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2015-2016 CHAT Lectures

Digital Humanities in Practice

The external lecture series for the year highlights the new work being produced by applying computational methods of analysis to humanistic materials. Fee and open to the public. Time and place varies.

Humanities in Global Context Lecture Series

All talks feature distinguished scholars visiting from outside the Temple community. They will take place on designated Wednesdays, 4:00 to 5:30 pm, Chat Lounge, 10th Floor, Gladfelter Hall.

Past Talks

Distinguished Faculty Lectures Series

Speaker portraitJennifer Lee, Law

U.S. Workers Need Not Apply:
Guest Worker Programs Transform Cultural Myth into Reality

Thursday, September 17
12:30–1:50 pm, CHAT Lounge

Each year, employers bring hundreds of thousands of guest workers to the United States for unskilled jobs because no U.S. workers are available for these jobs. This presentation focuses on the ways in which these programs have embraced various cultural mythologies about employers reacting to the societal trends of idle U.S. workers and industrious immigrants. In reality, these programs force U.S. workers out by maintaining a declining set of labor standards. A more honest examination of these government programs, which essentially outsource degraded jobs on American soil, can provide insight for the politicized debate concerning immigrant labor and migration policy.

Jennifer Lee is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Law at Temple University. She directs the Sheller Center for Social Justice where she works with students to represent low-wage workers and collaborate with community based organizations on worker and immigrant rights issues. Lee's research focuses on the rights of immigrant workers.

Humanities in Global Context Lecture Series

Speaker portraitPadma Kaimal, Art and Art History Colgate University

Scattered Goddesses: Travels with the Yoginis

Wednesday, September 23
4:00-5:30 pm, CHAT Lounge

Collecting and scattering can be the same activity experienced from different points of view. They were for 19 sculptures that endured from a tenth-century goddess temple in South India to pass through the hands of the archaeologist Gabriel Jouveau-Dubreuil in 1926, into the hands of the art dealer C. T. Loo in Paris, and on to museums and mansions across the West, becoming more thoroughly separated from their companions over the course of the 20th century. Padma Kaimal traces these journeys in her book, Scattered Goddesses: Travels with the Yoginis (Ann Arbor: Association of Asian Studies, 2013), exploring the generosity, theft, idealism, and desire that powered the flight of these goddesses around the globe

Since 1988, Padma Kaimal has taught courses on the history of Asian art at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. Her research questions common assumptions about art from India, and the Tamil region in particular.  Her essays have appeared in Third Text, Source, The Art Bulletin, the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Artibus Asiae, Archives of Asian Art, and Ars Orientalis. Fellowships from the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the J. Paul Getty Foundation, the American Institute for Indian Studies, and the American Association of University Women, and the Center for South Asian Studies at U. C. Berkeley have supported her research.

Speaker portraitAndrew Isenberg,

An Empire of Remedy:
 Medicine and Manifest Destiny
in the Era of Indian Removal

Thursday, October 1
12:30–1:50 pm, CHAT Lounge

Between 1832 and 1841, United States government physicians administered the smallpox vaccine to approximately 50,000 American Indians.  Incongruously, the delivery of life-saving medicine occurred while the federal government was engaged in removing Native Americans from their lands in the eastern United States to territories in the West.  The vaccination program can be understood only by taking account of the weaknesses of the U.S. on its 1830s frontier.  The US maintained a weak presence in the West, where it was forced to accommodate to autonomous native groups and imperial competitors.  Americans articulated their trepidations and explained their support for vaccinating Indians in stories they told of encountering smallpox on the frontier.  Narrative provided a structure that allowed Americans to give voice to their fears and at the same time contain them. Through narratives of vaccination, Americans hoped to convince themselves, in the midst of Indian removal and their encroachments into Mexican territory, of the safety, certainty, and benignity of United States expansion.

Andrew Isenberg is an environmental historian and a specialist in the encounter between natives and settlers in North America.  He is the author of three books:  The Destruction of the Bison:  An Environmental History, 1750-1920 (2000); Mining California:  An Ecological History (2005); and Wyatt Earp:  A Vigilante Life (2013), which was a finalist for the Weber-Clements Prize in Southwestern History.  He is the editor of two volumes:  The Nature of Cities:  Culture, Landscape, and Urban Space (2006); and The Oxford Handbook of Environmental History (2014).  This talk is drawn from his current project, which challenges the notion of American Manifest Destiny in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Distinguished Faculty Lectures Series

Speaker portraitMarcia Hall, Art History

Coloring Paintings from the Renaissance to Matisse

Thursday, October 15
12:30–1:50 pm, CHAT Lounge

Color in paintings across the centuries of Western art is widely diversified, yet the pigments have changed very little, until the revolutionary inventions of the Industrial Revolution. What accounts for this diversity? This lecture will sketch some of the changes in the way painters have used their materials, from underpaint to layering to visible brushstroke; from employing tiny brushes to broad square ones; from egg tempera to oil, and connect those changes to accompanying changes in markets, patronage and taste, and ultimately to meaning.

Marcia Hall is Carnell Professor of Renaissance art at Temple in the Art History department. She has authored Renovation and Counter-Reformation (1979); After Raphael (1999) Michelangelo: The Frescoes of the Sistine Chapel (2003); The Sacred Image (2011). Her present book is an expansive of the chronological range and further development of the methodology of using Technical Art History (scientific examination in the conservation laboratory) to understand painters' techniques, of her earlier book, Color and Meaning. Practice and Theory in Renaissance Painting (1992). The working title of this project, from which this talk is drawn, is Color. Materials. Making. Marketing. Meanings: From the Renaissance to Les Fauves.

Humanities in Global Context Lecture Series

Speaker portraitJohn R. McNeill, History, Georgetown University

The Imperfect Logic of the Anthropocene

Wednesday, October 21
4:00-5:30 pm, CHAT Lounge

In this talk, J.R. McNeill introduces (or for some, reviews) the concept of the Anthropocene and some of the debates surrounding it. Does it exist? Should it exist? If it does exist, when did it begin? On what basis should we decide if it exists or not? Scholars and scientists of all persuasions are debating these and related questions in publications and within the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG). The AWG is composed mainly of geologists but includes two humanists. In 2016 it will make a recommendation to the International Union of the Geophysical Sciences, which in due course will vote as to whether or not to accept the Anthropocene as a new epoch in the Geological Time Scale. McNeill argues for a young Anthropocene, begun in 1945.

J.R. McNeill is Professor of History and University Professor at Georgetown University, author of 5 and editor or co-editor of 13 books. He is a member of the Anthropocene Working Group.

Distinguished Faculty Lectures Series

Speaker portraitPatricia Melzer
French, German, Italian and Slavic

"'Women of Peace' We Are Not": Militant Feminists in the West German Autonomen and the Women's Movement

Thursday, October 29
12:30–1:50 pm, CHAT Lounge

This talk is part of a larger research project examining the implications of women's political violence on feminist theory and activism. In the 1980s, the leftist scene of the Autonomen was highly visible in West Germany, in particular because of their militancy that was a central part of their activism. Meanwhile, the Women's Movement had forged relationships to the Peace Movement and overall denounced political violence and militancy. This talk discusses the politics of Frauen gegen Imperialistischen Krieg, a small group of militant feminists in Hamburg whose activism connected the politics of the Autonomen to those of the Women's Movement. Militant feminists are rarely discussed in scholarship on German political movements—I argue that they in fact constituted an important entity in West German political activism.

Patricia Melzer is Assistant Professor in German and Women's Studies. Her research and teaching interests are in women and radical social movements, militant feminisms, and queer and feminist cultural studies. She is author of Death in the Shape of a Young Girl: Women's Political Violence in the Red Army Faction (NYU 2015) and Alien Constructions: Science Fiction and Feminist Thought (U of Texas, 2006).

Distinguished Faculty Lectures Series

Speaker portraitLaura Levitt, Religion

Evidence as Archive

Thursday, November 12
12:30–1:50 pm, CHAT Lounge

This talk begins by addressing the ways in which material objects function as evidence of violent crimes and how such artifacts are stored, where are they held and for how long. Culled from Levitt's larger book project, this talk raises some critical questions about the relationship of such evidence to enactments of justice. What can material artifacts prove? Through a series of examples, a medieval textile archive that imaginatively holds the evidence of Jewish martyrdom, and two more contemporary examples, the talk will explore the nexus among and between notions of memory, materiality and justice. This presentation builds on Levitt's prior work in Holocaust studies and her affiliation with the International Association for Property and Evidence (IAPE ), the professional organization of police property managers whose job it is to hold the material evidence of major crimes. For more about the larger project, click here.

Laura S. Levitt is Professor of Religion, Jewish Studies and Gender at Temple University. Her current project builds on her prior work in feminist theory and Holocaust studies to consider the relationship between material objects held in police storage and artifacts housed in Holocaust collections. It focuses on the role of objects in doing justice to these legacies of violence, trauma, and loss writ large and small.

Humanities in Global Context Lecture Series

Speaker portraitChi-ming Yang, English

Asian Art in the World of Atlantic Slavery

Wednesday, November 18
4:00-5:30 pm, CHAT Lounge

By the mid-1600s, the demand for Chinese and Japanese luxury goods was shaping Western tastes across the Atlantic world, and the drive to replicate these commodities spurred numerous innovations in the arts and sciences, in particular, techniques for coloring and coating surfaces. The marvelous, glossy veneers of China trade porcelain and lacquer also provided new media for portraying indigenous peoples of the Americas. Fantastical chinoiserie designs often juxtaposed ethnographic details from travel accounts ranging from Florida to Brazil, rendering consumable the very idea of the global and aestheticizing the violence endemic to long-distance trade. By tracking the circulation of images of native peoples, plants, and animals between and across different media, we can better understand how an eighteenth-century aesthetics of race relied upon new technologies of representing and understanding a globalized world.

Chi-ming Yang is Associate Professor of English at University of Pennsylvania. She specializes in the literary and visual culture of race and empire, with a focus on East-West cultural exchanges stretching from the early modern period to the 18th century, and up to the contemporary moment. Her book, Performing China: Virtue, Commerce, and Orientalism in Eighteenth-century England, 1660-1760 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011), is a study of early modern Orientalism. This talk draws from her new work on race, chinoiserie, transatlantic slavery, and the cultural impact of global flows of silver between Latin America and East Asia.

Distinguished Faculty Lectures Series

Speaker PortraitSanjoy Chakravorty, GUS

Categorical Sins: Invention, Ignorance, and the Truth in India

Thursday, January 28
12:30–1:50 pm, CHAT Lounge

The most fundamental "truths" about India and Indians are either "invented" or "unknown".  I show that: (a) Indian social identities have been invented or constructed using "categories of convenience" over the last 150 years; and (b) some of the most basic economic facts about India—especially about wealth, income, and inequality—are unknown.  I frame these findings within a theory on the causes and consequences of invention and willful ignorance. 

Sanjoy Chakravorty is Professor of Geography and Urban Studies, Temple University.  His recent work has focused on issues of land (The Price of Land, 2013), immigration (The Other One Percent, 2016), and epistemology (The Truth About Us, 2016).  His first novel (The Promoter, 2015) is set in contemporary Calcutta.

Humanities in Global Context Lecture Series

Speaker portraitFaye Ginsburg, Anthropology, New York University

The Indigenous Uncanny: Accounting for Ghosts in Recent Indigenous Experimental Media

Wednesday, February 3
4:00-5:30 pm, CHAT Lounge

Faye Ginsburg is an American anthropologist and David B. Kriser Professor of Anthropology at New York University She founded the Center for Media, Culture and History at NYU. This talk focuses on what I am calling the Indigenous uncanny, as a way to understand some recent "hyperreal" works by two well-known Australian Indigenous artists: experimental photographer and videographer Tracey Moffatt and her latest work, Spirit Landscapes and filmmaker/artist/musician Warwick Thornton and his recent feature-length experimental documentary called The Darkside constructed from 13 discrete Indigenous ghost stories, based on recorded firsthand accounts of encounters with Aboriginal spirits, from storytellers across Australia, Indigenous and otherwise, selected from over the many who responded to a call for such stories. These works invoke and establish a comfort with the blurred boundaries between this world and "the other side".

Distinguished Faculty Lectures Series

Speaker portraitBrooke Erin Duffy, Advertising

The Politics of "Passion Projects": Gender and Aspirational Labor in the Social Media Age

Thursday, February 11
12:30–1:50 pm, CHAT Lounge

Against the backdrop of profound transformations in the technologies and politics of creative work, legions of young women are flocking to social media platforms in hopes of capitalizing on their "passion projects." I argue that the activities of this new class of enterprising subjects can be understood within the framework of aspirational labor. Aspirational laborers pursue productive activities that hold the promise of social and economic capital; yet the reward system for these aspirants is highly uneven. Indeed, while a select few may realize their professional goals, this labor ideology obscures problematic constructions of gender, race, and class.   

Brooke Erin Duffy, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in Temple's Department of Advertising and a member of the Media & Communication doctoral program. Her research interests include creative industries and digital labor; feminist media studies; and advertising and consumer culture. She is currently working on her second book, Aspirational Labor: Women and Creative Work in an Age of Social Media.

Distinguished Faculty Lectures Series

Speaker portraitSean Yom, Political Science

Vaccinating Against Revolution:
Arab Monarchism in an Era of Democratization

Thursday, February 25
12:30–1:50 pm, CHAT Lounge

The Arab Spring of 2011-12 operated through diffusion, as waves of popular mobilization against authoritarianism rapidly spread across borders through social media and cognitive emulation.  Whereas republican dictatorships like Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya were buffeted by revolutionary turmoil, most of the region's eight ruling monarchies remained stable.  Why?  This talk presents ongoing research from a larger project on monarchism in the Middle East, and reveals strategies of "diffusion-proofing" undertaken by royal autocracies as disparate as Morocco, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.  These regimes engaged in institutional and rhetorical strategies to deter citizens from emulating opposition protests witnessed elsewhere, including not just innovative forms of coercion but also media manipulation, discursive shifts, and identity construction.  In this way, they immunized their societies from catching the contagion of protest.

Sean Yom is a CHAT Faculty Fellow for 2015-16.

Humanities in Global Context Lecture Series

Speaker portraitPeter A. Coclanis, History, Global Research Institute, UNC Chapel Hill

A World of Difference: Local Knowledge, Asymmetric Information, and Intellectual Arbitrage in the Humanities Today

Wednesday, March 9
4:00-5:30 pm, CHAT Lounge

In the lecture I shall make the case that globalization provides rich opportunities to enhance the production and dissemination of humanities research by increasing contact between and among scholars steeped in different intellectual cultures and traditions. By skillfully leveraging the possibilities opened up by such contact, scholars can deepen and richen work in almost any area of the humanities. I shall use some of my own work in the field of economic history, and experiences in Asia, to substantiate the argument mounted.

CHAT Graduate Fellows Conference

Yom picBrian Daniels, University of Pennsylvania
Scott Knowles, Drexel Unversity
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Princeton University

Encountering Crisis: Working Across the Humanities

Thursday, March 10
4:00-5:30 pm, CHAT Lounge

This year's CHAT symposium hosted by the Graduate Fellows brings together an interdisciplinary panel of scholars to discuss different kinds of crises facing the world today, ranging from education and environmental disasters, to race relations and the destruction of cultural heritage sites. What do we risk by having such systems in a state of crisis, or, even worse, in a state of ruin? By working across the humanities, the aim is to forge new questions and dialogues within the larger discourse of crisis as a theme in need of attention.

Distinguished Faculty Lectures Series

Speaker portraitPeter Lavelle, History

Making the Empire Profitable: Natural Resources in Nineteenth-Century Qing China

Thursday, March 17
12:30–1:50 pm, CHAT Lounge

As China was forced into a new relationship with the global economy in the nineteenth century, the ruling Qing dynasty gradually changed the way it governed its imperial territories. These simultaneous transitions prompted a wide array of people to take greater interest in the exploitation of land, water, minerals, and other natural resources in the empire's borderlands. This talk addresses the relationship between Qing imperialism, natural resources, and the global economy by examining the ideas, technologies, and policies which Qing officials employed to take advantage of these natural resources.

Peter Lavelle is a CHAT Faculty Fellow for 2015-16.

Distinguished Faculty Lectures Series

Speaker portraitColin Chamberlain, Philosophy

Body Issues in Early Modern French Thought

Thursday, March 31
12:30–1:50 pm, CHAT Lounge

During the early modern period in France, the body's relation to the self came to seem especially puzzling. The rise of the new mechanistic science of physical nature suggested a picture of the human body as a complex machine. Flesh became clockwork. The mechanical conception of physical nature threatened to transform the body into a mere thing: an external object of observation and manipulation. But as many thinkers recognized at the time, the body is not a mere thing. The body is both subject and object, both self and thing. Colin Chamberlain's project Body Issues in Early Modern French Thought examines the way early modern French thinkers try to reconcile the body's subjective dimensions with the new mechanistic understanding of the physical world, focusing especially on the philosophical, theological, and scientific works of René Descartes and his follower Nicholas Malebranche.

Colin Chamberlain is a CHAT Faculty Fellow for 2015-16.

Humanities in Global Context Lecture Series

Speaker portraitAnna Arabindan Kesson, Art and Archaeology, Center for African American Studies, Princeton University

The Currency of Cotton: Art, Materiality and Memory

Wednesday, April 6
4:00-5:30 pm, CHAT Lounge

This talk will explore the visual and material implications of the global dimensions of the nineteenth century cotton trade. As historians uncover the ways the trade in cotton connected people and places throughout the nineteenth century, this paper considers how these connections were mediated, materialised and visualized by cotton, and its representation, in the nineteenth century. Focusing in particular on cotton's intimate connection to slavery, and the effects of this relationship on experiences and practices of labor and consumption across the Indian and Atlantic ocean, this paper will also juxtapose these historical narratives alongside contemporary art practices to show how cotton, like a connective tissue, is still used to materialize, problematize and re-imagine histories of empire, and definitions of a global imaginary.

Distinguished Faculty Lectures Series

Speaker portraitJames Earl Davis, Psychological, Organizational, & Policy Studies

Black Male Youth: Intersectionality and the "Schooling" of Possibility and Peril

Thursday, April 14
12:30-1:45 pm, CHAT Lounge

James Earl Davis is a professor of higher educational leadership at Temple where he holds the Bernard C. Watson Endowed Chair in Urban Education.His research focuses on gender-based educational policy; race, class, gender and cultural issues in schooling; and the social stratification of higher education. He has investigated social contexts of learning and development, including diverse education settings with a concern for factors related to student engagement and achievement of Black boys and young men.  His work has appeared in Gender & Society, Urban Education, Youth and Society, American Journal of Evaluation, Review of Research in Education, Evaluation Review, and Educational Researcher. A former National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Fellow, Professor Davis has been on the faculty at the University of Delaware and Cornell University. He has also served as a Visiting Scholar in the Institute for Research of Women and Gender at the University of Michigan and in the Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Education, Spencer Foundation, and the William Penn Foundation.

Center for the Humanities
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