Research Projects/Creative Works

The HRC provides research funding to faculty to pursue research projects that do not fit comfortably within departmental boundaries, and funding was set aside specifically for research in medical humanities and cultural heritage. Preference is given to proposals that promise to spark collaborations, cultivate new scholarly paradigms, or forge lasting curricular innovation.

Gnostic Film Festival
PI: April D. DeConick, Isla Carroll & Percy E. Turner Professor of New Testament & Early Christianity, Chair of Department of Religion
A film festival to be held at Rice Cinema, on March 25-26, 2017. The purpose of this festival will be to raise public awareness about the significance of the gnostic religious current in modernity and its impact on public culture in America. The films are: The Matrix, The Truman Show, Pleasantville, Dark City, Avatar, and Altered States. The films will be introduced by undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in RELI 451/581, and will be followed by a discussion and Q&A sessions.

Entre el Amor y la Locura
PI: Christopher Sperandio, Associate Professor, Painting and Drawing, Visual & Dramatic Arts
Harris County has the second largest Hispanic population in the US; this exhibition on Mexican culture and history in Houston will connect with the cultural heritage of Mexican-American community through a partnership with Lawndale Art Center, one of the most lively and inclusive art institutions in the region. Nearly 1,000 pieces of original art will be preserved as high-resolution digital scans, translated into English, and potentially exhibited at Lawndale in late 2017/early 2018.

Houston in Motion
PI: Yehuda Sharim, Anna Smith Fine Postdoctoral Fellow in Jewish Studies
Houston in Motion is a collaborative research project that sheds light on the process of refugees and immigrants in Houston. Through interviews with newly-arriving refugees and immigrants, the project develops a digital archive of migration that includes ongoing filming, working with Rice students and media editors to process and publish digitized testimonies online. The digital platform being developed with this purpose will be shared with new arrivals, existing communities, and members of the public through partnership with organizations including Houston Public Libraries and the Mayor’s Office of International Communities.

The Art of Energy
PI: Joseph Campana, Alan Dugald McKillop Associate Professor of English
The Art of Energy represents an exhibition and series of activities that understand visual art and aesthetics through the rubric of energy. This project will consider energy use and dependency, extraction and consumption, distribution and infrastructure, to discover a dynamic relationship between how energy structures aesthetic experience and how art and artists reflect on energy.

Collections Analysis Collaborative
PI: John Hopkins, Assistant Professor of Art History and Classical Studies
The Collections Analysis Collaborative unites scholars at three key institutions in Houston -- Rice University, the Menil Collection and the University of Houston-Clear Lake. This unique collaboration between students, art historians, archaeologists and museum professionals will identify innovative approaches to address the contemporary issues of cultural heritage, object-based research, and public display confronting cultural institutions today.

Video Bomb Houston
PI: Allison Hunter, Artist-in-Residence, Visual and Dramatic Arts
Video Bomb Houston is a four-part series of outdoor video works by Allison Hunter presented in the hidden corners of inner-city neighborhoods over the course of summer 2015. Using existing buildings as the backdrop for large-scale, nighttime projections, Hunter upends the visual landscape by activating and re-imagining otherwise forgotten urban settings. Each video “bomb” unveils a new episode of Hunter’s hand-drawn video animations and sound inspired by the city.

Video Scenarios in Medical Education: Polyphony and Non-Linearity in Audiovisual Doctor-Patient Narratives
PIs: Kirsten Ostherr, Professor, English, and Kaisu Koski, Collaborator, University of Finland
Video-based doctor-patient scenarios are commonly used in medical education. These videos typically represent a clinical scenario that serves as a stimulus for a small-group discussion. However, due to focus on biomedical problem-solving, disregard of the cinematic techniques, and the perceived separation between clinical and humanities aspects of medicine, many scenarios fail to portray the reality of medical practice and compassionate health care. The project analyses selected video scenarios used in medical education, and develops new videos for the partnering medical schools.

Robert Southey's Anti-Colonial Christianity
: Amanda Louise Johnson
Written in 1799, Robert Southey’s poem Madoc features a Welsh prince who sails to the Americas in 1170 A.D. There, he witnesses Aztecs offering the children of conquered tribes to their gods, and the text compares these child-sacrifices with the children in Wales who are sacrificed on the battlefield in wars against the English. Madoc then introduces Christianity to counter these religious practices, and also galvanize the conquered tribes’ revolt against the Aztecs. After composing Madoc, Southey quickly started writing Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), which features a Muslim hero. Modern readers often deride Thalaba as Orientalist, or as a failed literary aesthetic. A close-reading, however, of Southey’s poem reveals a radical syncretism depicts Islam, with its iconoclasm and rejection of the trinity, as compatible with Christianity. What’s more, the hero, an impoverished orphan, provides fierce opposition to a wealthy, imperial class of wizards.  Amanda argues that Southey’s depiction of Christianity as an anti-imperial religion influences his depiction of Islam in Thalaba. Although Southey was historically derided as a political hack, then, his poems Madoc and Thalaba show a more thoughtful, complex understanding of the relations between religion, politics, and empire.

MELT - The Social Life of Ice at the Top of the World
: Cymene Howe
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.

Inside/Outside Yiddish
Melissa Weininger, Diane Wolfthal
Recent scholarship has focused on the transnational character of Yiddish, but it was also often considered a national language of the Jews.  The symposium Inside/Outside Yiddishwill bring together an international group of scholars of medieval and modern history and culture with Rice faculty and faculty from local universities to explore the ways in which Yiddish both crosses boundaries and creates internal cohesion.  We will consider how Yiddish moved between cultures and geographical locations while at the same time serving as a locus of identity formation.  Topics will include the relationship of Jewish literatures to the vernacular of the dominant culture, authorship as a collaborative enterprise, Jewish treatment of Christological themes, Jewish cosmopolitanism, Yiddish and multilingualism, and Yiddish in translation, and others.

CALAC: The Critical Archive of Latin American Cinema
PI: Luis Duno-Gottberg
CALAC is a digital humanities initiative with a collaborative approach to the study of Latin America Cinema. The main objective is to develop students’ analytical skills through direct contribution to a growing knowledge base of detailed research information about film and film analysis. This project offers a unique opportunity to integrate applied research methods and new, original research information with the theoretical concerns of the course. At a larger scale, this project will contribute to the discoverability of less-known films and filmmakers as well as encouraging research on Latin American films and topics. It will also provide unique tools while promoting learning by doing in the fields of digital archives.

The Recovery of a Heritage in the Making: A Digital Archive for Contemporary Displaced Spanish and Latin American Writers
: Gisela Jeffes
Because the legacy of contemporary displaced Spanish and Latin American writers has yet to be fully addressed, there is a critical need to identify, study, and collect these literary works in an archive where they can be made available in an electronic format to everyone, from members of the public at large who want to read and analyze these works, to current and future scholars who want to both study and teach them. This work will serve as the scholarly platform for the creation of a cross-cultural literary archive that will enable humanities scholars of American, Latin American, and Spanish studies to explore this new wave of writers, plumbing the depths of their works and assessing its wider significance and relevance on the Americas. 

The Electronic Vesalius
: John Mulligan
This project attempts to "reanimate" Andreas Vesalius' 16th-century anatomical atlas, one of the foundational texts in modern medicine. The end product will be an interactive, life-sized exhibit of one of Vesalius' flayed bodies, which will respond to a reader's touch with information about that body part as represented over the last five centuries. In a close collaboration between partners at Fondren Library (Ying Jin), the Texas Medical Center Library's McGovern Historical Center (Philip Montgomery and Sandra Yates), and the OEDK (Matthew Wettergreen, Benjamin Rasich, and Isaac Philips), this project seeks to explore 1) the possibilities of interdisciplinary work in humanities/engineering collaborations, 2) the role of physicality in the digital humanities, and 3) the anatomy of ersatz life forms.
You can read about the project's construction here.

Not Lost! A series on Endangered Technologies
PI: Tish Stringer
Progress, said Friedrich Nietzsche, is measured by what must be sacrificed to it. We delightfully embrace the new and cast off the old in our quest for better living, often leaving older technologies abandoned. Movie theaters are tossing out film projectors for digital servers, libraries convert their collections to e-readers, even the speed of Polaroids holds no allure for today'd photographers. For this cultural heritage project, Dr. Stringer will make two short documentary films about endangered technologies and the people who love them in Houston. These films are part of Dr. Stringer's ongoing research documenting endangered technologies, and will be shot and edited on film stock and tape, participating in the contemporary dilemma of having one foot in the analog world and one in the digital. They will be made in collaboration with arts organization in the Museum District and in Houston to discover the subjects and create the films, show the finished films to the community directly and then disseminate them through film festival opportunities and the internet.