Humanities Center announces Summer Research Circles surrounding issues of racism and systemic inequality

The Humanities Center Research Circles are an opportunity for faculty to engage in scholarly conversations and exploration during a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated physical separation.

4 August 2020 Posted In:
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The Carleton College Humanities Center announced the formation of 14 Summer Research Circles which allow for faculty to engage in collaborative work during this time of physical-distancing.  Through writing projects or study groups, the Research Circles will address issues of racism and systemic inequality.

In the wake of a remote-learning term, the Humanities Center—whose mission is to support intellectual community, scholarship, and public events in the humanities and in all the humanistic dimensions of a liberal arts college—decided to offer faculty the chance to come together in small research and writing clusters over the summer. The Humanities Center Research Circles are an opportunity for faculty to engage in scholarly conversations and exploration related to their research during a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated physical separation. The Research Circles will provide further reflection on current or new research projects as it pertains to societal concerns and crises.

“In the wake of the George Floyd murder and the inequalities exposed by the coronavirus crisis, we wanted to encourage Summer Research Circles that focused specifically on these issues as well,” said Lori Pearson, professor of religion and director of the Humanities Center.

The following is a list of the 2020 Summer Research Circle awardees:

Racial Identity and Ethnicity in the Ancient World

Jake Morton, Clara Hardy, and Chico Zimmerman will select and read primary sources (e.g. the ancient writers Herodotus, Caesar, Strabo, & Tacitus) and secondary sources (e.g. works by the scholars Gruen, McInerney, Hall, Briant, & Malkin) on concepts of racial identity, ethnicity, and ‘superiority’ in the ancient Mediterranean world.

Discussing Blackness in the French Context

Cathy Yandell, Eva Posfay, Christine Lac, Stephanie Cox, and Sandra Rousseauwill read and discuss Black France/France Noire (Eds. Keaton, Sharpley-Whiting, Stovall), a collection of articles written mostly by historians of France and the French Empire, to help frame the question of blackness and otherness into broader questions of identity, memory and race politics.

Book and study group on Ijeoma Oluo’s book, “So You Want to Talk About Race?”

Catherine Licata and Juliane Schicker will read and discuss this work and other sources as a way of thinking about anti-racism in their scholarship and teaching.

Theory, Praxis, and Pedagogy: How COVID-19 and Racial Justice Shape Liberal Arts Research and Teaching

Christina Farhart, Summer Forester, Meredith McCoy, Helen Minsky, Ethan Struby, and Rou-Jia Sungwill read and discuss three books exploring how both COVID-19 and the struggle for racial justice infuse, inform, and affect roles as scholars and teachers at a liberal arts institution.

Comparison and Discussion of the Historical Black and Indigenous Experiences in the US

Charisse Burden-Stelly, Eddie O’Byrn, and Meredith McCoywill read and discuss three texts, The Black Shoals (Tiffany Lethabo King), Otherwise Worlds (King, Navarro, and Smith), and Theft is Property (Robert Nichols), to study the connections between enslavement, settler colonialism, Jim Crow, Indian removal, and ongoing state violence against Black and indigenous people. 

Pre-Modern Writing Group

Sonja Anderson, Pierre Hecker, Jessica Keating, Yaron Klein, and William North are each working on individual writing projects. The group will share research, comment on drafts, and generally provide a supportive structure that encourages progress and intellectual excitement.

Studying Traditional Ecological Knowledge and the Perspectives of Indigenous Scholars on Environmental Studies

Kim Smith, Daniel Hernández, Nancy Braker, and Dan Maxbauer will read and discuss Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a leading scholar on traditional ecological knowledge and next year’s Chesley lecturer. They will also research the literature on traditional ecological knowledge and perspectives of indigenous scholars on environmental studies and compile a list of resources for environmental studies faculty who want to incorporate this topic into their teaching and/or research.

Race, Caste, and White Supremacy in Contemporary Area Studies

Kristin Bloomer and Paul Petzschmannwill discuss recent literature on the role of race in contemporary area studies by exploring the potential for comparison between modern Europe, the United States, and colonial and post-colonial South Asia.

Unraveling the Concept of Community

Mihaela Czobor-Lupp, Summer Forester, and Tun Myintwill read and discuss works that explore the question “What is Community?,” endeavoring to understand the underlying forces that shape inclusion and exclusion of individuals in a society based on race, gender, social-economic class, political orientation, professions, skin color, look, and other identities.

Multidisciplinary Writing in Environmental Studies

Constanza Ocampo-Raeder, Tun Myint, and George Vrtisare each working on individual writing projects rooted in their own disciplines but related to overlapping questions in environmental studies. They will be sharing and discussing drafts of their work.

“Unlearning Creativity”

Palmar Alvarez-Blanco, Nikki Melville, and Andrea Mazzariello will reimagine creativity in ways that engage and amplify the work of social justice and equity. They are interested in thinking about creativity, artistic practice, curation, and how these can bring about transformative and sustainable change in institutions and systems. To this end, they will study three works: Against Creativity (Oli Mould), The Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Paolo Freire), and “Can the Subaltern Speak?” (Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak).

“Race and Racism in Social Philosophy and Theory across the Disciplines”

Lori Pearson and Charisse Burden-Stellywill read and discuss The Fetish Revisited: Marx, Freud, and the Gods Black People Make, by J. Lorand Matory (Duke, 2018) to help inform scholarly projects currently in progress and to reflect on how they teach social theory and race in their own classes, especially with an eye to their own subject locations and questions of truth and normativity. 

“Poetry and Politics in Antebellum New York: The Crew at Pfaff’s Beer Cellar”

Peter Balaam and Baird Jarmanwill examine the interconnections (with Pfaff’s Beer Cellar in New York as a social hub) of antebellum political views and styles with both political journalism and with Whitman’s fashioning of a novel, urban, explicitly “democratic” poetic persona.

“Documenting Belonging: Fostering Civic Engagement, Collaboration, and Reciprocity through Participatory Community Media”

Emily Oliver and Laska Jimsen will research and develop an article based on their presentation at the fall 2019 national “Imagining America” gathering, and will read texts about participatory processes and social justice in pedagogy, community engagement, and organizing.

Participants will receive a small stipend and have been encouraged to donate their stipends to the Northfield Food Shelf or We Love Lake Street, a program that helps small business owners on Lake Street in Minneapolis.

Faculty will share the results of their collaboration with the Carleton community by contributing a one-page report or a brief reflection to a blog that will appear on the Humanities Center webpage this fall.