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Simpson Center for the Humanities

2013-2014 Society of Scholars


William Arighi

Dissertator, Comparative Literature

This Humble Work: Aesthetics and Imperialism in the Late Spanish Empire

This Humble Work engages with problems of literary valuation and theories of world literature by focusing on literary criticism that has been written about nineteenth-century short fiction in Spanish from the Philippines and the Caribbean. By examining literary criticism from the 1880s through the 1980s, as well as the fiction it critiques, this project uses the parallel histories of aesthetic theory and theories of political economy to reveal how contemporary debates about world literature reaffirm imperial patterns of cultural exchange and distribution.

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Heather Arvidson

Dissertator, English

Fictions of Impersonality: The Cultural Work of Modernist Aesthetics

Fictions of Impersonality examines the synchrony between aesthetic impersonality in Anglo-American modernist literature and contemporaneous discourse about the increasingly impersonalizing grip of urban modernity. Arguing that impersonality is an evocative and highly plastic keyword of the early twentieth century, this project contextualizes narrative innovations in point of view within the period’s broader questions about effaced individuality.

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Stephanie Camp

Associate Professor, History

Black Beauty: An American History

Black Beauty: An American History explores the history of the idea of black physical beauty from the era of the slave trade to Michelle Obama. It traces how the invention and, over time, the revision of the idea of race changed English and white American perceptions of African and black bodies from early modern travel encounters in Africa to the nineteenth century, when scientistic conceptions of human difference gained the status of common sense. Black Beauty then charts changes in debates among black Americans about what makes a body beauty and in what ways (or if) black people qualified. Above all, black debates about physical beauty argued about how black appearances mattered. Popularized in the 1960s and 1970s, the assertion of "black is beautiful" has a deep and highly contested history.

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Heekyoung Cho

Assistant Professor, Asian Languages & Literature

Translation’s Forgotten History: Russian Literature, Japanese Mediation, and the Formation of Modern Korean Literature

Translationʼs Forgotten History explores the meaning and function of translation in the formation of modern national literatures by examining Korean intellectualsʼ appropriation of Russian realist literature through the mediation of Japanese language and culture in the process of searching for their own modern literary form in the early twentieth century.

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Jennifer Dubrow

Assistant Professor, Asian Languages & Literature

The Novel and the Newspaper: Modern Fiction and Print in Colonial India

The Novel and the Newspaper investigates the emergence of the novel genre in colonial India as part of broad changes in publishing, readership and patronage. The study argues that the novel genre was produced through conversation between authors and readers and was part of a complex negotiation with Western art forms and aesthetics.

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Stephen Gardiner

Professor, Philosophy

A Vision of Intergenerational Ethics

For a number of years I have been writing about serious global environmental problems such as climate change, defending the view that they pose an ethical challenge to contemporary societies and to mainstream moral and political theories. I have particularly emphasized the intergenerational dimension of ethical challenge and the weaknesses of standard approaches to this area. My new project aims to respond to this challenge by developing my own approach to intergenerational ethics in a book-length manuscript.

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Susan Harewood

Assistant Professor, Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences

Soca Vibes: Learning to Perform the Nation

Soca Vibes: Learning to Perform the Nation examines calypso and soca music as sites at which it is possible to witness the shifts in the nation-building and regional-community building projects in Barbados and the wider Caribbean. The book explores how political leaders, musicians, fans and citizens in general responded to the increasing pressures of capitalist-led globalization through their various engagements with calypso and soca production, performance, critique, and policy.

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Ralina Joseph

Associate Professor, Communication

Speaking Back to Screens: How Black Women Resist Post Identity Politics

Speaking Back to Screens looks at how, in the Michelle Obama era, a very visible group of African American women, those on television, and a less visible group, African American women watching television, use the tools of postidentity, the media-propagated notion that identity and identity-based discrimination are over, in order to resist the very tenets of postidentity.

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Devin Naar

Assistant Professor, History and Jackson School of International Studies

Reimagining the Sephardic Diaspora

Reimagining the Sephardic Diaspora explores the dispersal of Sephardic Jews from the dissolving Ottoman Empire during the early twentieth century and the creation of new Sephardic communal hubs in Europe and the Americas—including Seattle. By focusing on the multiple directions of transnational migration, the links Sephardic Jews retained with their native communities, and the relationships they developed with other Jews and migrants from the Mediterranean, this project compels us to reconceptualize the geographic and conceptual lines between the “old world” and the “new.”

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Shruti Patel

Dissertator, History

Creating Religion for the Modern World: The Rise of the Swaminarayan Community in Gujarat, 1800-1900

Creating Religion for the Modern World historically investigates the development of non-Western modernity and new cultural identity through the case of Swaminarayan devotionalism (bhakti) during the nineteenth century in Gujarat, India. Studying the community's conceptual and practical formation of new religious models and ethical frameworks prior to, during and after European colonialism, the project argues for more complex and varied views regarding religion, reform and the concept of historicity itself in modern South Asia.

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Scott Radnitz

Associate Professor, Jackson School of International Studies

Conspiracy as a Mode of Political Discourse in Post-Soviet Russia and Georgia

Conspiracy as a Mode of Political Discourse in Post-Soviet Russia and Georgia addresses two broad questions: (1) What explains the nature and dynamics of conspiracy claims in the former Soviet Union? (2) What are the effects of conspiracy discourse on political participation, empowerment, and social trust? The project situates conspiracy theories within the context of political contestation and explores how they emerge and evolve in line with power asymmetries and changes of political regime, and how they are reflected and refracted across national boundaries.

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Candice Rai

Assistant Professor, English

Democratic Persuasions: Rhetoric, Politics, and Contested Publics

Drawing on five years of fieldwork in an economically and ethnically diverse and gentrifying Chicago neighborhood, Democratic Persuasions is an ethnographic study of democracy as it is practiced and evoked by clashing vernacular publics in contested urban spaces. Contributing to scholarship on public rhetoric, the materiality of rhetoric, ecological/networked rhetoric, and rhetorical ethnography, Democratic Persuasions seeks to deepen our understanding of the work that democratic rhetoric does and the promises and pitfalls of everyday democratic practice.

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Phillip Thurtle

Associate Professor, Comparative History of Ideas

Super-Naturalisms: Animating Post-Genomic Biology

There is a strange new poetics at the heart of the biological sciences that can’t be reduced to problem solving, rationality, or the accumulation of natural knowledge. Many scientists are no longer content to explain life by reducing it to its components; instead, they are turning to modeling, animation, and synthesis to see how complex organisms can emerge from simpler components. This project aims to explain the emergence of this poetics as well as understand its political and ethical ramifications by conceiving of “animation” in the broadest possible sense: as an act of giving life and as a filmic technique. This will allow for a history of the ways that evolutionary and developmental biologists have used media to speculate on how organisms develop.

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