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Simpson Center for the Humanities

2017-2018 Society of Scholars

Jordanna Bailkin (Professor, History)

Unsettled: Refugee Camps and the Making of Multicultural Britain

Unsettled reveals the jagged history of how refugees and citizens came to be thought of as separate from one another, and—more surprisingly—how this was not always the case. In a narrative that stretches over six decades, I illustrate just how close refugees and citizens used to be, and how far apart they became. The sense of shared experiences between Britons and refugees largely disappeared by the later decades of the 20th century. Yet this was not a linear trajectory. From the 1930s to the 1980s, the notion of what one deserved in life—what specific kind of home or family or food—underwent constant revision by liberal, social democratic, and neoliberal policymakers. The contemporary notion that the camp marks the absolute division of citizens and others was not a forgone conclusion, but was shaped by the uneven fits and starts of poverty and affluence.


Yomi Braester (Professor, Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media)

Keywords for the Digital City

Certain words have been frequently used to describe the digital city, including palimpsest, modularity, virality, and interface. Such metaphors, however, do not amount to a factual description of the city, but rather introduce an ideological bias, celebrating the neoliberal values of economic productivity, visual branding, and automated networking. My project follows the trajectory of these central keywords, studies their role in urban development, and criticizes their intended impact.


Darren Byler (Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology)

The Art of Life in Chinese Central Asia: Precariousness, Art, and Minority Politics in the City

Following a series of "terrorist events" in 2009, officials of Ürümchi, an ethnically-diverse border city in Northwest China, announced plans to resettle 300,000 indigenous Turkic-Muslim Uyghur inhabitants from “slums” to state-subsidized public housing. They also announced 800 million-yuan investments in art and culture projects across the city which address the goal of building a "global city." Routing my ethnographic research through Uyghur and Han artistic and literary representations of precarious life in the city, this project offers a theoretical framework for understanding the effects of Chinese settler-colonialism and urbanism, and how the lived experience of structural violence gives rise to new forms of art and politics.


Shannon Cram (Assistant Professor, Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, UW Bothell)

Unmaking the Bomb: Nuclear Cleanup and the Politics of Impossibility

Unmaking the Bomb explores the complex politics of remediation at Washington State’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Home to more than two-thirds of the nation’s high-level nuclear waste and the largest environmental cleanup in human history, Hanford is tasked with managing toxic materials that will long outlast the United States and its regulatory policies. This book uses a critical ethnographic approach to examine the embodied uncertainties and structural impossibilities integral to that effort.


Susan Gaylard (Associate Professor, French & Italian)

Beautiful Monsters: Erasing Women from Renaissance Histories

In the 16th century, images of women vanished from European history books. My project links this disappearance with new print technologies that transformed images from idealized models into scientific evidence. This way of reading images was incompatible with the racy or mythological aspects of many famous women’s lives. As historiography embraced scientific fact, the legendary beauty of these women troubled assumptions that wickedness was visible. Worse still, lifelike print images could make even chaste women seem too available.


Ana M. Gómez-Bravo (Professor, Spanish & Portuguese)

Feeding Race: Food Culture and Blood Purity in Inquisitorial Spain

My goal is to work on a book-length study on identity, ethnicity and race as they relate to food practices in the literary and historical texts of the Spanish fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. These ideas are linked to the dramatic shift in medical, political, and religious understanding of ethnic and racial differences that developed during the Inquisition in Spain and which had profound implications and projections into the New World and to the present day. The project involves the analysis of records of the Inquisition alongside that of the large body of fifteenth-century poetic and other texts that mirror the practices and beliefs held by the Inquisition.


Olivia Gunn (Assistant Professor, Scandinavian Studies)

Empty Nurseries, Queer Occupants: Reproduction in Henrik Ibsen's Late Plays

The nursery room was a major source of anxiety in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and a prime site in literature for reaffirming and contesting ideologies of the family. Empty Nurseries, Queer Occupants explores children’s space in Henrik Ibsen’s plays and in the world that he depicted. It will offer analyses of the late works informed by queer theory, as well as historical and site-specific accounts of children’s space in the bourgeois home in Norway.


Elizabeth Janssen (Doctoral Candidate, English) 

Terms and Conditions: Race, Literary Value, and US Reading Publics

My dissertation studies the role of literature and literary markets in mediating valuations of race and ethnicity in the US. It investigates a current trend in Anglophone fiction toward satirizing literary markets for ethnicity and how these novels negotiate the terms of their own receptions. Taking a sociologically-oriented approach, it also examines oft-overlooked agents of literary value-construction beyond text and reader (such as publishers, reviewers, book clubs, universities) who, by extension, contribute to constructions and valuations of race and ethnicity within specific reader-markets.


Jeffrey Knight (Associate Professor, English)

Shakespeare and the Test of Time: A Study in Literary Duration

This book project investigates the inherent uncertainty in literary history through the agents, individual and organizational, charged with preserving literature or extending its life. In chapters organized not around texts or periods, but around scales of literary preservation – the poem, the book, the library, the school, and a coda on digital archives – I ask how the passage of Shakespeare’s works from bedsides and bookshops to the “institutional time” of public collections, university curricula, and open-access repositories creates new modes of textual objectification and new modes of intimacy with an imagined literary past.


Christian Novetzke (Professor, Jackson School of International Studies)

The Political Theology of Yoga

Yoga originated in ancient India’s warrior culture as a way to hold fast to one’s courage in battle; Gandhi used yoga as a political force in his challenge to British colonialism; and now India’s current prime minister proposes yoga as a solution to the international political dilemma of climate change. I will explore the idea that yoga’s long intellectual history evinces a political theology in the present, a project that is part of a book entitled The Politics of Yoga, co-authored with Sunila S. Kale (Jackson School of International Studies).


Jesse Oak Taylor (Assistant Professor, English)

Becoming Species: Literature, Science, and the Emergence of the Anthropocene

This project examines Victorian debates around evolution, extinction, and the status of species in light of the emergence of the Anthropocene, a proposed geological epoch in which human beings have become a force of nature. No aspect of the Anthropocene has proven more provocative, or controversial, than the species question: the idea that the human species has become a geological actor is counterbalanced by the fact that global ecological crisis is also marked by extreme inequality. Those most vulnerable to climate change are also those least responsible for it. Returning to Victorian debates over a similar set of questions offers a useful historical vantage on these pressing issues.


Liina-Ly Roos (Doctoral Candidate, Scandinavian Studies)

The Child in Nordic and Baltic Imagination: Affect of War and Cruel Everyday

In this project I trace the literary and cinematic constructions of the post-war child that challenge the traditional narratives and collective memories of war, occupation, and traumatic years of post-1991 transitions in the Baltic Sea region. The intersection of the traumatic memories and the everyday in the figure of the child enables a more complex exploration of the changing time and spaces in the fictional works of this region.


Sarah Ross (Doctoral Candidate, Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media)

Architecting Sight: Cinema's Poiesis of Image-Signs

This project uses videographic criticism to visually connect the logic of “collage”—which became prevalent in the early 20th century avant-garde movements—to the “high modernist” filmmakers of the 1960s and 1970s. In what way does an aesthetic inquiry into these early practices of sign-creation illuminate these later works? Both periods have been associated with the creation of "new modes of seeing." This project seeks to explore the way in which modernist filmmakers utilize images, objects, and editing to constitute a deconstruction of the perceived world and a new architecting of cinematic space and signs.