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 2012-2013 is "What Should 21st Century Studies Do?"—an extension of, and a more activist position toward, the 2011–12 theme, “What Is 21st Century Studies?”
For the 2012-13 academic year, the Center is joined by post-doctoral Provost Fellow Caitjan Gainty (PhD, History of Science, University of Chicago). Last year's two Provost Fellows, Charlotte Frost and Rebekah Sheldon, are still maintaining their ties with the Center as Affiliated Scholars this year.
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 2012-13 Fellows:
(History) is working on two book projects. The first asks what television, the most important and emblematic medium of the Soviet Union’s Brezhnev era (1964–1982), can tell us about the nature of late Soviet politics, ideology, and everyday life. The second project traces late Soviet origins of a contemporary phenomenon: the active international network created by the Soviet television game show entitled What? Where? When? This show, which has aired continuously since 1975, has a quite fervid online fan community. In 2011, ABC began airing an American adaptation of the show called Millon Dollar Mind Game.
(PhD, History of Science, University of Chicago), this year’s Provost Fellow, is examining the failure of “edutainment” (educational entertainment)—particularly depictions of medical practices in film and television—to actually educate viewers. If edutainment cannot educate us, she argues, then perhaps its significance might lie in its performative aspects—in its role of forming our identities as individuals, at least in terms of health, and as Americans.
(English), in his book project “Contemporary Drift: Genre, Periodization, and the Present,” reconsiders the role of genre in contemporary culture in order to reflect on the possibilities, and the limitations, of periodizing our own present. In examining contemporary examples of classic genres—realist and historical fiction, detective novels, westerns, and film noir—the project hopes to show how these ostensibly outdated genres reveal the shifting contours of contemporary life.
(Geography, Women’s Studies) is conducting an ethnography of Muslim American youth (ages 18–25) in Milwaukee. The study explores Muslim youth’s self-representations and narratives of what it means to be “Muslim,” both personally and publicly. How is a Muslim sense of belonging embodied in the lives of youth? What does Muslim mean in relation to gender, race, ethnicity, and citizenship? The study will also track several contemporary trends among Muslim youth: Islamic revivalism, Islamic feminism, Muslim hip-hop and taqwacore (Islamo-punk subculture), and “American Islam.”
(Philosophy) engages the conceptions of a politically liberal education for democratic citizenship, as promulgated by the political philosopher John Rawls, and then considers how these should address the changing cultural, political, economic, and technological circumstances of the 21st century. So, for example, although political liberalism’s accommodation of pluralism ensures its compatibility with increasing social diversity, it also takes for granted that nation-states constitute the primary units of governance in the world, ignoring that forms of trans-national political and economic relations and institutions are becoming more prevalent.
(Africology), in her book project “Gender Conflict and Law in Democratic Transitions: Courts, Narratives, and the Vernacularization of Human Rights in Malawi,” examines contemporary struggles of Malawians to engage with recent government implementation of gender equality laws through her analysis of hundreds of narrative testimonies recorded in court transcripts and interviews. These narratives are not merely a record of how enacted laws are enforced, they also express ways that people catch hold of changing national rhetoric around gender and human rights to shape it to their own ends.
(English) is working on an interactive digital piece that juxtaposes a history of the rhetorical concept of memory with current technologies and architectures for memory. The piece will require readers/viewers to maneuver among and create different word-pairs (such as interior–exterior, forgetting–remembering) that enable them to compare the old rhetorical memory systems with current personal-memory and body-memory technologies. By asking readers/viewers to engage in such a manner, the piece will generate questions such as, How am I obligated to have memory in the 21st century? What am I obligated to remember in a century of external memory, of information overload?
For fellows from previous years, see the list of Center Fellows Since 1974.