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Simpson Center for the Humanities

Scholars at Work

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

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!