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Simpson Center for the Humanities

Scholars at Work

Judy Howard and Míċeál Vaughan both know that retiring from academia is a fraught enterprise: “While retirement is typically a life-changing event for almost everyone, for faculty especially it raises fundamental questions about what it means to be a professor and how one’s identity and purpose are defined by more than the specific demands of a ‘job’.”

Having both retired from the UW—Howard from Sociology and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies in 2017 and Vaughan from Comparative Literature and English in 2015—the two emeritus professors launched the Faculty Retirement Seminar through the Simpson Center to provide faculty with a structured setting in which to reflect on retirement with UW colleagues, and to provide some space and time to think and talk broadly about retirement in a collegial environment.

In Winter 2019, Howard and Vaughan assembled a group of ten faculty members from across the College of Arts & Sciences’ four divisions including retired professors Carolyn Allen (English), Joseph Butwin (English), Lucy Jarosz (Geography), Mark Jenkins (Drama), and their not-yet-retired colleagues Paul Aoki (Language Learning Center / Linguistics), George Behlmer (History), Richard Olmstead (Biology), and Mary Pat Wenderoth (Biology). While the size of the group allowed for intimate discussions around topics ranging from finding purpose in one’s post-career life to issues of ageism and the realities of aging and mortality, the seminar members’ experiences pointed to a wide range of possibilities, interest, and concerns to life in retirement. While some faculty desire to continue engaging in research or writing—whether starting new projects or concluding old ones—others are interested in becoming more actively engaged with local, state, or national and international associations and meetings, both in their professional fields or beyond. Some intend to continue mentoring students and junior colleagues. Yet others welcome retirement as marking a clear end to their faculty roles and look forward to a new life in retirement. Finally, many struggle to identify exactly what they hope to do in retirement.

For that reason, Howard and Vaughan designed this seminar to reflect on people’s experiences, legacies, and plans, whether well-formed or inchoate. Over the course of Winter 2020, the group met each Tuesday for two hours. Each seminar session focused on a pre-selected topic with recommended readings, including Diana Athill’s 2008 memoir Somewhere Towards the End;  Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End (2014); Martha Nussbaum and Saul Levmore’s Aging Thoughtfully: Conversations about Retirement, Romance, Wrinkles, and Regret (2017); and the 2014 edited collection Faculty Retirement: Best Practices for Navigating the Transition. Howard and Vaughan reported that they structured the seminar “to provide a...

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Come join our tri-campus online writing group for trans faculty, staff, and graduate students who work across the University of Washington system as part of the Imagining Trans Futures crossdisciplinary research group, funded by the Simpson Center. Whether you’re working on your book, a journal article, dissertation, or a creative project, this group will provide community and accountability for trans scholars in the UW system. All trans scholars are welcome to join, no matter their disciplinary background.

The Imagining Trans Futures crossdisciplinary research group works to support trans scholars in their research and writing and to bring trans studies scholars to the UW community through a speaker series open to the public. The aim of this group is to support trans academics around one of the most challenging parts of academic work--writing and publishing their research. We’ll gather for a two-hour monthly session online during the 2020-2021 academic year (beginning in November 2020, in conjunction with our visiting guest) where we’ll set research goals, write together, and support one another. Connected to the speaker series, the group will also meet with our visiting speakers once a quarter to discuss their experiences in academic and creative publishing as well as navigating academia as trans scholars. Through our Simpson Center funding, we can provide copies of the books from upcoming speakers in the Imagining Trans Futures speaker series for at least the first five writing group members to use in our group discussions. Each meeting will have a dedicated portion of time for working and writing together, so you can make consistent progress on your project. Meeting times for the writing group will be based on the availability of participants.

If you are interested in participating, please fill out this form by October 15.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Neil Simpkins (nfsimp@uw.edu) or Ching-In Chen (chingin@uw.edu).

The Simpson Center for the Humanities is pleased to announce that Cristian Capotescu has joined the Mellon Sawyer Seminar on Humanitarianisms: Migrations and Care through the Global South as the postdoctoral fellow for 2020-21. Led by Arzoo Osanloo (Law, Societies & Justice) and Cabeiri Robinson (Jackson School of International Studies), Humanitarianisms seeks to decolonize the rhetoric and understanding of humanitarianism by examining the histories of forced migration and practices of humanitarian care for forced migrants, including both ‘conventional’ and ‘humanitarian refugees’, that developed outside of Europe and North America.

Cristian is an interdisciplinary historian of the global twentieth century with research interests in disaster studies, migration, economic life, humanitarianism, and social history. Cristian earned his Ph.D. in History from the University of Michigan in 2020. His current book project is based on his dissertation Giving in the Time of Socialism: Economic Life, Humanitarianism, and Mobility in the Global Postwar. His work traces how natural disasters, economic austerity, and refugee movements in the socialist bloc became transformative moments of private solidarity in Ceausescu’s Romania between 1970-1989. Cristian’s dissertation examines through the lens of historical ethnography clandestine forms of welfare provisioning organized by social workers, feminist activists, diasporic communities, and many other private volunteers in East-Central Europe. Drawing on numerous official archives and oral histories from five countries, his work expands the subjects and sites that count in the emergent literature on humanitarianism. His book project recuperates how the idea of humanity became a bedrock in the social lives of ordinary people after 1945, repeatedly moving such seemingly peripheral places as Romania from the margins of the Cold War to the center of the imageries and ethical aspirations of a broader international public. Cristian’s most recent journal article “Migrants into Humanitarians: Ethnic Solidarity and Private Aid-Giving during Romania’s Historic Flood of 1970” appeared in East European Politics and Societies

Cristian also leads a research team of a population health equity grant funded by the University of Washington’s Population Health Initiative. In collaboration with the Metropolitan Area Action Committee on Anti-Poverty, this interdisciplinary project studies the efficacy and challenges of distance learning for low-income students of color in the San Diego area...

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This year's Katz line-up features four speakers whose lectures will focus on everything from prison abolition and the influence of Silicon Valley on American Politics to African filmmaking and aesthetics. Mark your calendars and join us online for these incredible talks. All Katz Lectures are free and open to the public. 

Abderrahmane Sissako (Filmmaker)

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Abderrahmane Sissako is a Mauritanian-born Malian film director and producer. His film Waiting for Happiness (Heremakono) was screened at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival official selection under Un Certain Regard, winning the FIPRESCI Prize. His 2007 film Bamako received much attention. Sissako's themes include globalisation, exile and the displacement of people. His 2014 film Timbuktu was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or in the main competition section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Margaret O'Mara (UW, History)

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Margaret O'Mara is the Howard & Frances Keller Endowed Professor of History at the University of Washington and a contributing opinion writer at The New York Times. She writes and teaches about the growth of the high-tech economy, the history of U.S. politics, and the connections between the two.

O'Mara is the author of Cities of Knowledge (Princeton, 2005), Pivotal Tuesdays (Penn Press, 2015), and The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America (Penguin Press, 2019). She is a coauthor, with David Kennedy and Lizabeth Cohen, of forthcoming editions of a widely used United States history college textbook, The American Pageant (Cengage). In addition to her opinion pieces in The New York Times, her writing also has appeared in The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Bloomberg Businessweek, Foreign Policy, the American Prospect, and Pacific Standard.

Ruth Wilson Gilmore (The Graduate Center, CUNY, Geography)

Thursday, February 25, 2021...

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This year’s Fall Funding Round opens on October 5. Funding covers the term July 2021-June 2022. The deadline for all Fall Funding Round applications is Friday, November 6.

This fall, the Simpson Center will accept applications for the following funding categories (please note that, while the Simpson Center accepts grant application in both the fall and spring quarters, some of these categories are only open in the fall round):

Fellowships:

  • Summer Digital Humanities Fellowships support four faculty and four doctoral students pursuing research projects that use digital technologies in innovative and intensive ways and/or explore the historical, social, aesthetic, and cross-cultural implications of digital cultures. We have expanded our call for proposals to include projects focused on digital humanities pedagogy. We are interested in projects that address the goal of incorporating digital humanities skills and methods into graduate and undergraduate education. *Fall submission only
  • Barclay Simpson Scholars in Public Summer Fellowships – these new fellowships provide summer support for doctoral students in the humanities, broadly speaking, to pursue public-facing projects in their areas of study and practice. Collaborative projects are encouraged. The fellowship carries an award of $6000, with no benefits or tuition.
  • Society of Scholars Research Fellowships – The Society of Scholars is an intellectual community in which eight faculty and three doctoral students from across disciplines in the humanities and interpretive social sciences contribute to and learn from one another’s work in bi-weekly meetings throughout the academic year. *Fall submission only
  • Summer Society of Scholars Research Fellowships – doctoral students who submit applications during the fall 2020 funding round to the Society of Scholars Research Fellowship category will also be considered for a separate dissertation fellowship cohort to be convened in the summer of 2021. Applicants do not need to provide any additional materials to be considered for this opportunity.

Collaborative projects:

  • Collaboration Studio Grants furnish UW faculty groups with summer salary support to catalyze, deepen, or reconfigure crossdisciplinary research and facilitate publication. *Fall submission only
  • Colloquia and Conferences range from speaker series to international research or working conferences, and are selected for support based on their crossdisciplinary and interdisciplinary focus.
  • Video Conferences & Colloquia (a new funding category) will support crossdisciplinary and interdisciplinary symposia, colloquia, and conferences of...
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Global Literatures & Global Literacies: Teaching Texts, Old and New

UW, Seattle, April 30, 2021

Proposals due December 1, 2020

This symposium will advance the ongoing creation of a new literature major at UW in Global Literary Studies (GLITS). The planned meeting has two main goals. One is to provide an occasion for all of us at UW to get a better sense of what literature classes are currently being taught on our campus and what kinds of new courses faculty are developing or envisioning for the future. Specifically, the focus will be on undergraduate courses that look beyond national linguistic boundaries. Our emphasis on “global” literary studies implies a trans-regional, trans-historical, and/or trans-cultural orientation. We seek to be inclusive of non-metropolitan, minority languages and literatures, as well as Indigenous perspectives. Please note that our priorities also include the teaching of languages or writing in connection with the teaching of literature. The other goal of the symposium is to create an opportunity for networking and pedagogical cooperation among faculty members. Instructors in various departments and programs who teach literature may only rarely have a chance to interact with one another, and this meeting can bring them together to discuss shared interests. All of the participants will receive a modest monetary compensation for their involvement.

The first part of the meeting will be dedicated to two lightning sessions. Each will feature five 5-minute presentations in which faculty members will introduce literature classes they already teach or are proposing to teach in 2021-2023. Each of the two sessions will last 45-minutes and will allow 15 minutes for Q&A. The main intended audience, aside from all of us teaching literature, is undergraduates who may be interested or may become interested in taking literature classes or even doing a major or minor in any of our departments or programs.

The second part of the conference will be dedicated to poster sessions. Here, colleagues who did not present in the first two panels will have a chance to present their ideas on pedagogical purposes and methods. Members of the audience will be free to move around from one site to another, ask questions, and exchange thoughts on teaching. This part of the conference is intended to foster collaborative work. Poster-session participants are encouraged to tackle topics such as: identifying learning goals for literary studies; brainstorming a capstone seminar for the GLITS major; imagining possible internships and service learning for literature students. We welcome presentations on other issues suggested by individuals or groups of faculty.

The conference is scheduled to take place from 1:30 to 4:30 PM on Friday afternoon...

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By Kaelie Giffel and Caitlin Postal

In the midst of a global pandemic, it can be tempting to forget that the oft-hailed return to “normal,” as Francis Eanes and Eleni Schirmer argue in their recent essay, would mean, in the context of higher education, the resumption of “all kinds of harms: spiking debt, precarious work, and social protections that fall somewhere between elusive and imaginary.” This is true for the full ecology of workers on college campuses: adjunct and assistant professors; graduate students; undergraduate student employees; and facilities, maintenance, and food service workers—in sum, all who make life on college campuses function. Every aspect of working life has been transformed by this moment. And we must reckon with the reality that the university is not organized for the benefit of the vast majority of people who move through and adjacent to it. 

In this post, we explore an emerging structure of feeling amid COVID-19 around university power structures that has been insufficiently examined. Let us be frank: the structure of feeling which we term “crisis pedagogy” begins with anger, exhaustion, and helplessness, and it predates COVID-19. Yet the inequities which undergird neoliberal education have produced, as Simon Torracinta describes it, “a genuine, albeit incipient militancy, and even a tentative sense of solidarity, across the ranks of academia.” The feelings which we embody, as graduate students, and which we discuss in extensive conversation with others, register the damage enacted by individualist paradigms prevalent in our culture—in academia, in particular. We see (or at least hope) that workers within the university are motivated by these feelings to act in our collective, rather than individual, interests. Different forms of mutual aid and support are emerging between teachers and students, advisors and advisees, which indicate a sense of collective responsibility. In our view, the return to normal—per usual prizing of individual research above all, back to banking models of education, lack of accountability to local communities—would be a return to the harms that we believe are better left behind.

We do not want to seem overly sanguine. On the one hand, the rapid shift to online learning has foreclosed a slow consideration of how technology can (or should) be integrated into our classrooms. If we are to learn to use digital tools quickly, how can we question them? This elision of critical thinking around the adaptation of technology is exacerbated in certain institutional positions—that of graduate student workers, for instance. We have had to swiftly adapt to the conditions of our employment in crafting remote classes and developing online versions of community workshops....

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This webinar—originally held on May 22, 2020—is geared towards doctoral students who are interested in applying for jobs at community colleges or other teaching-intensive institutions. Washington state community college faculty share their knowledge and expertise, communicating job search strategies gleaned from their own experience and responding to moderated questions from participants across the country. Organized by Reimagining the Humanities PhD and Reaching New Publics: Catalyzing Collaboration. 

Panelists: 

Originally from Puerto Rico, Dr. Cristóbal A. Borges earned his Bachelor of Communications and International Studies from the University of Washington (1999), Master of Science degree in Radio, Television and Film from the University of North Texas (2003), and doctorate in History from the University of Texas at El Paso (2014). While pursuing his degree, Cristóbal worked with the Oral History Institute at UTEP in the Bracero Archive Program and on the H-Borderlands website and listserv. This is Cristóbal's third year as a mentor in the Mellon Reaching New Publics program at the Simpson Center for the Humanities at the University of Washington. Cristóbal is a tenured faculty member in the History Department at North Seattle College where he teaches US, Latin American, and Pacific Northwest history. 

Kate Krieg is currently the Executive Director of Pathways Initiatives at Seattle Central College. Having started at Seattle Central College in 2010 as a part-time faculty member in the Anthropology department, she became Associate Dean in the Division for Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at Seattle Central College in 2014, and has played a central role in strengthening the partnership between Seattle Central College and the University of Washington through the Mellon program. Her path in education started with her...

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By Denise Grollmus 

When the organizers of the Genomics Salon were busy planning their Spring 2020 events, there were rumblings about Covid-19, but a lockdown still seemed unlikely. Soon, however, Michael Goldberg, a doctoral candidate in Genome Sciences, found himself and his Genomics Salon co-organizers scrambling to move their screenings of the Netflix documentary, Unnatural Selection, online.

In fact, the event couldn’t have gone better. With help from the Google Chrome extension, Netflix Party, over 20 attendees were not only able to discuss the film as they watched it “together apart,” but they were also treated to a surprise Q&A with special guests: the film’s directors, Leeor Kaufman and Joe Egender.

Here, I talk to Goldberg about how the Genomics Salon hooked up with the documentary’s makers, as well as the group’s larger discussion about citizen scientists in the age of Covid-19 and the larger goals of the Graduate Research Cluster, which has received Simpson Center support for the past four years. 

How did this relationship between the Genomic Salon and Unnatural Selection come about?

It was really ad hoc. We have a number of different social media outlets that we use to advertise our events. One of the big ones is our Twitter account. I had posted a tweet about our screening of Unnatural Selection when one of the director’s DMed me and asked if they could get involved, which was pretty remarkable, and this was several hours before the event. I led the directors to one of my co-organizers, Jolie Carlisle, who was co-running the event with fellow Genome Sciences PhD student Sayeh Gorjifard. The directors and student organizers ended up running a question and answer session after the screening of the first episode of the documentary, which was incredible. They talked primarily about the process of directing the documentary, particularly about their experience working with both academics and non-academic scientists to craft narratives, but in addition about their takes on citizen science movements with regards to the response to Covid-19.

What do you mean by “citizen science movements?” And how do these movements relate to both the documentary and Covid-19?

Unnatural Selection is a documentary about a number of different things, but largely focuses on the idea of using genomics technologies to alter the human experience by improving health or by...

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The Simpson Center for the Humanities is pleased to announce our collaborative project funding awards for 2020-2021 after receiving many strong proposals from University of Washington faculty and graduate students.

The Simpson Center Executive Board makes two rounds of award decisions during each academic year. In the fall, the board will review proposals for research fellowships, conferences, and publicly-engaged collaborative projects. Read about our funding opportunities and check back for funding round dates, instructions, and deadlines.

Congratulations to our award recipients and our warm thanks to all who applied.

Colloquia, Conferences, and Symposia

Curating in Conversation

Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse (Assistant Professor, School of Art + Art History + Design)

The Bill Holm Center at the Burke Museum will host a series of lectures and programs to increase public understanding around the complexities and ethics involved in the promotion and exhibition of both contemporary and historic Native art.

Transcultural Approaches to Modern Europe

Jason Groves (Assistant Professor, Germanics), S. Kye Terrasi (Senior Lecturer, Germanics), Olivia Gunn (Assistant Professor, Scandinavian Studies), Rich Watts (Associate Professor, French & Italian Studies)

A speaker series focused on race, identity, colonialism, and migration within a broad European context.

Retirement Seminar for Faculty

Judith A. Howard (Professor Emerita, Sociology) and Míċeál F. Vaughan (Professor Emeritus, English)

A quarter-long weekly seminar involving a cohort of faculty who are recently retired or transitioning to retirement and are examining the challenges and opportunities of retiring from the University of Washington. 

Bugs and Beasts Before the Law

Mita Mahato (Associate Curator of Youth and Public Programs, Henry Art Gallery), Carolyn Pinedo-Turnovsky (Associate Professor, American Ethnic Studies), Nina Bozicnik (Associate Curator, Henry Art Gallery) Dan Berger (Associate Professor, IAS, UW Bothell), Dan Paz (Lecturer, Comparative History of Ideas)

The Henry Art Gallery will present "Bugs and Beasts Before the Law," an essay film by the artist duo Bambitchell that explores the history and legacy of “animal trials,” in which non-human animals and inanimate objects were put on trial for various offenses. The Henry will also host an interdisciplinary colloquium in conversation with this work.

Conference on the History of the English Language

Colette Moore  (Associate Professor, English)

The history of the...

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