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Current Fellows

Visting Fellows 2019-20

Jeffrey Binder

I am currently working on a book about the intellectual history of algorithms from the mid-1500s to around 1900. By examing the differing ways in which people have conceptualized algorithm-like processes over the centuries, my book shows that computation as we know it depends on social categories that emerged in the nineteenth century. During the Enlightenment, algorithms were a politically loaded topic; radicals sought to replace the “errors” of the past with mathematical rationality, while conservatives viewed such methods as tyrannical impositions of arbitrary rules on human thought. The Romantic turn around 1800, I argue, provided a new definition of culture in which these two conflicting positions could get along: the technical aspects of mathematical systems could be scientifically designed, whereas the “cultural factors” involved in making them meaningful to people could be enabled to develop organically. This nineteenth-century compromise, I argue, set the terms on which algorithms continue to relate to meaning in the present day.

Georgia Ennis

A Voice for the Amazon: Media, Language, and Cultural Survivance in Napo, Ecuador is a book and multimedia archive that jointly explore the historical and contemporary development of a multiplatform, multilingual mediascape in the Ecuadorian Amazon. This mediascape implicates numerous media technologies (radio, television, film, and social media), historical and contemporary linguistic groups (such as Lowland and Highland Kichwa (Quichua), as well as Wao Tededo, Chicham, and Tukanoan), and local and transnational discourses about Indigenous languages, environmental knowledge, and territorial sovereignty. A Voice for the Amazon also includes a community-oriented digital archive, which collects the diverse media projects produced by and about the residents of the Ecuadorian Amazon, which makes academic research more accessible to the people with whom it was conducted.

Josh Shepperd

Josh Shepperd is an Assistant Professor at Catholic University and the Sound Fellow of the Library of Congress NRPB. He works on the history of emergent media industries, public humanities, sound studies, and the political economy of data and information. Josh is Director of the Library of Congress's Radio Preservation Task Force, a digital humanities consortium of 225 professors and 40 federal and public sector partnerships. His book Shadow of the New Deal: The Victory of Public Broadcasting is under contract in the University of Illinois Press History of Communication Series. It examines the institutional origins of public broadcasting and communications research in advocacy work conducted by the media reform movement. Josh is additionally under contract to co-author the official History of Public Broadcasting for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Current. His research has been supported by the Mellon Foundation, Rockefeller Archive, LBJ Presidential Library, Library of Congress, CLIR, NRPF, and NEH.

Jennifer Shook

Jen Shook is a digital and performance dramaturg whose research and practice live at the intersection of literature, performance, media and digital humanities, Indigenous and critical race and gender studies, and commemoration. Her book project Unending Trails: The Making of Oklahoma-as-Indian-Territory in Performance, Print, and Digital Culture follows ritual and virtual reenactments and memorial performances in and out of the transcultural space of Indian Territory, connecting politics and policy with the print public sphere as well as to plays, poetry, and multimedia performances that borrow and revise early archives. In addition, she’s developing Instead of Redface, a digital resource amplifying contemporary Indigenous playwrights. More at 

Christopher Willoughby

In my book project Masters of Health: Racial Science and Slavery in American Medical Schools (under advance contract with the University of North Carolina Press), I relate the untold history of how teaching racial differences and the abuse of enslaved people’s bodies became standard practices in U.S. medical education. Through an analysis of schools across the United States before the Civil War, my project argues that white, male students were indoctrinated to imagine African descended patients as suited for hard labor in the tropics, immune to the worst illnesses of slavery, and anatomically distinct from whites. This story also unfolded on a global scale, with students comparing non-white bodies from around the world in service of a global system of white supremacy. Masters of Health also relates select stories of those objectified by medical educators, like an enslaved rebel from Bahia, Brazil whose skulls ended up in Harvard’s anatomy museum.

Faculty Fellows 2019-20

Erica Brindley

This project examines the mass production of technical knowledge in ancient China (4th- 2nd centuries BCE). It offers the first in-depth analysis of the dynamics between Later Mohist schools that trained men in technical and proto-scientific arts and the larger intellectual and sociopolitical milieu of standardizing knowledge, especially technical knowledge, at the time. The seismic shifts occurring in the ancient world regarding the quantification and organization of knowledge mirror those occurring in our own day. I hope to use theory gained from today’s digital turn to compare, explore, and shed light on ancient transformations in information packaging, which had significant ramifications for the genesis of empire and technical knowledge in East Asian history.

Alica Decker

In this project, I am concerned with two sets of interrelated questions. The first set considers the work that violence does for scholars (i.e. violence as archive): What does it mean to think of violence as an embodied archive? What types of data might such violence provide? How can we read torture as historical text? How is this archive gendered? The second set of questions focus on the political work of violence (i.e. violence as method): How does violence transmit information? What are the primary circuits of this information flow? What types of data are circulated through these networks? How are these circuits gendered? Taken together, these questions allow me to ascertain how violence, and information about violence, produces historical meaning. I will use this fellowship period to draft an article about violence as archive and method, as well as continue working on my latest book project, which looks at the gendered legacies of militarism in postcolonial Uganda.

Ekaterina Haskins

"Remembering the War, Forgetting the Terror: Appeals to Family Memory in Putin's Russia."

My project examines the resurgence of the cult of the Great Patriotic War in the 2000s after its decline in the late 1980s and 1990s and the simultaneous marginalization of memories related to Stalin’s repressions.  I investigate why certain constructions of collective memory stick, or have widespread internally persuasive resonance, and others seem to fade. In particular, I analyze how appeals to family memory of the war era in a variety of commemorative contexts construct an obligation to remember the past.  I explore various rhetorical means of shaping public remembrance of WWII and Stalin’s repressions, including both state-sponsored “memory industry” projects and grassroots initiatives that foreground the act of memory as an obligation to one’s family.

Fabienne Kanor

The first aim of Mapping Slavery is to investigate on three continents a series of lieux de mémoire related to the Transatlantic Slave Trade and more specifically to the hold of the slave ship. In connection with detailed descriptions and analysis of these particular symbolic places, my book project also examines the way the experience of the Middle Passage is represented in contemporary literary, cinematographic and artistic productions of Francophone Africa, the French West Indies and the United States. The artists I focus on in this monograph all work on the Transatlantic Slave Trade and its consequences. Their works are of great interest for they clearly express a need for remembrance, but also for healing and reparation. Based on an interdisciplinary approach drawing on transnational literary, cinematographic and artistic works, archives, historical documents and a wide theoretical corpus ranging from Edouard Glissant and Gaston Bachelard to Paul Gilroy and Joy DeGruy, Mapping Slavery will help reframe our global understanding of a “past not passed” and our comprehension of contemporary traumas.

Michele Kennerly

Michele Kennerly, associate professor of Communication Arts and Sciences and Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies, will be working on her second book manuscript. Tentatively titled Floral Arrangements: The Nature of Collecting in Rhetoric and Poetics from Antiquity through Modernity, it treats floral words (e.g., garland, flosculus, flores rhetoricae, florilegium, anthology, bee) as information-concepts signifying wide-ranging reading coupled with the judicious selection and combination of takeaways from that reading. Of particular interest is the fluctuating status of collecting from ancient sources as their authority is challenged by early modern and modern writers.

Shirley Moody

"Utilizing Digital Scholarship and Collaborative Public History to Reconstruct Nineteenth Century Black Women’s Activism"


The CHI faculty fellowship will support the expansion of the Anna Julia Cooper Digital Project into a major digital archive and teaching resource tentatively titled the Black Women’s Organizing Archive, with an initial focus on documenting black women’s activism from 1890s – 1920s, the critical decades surrounding the founding of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (NACWC). Conceived as the first stage in a multi-year, multi-institutional project, the Cooper Digital Project will join with the Colored Conventions Project, Howard University, and Penn State University to build digital repositories and online resources documenting the complex and extended forms of black women’s activism. This initiative builds on the success of the Cooper Digital Project by utilizing community-based, digital and archival methods, as well as collaborative teams and partnerships to digitize and transcribe black women’s archives thereby helping us reconstruction a much more expansive social and intellectual history of nineteenth century black women’s writing and activism. 

Predoctoral Fellows 2019-20

Adam Cody

A CHI Fellowship will support my dissertation, “Athenaeus’s Deipnosophistae and the Grounds of Public Discourse,” a study of the second-century CE miscellaneous reference book Deipnosophistae in its capacity to organize and circulate quotations of ancient Greek literature. Much of the information attested to in Deipnosophistae is found in no other source, making the text a valuable resource for insight into public discursive culture during the early Roman empire. The text’s complicated style and structure invites critical engagement with the content presented and stimulates the creative repurposing of that content for future discursive activity.

Brandon Erby

While many are familiar with the 1955 death of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till and his mother’s decision to publicly display his brutalized body, what is often neglected in scholarship on Till’s murder is his mother’s activism post-1955. My dissertation focuses on Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, and attempts to provide an in-depth rhetorical analysis of her public engagement by answering the following two questions: 1) How has Till’s death influenced American culture? 2) In what ways is Till-Mobley responsible for this influence? I rely on a range of methods and methodologies to argue that Till-Mobley’s intentional labor as a mother, activist, teacher, and dramatist is central for how we remember Emmett Till.

Justin Griffin

Despite a contemporary outpouring of popular and scholarly discourse on “the attention economy” and its discontents, cultural critics have scarcely considered the role of listening attention in this time of technological, economic, and social change.   My project, Ambient Technologies, aims to register how collective listening practices change in tandem with shifting techno-economic conditions, from Muzak Inc.’s subtle colonization of 20th century background sound to the 21st century explosion of mobile listening devices and digital music streaming.  Drawing on experimental and ambient composers like Pauline Oliveros, John Cage, and Brian Eno, I theorize a concept and practice of ambient listening.  While critics of attention capitalism strive to preserve a largely visualist, individualist form of “deep attention,” I argue that ambient listening offers an alternate way forward, opening toward a diffuse, collective field of aesthetic attention.

Kellie Marin

My dissertation, “The Rhetoric of Anonymity: Secrecy, Exposure, and the Circulation of Affect within the Neoliberal Security State,” examines the possibilities and perils of anonymous speech in the contemporary networked world. Anonymity creates the possibility for people to speak out without being subject to personal recrimination or bodily harm, which is beneficial in situations including secret sharing, whistleblowing, coming out, and forming political groups (e.g. Anonymous). Yet, there are potential perils of anonymous speech, especially in how anonymity allows for the circulation of hate and resentment. Despite this, by examining how anonymity circulates affects—both positive and negative—there is a potential rhetorical resource for fostering political action within a neoliberal security state. I argue anonymity challenges us to rethink the practice of rhetoric in a networked age in order to foster better, more informed, more effective democratic participation. 

Megan Poole

While traditional rhetorics of science—a subfield within rhetoric and composition—unravel the logic and argumentation of scientific discourse, this project confronts the non-rational, aesthetic elements of scientific inventional practices and prose that have been ushered in by women artist-scientists to expand what can be considered rhetorical about scientific knowledge making. At stake in studying these aesthetic elements of science is a reevaluation of the limits of science and art through the inclusion of previously discounted perspectives as well as a diversification in what can be considered the elements of scientific argument. If, as has been suggested, art is a tool of science, this project argues that aesthetics is an epistemological cornerstone of scientific invention, one integral to its logic, its data, its “objectivity.”

Janet Purdy

My dissertation, Carved Swahili Doors: Gateways of Status, Trade, and Transaction in East Africa, examines the fluid characteristics of regional vocabularies and networks that have existed for millennia along the eastern coast of Africa. I focus on elaborately carved doors commissioned in the nineteenth century to adorn and define exterior spaces. When analyzed by style, location, patron, and audience, the corpus functions as a form of historical documentation to elucidate symbolic and social connections across Indian Ocean and African trade routes. I aim to recover the information long held in these distinctive Swahili architectural and art forms that evolved at the center of global and cultural convergences.