Humanities Institute Welcomes 2013 Fellows

The Institute for the Humanities has selected five faculty members from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and two doctoral candidates from the College as the 2013-2014 Institute Fellows. This year, the Institute also welcomes a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Food Studies.

The Humanities Institute is a hub of intellectual vitality and interdisciplinary scholarship at UIC. In addition to the Fellows program and a variety of working groups focused on collaborative research, the Institute sponsors numerous public programs throughout the year.

All lectures listed below take place at 3 p.m. at the Humanities Institute, lower level, Stevenson Hall, UIC Campus. Subscribe to the mailing list to receive event notices.

Faculty Fellows

Ralph Cintron

Ralph Cintron.

Ralph Cintron is an associate professor in the Departments of English and Latin American and Latino Studies. His research and teaching interests are in rhetorical studies, ethnography, urban theory, social theory, and transnationalism and immigration. He is a former member of the Executive Board of the Rhetoric Society of America and is associated with the International Rhetoric Culture Project, which brings together anthropologists and rhetoricians. His book, Angels’ Town: Chero Ways, Gang Life, and Rhetorics of the Everyday (Beacon Press, 1998) won honourable mention for the Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing from the American Anthropological Association. Cintron is currently co-editing Power, Rhetoric, and Political Culture: The Texture of Political Life for Bergan Press. He has been a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow and in 2007-2008 was a Fulbright Scholar on the political science faculty at the University of Prishtina in Prishtina, Kosovo.

Cintron’s fellowship project is “Democracy as Fetish: Ethnographic Instances/Rhetorical Speculations.”

“I will be theorizing years of ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Eastern Europe in parts of the former Yugoslavia and in Latino communities in Chicago,” said Cintron. “When people from these remarkably different places talk about democracy—or when they talk about the need for equality, rights, freedom and social justice—what do they mean?

“These are populations that largely feel barred from an image of economic and political life that they feel ought to be theirs, so the use of these terms contains both resentment and aspiration. Herein is one version of the fetishization of democracy, a sense that democracy is a deep reality that ought to be everywhere but isn’t, and because it isn’t, democracy as a founding truth is being denied.

“Behind the fetishization of democracy there may be a category mistake that fails to distinguish between democracy as abstraction and democracy as governance. Democracy as abstraction claims that inclusion both ought to and can exist after hard effort. Democracy as governance, however, seems unable to create an inclusion that is not simultaneously an exclusion. Consider citizenship: the democratic nation-state grants full rights, equalities, freedom and so on by first distinguishing the citizen from the non-citizen, by establishing inclusion on the basis of exclusion.

“Consider also private property and ownership: I want to explore left-leaning arguments that ask for state protections for those who have failed to accumulate, as well as right-leaning arguments that defend the right to accumulate without state interference. Both arguments claim to represent the essence of democracy and to be a reasonable path to inclusion without exclusion. Arguments based on inclusivity seem to represent a kind of secular transcendence, which is another way to explain the fetishization of democracy.

“If governance that excludes can be called oligarchic, then I am interested in how ‘democratic rhetorics’ from both the left and right idealize democracy by functioning within oligarchic structures.”

Cintron will present a public lecture on Thursday, November 14, 2013.

David Hilbert

David Hilbert.

David Hilbert is a professor in the Department of Philosophy and a member of the UIC Laboratory of Integrative Neuroscience. Much of his research has focused on questions concerning color and color vision. His interest in everything to do with color has led to publications on topics ranging from color and light in the modern city to the relation between the philosophy of color and the science of color, including the question of how colored things appear to the color-blind. His other research focus is the work of the 18th-century Irish intellectual George Berkeley. Hilbert’s interest in Berkeley is comprehensive, including his philosophical works, poetry, and political and social commentary. Hilbert has co-edited an edition of Berkeley’s Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous and written a paper for the anthology, Philosophy and Beer, explaining how Berkeley’s philosophy applies to drinking beer.

Hilbert’s fellowship project is “Berkeley’s Political Metaphysics: Immaterialism and Social Change.”

“George Berkeley, the 18th-century Anglo-Irish philosopher, is best known for the radical idealism he argues for in two brilliant books, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge and Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous. Berkeley’s idealism denies the possibility of anything existing—other than a mind or spirit—if unperceived or un-thought-of. He once claimed that the world would be a much better place if it was recognized that nothing material existed other than minds and their ideas, and he believed that with this recognition, atheism and skepticism would be refuted, the sciences placed on a better footing, and common sense reestablished,” said Hilbert. “Berkeley’s philosophical work is typically presented as a reaction to the work of other early modern philosophers, such as René Descartes and John Locke, and that is indeed an important feature of his work.

“However, Berkeley also had a long intellectual career in which he focused on much more practical issues. He proposed to found a college in America and spent three years in Newport in pursuit of that ultimately unsuccessful project. He wrote extensively on Irish social and economic problems and made numerous, and often radical, policy proposals for how to address them. He proposed a ban on foreign trade, a central bank with gold and silver coinage replaced with paper currency, and term slavery for the able-bodied indigent. In every case, social and intellectual ills are diagnosed as involving a decay from an earlier harmonious and beneficial order, and Berkeley prescribes radical measures to return society to its proper structure.

“My project is to show that Berkeley’s philosophical work on immaterialism can be better understood once we recognize that it is just as much a product of his concern with social and cultural problems as are his proposals for educational and economic reform. All of Berkeley’s projects involve the adoption of radical means to further the conservative aim of restoring society to the harmonious condition it had before modern ideas and practices disrupted it. His purely philosophical work is no exception,” concluded Hilbert.

Hilbert will present a public lecture on Tuesday, February 11, 2014.

Cedric Johnson

Cedric Johnson.

Cedric Johnson is an associate professor in the Departments of African American Studies and Political Science. His teaching and research interests include African American political thought, neoliberal politics and class analysis, and race. His book, Revolutionaries to Race Leaders: Black Power and the Making of African American Politics (University of Minnesota Press, 2007) was named the 2008 W.E.B. DuBois Outstanding Book of the Year by the National Conference of Black Political Scientists. Johnson is the editor of The Neoliberal Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, Late Capitalism and the Remaking of New Orleans (University of Minnesota Press, 2011). His writings have appeared in New Political Science, Monthly Review, SOULS, Journal of Developing Societies and In These Times. In 2008, Johnson was named the Jon Garlock Labor Educator of the Year by the Rochester Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

Johnson’s fellowship project is “Harold Cruse: Biography of a Black Intellectual.”

“Revolutionary, conservative, Marxist, anti-communist, anti-Semite, nationalist, cosmopolitan, pragmatist, iconoclast, curmudgeon, genius—the late Harold Cruse has been described in all of these terms and many more. He was perhaps the most influential and enigmatic intellectual of the Black Power era and his writings reoriented the terms of black public debate from the late 1960s onward,” said Johnson.

“Published in 1967, Cruse’s The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual was a national bestseller that elevated him out of obscurity and into a prominent role in Black Power public debates. Not long after the publication of The Crisis, he was appointed chair of the University of Michigan’s new Afroamerican Studies program and as such, he played a seminal role in the birth and development of Black/Africana studies as an academic discipline.

“Despite the fact of his political resonance and longevity, there is no dedicated monograph on his life and work. For my fellowship project, I will conduct research for the first critical biography of Cruse.

“The biography will be a prequel to my first book, Revolutionaries to Race Leaders: Black Power and the Making of African American Politics, in which Cruse was included as part of a broader analysis of the Black Power movement. The new work will seek to understand the historical context of Cruse’s intellectual formation and offer critical assessment of his signal contributions,
namely his polemical reading of 20th-century black political and cultural development; his prescient arguments regarding the transformative character of mass culture and its implications for black creative intellectuals; and his incomplete attempts to rethink left-wing politics and the possibility of achieving socialism in the United States.”

Johnson will present a public lecture on Tuesday, March 4, 2014.

Kim Potowski

Kim Potowski.

Kim Potowski is an associate professor in the Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies and the director of the Spanish heritage language program. Her research and scholarship focus on Spanish in the United States, including the needs of bilingual students, connections between language and identity, and dual immersion education. Potowski has authored or edited five books and two textbooks including Language Diversity in the USA, Bilingual Youth: Spanish Speakers in English-speaking Countries, and Spanish in Contact: Educational, Linguistic and Social Inquiries. She is executive editor of the international journal Spanish in Context, as well as co-editor of the Heritage Language Journal. She presents on bilingual education at conferences and workshops internationally. Potowski is currently collaborating on several book projects: a work on the linguistic and cultural crossroads of mixed-ethnicity “MexiRican” youth in Chicago; a book for teachers about working with heritage speaker students; and the first textbook in Spanish about Spanish in the United States. Supported by a Fulbright research and teaching grant, she is also working on a project addressing language and cultural identity among transnational youth.

Potowski’s fellowship project is “Do you Bleed Salsa or Sofrito?: Inter-Latino Language and Identity Among ‘MexiRicans.’"

“Mexicans and Puerto Ricans are quite different from each other in terms of culture, immigration experiences in the U.S., and the ways they speak Spanish,” said Potowski. “In Chicago, these two groups have co-existed for generations and, despite a fair amount of conflict, have also engaged in romantic unions that result in ‘MexiRican’ offspring.

“For my fellowship project, I will examine the ways in which these individuals develop and perform their identities through their spoken Spanish, as well as other culturally-rooted facets of their lives. The project seeks to theorize emerging configurations of latinidad that are being transformed, and in some cases hybridized, by inter-Latino contact in the United States.”

Potowski will present a public lecture on Tuesday, April 8, 2014.

Daniel Sutherland

Daniel Sutherland. Photo by Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

Daniel Sutherland is an associate professor in the Department of Philosophy. His primary interests include the relationship between philosophy, mathematics and science in the work of Immanuel Kant, as well as mathematical cognition more generally. He has been awarded grants by the National Science Foundation and the American Philosophical Society. His articles and chapters have appeared in journals including the Philosophical Review, the Canadian Journal of Philosophy, the Journal of the History of Philosophy, the Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement, and the anthology Discourse on a New Method: Reinvigorating the Marriage of History and Philosophy of Science (Open Court, 2010).

Sutherland’s fellowship project is “Kant’s Mathematical Philosophy.”

“I will be working to complete a book on Kant’s mathematical philosophy, specifically Kant’s theory of magnitudes. On the one hand, Kant argues that everything we can experience is a magnitude; on the other hand, in Kant’s view, mathematics is the science of magnitude. This understanding of mathematics is quite foreign to our own, and it requires substantial work to recover it,” said Sutherland.

“There is a great deal at stake because Kant ranks as one of the most important and influential philosophers and his philosophy of mathematics is crucial to understanding his philosophy more broadly. The cornerstone of Kant’s theoretical philosophy is his claim that we are capable of having synthetic a priori knowledge. That is, he claims we can have substantive knowledge of the world that is justified without reference to sense experience, and does not reduce to logic or mere definitions of concepts. Kant was willing to let his entire philosophy stand or fall on the status of mathematical knowledge and the explanation of its possibility. Moreover, his understanding of how we know mathematical truths permeated his understanding of the nature of the world and our knowledge of it.

“In addition, Kant still has a great deal to teach us about the nature of cognition in general and mathematical cognition in particular. Mathematics has advanced tremendously in the last two centuries since Kant lived, but our understanding of the nature of mathematical cognition and knowledge remains largely contested. How do we represent numbers and the relations among them? How do those representations justify our knowledge? What kind of knowledge is our knowledge that 5 + 7 = 12? Kant’s deep insights into the nature of cognition and knowledge are still relevant today.”

Sutherland will present a public lecture on Thursday, January 23, 2014.

Sultan Tepe

Sultan Tepe. Photo courtesy of Tepe

Sultan Tepe is an associate professor and the director of graduate studies in the Department of Political Science. Her areas of interest include comparative politics, radical political groups, Middle Eastern politics, and religion and politics. Her current focus includes political manifestations and civic engagements of religious identities in global cities and a comparative analysis of religious parties. She is the author of Beyond Sacred and Secular: the Politics of Religion in Israel and Turkey (Stanford, 2008)Tepe is currently finalizing a new book on American Islam and completing a research project on Islam’s new political theologies. Her most recent article, “The Perils of Polarization? Religious Parties, Democracy and Political Fragmentation,” appeared in Democratization this summer. 

Tepe’s fellowship project is “New Political Theologies of Islam: Contested Interpretations and the Transformative Ideas of Islamic Groups.”

“This study draws on the theo-political discourses of two groups in Turkey—the Directorate of Religious Affairs (DRA), the state’s central religious authority and the Capital Women‘s Platform (CWP)—an organization of mostly female religious scholars and theologians,” said Tepe. “These two groups serve as points of entry to understand how state and civil religious groups develop contrasting interpretations of Islamic texts and teachings, and how these interpretive frameworks guide their political views.

“Turkey is often described as the only secular and democratic state in the Middle East and the broader Muslim world, and has more recently been promoted as a model which Arab Spring countries should emulate. While the country was first established as an Islamic state in 1923, laïcité (state secularism) was adopted as a founding principle of the state in 1937, and the DRA and its unique role was born out of this principle. Despite the pivotal global role assigned to Turkey, its laïcité remains largely understudied. In order to address this gap my study shows why and how Turkey’'s laïcité is not simply a purely statutory restriction on religious expression, but is actually a deeply-rooted religious affair. Its analysis promotes a new reading of Islamic political theologies without confining them to the strict boundaries of Islamic or secular and explains why secularism’s institutional design has many internal contradictions and how Islamic symbols, ideas and metaphors are used to re-imagine political and market relations, endorsing a new political order.”

Tepe will present a public lecture on Tuesday, April 22, 2014.


Dissertation Fellows

Ryan Brooks

Ryan Brooks.

Ryan Brooks is a doctoral candidate in the Department of English. His research interests include 20th- and 21st-century literature, transatlantic modernism and postmodernism, and the history of literary criticism and theory. His work has been published in the critical anthology, The Wire: Urban Decay and American Television, and his essays on Richard Powers, Jonathan Franzen and Ben Marcus are forthcoming in Twentieth-Century Literature and the critical anthology Postmodern/Postwar—and After.

Brooks’ fellowship project is “’Feel Your Pain’: Neoliberalism and Social Form in Contemporary American Fiction.”

“My project examines how American fiction written since the 1990s participates in or sometimes resists the neoliberal turn. Based on an analysis of the formal choices of contemporary writers—choices regarding characterization, narrative structure, point-of-view and genre—I suggest that contemporary fiction tends to imagine social relations, including hierarchies of wealth and power, in terms of individual ‘values,’ rather than in terms of impersonal social and economic antagonisms,” said Brooks.

“Moreover, I argue that this vision is structurally identical to the vision implicit in neoliberal political texts which figure the social field as a marketplace comprised of nothing but individual capitalists, without the antagonisms—such as the antagonism between labor and capital—that make this marketplace possible. I argue that this logic of ‘human capital’ is important for periodization, as it tends to separate generations of writers: The 1960s-born generation in my study—including Mary Gaitskill, Richard Powers, Colson Whitehead and Karen Tei Yamashita—subscribe to the logic of human capital, while their postmodern predecessors—writers such as Thomas Pynchon, Ishmael Reed, William Gaddis and Kathy Acker—tend to imagine the world in terms of impersonal systems of power, technology and language.

“I also argue that this logic is important for any account of the politics of contemporary literature; in short, I try to investigate to what degree these texts grapple with the contradictions implicit in such markets, and implicit in the vision of a world organized completely by capitalism.”

Brooks will present a public lecture on Tuesday, February 25, 2014.

Burkay Ozturk

Burkay T. Ozturk.

Burkay T. Ozturk is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Philosophy. He received his BA summa cum laude from Bilkent University in Turkey. He has publications in philosophy of mind and history of logic, but his heart belongs to philosophy and methodology of science. He is also a cycling enthusiast, an amateur cook, winemaker and computer programmer. He occasionally does pencil drawings, too.

Ozturk’s fellowship project is “Scientific Realism and Pessimistic Meta-Induction.”

“Scientists tell us amazing things about the world. They tell us that the universe started with a bang about 13.7 billion years ago and its expansion is accelerating,” said Ozturk. “They inform us that smoking causes cancer, red wine in moderation is good for you, most of the human genome consists of junk base pairs that don’t code any useful information, and that industrial civilization is warming up the climate.

“But should we really believe these claims? Looking at the track record of past scientists, shouldn’t we be pessimistic about the claims of today's scientists? After all, scientific communities of the past disagreed with all of the claims mentioned above: they thought that the universe always existed and was static, smoking was safe and red wine was not, almost all genetic material had to code for something that directly confers an evolutionary advantage, and that the climate was stable.

“The idea I just described is called ‘The Pessimistic Induction’: the history of science is a history of revolutions, where after each revolution the scientific community of the day confidently assured us that this time around they are telling the truth. However, since scientists can’t seem to keep their stories straight, we should perhaps treat them like the boy who cried wolf and be pessimistic about the eventual fate of their most recent stories. It may even be time to stop listening to scientific experts in policy making and knock on the doors of the publicly-funded research labs to ask for a full refund.

“My research aims to show that ‘The Pessimistic Induction’ is unwarranted. The evidence that today’s scientists have for some of our best theories are, in some cases, significantly better than the evidence their predecessors had for their best theories. This is in part because, in addition to observational and experimental evidence, today’s scientists can tap a novel source of evidence derived from research ex silico—that is, ‘from silicon,’ which is the raw material from which computer chips are made. My research is focused on understanding how and when exactly computerized research provides evidence ex silico, giving us hope to be reasonably optimistic about today’s scientific theories.

Ozturk will present a public lecture on Monday, December 2, 2013.

Post-Doctoral Fellow in Food Studies

Ariele Zycherman

Ariela Zycherman. Photo courtesy of Zycherman

Ariela Zycherman completed the PhD program in applied anthropology at Columbia University in 2013. Her research focuses broadly on cultural constructions related to food practices. More specifically, she looks at the role food plays in the formulation of modernity, the production of livelihoods, environmental politics in the Amazon, and contemporary forms of identity in Latin America. She has conducted research in Bolivia, Argentina and Brooklyn, NY. Her paper, “Shocdye as World: localizing modernity among the Tsimané Indians of Lowland Bolivia,” won the Alex McIntosh Graduate Prize from the Association for the Study of Food and Society.

Zycherman’s fellowship project is “The Changing Value of Food: Localizing Modernity among the Tsimané in Lowland Bolivia.”

“I will expand my dissertation into a book manuscript exploring the contemporary relationships between livelihood practices and food among the Tsimané Indians of the Bolivian Amazon. I will examine how current food production, consumption and conceptualization of the Tsimané are not only shaped by broad and indirect forms of regional development, but also moderated by it, by formulating the ways in which change takes root in everyday life,” said Zycherman. “Because of the multitudinous properties of food, I use it as both a tool and a metaphor to focus my discussion on how a history of development in the region coalesces into new constructions of identity, values, practices and knowledge for the Tsimané.

“I am interested in how we can rethink modernity as something that is constantly changing and is ‘localized’ through experiences within a particular place, for a particular group of people. Understanding contemporary articulations of indigenous identity and cultural constructions is increasingly important to small lowland indigenous groups throughout Latin America, but particularly in Bolivia, where indigenous groups are engaging in new claims over autonomy, land and resource rights as part of a new ‘plurinational’ state.

“I intend for my book project to broaden critical debates surrounding the impacts of development on forest-based indigenous peoples by concentrating on indirect consequences, particularly the relationships between local foodways and new patterns of forest exploitation.”

Zycherman will present a public lecture on Monday, March 17, 2014.

All photos by Nina Andorf unless otherwise specified

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