Faculty Research Seminars, 1997-2014

Spring 2014: “Time Reckoning”

The 2013-2014 DHI Faculty Research Seminar (FRS) is taking up a topic that promises to cut across all areas of humanities scholarship—the nature of time itself. The FRS will convene in Spring 2014 on the theme of “Time-reckoning,” investigating the very perception of time that has developed in the various branches of the humanities.

Led by convener Sudipta Sen, professor of history, the seminar will generate an interdisciplinary dialogue on the divide between so-called objective units of time and temporalities on a human scale. For scholars in the humanities, this topic is especially pressing: across the disciplines there is an assumption that time functions as a stable unit of analysis, flowing in a linear, quantifiable fashion. As this commonplace understanding of temporality comes under more scrutiny, however, the need to re-evaluate the measurement of time itself has never been more pressing.

The next FRS calls together an array of faculty to take on this engaging area of research. Sen, the FRS convener, has made the investigation into the politics of time and space a key feature of his work, especially in colonial and postcolonial contexts. His book on this topic, Ganges: The Many Pasts of an Indian River, is forthcoming from the Yale University Press. Other faculty in the seminar share Sen’s interest in exploring the social constructions of historical narratives and time. Participants include Simon Sadler, professor of Architectural and Urban History and Chancellor’s Fellow in the Department of Design, whose work studies the ideological history of architecture in the late twentieth century. James Smith, an associate professor of anthropology, touches on aspects of temporality in the narratives of progress and development in the African continent. Beth Freeman, professor of English, targets the construction of time as it intersects with queer literature and media. Julia Simon, professor in the French department, seeks to bridge the gap between centuries, emphasizing the enduring relevance of 18th century French texts and philosophy today.

As the field of participants attests, “Time-reckoning” is oriented toward addressing all aspects of time as it appears in humanities research. Ultimately, the discussions at the center of this seminar will touch on the temporal conventions that continue to frame studies into the past, present, and future.

Spring 2013: “Trash”

Trash is multidisciplinary, existing across fields of study as something that is marginalized, ignored, and unwanted. The terminology is usually a pejorative, placing trash at the bottom of our value system. Messy, uncomfortable, and undesirable, trash consists of the byproducts of consumption, the value judgments we make, and language we read and speak. As issues of sustainability become commonplace, many scholars are rethinking trash. For years artists have redeemed trash through the recycling process, subverting meanings by re-contextualizing discarded materials and providing a new lens for perceiving what is familiar. Eliminating or repurposing trash is also an emerging economic idea; businesses are encouraged to exploit their byproducts as a smart use of resources. Social networking sites further add to the excess of verbiage; everyone is a trash collector, constantly sifting and discarding information. Aside from examining the who, what, when, where and why of trash, participants will discuss what trash can tell us about the culture in which we live.

Seminar Participants:

Susan Taber Avila, Design (convener)
Laura Grindstaff, Sociology
Mark Kessler, Design
Kari Lokke, Comparative Literature
Lucy Puls, Art
Angela Hume Lewandowski, PhD candidate in English

Winter 2012: “Surveillance and the Social Network”

Social networking has become a way of life for countless Americans. Many cannot get through a day, much less an hour, without logging on or checking in with their followers or friends. But while these virtual networks might make us feel more connected, does our participation come at a cost? That was just one of the questions the Humanities Institute’s Faculty Research Seminar considered in Winter 2012. Entitled “Surveillance and the Social Network,” the seminar situated discussions of the growth of social networking sites in relation to discussions of the numerous and dispersed surveillance technologies that permeate our everyday lives. One of the central questions of the seminar was how these new technologies transform our ideas about the social and the person, as well as the implications for notions of knowledge, control, privacy, desire, and the interactions between humans and machines.

Seminar Participants:

Kriss Ravetto-Biagioli, Cinema and Technocultural Studies (convener)
Lawrence Bogad, Theatre & Dance
Tim Choy, Anthropology and Science & Technology Studies
Jaimey Fisher, German and Cinema and Technocultural Studies
Caren Kaplan, American Studies
Sunaina Maira, Asian American Studies
Colin Milburn, English

Winter 2011: “Support Networks: Patrons, Mentors, Sponsors”

Patronage systems have received much scholarly attention over the years, and the importance of patronage to a wide variety of human endeavors – the arts, the sciences, politics, and beyond – has long been recognized. But while systems of patronage are often associated with pre-industrial societies, many aspects of patronage broadly conceived (including forms of mentorship and sponsorship, institutional as well as personal) persist in both developed and developing societies, and in both capitalist and socialist economies. In the context of financial crisis, when support for many areas of humanistic and artistic inquiry is diminishing, this interdisciplinary faculty research seminar will examine the relationship between creative or intellectual production and the patrons, mentors, or sponsors whose financial and other types of support make that production possible.

Seminar Participants:

Beverly Bossler, History (convener)
Ellen Hartigan-O’Connor, History
James Housefield, Design
Susette Min, Asian-American Studies
Jocelyn Sharlet, Comparative Literature

Fall 2010: “California Cultures”

Funded by the California Cultures Initiative, this seminar defines the region broadly to include geographies ranging from the Central Valley to Northern California to the state of California to Greater Mexico and the Pacific regions. Through the lens of their individual research projects, seminar participants explore such diverse issues as migration/immigration/transnational flows, the environment, changing notions of community and/or citizenship, the relationship between health and region, issues of gender, class, race, sexuality, and/or labor, California in global contexts or relationships, cross-border collaborations and conflicts, foodways, visual media and other media/cultural approaches, regional artistic and literary movements, preservation/curatorial work on artifacts, or technological innovation, among others.

Seminar Participants:

Kimberly Nettles-Barcelon, Women and Gender Studies (convener)
Hsuan Hsu, English
Hearne Pardee, Art
Youngsuk Suh, Design
Michael Ziser, English

Spring 2010: “Health, Medicine and Culture in a Globalizing World”

This faculty research seminar will bring together a diverse group of UC Davis scholars who are working in interdisciplinary ways on health and medicine in relation to theories of globalization and large-scale social change; theories of flows of people, finances, and institutions; and narrative and cultural analyses of self, health and personhood.

Drawing on perspectives from history, literature, psychology, anthropology and ethnic studies, the group will explore the ways in which global and local structures and narratives of health, healing and medicine are articulated with situated cultural beliefs and practices to shape diagnostic methods, healing models, therapeutic processes, health systems, and patient subjectivities.

Seminar Participants:

Joe Dumit, Anthropology/Science and Technology Studies (convener)
Charlotte Biltekoff, American Studies/Food Science and Technology
Angie Chabram-Dernersesian, Chicana/o Studies
Lucy Corin, English
Catherine Kudlick, History
Carl Whithaus, University Writing Program
Li Zhang, Anthropology

Winter 2010: “California Convergences: People, Places, Products”

The largest U.S. state as well as the world’s eighth largest economy, California draws rivers of immigrants and natural resources from the Pacific (and from the Atlantic), and the products they make and export contribute to a vigorous remaking of the larger world.  Bringing faculty together with an advanced graduate student for the first time in a CCI research seminar, this innovative group will explore the historical, social, cultural, economic, and environmental origins and implications of the convergence of diverse people, places and products in the region and the connections between California and the larger world.

Seminar Participants:

Louis Warren, History (convener)
Ben D’Harlingue, PhD candidate, Cultural Studies
Desiree Martin, English
Julie Sze, American Studies
Cecilia Tsu, History

Spring 2009: “California Cultures – Past, Present, and Future”

What is “California culture”? This is the question posed by this inaugural faculty research seminar funded by the California Cultures Initiative. Using a broad definition of the region that includes geographies ranging from the Central Valley to Northern California to the state of California to Greater Mexico and the Pacific Rim, this interdisciplinary seminar will explore such diverse issues as migration, immigration and transnational flows, changing notions of community and citizenship, especially in the context of class and race, youth culture and juvenile delinquency, and popular culture formations, including music and film. Our goal for this first CCI Fellows group, which meets in Spring 2009, is to gather people around the table whose projects will enable the DHI to better define the “region” from the perspective of UC Davis Humanities faculty. In doing so we hope to identify our areas of strength on regional issues and chart a course for future projects undertaken through the California Cultures Initiative.


Beth Levy, Music (convener)
Miroslava Chavez-Garcia, Chicana/o Studies
Jesse Drew, Technocultural Studies
Robert Irwin, Spanish and Classics
Martha Macri, Native American Studies
Sunaina Maira, Asian American Studies

Fall 2008: “Science and the Sacred”

The Enlightenment vision of modernity, based on an inverse relationship between the progress of science and religion’s decline, has fallen on hard times. In the wake of religion’s resurgence as a political and cultural force around the world, how do we rethink the relationship between religion and modernity. And how does rethinking the place of religion in the paradigmatically modern cultures of “the West” affect our understanding of pre-modern and non-Western societies? This interdisciplinary faculty research seminar, which will meet in Fall 2008, explores such issues by focusing attention on the relationship between religion and science, faith and reason, the spiritual and the technological, in various cultural and historical contexts.


Daniel Stolzenberg, History (convener)
Emily Albu, Classics
Allison Coudert, Religious Studies
Mark Elmore, Religious Studies
Ari Y. Kelman, American Studies
Kari Lokke, Comparative Literature
Blake Stimson, Art History

2007-08 Theme:Transnational Culture

Whether in mainstream politics (e.g. the immigration debate), environmental debates (e.g. ‘invasive’, ‘native’ and hybrid species), or educational and pedagogic policy decisions (e.g. the teaching of languages, multilingualism, the future of comparative studies and of translation), the rhetoric of the foreign continues to be urgently invoked, which calls for a similarly urgent critical attention from scholars. Cultural forms have traditionally drawn widely from ‘foreign’ precursors and inspirations even as they constitute themselves (or have been constituted) as native or, just as reductively, as ‘global’ traditions. This fellows group explores elements (substantial or rhetorical) of the relationship between the native and the foreign, the domestic and the alien. Its members represent a wide range of scholars and artists with an interest in this general area, and their projects broaden the historical, disciplinary, and socio-cultural parameters of the discussion.


  • Glenda Drew, Design
  • Omnia El Shakry, History
  • Jaimey Fisher, German
  • Mark Jerng, English
  • Ari Kelman, History
  • Jon Rossini, Theater
  • Henry Spiller, Music
  • Grace Wang, American Studies

2006-07 Theme: Human and Non-Human Worlds

These fellows considered the relationships between the human and non-human, and included in discussions such topics as the critique of anthropocentrism, the question of animal consciousness or “rights,” and the ethics of ecology as well of science and technology insofar as the status (or “sanctity”) of human life is implicated. Its beginning point of inquiry was the question: within the confines of the academy, do the humanities have a privileged role in assessing what it means to be human, or is the concept of humanity a limitation on a genuinely “humanistic” thinking? The group was comprised of a wide range of scholars and artists from all sectors of the campus with an interest in this general area. The Institute’s goal with this group was to broaden the historical, disciplinary, and socio-cultural parameters of the discussions on this issue.


  • Marisol de la Cadena, Anthropology
  • Benjamin Lawrence, History
  • Kathy Stuart, History
  • Doug Kahn, Technocultural Studies
  • Jay Mechling, American Studies
  • Simon Sadler, Art History
  • Juliana Schiesari, Comp. Lit.
  • Julie Sze, American Studies

2005-06 Theme: War and Memory


  • Scott Gartner, Political Science
  • Bill Hagen, History
  • Kathryn Olmsted, History
  • Frances Dyson, Technocultural Studies
  • Beth Levy, Music
  • Sunaina Maira, Asian American Studies
  • Bob Ostertag, Technocultural Studies
  • Diana Strazdes, Art History

2004-05 Theme: Food Cultures


  • Cynthia Brantley, History
  • Carolyn de la Peña, American Studies
  • Jean-Xavier Guinard, Food Science
  • Lynette Hunter, Theatre and Dance
  • Janet Momsen, Human and Community Development
  • Tim Morton, English
  • Kimberly Nettles, Women and Gender Studies
  • Michael Ziser, English

2003-04 Theme: Tolerance and Intolerance


  • Suad Joseph, Anthropology
  • Catherine Kudlick, History
  • Brenda Schildgen, Comparative Literature
  • Sergio de la Mora, Chicana/o Studies
  • Liz Constable, French

2002-03 Theme: The Poetics and Politics of Place


  • Karen Halttunen, History
  • Steven Athanases, Education
  • Joanne Diehl, English
  • Robin Hill, Art
  • Dianne Macleod, Art History
  • Riché Richardson, English

2001-02 Theme: Civil and Uncivil Society


  • Ming-Cheng Lo, Sociology
  • Barbara Metcalf, History
  • Suzana Sawyer, Anthropology
  • Louis Warren, History
  • Li Zhang, Anthropology
  • David Simpson, English

2000-01 Theme: Pre Modernity


  • Steven Deyle, History
  • Debroah Harkness, History
  • Kyu Hyun Kim, History, EALC
  • Moradewun Adejunmobi, African and African American Studies
  • Katharine Burnett, Art History
  • Margie Ferguson, English
  • Noah Guynn, French
  • Adrienne Martin, Spanish
  • Lynn Roller, Art History

1999-00 Theme: Performance


  • Gail Finney, German and Comp. Lit
  • Ines Hernandez-Avila, Native American Studies
  • Sarah Projansky, Women and Gender Studies
  • Heath Schenker, Landscape Architecture
  • Winfried Schleiner, English
  • Barbara Sellers-Young, Theatre and Dance
  • Karen Shimakawa, Theatre and Dance and Asian American Studies
  • John Stewart, African American and African Studies
  • Sophie Volpp, East Asian Languges and Cultures

1998-99 Theme: Migrations to, from, and within the Americas


  • David Kyle, Sociology
  • Alan Taylor, History
  • Steve Crum, Native American Studies
  • Ella Ray, African American and African Studies
  • Katherine Vaz, English
  • Victor Montejo, Native American Studies
  • Samuel Armistead, Spanish
  • Cecilia Colombi, Spanish

1997-98 Theme: Communities of Belief


  • Lucy Barber, History
  • Mary Jackman, Sociology
  • Gail Goodman, Psychology
  • Catherine Robson, English
  • Jacob Olupona, African American and African Studies
  • Ruth Frankenberg, American Studies
  • Emily Albu, Classics