial discourses, and racial identities impacted the aesthetic transformations of musical style during that period. I explore the process of incorporation of jazz elements by Brazilian musicians in two contrasting aesthetic projects: one that emphasized the connections between the two African Diasporic musical traditions, and another that appropriated jazz elements in the process of whitening samba. Identifying change as a constant characteristic of samba, my analysis then looks at the position occupied by black aesthetics in the processes of change.
Heather Freund History
“A Negotiated Possession: Law, Race, and Subjecthood in the Ceded Islands, 1763–1797”
My dissertation argues that the Caribbean islands of Grenada, St. Vincent, Dominica, and Tobago were crucial to reshaping understandings of law and constitutionalism in the British Empire and Britain after 1763. Rooted in concerns for maintaining racial hierarchies and island security, colonial law and the terms of British subjecthood were forged by both administrators in London and the diverse inhabitants on the islands, as French Catholics, free non-whites, indigenous Caribs, and enslaved Africans asserted their position in the British Empire. The age of revolutions led to conflicts and debates about the rights of subjects of all races, classes, and creeds.
John Marquez History
“Freedom’s Edge: Slavery, Manumission, and Empire in Rio de Janeiro, 1761–1808”
This dissertation examines the relationship between freedom and race in colonial Rio de Janeiro from 1761 to 1808. Focusing on the institution of manumission as a site at which meanings of freedom and race were defined, redefined, and negotiated, I argue that freedom through manumission maintained newly-freed individuals in vulnerable states, exposed to the mechanisms of power that shaped hierarchies in slave society. Examining the work that race and color did in this process not only illuminates the relationship between race and freedom, but ultimately provides new ways to conceptualize power relations under slavery and freedom in colonial Brazil.
Erica Melko English
“Literatures of Decolonial Love: Intimacy and the Colonial Entanglements of Race and Indigeneity”
This dissertation argues that entangled systems of colonial and racial violence must be situated in terms of their everyday impacts on personal relationships and community. I posit intimacy, love, and kinship are crucial sites to investigate the ongoing processes of racism and colonialism. This approach examines how experiences of race, gender, and Indigeneity within US Empire intersect in everyday intimacy—rather than as isolated systems of oppression. My methodological intervention situates critical race studies in conversation with Indigenous decolonial studies and generates an archive of contemporary US Indigenous and multi-ethnic literatures to consider how race works across histories of marginalization.
Juan Suarez Ontaneda Spanish and Portuguese
“Mobilizing the Stage(s): Race, Gender, and Performance in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru (1940–2000)”
This dissertation project investigates the body as a medium of racial representation by looking at five Afro-Latin American artists in Brazil, Peru, and Colombia between 1940–2000. In conversation with performance studies and discourse analysis, my project analyzes the emergence of an Afro-Latin American public sphere through distinct yet interconnected forms of art and activism. My exploration focuses on Abdias do Nascimento’s experimental theater, Nicomedes Santa Cruz’s radio broadcasting, Victoria Santa Cruz’s choreographies, Delia Zapata Olivella’s dance manuals, and Manuel Zapata Olivella’s street theater. In doing so, my research illuminates how their performances created a language to enunciate everyday experiences of racism and discrimination in the region. I argue these artists used performances to reinvent discourses on blackness, cultural memory, and the meaning of democracy in multiracial societies.
Megan White History
“Rice Empires: Japanese rice, the USDA and the Inter-Imperial Development of the Gulf Coast Rice Industry, 1880–1924”
My dissertation examines how Japanese immigrant rice farmers and Japanese rice affected the development of the Gulf Coast rice industry and the expansion of U.S. imperialism in the Caribbean. At the turn of the century, the U.S. Department of Agriculture introduced Japanese-supplied rice seeds to Texas and Louisiana reviving the southern rice industry. The Japanese empire exported rice seeds and farmers to the United States to create diplomatic goodwill for their imperial projects in East Asia. This endeavor speaks to the central role of race and empire in structuring the political economy of rice in the Gulf Coast.
Rea Zaimi Geography and GIS
“Afterlives of Disinvestment: Revitalization and Infra-Structural Labor in Chicago”
My dissertation situates vacant land as a key site for examining the afterlives of disinvestment engendered by decades of state-sanctioned and racialized uneven development in Chicago. I use archival and ethnographic methods to study how the post-recession redevelopment of vacant land and buildings on the city’s South Side is reconfiguring the socio-material relations of disinvestment. Crucial in the production of post-recession urban landscapes, I show, are not only the profit-seeking actions of finance and real estate capital but also residents’ quotidian labor of vacant-land maintenance and revitalization. My dissertation positions this labor as an important subsidy to contemporary city-making processes and situates it squarely within the foundational and ongoing confiscatory logics of racial capitalism that link race, place and power in pernicious ways.
Emerging Areas in the Humanities: Environmental Humanities Research Group
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.
Leah Aronowsky PhD, History of Science, Harvard University, 2018
“Configuring the Planetary Environment as a Scientific Object”
Leah Aronowsky is a historian of science and an environmental historian. She received a PhD in History of Science from Harvard University in 2018. Her current research concerns how scientists historically produced knowledge about the relationship between life and the environment at the planetary scale. In the past, she has written on topics ranging from the history of astronaut life-support technologies to artistic treatments of death in the nineteenth-century natural history illustrations. Her work has appeared in Environmental History, Environmental Humanities, and Endeavour. Leah received a BA with high honors from Wesleyan University.
Spanning the immediate postwar era to the late-twentieth century, my project charts the work of American scientists as they developed techniques for studying the biosphere. First theorized in the early twentieth century, but introduced to American scientific communities in the postwar years, the biosphere concept dissolves the conventional boundary between organisms and environments to instead construe the whole of planetary nature in terms of cycles and flows of chemical elements. I follow the biosphere as it was constituted as an object of inquiry across a diversity of disciplines, mapping how scientists scaled between localized historical encounters and claims about planetary-scale phenomena. At the same time, to recover the role of “place” in making this knowledge, I examine the histories behind the artifacts scientists used to reconstruct the biosphere’s various chemical cycles. In so doing, I uncover an entrenched relationship between neo-imperialism and environmental theories: techniques deployed to organize knowledge in neo-imperial contexts, I show, in the environmental sciences rematerialized as ways of knowing “the planetary”—the physical planet itself. Ultimately, my research forges new ground in the environmental humanities by excavating the transnational local histories that mediated scientific understandings of planetary-scale environmental processes.
Pollyana Rhee PhD, Architecture, Columbia University, 2018
“Designing Natural Advantages: Environmental Visions, Civic Ideals, and Architecture for Community, 1920–1970”
Pollyanna Rhee is an architectural and environmental historian with research interests in the history of the built and natural environments, environmentalism, and environmental governance particularly in the United States. Currently she is revising a manuscript on the rise of conservative environmentalism in California. Her writing has appeared in Architectural Design and the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. She received her PhD in History and Theory of Architecture at Columbia University in 2018.
Designing Natural Advantages: Environmental Visions, Civic Ideals, and Architecture for Community, 1920 – 1970 tells the story about how and why Americans came to care about the environment and how those attitudes contributed to changes in the nation’s urban areas and natural environments. The story of environmentalism’s rise has often been told through the work of government officials, scientists, and conservation organizations. Designing Natural Advantages shifts this perspective by focusing on the roles of women, voluntary organizations, and businessmen and presents a new history of the origins of environmentalism in a period when environmental concerns became a central part of everyday life and a popular movement. Drawing on scholarship in architectural history, environmental history, and political thought, this project concentrates on the ways conservative ideas and attitudes shaped the course of modern American environmentalism.
The southern California city of Santa Barbara serves as the focal point to explore the ways that interventions in the built and natural environments both shaped and defined environmental thought and action. Considered throughout the twentieth-century as an epitome for urban living at ease with nature, the city’s residents were active participants in the self-fashioning of their community as the image of the apex of California’s environmental riches and natural beauty. But these activities underscored the ways that environmental visions shared among individuals became a domesticated and inwardly-oriented environmental politics that often functioned as a lateral way to politicize ideas about spatial organization and belonging. These figures produced an environmentalism that was at once grassroots, yet deeply connected to political influence raising questions about the rights to environmental safety and health in a democratic society and who ultimately benefits from arguing for those rights.
Samantha Good Spanish and Portuguese
“Negotiated Ecologies: Indigeneity and Ecocriticism in 19th-Century Bolivia and Chile”
As Andean territories transitioned from colonial rule to republics in the 19th century, relationships with the environment were in flux as indigenous and criollo worldviews competed. My project on literary and visual culture dialogues with the fields of history, anthropology and cultural studies to gain better understanding of the human place in nature. Through four main topics (foodways, mining, transportation and animals), I highlight the complexity of interactions between humanity and the environment to deconstruct the stereotypical divide between them and to explore how Andean attitudes towards the environment provide alternative, more sustainable imaginings of how to interact with nature.
Alexandra Paterson English
“Geological Bodies: The Earth and Narratives of the Self in Romantic-Period Britain, 1784–1820”
My dissertation examines Romantic narratives of the self in the context of geological discoveries that called attention to humans’ connection to the earth’s processes through death and decay. I argue that the poetry of the period confronted contemporary anxieties about mortality and human experience by dramatizing the difficulty of situating oneself in relation to an unstable earth. While Romantic scholarship has long recognized the role of place and memory in poetic self-narration, my project recasts this trope, and I contend that several poets’ characterizations of a geologically transforming landscape actually destabilized traditional notions of self and place.
Juan Martin Luna Nunez Urban Studies and Planning
Clara Pokorny Urban Studies and Planning
April Wendling Geography and Earth Society & Environmental Sustainability, minor in Integrative Biology
IPRH New Horizons Summer Faculty Research Fellows
Justine S. Murison English
“American Hypocrisy: The Politics of Privacy in Nineteenth-Century U.S. Literature”
American Hypocrisy: The Politics of Privacy in Nineteenth-Century U.S. Literature offers a pre-history of our current moment, in which privacy rights seem to be waning while accusations of hypocrisy only proliferate. To explain this paradox, American Hypocrisy returns to the transformation of privacy in the nineteenth century following the disestablishment of churches from official state funding (a process that began during the American Revolution and ended in Massachusetts in 1833). This relocation of religion to the private sphere is conventionally thought of as making possible religious freedom and a secular public sphere. I argue instead that the privatization of religion—what scholars of secularity name as one of the key distinctions of secular modernity—profoundly reshaped notions of sex, family, race, and gender around a drive for moral authenticity and a subjectivity whose “sovereignty had to be demonstrated through acts of sincerity,” as Talal Asad has put it. In other words, private life was no longer truly private after disestablishment, which is why hypocrisy would pose such a political and social problem.
My undergraduate research assistant will be at work this summer compiling an archive of original sources for chapter 6 of the book, on several related controversies of the Civil War and its aftermath: Mary Todd Lincoln’s many White House scandals, but most particularly the “Old Clothes Scandal,” when she attempted to sell her old gowns for money; and the capture of Jefferson Davis (supposedly in women’s clothing). With more time available, my RA will compile a list of recent scholarship on John Brown, an important figure for chapter 5 of the book.
Anke Pinkert Germanic Languages and Literatures
“Remembering 1989: Future Archives of Public Protest and Assembly”
Remembering 1989: Future Archives of Public Protest and Assembly examines the massive unrest in the streets of East Germany which led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Shrouded by the false narrative of the inevitability of German reunification, these protests have never had a place in Germany’s memorial public sphere. I turn to a range of cultural productions—including literature, film, installation art, photography, memorials, public and private records—in order to assemble an entirely new dynamic archive of 1989 that accounts for the open-ended promises of the protests that year. The book will alter our understanding of revolutionary protest and its potent, yet often intangible, afterlife. It also aims to shift memory studies from a familiar critique of the powerful to memory studies as an archive for the future. I focus on post-1989 German culture, but I also expect this book to have ramifications for scholars working on other transitional periods and other parts of the world. The "IPRH New Horizons Humanities Research Assistant" Nick Goodell (History), affiliated with this project, will examine archival and literary records of the demonstrations in 1989.
Carol Symes History
“Mediated Texts and Their Makers in Medieval Europe”
Many medieval texts were created through the interventions of multiple historical actors, some of them technically illiterate, whose contributions to the documentary process have since been silenced and forgotten. As a result, the contemporary meanings of these texts, which were bound up with a shared knowledge of their making, have also been lost. Mediated Texts and Their Makers in Medieval Europe models an innovative methodology for excavating these written records—and the lay literacies that informed them—in order to prompt a wide-ranging reassessment of their evidentiary status. I accomplish this by examining six significant documentary initiatives, the diverse agents involved in them, the complex motivations behind them, and the cultural work they performed. These case studies highlight different registers of documentary activity and the many relationships among official and popular uses of writing which do not map onto Latin/vernacular or written/oral binaries. Although focused the years 1000 to 1215 and on northwestern Europe, the book’s methods are broadly applicable to any time or place when the status of the written word is in flux.
My undergraduate RA will be assembling and digesting recent scholarship related to the book's framing chapters, checking footnotes, and helping to collate image files.
Carlos R. Carrillo Music
During his summer 2018 residency at Ragdale, Professor Carrillo worked on a music composition titled Baquine. The piece is a cantata for voices, two saxophones obbligato, and orchestra. The vocal parts include a solo female voice and a children’s choir, and the piece will have an approximate duration of 30 to 35 minutes. The baquiné is an ancient tradition practiced in Puerto Rico and other parts of the Americas in which the death of a child is not received with a mournful ceremony but rather with a celebration, as the child, according to their belief, has now become an angel. The tradition fell into disuse due to medical advances that lowered the child mortality rate.
Training in Digital Methods for Humanists Fellows
Ruth Nicole Brown Education Policy, Organization and Leadership, Gender and Women’s Studies
Ruth Nicole Brown is an associate professor in Gender and Women’s Studies and Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research documents, analyzes, and interrogates Black girls’ lived experience and explores the gender and racialized power dynamics of collectivity, particularly as it relates to Black girlhood. She is an author-artist of two books, Hear Our Truths: The Creative Potential of Black Girlhood (Illinois, 2013) and Black Girlhood Celebration: Toward A Hip Hop Feminist Pedagogy (Peter Lang, 2009). For TDMH, Professor Brown is working on Black Girl Nature, a photo-text-sound-land-scape conceptualized as a contribution to digital humanities that foregrounds the relationship between Black girls, nature, and outside to refuge improbable and necessary scenes of palimpsest Black girlhood.
Anita Say Chan Media and Cinema Studies, Institute of Communications Research
Anita Say Chan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Media and Cinema Studies. Her research and teaching interests include globalization and digital cultures, innovation networks and the “periphery”, science and technology studies in Latin America, and hybrid pedagogies in building digital literacies. She received her PhD in 2008 from the MIT Doctoral Program in History; Anthropology; and Science, Technology, and Society. Her first book the competing imaginaries of global connection and information technologies in network-age Peru, Networking Peripheries: Technological Futures and the Myth of Digital Universalism was released by MIT Press in 2014. Her research has been awarded support from the Center for the Study of Law & Culture at Columbia University’s School of Law and the National Science Foundation, and she has held postdoctoral fellowships at The CUNY Graduate Center’s Committee on Globalization & Social Change, and at Stanford University’s Introduction to Humanities Program. She is faculty affiliate at the Illinois Informatics Institute, the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory, and the Collaborative for Cultural Heritage Management and Policy (CHAMP). She was a 2015–16 Faculty Fellow with the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities. She is a Faculty Fellow with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, and a 2017–19 Faculty Fellow with the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory.
In fall 2018, Professor Chan will pursue training in informational processing and data and statistical modeling and as a continuation of her exploration of how critical humanistic and qualitative research methodologies can help to diversify and strengthen critical lenses related to data studies, analysis, and practice. She aims to foster conversations on diversifying interdisciplinary methods in the fields of Science and Technology Studies (STS), media and information studies, digital humanities, and indigenous media production.
Faranak Miraftab Urban and Regional Planning
Faranak Miraftab is Professor of Urban and Regional Planning. Her interdisciplinary research empirically based in Latin America, Southern Africa, Middle East and North America, draws on feminist, transnational and urban scholarship. Her research and teaching concerns the global and local development processes involved in the formation of cities and citizens' struggles to access dignified urban livelihood. Professor Miraftab will use the TDMH fellowship to create a tagged and annotated video archive for her research material, gathered in various communities around the world. This allows her to teach and publish in ways that offer users deeper insights into the life stories of those at the forefront of the global fight for the “right to the city.”
Kathryn J. Oberdeck History
Kathryn Oberdeck is a scholar and teacher of U.S. cultural and social history, histories of place and space, social theory, and public historyShe has recently co-coordinated, with Daniel Gilbert of the School of Labor and Employment Relations, an IPRH research cluster engaging a network of faculty, graduate students, archivists and community institutions to facilitate undergraduate Public History research. She is the author of The Evangelist and the Impresario: Religion, Entertainment, and Cultural Politics in America, 1884-1914 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999) and is currently completing a manuscript on the cultural politics of space and place in the company town of Kohler, Wisconsin, entitled Sanitary Sanitary Spaces in Protean Places: Kohler Village and Twentieth Century Spatial Politics. Professor Oberdeck's proposed coursework during her TDMH fellowship grows out of this combination of publicly engaged teaching and spatially oriented research. She intends to focus first on expanding her understanding of GIS-based platforms and techniques in order to use mapping to enhance her own research into the cultural politics of space and place and to facilitate students’ digital presentation place-based public history projects. She also intends to explore the prospects for accessible, interactive digital humanities exhibits through courses in community informatics.