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Simpson Center for the Humanities

Winter 2016


Prisons, Politics, and Activism

(5 credits)

Instructor: Dan Berger (Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, UW Bothell)

Time Schedule

Meeting Dates:

Wednesdays, 5:45-10 pm

Communications 206 (UW Seattle Campus)

The United States leads the world in imprisonment. More than 2.3 million people are locked up in prisons and jails around the country, with thousands more in immigrant detention centers, and a ubiquitous surveillance and policing apparatus. The prison is also a central institution in the reproduction of political and social life in the United States: it shapes how we experience race, class, gender, sexuality, and political possibility. At the same time, the recent economic crisis has generated greater public attention to the problem of mass incarceration. Reform or abolition of prisons is once again a topic of debate.

This class examines what scholars call “the carceral state” through history, critical theory, memoirs, and community-based learning. We will examine the politics and culture of imprisonment around the country but focus class research projects on Washington state and the north Puget Sound area. Students will complete projects mapping the history and lived reality of the carceral state in Washington, with the goal of contributing to a public scholarship project on the topic.

Dan Berger is Assistant Professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, University of Washington Bothell, and affiliated faculty of the Certificate in Public Scholarship. He is author, most recently, of Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era (2014) and The Struggle Within: Prisons, Political Prisoners, and Mass Movements in the United States (2014).

This course counts for elective credit in the MA in Cultural Studies program and the Certificate in Public Scholarship. Certificate students may enroll under HUM 595A (SLN#15398, Seattle Time Schedule) or BCULST 570 (SLN# 21222, Bothell Time Schedule) for credit.

Questions? Contact the IAS Graduate Programs at 425.352.5427.

HUM 595B

From Unmaking to Reimagining Universities in the Neoliberal/Digital Conjuncture: A microseminar with Chris Newfield

(1 credit, C/NC)


Matt Sparke (Geography and International Studies)

John Toews (History and Comparative History of Ideas)

Time Schedule

Meeting Dates:

  • Thursday, January 21, 2:30-4:30 pm, CMU 202
  • Friday, January 22, 2:30-4:30 pm, CMU 202
  • Monday, January 25 4:30-6 pm, public lecture by Chris Newfield, CMU 120
  • Tuesday, January 26 2:30-4:30 pm, seminar with Chris Newfield, CMU 202
  • Tuesday February 2, 2:30-4:30 pm, student-led seminar on reimagining the university, CMU 202

This microseminar frames the January 2016 visit of Chris Newfield by investigating: 1) how education in the humanities is decisive in defining the purpose of public higher education, 2) how humanities research reciprocally helps to contextualize the political and economic history of the public university; and 3) how humanistic cultural theory can contribute to pressing social debates over the transformation of higher education amidst today’s conjuncture of digitalization and neoliberalization.

Chris Newfield is Professor of literature and American studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His most well-known area of research is critical university studies, a field of public scholarship he has helped to found and in which he joins his enduring concern with humanities teaching with a wide knowledge of how higher education continues to be re-shaped by industry and other economic forces. His most recent books on this subject are Unmaking the Public University: The Forty Year Assault on the Middle Class (2008), and Ivy and Industry: Business and the Making of the American University, 1880-1980 (2003). He blogs on higher education funding and policy at Remaking the University, the Huffington Post, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Students will attend Newfield’s lecture and seminar. They will prepare for these events by joining two additional seminars in the week beforehand, which will be focused on the following writings by Newfield: Unmaking the Public University, “Humanities Creativity in the Age of Online,” and other recent blog post and essays by Newfield and colleagues on Remaking the University, including his review “Is College Still Worth It?” Based on these examples and their experience of engaging with Newfield, students will write a blog entry of their own to be considered for publication on the Remaking the University website.

Questions? Contact Matt Sparke,

HUM 597A

Publics, Feelings: Reading Lauren Berlant

(1 credit, C/NC)

Instructor: Sarah Dowling (Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, UW Bothell)

Time Schedule

Meeting Dates:

All sessions meet in CMU 218D unless otherwise noted.

  • Friday, February 19, 10 am-12 pm
  • Friday, February 26, 10 am-12 pm
  • Wednesday, March 2, 7:00-8:30 pm (Katz Lecture, Kane Hall 210)
  • Friday, March 4, 10 am-12 pm (Berlant class visit)
  • Friday, March 11, 10 am-12 pm

This microseminar frames the visit of affect studies scholar Lauren Berlant for a Katz Distinguished Lectureship at the University of Washington. Berlant, a leading theorist of affect in American studies, introduced the idea of the “intimate public sphere” and has significantly reshaped theoretical understandings of the role of sentimentality in American popular culture and politics. As George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, Berlant traverses a wide terrain of scholarship including American literature and film; queer theory; popular culture; the history and fantasy of citizenship; and state-civil society relations.

Berlant is the author of many books, including her trilogy on national sentimentality, The Anatomy of National Fantasy (Chicago, 1991), The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship (Duke, 1997), and The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture (Duke, 2008), and three edited volumes, Intimacy (Chicago, 2000), Our Monica, Ourselves: Clinton and the Affairs of State (with Lisa Duggan; NYU, 2001), and Compassion: The Culture and Politics of an Emotion (Routledge, 2004). Berlant’s most recent books are Cruel Optimism (Duke, 2011), which received the René Wellek Prize from the American Comparative Literature Association, and Sex, Or the Unbearable (with Lee Edelman; Duke, 2013). 

Students will attend Berlant’s lecture and colloquium. We will read The Queen of America Goes to Washington City and Cruel Optimism as well as Berlant’s collaboratively written Sex, Or the Unbearable. Students will write a two-page paper.

Questions? Contact Sarah Dowling,

HUM 597B

Trans-Indigenous: Area Studies, Native Studies, and the Challenge of Oceania

(1 credit, C/NC)

Instructors: Chadwick Allen (English) and José Antonio Lucero (International Studies)

Time Schedule

Meeting Dates:

All meetings in Communications 202 unless otherwise noted.

  • Thursday, February 11, 10:30 am-12 pm
  • Thursday, February 18, 10:30 am-12 pm
  • Thursday, February 25, 10:30 am-12 pm (Communications 218D)
  • Thursday, March 3, 10:30 am-12 pm
  • Thursday, March 10, 10:30 am-12 pm

This microseminar is structured around the visits of three leading scholars of Native American and Indigenous Studies: the February 10 Mangels Lecture of Tsianina Lomawaima (School of Social Transformation, Arizona State University) and the February 25-27 visit of Hokulani Aikau (Political Science, University of Hawai‘i, Manoa) and Vicente Miguel Diaz (American Indian Studies, University of Minnesota). In conversation with these scholars, students put work in Indigenous and Pacific Studies in conversation with debates over Area Studies.

The seminar explores the ways in which the study of Indigeneity and Oceania challenges and shapes the epistemological, methodological, and institutional foundations of Area and Native Studies. Additionally, it explores how conceptualizing indigeneity in transnational, global, and trans-Indigenous ways opens new avenues of inquiry for the humanities and social sciences.

Questions? Contact José Antonio Lucero,

HUM 597C

Ethnographic Aesthetics: Word, Image, Sound

(1 credit, C/NC)

Instructor: Sasha Welland (Anthropology and Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies)

Time Schedule

Meeting Dates:

  • Thursday, January 7, 3:30-5 pm (CMU 202)
  • Thursday, January 14, 4 -5:30 pm (Presentation by Renato Rosaldo, CMU 120)
  • Thursday, January 28, 3:30-5 pm (CMU 202)
  • Thursday, February 4, 4-6:30 pm (Screening and discussion with Lucien Castaing-Taylor, MGH 389)
  • Thursday, February 18, 3:30-5 pm (CMU 202)
  • Thursday, February 25, 4-5:30 pm (Presentation by Roshanak Kheshti, CMU 120)

Ethnographic Aesthetics is a speaker series featuring innovators—Renato Rosaldo, Lucien Castaing-Taylor, and Roshanak Kheshti—whose work in poetry, film, and sound expands the practice of ethnography through humanistic, sensory forms of knowing. Ethnography as a research method involves immersive, long-term participant observation within a particular community or form of sociality. Its practitioners typically record field notes that serve as the basis for written accounts integrating description and analysis. What forms of knowledge, experience, and emotion are not adequately understood or conveyed through this model? Is the full range of social phenomena, including non-verbal, sensory interactions, effectively translated in a single-authored text? How can the craft of ethnography reflect the cultural aesthetics of the social worlds it aims to represent? The speakers in this series address these questions through longstanding commitments to alternative modes of creative and scholarly production. Their practice of antropoesía, acoustemology, and sensory ethnography provoke us to witness, remember, hear, see, and feel multiple dimensions of the human and natural world. Ethnographic Aesthetics considers the rich history of ethnographic experimentation and offers possibilities for future fields of practice.

This microseminar allows students to delve more deeply into the works of the speakers through advance readings, screenings, and discussions. Renato Rosaldo is Professor Emeritus of Cultural Anthropology and Social & Cultural Analysis at New York University and author of Culture and Truth (1989) and The Day of Shelly’s Death (2013). Lucien Castaing-Taylor is Professor of Visual Arts and Anthropology and Director of the Sensory Ethnography Lab at Harvard University; his films include Sweetgrass (2009) and Leviathan (2012). Roshanak Kheshti is Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, San Diego and author of Modernity’s Ear: Listening to Race and Gender in World Music (2015). The speaker series and microseminar also lay the ground for a new Ethnographic Studio course to be offered by Welland in spring 2016.

Questions? Contact Sasha Welland,


HUM 597E

Re-Imaging Urban Scholarship: Differencing the Data

(1 credit, C/NC)

Instructor: Thaisa Way (Landscape Architecture)

Time Schedule

Meeting Dates:

  • Friday, January 15, 12-1:20 pm (Startup Hall)
  • Friday, January 29, 12-1:20 pm (Henry Art Gallery)
  • February 2-3 (Participation encouraged as feasible, Center for Urban Horticulture)
  • Thursday, February 4, 9-10:20 am (eScience Institute, Physics/Astronomy Tower)
  • Thursday, February 25, 6-7:30 pm (Communications 120)
  • Friday, February 26, 12-1:20 pm (Communications 202)

This microseminar explores how we might re-read cities by acknowledging and differentiating the data upon which we build our knowledge. As Lisa Graumlich (Dean, College of the Environment) recently wrote, "To imagine desirable, novel futures, we need to get even better at working at the boundaries between science and society. Now more than ever we need to build bridges with thinkers, who are shifting the political and cultural dialog, and doers, who are leading innovation in technologies, policies, and practices." This seminar seeks to catalyze thorny discussions across disciplines and their data. Our purpose is to build a thicker intellectual foundation for engaging multiple audiences in the challenges and opportunities of urbanism in the 21st century.

After an introductory discussion on cities and contemporary urban research, we will convene around the visits of a series of important leaders in a diversity of disciplines. Beginning with an exhibit by the architect Keller Easterling (Professor, Architecture, Yale University), we explore her work at the Henry Art Gallery that questions the gifts or exchanges made between city governments and corporations suggesting the urban landscape as an economic site and commodity to be negotiated. In discussion with data scientist Charlie Catlett (Senior Computer Scientist, Argonne National Laboratory and Visiting Artist, School of the Art Institute of Chicago), we will investigate big data as a framework for what we can know about cities and urban systems. Mario Luis Small (Grafstein Family Professor, Sociology, Harvard University) challenges us to reconsider the heterogeneity of American ghettos in the contemporary city. Finally, Naomi Oreskes (Professor, History of Science, Harvard University) frames the city by the challenges of climate change. Together these discourses inform a more complex view that challenges how we learn, read, and teach cities.

Students will write a one-to-two-page reflection on each of the three urban discussion topics: Corporations & Government, Big Data & Sensors, and Heterogeneity & Ghettos.

Questions? Contact Thaisa Way,