Spatial Humanities Initiative Fellows
Elisabeth Narkin | A. W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Ph.D. Art, Art History and Visual Studies, Duke University
Constructing Dynasty: Architecture and the French Royal Family
Elisabeth is an architectural historian of early modern France whose research focuses on the intersection of the domestic spaces of châteaux and the social spaces of court relationships. Her current project, Constructing Dynasty: Architecture and the French Royal Family, examines the manner in which the royal family's architecture projects, residential habits, and use of buildings--both independently and within the monarchy's territorial network--advanced a conception of the sixteenth-century monarchy as legitimate, enduring, and in touch with its subjects. With a focus on the royal children as central actors in the crown's long-term socio-political strategies, the project explores domestic architecture from the perspective of its users and argues that their relationship with buildings shaped the built environment as well as French politics. In addition to object-based inquiry and social history, Elisabeth deploys analytical tools like digital mapping and 3D modeling alongside spatial theory to understand spaces that physical changes and non-traditional sources might otherwise obscure.
Marie Saldaña | A. W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Ph.D. Architecture, UCLA
Cave and City: The Idea of the Cave in Architecture
Marie Saldaña studies the ways in which ephemeral, transient, and natural spaces are played out in and against the built environment, and how they become transformed in the architectural imagination. Her work combines traditional scholarship with maps, drawings, 3D models, and interactive media. She is currently finishing a digital project, "Cave and City", that uses procedural 3D models to explore the way the Greco-Roman city of Magnesia on the Maeander evolved over time in relation to its ritual landscape. She is also beginning a new project on the idea of the cave in the architecture, seeking to elucidate the architectural notions and practices that rely on the cave for their production and propagation, including concepts of temporality, form, representation, and the blurring of lines between the natural and artificial as expressed in technology.
Laura Richardson | Project Manager Fellow
Ph.D. English, Rice University
Houston in the Roaring 20s
Laura studies American and British modernism. Her current spatial project examines Houston in the 1920s, specifically the city’s cultures of bootlegging. With digital mapping technologies, she is creating an interactive map of Houston in the Roaring 20s, pinpointing speakeasies, busted bootlegging enterprises, and Prohibition-related organized crime efforts. Traditionally, accounts of the Roaring 20s focus exclusively on New York City or Chicago. This project defines Houston’s relationship to the decade that put it on the map, plotting the city’s—and with an eye for Texas’—role in “the Mad Decade.” Laura’s book project, Everyone’s a Critic: Eclectic Modernist Hermeneutics, examines the history of modernist criticism. Female critics were left out of literary criticism’s shift from the pens of poet-scholars to a codified system of analysis in American and British universities. Laura’s work is an archival project that recovers alternative methodologies of literary analysis from the early twentieth-century.
Kyle G. Sweeney | Project Manager Fellow
Ph.D. Art and Architectural History, Rice University
Kyle studies the relationship between Gothic architecture and the social, spatial, and ritual topography of towns and cities in late medieval Normandy. His research focuses on how a confluence of new social values, economic prosperity, and urban rituals gave rise to the extravagant displays of technical virtuosity and sophisticated ornament typical of ecclesiastical architecture at the turn of the sixteenth century. Kyle is particularly interested in visualizing the organization of urban space surrounding churches, as well as the public religious celebrations and royal entries that shaped the experience of the city at the end of the Middle Ages.
Rice Seminar Fellows
Frederic Clark | Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Ph.D. History, Princeton University
The First Pagan Historian: The Fortunes of a Fraud from Antiquity to the Enlightenment
Frederic Clark is a cultural and intellectual historian who specializes in the afterlife of classical antiquity in medieval and early modern Europe. He is especially interested in how the reception of antiquity has shaped--and continues to shape--humanistic scholarship, in everything from its division into periods and disciplines to its notions of evidence and criticism. His first book, under contract with University of Chicago Press, is titled Dividing Time: The Invention of Historical Periods in Early Modern Europe. While a member of the Rice Seminar he will be working on another book project, under contract with Oxford University Press, titled The First Pagan Historian: The Fortunes of a Fraud from Antiquity to the Enlightenment. It offers a 1500-year biography of a spurious ancient text known as the Fall of Troy of Dares Phrygius. Although Dares claimed to be an eyewitness to the Trojan War, in reality he was an ingenious forger, who fooled many into labeling him the first pagan to write history. This study crosses conventional period divisions: it begins in antiquity, and then follows Dares as he was read by a varied cast of Carolingian scribes, twelfth-century poets, Italian humanists, early modern physicians, seventeenth-century philologists, and Enlightenment skeptics. The First Pagan Historian uses the unlikely vitality of forgery to reexamine deeply contested definitions of history, fiction, proof, authenticity, and myth, from Rome to the eighteenth century.
Kathryn Langenfeld | Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Ph.D. Classical Studies, Duke University
Architecture and the Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow
Sebastian Schmidt | Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Ph.D. History, Theory & Criticism of Architecture, MIT
Global War, Race, and the City: How WWII Shaped Urbanism in New York, Berlin, and Tokyo
Sebastian Schmidt is a historian of urbanism and architecture working on issues of war, race, and memory in cities in the 20th century, with a focus on the United States, Germany, and Japan during and after WWII. Schmidt is currently working on a book manuscript that expands on the research done for his dissertation. His project positions the global and racial nature of WWII as a shaping force of urbanism—with important consequences for the methodologies of urban history. The war built vast infrastructures that became the foundation for civilian aviation, and it made the world seem a lot smaller and a lot more vulnerable. The war was also charged with strong racial discourses—the US presented itself as a bringer of global freedom while maintaining segregation at home, Germany’s aggressive quest for Lebensraum culminated in the Holocaust and the postwar struggle of dealing with this racial legacy, and the loss of Japan’s multi-ethnic empire in East Asia after WWII shaped the country’s reimagining as a monoethnic nation state. Based on evidence from urban policy, planning, architecture, and art, Schmidt investigates the urbanism of New York, Berlin, and Tokyo—the principal cities of three nations deeply implicated in the war—to challenge the notion that economic globalization alone made cities global. Instead, his work positions the postwar city as a response to war-driven global infrastructures and racial ideologies, and contributes to an understanding of the complex relationship between WWII and urbanism.
Teaching Release Faculty Fellows
Gwen Bradford | Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy
Uniqueness and Value
What is it to be unique and why does it matter? In philosophy, uniqueness plays a starring role in transforming the dominant understanding of intrinsic value, namely the value that something has “as an end” or “for its own sake.” Since G. E. Moore’s Principia Ethica, the orthodox conception of intrinsic value has been understood as value that something has in virtue of its intrinsic properties; in other words, the properties that a thing has just by itself. However, this formerly dominant view of intrinsic value was toppled by counterexamples that point to uniqueness as a value-enhancing property. Uniqueness is an extrinsic property – a thing is only unique in relation to other things. If uniqueness enhances intrinsic value, and uniqueness is an extrinsic property, intrinsic value cannot be strictly a matter of intrinsic properties. But the question remains: what is uniqueness and why is it so special? It turns out that the role that uniqueness plays in intrinsic value is surprisingly complex, and it is not at all clear that uniqueness enhances value in the way that these important arguments have assumed. My project is the first systematic and comprehensive study of uniqueness that will bring to light just what uniqueness is and how it matters.
Niki Kasumi Clements
| Assistant Professor, Department of Religion
Foucault the Confessor: Christianity and Critique in Foucault’s Ethical Turn
Niki Kasumi's current project engages the later work of Michel Foucault, from 1976 to his death in 1984, as he turns from disciplinary subjects to the “care of the self.” In his turn to ethics alongside power/knowledge in the production of subjectivity, Foucault’s various constructions of Christianity are crucial but understudied indices for his own theoretical aspirations. From History of Sexuality: Volume 1 (La Volonté de savoir) to “The Battle for Chastity” (written for History of Sexuality: Volume 4 [Les Aveux de la chair]), “Christianity” provides Foucault’s foil for both how modern western subjectivity goes awry and how antique Greek and Roman philosophies pose ethical alternatives. In Foucault the Confessor: Christianity and Critique in Foucault’s Ethical Turn, she traces Foucault’s shifting representations of “Christianity” through his published monographs and lectures (notably at the Collège de France) in order to 1) expose the discursive limitations of his influential reading of modern subjectivity and 2) constructively continue his ethical project, informed by these insights. By critiquing Foucault’s historical reading of early Christian texts, and then unfolding the theoretical implications of his stress on “interiority,” this book extends Foucault’s ethical challenge to “think differently” about subjectivity—now as embodied, affective, and inter-social.
Lisa Lipinski | Assistant Professor of Sculpture, Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts
Holly Hobby Lobby
The proposed project is comprised of five new mixed-media sculptures, each to be exhibited with a corresponding sound work and a series of screen prints informed by research into political pamphlets in the archives in the May Day Rooms in London. Lisa is interested in the paradoxical or even imaginary processes by which a sculpture might be advanced as a form of argument, as if it were a political pamphlet realized in three dimensions. This work will culminate in an exhibition in Los Angeles in 2018.
William B. Parsons | Professor, Department of Religion
Of Chariots, Navels, and Winged Steeds: Psychoanalytic Encounters with Buddhism
The book traces the development of the psychoanalytic encounter with Buddhism in the context of the three periods (1880-1944; 1945-1969; 1970-present) that mark the psychology and religion movement. The latter term signifies the “wider” scholarly context within which the work seeks to contribute. It consists of major intellectual projects (e.g., the traditional notion of the psychology “of” religion; psychology “as” religion or, more precisely, psychospirituality), dialogical enterprises (e.g., the psychology-theology dialogue -- also called pastoral psychology or practical theology; the psychology-comparativist dialogue – which signifies psychological forays into non-western religions), and as part of a more inclusive social scientific approach to religion (e.g., psychological sociology; psychological anthropology). The more “narrow” scholarly task consists of isolating, unpacking and analyzing the substance of the unfolding historical “dialogue” between, specifically, psychoanalysis and Buddhism (a subset of the psychology-comparativist dialogue) during each of the three periods, focusing on its major players, developments, issues, debates, critiques, and consequences. As indicated in the use of the phrase psychology and religion the project, while focusing on psychoanalysis, will also seek to demarcate the latter with respect to the use of other, relevant projects and dialogical models (e.g., Jungian, Neurocognitive, Humanistic, etc.) operative during the field’s history.
Fay A. Yarbrough | Associate Professor, Department of History
Choctaw Confederates: The American Civil War in Indian Country
Several American Indian nations, including the Choctaw Nation, officially sided with the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Choctaw legislative documents from the era reveal that Choctaw lawmakers spent a great deal of time talking about their commitment to the Confederate States of America. Choctaw legal authorities even deemed any criticism of the Confederacy or of the Confederate army to be a form of treason against the Choctaw Nation and punishable by death. Lawmakers raised an infantry force, and then later a cavalry, to fight with the Confederate forces. What accounts for this level of commitment to the Confederate cause among the Choctaws? Fay Yarbrough argues that Confederate ideology appealed to Choctaw authorities in part because the Choctaws were slaveholders who wanted to protect their right to own human property. European traders and settlers introduced the Choctaws to African slaves as early as the 1720s. And by 1860, black slaves comprised 14% of the population in the Choctaw Nation. Moreover, Choctaw political thinkers drew a connection between state’s rights and the sovereign rights of native nations to remain independent of U. S. authority. Thus, many Choctaws were committed Confederates.
Rice Seminar Fellows
Ademide Adelusi-Adeluyi | Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Ph.D. History, NYU
Mapping the Contstant City: Lagos in its Precolonial and Colonial Contexts
Ademide’s research into the history of West African cities combines a set of interdisciplinary interests in African and urban history, technology, cartography and Digital Humanities. While at Rice, she will develop a cartographic database of Lagos’s history, based in part on colonial maps of the city and region dating from the late eighteenth century. Despite attempts to write over local ways of imagining, manipulating and representing space, these British and French maps remain crucial sites of negotiation over the meanings of power, space and time in the city. At no point does Lagos become more visible than when it is marked for destruction, division, or rehabilitation, thus, she uses these maps to reconstruct indigenous conceptions of the past, in place. She is Assistant Professor of History at the University of California, Riverside.
Shannon Dugan Iverson | Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Ph.D. Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin
The Mesoamerican cartographic tradition employed very different mapping conventions from those utilized in the Western tradition. Whereas Western maps tend to represent only one moment in time—or attempt to represent a timeless landscape—Mesoamerican maps of the famous Aztec migration journey were able to incorporate space and time simultaneously. For the first time, new technologies that incorporate film and narrative into GIS maps can approximate the complexity and creativity of early colonial and pre-Columbian maps.
Much Mesoamerican scholarship has focused on finding the “truth” embedded in these documents by searching for overlaps between them, and by carefully constructing Western-style maps and histories around them. This project, in contrast, uses narrative digital mapping to study the migration maps on their own terms: as simultaneously linear and cyclical, as mythical and real, as stories that form their own particular chronotopic tradition (that is, the narrative juncture of space and time). By using digital technologies to study an ingenious non-Western cartographic tradition, this project also expresses optimism that Western mapping can represent space-time more fluidly and creatively.
Shannon is an archaeologist who focuses on colonialism and power in central Mexico.
Cultures of Energy Fellow
Abby Spinak | Andrew W. Mellon/ACLS Postdoctoral Fellow
Ph.D. Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Democracy Electric: Energy and Economic Citizenship in an Urbanizing America
Abby studies energy history, with a particular interest in the politics of energy ownership and the role of infrastructure in disseminating economic ideas. In her current project, she explores how ideas of economic democracy have shaped the electricity infrastructure in the United States, from New Dealers’ vast national plan of development-oriented rural electrification to climate change activism in the twenty-first century. During her time at Rice, Abby will be finishing a book on electric cooperatives and teaching classes in the Energy Humanities. She is also affiliated with the Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences.
Teaching Release Faculty Fellows
Matthias Henze | Professor, Department of Religion
Mind the Gap: Jesus, Early Jewish Literature, and the Jewish Beginnings of Christianity
I received an invitation to be a Mandelbaum Scholar in Residence at the University of Sydney, Australia (http://learning.mandelbaum.usyd.edu.au/) in August and September 2016. As a visiting scholar at Mandelbaum House, I am expected to teach part of a course at the University of Sydney and to give four public lectures. I will use my time in Sydney to finish the manuscript of a book under contract with Fortress Press, titled Mind the Gap: Jesus, Early Jewish Literature, and the Jewish Beginnings of Christianity. The purpose of the book, which is written for a popular audience but will also serve as a college/seminary textbook, is to explain how the Jewish writings that were in circulation at the time of Jesus but never became part of the Bible can help us better understand the early followers of Jesus and the Jewish beginnings of Christianity.
Peter C. Caldwell | Professor, Department of History
Plans, Fears, and Dreams of the Welfare State in West Germany
In the best and worst ways, twentieth century Germany was the laboratory of modernity. One of its lasting and influential achievements has been a model for the modern welfare state. In the 1880s, when innovative systems of compulsory insurance developed under Bismarck, heated arguments emerged that still recur today in, for example, the debate about compulsory health insurance in the United States. These arguments endure because the relationship between democracy and welfare is at their root. Is the welfare state a symptom of western civilization's decline, or is it the realization of its ideals? Are its huge institutions and programs, from old age pensions to unemployment insurance, compatible with personal responsibility and political democracy? Is the welfare state a democratic “social state,” an authoritarian “providing state,” or a totalitarian “termite state” made up of busy insects without personality? These questions accompanied the entire history of West Germany, from 1949 to 1989. I argue that these debates—these plans, fears, and dreams—reach past technical questions to struggle with basic questions about politics and culture in a liberal democracy.
Moramay Lopez-Alonso | Department of History
The Backbone of Mexican History: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Comprehending Past and Present Inequality and Standards of Living
This project studies the evolution of human welfare and inequality in standards of living in Mexico during the second half of the eighteenth century using evidence from human stature, agricultural crises, epidemic diseases, cycles of economic growth and skeletal remains. It will assess the determinants of human welfare, namely population size, economic performance, environmental conditions, and political organization during certain time periods. It will also delve into how over time the relevance of these determinants changed, and how these changes had repercussions on inequality. I argue that, in the eighteenth century Malthusian checks due to low agricultural productivity were still a strong determinant of human welfare. Even the spectacular wealth generated by Mexico’s silver mining boom did not improve human welfare of the population at large. Still, based on the evolution of stature, we can assert that society was more equal in the eighteenth century than in subsequent period.
Leonora Paula | Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Spaces of Agency in Contemporary Brazilian Culture
My book manuscript, Spaces of Agency in Contemporary Brazilian Culture, contends that contemporary Brazilian culture is a highly contested territory full of spaces where intense power struggles between over-represented and under-represented groups take place, as outlined by scholars Regina Dalcastagnè and Heloisa Buarque de Hollanda. The increasing occupation of spaces dedicated to art and literature by groups that seize the traditionally exclusionary terrain of contemporary Brazilian culture are clear indications of such disputes. This emergent cultural practice, in line with practices engaging in what James Hoslton calls “insurgent citizenship,” challenges dominant modes of cultural production that have historically excluded marginalized voices and repressed alternative expressions. Among the groups challenging pervasive discriminatory practices in the hegemonic cultural terrain, the Literatura Periférica movement along with contemporary urban art collectives are some of the most active contenders of a model of cultural production that has historically excluded marginalized knowledge production from Brazil’s cultural terrain.
Sayuri Guthrie Shimizu | Department of History
A Sea Change: The Rise and Transformation of North Pacific Ocean Resource Management Regimes, 1900-1975
This study, based on multilingual research, examines ideas, local practices, public policies, and international negotiations regarding the commercial exploitation and conservation of ocean resources (fur seals and salmon and tuna stocks) in the North Pacific in the first three-quarters of the twentieth century, culminating in the United Nations Law of the Sea Conventions (UNCLOS I & II). It focuses on Japan, the United States, and Canada but takes a transnational and interdisciplinary approach to the rise of the transpacific world with ocean ecology as its connective tissue. Rather than looking at processes of diplomatic, political, economic, cultural, and environmental change in Japan, the Soviet Far East, the United States, and Canada as disconnected phenomena, it will portray transformations occurring along the North Pacific littoral as a single cluster of historical experiences. Themes to be examined include technology and industrial development, food security and resource management, the intersection of foodways and cultural identity, multilateral policy coordination and the preservation of biodiversity. The resulting book will contribute to the literature in the emerging fields of Pacific Studies and the history of capitalism, as well as to the historical profession’s drive towards transnational historiography.
Cymene Howe | Department of Anthropology
Melt: The Social Life of Ice
Ice has become our climatological canary: the substance that renders visible rising temperatures. It can be measured, its retreats photographed, its depths plumbed and itsduration—or lifespan—calculated. And it is melting: nowhere faster, and faster than expected, in the Arctic region. Ice’s physical changes and the geohydrological implications associated with it are now regular media features as news of catastrophic melt continues to mark our times. However, little attention is given to the social and cultural meaning of changing ice in the frozen places where it has dominated landscapes, shaped lives and conditioned accounts of land, weather and subjective experience. This study aims to address that omission. It proposes a multidimensional examination of the social significance of ice, the values associated with it, and the implications of its expiration. As an inquiry into the metamorphosis of ice, it asks: What are the political and social meanings of ice in the Anthropocene? And, how does a nation identified with ice wrestle with and encounter the fact of its immanent extinction? This research will chart a contemporary sensibility of icy life, human and otherwise, in an exploration of cryohuman interactions and commitments.
Betty Joseph | Department of English
Unbelonging: Borderless Novels and the Contemporary Globe
I am seeking time to complete my book-in-progress. My subject is contemporary fiction in English, particularly the works of “transnational writers,” whose writing is commonly read as a byproduct of globalization because of recurring elements like: multinational plots (Hari Kunzru, Monica Ali); migrant protagonists (Teju Cole, Jamaica Kincaid); urban underworlds (Aravind Adiga); corrupt multinational corporations and postcolonial governments (Indra Sinha); and post-national cultural hybridity (Barbara Kingsolver). Curiously, the writers’ international celebrity has not prevented the dismissal of their works by many academic and non-academic reviewers as “inauthentic,” or “dull” and which, in aiming to satisfy the widest possible audience, have purportedly lost all nuance of language, location or literary cultures. My claim is that these works, so often regarded as the formulaic products of itinerant and elite cosmopolitan writers who do not belong to any one place, language, culture or nation, are compelling precisely because they are the byproducts of a growing borderlessness in the contemporary world. I explore how these writers, writing at a time of profound anxiety about the loss of language and local cultures to the forces of global restructuring, use their ability to traverse fictional geographical borders to turn the notion of belonging into a powerful mode of abstraction that I call unbelonging, from which they focus on the exclusions and discontents of globalization.
Nanxiu Qian Chao | Center for Asian Studies
"Exemplary Women" versus "Worthy Ladies": The Two Traditions in Writing Women's History in the Sinosphere
The proposed project studies the evolution and transmission of two genres—“Exemplary Women” and “Worthy Ladies”—in writing women’s history in the Sinosphere (China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam). Both originated from the Han Confucian Liu Xiang’s (77-6 BCE) Biographies of Exemplary Women. Each, however, formed into a tradition that represented women’s lives and guided their behavior in its own way. “Exemplary Women,” being incorporated into official histories, became increasingly bound by Confucian norms, whereas “Worthy Ladies,” rooted in the free-spirited Wei-Jin (220-420) intellectual aura and written by private scholars, featured strong-minded, talented, and self-sufficient literate women. The two genres also generated numerous works in other countries in the Sinosphere. A close reading of these works will show the existence of different voices on women’s lives, rescuing the previously ignored “Worthy Ladies” from the dominant discourse of docile “Exemplary Women.” This study also explores larger issues related to cultural continuity and change in this important area. It will subvert the longstanding Sinocentrism of East Asian Studies, showing that once cultural products travel into another cultural context, they quickly become embedded in that space and evolve into new species of literary life that bear indigenous qualities and features. These “domesticated” cultural products, when repatriated, could play a significant role in the country of their origin.
Rice Seminar Fellows
Ph.D. Comparative Literature (Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory), UC Davis
Nonhuman Forms/Biopolitical Aesthetics: Post-Ethical Cinema and Literature
Geier works on comparative-historical environmental thought, with special interests in Animal Studies. His dissertation, British and Other Nonhumans of the Long Nineteenth Century: Abject Forms in Literature, Law, and Meat evaluated the poetic and narrative forms through which British and American Romanticism, Penny Dreadfuls, Dickens, and Kafka respond to nonhuman form in daily life, including animal subjection at Smithfield Market in London. His research and teaching interests include film studies, North American environmental traditions, comparative literature, and global ecocriticism. Geier’s current book project considers formal eco-cinematic expression in North American filmmaker Terrence Malick’s work.
Ph.D. English, Rice University
Biopolitics, Bare Life, and 'the Threshold of Modernity
Ryan White’s first book, The Hidden God: Pragmatism and Posthumanism in American Thought, will be published in Fall 2015 by Columbia University Press. The Hidden God reads the lineage of American pragmatism alongside recent interventions in posthumanist theory. Placing the emergence of pragmatism within the context of systems’ theoretical and biopolitical conceptualizations of modernity, the book argues that pragmatism, in particular the complex semiotics of Charles S. Peirce, remains a vital critical resource for our contemporary posthumanist and biopolitical moment. While at Rice, White will study biopolitics as a theory of modernity, in particular how evolving ideas about the nature of “life” adjust to the functional differentiation that is one of modernity's defining characteristics.
Spatial Humanities Fellow
Ph.D. Geography (Designated Emphasis in Global Metropolitan Studies), University of California, Berkeley
The Revolution will be mapped: Visualizing Spatial Justice in the City
Tarr studies the production and representation of urban space/place, emphasizing how subjects claim rights to the city. His dissertation, Have Your City and Eat It Too: Los Angeles and the Urban Food Renaissance examined the historical and contemporary role of food in reimagining futures for Los Angeles. Currently, he is developing a digital platform for the “People’s Guide” project – a distributed collaboration amongst scholars and activists to recover counter historical-geographies of cities. In addition, he is co-authoring, “A People’s Guide to the SF Bay Area,” with Rachel Brahinksy (USF). His research and teaching at Rice addresses the use of web-cartography in the study of urban spaces.
Sawyer Seminar Fellow
Ph.D. Political Science, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Digital Political Thought
Rex’s research examines how institutional treatments of taboo language – cursing, swearing, profanity, obscenity, and racial slurs – are used to determine who counts as a member of the American nation and govern American culture. Examples include Noah Webster’s attempt to create a standard American English with his famous dictionary and psychiatrists theorizing about the brains of patients with Tourette’s syndrome as a type of rewritable media. He is currently developing this research into a book manuscript titled What Gives Taboo Language Its Power? Using Bad Words to Govern American National Culture. Rex's work at Rice focuses on technical methods for steering users away from taboo subjects and towards state-sanctioned discourse, or interventions into the "pre-speech" conditions of possibility for expressions, enabled by digital tools like Google’s SafeSearch filter and predictive keyboards.