Each year a specific yet broad area of research is pursued by the Center. UWM faculty, and faculty from other UW-System schools and beyond, are selected to participate as Fellows. Lectures, seminars, conferences, and colloquia are coordinated around the year's research theme. The focus of our research in 2013-2014 is "Changing Climates."
For the 2013-14 academic year, UWM Fellows are joined by post-doctoral Provost Fellow Dehlia Hannah (PhD, Philosophy, Columbia) and UW System Fellow Michael Oldani (Sociology, UW-Whitewater). Previous Provost Fellows, Charlotte Frost and Rebekah Sheldon, are still maintaining their ties with the Center as Affiliated Scholars.
The Center also hosts faculty from other countries who come to us with Fulbright or ACLS Fellowships, or support from their own institutions. Typically, the Center provides these International Fellows of the Center, as they are designated, with an office in the Center along with the other Center Fellows and as much research assistance, including library privileges, as possible.
The 2013-14 Fellows
“Crossing the ‘Black Earth’: A Biography of a West African Road”
Marcus Filippello’s project is a social and environmental history of a road that connects the towns of Pobé and Ketu in southeastern Benin, West Africa. The road carves through a fertile valley that serves as the social and political center of the Ohori, a subgroup of the Yorùbá, who, over four centuries, never conceived of themselves as colonized, whether by African empires or Western Europe. He is particularly interested in how the Ohori engage in placemaking and how their perceptions of environmental change are manifested in their communal narratives about the road.
“Decomposition, Enduration: Time, Materiality, and Mutability in Contemporary Film Art”
Using climate change as a lens, and drawing upon its interrogations of macro- and micro-temporal scales, Elena Gorfinkel’s book project assesses recent developments in notions of duration and materiality in global art cinema. She looks specifically at a set of diverse, yet conceptually linked, contemporary art film practices: a resistant, wending “slowness” and durational sensibility; the migration of cinematic duration to alternative viewing environments, such as the art gallery; and the claim on the material, frangible base of film’s outmoded apparatus. Unlike post-war art cinema’s construction of “dead time” (such as in the films of Antonioni and Resnais), contemporary slow and materialist film practices present a “decomposing” model of temporality—which include strategies of dis- and re-assemblage, different registers of cinematic scale, and the exposure of material structures.
(PhD, Philosophy, Columbia University)
“Performative Experiments” and “Critical Climate Aesthetics”
Provost Fellow Dehlia Hannah is working on two projects. She is finishing her book, “Performative Experiments: Modeling Scientific Inquiry through Artistic Practice,” which demonstrates that artworks transform material and epistemological practices derived from the sciences into formal devices for directing perceptual attention and imaginative reflection. The book’s final chapter examines the aesthetic and epistemological implications of a collection of contemporary artworks that take the form of alternative climate models, immersive weather systems, and speculative simulations of climatic futures. She is also editing a multi-author volume of essays on “Critical Climate Aesthetics.”
“Climate of Adversity: Weathering Austerity in the Mediterranean”
Tracey Heatherington, this year’s Master’s of Liberal Studies (MLS) Fellow, is investigating how perceptions of environmental risk in the Mediterranean are deeply entangled with, and accentuated by, understandings of socioeconomic crisis and fears of corrupting invasions of economic and environmental migrants. In fact, the specter of degrading ecosystems and invading climate refugees is now so overwhelming that these overlay older visions of the Mediterranean as a grand seascape of cultural encounter, trade, florescence, corruption, miscegenation, and all-around high adventure.
“Vital Dependencies: Bio-Art, Architecture, and the Forming of Life”
Jennifer Johung’s book project brings together a range of contemporary art and architectural experiments in synthetic fabrication, tissue engineering, and stem cell research—such as Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr’s Tissue Culture and Art Project, Semi-Living Worry Dolls—to pose a core question at stake in such art-science partnerships today: As we consider the forming of life in terms of encounters and exchanges, then how can we critically care for the indeterminacies and contingencies of this kind of life? As we begin to create different types of living bio-forms, from protocell and breeding architectures to kinetic hylozoic soil, we need to attend to the dependencies that exist, the mutualities that may be compromised, and the co-relations that are recalibrated between the human and the nonhuman, the organic and inorganic, the regenerative and the synthetic.
(Center for Water Policy)
“Climate Change and Freshwater Resources”
Jenny Kehl’s book project attends to the ethics of environmental discrimination and access to safe water. The book looks first to identify “climate-vulnerable economic communities”: those most economically dependent on freshwater, most vulnerable to the effects of climate change on water, and most discriminated against in the distribution of water during scarcity. The book then goes on to develop strategies to promote better ethical considerations of climate-vulnerable economic communities, to decrease environmental discrimination, and to improve stewardship of vital water sources.
“Dead Pledges: Debt, Crisis, and 21st Century Culture”
Annie McClanahan’s book-in-process argues that the expansion and collapse of the twenty-first century credit economy has fundamentally transformed the role of debt in contemporary culture. She reads across a wide range of media—the novel, film, photography, conceptual art, economic discourse, journalism, and the manifesto—to account for the ways we attempt to understand our complex financial system; the discourses that emerge to describe, contain, and critique the system; and the new social relations that are created by it. The book’s title borrows from the French etymology for the word mortgage, or dead pledge. With this title, she suggests that credit’s social promises are a form of violence, and that debt’s imaginary is a particularly nightmarish fiction.
“Deep Pharma: Anthropology as Pharmaceutical Detox”
Michael Oldani, this year's UW System Fellow, has two projects that look at the effects of pharmaceuticals, not just within one living body, but across swaths of biological, cultural, social, and metaphysical realms. His first project confronts the pharmaceuticalization of environments and species, looking specifically at bonobo chimpanzee psychopharmacology. His second project is the completion of his book, “Tales from the Script,” the last chapter of which considers the ubiquity of prescription drugs in circulation today and argues that medical anthropology is in the unique position to perform a strategic intervention on, or a pharmaceutical detox for, an overmedicated culture.
“Fishy Smells with a Hint of Mustard: ‘Immigrant Microclimates’ and Atmospheres of Place”
Biologists argue that the climate in which plants and animals live (a microclimate) is qualitatively different than the larger scale climate measured by a meteorologist or climatologist, and that these microclimates travel with moving bodies. Arijit Sen’s book project will attend to the “microclimates” of immigrant food cultures, demonstrating the way migratory peoples travel with these microclimates or places, and don’t merely recreate them in static locations. He looks specifically at the microclimates produced by human interactions with three food types—spices, processed desserts, fish—that circulate with South Asian immigrant worlds, with much of his attention focused along Chicago’s Devon Street—a site of many South Asian restaurants and grocery stores—and the global networks and processes within which these spaces operate.
For fellows from previous years, see the list of Center Fellows Since 1974.