2013-14 UC President's Faculty Fellows in the Humanities

Stephanie Leigh Batiste | Veronica Castillo-Munoz | Farah Godrej | Andrea Goldman | Adria Imada | Georg Michels | Flagg Miller | Holley Moyes | Natalia Roudakova | Daniel Stolzenberg | Chenxi Tang

Stephanie Leigh Batiste, English and Black Studies, UC Santa Barbara
Fallings, Resurrections, and the Spaces Between: Black Performance Cultures and Violence in Millennial Los Angeles

Black performance in millennial Los Angeles acts as a provocation to examine affect, memory, trauma, mourning, death, creativity, resilience and grace. Los Angeles has become a field of danger for young people who exist within or along the edges of certain class status, neighborhoods, and social practices of belligerence. Contending that affective inequality constitutes a form of national injustice burdening communities of color in urban areas plagued by violence, this analysis probes the spaces between tragedy and transcendence, love and loss, navigated in black urban performance that theorized space, feeling, violence, and humanity in drama, dance, music, and song.

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Veronica Castillo-Munoz, History, UC Santa Barbara
Transnational Lives and Family Identities in the Mexico-U.S. Borderlands 1870-1952

This project examines the way communities evolved according to the labor needs of American and European mining and land developments in Baja California. Placing Baja California at the center of transpacific and trans-regional migration networks, it seeks to understand economic and cultural interactions among Cucapá Indians, Americans, Europeans, Mexicans, and Asian immigrants between 1870 and 1952. The project also tells the story of men and women’s experiences and struggles with land reform movements in a region dominated by European and U.S. investors, bringing the disciplines of Mexican history, U.S. history, transnational, and borderlands history into close conversation.

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Farah Godrej, Political Science, UC Riverside
The “Materialist” Mahatma: Principle, Practice and Everyday Activity in Gandhi’s Political Thought

Most scholars of M.K. Gandhi’s political thought see him as an idealist who rejects utilitarian or pragmatic forms of strategic action. This project challenges this conventional wisdom, exploring how practical modes of everyday activity stand in relation to the normative foundations of Gandhi’s thought. While commitments to truth are crucial, Gandhi requires that we instantiate such commitments through everyday practical activities. This emphasis on practice will highlight the “materialism” that underlies Gandhi’s thought: his insistence on privileging the corporeal over the ideal, and on prioritizing everyday dimensions of physical activity over the “transcendental” realm of ideas. For Gandhi, the dangerous effects of empire, technology and industry can be challenged by emphasizing the importance of everyday materiality of bodily practices matters for public life, so as to dismantle disciplinary formations that seek to exercise intensive control over the most intimate habits of daily existence.

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Andrea Goldman, History, UCLA
The Frenchman and the Chinese Opera in the Late Qing Empire

This book project adopts an interdisciplinary and transnational perspective to understand a formative moment in the construction of normative sexuality in early twentieth-century China. The window onto this transformation comes through a paired reading of Chen Sen’s novel, Pinhua baojian (1849) against the adaptation of the same story sixty-plus years later by the French interpreter-diplomat George Soulié de Morant (1878-1955). The first work portrays the homoerotic elegance that accompanied the opera demimonde in the Qing capital. The second marks the moment at which the refined culture of male-male commercial sex in China was recast as backward and tawdry. This collapse of the culture of homoerotic elegance was a casualty of foreign aggression in China circa 1900. With attention to the scholarly literature on both gender and colonialism, this work will offer a new transnational perspective on the construction of modern sexuality in China.

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Adria Imada, Ethnic Studies, UC San Diego
Capturing Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease): The Medical Gaze in America’s Tropical Empire

This project investigates scientific photography of leprosy (Hansen’s disease) and its critical role in the medical, sexual, and legal management of U.S. colonial subjects from the late-19th to mid-20th century. Centered on Hawai’i and the Philippines, U.S. colonial possessions that administered leprosy settlements, this work examines how photography medically racialized leprosy patients as non-citizen aliens. This modern medical gaze in turn influenced broader ways of seeing colonial populations as potential pathogens. In its most expansive sense, this work considers how racial difference and disease were mutually constituted through visual culture. The second major objective is to analyze how vernacular photographs taken by exiled leprosarium residents intervened in medicalized discourse.

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Georg Michels, History, UC Riverside
Popular Revolt, Religion, and the Habsburg-Ottoman Border in Seventeenth-Century Hungary

Both a microhistory of a 1672 popular revolt on the Hungarian border between the Habsburg and Ottoman empires, and an exploration of preconditions leading to a major shift in power in Central Europe, this project reassesses the current historical interpretation that Hungarian nobles instigated the revolt to defend constitutional rights against Habsburg absolutism. This interpretation misses the revolt’s most striking features: rebels’ close ties with the Ottomans, their rootedness in popular milieux, and religious opposition to the Counter-Reformation. Based on multi-lingual archival data the project will reconstruct a multi-ethnic (Hungarian-Slav-German) and multi-confessional (Protestant-Orthodox) border society poised to secede from the Habsburg Empire and trigger a war of world historical importance.

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Flagg Miller, Religious Studies, UC Davis
Sounding Out Al-Qa`ida: Islamic Militancy, Asceticism, and the Bin Laden Phenomenon through Osama’s Own Audiotape Collection

Drawing primarily upon evidence from Bin Laden’s former audiotape collection in Kandahar, Afghanistan, this project explores the figuration of al-Qa`ida under Bin Laden’s leadership. It focuses, in particular, on the ways Western intelligence and terrorism experts collaborated with global media networks in managing Bin Ladin’s growing reputation in ways that were exploited by Osama and those who supported his militant vision. By attending to Islamic cultural, legal, theological and linguistic vocabularies that shaped militants’ understandings of al-Qa`ida, the project contests the idea that al-Qa`ida’s primary enemy was, in fact, America and the West. It  shows how militants and their largely Arabic-speaking audiences sought to situate Bin Ladin’s increasing pitch toward attacking the United States, one much amplified by global media agencies, in relation to more familiar struggles at home.

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Holley Moyes, Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts, UC Merced
An Interdisciplinary Approach to Exploring the Human Experience and Conceptualization of Caves

Drawing on 16 years of archaeological research, this project will be the first synthetic study of ancient Maya cave use and will be a significant contribution to studies of ritual and power in prehistory. These caves were used exclusively as ritual venues during the Classic Period and provide a window into the ritual life and ideology of the Maya people. As powerful ritual venues, they were also highly politicized spaces for elites, functioning to legitimize their right to rule. Employing practice theory coupled with a behavioral archaeological approach to analyze research findings, the project focuses on cave architecture and the establishment of performance space to understand the use of these spaces over time and to explore how ritual was used to establish and maintain political hierarchies.

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Natalia Roudakova, Communication, UC San Diego
The Second Oldest Profession: Journalism, Cynicism and Truth-Telling in Post-Soviet Russia

This book-in-progress is both an institutional ethnography of journalism in Russia and a study of broad cultural shifts after the fall of the Soviet Union. The study contends that one of the most important casualties of post-Soviet transformation has been the erosion of truth-seeking as a value; and that journalism and journalists had much to do with it. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the project shows how Soviet journalists–before 1989–often exercised a truth-seeking ethic displayed through seriousness and sincerity that, in complicated ways, spoke truth to power. This moral connection between the press and its public came undone after the fall of the Soviet Union, as press freedom became radically devalued, following a wave of media privatizations and sales of journalistic services to the highest bidder. The book traces how a radical devaluation of press freedom became possible in this atmosphere, and how it articulated with other varieties of state-sponsored cynicism under Putin.

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Daniel Stolzenberg, History, UC Davis
Orientalism in Early Modern Rome

This project is a history of Orientalist scholarship in Rome from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, focusing on the city’s unique constellation of institutions that fostered expertise in Arabic, Hebrew and other Near Eastern languages. By showing how Catholic agendas turned Rome into a hub for the circulation of materials, people, and knowledge between Christian and Islamic societies, it offers new insight on cross-cultural exchange in the early modern Mediterranean and challenges the view of Roman scholarship as stagnant after the Galileo Affair. Relating Rome to parallel developments in other parts of Europe, the project argues for humanist scholarship’s ongoing role as an agent of modernity in the age of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, and challenges received wisdom by arguing that Orientalist scholarship first developed primarily, not as a study of a non-Christian or non-European “Other,” but as an investigation into the roots of Christianity.

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Chenxi Tang, German, UC Berkeley
Imagining World Order: International Law and Literature in Europe, 1500-1900

This book project is an intellectual history as well as a literary history of international order. It reconstructs the main theoretical paradigms of international law, and examines the major literary forms in the European tradition in relation to international law, arguing that the literary imagination played a decisive role in shaping international legal thought and figuring international order. In developing this argument, the project places the history of European literature from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century in an entirely new perspective, reinterpreting the Renaissance epic, baroque political romance, baroque tragedy, the eighteenth-century novel, German romanticism and classicism, and nineteenth-century historiography and grand opera. The book is thus at once a literary history of international law and an international legal history of European literature, creating for the first time a dialogue between literary studies, legal history, and international jurisprudence.

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