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Simpson Center for the Humanities

Scholars at Work

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

Adam WarrenAdam Warren (History) was awarded a collaborative research grant from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) for his research with Martha Few (Penn State) and Zeb Tortorici (NYU) on Postmortem Cesarean Operations and the Spread of Fetal Baptism in the Spanish and Portuguese Empires.

More on the book project:

This project traces the networks of Spain's and Portugal's empires that allowed for the introduction and global spread of the postmortem cesarean operation for the purpose of baptizing the unborn fetus during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Although scholars have written histories of the operation, these have been geographically limited in scope. Looking at Europe, the Americas, and the Philippines, we interrogate how different kinds of historical actors gave meaning to the operation and to baptism as they received instruction and implemented them in distinct colonial settings. Combining approaches from ethnohistory, gender and sexuality studies, history of medicine, and archival theory, we show how the procedure generated new ideas about women and unborn fetuses as colonial subjects across different imperial spaces.

Adam is part of the Simpson Center research project on Humanistic Perspectives on Global Health Partnerships. He was also a member of the 2008-2009 Society of Scholars, where he worked on his book Medicine and Politics in Colonial Peru: Population Growth and the Bourbon Reforms (2010).

Congratulations, Adam!

Tim BrownTim Brown (Philosophy) has received a prestigious Humanities Without Walls fellowship to attend a three-week institute in Chicago this summer as one of 30 doctoral students selected nationwide.

Humanities Without Walls is an initiative led by 15 humanities centers at Midwestern research universities to create new avenues for research, teaching, and the production of scholarship inside and outside the academy. It is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and organized by the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

The program’s goals dovetail with the Simpson Center’s Next Generation Humanities PhD initiative, including the current Philosophy Branches Out project, a partnership with the Department of Philosophy.

The award recognizes Tim’s work on the ethics of neural technology and engineering with the UW Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering's (CSNE) Neuroethics Thrust. From the Department of Philosophy:

Tim’s current project studies the way people with Parkinson’s disease and Essential Tremor use deep-brain stimulator systems – where a pacemaker-like device implanted in the user’s chest applies electricity to electrodes implanted in the user’s brain – to manage their symptoms … Tim collects the users’ experiences through interviews and uses them to challenge philosophical theories about autonomy, self-control, and personal identity.

The department has more on Tim’s work and Humanities Without Walls.

Congratulations, Tim!

Eva CherniavskyEva Cherniavsky (English) has a new book about the changing meaning of citizenship in an era of US oligarchy, Neocitizenship: Political Culture after Democracy (NYU Press, 2017). For the past three years, Eva has co-led the Simpson Center research cluster Palestine and the Public Sphere, which examines the situation of Palestine and its framing in US academic and public spheres. She was also a fellow of the 2015-2016 Society of Scholars and has served on the Simpson Center Executive Board.

From the publisher:

Neocitizenship explores how the constellation of political and economic forces of neoliberalism have assailed and arguably dismantled the institutions of modern democratic governance in the U.S. As overtly oligarchical structures of governance replace the operations of representative democracy, the book addresses the implications of this crisis for the practices and imaginaries of citizenship through the lens of popular culture …

… Drawing on a range of political theories, Neocitizenship also suggests that theory is at a disadvantage in thinking the historical present, since its analytical categories are wrought in the very historical contexts whose dissolution we now seek to comprehend. Cherniavsky thus supplements theory with a focus on popular culture that explores the de-democratization for citizenship in more generative and undecided ways. Tracing the contours of neocitizenship in fiction through examples such as The White Boy Shuffle and Distraction, television shows like Battlestar Galactica, and in the design of American studies abroad, Neocitizenship aims to take the measure of a transformation in process, while evading the twin lures of optimism and regret.

Congratulations, Eva!

AtkinsPaul Atkins (Asian Languages & Literature) has a new book with the University of Hawaiʻi Press about the influential Japanese poet Fujiwara no Teika (1162–1241). The book, Teika: The Life and Works of a Medieval Japanese Poet (2017), is the first book-length study of Teika in English.

From the publisher:

Fujiwara no Teika (1162–1241) was born into an illustrious lineage of poets just as Japan’s ancien régime was ceding authority to a new political order dominated by military power. Overcoming personal and political setbacks, Teika and his allies championed a new style of poetry that managed to innovate conceptually and linguistically within the narrow confines of the waka tradition and the limits of its thirty-one syllable form. Backed by powerful patrons, Teika emerged finally as the supreme arbiter of poetry in his time …

… Courtier, waka poet, compiler, copyist, editor, diarist, and critic, Teika is recognized today as one of the most influential poets in the history of Japanese literature. His oeuvre includes over four thousand waka poems, his diary, Meigetsuki, which he kept for over fifty years, and a fictional tale set in Tang-dynasty China. Over fifteen years in the making, Teika is essential reading for anyone interested in Japanese poetry, the history of Japan, and traditional Japanese culture.

Paul worked on the manuscript as part of the 2007-2008 Society of Scholars at the Simpson Center. He also serves on the center’s Executive Board and attended the 2015 Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) in Victoria, British Columbia, with the Simpson Center’s support.

Congratulations, Paul!

Marian Lyles in classroom

Rachel Arteaga (Simpson Center) has written an article for Inside Higher Ed about new partnerships between two-year colleges and doctoral programs in the humanities, drawing on her leadership of the Simpson Center program Reimagining the Humanities PhD and Reaching New Publics.

ArteagaRachel, the Simpson Center’s Assistant Director and Assistant Program Director of the Reimagining program, told stories in the piece about doctoral fellows, faculty members, and senior administrators in the program, which launched in July 2015 with a $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

In “PhDs (and Advisers) Shouldn’t Overlook Community Colleges,” Rachel writes:

Daniel Stofleth, a doctoral student in communication at the University of Washington, has observed firsthand the most striking difference between research universities and community colleges: diversity.

“I have attended or taught at three four-year institutions, which were all relatively homogenous,” he says. At Seattle Central College, under the mentorship of communication instructor Marian Lyles during the 2015-16 academic year, Stofleth was involved in classrooms in which “the variety of student backgrounds coalesced into some of the most thought-provoking, and often challenging, conversations I’ve been a part of in my experience as a student and instructor.” He views the diversity of the two-year college system as its core strength.

Inside Higher Ed logoThe Inside Higher Ed story also describes the work of Lily Schatz, a doctoral candidate in history, Angela Durán Real, a doctoral student in Spanish, Bradley Lane, vice president of instruction at Seattle Central College, and Jaime Cárdenas Jr., history instructor at Seattle Central College. Rachel’s story also discusses related programs and scholarship on partnerships between research universities and two-year colleges, recognizing the mutually beneficial roles they can play.

Rachel earned a PhD in English at the UW in 2016 with a...

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Michael HoneyMichael Honey (Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, UW Tacoma) has partnered with cinematographer and filmmaker Errol Webber to create a documentary about the life of Methodist minister and civil rights activist Rev. James Lawson. He also published a book on an influential folk singer and labor organizer, Sharecroppers' Troubadour: John L. Handcox, the Southern Tenant Farmers' Union, and the African American Song Tradition (Palgrave Studies in Oral History, 2013).

The book was supported by a 2011-2012 Society of Scholars fellowship from the Simpson Center. Michael, the Fred and Dorothy Haley Professor of Humanities, also received a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship that year.

On the book:

Folk singer and labor organizer John Handcox was born to illiterate sharecroppers, but went on to become one of the most beloved folk singers of the prewar labor movement. This beautifully told oral history gives us Handcox in his own words, recounting a journey that began in the Deep South and went on to shape the labor music tradition.

On the film, Love & Solidarity: James Lawson and Nonviolence in Search for Workers' Rights:

Love & Solidarity is an exploration of nonviolence and organizing through the life and teachings of Rev. James Lawson. Lawson provided crucial strategic guidance while working with Martin Luther King, Jr., in southern freedom struggles and the Memphis sanitation strike of 1968. Moving to Los Angeles in 1974, Lawson continued his nonviolence organizing in multi-racial community and worker coalitions that have helped to remake the LA labor movement.

See a trailer for the film:

Michael has also been invited to give a series of addresses based on the works, including to the Oral History Association, Southern Historical Association, the American Studies Association, Arkansas State University, the University of Arkansas, Indiana State University, University of Memphis, the National Civil Rights Museum, Michigan State University, and Florida State University.

Congratulations, Michael!

Linda NashLinda Nash (History) has received a $50,400 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for research into how Americans’ approach to postwar development was shaped by the nation’s abundant resources and its history of settler colonialism in the American West.

Her project, “American Engineers and Hydroelectric Development Projects in the US and Afghanistan,” grows out of several activities supported by the Simpson Center. Linda was a fellow of the 2007-2008 Society of Scholars for her project “Engineering a Modern World: Environments, Technologies, Agency.” She was a co-organizer of the 2014-2015 Environmental Humanities crossdisciplinary research cluster. In April 2016 she traveled to Washington State University as part of collaborative partnership among scholars in the environmental humanities at the UW and Washington State. She is an affiliate faculty member for the Certificate in Public Scholarship and a guest speaker for City/Nature: Urban Environmental Humanities, a Summer 2017 NEH Institute for College and University Teachers led by landscape historian Thaisa Way, urban ecologist Ken Yocom, and literary scholar Richard Watts.

More on her book project:

Americans in Arid Lands tells an environmental and postcolonial history of “development,” connecting the US’s approach to the postwar world to the nation’s settler colonial history in the American West. The United States’ materially intensive approach to appropriating the dry landscapes of the trans-Mississippi West in the nineteenth- and early twentieth centuries shaped how Americans would view and respond to dry regions across the world for several decades … My focus is American water engineers associated with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as they moved between western North America and certain foreign locations.  Their goal was to remake marginal, arid environments into modern agricultural landscapes through the application of technology, and by most accounts, they were remarkably unsuccessful. Nonetheless, Americans emerged as the undisputed experts on arid lands in the postwar world. While I briefly treat several different projects, I focus in detail on two: the Columbia Basin Project in Washington State—the Bureau’s largest domestic project—and the Helmand Valley Project in Afghanistan—the Agency’s largest foreign project. 

The NEH award is part of a series of 290 diverse projects supporting scholarly and educational activities nationwide.

“The humanities help...

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