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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.