Summer Institute in the Arts & Humanities: 2024 Theme, Faculty, and Call for Applicants

human greeting a herd of bison


What becomes possible when we decenter the human in the arts and humanities? This course aims to cultivate an appreciation of the more-than-human-world —from plants to animals to water to rock—as agentive, animate, and inextricably entangled with human lifeworlds.

Image to the left: Bison Greeting, Sunaura Taylor (2014)

About The Summer Institute in the Arts & Humanities (SIAH)

The Summer Institute in the Arts & Humanities (SIAH) was created by the Office of Undergraduate Research  (OUR) in collaboration with the Simpson Center for the Humanities in 2002 to provide an intensive research opportunity for humanities and arts students that increases the number of undergraduates doing research in the humanities, engages humanities and arts faculty in research with undergraduates, establishes a community of undergraduate arts and humanities scholars, and creates a forum for humanities undergraduates to present their scholarly work.

SIAH offers a research opportunity for undergraduates to engage in scholarly research with accomplished scholars and peers while earning full-time academic credit. This scholarly experience occurs in the context of seminars and tutorial-style lessons with faculty who offer expertise from disciplinary and interdisciplinary points of view in a space that encourages mutual learning with peers as well as independent thought. Student participants develop individual, original research ideas related to an interdisciplinary theme, create a scholarly research paper or project, work through a faculty and peer critique process and formally present their work to their colleagues and the larger community at a closing symposium.

Learn more about SIAH and applicant guidelines on the OUR SIAH webpage. You can also learn about past SIAH themes the history of Simpson Center support for the program on the SIAH webpage here at

Summer 2024 Theme

More-than-human Worlds: The Poetics and Politics of Life

June 20 – August 16, 2024

What becomes possible when we decenter the human in the arts and humanities? This course aims to cultivate an appreciation of the more-than-human-world —from plants to animals to water to rock—as agentive, animate, and inextricably entangled with human lifeworlds. To this end, the course will introduce frameworks and methods ranging from Indigenous epistemologies to critical animal studies to multispecies ethnography, while reckoning with histories and present realities of racial formation, settler colonialism, extractive industries, captivity, war, and other forms of violence. Ultimately, students in the course will be encouraged to cross disciplinary as well as species boundaries in crafting imaginative responses to the pressing problem of the differential mattering of lives.

In the initial weeks, the Summer Institute teaching team invites students to engage with texts and invited speakers that explore the crisis around conceptions of the human and the toll of human-centeredness, such as climate change and species extinction. With the conceptual tools and frameworks of Indigenous Studies and other critical intellectual traditions, students will explore the more-than-human entanglements at work in multiple forms and genres, like oral narratives, literary fiction and poetry, visual arts, cinema/time-based art, and other forms of storytelling, signifying, and witnessing. The second half of the course allows students to further explore those themes and develop, discuss, and produce in-depth research projects (which can include creative work) with the mentorship of the teaching team. A background in the arts and humanities is not what is most important; rather, it is your interest in joining a respectful, open, and at times difficult conversation about the role of the arts and humanities in reconceptualizing a world that holds many worlds.


Summer 2024 Teaching Team

María Elena García is a Professor in the Comparative History of Ideas at the University of Washington in Seattle. A Peruvian woman of Quechua ancestry, García received her PhD in Anthropology at Brown University. Her most recent book, Gastropolitics and the Specter of Race: Stories of Capital, Culture, and Coloniality in Peru (UC Press, 2021; winner of the Flora Tristán Prize for Best Book 2022, Peru Section, Latin American Studies Association), offers a critical exploration of Peru’s so-called gastronomic revolution, focusing on the intersections of race, species, and capital in that country. A revised version of that book was published in Peru by the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos in 2023 as Gastropolítica: una mirada alternativa al auge de la cocina peruana. Her next project, Landscapes of Death: Political Violence Beyond the Human in the Peruvian Andes, considers the impact of political violence on other-than-human life (animals, lands, rivers, glaciers) in Peru during the recent war between the state and the Shining Path (1980-2000). More specifically, through this project García carefully explores the testimonies of Indigenous peoples, collected by the state-sponsored Truth and Reconciliation Commission, about the violence suffered by their non-human kin, and thinks through the significance of forms of mourning as expressed by both human and non-human beings. This project is anchored by the insistence of many Native scholars about the need to move beyond “damage-centered narratives” (Tuck 2009), and the importance of research that centers Indigenous language, being, and knowing.”

Richard Watts is associate professor of French in the Department of French and Italian Studies, co-creator of the Environments, Cultures, and Values minor, and founding director of the Translation Studies Hub at the University of Washington, Seattle. He is the author of Packaging Post/Coloniality: The Manufacture of Literary Identity in the Francophone World, a history of the colonial framing of literatures from the French Empire and the decolonial movements that gave those literatures their autonomy. His current research lies at the intersection of francophone postcolonial studies and the environmental humanities. He is currently completing a book project titled Reclaimed Waters: Literary History, Translation, and Resource Decolonization in the Francophone Post/colonial World that considers how the pollution, privatization, and manufactured scarcity of water are rapidly altering its symbolic value in literature, cinema and other forms of cultural production in the francosphere. This research project also takes form in several documentary films he has made: mARTinique: Art in a Poisoned Land (2023), Repair the World: Oumar Ball in Conversation with Abderrahmane Sissako (w/Danny Hoffman, 2023), and Tambass: Life in Spite of it All (w/Danny Hoffman, forthcoming 2024). A future project titled Scenes of Translation: Translators and Interpreters in the Migrant Texts of the Literary Francosphere considers the representation of multilingual people who are not only mediators that help people who crossing cultural, linguistic, and national boundaries, but symptoms of an increasingly collective condition in which political violence, environmental change, and economic disparity lead to mass, often forced, displacement.

Annie Dwyer is a lecturer in the Comparative History of Ideas, where she is one of the lead instructors of the senior capstone course. From 2017-2021, Annie was also the Assistant Program Director of a Mellon-funded initiative at the University of Washington’s Simpson Center for the Humanities, Reimagining the Humanities PhD and Reaching New Publics, which focused on fostering publicly engaged scholarship and teaching in graduate education. Annie earned her PhD in English Literature and Culture from the University of Washington in 2014. Her dissertation, The Modern Animal, explores interrelated transformations in human-animal relations and racial formation in postbellum American literature and culture. Her scholarship in critical animal studies and the environmental humanities has been published in Arizona Quarterly, Transpositiones, Twentieth-Century Literature (forthcoming), and other venues, and she is currently working on a book project exploring shifting articulations of ecological grief in the American context from the early conservation movement through the rise of youth-led climate activism titled Losing Nature: American Literature and Ecological Grief. Annie is also a mental health counselor with a particular interest in climate psychology, and serves as the Washington State Regional Coordinator for the Climate Psychology Alliance of North America.

Shelby House is a doctoral student in Sociocultural Anthropology at the University of Washington. Her current research considers how forms of multispecies captivity in the Pacific Northwest sustain one another through the exchange of plant and animal life. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, she completed her MA in South Asia Studies at the Jackson School, where her scholarship focused on the politics of heat in Karachi, Pakistan. A rural-to-urban migrant of Poarch (Creek) descent, Shelby grew up in the swamps of south Georgia, and she now lives and works in Seattle as a guest on the occupied homelands of Coast Salish peoples. Her writing appears in Anthropological Quarterly and South Asia: The Journal of South Asian Studies, as well as in a forthcoming edited volume entitled Lost Kingdom: Animal Death in the Anthropocene (Vernon Press, 2024).

How to Apply and Important Dates

Apply for SIAH
Application Deadline: March 1, 2024 at 11:59pm