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People

Directorate

Eric Hayot
Director

A scholar of comparative literature, modernism, and East Asia, Hayot is the author of four books, including Chinese Dreams (2004), The Hypothetical Mandarin (2009), On Literary Worlds (2012), and The Elements of Academic Style (2014); he is also a co-editor of Sinographies: Writing China (2007) and, most recently, of A New Vocabulary for Global Modernism (2016, with Rebecca Walkowitz). He has written about modernism, poetry, video games, the history of modernity, Asian American literature, and other topics. His current projects include a translation of Peter Janich’s Was ist Information? (with Lea Pao) and a monograph on the philosophy of literature.

Jonathan Abel
Associate Director

Information and The New Real: The Bloated Cultures of New Media Part of a longer book-length study entitled The New Real: Media, Marketing, and Mimesis Made in Japan, the chapter that I propose to complete during a CHI Residential Fellowship focusses on four kinds of digital literature. The chapter will analyze the data of Japanese cell phone novels, twitter novels, visual novel games, and episodic video narratives. Bringing these tools to bear on my studies of the born-digital cultural material as a CHI fellow will bring to my work a methodology in which interpretation meets form.

Jennifer Boittin
Associate Director
Associate Professor of French, Francophone Studies, and History

Boittin is Associate Professor of French, Francophone Studies, and History. Her research and teaching look at how colonial spaces in West Africa, Southeast Asia, and the French Caribbean were shaped by intersections between gender, race, class, and sexuality. She is the author of Colonial Metropolis: The Urban Grounds of Anti-imperialism and Feminism in Interwar Paris (2010, University of Nebraska Press), an innovative, intersectional history of radical interwar politics, and of Undesirable: Passionate Mobility and Women’s Defiance of French Colonial Policing, 1919-1952 (in production, University of Chicago Press, 2022), which tracks and maps approximately seven hundred women through French, Cambodian, and Senegalese archives to understand what ordinary people do when they realize they are being policed.

Advisory Board

Jonathan Abel, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Asian Studies

Richard Doyle, Liberal Arts Research Professor of English

Greg Eghigian, Associate Professor of History

Samuel Frederick, Assistant Professor of German

Matthew Jordan, Associate Professor of Film & Video Studies

Michele Kennerly, Assistant Professor of Communication Arts & Sciences

Daniel Purdy, Professor of German

Christopher Reed, Professor of English and Visual Culture

Mark Sentesy, Assistant Professor of Philosophy

Current Fellows

2021-2022 Predoctoral Fellows

Jeff Nagel is a doctoral candidate in Penn State’s Department of Communication Arts and Sciences where he studies the intersection of absence, queerness, memory, and social movements. His dissertation, entitled “Queering Absence: The Rhetoric of the Homophile Movement,” examines key moments in American homophile activism (a direct precursor to the modern gay rights movement) and connects archival recovery with queer rhetorical theory. These moments reveal a complex relationship between queerness and absence, and the underappreciated debt modern queer organizing has to these earlier efforts. His work appears several journals including Rhetoric Society Quarterly, QED: A Journal of GLBTQ Worldmaking, and Women’s Studies in Communication.  

Alexandria Herrera is a fourth-year dual-title Ph.D. Student in Latin American History and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Alex is currently working on her doctoral dissertation. The project examines how transnational networks of Guatemalan, American, and European doctors, public health officials, politicians, city police, and sex workers created and shaped prostitution regulations and medical knowledge about sexually transmitted infections in 19th and 20th century Guatemala City. The project focuses on the medical and public health justifications for policing sex workers’ bodies for STIs, particularly syphilis, from 1890 to 1940.  

Jerome Clarke is a Ph.D. Candidate in African American Studies and Philosophy. His dissertation—Digital Colorline: Race, Machine Learning, and the Critique of Technology—reconstructs the idea of systematic racism given the germane algorithmic bias of today’s learning models. As racialization manifests as outputs of facial recognition, predictive policing, and recidivism assessment, contested notions of fairness and transparency undergird public discourse on machine auditing and design. Though debates often focus on systems that exacerbate or learn society’s racial antagonisms, scant engagement with theories of race throw little into relief and partly result in a political standstill between public-private partnerships and their critics. This project maintains that learning models disrupt common and expert notions of societal racism, political recognition, and just distribution. Conversely, certain computing frameworks obfuscate how race operates socially, and they implicate how designers, critics, and users alike understand and use learning technologies. Intervening in debates of Black Studies and Social Philosophy, this dissertation argues that the reflexive frameworks of abstraction and data positivism muddy our understanding of how, at each end of black box algorithms, stat and statistics serve as racist bludgeons.

“Sonic Informatics: ‘Processing’ the Ethnicized Soundscape in Zimbabwean Migrant Fiction” 

My project “Sonic Informatics: ‘Processing’ the Ethnicized Soundscape in Zimbabwean Migrant Fiction” explores the literary representation of black Zimbabwean migrants in South Africa. I employ sound as a methodology for reading contemporary Zimbabwean migrant fiction to demonstrate how migratory aesthetics engage with what I term the Ethnicized Soundscape. I argue that a sonic approach to reading and interpreting narratives of displacement challenges the treatment of sound as a supplementary effect of vision rather than as epistemology in its own right, a way of knowing. A sound-focused reading disrupts how conventional genres of migration convey information about displaced people. Processing the Ethnicized Soundscape through literary texts is the contemporary conjunction between orality and literacy. My work employs Sound Studies methodology to offer a unique way of analyzing fiction that depicts migrants’ lived experiences because aurality in sub-Saharan Africa is perceived as orature; that is, the oral written down. I maintain that studying the Ethnicized Soundscape provides a broader understanding of inter-black migrant relations in South Africa. The ear, I argue, is the computational system that receives sound and makes meaning. In this context, informatics work with the ear as the computer that emits soundbites interpreted within the Ethnicized Soundscape. Sonic informatics is a new intervention that I bring to studying black African migrants’ communicative practices in South Africa.

My dissertation examines the role of literature in the formation of queer communities by tracing the reworking of taxonomizing language throughout the long twentieth century till now. I argue that the literary deployment of taxonomies fundamentally shifts their meaning and the social uptake of these labels in ways that bring attention to the failure of taxonomies and the communities that spring forth from this failure. This dissertation examines the poetry found in German lesbian magazines, early 20th century queer/trans novels from Western Europe, contemporary speculative fiction, and U.S. poetry slam. Engaging with and contributing to gender studies, literary studies, trans studies, fat studies, and queer studies, this project focuses on moments when lived experience and relationality escape naming and expand the possibilities of community and kinship. Through an interdisciplinary approach combining interviews, archival research, and textual and visual analysis, I contend that the unmaking and remaking of taxonomies through literature is fundamental to the work of speculative community formation—of finding, providing for, and knowing queerness, and of expanding networks of queer solidarity. 

My dissertation, “Encounters between Eshu and Dionysus. Afro-Greek mediations in Cuban and Brazilian theater,” inquires into the intersections of ancient Greek and African-based cosmologies and their mediations within Cuban and Brazilian performances. From the 40s up to the present, Afro-Atlantic religions such as Cuban Santería and Brazilian Candomblé have been transposed into the Cuban and Brazilian stages and interacted not only with different media and technology (theater, cinema, radio, puppetry), but also with Greek myths, dramas, and aesthetics. By dialoguing with multiple disciplines like Media and Theater Studies, Classical Reception, Race and Afro-Atlantic Studies, my project will explore the systems of mediations and structures (artifacts, technologies, and practices such as possession and ritual) involved in these Afro-Greek interactions and how they complicate important questions of Cuban and Brazilian history, such as national identity, race, gender and humanity.

2021-2022 Faculty Fellows

Cruz, Ariane

Ariane Cruz is an Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.  Her manuscript, The Color of Kink: Black Women, BDSM, and Pornography, is published with New York University Press.  Her publications appear in journals such as differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, Camera Obscura, Feminist Studies, Hypatia, Women & Performance, Sexualities, The Journal of American Studies, The Black Scholar, and Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society.  Her writing also appears books such as The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure, Black Female Sexualities, The Philosophy of Pornography: Contemporary Perspectives, Black Sexual Economies: Race and Sex in a Culture of Capital, and Women’s Lives, Multicultural Perspectives.  As a scholar of black feminist sexuality theory, her research interests lie at the intersections between black female sexuality, black visual culture, and performance.

Maha Marouan

Maha Marouan is an African feminist scholar, writer and documentarian. She is associate professor of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies and African Studies. Her publications include Witches, Goddesses and Angry Spirits: The Politics of Spiritual Liberation in African Diaspora Women’s Fiction, (Ohio State University Press, 2013), a co-edited volume on Race and Displacement: Nation, Migration and Identity in the Twenty-First Century (University of Alabama Press, 2013) and a documentary entitled Voices of Muslim Women in the US South (Women Make Movies, New York, 2015). Her academic and creative works appeared in The Boston Review, Transition Magazine of Africa and the African Diaspora and Journal of Islamic Africa. Her research and teaching interests include, Religions and Literatures of Africa and the African Diaspora, Comparative Literature, Transnational Feminisms and Women and Immigration. 

Tracy Rutler is Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Penn State. She is the author of Queering the Enlightenment: Kinship and gender in eighteenth-century French literature (Liverpool University Press, 2021), and has published articles in scholarly journals such as The French Review, Criticism, and Esprit créateur. She is currently working on a second monograph, titled Careful Science: Reimagining Disability in the Early Modern Francophone World, which seeks to uncover certain healing practices that have been suppressed or erased with the rise of modern Western medicine. Turning particularly to practices of care both within France and in several early French colonies, this book will show how early modern authors, philosophers, and healers understood the capacities of the human body, and might just help us to understand how notions of (dis)ability could be understood in more adaptive and inclusive ways.

Daniel Zolli teaches and writes about late medieval and early modern European art, with particular interests in the materials and techniques of art, workshop practice, art’s theorization in oral tradition, “shop talk,” and popular folklore, and – most recently – art’s entanglements with toxicity and the environment. He is co-editor of three books: Sculpture in the Age of Donatello (D. Giles, 2015), The Art of Sculpture in Fifteenth-Century Italy (Cambridge U Press, 2020), and Contamination and Purity in Early Modern Art and Architecture (Amsterdam U Press, 2021). At the CHI, he will work on his monograph, Donatello’s Promiscuous Technique: Collaboration and Experimentation in a Fifteenth-Century Workshop.

2021-2022 Visiting Fellows

Jeffrey Binder

Jeffrey M. Binder specializes in humanistic perspectives on computation, especially in relation to issues of language. He has written on topics ranging from the history of the back-of-the-book index to the use of technical terms in Walt Whitman’s poetry; he has also developed numerous software experiments in computational text analysis and artistic uJeffrey M. Binder specializes in humanistic perspectives on computation, especially in relation to issues of language. He has written on topics ranging from the history of the back-of-the-book index to the use of technical terms in Walt Whitman’s poetry. He has also developed numerous software experiments in computational text analysis and artistic uses of artificial intelligence. His work has been published in such journals as ELHAmerican Literature, and Media Culture and Society; his most recent article, “Romantic Disciplinarity and the Rise of the Algorithm,” appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of Critical Inquiry. He is currently working on a book about the history of the idea of algorithm from the sixteenth century to the rise of machine learning.

Georgia Ennis

Georgia Ennis is a linguistic anthropologist specializing in media and the environment. Utilizing community-engaged and collaborative methods, her research explores Indigenous media production, language revitalization, and environmental knowledge in a changing climate. Her book-in-progress, Mothering Earth: Women, Media, and Cultural Reclamation in the Western Amazon, follows Amazonian Kichwa (Quichua) women as they mobilize media to strengthen relationships and knowledge key to environmental reclamation and food sovereignty.  At the CHI, she is also developing Voices of the Amazon, a digital archive of Amazonian Kichwa media.