Scholars at Work

Book coverA new collection of original essays edited by Naomi B. Sokoloff (Near Eastern Language & Civilization and Comparative Literature) and Nancy E. Berg (Hebrew and Comparative Literature, Washington University) draws on diverse perspectives to probe the state of Hebrew language studies in contemporary America and beyond. 

What We Talk about When We Talk about Hebrew (and What It Means to Americans) (University of Washington Press, 2018) gathers twelve essays, chiefly from the May 2016 UW conference Hebrew and the Humanities: Present Tense.

In Moment magazine, reviewer Anis Modi praises the book’s “kaleidoscopic” approach that views the topic through multiple lenses:

The different essays are both personal and impersonal, addressing the spiritual, the communal and the academic undercurrents making up the Hebraist tradition in America. Their efforts result in a book that takes readers on a kaleidoscopic journey through Jewish identity, Israel, the diaspora and the common denominator that ties them all together: the Hebrew language.

More from the UW Press.

Sokoloff gives a talk about the new book on Monday, October 29, at 3:30 pm in HUB 145.

The 2016 Hebrew and the Humanities conference wasorganized by Sokoloff, Berg, and Hannah Pressman, formerly of the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies, who contributed a chapter. It was sponsored by Near Eastern Languages & Civilization, Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media, the Stroum Center, and the Simpson Center for the Humanities. Sokoloff also organized a 2005 Simpson Center symposium on American Jewish Writing Today.

Congratulations, all!

MartinMinda Martin (Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, UW Bothell) has completed a documentary film about the civic efforts that protected Seattle neighborhoods from major highway proposals in the 1960s. Ramps to Nowhere provides a visual documentation of the citizens who exposed the racial and class injustice of federal highway plans that targeted low-income, senior, and nonwhite neighborhoods, and who built public support to preserve major swaths of Seattle, including the Central District, the Washington Park Arboretum, Montlake, Cascade, Lake City, and Ravenna.

The film premiered Wednesday, September 26, at the Northwest Film Forum, where Martin hosted a conversation with the audience.

More on the project:

This anti-freeway movement was instrumental in halting two major freeways (RH Thompson and Bay Freeway) and significantly downsizing a third (the I-90), saving parks, shorelines, and thousands of homes and businesses. The lasting benefit of Seattle's anti-freeway movement to future generations — and the sheer breadth of citizen involvement—make it an integral, if little known, facet of the city's heritage.

Seattle’s freeway revolt is a story of the power of citizens to change public policy and dramatically shape the environment in which they live. Unlike many major cities in America, where freeways were cutting through communities and displacing people, primarily poor and black, Seattle effectively kept communities intact through the anti-freeway movement.

Trailer:

Martin received a 2015-2016 Public Scholarship/Community Engagement award from the Simpson Center for work on the film as well as a 2016 Digital Humanities Summer Fellowship.

Congratulations, Minda!

HarkinsGillian Harkins (English) has developed a new graduate seminar based on her work as a 2016 Mellon Summer Fellow for New Graduate Seminars in the Humanities. The fellowship, part of the Simpson Center’s Reimagining the Humanities PhD and Reaching New Publics program, gathers a cohort of UW faculty to develop new courses with significant public scholarship components. 

The course, Collaboration Across Walls: Public Scholarship as Means or Ends, offered in fall 2018, explores public scholarship as both an outcome and a method of inquiry. It focuses on issues of incarceration and critical carceral studies. More:

We will explore these questions by studying one sample practice: collaboration across geographies or architectures of incarceration. Readings will be drawn from the humanities, social science disciplines, interdisciplinary fields, and various public sectors including mainstream journalism, alternative media, digital platforms, community-based organizations, and currently incarcerated groups. Course outcomes will include content knowledge in critical carceral studies; skills acquisition in multi-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary, and cross-sectoral literacies and communication; and production of a project in “public scholarship” connecting content knowledge and skill versatility.

Learn more about the course.

The course joins a growing list of new seminars arising from the Reimagining program: Public Spheres, Public Media (with Stephen Groening), Feminist New Media Studies (with Regina Yung Lee), and Organizing Film Festivals as Public Scholarship (with Leigh Mercer).

Harkins is also the recipient of a 2018-2019 Simpson Center Public Scholarship/Community Engagement award for Prison Education Collaboration, a project she is co-leading with Dan Berger (Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, UW Bothell), Megan Ming Francis (Political Science), and Megan Ybarra (Geography). Harkins is also a founding organizer of Transformative Education Behind Bars, a project that connects UW faculty and graduate students with educators at community colleges, nonprofit organizations, other university programs, and...

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BailkinJordanna Bailkin (History) has a new book with Oxford University Press delving into the history of refugee camps in 20th century Britain. While we rarely think of Britain as a “land of camps,” as Bailkin puts it, it built dozens of camps housing tens of thousands of Belgians, Jews, Basques, Poles, Hungarians, Anglo-Egyptians, Ugandan Asians, Vietnamese, and others fleeing the interlocking crises of war and empire.

In Unsettled: Refugee Camps and the Making of Multicultural Britain, Bailkin show how the complex interaction among citizens, migrants, and refugees shaped today’s multicultural Britain. She also unpacks the contemporary relevance of her work in a series of recent public writings in the UK’s Prospect magazine, on the websites The Conversation and Refugee History, as well as a speaking appearance on the BBC History Extra podcast.

On December 6, Bailkin also delivers a Katz Distinguished Lecture in the Humanities on the topic “Unsettled: Citizens, Migrants, and Refugees in British History,” at 7 pm in UW’s Kane Hall.

More from the publisher:

As the world's refugee crisis once again brings to Europe the challenges of mass encampment, Unsettled offers warnings from a liberal democracy's recent past. Through lively anecdotes from interviews with former camp residents and workers, Unsettled conveys the vivid, everyday history of refugee camps, which witnessed births and deaths, love affairs and violent conflicts, strikes and protests, comedy and tragedy. Their story—like that of today's refugee crisis—is one of complicated intentions that played out in unpredictable ways. The aim of this book is not to redeem camps—nor, indeed, to condemn them. It is to refuse to ignore them. Unsettled speaks to all who are interested in the plight of the encamped, and the global uses of encampment in our present world.

Bailkin was a member of the 2017-2018 Society of Scholars, and she also joins the Simpson Center’s Executive Board in 2018.

Congratulations, Jordanna!

SumpterSam Sumpter, a doctoral candidate in Philosophy, has received the Alvord Fellowship in the Humanities for dissertation research into microaggressions and trans identity. Sumpter will join the Society of Scholars at the Simpson Center for 2018-2019.

The Alvord Fellowship is the College of Arts & Science’s most prestigious graduate student award in the humanities, providing a stipend of $16,000 supported by private donors and a waiver of tuition from the Graduate School. Sumpter was also awarded a scholarship from the Frank L. and Catherine D. Doleshy Endowed Fund.

Sumpter’s dissertation, “Constructing and Being Constructed: Relational Trans Identity and Responsibility for Microaggressions,” extends feminist relational-identity theory into a range of non-normative gender identities, charting theoretical ground while also laying groundwork for social change.

“Sam’s work exemplifies a rarified combination of qualities: intellectual acuity, analytical rigor, attunement with the most vulnerable voices, and an orientation towards creating and translating knowledge into practical action through social action,” said Carole Lee, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Sumpter’s dissertation advisor. “Not only is Sam’s research at the leading edge at the frontier of philosophical knowledge, it builds on those facets that are simultaneously public-facing and community-building.”

Congratulations, Sam!

Mother holds the hands of her two children as they walk in Queens

Students in Leigh Mercer’s graduate seminar “Organizing Film Festivals as Public Scholarship” recently curated a film festival at Seattle’s Chief Sealth International High School, screening films from Mexico, Chile, Spain, and Colombia under the theme of “Outsider Heroes.”

Some two hundred students at Seattle’s most diverse high school turned out for the May 4-5 event. They watched Entre Nos (2009), about a Colombian emigrant and her children struggling to forge a life in Queens, New York. They watched Rara (2016), about a 13-year-old Chilean girl navigating school, friendship, and her mother’s new life with another woman. Through guided discussions and workshops, the high-school students considered the power of film to engage questions of cultural representation and identity.

The UW graduate students, in turn, gained a sense of the potential of film festivals as a way to bring their scholarship to new public audiences. That was the intent of the winter 2018 seminar taught by Mercer, Associate Professor of Spanish & Portuguese Studies. Mercer, like other faculty in area studies and literature and language departments, has repeatedly been asked to organize film series as the popularity of such festivals grows internationally. Sensing an opportunity, she developed the new seminar, using fellowship support from the Reimagining the Humanities PhD and Reaching New Publics program of the Simpson Center for the Humanities.

In the seminar, doctoral students across disciplines considered the critical implications of festival organization, gaining a historical understanding of the film festival phenomenon, while also examining what it means to translate their area of expertise for new publics.

They also gained practical experience as curators. Their preparation for the “Outsider Heroes” festival included viewing and discussing films, meeting with other curators, and hosting Chief Sealth teachers to better understand their students. Mercer’s students also faced challenges particular to a high-school setting, including Seattle Public Schools film guidelines against nudity, sex, or swearing.

“I am very accustomed to watching films for pleasure,” doctoral student Rigoberto Gutiérrez Piñón told ...

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Partnership entry on dictionary page, courtesy Medicine Anthropology Theory

The open-access web journal Medicine Anthropology Theory has published a themed issue led by University of Washington faculty examining the notion of “partnership” as it’s used in global health and related fields. The issue grows out of Humanistic Perspectives on Global Health Partnerships, a Simpson Center project that gathers scholars across disciplines to consider how the oft-used concept of “partnership” both reveals and obscures power imbalances when health workers from wealthy countries interact with poor countries, particularly in Africa.

The MAT issue includes multiple contributions from UW faculty and students who participated in the Simpson Center project, along with other project collaborators, including Iruka Okeke, Professor of Pharmaceutical Microbiology at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, who delivered a keynote to the group in February 2017 and spoke at a colloquium with Paul Farmer in February 2018.

Researchers in the UW group have also published a series of pieces at the website Africa Is a Country. Their work continues this year as a Simpson Center collaboration studio led by Lynn Thomas (History), Johanna Crane (Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, UW Bothell), and Nora Kenworthy (Nursing & Health Studies, UW Bothell). The three of them wrote the introduction to the MAT issue.

See the full set of articles at MAT.

Congratulations, all!

CristofoviciThe Simpson Center is delighted to welcome Anca Cristofovici as a visiting scholar for the month of May 2018. Cristofovici, an accomplished scholar and novelist, will study the books in the Special Collection of UW Libraries for a project on artists’ books and independent publishers in the Pacific Northwest.

She will also read from her novel Stela (Ninebark Press, 2015) at the Evergreen College in Olympia Series on May 16 and at Hugo House in Seattle on May 19.

Cristofovici was born in Bucharest. In 1985, she defected to France, where she is currently Professor of American Literature and Arts at the University of Caen. She is also Director of the Center for Cultural Memory Studies (ERIBIA) and the author of two books of essays, Touching Surfaces. Photographic Aesthetics, Temporality, Aging (2009) and John Hawkes: L’enfant & Le Cannibale (1997). She is an editor of The Art of Collaboration: Artists, Poets, Books (2015), and has contributed to several collections of original essays including Intersections: Essays on Richard Powers (2009) and Figuring Age: Women, Bodies, Generations (edited by Simpson Center Director Kathy Woodward, 1999).

Cristofovici is also a trilingual writer (English, French, and Romanian). Her fiction, poetry, contributions to art catalogues, and her translations have been published in Europe and the United States. She was laureate of Villa Mont Noir, the Marguerite Yourcenar Foundation for European Writers in France, and the Rowohlt Foundation in Switzerland. She has collaborated with American artists and poets and contributes yearly to the international intermedia installation The Venice Vending Machine, for Venice Biennale Collateral Shows. She has received grants from the British Academy, Université Paris-Sorbonne, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Terra Foundation for American Art. She has a forthcoming talk on collaborative art at the Tate Gallery in Liverpool.

More: “The Anca Cristofovici Interview” at The Quarterly Conversation.

Welcome, Anca!

ShapiroLily Shapiro, a PhD candidate in anthropology, has received the Spring 2018 Joseph and Yetta Blau Award for Excellence in Research from the Simpson Center for the Humanities. In selecting Shapiro for the $2,000 award, the Simpson Center Executive Board recognizes the ambition of her dissertation, “(Re)Constructing the Body: Factory Accidents and Reconstructive Surgery in South India.” 

Shapiro’s dissertation, under the direction of Sareeta Amrute (Anthropology), draws on medical anthropology, occupational health, labor, trauma, and the globalization of medical expertise and technologies. She is also pursuing a masters in public health.

The Blau award was established in 2008 by Herbert Blau in honor of his parents to support graduate student scholarship. Herbert Blau was Lockwood Professor in the Humanities and Professor of English at the UW and an influential scholar and champion of experimental theater who was credited with bringing the work of playwright Samuel Beckett, among others, to American audiences.

Congratulations, Lily!

WellandSasha Su-Ling Welland (Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies) has a new book with Duke University Press about experimental art in Beijing and how official attitudes toward such art shifted as China prepared to host the 2008 Olympics. Experimental Beijing: Gender and Globalization in Chinese Contemporary Art (2018) charts how a policy of censorship gave way to a market-driven mobilization of art’s ability to confer global prestige. 

A companion website, experimentalbeijing.com, uses striking imagery to explore Chinese contemporary art as a zone of cultural encounter—between ideas of masculinity and femininity, public and private, rural and urban, China and the world. It will expand to include chapter image galleries, curated exhibits, and an archive of people and images searchable in Chinese and English.

Welland has extensive Simpson Center connections as the recipient of Digital Humanities Summer Fellowships in 2017 and 2014 and a Society of Scholars fellowship in 2016-2017. She organized the 2015-2016 speaker series “Ethnographic Aesthetics: Image, Sound, Word” and co-organized, with Sonal Khullar (Art History), the 2012 conference “New Geographies of Feminist Art: China, Asia, and the World.” Her course on experimental ethnography, and the inventive student projects it inspired, were the subject of a Simpson Center feature story on “ethnography unbound.”

More on the new book from the publisher:

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and experience as a videographer and curator, Welland analyzes encounters between artists, curators, officials, and urban planners as they negotiated the social role of art and built new cultural institutions. Focusing on the contradictions and exclusions that emerged, Welland traces the complex gender politics involved and shows that feminist forms of art practice hold the potential to reshape consciousness, produce a nonnormative history of Chinese contemporary art, and imagine other, more just worlds.

Welland also has a new article on aesthetics in Cultural Anthropology as part of its Keywords for Ethnography and Design series.

Congratulations, Sasha!

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