Scholars at Work

Jesse Oak TaylorJesse Oak Taylor (English) has won the 2017 Ecocriticism Book Award from the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment for his book The Sky of Our Manufacture: The London Fog in British Fiction from Dickens to Woolf (University of Virginia Press, 2016). 

The judges describe The Sky of Our Manufacture as a richly layered analysis of the atmosphere of toxicity beginning in nineteenth century England and shadowing our own contemporary world" that is "elegantly written, admirably focused, and highly original." They praise Jesse’s "grasp of environmental history [and] material and economic theory," which enable him to undertake "illuminating textual readings."

More from the Department of English.

Jesse is co-organizer, with Jason Groves (Germanics), of the Simpson Center’s Anthropocene crossdisciplinary research cluster, which continues in 2017-2018. He also a member of the 2017-2018 Society of Scholars for his project Becoming Species: Literature, Science, and the Emergence of the Anthropocene.

Congratulations, Jesse!

Haicheng WangHaicheng Wang (Art History) has received a New Directions Fellowship from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to study Chinese bells found at archaeological sites and how ancient Chinese musical culture made an abrupt shift from the dominance of bells to stringed instruments.

More from the School of Art + Art History + Design:

Wang will use his fellowship to pursue further study in ethnomusicology, psychoacoustics, music theory, bell founding, and bell acoustics. He will take classes in the UW School of Music and Department of Psychology; visit bell foundries in London, England, and The Netherlands; do research on ancient Chinese music at Kyoto City University of Arts and the University of Arkansas; and, hopefully, experience in person the music of southern India, which has some parallels with Chinese music.

New Directions Fellowships support faculty members who seek systematic training outside their own areas of expertise. Fellows receive the equivalent of one academic year's salary and two summers of additional support. Three University of Washington faculty have received New Directions Fellowships in the past: Danny Hoffman (Anthropology), Benjamin Schmidt (History), and James Tweedie (Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media).

Haicheng was a member of the 2010-2011 Society of Scholars at the Simpson Center. His project used archaeological remains from ancient China to cast light on performative aspects of Bronze Age kingship.

Congratulations, Haicheng!

Reiko YamanakaReiko Yamanaka, Professor and Director of the Noh Theatre Research Institute of Hosei University in Tokyo, joins the Simpson Center as a visiting scholar in April and May 2017. Reiko is an accomplished scholar of noh drama and performance and the recipient of several grants from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. At the UW, she is co-teaching a graduate seminar on noh with Paul Atkins, Professor and Chair of Asian Languages & Literature and a member of the Simpson Center Executive Board.

“Reiko knows everyone in the world of noh, performers as well as scholars,” said Atkins. “She is directing an ambitious, interdisciplinary multinational project to create an encyclopedia of noh in English.”

Welcome, Reiko!

Bachman and KapoorDoctoral student Jessica Bachman (History) has created a new exhibit for Suzzallo Library entitled "Bollywood and Bolsheviks: Indo-Soviet Collaboration in Literature and Film, 1954-1991."

The project arises from Jessica’s work as a Mellon Summer Fellow for Public Projects in the Humanities through the Simpson Center. As a fellow in summer 2016, she conducted oral history interviews and built an extensive website that documents India’s role in shaping Soviet movie-going culture and the role that translation and new forms of print technology played in bringing Soviet literature to readers in India and Bangladesh.

The exhibit is designed in two halves—as a Soviet sitting room with a Bollywood film on the television, and as an Indian parlor with Soviet-translated books lining the shelves. The setup reflects the cross-cultural exchange of books and film that flourished between the two states.

“Bollywood and Bolsheviks” runs in the Allen Library ground floor exhibit space through May 31. The College of Arts & Sciences has a story by Nancy Joseph with more on Jessica’s field work and how the public-minded project serves her graduate research.

Congratulations, Jessica!

DayTwo participants in last year’s Summer Institute in Global Indigeneities (SIGI) have landed prestigious fellowships that they credit, in part, to the inaugural institute at the UW.

Leanne Day, UW doctoral student in English, received a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at Brandeis University, where she will teach Asian American literature while revising her dissertation into a book manuscript. In June 2017 she will defend her dissertation, “Empire’s Imagination: Race, Settler Colonialism, and Indigeneity in Hawaii’s 'Local' Narratives.”

Dianne Baumann, a UW doctoral student in Anthropology, received a graduate research fellowship from the National Science Foundation that provides three years of full funding while she continues her dissertation work.

BaumannBoth students thank the summer institute, which was held for the first time in June 2016 to gather graduate students and faculty from across universities to focus on the intellectual and institutional challenges of articulating Indigenous studies.

“SIGI gave me the focus, knowledge, and confidence to push through my PhD program at a rate I couldn't have anticipated,” Dianne said. “I honestly believe the one week spent in SIGI is the main reason I had the ability to write a winning NSF application and complete my research competency paper in fulfillment of my master’s degree.”

The institute is organized by Tony Lucero (Jackson School of International Studies), Chadwick Allen (English and Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement), Hokulani Aikau (University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa), and Vicente Diaz (University of Minnesota). It will meet again at the UW in June 2017 with support from the Simpson Center, the Office of Global Affairs, the Graduate School, the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, the Washington Institute for the Study of Inequality and Race (WISIR), and the wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ - Intellectual House Academic Advisory Programming Committee.

Congratulations, Dianne and Leanne!

KhullarSonal Khullar (Art History) was recently awarded the Cohn Prize for a first book in South Asian Studies from the Association for Asian Studies. The award recognizes her 2015 book, Worldly Affiliations: Artistic Practice, National Identity, and Modernism in India, 1930-1990 (University of California Press).

The prize is named for Barney Cohn, a distinguished anthropologist of India, and carries a $1,000 prize and a citation, presented at the AAS annual conference in Toronto in March 2017.

Sonal's book builds on research she developed at the Simpson Center as a Society of Scholars fellow in 2011-12 as well as through New Geographies in Feminist Art, a conference she co-organized with Sasha Welland (Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies) in 2012 that examined the role of women artists, feminism, and visual representations of gender and sexuality in contemporary Asian art. 

Sonal also has a new essay in Eurasian Encounters: Museums, Missions, Modernities (Amsterdam University Press, 2017), a collection exploring intellectual and cultural exchanges between Asia and Europe in the first half of the twentieth century. Sonal’s essay, “Parallel Tracks,” on feminist biography, nationalism, and cosmopolitanism, also draws from her work on New Geographies in Feminist Art.

See alos this Q-and-A with Sonal on #AsiaNow, the blog of the Assocation for Asia Studies.

Congratulations, Sonal!

SunardiChristina Sunardi (Ethnomusicology, School of Music) recently received the Philip Brett Award from the American Musicological Society for her book Stunning Males and Powerful Females: Gender and Tradition in East Javanese Dance (University of Illinois Press, 2016). 

Christina worked on the book as part of the 2012-2013 Society of Scholars at the Simpson Center. The award recognizes outstanding work in gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender/transsexual studies.

From the publisher:

In east Javanese dance traditions like Beskalan and Ngremo, musicians and dancers negotiate gender through performances where males embody femininity and females embody masculinity.

Christina Sunardi ventures into the regency of Malang in east Java to study and perform with dancers. Through formal interviews and casual conversation, Sunardi learns about their lives and art. Her work shows how performers continually transform dance traditions to negotiate, and renegotiate, the boundaries of gender and sex—sometimes reinforcing lines of demarcation, sometimes transgressing them, and sometimes doing both simultaneously.

But Sunardi's investigation moves beyond performance. It expands notions of the spiritual power associated with female bodies and feminine behavior, and the ways women, men, and waria (male-to-female transvestites) access the magnetic power of femaleness.

Congratulations, Christina!

VaughtTwo scholars with connections to the Simpson Center have new books about overlooked trends within the contemporary American prison system.

Sabina Vaught’s Compulsory: Education and the Dispossession of Youth in a Juvenile Prison School(University of Minnesota Press, 2017) presents an institutional ethnography of race and gender power at play in a juvenile prison and its education system. Vaught, Associate Professor and Chair of Education at Tufts University, gave a November 2016 talk at the Simpson Center under the title “Unsurveilled and Unrecorded in a Juvenile Detention Basement,” discussing the prison system’s “hetero-patriarchal disciplinary relationship to young women who defy its raced and gendered narratives.”

ErzenTanya Erzen’s God in Captivity: The Rise of Faith-Based Ministries in an Age of Mass Incarceration (Beacon Press, 2017) charts the rise of religious ministries in American prisons, which include more than 20,000 Evangelical Christian volunteers. From the publisher:

It is by now well known that the United States’ incarceration rate is the highest in the world. What is not broadly understood is how cash-strapped and overcrowded state and federal prisons are increasingly relying on religious organizations to provide educational and mental health services and to help maintain order. And these religious organizations are overwhelmingly run by nondenominational Protestant Christians who see prisoners as captive audiences.

Erzen was a visiting scholar-in-residence at the Simpson Center in 2011-2012, when she was a faculty member at The Ohio State University. She is now Associate Research Professor in Religion and Gender & Queer Studies at the University of Puget Sound. Her recent interview with KUOW about the book is available online.

Congratulations, Tanya and Sabina!

MLQ journal coverA recent issue of Modern Language Quarterly draws exclusively from Scale and Value: New and Digital Approaches to Literary History, a May 2015 conference co-sponsored by the Simpson Center for the Humanities and the journal.

Like the conference, the MLQ issue probes the changing nature and expansive possibilities of digital literary analysis. Two leaders in the field of large-scale textual analysis, James F. English (University of Pennsylvania) and Ted Underwood (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), served as editors for the September 2016 special issue. MLQ’s editor, Marshall Brown (Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media), was  co-organizer of Scale & Value, with support from Jessica Campbell (English).

The full issue of MLQ is available online, including an article by English and Underwood and others by Sharon Marcus, Hoyt Long and Richard Jean So, Heather Love, and others. Also included: the keynote paper by Mark McGurl (Stanford University), “Everything and Less: Fiction in the Age of Amazon.”

For more on McGurl’s provocative argument, see “How the Age of Amazon Is Reshaping Literary History.”

Congratulations, all!


Essay Press has published a new chapbook based on a January 2016 symposium on translational poetics organized by Affect & Audience in the Digital Age, a project of the Simpson Center for the Humanities.

Affect & Audience: Translational Poetics is curated by Amaranth Borsuk (Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, UW Bothell), with an introduction by Sarah Dowling (Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, UW Bothell). It draws on the day-long symposium on January 29, 2016, which gathered poets, scholars, and activists to investigate contemporary scholarly, aesthetic, and activist projects that engage the processes and thematics of translation.

Sarah Dowling

The book, available for free online [PDF], is a beautiful object in itself, worth browsing to see the incorporation of sketches, photos, and artwork from participants (see below). The book credits 23 contributors, reflecting the collaborative spirit of the project.

The Affect & Audience group has continued its work in 2017, hosting a lively, well-attended symposium on Activist Poetics on February 3, organized by micha cárdenas (Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, UW Bothell) along with Borsuk and Dowling. That event attracted media coverage from The Stranger and Poetry Northwest.

Congratulations, all!

Sketch notes from symposium


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