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2012-13 Graduate Colloquium Awardees

"Global Resistance during the Era of Neoliberalism"
Benjamin Holtzman and Sara Mattiesen (American Studies; History)

This colloquium explores how grassroots political actors and social movements have responded to the implementation and acceleration of neoliberal conditions (such as deregulation, privatization, and decreased state welfare provisions) over the previous four decades. Though the 1960s may have marked the zenith of global insurgency in the post-World War II decades, the period during and after the 1970s has marked an era during which many movements expanded, engaged in innovative tactics and strategies, and embarked on new terrains of struggle.

This colloquium will bring together scholars and activists whose work has examined the ways in which people have challenged the logic of neoliberalism and its political, economic, social, and cultural iterations. By focusing on how movements have resisted neoliberalism internationally, this series will explore the ways neoliberalization has been understood – and how its trajectory has been altered – by those most affected by its adoption. Colloquium events will provide opportunities for participants to engage with diverse examples of how neoliberalism and struggles against it have shaped the world since the 1970s.

"Empire Comes Back"
Ania Borejsza-Wysocka, Laura Perille, John Rosenberg (History)

This colloquium aims to bring together graduate students and scholars from the disciplines of history, anthropology, sociology, and comparative literature for an extended conversation on empire as a category of analysis and, in particular, the ways in which empire is experienced and practiced at “home.” This colloquium will analyze as a core question the extent home societies are complicit in the imperial projects undertaken by states. This one-day event will feature three panels, two of which will consist of four scholars and a commentator, while the third will showcase the research of current Brown graduate students whose work touches upon empire and the metropole. The first panel will focus on how scholars in their respective fields conceptualize empire and its attendant foreign and domestic processes. 

This panel will assess methodologies for studying empire through consideration of networks, texts, performance, and ritual. The second panel will showcase innovative scholarship on empire and its relationship to the metropole. This scholarship encompass a broad geographic and temporal range.  Because empire is a concern of a number of departments at Brown, from Anthropology to Comparative Literature, a colloquium of this kind offers a unique opportunity for interdisciplinary dialogue. We anticipate that the colloquium will not only bring together faculty from across and outside the university, but will offer an opportunity for Brown graduate students in multiple departments to come together to share ideas and methodologies. This is an especially ripe moment in the profession to think about how different disciplines research, write, and ask questions about empire and its multiple origins in and affects on the “homefront.”

"Corresponding Landscapes: Religious and Cultural Exchanges in the Post-Classical Mediterranean"
Byron MacDougall (Classics)

The Graduate International Colloquium “Corresponding Landscapes: Religious and Cultural Exchange in the Post-Classical Mediterranean” has a two-fold purpose: to create a space in which graduate students from a wide variety of disciplines (Classics, Archaeology, and Religious Studies) can meet to discuss their work, and to promote the study of post-Classical Mediterranean communications across linguistic, religious, and temporal frontiers. The Colloquium meets biweekly to workshop projects by Brown graduate students and faculty and hosts a speaker series that allows scholars from various countries and disciplines to showcase their latest research to the Brown community. During the past year, guest speakers included Margaret Mullett  (Director of Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks) on Byzantine literature under the Komnenian dynasty, Peter Struck (University of Pennsylvania)  on divination in Iamblichus and Augustine, and Beatrice Caseau (Sorbonne) on food and religion in Byzantium.

"Trajectories of Chinese Capitalism"
Irene Yang, Derek Sheridan (Sociology; Anthropology)

The history of capitalism has been intimately tied to the story of the “rise of the West”. The European experience has been fundamental in providing the groundwork upon which understandings of the state, capital, labor, and their interactions have been developed.  The non-European world has long been part of this story, but mostly in the context of colonialism, and its intimate relation to the story of capitalism. Explanations of the “west/rest” divergence have ranged the gamut of social scientific/ideological perspectives. The dramatic growth of economies in East Asia and parts of the South in recent decades, however, have transformed the grand narrative of capitalism. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the debates, discourses and anxieties surrounding the “rise of China”.

In a few short decades, social scientists have shifted from feeling a need to explain China’s failure to develop modern capitalism to confidently arguing that it was always latent (if not already there). “Chinese culture”, once regarded as a barrier to growth, is now regarded as an asset. The scholarly shift over time closely (and probably not coincidentally) parallels the transformation of mainland China itself from Maoism to the Reform and Opening. In the space of a few decades, China has undergone a dramatic transition, one that has provided scholars a unique opportunity to witness a capitalist revolution unfold, and therefore revisit and revise our understandings of capitalism and its potential varieties.

Is this a classic story in which similar themes and issues from the European experience reemerge, or is there distinctiveness to China’s development that challenges theories of capitalism themselves? How does this alter our understandings of north-south inequalities? What is the relationship between China’s development and various “economic miracles” that both preceded and which (as some hope) may follow it? Is China’s economic growth a post-1978 story, or does it fit into a much longer narrative? How has the Chinese experience compared and contrasted with the European experience over the longue durée. What has been the contours of the changes since 1978? What has been the role of state actors and private entrepreneurs? Has the trajectory of the Chinese economy reflected limited or heavy state involvement? What kind of working class, and working class struggles, is emerging? How do relationships between state, capital and labor factor into the economic development programs governments pursue? And what has been the impact of the global financial crisis on China?

The speaker series will touch upon these questions and more through the presence of distinguished scholars Yasheng Huang, author of Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics (Cambridge University Press, 2008); Roy Bin Wong, author of China Transformed: Historical Change and the Limits of European Experience (Cornell University Press, 1997), and Lu Zhang, whose upcoming book concerns the collective action of Chinese auto workers.

"Before Mare Nostrum: Current Issues in the Prehistory of the Mediterranean"
Clive Bella, Thomas Leppard, Alex Knodell, Muge Durusu-Tanriover (Archaeology)

The Mediterranean as a knowable object is fashionable in the social sciences. Following the trail blazed
by Fernand Braudel’s The Mediterranean in the Age of Philip II, recent studies by Peregrine
Horden and Nicholas Purcell (The Corrupting Sea, 2000) and now David Abulafia (The Great Sea, 2011)
have attempted to deal with the Mediterranean as a conceptual whole, from the Pillars of Herakles
to the Lebanon. These works marshal huge and varied bodies of source material in outlining the
fundamental unities, patterns, and also disunities that have characterized the Sea and its peoples over
Braudel’s longue dureé.

Yet these studies of, rather than simply in, the Mediterranean have been limited to later periods,
beginning with the corralling of the basin’s far-flung corners into what the Romans knew as mare
nostrum – our sea. The vast majority of the human occupation of the circum- (and intra-) Mediterranean
world is limited to generalizing introductory chapters or footnotes. This is all the more peculiar
considering that the Mediterranean basin has witnessed outstanding and myriad cultural developments
since the region was occupied by the first hominin species in the Pleistocene. Some of the most notable
global cultural achievements – such as the first European states and scripts, the great ‘megalithic’
cultures of the Mediterranean islands, and the development of the first real maritime trade networks
– have occurred in the past 5,000 years in the Middle Sea. Moreover, the Mediterranean region and
its archaeology have witnessed some of the most significant leaps in theory and methodology in world
archaeology in the last half-century.

This colloquium aims to push such large-scale research projects back before mare nostrum, and will
attempt to see if a prehistory of, not in, the Mediterranean can be grasped coherently. It will bring
together leading and senior scholars, whose regional interests, taken together, cover the huge temporal
and spatial swath of Mediterranean prehistory. Their lectures and seminars will help delineate the
cutting-edge of Mediterranean prehistory in the early 21st century, and outline an agenda for a future
prehistory of the Mediterranean.

"Ancient Pyrotechnology: Materials Science Investigations and Crossing the Interdisciplinary Divide - A Symposium on Archaeological Materials Science"
Susan Herringer (Archaeology)

Abstract: This symposium on ancient pyrotechnology will focus on the materials science investigations of archaeomaterials.  Moving away from the ideals of stylistic typologies to classify objects and evaluating materials on the basis of technique, technical skill, treatment, and material choice, we may begin to examine technological style, or the choices the craftsman makes in the production an artifact.  The symposium will explore such topics as:

  1. technologies and conditions of material production;
  2. structure-property relationships of materials;
  3. success/failure of materials and its influence on the development of technology (in regards to technological choice and object design);
  4. technological innovation.

The interplay of structure, property, and performance of materials within engineering and materials science studies will serve as a useful backdrop to explore the above topics in regards to craft production. With a cross-disciplinary approach to the subject of craft production, we will work towards a common goal of elucidating the ancient manufacturing techniques used to produce high-temperature products such as ceramics, metals and glass. This exploration into products of ancient pyrotechnology will serve as a means to promote collaborative investigations. 

"Acoustic Alchemy and Data Transmutation"
Mark Cetilia (Music)

Abstract: Data sonification is a form of “auditory display” wherein data is converted to sound to aid in scientific understanding. Time-tested examples of data sonification include the Geiger counter and electrocardiogram (ECG) machines. However, this field has begun to expand rapidly in recent years, and the use of data sonification may be found throughout scientific study, where it is potentially useful wherever patterns in complex data might need to be revealed.

The field of data sonification is commonly presented as being aligned with the goals of graphic and information design, but is rarely discussed in terms of more experimental approaches such as those of the invited speakers of this colloquium, which seeks to present an alternative viewpoint of data sonification. The work of the invited speakers is not focused on strict representation of data or aiding in the understanding of complex data sets, but on looking at ways in which data is transformed through artistic practice. Through a series of workshops, talks and performances led by guest artists, foundations will be laid for understanding the practices of acoustic alchemy and data transmutation by internationally acclaimed practitioners. The guest speakers will be asked to present an overview of their work and provide a conceptual framework for understanding the role that the transformation of data plays within it through workshops with students, as well as a series of artist talks and performances that will be free and open to the public.

"Local Religious Practice in the Ancient World"
Julia Troche (Egyptology & Ancient Western Asian Studies)

Religious practice has been an innate part of the human experience. This workshop seeks to understand the dynamic, ephemeral and symbolic qualities of religious practice in local settings. Accessing these practices is challenging and demands a multifaceted theoretical approach. A 2005 conference at Brown, and subsequent book, “Household and Family Religion in Antiquity,” successfully brought leading scholars together, showcasing the University’s faculty as leaders in this discourse. This colloquium will uniquely provide a forum for Brown graduate students to engage in this conversation – bridging cross-disciplinary gaps through the presentation of theory from the disciplines of history, anthropology, archaeology, and religious studies. It is through this cross-disciplinary discourse that culturally specific challenges may be highlighted in order to facilitate discussion leading to interpretive solutions and methodologies of investigation informed by graduate students’ research in various fields of study.

"Caste and Inequality in Urbanizing India"
Poulomi Chakrabarti, Jamie McPie (Political Science; Sociology)

India is in the middle of a transformation from a majority rural to an increasingly urban society. In the next two decades, India's urban population is projected to reach 590 million, twice the size of present day United States. This demographic shift has profound implications for social relations and forms of social inequality within India.  Urban theory suggests that as individuals and groups adapt to city life, traditional forms of social organization, such as caste, family, and religion can be expected to weaken and reorganize. However most of the existing scholarship on caste in India examines this institution in the rural context. The limited research currently available on caste in contemporary urban India does suggest that caste continues to structure lives, opportunities and outcomes. The colloquium on 'Caste and Inequality in Urbanizing India' by interdisciplinary group of graduate students will aim to explore a relational understanding of how caste and other axes of social, political, and economic inequality transform, and are transformed by, urban spaces and urbanization.

"Detours, Deviations, and Digressions in International Literature and Thought"
Benjamin Brand; Eric Foster; Michael Powers (German Studies)

We would like to use the Graduate International Colloquium Grant in order to facilitate a discourse between texts and topoi that traditionally have been kept apart by structural constraints; and to generate a space within Brown’s given academic framework that allows students of different national literatures and cultural backgrounds to enter into a meaningful and productive discussion with one another.In this context, Detours, Deviations, and Digressions are of critical interest to us due to their paradoxical nature. On the one hand, detours are experienced as a nuisance, deviations are punished, and digressions appear to lower productivity. Yet, on the other hand, these forms of aberration, resistance, and deferral open up a discursive space in which invention and thought can thrive unencumbered; they constitute the creative potentiality from which every new thought and narration emerge. Without a “minimally complicated detour or deviance” (cf. Brooks 1984) beginning and end would conflate and there would simply be nothing to be mediated. Alexis Grohmann and Caregh Wells (2011) thus conclude that there are “no non-digressive works, there are merely narratives that could be said to be more digressive than others (either on the level of story or on that of discourse or both), and some in more ways than one.”

Detours, Deviations, and Digressions are, however, not only relevant as rhetorical and narrative strategies in literary production. They also have been essential figurations of thought and critique since the 19th century. “Method is detour” (Methode ist Umweg), states Walter Benjamin, in an almost ironically straightforward manner in his Origin of the German Mourning Play. This brief dictum summarizes his methodology and way of thinking—one that concerns itself with countering conceptions of directness, linearity, and immediacy in the realms of language, art, history and politics.

"Mobilizing Performance: Identity and Self-Making in Black Women's Aesthetic Practices"
Sachelle Ford, Brandy Monk-Payton, Nicosia Shakes (English; MCM; Africana Studies)

Black women have negotiated their subjugation within and across nations through mechanisms of "self-mechanism"; i.e. exercising agency as a means of confronting and redefining masculinist and racist conceptions and systems of domination.  The insistence on self-definition is crucial to how Black women navigate issues concerning resistance.  This invention of the self is where this project is located through its engagement with Black female performance across literary, visual, and theatrical expressive cultures. We are conceptualizing performance as articulation of expressions of subjectivity predicated on iterations of mobility. "Mobility" here serves to reflect the negotiation of movement in the intersections between the self and the Diaspora as well as the political and the aesthetic. This colloquium proposes that we can relocate the discourse to spaces thatare  international and feminist in order to produce innovative ideas about how performativity articulates Blackness.  This focus on the Black Diaspora puts pressure on cultural nationalism, which tends to overlook the cross-national circulation of ideas and practices of performativity and national, racial, cultural, and gender-specific constructions.

"Between Dialogue and Solidarity: Conceptualizing Transnational Intellectual Exchanges"
Katerina Seligmann,Chana Morgenstern, Thayse Leal Lima (Comperative Literature; Portuguese and Brazilian Studies)

This Colloquium will examine modes of transnational circulation and exchanges of ideas between intellectuals (in periodicals, letters, translations, conferences, collaborations, exhibits, etc.) within minority, colonial-postcolonial, and East-West aesthetic and political projects and movements of the twentieth century.  We will interrogate how the knowledge produced in the context of these intellectual exchanges—across national, ethnic and linguistic borders—often belies an ethic that weighs on an “international division of labor” characterized by the “asymmetrical and hierarchical distribution of cognitive positions among different countries and regions of the globe” (Idelber Avelar).  The colloquium proposes to understand the aesthetic and political dynamics of the field Bourdieu defined as the international circulation of ideas, a field often characterized by uneven and hierarchical exchanges in which some national traditions export thought and others become “producers of objects for thought” (Avelar). Among the questions we will address are: How can we analyze regional and international border-crossing intellectual movements, projects or events in the context of the asymmetries and hierarchies through which the transnational/translational exchange of ideas pass?  How do these asymmetries impact the production of ideology and knowledge? How is the flow of knowledge and power distributed at the crossing points of exchange, and what are the conceptual and relational products of these exchanges?