New “Media Matters” Column Spotlights Public Contributions of Humanities Faculty, Students, and Staff

photo of gallery exhibition of many painted wooden squares
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The Davis Humanities Institute has created a new website column calling attention to the many public sphere contributions of scholars and campus leaders affiliated with the humanities at UC Davis. Since our “Media Matters” column launched a few weeks ago, the DHI has linked to the work of over a dozen faculty, students, and staff whose contributions range from editorials on the tumultuous waning days of the Trump presidency, to expert consultation for popular films, to experimental music and political performance art. 

Take a look at some recent highlights from “Media Matters” below.

Music and Performance

Bettina Ng'weno (Associate Professor of African American Studies and Cultural Anthropology) was a featured panelist on the video series Shades of Benga Online, in an episode about music in Nairobi.

Marcy Patra (undergraduate Cinema and Digital Media student) released an album, “Anhedonic Mirages,” which Patra writes was “built using sounds my pre-transition self interacted with in one way or another...disfigured or fundamentally changed somehow in order to create this album. This process of creation from destruction runs parallel to the circumstances of my own life - to transition is to destroy oneself and create another from its remains.”

Henry Spiller (Professor of Music) and Gillian Irwin (recent PhD in Ethnomusicology) were the subjects of a Voice of America (Indonesia) video about student life for Indonesian students at UC Davis, and about the music department’s Sundanese Gamelan Ensemble.

Larry Bogad (Chair and Professor of Theatre and Dance) received international attention for Delivering Democracy, an activist effort and performance project focused in the battleground state of Pennsylvania that featured dancing mailboxes distributing voting information.

Humanities in Popular Culture

Amy Motlagh (Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Middle Eastern/South Asian Studies, Bita Daryabari Presidential Chair in Persian Language and Literature) has a new podcast, “The Story of Iran.” The first episode, “Consider the Pomegranate,” explores the pomegranate’s presence in Persianate art, literature, and architecture, and has a local connection to UC Davis’ Wolfskill Experimental Orchard.

Seth Sanders (Professor of Religious Studies, Director of the Graduate Group in the Study of Religion) and Archana Venkatesan (Professor of Religious Studies and Comparative Literature and Department Chair of Religious Studies) were credited as Cultural and Faith Advisors for the new Pixar movie Soul

Katia Vega (Assistant Professor, Department of Design) was mentioned at the Association for Computing Machinery for her BraceIO project, “a novel smartphone-mediated take on the dental braces people wear to straighten errant teeth, or to fix their bite, or fill gaps.”

Michael Dylan Foster (Professor and Department Chair, East Asian Languages and Cultures) was featured on an episode of The Daily Smile podcast (with Nikki Boyer), “The Mysterious Hauntings of the Japanese Yokai.”

Editorials and Political Coverage

Archana Venkatesan published a letter to the editors in the Washington Post, critiquing the use of the word “pariah” in that publication’s coverage of the waning days of Trump’s presidency.

Joshua Clover (Professor of English) writes a blog for Verso Books, most recently on the riots of early summer 2020.

Eric Rauchway (Distinguished Professor of History) was quoted in a New York Times article on the increasingly popular belief that Donald Trump is a contender for worst president in US history. 

Gregory P. Downs (Professor of History) published an op-ed in the Washington Post on the US historical roots of the January 6 insurrection. Downs was also quoted in the New York Times on January 7.

“Media Matters” is updated weekly on our website. To be included in the column, faculty, students, and staff can send blogs, opinion pieces, art, and other public sphere contributions to