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Simpson Center for the Humanities

Spring 2018

HUM 597A

Improvisational Crossings: Social Dance as Interdisciplinary Intervention

(1 credit, C/NC)

Time Schedule

Instructors: Naomi Bragin (Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, UW Bothell), Juliet McMains (Dance, UW Seattle), and Jade Power Sotomayor (Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, UW Bothell)

Meeting Dates:

  • Friday, March 30, 4:30-6:30 pm
  • Friday, April 6, 4:30-6:30 pm
  • Friday, April 13, 5-7 pm--Meeting with visiting guests
  • Saturday, April 14, 10 am-5 pm--Colloquium Research Presentations and Roundtable
  • Sunday, April 15, 12-6 pm--Dance Workshops at Washington Hall
  • Friday, April 20, 4:30-6:30 pm

All sessions aside from the colloquium weekend will meet in Communications 218D.

This microseminar serves as preparation for and engagement with an April 2018 colloquium that brings together six dance/ing scholars for two days of lectures, workshops, and dialogue that address border crossings through the lens of improvisational social dances. The microseminar includes visits with important voices in Dance Studies including Jasmine Johnson, Kareem Khubchandani, and Marta Savigliano. The course includes a brief overview of how social dancing has been historically framed, followed by an introduction to the colloquium participants’ various engagements with social dance. By looking at social dance less as a fixed, static category, and more as a term that describes the relationality produced through movement practices, this microseminar asks students to examine dances of togetherness, or “together dancing,” and to think how this dancing can be both lens and method for engaging in interdisciplinary inquiry. The course thinks at the intersection of conventional disciplinary divisions, by centering improvisation as an analytic that can challenge Dance Studies’ historical investments in the choreographic while simultaneously calling upon an embodied conceptualization not traditionally present in Music and Sound Studies.

In addition to attending all scheduled meetings, the lectures and dance workshops, students will be asked to complete reading assignments in advance of seminar meetings and write a short final reflection. For more information contact Jade Power Sotomayor (

For a complete schedule and information about colloquium participants see

Naomi Bragin is Assistant Professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences at UW Bothell, where she teaches courses in Black Performance Theory, performance research, and dance improvisation. Her current project, Black Power of Hip Hop Dance: On Kinethic Politics, traces the role of freestyle street dance in the generation of Black political aesthetics.

Juliet McMains is Professor of Dance at UW Seattle and the author of Spinning Mambo into Salsa: Caribbean Dance in Global Commerce (2015) and Glamour Addiction: Inside the American Ballroom Dance Industry (2006).

Jade Power Sotomayor is Assistant Professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences at UW Bothell. She is a performance scholar and practitioner writing and teaching about US Latinx performance and a Puerto Rican bomba cultural worker and dancer. Her current project is titled ¡Habla!: Speaking Bodies in Latinx Dance and Performance.

HUM 597B

The Black Embodiments Studio

(1 credit, C/NC)

Time Schedule

Instructor: Kemi Adeyemi (Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies)

Meeting Dates

Sessions meet 11 am-12:30 pm in Communications 218D

  • Friday, April 6
  • Thursday, April 19
  • Friday, May 11
  • Friday, May 1
  • Friday, June 1

This microseminar is for graduate student residents of The Black Embodiments Studio, a critical arts writing incubator and public lecture series that brings graduate students from a range of disciplines and knowledge-based practices together to query how definitions of blackness are produced and expressed through visual, aural, and affective realms—engaging three domains that underwrite the physical and metaphysical dimensions of inhabiting black skin. In focusing on embodiments, plural, The Studio highlights the term as a verb that invokes activity and movement, as well as the temporary and fleeting. The language of embodiments clears space to consider the repeated, aesthetic and performative constitution of blackness while remaining attuned to the material consequences that inhere in the utterance black.

The Black Embodiments Studio ultimately provides residents a structure of support to critically engage and build upon the discourse surrounding the politics, practices, and pleasures of black embodiments since the 1970s. Focusing on exhibition catalog essays and exhibition reviews, residents are steeped in a variety of aesthetic practices including dance, visual art, sound, and new media, and critical, theoretical standpoints emanating from art history, performance studies, critical race studies, and more. Residents also gain intimate access to artists, scholars, and curators invited to be “in residence” with The Studio, as their work on contemporary black embodiments models the innovation, accessibility, and criticality that residents strive for in their own writing. Guests such as the artist Liz Mputu (Fall ’17) and scholar Sampada Aranke (Winter '18) give public presentations on their practice, but also participate in a closed session with residents.  Importantly, residents themselves develop and workshop one piece of short-form arts criticism (~600-2,000 words) meant to be published in outlets such as Performa Magazine, Art Practical, and Artforum, The Jacob Lawrence Gallery journal, Monday, The Stranger, and City Arts Magazine. The goal of developing this writing is to practice new methodologies, forms, and tones that will make residents' larger projects (and themselves) accessible to broad audiences.

While The Black Embodiments Studio centers racial blackness, The Studio will be of interest to all students invested in thinking through the intersections of racialization, aesthetic cultures, and critical writing practices. Interested graduate students should submit a two-page letter of inquiry as a PDF to Kemi Adeyemi ( by March 9. This letter should detail the applicants critical practice, how thinking through black embodiments may be generative to it, and what they hope to gain from The Studio. Ten residents will be notified of acceptance by March 16.

Kemi Adeyemi is Assistant Professor of Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies at the University of Washington. Her book manuscript, Making New Grounds: Black Queer Women’s Geographies of Neoliberalism, is currently in development and she is in the process of co-editing a volume titled Queer Nightlife, a collection of essays, interviews, writing, and ephemera that documents the diverse expressions of queer nightlife worldwide. Her exhibition unstable objects, co-curated with Sampada Aranke, opened at The Alice Gallery in 2017. Recent publications span academic and arts audiences, and include “Donald Trump is the Perfect Man for the Job,” in QED: A Journal of GLBTQ Worldmaking; exhibition catalog essays for black is a color (Los Angeles, CA), Impractical Weaving Suggestions (Madison, WI), and Endless Flight (Chicago, IL).

CMS 597 A/HUM 596B

Public Spheres, Public Media

(5 Credits)

Time Schedule

Instructor: Stephen Groening (Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media)

Meeting Dates

  • 4:30-6:20 pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays, Savery Hall 167

Students in this seminar will acquire a rigorous background in a concept that informs the fields of new media studies, communication studies, television studies, as well as political philosophy and cultural studies. The public sphere is supposed to be a place wherein people gather, free of the constraints of the capitalist market and the ruling government, to discuss and debate ideas. The public sphere—while having some affinity to the fabled Greek agora—is actually key to Enlightenment thought and bourgeois society. For Immanuel Kant, the public sphere gave voice to the bourgeois and was a kind of technology of Enlightenment; allowing for the public use of private reason. Jurgen Habermas’s 1962 work The Structural Transformation of the Bourgeois Public Sphere historicizes this notion and calls attention to its inadequacies. Subsequently, a wide range of theorists, political philosophers, and critics have taken Habermas to task for supporting a concept overly reliant on face-to-face dialogue and a privileged form of rationality that therefore ends up being exclusionary, racist, and sexist. At the same time, many—if not all—of these critics aver that the idea of a public sphere is nonetheless crucial and necessary for political philosophy, media studies, understanding social movements, and for democracy itself.

This course attempts to navigate these positions while exposing students to original texts and subsequent critiques. The role of media in the concept of the public sphere will be of primary interest (variously the public sphere is a medium itself, or is destroyed by mass media, or is “re-feudalized” by the electronic image, or is impossible without media). Starting with a historical examination of forms of television alternative to the dominant commercial and national model, the seminar will grapple with the new kinds of public spheres structured by new media social platforms and networks. Along the way, we will consider different models of publics, counterpublics, and public sphericules; as well as crucial distinctions between publics, audiences, communities, and networks.

Stephen Groening is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media. He is the author of Cinema Beyond Territory: Inflight Entertainment and Atmospheres of Globalization and numerous articles on cinema, television, and digital media in Film History, History and Technology, New Media and Society, Film Criticism, and Visual Studies. He serves on the editorial board of Film Criticism and is the founder and curator of the Seattle Television History Project.