The Simpson Center’s offices are currently all online. Our staff is available by phone and email. We do our best to respond as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience.
Simpson Center for the Humanities

Scholars at Work

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 ...

Read more
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...

Read more

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!