Simpson Center for the Humanities

Scholars at Work

NovetzkeChristian Lee Novetzke (Jackson School of International Studies) has published a new book, The Quotidian Revolution: Vernacularization, Religion, and the Premodern Public Sphere in India (Columbia, 2016), about the cultural politics surrounding the rise of Marathi literature in 13th-century India.

He co-authored another new book, Amar Akbar Anthony: Bollywood, Brotherhood, and the Nation, with William Elison (Religion, University of California, Santa Barbara) and Andy Rotman (Buddhist and South Asian Studies, Smith College), about a beloved Bollywood film. The book  unpacks the social politics of the 1977 blockbuster, emulating the playful spirit of the film.

“Here is a scholarly work about a popular film that also tries to mimic something of the film’s controlled lunacy, winking at itself every now and again,” says a review in The Hindu.

Christian and his co-authors dressed in the same disguises the film characters wear at the end of the film for a book celebration at the Annual Conference on South Asia at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 2015.

Amar Akbar Anthony actors and book authors

More from the publisher:

Delighting audiences with its songs and madcap adventures, the film follows the heroics of three Bombay brothers separated in childhood from their parents and one another. Beyond the freewheeling comedy and camp, however, is a potent vision of social harmony, as the three protagonists, each raised in a different religion, discover they are true brothers in the end. William Elison, Christian Lee Novetzke, and Andy Rotman offer a sympathetic and layered interpretation of the film’s deeper symbolism, seeing it as a lens for understanding modern India’s experience with secular democracy.

Christian is an organizer, with Sunila Kale (Jackson School of International Studies) and Sudhir Mahadevan (Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media) of the February 2017 conference The Intellectual...

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Ruth MoonRuth Moon (Communication), a fifth-year PhD candidate, has received four fellowships to support her dissertation research on the work culture of journalists in Kigali, Rwanda.

The awards come from the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, the UW Graduate School, the Department of Communication, and the Boren Fellowship initiative of the National Security Education Program. They will support her living in Kigali from winter through summer 2017.

“These grants will let me immerse myself in Rwandan journalism culture with an aim to understand how political and social elements impact the work journalists do,” she said. More from the Department of Communication.

For the last two years, Ruth has led the Simpson Center’s graduate research cluster on African Media and Materialities, which gathers students across disciplines “to avoid African essentialism and instead identify and celebrate the diversity of African voices effecting cultural stability and change.”

Congratulations, Ruth!

Eric AmesEric Ames, Professor and Chair of Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media, has published a new book on the Werner Herzog film Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972). His book, by the same name, is part of the Film Classics Series of the British Film Institute. From the publisher:

Appearing in 1972, Aguirre put Herzog on the map of world cinema. But the film's importance also derives from the young German director's tense, behind-the-scenes relationship with actor Klaus Kinski. Did Herzog really direct him at gunpoint? Did they plot each other's murder? The legends begin here …

In this groundbreaking book, Eric Ames reconstructs the film as an experiment in visualising the past from the viewpoint of the present. Aguirre is not a history film in the narrow sense, but it does engage a specific episode in the conquest of the New World, and it explores that history in terms of vision. Interweaving close analysis with extensive archival research, Ames explores Aguirre as a seminal film about the madness and hopelessness of Western striving. In addition, as an appendix, he offers for the first time a complete translation of an infamous, secretly recorded argument between Herzog and Kinski on the set.

Eric is the organizer of the Oct. 21-22, 2016, Simpson Center conference Teaching World Literature, which aims to lay the groundwork for a new undergraduate major at the UW. He is co-teaching, with Gary Handwerk (Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media), the Fall HUM microseminar for graduate students on the topic of “Teaching World Literature” which dovetails with the conference.

Eric is also the author of Ferocious Reality: Documentary according to Werner Herzog (2012).

Congratulations, Eric!

AguirreMichael Aguirre (History) and Angela Durán Real (Spanish & Portuguese Studies) have received public engagement fellowships from Imagining America, an organization promoting civic and community involvement by scholars and artists. The two received support to attend Imagining America’s annual conference (Oct. 6-8 in Milwaukee). They also join a year-long peer-organized collective through the organization’s Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) initiative.

Durán Real Elyse Gordon (Geography), a previous fellow, serves as a co-director of the PAGE initiative. All three doctoral students are fellows in the UW Certificate in Public Scholarship, which has a history of sending students to attend and speak at Imagining America events.

Michael and Angela each wrote posts for the PAGE blog salon about how public scholarship informs their work:

Congratulations, Michael, Angela, and Elyse!

Jane WongJane Wong, a doctoral candidate in English, has a new book, a poetry prize, and a teaching position that testify to her overlapping roles as poet and scholar. Jane joined Pacific Lutheran University as a Visiting Assistant Professor in September, teaching creative writing, Asian American studies, and first-year writing.

Her first full-length book, Overpour, was recently published by Action Press. She has also received the 2016 Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize from American Poetry Review for her poem "I Put On My Fur Coat,” which appears in the September/October issue and online. Jane’s poem “Thaw” was also included in Best American Poetry 2015.

Jane was a 2016 Digital Humanities Summer Fellow at the Simpson Center. Her ongoing project, Digital Interviews: The Poetics of Haunting in Asian American Poetry, gathers interviews with leading contemporary poets, along with text, video, and photography, to consider how social, historical, and political contexts “haunt” the work of contemporary Asian American poets in terms of content and form.

“These first-hand accounts, akin to an oral history archive, offer a more direct, public, and nuanced understanding of ‘haunting’ as a poetics,” she writes.

Congratulations, Jane!

Monica De La TorreMonica De La Torre (Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies) has accepted a position as Assistant Professor in Media & Expressive Culture in Arizona State University’s School of Transborder Studies following the completion of her PhD this spring.

Monica is a fellow in the Certificate in Public Scholarship program, incubated at the Simpson Center, and served as a graduate student representative for the program's steering committee. Her portfolio project, an online digital archive on Chicana/o community radio with advisors John Vallier (UW Libraries) and Susan Harewood (Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, UW Bothell), has grown into a remarkable digital scholarship project that she will continue at Arizona State.

Monica has also been involved with the Simpson Center as a HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory) Scholar and a Digital Research Summer Institute Fellow. She has also contributed to the Women Who Rock oral history and public scholarship project, led in part by Michelle Habell-Pallán (Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies), her dissertation advisor.

Monica’s dissertation “Feminista Frequencies: Tuning-In to Chicana Radio Activism in the Pacific Northwest, 1975-1990,” took an innovative theoretical and methodological approach to community radio production from a Chicana feminist perspective.

Radio tower behind workers on pickup truck

At Arizona State, Monica will continue developing a pedagogy that centers radio and digital-media production as a form of knowledge production. She plans to collect more oral histories with Chicana/o public radio broadcasters while focusing specifically on the soundwork of these community-radio innovators.

“The Simpson Center was indispensable to my development as a public digital-humanities scholar,” Monica said. “I learned about the different iterations of intellectual communities across spaces in and outside academia. In particular, I love teaching radio podcasting and will develop a media lab to train undergraduates in media production at ASU.”

Congratulations, Monica!

Heekyoung ChoHeekyoung Cho (Asian Languages & Literature) has published a new book, Translation’s Forgotten History: Russian Literature, Japanese Mediation, and the Formation of Modern Korean Literature (2016) with Harvard University Press.

From the publisher:

Translation’s Forgotten History investigates the meanings and functions that translation generated for modern national literatures during their formative period and reconsiders literature as part of a dynamic translational process of negotiating foreign values. By examining the triadic literary and cultural relations among Russia, Japan, and colonial Korea and revealing a shared sensibility and literary experience in East Asia … this book highlights translation as a radical and ineradicable part—not merely a catalyst or complement—of the formation of modern national literature. Translation’s Forgotten History thus rethinks the way modern literature developed in Korea and East Asia. While national canons are founded on amnesia regarding their process of formation, framing literature from the beginning as a process rather than an entity allows a more complex and accurate understanding of national literature formation in East Asia and may also provide a model for world literature today.

Heekyoung has been heavily involved in translation activity at the UW. With Cynthia Steele (Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media) and Vicente Rafael (History), she co-led the Simpson Center crossdisciplinary research cluster Troubling Translations this year, organizing talks by several renowned scholars of translation. She also taught, with Rafael, the spring 2016 microseminar “Troubling Translations: Language, Literature, Politics, and the Market.”

The book was supported by a 2013-14 Society of Scholars fellowship at the Simpson Center, along with fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies.

UW News also covered the new book in a story by Peter Kelley.

Congratulations, Heekyoung!

Angela and Asha with research posterAngela Durán Real (Spanish & Portuguese) has conducted an innovative survey on attitudes toward study-abroad programs at South Seattle College. She worked with Asha Esterberg Tran, her faculty mentor at South Seattle, with whom she was paired through the Simpson Center’s Reimagining the Humanities PhD and Reaching New Publics program.

Angela shadowed Asha in Spanish classes over the past year, spending the fall and winter quarters getting to know students, building trust with them, and learning about the two-year-college environment. In the spring, the two conducted the survey, contributing to a national conversation on why students of color and low-income students are less likely to study abroad, and how programs might improve access.

Asked what three words come to mind with “study abroad,” South Seattle students gave answers that suggest the dilemmas presented by prohibitively expensive programs. The top terms: Expensive, experience adventure, life-changing, scary, daunting, stressful, diversity, regret, missed opportunity, dreams, impractical, and frivolous.

“Working on equity and accessibility to opportunities in higher education has been a unique opportunity,” Angela said. “It has pushed me to figure out how to translate the skills and knowledge acquired in grad school to a specific problem.”

Angela and Asha presented their research poster, “Equity and Accessibility in Higher Education: Shifting the Narrative about Studying Abroad,” at the UW Spring Celebration of Service and Leadership on May 11.

Angela is a Mellon Fellow for Reaching New Publics in the Humanities as well as a fellow in the Certificate in Public Scholarship and a participant in the Reading and Writing Affect graduate interest group.

Congratulations, Angela and Asha!

Poster of research findings

Catherine ConnorsCatherine M. Connors (Classics) has received a Distinguished Teaching Award as part of the University of Washington’s annual Awards of Excellence.

In 2014, Catherine received a Simpson Center Full Professor Crossdisciplinary Conversation Award for The Lost Scrapbook of Miss Mattie Hansee, a book project about Martha Lois Hansee (1859-1939), who taught Latin and Greek at the University of Washington in 1881-4 and 1895-1903. Extensive archival materials at UW Libraries Special Collections about Hansee’s life and academic career offer an unusual personal perspective on the teaching of classics in the Pacific Northwest and the history of women's education. Through the project, Catherine collaborated with Nancy Beadie (Education), drawing on her expertise in the history of education.

The Distinguished Teaching Award recognizes both Catherine’s own teaching and her support of teaching Latin in K-12 education.

Congratulations, Catherine!

Two Simpson Center collaborators have been awarded prestigious Guggenheim Foundation fellowships, which will allow them to pursue creative and scholarly projects over the coming year.

Katharyne MitchellKatharyne Mitchell (Geography) has received a fellowship for her research on sanctuary practices for asylum seekers and those at risk of deportation in Europe. She has also received a Brocher Foundation fellowship for her work on the concept of biological citizenship, allowing her to study in Switzerland in fall 2016.

Katharyne, who serves on the Simpson Center Executive Board, held the Simpson Professorship in the Public Humanities (2004-2007), a program modeled as an alternative to sabbatical leave, providing deep support for local, community-relevant research. Her community engagement project, Reclaiming Childhood, undertook a collaborative, interdisciplinary examination of the changing nature of contemporary childhood.

Rajesh RaoRajesh Rao (Computer Science & Engineering) has received a Guggenheim fellowship for his work in neuroscience. The award will support his project The Computational Brain: Understanding and Interfacing with Neuronal Networks. Rajesh received a Simpson Center grant in 2008 for Analysis of the 4500-year-old Indus Script using Machine Learning and Data Mining, a digital humanities grant that predates our Digital Humanities Summer Fellowship program.

UW Drawing Professor Helen O’Toole (Art) also received a Guggenheim fellowship for fine arts.

Congratulations, Katharyne, Rajesh, and Helen!