Current Reading Groups

The following faculty and graduate student reading groups meet regularly throughout the year and may organize public events on topics of interest to a broad range of disciplines.

Please contact the reading group organizers (listed below) directly for more information about the groups and their activities.

The Animal Turn: Critical Dimensions of Engaging the "Non-human Animal" Across Multiple Disciplines

Jamie Jones English
Jane Desmond Anthropology and Gender and Women's Studies

We invite researchers from the humanities, social sciences, and sciences, including those whose research considers mass extinction and other problems of the Anthropocene, to address the challenges of the emergent "question of the animal" (following Derrida) in re-defining the scholarly work we do. Recognizing the categories of "human" and "animal" as historically co-constituent, and culturally contingent, we will read together, view films, and share critiques on members' works. Monthly meetings and possible local fieldtrips.

blackness and jewishness

Brett Ashley Kaplan Director, Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, Memory Studies; Comparative and World Literature 
Dana Rabin History

From Porgy and Bess to The Beastie Boys, to the complex performances of Anthony Mordechai Tzvi Russell and Anna Deavere Smith, jewishness and blackness have exerted mutually powerful influences over each other aesthetically, culturally, politically. The long history of intersections between blacks and jews has been at times joyous, and at other times fraught with deep mistrust and betrayal. In this reading group we will work through some of the texts that treat these intersections.

Commentary on the Latest Approaches to Syntax and Semantics in Illinois (CLASSI)

Jonathan E. MacDonald Linguistics/Spanish & Portuguese 
Aida Talić Linguistics

In our CLASSI group, we discuss recent approaches to both the syntax and semantics of natural languages, mostly from a formal theoretical perspective. We meet regularly to either discuss recent publications on the topic or to comment on the results of our on our own research.

CLASSI website

Cross-cultural Re-understanding of Power Harassment, Title VII and Title IX in Higher Education: Awareness and Actions

Colleen Murphy Philosophy and Law
SHAO Dan EALC and Gender and Women’s Studies
Assata Zerai Sociology
Kathryn Clancy Anthropology, Spring 2018
Kaamilyah Abdullah-Span Office of Access and Equity
Sarah Colomé Women’s Resources Center
Danielle Morrison Title IX Coordinator
Amira Al Mutairi International Student and Scholar Services

This reading group will develop into a research project that 1) studies perceptions of gender equity and power harassment among international scholars and students and 2) examines the possibility for legal transplantation of relevant regulations for higher education to China. We will read lawsuits and on campus investigations, administrative guidelines on reporting and investigation procedures, scholarly and media responses to institutional action or non-action, pertinent theories on gender and justice, as well as applicable research methodology. This project is endorsed by Associate Provost for Faculty Excellence, Dr. Assata Zerai.

Cross-cultural Re-understanding of Power Harassment, Title VII and Title IX in Higher Education: Awareness and Actions website

Embodying Situated Activity

Julie Hengst Speech and Hearing Science
Bruce Kovanen English
Paul Prior English; Director, Center for Writing Studies
Martha Sherrill Speech and Hearing Sciences

Studies of language and social practice have often been dis-embodied and un-situated in space, time, and interaction. This is true even for some traditions that otherwise pay close attention to situated activity (e.g., conversational and discourse analyses that focus primarily on linguistic signs, ignoring material/ecological environments). This open reading group will explore multidisciplinary approaches to theorizing the body-in-interaction in material/ecological worlds and to researching and representing embodied situated activity.

Fashion, Style, and Aesthetics

Courtney Becks History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library

This reading group will meet three times per semester for discussions that will foster a culture of inquiry around fashion, style, and aesthetics. Our goal is to amplify the fashion studies discourse across the university. Readings will draw on costume, textile, and fashion history; cultural studies; etc. Sharing in-progress scholarship and projects is encouraged! We will organize additional events like film screening and panels, and share bibliographies/ reading lists and other resources. All are welcome.

The Future of Trauma and Memory Studies

Claire Baytas Comparative Literature
Dilara Caliskan Anthropology

This multidisciplinary group will meet regularly to discuss readings in the fields of trauma and memory studies as well as our own works-in-progress. Readings will explore several relevant areas including affect theory, neuroscience, media and visual culture, disability studies, transnational and postcolonial populations, as well as the politics of memorialization and cultures of law. We will also organize public oncampus events related to our key themes including film screenings, professional panels, and interactive readings.

The Future of Trauma and Memory Studies website

The Futurity of Pessimism, the Pessimism of Futurity

David Cisneros Communication
Derrick Spires English

Moments of optimism—few and far between—increasingly seem premised on the sham of conceptions of the future in the popular imaginary. Thus it seems a fruitful moment to talk about the past, the future, and the (im)possibilities for change. This Reading Group will seek to connect and discuss conversations around futurity, optimism, and pessimism across a number of contexts (race, affect, queer studies) and in a number of forms (from scholarship to popular media).

The Language and Society Discussion Group

Dr. Rakesh Bhatt Linguistics
Dr. Krystal Smalls Anthropology
Sarah Clark Linguistics

The Language and Society Discussion Group (LSD) is a dynamic discussion forum focused on current topics in Sociolinguistics. Each semester, the group concentrates on a specific theme, such as methodology in Sociolinguistics or the intersectionality of race, gender and language. Adhering to the semester’s theme, students select and read scholarly works in order to participate in weekly discussions. LSD meetings also offer an opportunity for students to present current individual projects and receive vital feedback.

The Language and Society Discussion Group website

LIS and Critical Theory Reading Group

Jamillah R. Gabriel School of Information Sciences
Lettycia Terrones School of Information Sciences 

Reading across disciplines, we will meet to discuss Library & Information Science discourse in conversation with critical theory, emphasizing intersectionality in race and culture. Our goal is to gain precision in engaging theory to explore ideas around reconstructing LIS curricula to address the needs of racially diverse communities throughout MLIS courses, and challenging dominant LIS discourses using critical research methods. Participants are invited to use this forum to explore their research in relation to libraries.

LIS and Critical Theory Reading Group Facebook page

Medieval Studies Reading Group

Suzanne Valentine English
Kathryn O'Toole English 

The Medieval Studies Reading Group brings together Medievalists from departments throughout campus in an effort to learn from each other and talk about our scholarship. The main goal of our reading group is to allow graduate students and faculty to be exposed to new material in an informal setting. We rotate between having graduate students choose texts to discuss and having faculty members do the same.

Medieval Studies Reading Group Facebook page

Recreation, Sport, and Tourism Reading Group

Liselle Milazzo Recreation, Sport, and Tourism 
Caitlin Brooks Recreation, Sport, and Tourism

The goal of this reading group is to share and discuss the current body of literature that exists within the Recreation, Sport, and Tourism field. Particular emphasis will be placed on understanding how RST engages with media, events, deviance, and power relations.

Responses to Anthropogenic Climate Change: Observation, Performance, Action

Ryan Griffis Art + Design
Jennifer Monson Dance

The group will focus on the impact of human action/inaction on ecological and climate systems, and the structural inequities accompanying them. Readings and films will provide theoretical and historical grounding for our query into ways of moving forward artistically and politically, learning from ecological adaptations, grassroots organizing, and anti-racist and queer contexts. We will also take field-trips and create artifacts/movement exercises based on the methods developed by the interdisciplinary Laboratory for Art, Nature and Dance.

Response to Anthropogenic Climate Change website

Sex Work Activism

Chibundo Egwuatu Anthropology

We will concentrate on media produced on sex work activism, focusing on media produced by sex workers currently. This group is an informal and productive space for discussing identity, futurity, agency, materiality, law, affect, action, and more. Media will include films, articles, blog posts, etc. for critical engagement with varied mediums of discourse and practice. Meetings are open to any with interest, regardless of familiarity, and content will be navigated and compiled collaboratively.

Sex Work Activism Facebook Group

Social Dynamics of Language Variation and Change

Anna Maria Escobar Spanish and Portuguese Zsuzsanna Fagyal French and Italian
Gyula Zsombok French and Italian

Globalization and migration around the world have brought into contact speakers of different linguistic varieties, impacting their written and oral use of languages in the process. This reading group draws from linguistics and the social and behavioral sciences to examine the social and political contexts of language contact and outcomes of language variation and change in multilingual settings. Besides traditional areas of inquiry, readings feature newly published articles in several subfields of the language sciences.

Social Dynamics of Language Variation and Change website

Technology, Power, and the (Re)production of Social (In)equality

Qinglin Luan East Asian Languages and Cultures
Jingyi Gu Institute of Communications Research

How do digital technologies change the power dynamics in societies under different political regimes, and thus (re)produce social (in)equality? How can these technologies be accessible to the general public and engage social groups through public knowledge building? Carrying these inquiries, our group aims at exploring the relationship between new media, technology, and digital governance in multiple social contexts with an interdisciplinary approach. We will organize bi-weekly reading meetings to discuss both theoretical and case-based readings.

Technology, Power, and the (Re)production of Social (In)equality website

Trans/Gender Studies Reading Group

Kadin Henningsen English
Dilara Caliskan Anthropology

The Trans/Gender Studies Reading Group is a transdisciplinary group of faculty and graduate students working in the emerging field of Transgender Studies. The group meets regulalry to engage with current scholarship related to transgender experiences, history, literature, and methodologies, and consider how these conversations might inform our own research projects. Readings and themes will be selected by the group based on group interests, and may include circulating/workshopping original scholarship by group participants.

Trans/Gender Studies Reading Group Facebook group

What Can a Psychogeography Do?

Michael Uhall Political Science

Psychogeography refers to the heterogeneous, multidisciplinary, and often para-academic field of study in which the relationships between history, landscape, myth, and psychic life get explored and thematized. Accordingly, we will be looking at a wide range of texts by Thomas De Quincy, Charles Baudelaire, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Machen, Walter Benjamin, Alfred Watkins, Guy Debord, Raoul Vaneigem, J. G. Ballard, Iain Sinclair, Peter Ackroyd, Alan Moore, Mark Fisher, and Laura Oldfield Ford.