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Simpson Center for the Humanities

2020-2021 Society of Scholars


Daniel Bessner (Associate Professor, Jackson School of International Studies)

Empire without Limits: The End of the Cold War and the U.S. Rise to Global Primacy

The last thirty years of U.S. foreign policy have been an unmitigated disaster. Despite "winning" the Cold War, catastrophic U.S. interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya have destabilized the world and ruined the lives of millions of people living abroad. This book will examine what went wrong after the Cold War by asking why so many Americans embraced a unilateral grand strategy in which the United States was considered the font of wisdom and the necessary guarantor of global peace and prosperity. In particular, it will trace the intellectual development of several thinkers from across the political spectrum, including Francis Fukuyama, Samantha Power, Andrew Bacevich, Condoleezza Rice, and Samuel Huntingon. By exploring how these individuals responded to the end of the Cold War, this book will highlight the ideas and thought processes that undergirded the "unipolar moment" and set the stage for disaster abroad.

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Amanda Doxtater (Assistant Professor, Scandinavian Studies)

Tears in Ice: Tracing the Body in Carl Th. Dreyer’s Art Melodrama

Tears in Ice: Tracing the Body in Carl Th. Dreyer’s Art Melodrama argues that Nordic art cinema has been intimately related to popular film melodrama despite a critical establishment that separates the two as high and low art. I analyze representations of the body in the films of Denmark’s canonical director, Carl Th. Dreyer (1889-1968), to illuminate what I call art melodrama, which combines formal experiments in critical reflection with experiments in emotion and dramatic embodiment.

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Maryam Griffin (Assistant Professor, IAS Bothell)

Vehicles of Decolonization: Politics and Public Transportation in the Palestinian West Bank

In my book, Vehicles of Decolonization: Politics and Public Transportation in the Palestinian West Bank, I investigate collective Palestinian mobility via public transit as a productive site of social struggle. Based on field research, I argue that Israel exerts control over Palestinian mobility in order to extend its settler colonialism in the West Bank and that Palestinians use transit as a vehicle for decolonizing relations of mobility at quotidian, explicitly political, and artistic registers.

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Liora Halperin (Associate Professor, History)

The Deed: Blood, Ownership, and Memory in Palestine and Israel             

A 1902 murder case involving a Palestinian landowner from Jaffa and a European Jewish settler in the nearby Rishon LeZion colony frames an intertwined history of Palestinian and Zionist private agriculture, wealth, and memory. Drawing on Hebrew and Arabic archival and published materials, "The Deed" re-centers the ambivalent legacies and divergent 20th century trajectories of private landowners as Zionists increasingly touted national and collective ownership and Palestinians emphasized ties to land that transcended strictly legal claims.

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Danny Hoffman (Professor, Jackson School of International Studies)

African Cities and Future Security

The “Battle for Mogadishu,” memorialized in Black Hawk Down, still defines African cities for the US security establishment.  Whether the mission is humanitarian, training, or armed intervention, the African Urban Complex is assumed to be chaotic, dangerous, and – above all – unknowable.  Through archival and ethnographic research, African Cities and Future Security explores the consequences as policy makers, strategists, analysts and military commanders imagine the African city of the future through the catastrophes of the past.

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Bettina Judd (Assistant Professor, Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies)

Feelin: Creative Practice, Pleasure Politics, and Black Feminist Thought

This project explores how Black women artists produce Black feminist thought through the creative process. Using the African American Vernacular English use of the term “feelin” as a mean to index knowledge as affective, Feelin: Creative Practice, Pleasure Politics, and Black Feminist Thought argues that Black women artists approach and produce knowledge as internal and complex sensation entangled with pleasure, pain, anger, and joy to name a few emotions, making artistic production itself the meaning of the work. Feelin intervenes in discourses in critical theory that would disembody feeling as knowledge, and expands notions of Black women’s pleasure politics in Black feminist studies that are inclusive of the erotic, the sexual, the painful, the joyful, the shameful, and the sensations and emotions that yet have no name.

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Devin Naar (Associate Professor, History)

Another Race Problem: Sephardic Jews, Race, and Migration in the American Empire              

Another Race Problem not only brings to light the invisible experiences of Jews from the Ottoman Empire (Sephardic Jews) who came to the US during the twentieth century. Drawing on archival sources in nine languages, it also overturns the myth of American (Jewish) exceptionalism by reevaluating the American racial imagination, classification schemas, and immigration and justice systems: how they worked—and when, why, and how they broke down.

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Linh Thuy Nguyen (Assistant Professor, American Ethnic Studies)

Generations After: Making the Refugee Family and the Intergenerational Memory of the Vietnam War

This project traces the role of family in the racialization of Vietnamese refugees and the history of the Vietnam War. Vietnamese refugees arriving in 1975 are the most studied population in the sociology of immigration, providing significant data for theorists of assimilation to assess the rate and success of the Vietnamese as new Americans. This project analyzes the work that family does in sociology of immigration and second-generation literatures, as competing knowledge projects about the history and legacy of the war.

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Adair Rounthwaite (Assistant Professor, School of Art + Art History + Design)

This Is Not My World: Art and Public Space in Socialist Zagreb                 

In 20th-century socialist Europe, public space served the goals of the state, through ideological messaging, parades and urban design. But it could also enable the exercise of personal creativity and the articulation of new identities. This is a study of artists of the 1970s and 1980s who created provocative art events in city spaces in socialist Yugoslavia. The research shows the crucial role of public space for art under state socialism, and its impact on ideas of authorship, audience, and the artwork as such. Central to the book are questions about the nature of artistic freedom and art’s relationship to political context.

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Cleo Woelfle-Erskine (Assistant Professor, Marine and Environmental Affairs         

Underflows: Transfiguring Rivers, Queering Ecology

Underflows theorizes relations to rivers across disciplines and field sites, demonstrating how a queer trans feminist practice of science can transfigure water and salmon governance.  Thinking with queer-of-color and trans scholars about environmental politics can activate solidarity across Indigenous, Black, Brown, and Queer radical traditions. Grounded in my salmon ecology research and queer performance and politics, the book simultaneously queers river sciences, transfigures relations among river-shapers, and grounds queer trans feminist theory in damaged but vibrant riverscapes.

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Robert Anderson (PhD Candidate, Geography)

Producing Wolves: The Cultural Politics of Wolf Conservation and Management      

This project examines the social production of human values and norms regarding wildlife and the natural world. Using in-depth, qualitative methods, I examine the cultural and political controversy over wolves (re)colonizing territory, moving into landscapes where they are brought into new, violent relations with human societies. In contrast to prevailing ideas about wolves as pristine, “wild” animals, I examine conservation as a social practice that not only aims to protect wolves, but actually produces them, in tandem with norms of environmental governance dictating where and how wolves and people coexist.

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Yuta Kaminishi (PhD Candidate, Comparative Literature, Cinema and Media)

Industrial Mobility: A Media History of Oshima Nagisa            

My dissertation reframes a media history of post-1945 Japan through the multimedia works of Oshima Nagisa, one of the most renowned Japanese film directors. Contrary to the conventional understanding of Oshima as a film director, I argue his movement among diverse media industries is central to understanding not only Oshima’s career but also the media politics of post-1945 Japan. By introducing the concept of industrial mobility, this dissertation examines the formation of new media ecologies from postwar to present.

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Taylor Soja (PhD Candidate, History)

Little World Wars: Violence and Experience in the British Empire, 1885-1981           

My dissertation is the first academic history of a diverse group of Britons who took part in multiple conflicts in the British empire, from small wars around the African continent to the First World War. Their stories help us to re-consider the relationship of WWI to those imperial wars that came before it, but also to understand the centrality of war and violence to the maintenance and expansion of the British empire, particularly in Africa.

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Sebastián López Vergara (PhD Candidate, Comparative Literature, Cinema and Media)

The Logic of Reduction: Indigenous Peoples, Colonialism, Capitalism, and Race in Modern Chile

Addressing the current neoliberal crises in Latin America, my dissertation studies the long duration of social conflicts in modern Chile. It focuses on the colonization of the Kawésqar, Yamana, and Selk’nam peoples and the Mapuche people by the modern Chilean state since the late nineteenth century. Theorizing the “logic of reduction,” it examines how colonialism, capitalism, and race structured ongoing relations of extreme inequality that, nonetheless, have not exhausted Indigenous struggles. Particularly, it studies diverse forms of Indigenous politics against dispossession and exploitation.

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