Center for Humanities & the Arts Faculty Fellows 2023-24

Patrick Greaney, Germanic & Slavic Languages & Literatures
My project examines the central role played by the consumer products company Braun in mid-twentieth-century West German culture. Braun has long been considered by historians to be West Germany’s exemplary design-oriented company, and the firm’s canonical style is often credited as an inspiration by contemporary designers. Drawing on extensive archival research, my project is the first critical history of Braun that shows how the company presented itself as a lifestyle brand for a postfascist culture and responded to 1950s conceptions of race, gender, and sexuality. By fully situating Braun in postwar culture, my project transforms the history of a global brand and design style and deepens the understanding of the tensions between past and present that shaped West Germany’s first decades.

David Glimp, English Digital Humanities and Arts Faculty Fellow
Drama, Romance and Political Life in the English Renaissance: A Computational Approach: 
This project utilizes computational methods for text analysis to augment our understanding of the politics of Renaissance English literature.  Focusing on two important forms of literary production—drama and proto-novelistic romances—this study examines the usefulness of computational approaches for deepening our knowledge about the complex interplay between political controversy and artistic practice in sixteenth and seventeenth-century England.  The proposed study will strive to understand: 1) when and how distinct political vocabularies and concepts develop in the available corpora; 2) which kinds of political ideas are most prevalent on stage and in romance; 3) differences between the political dimensions of romance and drama; and 4) to what extent literary works lead, lag, or parallel the development of political discourses.  Drawing on new methods for textual inquiry this research aims to augment our understanding of how political discourse—ideas about the nature and scope of sovereign authority, about the nature and responsibility of government, and about identity and community—transform across the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and interact with Renaissance English literature. 

Zachary Herz, Classics
The God and the Bureaucrat: A Story of Roman Law considers how the Roman Empire, an autocratic state ruled by leaders of variable competence and governed according to aristocratic etiquette, could generate the documents we now understand as foundational to liberal legal order. In the third century C.E., jurists (legal philosophers) like Ulpian wrote elaborate treatises on the application of abstract legal doctrine, even as most Roman adjudicators lacked the training to understand the texts written for their ostensible benefit. Men like Ulpian—who briefly served as a regent for the child-ruler Severus Alexander before dying in a military coup—and his mentor Papinian, who was put to death in 212 for refusing to endorse imperial fratricide, wrote guides to a law that did not actually exist. The God and the Bureaucrat argues that these texts are properly understood as an archive of political imagination: of smart men, in perilous circumstances, dreaming of a world that was fairer than their own. These men drafted off of a longstanding tendency in Roman discourse that equated law with archaism, formality, and impersonality; from the speeches of Cicero to the poetry of Horace, Romans viewed law as a set of values as much as statutes. This fantastical jurisprudence would combine with the autocratic legalism emerging from the imperial court into a new kind of law that was abstract and suprapolitical, but nevertheless socially powerful: in other words, into the normative order we now understand as “positive law” and treat as Rome’s greatest legacy. My research roots this legal transformation in the literary movements and political chaos of Imperial Rome; by showing the fantastical origins of the documents we now know as Roman Law, The God and the Bureaucrat sheds new light on how Rome—and law—organize our own fantasies.

Marina Kassianidou, Art and Art History
A Partial History of Touch: Volume I is a mixed-media installation that explores the relational character of mark-making as well as the multidimensional characters of language,
embodiment, and knowledge. The installation revolves around a collection of 19th and early 20th-century Greek schoolbooks that belonged to my grandparents and great-grandparents. I trace marks of use and time found on the pages of these books, such as folds, creases, tears, stains, discolorations, and worm holes, and recreate them as artist’s books and large-scale sculptural drawings. The recreated books and drawings act as records of the history of handling of each original book. The “unreadable” marks that these records hold—marks that may be more readable to a non-Greek audience than the Greek characters in the original books—enable an embodied and potentially shared mode of knowing, one that depends on touching, feeling, and handling objects as we move through the world.

Ashleigh Lawrence-Sanders, History
They Knew what the War Was About is a history of Black Civil War memory from the years of the war to the near-present.  While most studies of Civil War memory focus on the Lost Cause or white Southerners or Northerners, there has been less said about the importance of the war for Black history, culture and activism in the 150 years since the War's end.  The book highlights the ways African Americans responded to and challenged the Lost Cause’s attempt to rewrite the history of the war. African American criticisms of the Lost Cause--the movement by white Southerners to deny the true cause of the war and to enshrine mythologies around the South’s defeat--reveal the tensions between competing visions of both the past and present throughout the nation. More importantly, however, this book highlights Black self-emancipation in the Civil War as a prevailing narrative amidst these struggles over the historical memory of the Civil War--especially as an important element for various ideological and activist movements within African American communities.  

A. Marie Ranjbar, Women & Gender Studies
From Persian Empire to Pariah State: Environmental Injustice, Racialization, and Coloniality in Iran aims to untether understandings of empire and colonialism from the West, demonstrating how environmental injustice in Iranian Azerbaijan functions as a form of coloniality that is under-theorized in decolonial and postcolonial scholarship. Bridging historical analysis of Iran’s imperial pasts with ethnographic work on contemporary social movements, this book project examines how the desiccation of Lake Orumiyeh disproportionately impacts ethnic minority communities and reproduces relations of coloniality. Using the example of Lake Orumiyeh as an entry point into the history of imperialism in Iranian Azerbaijan, I analyze how conflicts over this region during the 18th and 19th century by the British, Persian, Russian, and Turkish empires shape current struggles over land, environmental resources, and minority rights in Iranian Azerbaijan. While anticolonial scholars have established how Iran has been deeply impacted by Euro-American imperialism, I posit that Iran’s encounters with non-Western empires have created different forms of coloniality not adequately accounted for in Anglophone theory that are critical for understanding environmental violence. The book demonstrates how the racialization of ethnic minorities in Iranian Azerbaijan reflects forms of coloniality that both replicate European racial logics and the current embodiments of non-Western empires (i.e., Russia, Turkey), thereby broadening current debates on imperialism, ontology, and the environment.

Annika Socolofsky, College of Music
Sentinel, Socolofsky's debut full-length opera, intimately captures the internal struggles of an agoraphobic woman battling against the realities of her own trauma and attempting to escape her pain through the construction of her own virtual reality. Created by Danielle Birritella, Sentinel’s creative team consists of librettist Claressinka Anderson, projection designer Hana Soonyeon Kim, and music director Marc Lowenstein. Sentinel is first and foremost about the journey of healing—a rare objective in a medium historically obsessed with the themes of trauma, pain, and sexual violence. This project builds upon Socolofsky's past work with themes of physical and emotional trauma, rage, and neurodivergence as it relates to queerness in her most notable vocal works Don’t say a word and I Tell You Me. A workshop of the initial compositional material is slated for Fall of 2023 at Montclair State University, presented and funded by PEAK Performances.

Nishant Upadhyay, Ethnic Studies
Indians on Indian Lands studies dominant caste Indian diasporic formation within the Canadian settler state. Specifically, it theorizes Indian immigrant labor in resource extraction industries, logging and canneries in unceded lands of British Columbia in the 1960s-90s and the tar sands in Treaty 6 lands of Alberta presently. The book examines these sites as simultaneous spaces of Indigenous dispossession, spaces of racialized-classed-gendered-casted labor formations, and spaces that are further fueling the climate crises. Weaving theory, interviews and conversations, ethnography, cultural and literary analysis, archival research, analysis of recent events, and secondary literature, the book forms the archive of Indigenous and Indian spatial and affective intimacies that exist within and across the afterlives of imperialism. This multi-sited, multi-method, interdisciplinary approach traces the interwoven and simultaneous relationalities, intimacies, and complicities of dominant caste Indian diasporic communities. Indians on Indian Lands adds to the growing scholarship on Indigenous and Asian relationalities within Canadian and U.S. settler states and offers first of its kind multi-sited exploration of contemporary Indigenous-Indian intimacies using mixed-methods interdisciplinary approaches. Overall, the book is an exploration of what it means for brahmin and dominant caste Indians to be on Turtle Island, and what it means to engage in decolonial ways of knowledge production, ethical relationalities, and solidarity praxis.

Tim Weston, History
My book project, Dying to Speak: The Perilous Life of the Journalist in Modern China, is about freedom of speech in twentieth-century China. It revolves around the careers of four celebrity journalists from the early part of the century, all of whom were brutally killed because their newspaper work threatened the interests of powerful political figures. In addition to examining the four men’s colorful careers, I analyze the process by which, after their deaths, they were transformed into martyrs, idealized representations of the crusading, justice-seeking journalist prepared to speak truth to power. Finally, I assess the ways, over the last forty years, the four men have been remembered in the People’s Republic of China, where journalists are forced to tow the Communist Party line and, along with all Chinese citizens, are denied freedom of speech, despite its being guaranteed in the Chinese constitution. 

Terri S WilsonSchool of Education
Schools of choice often focus on the needs, interests, and identities of particular communities. These schools raise philosophical questions about justice and recognition. What kinds of identity should be recognized by the state, and how might such identities be supported through public education? My project, How Different Should Schools Be? Justice, Recognition and Choice in Education, explores debates about the purposes and limits of school choice. Drawing on original research in three distinctive schools, my project leverages concrete cases of school choices to build novel, textured arguments about the justifiable limits of choice. I argue that claims of recognition must be considered alongside the broader structural forces that shape identity differently for different students. Certain non-dominant communities do have powerful reasons to establish schools that support their cultural and linguistic identities, but such claims do not apply to more privileged communities that seek to create schools of their own. Identity claims are neither equal nor interchangeable.