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Simpson Center for the Humanities

Fall 2018

HUM 597A

The Shifting Landscape of Public Communication

(1 credit, C/NC)

Time Schedule

Instructors: Matt Powers (Communication) and Adrienne Russell (Communication)

Course Meetings: Sessions meet Thursdays, October 2, 9, 16, and November 6, 2-4 pm in Communications 218D. 

This microseminar takes place in conjunction with the October 25-26 symposium The Shifting Landscape of Public Communication, organized by Powers and Russell. The symposium explores the “big questions” for scholars concerned with a contemporary media landscape marked by surveillance, propaganda, and receding faith in the power of social institutions. Course readings will explore these issues, and discussions will consider how to link "big questions" with empirical research agendas. Seminar participants are expected to read and discuss core debates and to participate in at least part of the two-day symposium, which brings to campus leading scholars of media and public life.

Matt Powers is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at University of Washington. He is the author of the 2018 book NGOs as Newsmakers, a landmark study on the role of NGOs in the shaping of international news. His research interests include journalism studies, political communication and comparative media, and his writings have been published in Journal of Communication, Media, Culture & Society, and International Journal of Press/Politics, among others. Powers received his PhD in Media, Culture & Communication from New York University in 2013. Before entering the academy, he worked as a journalist at the Burlington Free Press in Vermont.

Adrienne Russell is Mary Laird Wood Professor in the Department of Communication at University of Washington. She the author of Networked: A contemporary History of News in Transition (2011) and Journalism as Activism: Recoding Media Power (2016) and co-editor of Journalism and the NSA Revelations (2017) and International Blogging: Identity, Politics. She studies the intersection of emerging technologies and pressing social problems, with an eye towards how changes in the media landscape might be leveraged to bolster public life. She earned her PhD in Communication at Indiana University Bloomington in 2001.

HUM 597B

Ethics, Settler Colonialism, and Indigeneity in the History of the Human Sciences

(1 credit, C/NC)

Time Schedule

Instructor: Adam Warren (History)

Course Meetings: Microseminar meets 10:30 am-12:20 pm on Tuesdays October 16, October 23, October 30, and November 13 (Communications 218D), along with participation on the November 4 workshop (9 am-6 pm, Communications 202). Questions? Please contact Warren at

This microseminar is organized around the November 4 workshop Ethics, Settler Colonialism, and Indigeneity in the History of the Human Sciences in the Global South. Both the course and the workshop ask how we might assess and write about the ethical breaches and conundrums that took place in the human sciences as researchers defined and carried out investigations of "the other" at home and abroad. They explore this question by foregrounding the Global South and decentering the presumed centrality of North Atlantic histories of science, by drawing on the work of Jan Goldstein and others on the "empirical history of moral thinking," and by bringing the history of science into conversation with Indigenous studies, settler colonial theory, and theories of race and empire.

In addition to engaging key texts related to the workshop, the course engages two sets of questions. First, what role has the construction of ethical and moral norms played in scientific inquiries of human diversity? How has the construction and transgression of ethical frameworks aided or interrupted settler colonial projects of dispossession? Second, what is the afterlife of ethical relations and their transgressions? In other words, do ethical relations persist through data sets, material objects, bones, and bodies? How do they continue to shape knowledge? This course should be of interest to graduate students from a wide range of fields including history, anthropology, Indigenous studies, and English.

Adam Warren is Associate Professor of History whose research focuses on the history of medicine and the history of scientific experimentation in both the late colonial period and the national period. He is the author of Medicine and Politics in Colonial Peru: Population Growth and the Bourbon Reforms (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010), which examines the introduction of medical reforms as an instrument of colonial power designed to increase population size and labor productivity in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Peru. He is currently working on the history of eugenics and scientific racism as carried out in experiments and research on indigenous peoples, especially highlanders, in twentieth-century Peru.

HUM 597C

New Media, Design, Difference, and Affect: A Microseminar with Tara McPherson

(1 credit, C/NC)

Time Schedule

Instructor: Kathleen Woodward (English and Simpson Center)

Course Meetings: Thursday, Sept. 27, 4-5:30 pm; Thursday, Oct. 4, 4-5:30 pm; Thursday, Oct. 11, 4-5:30 pm (lecture by McPherson); Friday, Oct. 12, 10:30 am-noon (colloquium with McPherson); Thursday, Oct. 18, 4-5:30 pm. All sessions meet in CMU 218D except for the McPherson lecture in CMU 120. Questions? Please contact Woodward at

In her recent writing on digital culture, Tara McPherson argues that theory and practice, critique and the creativity involved in design, offer different registers of knowing and being and can complement each other in meaningful ways. As the founding editor of Vectors, the most forward-looking and dynamic cross-disciplinary digital journal in the humanities, she recognizes the expressive capacities of the new screen languages and platforms for good—and for ill—as well as the new opportunities for immersion, non-linearity, and collaboration that they present.

This microseminar frames the visit of Tara McPherson to the University of Washington on October 11-12, 2018, when she will give a public lecture entitled “Platforming Hate: The Right in the Digital Age.” We will read and discuss McPherson’s provocative essays “Designing for Difference” (2014) and “Why Are the Digital Humanities So White” (2012). We will also read work on new media, affect, and design by Zizi Papacharissi, Wendy Chun, and Daniela K. Rosner. A two-page essay is required.

Tara McPherson, the founding editor of Vectors, is Chair and Professor of Cinema & Media Studies at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, where she directs the Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study. She is the author of Feminist in a Software Lab: Difference + Design (2018) and co-editor of Transmedia Frictions: The Digital, the Arts + the Humanities (2014) and Hop on Pop: The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture (2003). She is the lead project investigator on the authoring platform Scalar, which emerged out of Vectors and which has received support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Kathleen Woodward is Lockwood Professor in the Humanities, Professor of English, and Director of the Simpson Center for the Humanities. She is the author of Statistical Panic: Cultural Politics and Poetics of Emotions (2009) and Aging and Its Discontents: Freud and Other Fictions (1991). From 1986 to 1995 she coedited Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture.