Scholars at Work

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,, 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!

NovetzkeChristian Lee Novetzke (Jackson School of International Studies) has received a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship for his work on religion, history, and public ethics in India. He will use his time as a Guggenheim Fellow to advance two new book projects. The first examines the role of “devotionalism” or bhakti in the creation of political ethics in Maharashtra, India, over the last 700 years. The second, with collaborator Sunila S. Kale, director of the UW South Asia Studies program, explores yoga as a political idea in India and throughout the world. 

Novetzke is a member of the 2017-2018 Society of Scholars. He was an organizer, with Kale and Sudhir Mahadevan (Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media) of the February 2017 conference The Intellectual Chimera of South Asia, supported by the Simpson Center.

More from the Guggenheim Foundation, the South Asia Center, and UW News.

Congratulations, Christian!

American Sabor book coverA long-running exploration of the contributions of Latinas and Latinos to US pop music has taken the form of a new bilingual book from the University of Washington Press. American Sabor: Latinos and Latinas in US Popular Music (2018) marks the latest product of a collaboration led by Marisol Berríos-Miranda (Music), Shannon Dudley (Music), and Michelle Habell-Pallán (Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies).

The authors also prepared a Spotify playlist of music celebrated in the book, from Tito Puente and Richie Valens to Selena, Santana, and Susana Baca. The project has already taken the form of a 2007-2008 museum exhibit at the Experience Music Project (now MoPOP), a traveling Smithsonian exhibition, and a multimedia website.

The collaboration has extensive Simpson Center connections, beginning with a funding award in 2011. Former Simpson Center Associate Director Miriam Bartha consulted with the project leaders on bridging the worlds of academic scholarship, museum exhibitions, and community partners such as KEXP. Habell-Pallán received the Barclay Simpson Prize for Scholarship in Public last year for her contributions to the field, including American Sabor. Habell-Pallán is also Director of the Certificate in Public Scholarship, a joint program of the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at UW Bothell, the Graduate School, and the Simpson Center.

The book builds on the exhibition’s work of challenging the white-and-black racial framework that dominates many narratives of US musical history. But the sabor in the title is significant, showing role of pleasure, delight, and movement that infuses the intellectual critique. From the publisher:

Evoking the pleasures of music as well as food, the word sabor signifies a rich essence that makes our mouths water or makes our bodies want to move. American Sabor traces the substantial musical contributions of Latinas and Latinos in American popular music between World War II and the present in five vibrant centers of Latin@ musical production: New York, Los Angeles, San Antonio, San Francisco, and Miami. From Tito Puente's mambo dance rhythms to the Spanglish rap of Mellow Man Ace, American Sabor focuses on musical styles that have developed largely in the United States-including jazz, rhythm and blues, rock, punk, hip hop, country, Tejano, and salsa-but also shows the many ways in which...

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Aguirre-MandujanoOscar Aguirre-Mandujano (Interdisciplinary Program in Near & Middle Eastern Studies) has accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Ottoman History at the University of Pennsylvania following the completion of his PhD this spring.

Aguirre-Mandujano has been closely involved in Simpson Center projects, serving as a co-organizer (with Cabeiri Robinson, Esra Bakkalbasiouglu, and Michael Degerald) of New Scholarly Practices, Broader Career Paths in Near & Middle Eastern Studies, a project of the Next Generation Humanities PhD initiative. He was also a member of the 2016-17 Society of Scholars and a co-organizer (with Walter Andrews and Selim Kuru, his dissertation advisor) of the 2017 Simpson Center conference The Many Poems of Baki.

At Penn, Aguirre-Mandujano will teach courses on Ottoman literary and intellectual history, books and readers in the Islamic world, and horses and animal sacrifice in world history, as well as broader introductory courses on Ottoman history, Islamic empires in the early modern world, and animal-human relations. His dissertation, Poetics of Empire: Literature and Political Culture at the Early Modern Ottoman Court (1451-1512) argues that in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Ottoman scholars and statesmen produced a new literary language in order to express political thought. Building on the work of cultural and intellectual historians over the past twenty years, Aguirre-Mandujano  shows that poetic and literary composition was an extension of contemporary politics, a medium through which Ottoman learned men expressed, debated, and ultimately transformed political communication in the early modern Islamic world.

Congratulations, Oscar!

AguirreMichael D. Aguirre, a doctoral student in History, has received a dissertation fellowship from the Center for Engaged Scholarship, an organization of social scientists that builds connections between academics and progressive change agents. The $25,000 award recognizes dissertation work that contributes to “a more democratic, more egalitarian, and more environmentally sustainable society.”

Aguirre’s dissertation examines class formations, labor activism, and forms of citizenship during the shift of the global political economy from Keynesianism to the development of neoliberalism from 1964 through 1979. His research focuses on the eastern California borderlands of Imperial County, California, and Mexicali, Baja California Norte, Mexico.

More from Aguirre:

I explore how the termination of the guest worker Bracero Program in 1964 prompted policymakers and business people in the United States and Mexico to invest in unregulated agricultural and industrial regimes, respectively.

By focusing on Imperial County farmworkers and Mexicali industrial workers, I reveal the degree to which workers’ identities were in flux and how organized labor on both sides of the border struggled to negotiate an inclusive transborder politics that mirrored and challenged the international growth and power of capitalism. Utilizing archival research from Mexico, the United States, and oral histories with borderlands residents, I demonstrate how the historical formation of working classes facilitated both the transition toward a borderless capitalist landscape and the simultaneous entrenchment of racial and national borders that were felt, resisted, and co-opted for different needs.

Aguirre is a fellow in the Certificate in Public Scholarship program and a former PAGE (Publicly Active Graduate Education) fellow of Imagining America. He was also an associate editor of the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project, a contributor to the LGBTQ Activism in Seattle History Project, and a contributor to

Congratulations, Michael!

GroeningStephen Groening (Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media) has developed a new graduate seminar based on his work as a 2017 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, Public Spheres, Public Media, offered in spring 2018, unpacks the historical concept of the public sphere to grapple with new kinds of public spheres structured by new media social platforms and networks. More:

For Immanuel Kant, the public sphere gave voice to the bourgeois and was a kind of technology of Enlightenment; allowing for the public use of private reason. Jurgen Habermas’s 1962 work The Structural Transformation of the Bourgeois Public Sphere historicizes this notion and calls attention to its inadequacies. Subsequently, a wide range of theorists, political philosophers, and critics have taken Habermas to task for supporting a concept overly reliant on face-to-face dialogue and a privileged form of rationality that therefore ends up being exclusionary, racist, and sexist. At the same time, many—if not all—of these critics aver that the idea of a public sphere is nonetheless crucial and necessary for political philosophy, media studies, understanding social movements, and for democracy itself.

Learn more about the course

The course joins Feminist New Media Studies (with Regina Yung Lee) and Organizing Film Festivals as Public Scholarship (with Leigh Mercer) as new seminars arising from the Reimagining program.

Groening also received a Simpson Center Digital Humanities Summer Fellowship in 2016 for his Seattle Television History Project and a Society of Scholars fellowship in 2016-17 for his research on television and collectivity.

Congratulations, Stephen!

Kenworthy and Berliner

By Jonathan Hiskes

The media queries began before the research had even appeared in print. Last February the website of the journal Social Science & Medicine published a study by University of Washington researchers Nora Kenworthy and Lauren Berliner on the rise of crowdfunding campaigns to pay for personal medical costs.

Their first-of-its-kind survey, supported by the UW Simpson Center for the Humanities, found that sites like GoFundMe provide a poor safety net for families struggling with medical costs. They found that such campaigns, which have become a multi-billion-dollar phenomenon, tend to reflect—and potentially worsen—inequities already at play in US health care.

Through a story by the Simpson Center, and another at UW News, the research landed amid a raging national discourse on the public role in health care. That led to coverage from The Atlantic, The Financial Times, The Guardian, The San Francisco Chronicle, Marketplace Public Radio, HuffPost, and other outlets, including a cover story in Mother Jones under the arresting headline “Go Fund Yourself.” The interest has continued with interviews with reporters from The Washington Post, Buzzfeed, the CBC, and others.

Berliner and Kenworthy have provided journalists with findings from their study of 200 randomized GoFundMe campaigns. They found that 90 percent of campaigns did not reach their financial goal and that 10 percent raised less than $100. Their work suggests that those with wealthy social networks and savvy social-media skills have the best chance at running successful campaigns, while those with chronic diseases (often associated with aging) or overlapping financial needs have the hardest time persuading others to donate.

Magazine cover with beggar's handsIn doing so, the two reveal a crucial underlying question: Should we as a nation treat health care as a universal human right or as a private good to be earned? Crowdfunding campaigns, structured around individualized stories of suffering, train us to view health care as a private good dependent on “deservingness” and self-marketing skills, they argue.

“Crowdfunding takes our already unfair health system and makes it more unfair by asking people to market themselves—in essence, to produce a worthy illness—in order to survive,” Kenworthy...

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