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Simpson Center for the Humanities

2018-2019 Society of Scholars

Kemi Adayemi (Assistant Professor, Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies)

Making New Ground: Black Queer Women's Geographics of the Neoliberal City

This ethnography of black queer women in Chicago's gentrifying neighborhoods examines their physical and affective strategies for interrupting and reconfiguring the production and circulation of black and black queer aesthetics therein. In the process, they insist not only on a more ethical production of black queer pleasure, but articulate their "right to the city" as more than simply economic, but a right that is necessarily attentive to desire, pleasure, and affect writ large.


Jennifer Bean (Associate Professor, Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media)

Junking Modernity: Early Cinema, Globalization, and the Question of History)

The primary aim of Junking Modernity is to assess the global recycling and repurposing of early popular cinema and media objects, as well as the series of dislocations and relocations that enable their respective viewing cultures. The film history recovered in this study thus depends on what I call “misuse value," meaning a value that resides outside of, beyond, or in distinct defiance of capitalist and colonial dictates of use and exchange.


Naomi Macalalad Bragin (Assistant Professor, Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, UW Bothell)

Black Power of Hip Hop Dance: On Kinethic Politics

Black Power of Hip Hop Dance is an ethnographic cultural history of emergent hip hop dance in 1970s California. Shifting focus from hip hop’s New York origins, this project contributes to a west coast black dance archive underresearched in dance studies. Robot, Popping, Locking, and Waackin’/Punkin’ are styles innovated by youth who found common ground in the streets for a social study of black popular aesthetics, practicing outside formal dance studios. My theory of kinethic politics frames these dances of “the street” in dancers’ embrace of displacement, aesthetic experimentation, blackness, and motion. I theorize blackness as a kinetic force that informs social life, not as identity formation but in movement practice.


Elena Campbell (Associate Professor, History)

Northern Empire: Development, Environment, and Power in Late Imperial Russia

This book project aspires to re-tilt the interpretation of Russian history to its northern horizons. It aims to explore Russia’s turn to the North and the aspiration to establish itself as a Northern Empire during the late tsarist era (1860s-1917). The book examines the historical circumstances and personalities that brought the Russian North to imperial focus, as well as the implications of this turn for the empire’s northern periphery and the tsarist regime. I intend to write a book that will be of interest to historians of Russia and the Arctic region, as well as scholars of empire, nationalism, environment, and modernity more broadly.


Jean Dennison (Associate Professor, Anthropology)

Governing with Wa-hoin: the Osage Nation’s Search for Accountability

Since the passage of their 2006 Constitution, Osage Nation officials have been preoccupied with how monies are spent, whether or not employees are doing their job, and what practices could foster greater accountability. My research investigated the socio-cultural dimensions at stake in these desires. Ultimately, my book argues that such calls for accountability disrupt the ongoing settler colonial process by challenging the failures of settler governments to meet the needs of indigenous populations and using governance structures to build a stronger future.


Vanessa Freije (Assistant Professor, Jackson School of International Studies)

Scandalous Democracy: Journalists and Citizenship in Mexico, 1959-1988

In the late-twentieth century, political scandals transformed Mexican public culture. Influential journalists exposed official wrongdoing to demand greater political accountability. My book project utilizes reporters’ and politicians’ private archives to examine the production and afterlives of political scandals. Doing so illuminates three processes underway in the late-twentieth century: the emergence of a politicized urban public, the transition from state-led development to neoliberal governance, and the unraveling of one-party rule under the Institutionalized Revolutionary Party (PRI).


Radhika Govindrajan (Assistant Professor, Anthropology)

More Than Human Democracy in India's Central Himalayas

In More-Than-Human Democracy in India’s Central Himalayas, I examine how contemporary democratic politics—popular mobilization, electoral politics, and judicial activism and action—in the Indian state of Uttarakhand engages and is transformed by ongoing agrarian and environmental crises that affect not just human lives, but also involve the more-than-human world of animals, trees, rivers, forests, and deities. I seek to understand not only how democratic politics is constituted through discourses and practices of more-than-human sociality, relationality, and responsibility, but also how such epistemologies and ontologies of human relationships with nonhuman actors are transformed as they are drawn into this political realm.


Jason Groves (Assistant Professor, Germanics) 

Mineral Imaginaries: German Literature and the Geologic Unconscious

Mineral Imaginaries examines human-mineral encounters in nineteenth-century German-language literature as an important predecessor of the widespread geologic turn in contemporary culture and thought. These writers confronted the challenge of imagining and accounting for a surprisingly volatile planet that bore little resemblance to the images produced by their predecessors, and they did so by attending to the unsettledness of the lithosphere—and not only in terms of tectonic activity. The wanderers, wayfarers, and itinerants that populate the literature of this period are often of a lithic nature, and their wanderings index a kind of planetary turbulence that anticipates the earth-magnitude perturbations designated by the Anthropocene.


Ungsan Kim (Doctoral Candidate, English)

Cruising the Cityscape: Queer Temporality and the Translation of Space in Contemporary East Asian Cinema

This dissertation explores the way in which queer cinema negotiates the normativizing process of hyper-modernity in contemporary East Asia. It suggests that queer Asian cinema has developed as a collective cinematic mode as a counterforce to the intensifying neoliberalism and neo-nationalism in the region since the Asian economic crisis. By focusing on these cinemas’ stylistic investment in the non-normative representation of temporality and space, as well as their representation of counter-progressive movements such as retrospection, repetition, and strolling, it argues that queer cinema has functioned as an artistic mode of resistance to the violence of progressive time as a technology that propels the ideology of development.


Dian Million (Associate Professor, American Indian Studies)

Kinships, Relations, and Economies: Stories of Survivance for Our New Times

This project complicates data assessments of American Indian, Alaskan Native, and First Nations lives as national “problems” with more contexualized accounts. Data driven assessments of Indigenous lives dominate narratives of contemporary communities in the Arctic, in British Columbia, and in the Pacific Northwest, omitting nuanced Indigenous assessments of their own continuing health, presence, and futurity.


Akanksha Misra (Doctoral Candidate, Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies)

Sex Education and Sexual Citizenship in Schools in India and Turkey

My research studies sex education anEd everyday mechanisms of bodily regulation in schools in India and Turkey. Through observation of middle school life and interviews with teachers, counselors, activists, and policy experts in Istanbul and Delhi, it considers how formal schooling shapes the sexual body while creating heterosexual, “modern” citizens, in ways which are deeply entwined with larger social, economic, and political-nationalist forces. I also explore how teachers negotiate the violent effects of this process.


José Francisco Robles (Assistant Professor, Spanish & Portuguese Studies)

A Cabinet of Poetic Wonders: Early Modern Spanish American Poetry and the Making of Knowledge

My project focuses on early modern Spanish American poetry of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and its connections with Western science when the gap separating these two activities was narrower than it is today. I examine how some poetic works of this period not only assimilated and expanded upon new scientific practices and theories, but also generated another path for inquiry into nature and the cosmos through metaphors and images.


Xiaoshun Zeng (Doctoral Candidate, History)

Diagnosing Minorities: Ethnic Hygiene and Nation-state Building in the Early People’s Republic of China (1949-1964)

How and why did ethnicity matter in health care? Centering on the idea of "ethnic hygiene," my research examines how and why ethnicity mattered in China's public health projects in the ethnic minority regions during the early Socialist era (1949-1964). I argue that ethnic hygiene was part of the Chinese Communist Party's "civilizing mission" towards the ethnic minorities, which aimed at legitimizing and consolidating the Communist Party's control in the ethnic frontier regions and therefore building China into a multiethnic nation-state.