2016-2017 Faculty Fellows
Professor and Chair, History of Art and Architecture, Professor of Archaeology and the Ancient World
Associate Professor of History
Associate Professor of Anthropology, Director of Latin American and Caribbean Studies Anthropology
Professor of History of Art and Architecture
Associate Professor of Anthropology, Associate Professor of Archeology and the Ancient World
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
2015-2016 Faculty Fellows
Associate Professor of Anthropology
Professor of Modern Culture and Media, Professor of Political Science
Professor of Anthropology
Assistant Professor of Music
2014-2015 Faculty Fellows
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Project information forthcoming
Professor of Anthropology
The Haffenreffer Faculty Fellowship provided me with a wonderful opportunity to further incorporate the use of the collection in my teaching. My Fellowship period and funds were used to develop a set of research designs for senior concentrators in Anthropology, providing incentive and a framework for using elements of the Haffenreffer collection in writing the capstone project required of each senior in conjunction with our Senior Seminar in Anthropology. Given the size and relative inaccessibility of the collection and given the short length of the semester, students have generally steered away from taking on such museum-based projects in the past.
With major and creative assistance from graduate student Emily Button and the help of Thierry Gentis, a set of four extensive possible capstone project sets using the collection were developed. One involved a set of possible research questions about colonialism, cultural appropriation, and technology and society that could be explored via a US Army soldier’s collection of clothing, weapons and other artifacts acquired from the Bagobo people during the Philippine American war. Another proposal uses a remarkable, large-scale Hmong applique textile that tells the story of their pre-war life and flight from Laos in the context of war in Southeast Asia. It articulates several possible research questions around such things as the nature of narrative form, power and the telling of divergent histories, and cultural innovation and the conditions that make it possible.
I have shared these proposals with my colleagues for potential use by anyone in the department who might want to teach with them or to encourage a student to use or adapt their design for capstone or honor thesis projects in future.
As a 2014-15 Faculty Fellow, I was able to draw on the expertise of the Haffenreffer Museum’s staff and its expansive collection to shape the course that I co-taught with Professor Sheila Bonde in fall 2014, Global History of Art and Architecture. This new course ventured away from traditional art historical surveys that often ignore, or diminish, art and architecture produced outside of Western Europe toward one in which objects from Africa, the Americas, and Asia were considered part of the larger history of art and architecture.
One of our lectures, Imperial Benin and ItsGlobal Consumption: The Benin Bronzes (13th century-1897), drew on the history, use, reception, and circulation of Benin bronzes. Professor Bonde and I met with Haffenreffer staff to learn more about the cultural and material concerns of these objects, specifically those contained within the Museum’s collection. The Museum placed a selection of these on view in Manning Hall so that students could view and, in some cases, handle them during the week of the Benin bronze lecture. This interaction was a very important pedagogical moment for us — students engaged with objects they were learning about in class
and our graduate teaching assistants learned to handle museum objects and lead discussions with actual art objects rather than reproductions. This was a useful professional development exercise for our graduate students, many of whom are interested in curatorial careers.
We also used two African objects from the Haffenreffer’s collection — a 19th century terracotta and a 19th century brass — as subjects for one of the three required paper assignments. For this assignment, students compared and contrasted the formal and functional qualities of these objects with others located at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum. In addition to encouraging student writing about artwork, this assignment showed them how to use museums as scholarly resources.
Assistant Professor, History of Art and Architecture
My Haffenreffer faculty fellowship had two distinct phases: a series of CultureLab sessions with African and African diaspora objects in the Fall semester, and a sustained semester-long project built around the Haffenreffer’s Tuareg leather tent in the spring.
At the beginning of the Fall 2014 semester, I met with the museum's fellowship coordinator and curators to determine which African and African diaspora objects in the collection were suitable for incorporation into my course, "Architecture and Urbanism of Africa and its Diaspora" (HIAA 0770). I chose to focus on two groups of objects corresponding to two distinct course units: a Senufo (Cote d’Ivoire) architectural ornament depicting a zoomorphic helmet mask and a Senufo mask reminiscent of the one depicted on the architectural ornament; and a collection of objects associated with Candomble (Brazil) worship. In lieu of illustrated lectures in our normal classroom, my students and I met in CultureLab for these two units. Our sessions at CultureLab stimulated lively discussions in which we focused on reading the objects themselves against pre-assigned textual descriptions and analyses. Haffenreffer curator Thierry Gentis and post-doctoral fellow Christy DeLair were invaluable facilitators in preparing and running these CultureLab sessions. For many students in the class, this was a first encounter with the Haffenreffer Museum and with object-based learning.
During the investigative period at the beginning of Fall 2014, Haffenreffer staff informed me about the Museum’s collection of Tuareg (West Africa) objects including a Tuareg leather tent that has never been exhibited. As the semester progressed, I started to envision a project in which students in my proposed Spring 2015 course (HIAA 1181), “Prefabrication and Architecture,” would conduct an in-depth study of the Tuareg tent. Working with Deputy Director Kevin Smith and Thierry Gentis, my students would research Tuareg tent building practices; observe, document, and identify the Haffenreffer’s tent; and analyze and propose scenarios for its eventual assembly and exhibition. Since the condition of the tent had to be assessed before a decision could be made to exhibit it, we agreed that we would approach the project as an exploratory exercise. Regardless of whether the tent could be exhibited at the end of the semester, the course would produce an IKEA-style assembly manual for the tent as well as a folio of research on Tuareg tents for future use by the Haffenreffer.
The project was included in course descriptions and announced during the first class meeting. It was the focus of our reading and discussion for the first unit of the course on vernacular prefabricated architectures. And it remained a connecting thread throughout the semester as we explored the history of prefabrication from the Crystal Palace and the industrial revolution to green architecture in the twenty-first century. In lieu of a term paper, students signed on to conduct specific research, analysis, writing, documentation, and design activities that would contribute to our collaborative end products—an assembly manual and research folio. Activities included collecting written and multi-media descriptions of the process of assembling Tuareg tents, researching Tuareg tent exhibits at museums throughout the world, building models of the Haffenreffer tent, layout design for the assembly manual, and photographic and filmic documentation of the tent and our research process. To aid students in this endeavor, Haffenreffer staff transferred the tent from its storage location in Bristol, RI to the History of Art & Architecture’s multi-functional teaching space on the fourth floor of List Art Building.
The tent project changed the dynamic of the class by forging a sense of common purpose among class members and myself, allowing students to pursue their individual interests within a group project, and providing opportunities for experiential, object-based learning. The project mimicked actual conditions and processes in the world of cultural heritage management since we had to respond to new information and alter our plans in real-time. As a documentary film produced by student Himani Sood illustrates, the tent became the raison d’etre for the class. This was brought home to me repeatedly over the semester as I interacted with students around campus who had heard of the project. "Oh yes, the Tuareg tent class!" they exclaimed. It became clear that collaborating with the Haffenreffer Museum to design a term project around the Tuareg tent was considered a unique educational opportunity. The Haffenreffer faculty fellowship enriched the course in countless ways and opened up trajectories for continued collaboration with the Haffenreffer Museum. Time constraints meant that the class was not able to assemble and exhibit the tent at the end of the semester after a conservator had declared it to be in good condition. Instead, these conditions define the outlines of a future project in which students can propose, create, and launch an exhibition centered on the Haffenreffer’s Tuareg tent.
Professor of Anthropology
As a 2014-15 Haffenreffer Faculty Fellow, I taught a first-year undergraduate seminar Who Owns the Past, which explored why the archaeological past matters. By examining how objects, sites, monuments, and human remains are valued, claimed, and used by different stakeholders, students were encouraged to think about the meaning of ethical stewardship, responsible citizenship, and engaged scholarship. The complementarity of these pedagogical goals and the Museum’s mission to foster critical thinking about global cultures, past and present, and its collections, offered an excellent opportunity for enhancing the course.
For example, soapstone bowls in the collections were used in teaching about New England’s stone landscapes. Quarried from outcrops that along with stone cairns and structures have been the subject of much speculation, the bowls gave students insights into how Native people and collectors valued these objects differently as they considered the challenges of preserving these sites for the future. Other objects were the focus of an assignment in which students were asked to evaluate whether an item was “repatriable” under NAGPRA or should be accepted or rejected by the Museum given its policies and antiquity laws. The projects were conducted at the CultureLab, where the staff supervised the students, provided them with documentation, and answered their questions.
Several staff members gave guest lectures on repatriation and Indigenous museums, key themes in the course. Thierry Gentis shared his experiences with NAGPRA; and Christy DeLair, a Post-Doctoral Fellow, talked about her research on indigenous artists and museums in Taiwan as part of the class discussion about changes in archaeological and museum practice. Listening to the voices of those on the Museum’s frontline, and learning from objects and their histories firsthand made the students understand why the past matters so fiercely to different stakeholders -- and made me think about how I might further use the Museum’s resources when I teach the class again next spring.
2013-2014 Faculty Fellows
Assistant Professor of Modern Culture and Media, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature
Professor of Archaeology, Professor of Anthropology
"Without the rich variety of the Haffenreffer's collections, my freshman seminar (Postcolonial Matters: Material Culture Between Colonialism and Globalization - ANTH0066) would have been much more abstract. That would have been a shame. Studying material culture is by nature hands-on: having 'real objects' at and is crucial."
Assitant Professor of Anthropology
"The Faculty Fellows Program made an enormous difference to me and my students this term. It helped me make clear to the students, using new materials and new approaches, some of the fundamental insights of the course (Sounds and Symbols - ANTH0800). First, that the ways we talk about things, and the ways we use language, have numerous material effects and manifestations. And second, that anthropology's central ideas about language can easily be applied to other semiotic systems, including those embedded in material objects. In short, the Faculty Fellow Program helped me transform the course and push it in rewarding and innovative directions."
Assistant Professor of American studies
Professor of Social Science, Director of Early Cultures
Assitant Professor of Anthropology