Fellows in Residence

2019-20 


levantCarta Lab Initiative Fellow

Elvan Cobb | Spatial Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow in Levantine Studies
Ph.D. History of Architecture and Urbanism, Cornell University
Railway Crossings: Encounters in Ottoman Lands

Elvan is a historian of the built environment, exploring the effects of modernization projects on spatial practices. Focusing on the Ottoman Empire, the modern Middle East and the Islamic world, her work brings an interdisciplinary approach to the study of space by engaging with histories of technology, archaeology, travel, environment and the senses. Elvan serves on the editorial team of the International Journal of Islamic Architecture and she is the assistant director of a diachronic archaeological field project in Armenia. 

At Rice, Elvan is affiliated with the Humanities Research Center's levantCarta Initiative and she is working on a book manuscript based on her doctoral work that explores the spatial histories of early railways in Ottoman Anatolia originating from the port city of Izmir. 


Spatial Humanities Initiative Fellows

Joe T. Carson | Spatial Humanities Project Manager
Ph.D. English, Rice University
American Anthropocenes: Race and Deforestation in the Novel

Focusing on the intersection of environmental history and literary aesthetics, American Anthropocenes: Race and Deforestation in the Novel traces the interwoven environmental and racial histories of deforestation from the eve of the Civil War to the Great Depression. From the plantation to the Great Dismal Swamp, the antebellum novel to the contemporary novel, my project illuminates a persistent yet evolving ecological entanglement between human history and environmental change. Taking its cue from late 19th century African American author Charles Chesnutt, my book project reads the pivotal relationship between the black laboring body and the tree, and my research shows the hitherto now unexamined importance of deforestation and timbering in shaping the politics of race and labor in the American south. In turn, by attending this history, we see how American authors use boards, timber and deforestation as aesthetic vehicles to grapple with history, futurity and finality. I argue this archive of timber and race not only anticipates contemporary theories of the Anthropocene, but it illuminates the limits of the Anthropocene as means to imagine new worlds.


Michael F. Miller | Spatial Humanities Project Manager
Ph.D. English, Rice University
Proximity by Proxy: Contemporary Literature and Cultural Theory in the Age of Social Media
Mapping New Media: Theory, Aesthetics, and Politics by Design
 
Michael F. Miller received his PhD in English from Rice University in 2019. He is co-editor of the forthcoming volume Understanding Flusser, Understanding Modernism, and his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Arizona Quarterly, Modernism/modernity, boundary 2, and Contemporary Literature, among other venues. He is currently at work on two projects. The first, Proximity by Proxy: Contemporary Literature and Cultural Theory in the Age of Social Media, looks at many recent texts that can be loosely defined as “postdigital” or “post-literary” novels, and it argues that the spatial and affective logics of connection have come to define readers as information users and authors as servers or hosts. The second project, Mapping New Media: Theory, Aesthetics, and Politics by Design, interrogates the networked, computational media that are crucial to the Spatial Humanities. Emphasizing the “designed” nature of the computational media that shape both the Spatial Humanities and the internet—and contemporary internet culture in particular—this project locates and maps the complex relations between computational media technologies, “born-digital” cultural production, and their wide-ranging effects on theoretical, political, and cultural discourses.

Rice Seminar Fellows

Andrew Lee | Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Ph.D. Philosophy, New York University
Consciousness and Value

Andrew's research project examines the ethics and metaethics of conscious experiences. This includes philosophical issues about whether or not consciousness is intrinscially valuable, how we know which kinds of conscious experiences are good or bad, whether all conscious subjects can be harmed and benefitted, and what all this tells us about the nature of value itself. This project is part of Andrew's broader research program into the structure, value, and epistemology of conscious experiences.
 
Anna Giustina | Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Ph.D. Philosophy, Institut Jean Nicod/École Normale Supérieure
The Significance of Primitive Introspection
 
Anna works mainly on consciousness, introspection and self-knowledge. Her current research focuses on introspection of phenomenal states, that is, the distinctively first-personal method through which one can get knowledge of the phenomenology of one’s current conscious experience. Particularly, she is interested in the nature and epistemology of what she calls primitive introspection. Primitive introspection is a non-classificatory kind of phenomenal-state introspection, where by non-classificatory she means not involving recognizing the introspected phenomenal state as an instance of any experience type.
The existence, the metaphysics, and the epistemology of primitive introspection have been the object of Anna's PhD dissertation research. Now she wants to investigate primitive introspection’s value: its moral or practical significance. she envisages to explore at least the two following ideas: (i) primitive introspection has an intrinsic value, insofar as just by being in a state of primitive introspection one comes to have a piece of knowledge which is substantial or significant; (ii) primitive introspection has an instrumental value, insofar as, by making a necessary contribution to our self-knowledge, (a) it contributes to our well-being, that is, it helps us become happier persons, and (b) it contributes to our self-improvement, that is, it helps us become better persons.

Teaching Release Faculty Fellows

Tani Barlow | Professor, Department of History
Social Logic in Modern China 

Barlow will work on her third book addressing the history of modernist categories in 19th-20th Chinese thought. This latest work will establish how Chinese modern philosophy sublimated dynastic theory (Humanity lives “under heaven”) into sociology, a total science of human existence. Twentieth century secular Chinese thought established that our humanity lies in our social existence and in natural rights expressed through modernist social logics. The new project contributes to a stream in modern Chinese intellectual history aiming to supplant the prevailing assumption that culture explains Chinese social theory and intellectual life. My resources include journals, professional and discipline-oriented publication, speculative theorization of modern society appearing in the print media. I have collected initial primary materials over the last decade and initiated projects that will support the new project.

Steven Crowell | Professor, Department of Philosophy
Social Logic in Modern China 

Crowell will complete a book on the relation between phenomenology and metaphysics. Within the phenomenological tradition (whose continuing influence is felt beyond philosophy, e.g., in English, Architecture, Art History, Cognitive Science, Media Studies, Religion, and Anthropology) there has been a “metaphysical turn” (also called a “theological turn”) away from the transcendental philosophy Crowell defends (keyword: “correlationism”) toward a more “speculative” version that seeks to exploit work in the life-sciences and other empirical fields for the development of an overall picture of the world, grounded in categories like “nature” or “life.” This has parallels in the analytic philosophical tradition, where a scientistic naturalism has given new life to metaphysical speculation. While sympathetic to some motives of this turn, Crowell's project criticizes its intellectual foundation and offers a better one by focusing on the attempts made by both Husserl and Heidegger between 1922-1935 to move from transcendental phenomenology (roughly: critique of meaning) to metaphysics. The failure of these attempts points to problems which remain unresolved in today’s “metaphysical” phenomenology.

Julie Fette | Associate Professor, Department of Classical & European Studies
Gender in Contemporary French Children's Literature

Fette's monograph investigates representations of gender in contemporary French children's literature – the perfect milieu for examining cultural norms. The book analyzes how gender concepts for children are culturally bounded and projected to French child readers. Both comparative and interdisciplinary (social sciences, history, literature), the project reaches beyond the object of children's literature to explore gender, pedagogy, and childhood in France, with the United States serving occasionally throughout the narrative in juxtaposition. In addition to providing a literary analysis of children's books, Fette focuses on the role of arbiters – editors, authors, illustrators, librarians, critics, booksellers, and teachers – and how they influence the market. Fette argues that despite critiques by feminists and past efforts to address gender misrepresentation in children’s literature, few contemporary texts offer a gender-neutral story full of imaginative possibilities for girls and boys.

Randal L. Hall | Professor, Department of History
Changing the Face of the Earth: Environmental Thought in 1950s America

Hall will work on a book manuscript about U.S. environmental thought and early forms of activism in the 1950s. It will complicate histories that emphasize the 1960s as the origin of modern environmentalism. Taking a longer perspective shows a more complicated environmental movement that worried, for example, how environmental limits on economic growth might affect democratic structures and featured a robust discussion about the future form of livable cities. The manuscript explores complex debates, reaching to the immediate postwar period, about natural resources, population growth, technology’s effects on nature and people, the environmental impact of urban form, energy sources, and soil erosion and food production. Necessary for making these variables fit together was the cybernetics-inspired systems theory that grew out of technological research during and after World War II. Also important to emerging environmentalism was a deep historical awareness that humans had been significantly altering the earth for centuries, a discourse that adds historical perspective to current discussions of the Anthropocene and the global climate change demonstrated by earth systems science. 

Gisela Heffes | Associate Professor, Department of Spanish, Portuguese & Latin American Studies
Toxic Nature: Mutated Bodies and Altered Lanscapes in Contemporary Argentine Literature and Cinema

Heffe's scholarly book project will address the emergence over the last decade of a wide corpus of Argentine narratives and films that take place in the rural space of the pampas. Heffes will examine the transformation of this overly signified space through an environmental lens that considers the impact of monoculture production, specifically of soy and wheat production, which is deeply affecting the transformation of the scenery due to the use of pesticides and herbicides. As the landscape mutates and sickens, Heffes will argue, so, too, does the body. Some questions addressed are: How are these imaginaries of mutation and sickness informed by the continual increase of soy production in the rural areas? Are the writers influenced by contemporaneous scientific research? How do they imagine life and how do they contribute to a new understanding and conceptualizing of biological life, human and non-human?

Mark Jones | Professor, Department of Political Science
The Texas Legislative History Project: A Political Economic History of Texas

Jones will analyze Texas Legislative History Project data and interpret the dimensions of political conflict via the in-depth review of primary and secondary sources for the historical periods under study as well as to begin writing a book manuscript on the politicaleconomic history of Texas from 1836 to the present. The Texas Legislative History Project is building a database of information on all contested roll call votes cast in the legislatures of Texas from 1836 to the present. It will provide a new and innovative lens through which to understand and interpret the history of one of the most unique and important states in the United States. The project already has gathered information on how every legislator voted on every contested vote as well as information on the bill, amendment, resolution or other legislative item being voted on for a majority of this time period. To date, with the support of multiple external grants as well as internal funding from the School of Social Sciences, data and vote information for more than 100,000 votes have been collected for the years 1836 through 1873 and 1945 through 2018. Data collection for the years 1874 to 1909 is presently underway and will be completed by December, with collection for the remaining years (1910-1944, 2019) to be completed by July of 2019.

Kirsten Ostherr, PhD, MPH | Gladys Louise Fox Professor of English
How Health Became Data: The Ethics of Mining Personal Health Information

The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal of spring 2018 launched a national conversation about data privacy, consumer trust in technology companies, and the invisible harms that digital profiling may cause to individual citizens and democratic institutions. However, health data have barely been mentioned in the ensuing debates about the public accountability of private technology corporations. It is precisely in the medical sector, where the stakes are literally life and death, that the intrusion of “datafication” into our daily lives may pose the greatest threats and opportunities. Mobile sensors and tracking devices could help patients improve their health outcomes, if protections ensuring the ethical use of personal health data are implemented. How Health Became Data will explain how unregulated mining of personal health data perpetuates medical paternalism and exacerbates health disparities in American society. The project will also provide a set of guidelines that model a different, more equitable outcome focused on patient-centered best practices.

Christopher Sperandio | Associate Professor, Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts
Face with Tears of Joy: A Wordless Novel 

Sperandio has been invited to participate in the PILOTENKUECHE International Artist Residency Program in Leipzig, Germany, for the months of July through September of 2019. This 3-month residency offers a large studio in the context of a community of artists and critics at the heart of a vibrant arts scene, one that is recognized internationally. As part of his residency, Sperandio will give a public lecture and also exhibit the resultant works in Leipzig. Sperandio has identified several areas of interest that he will incorporate into a new artist’s book. He will merge concerns about rising fascism with the emergence of the emoji as a new, corporate-controlled language. In a tradition begun by Belgian artist Frans Masereel (1889-1972), the book Sperandio produces will be wordless.

Vida Yao | Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy
Grace and Alienation

Yao's project will yield five essays. There is a central dispute in the contemporary philosophical literature on love, among theorists we can label Irrationalists and the Rationalists. According to Irrationalists, our love for particular people cannot be rationally explained. It isn’t justified by, for example, how generous or funny they are: we would love them even if they weren’t. According to Rationalists, we love people precisely because of their good qualities – because they are so generous or funny. Yao argues that both sides of this dispute are subject to a worry: on either account, love can be alienating to the beloved. Within a series of papers, Yao articulates what the “problem of alienation” is and argues for a conception of love that can better address it: a secularized conception of grace. On this view, gracious love is neither irrational, nor justified by the beloved’s goodness. Rather, grace is an affectionate love of the qualities of human nature. 

2018-19 


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
1767: Two Trips to the Northern Frontier of New Spain

Marie Saldaña received her PhD in Architecture at UCLA in 2015. She studies the interrelationship of geography and landscape with the built environment. Her current work focuses on the geographic, social, and architectural history of Texas and Northeastern Mexico in the Spanish colonial and early Mexican periods.

Sydney Boyd | Project Manager Fellow
Ph.D. English, Rice University
Narrative Durations

Sydney’s project focuses on how musical performances engage with specific environments to map sound acoustically and theoretically. Her dissertation, "Narrative Durations", studies how musical duration affects literary perceptions of temporality in the twentieth century novel and necessarily investigates conceptions of spatiality. The project led her from authors to composers whose work presses against convention to formulate new abstractions of the human by using sound environments to manifest varying temporal experiences. Works written explicitly for listening to a fluctuating environment (such as Cage’s 1952 so-called “silent” work 4’33”) give way to work that relies on a specific architecture, such as Alvin Lucier’s 1981 “I am Sitting in a Room,” a work that comprises increasingly abstract acoustic frequencies of a voice recorded and re-recorded in a room. Tracing these ideas means accepting a transformation of contemporary awareness, where bodies exist in space and time, where we listen to and create alternative environments that provoke new experiences, and in turn, where we continually redefine what it means to be human.

Laura Richardson | Project Manager Fellow (Spring)
Ph.D. English, Rice University
Houston in the Roaring 20s

Laura studies American and British modernisms. Her book project, Critical Women: Alternative Modernist Hermeneutics, uncovers alternative methods of literary analysis from female poet-scholars between 1920-1945. Laura's Spatial Humanities traveLog project, Moves Like Louis Armstrong, 1901-1922, follows the early years of Louis Armstrong’s life, mapping his movement from his roots in New Orleans through his experiences on a Mississippi River steamboat. The combination of location points with audio recordings of Armstrong’s style in a string of specific geospatial and temporal locations allows for a clearer visualization of Armstrong’s contribution to the migration of Dixieland jazz from its origins in New Orleans to the urban Midwest.

Mark Bebawi | Project Manager Fellow (Fall)
Ph.D. Candidate, History, Rice University
The Muslim Brotherhood Reconsidered: Interactions with Secular Nationalism, Military Authoritarianism, and Western Imperialism, 1928-1956 

Mark is studying The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt from the group’s creation in 1928 to the 1956 Suez War. His dissertation is titled “The Muslim Brotherhood Reconsidered: Islamism’s Interactions with Secular Nationalism, Military Authoritarianism, and Western Imperialism, 1928-1956.” Mark's study is focused on the impacts of Egyptian, regional, and global political environments on the Brotherhood, and the Brotherhood’s evolving political discourse through its interactions across those environments. Arguing that the Brotherhood simultaneously occupied national (Egyptian) and transnational (Muslim) spaces, Mark is reconsidering the Brotherhood outside of conventional analytical frameworks based on nation states by examining the Brotherhood on its own spatial and geopolitical terms in conjunction with the more familiar terms of nation and empire. 


Rice Seminar Fellows

Kali Rubaii | Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow 
Ph.D. Anthropology, UC Santa Cruz
Concrete Landscapes and Toxic Souls

Kali Rubaii studies the environmental impacts of less-than-lethal militarism, especially how military projects (re)arrange and (re)distribute beings and objects in morally fraught ways in the name of “letting live.” Her book project, Counterinsurgency and the Ethical Life of Material Things, examines how Anbari farmers struggle to survive the rearrangement of their landscape by transnational counterinsurgency projects. Taking toxicity as an analytic for material politics, Rubaii's book highlights the alterlives of war objects as they facilitate particular configurations of relations among humans, ghosts, plants, animals, and molecular agents, while precluding others. Her current ethnographic research explores how the concrete industry in post-invasion Iraq enforces global regimes of race, class, and cartographies of power, as well as regimes of environmental extraction and degradation. In approaching the corporate-military enterprise of concrete in Iraq, Rubaii is interested in sharpening resistance strategies that target the vulnerable nexus between coercive power and the physical world.

Allison Turner | Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow 
Ph.D. English, University of Chicago 
The Salvaging Disposition: Waste and Form in the Eighteenth-Century Novel

Allison studies eighteenth-century British literature and British Romanticism. Her research brings together the study of literary form with economic history and environmental criticism. In her current project, The Salvaging Disposition, she locates the emergence of a modern sense of waste in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when Baconian science and European colonialism began to conceive of the New World as an untapped spring of inexhaustible resources. Alongside this ideology of infinite growth, she argues that the period of early modernity also witnessed a surge of interest in the category of byproduct waste as a site of potential value. This new conception of waste—as salvageable byproduct—is evident in one of British literature’s earliest novels, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719). Indeed, after his shipwreck, Crusoe sustains himself by fashioning an island habitation out of the wreckage that made him a castaway. Allison’s project follows this salvaging impulse in works that have long been associated with the rise of the novel in this period.


Teaching Release Faculty Fellows

Martin Blumenthal-Barby |  Associate Professor, Department of Classical and European Studies 
The Language of Secularization 

Blumenthal-Barby will explore the relation between religion and secularization in twentieth-century German philosophy, literature and film, focusing on Carl Schmitt, Hans Blumenberg, Jacob Taubes, the dramatist Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Sigmund Freud, and Weimar filmmakers Fritz Lang, F.W. Murnau, Paul Wegener, and Robert Wiene. While this constellation brings together some of the most intriguing thinkers of the twentieth century, the analysis of their works may raise questions of utmost contemporary interest, questions of the political, its peculiar symbiosis with the theological, and their relation to the process of secularization. Secularization, again and again, will emerge as an ambiguous category that confronts us with an imperative to understand religion’s continuing significance in modernity. Even where religion has forfeited its traditional institutional cohesion, its reservoir of metaphors and narratives, Blumenthal-Barby suggests, can facilitate an analysis of the modern world.

 

Esther Fernández
 | Assistant Professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese
The Making-of Illusions: Material Performances in Early Modern Spain and its Legacies

Fernández' book investigates a series of animated objects, at the intersection of literature and performance, endowed with the capability of giving concrete form to a range of ideological and cultural markers of early modernity in Spain, such as the relationship between the sacred and profane, enchantment and rationality, and the natural and supernatural. In their time, these binomials required a kind of material manifestation to serve as metaphors for their essence. Thus, the very notion of animacy—physically and conceptually—helped in conveying these redefined beliefs and leaving a stronger imprint in people’s minds and popular culture. For this reason, jointed religious figures, sacred and profane puppets, automatons and other everyday objects with properties for animacy became indispensable spectacular props employed by preachers, theater professionals and writers of the period. By analyzing animated objects from the perspective of material culture studies in seventeenth-century Spain, as well as their contemporary renditions, Fernández hopes to shed light on a corpus of texts and genres that deliberately placed the animated object at the very center of narratives—on the page and on the stage—owing to their metaphorical, artistic and spectacular powers of suggestion.

 

Emily Houlik-Ritchey | Assistant Professor, Department of English
Ethical Romance in Late-Medieval England and Castile

Houlik-Ritchey will use the HRC Faculty Teaching-Release Fellowship to complete her first book, Ethical Romance in Late-Medieval England and Castile. This book project expands her dissertation work in a comparative study of Middle English and medieval Castilian romance from the ethical vantage of the neighbor. The genre of medieval romance (a chivalric narrative tradition) has seldom been credited as ethical, yet profound ethical questions undergird these texts: questions about who communities and individuals are, how they ought to relate to each other, how chivalric impulses work for or against received notions of ethics. The book therefore shows that texts of late- medieval romance evince a serious concern with ethics, particularly the Jewish and Christian imperative to love the neighbor as the self. Recent critical theories illuminate the ethical problem posed by the figure of the neighbor; employing these contemporary theorizations alongside medieval conceptualizations of the “neighbor,” Houlik-Ritchey argues that medieval romances showcase the difficult nature of ethical acts in chaotic scenarios of war, conversion, and love.

 

Anne Klein | Professor, Department of Religion
The Sunlit Sky: Longchenpa’s Open Secret

Klein will complete her book, The Sunlit Sky: Longchenpa’s Open Secret. This study centers on Dzogchen’ s Seven Trainings by Longchen Rabjam, born 1308 and still considered the foremost architect of Great Completeness (Dzogchen) traditions in Buddhist Tibet. The book contains an introduction, translations of the short text and an emic oral commentary on it, contextualized by two substantial chapters of thematizing discussion. These chapters draw on other key writings by Longchenpa, poet, philosopher, and contemplative icon of the Heart Essence Great Completeness (Dzogchen) traditions of the Ancient (Nyingma) Buddhist school of Tibet, and on his 18th century spiritual successor, Jigme Lingpa. The book’s final chapters uniquely show that the seven trainings, as literature and performance, and especially as discussed by Jigme Lingpa, traverse the broad landscape of a key gnostic turn in Tibet. This turn, rooted in 2nd and 4th century Indian texts, finds its most compelling expression in the literary corpus of Longchen Rabjam. Klein's discussion details how his gnostic turn thoroughly reframes key epistemological categories such as sensory experience (dbang shes), consciousness (shes pa), original wisdom (ye shes) and enlightenment mind (byang chub sems) by assimilating them to an all-inclusive ontic gnosis in Tibet, and why it matters.

 

Alexander Morgan | Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy 
From Mindlessness to Mentality: The Origins of Subjectivity 

Morgan will write a book on the evolution of increasingly rich and diverse forms of representation — from the representational mechanisms of mindless biological systems to the representational perspective of a subject on an apparently mind-independent world. He is currently working on two papers that will form the core of this book-length project. The first paper draws from neuroscientific evidence to argue that information becomes part of a subject’s perspective on the world when it is integrated into an egocentric frame of reference that provides a computational interface between sensation and action. The second paper builds on the first to argue that all sorts of animals other than humans have a capacity to recall the past and imagine the future. This capacity is often thought to require sophisticated abilities to conceptualize oneself in the past or future. Morgan argues that the mechanisms that allow a perspective on the past and future are precisely the non-conceptual mechanisms that endow a subject with an egocentric perspective in perception, and that these mechanisms are present in various mammals and even birds. 

 

George Sher
A Wild West of the Mind

Sher states that there is close to universal agreement that government and society have no business trying to control our thoughts—that as long as we don’t put them into action, our beliefs, fantasies, and attitudes are our own business. However, it is also widely agreed that even private thoughts are subject to moral constraint—that it’s morally wrong to fantasize about rape or child abuse, feel inappropriate emotions such as envy or schadenfreude, entertain biased beliefs that are unsupported by evidence, or harbor wayward attitudes like the lust that once resided in Jimmy Carter’s heart. Sher's book thesis is that this last view is badly mistaken, and that the realm of the purely mental is best regarded as morality-free. Unlike actions in the world, which morality is properly said to constrain, each person’s subjectivity is a limitless, lawless wild west in which absolutely everything is permitted.

 

Elora Shehabuddin | Associate Professor, Department of Humanities 
From Third World to Muslim - A Transnational History of Women’s Activism in East Bengal

When did the “Third World” become the “Muslim world”? And when and why did Bengali women come to be identified as Muslim women? Shehabuddin's new book project, provisionally titled From Third World to Muslim, traces the history of women’s activism in what is today Bangladesh from 1947 to the present. Shehabuddin argues in this book that over the course of these six decades of dramatic changes in national, regional, and global politics, the women of East Bengal (renamed East Pakistan in 1955 and Bangladesh in 1971) were transformed, and transformed themselves, from Third World women to Muslim women. The book shifts the focus away from impoverished Bengali women and non-governmental organizations such as BRAC and 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Grameen Bank who are typically the objects of development studies as well as much scholarship on Bangladesh and toward the work of three generations of women’s rights and feminist activists in East Bengal. From Third World to Muslim comprises four substantive chapters, each of which is centered on the main idea that dominated successive, overlapping stages of international engagements with women—and with women activists— in East Bengal: Modernization, Feminism, Islam, and Neoliberalism.

2017-18 


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
The Travelog of Antonio de Beatis, 1517-1518

Kyle studies the relationship between Gothic architecture and the social, spatial, and ritual topography of towns and cities in late medieval France. He is examining the travelog of Don Antonio de Beatis, a chaplain and scribe who accompanied Cardinal Luigi of Aragon on a grand tour of western Europe (1517-1518). By plotting the sequence of towns and specific monuments as encountered by de Beatis, Kyle aims to create a comparative, critical framework that relates the chaplain's descriptive accounts of châteaux, monasteries, cathedrals, churches, castles, towns, and cities to his movement across space over time. Perhaps then we can begin to understand why de Beatis dismissed Notre-Dame de Paris as "not very beautiful," while others, like the cathedral of Nantes, were praised for their "very fine" impressions. Indeed, mapping de Beatis' range of responses reveals that he had a high degree of visual literacy for a time that featured myriad architectural styles across many cultures.


 

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
Forging a History: The Inventions of the Historia Augusta

Kathryn studies the intersection of historiography, social history, and material culture in the Later Roman Empire, and her research examines Roman Imperial historiography of the third-fifth centuries CE. She is also interested in the social mechanisms that facilitate the composition and circulation of texts in Late Antiquity. At Rice, she is working on several book and article-length projects examining issues of forgery, censorship, and political disillusionment during the political upheaval of the Late Roman Empire. Her book project, Forging a History: The Inventions of the Historia Augusta, reconsiders the authorship, audience, and perceived historical value of the late fourth-century series of imperial biographies known as the Historia Augusta, which has long been labeled an unreliable “forgery” due to its falsified authorship and fabricated sources. By reconsidering the text’s literary milieu and circulation in fourth-century CE Rome, she argues that the work’s inventions were not meant to deceive but instead satirize the scholarly habits of the author’s reading community and intervene in contemporary political discourses about imperial legitimacy. Through her research, she reframes the Historia Augusta as an important window into the political disaffection of late Imperial intellectual communities. She is also currently developing two article projects on forgery and political tensions within the imperial courts of the third and fourth centuries CE. One explores passages from Ammianus in which forged documents are the foundation of a treason case that ultimately results in several rebellions against the court of Constantius II, and her second article project examines concerns about government overreach and imperial surveillance in historical writers of the third and fourth centuries CE.


 

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.


 

2016-17


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
Digital Footsteps 

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.


 

2015-16


Rice Seminar Fellows

Ted Geier
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.

Ryan White
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

Alex Tarr
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

Rex Troumbley
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.