Jackman Humanities Institute Faculty Research Fellowships, 2019-2020
Twelve Month Faculty Research Fellows in 2019-2020
Research Fellows hold an office on the 10th floor of the Jackman Humanities Building and are central members of a Circle of Fellows. They are University of Toronto tenured faculty members by the time of their fellowship, chosen for their distinction in achievements relative to their career stage, the excellence of their proposed project, and its relation to the annual theme for 2019-2020, Strange Weather.
2019-2020: Strange Weather How might the humanities contribute to the critical discourse on energy and climate? The energy crisis is no longer simply about limited supplies but now concerns the very nature and place of energy in human life and society. Strange weather as symptom of changing climate destabilizes our trust in and certainty of our home (i.e. our planet) and provokes fantasies of control and of chaos. How can we help frame questions of environmental degradation, scientific knowledge and its popularization, especially in their relation to social equity, and societal futures?
Alan Ackerman, English and Drama, Theatre & Performance Studies Alan Ackerman (Ph.D. Harvard University 1997) is Professor of English. His primary areas of teaching are American Literature and Modern Drama. He is the author of Just Words: Lillian Hellman, Mary McCarthy, and the Failure of Public Conversation in America (Yale University Press, 2011), Seeing Things, from Shakespeare to Pixar (University of Toronto Press, 2011), and The Portable Theater: American Literature and the Nineteenth-Century Stage (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999). He is also the editor of numerous books in the field of modern drama and theatre. From 2005 to 2015, he served as Editor of the journal Modern Drama. His current research is in the field of environmental humanities and focuses on literary and cultural aspects of the rise of fossil fuels as a major energy source in the nineteenth century. Professor Ackerman holds a joint-appointment in the Centre for Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies.
Energy and Economy in Nineteenth-Century American Literature My research focuses on the cultural significance of fossil fuels and the ecological unfeasibility of high-carbon life. I will examine how specific ways of using energy shape culture and vice versa, in three main directions: (1) the transition in 19th-century America from an economy fuelled by wood, water, whales, horses, and enslaved African Americans to one powered by fossil fuels with climatological impacts; (2) dialogue about the environment across the disciplines and beyond the university; and (3) bringing ecocriticism to students via experiential and embodied learning.
Ben Akrigg, Classics Ben Akrigg (Ph.D. University of Cambridge, 2006) is Associate Professor of Classics. His research has focussed on the economic history and historical demography of the ancient Greek world. He has taught courses at undergraduate and graduate levels in Greek language and literature, and in ancient history and material culture. For the past two years he has also taught undergraduate courses on humanities approaches to energy and energy history within the School of the Environment. He is currently the editor of Phoenix, a journal of the Classical Association of Canada, and one of the oldest humanities journals in Canada.
Energy, Economy, and Environment in Ancient Athens This project will investigate the history of energy in the ancient city-state of Athens in the first millennium BC. I aim to advance our understanding of Athens’ economic, social and environmental history, and to contribute to contemporary discussions about energy transitions and about the interactions between human beings and their environments. Ancient Athens remains an important focus of discussion on the interactions between economic development, political institutions, and cultural production. None of these can be understood separately from the prevailing energy technologies and their environmental impacts.
Mark Cheetham, Art Mark A. Cheetham (Ph.D. University College London, 1982) is Professor of Art History and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He writes on art theory, art, and visual culture from c.1700 to the present and is active as an art curator. He is the author of eight books, co-editor of three volumes, and author of numerous articles on topics ranging from Ecological Art to Immanuel Kant and Art History to abstract art to Postmodernism. His most recent book is Landscape into Eco Art: Articulations of Nature Since the 60s (Penn State UP, 2018), and his most recent exhibitions are Ecologies of Landscape (B E Contemporary Projects, 10 November 2018—26 January 2019) and Struck by Likening: The Power and Discontents of Artworld Analogies (McMaster Museum of Art, 2017). He was Acting Director of the Jackman Humanities Institute from 1 January—30 June 2011.
Weather as Matter and Metaphor Weather is both familiar and strange. In spite of our tendency to describe weather in human terms, atmospheric phenomena occur outside of our realms of affect and control. I will address the coeval familiarity and foreignness of the weather through two linked investigations in the visual arts: Weather Words, Weather Images will explore contemporary and historical visualizations of atmospheric phenomena. Arctic Anthropocene: Images about John Franklin will approach non-anthropocentric aspects of weather via a new reading of John Franklin’s ill-fated and enduringly controversial mid-19th century search for the Northwest Passage in what is now the Canadian Arctic.
Bhavani Raman, UTSC Historical & Cultural Studies Bhavani Raman (Ph.D. University of Michigan, 2007) is Associate Professor of History. Her research pertains to bureaucracy, legal geography, and media ecology and archives of early colonial India and the wider Tamil world. She is the author of Document Raj: Scribes and Writing in Early Colonial South India (University of Chicago Press, 2012) and articles on the bureaucratic structures, extraordinary law and land management of early colonial Madras. Her interest in legal geography and land use has led to a new project on public lands in the coastal city of Chennai, India. She has also published on migration and the reinvigoration of the culture question around the Bay of Bengal after imperial withdrawal. Her essays have appeared in Comparative Studies in Society and History, Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient, and the Indian news portal, The Wire. The Strange Nature of Urban Commons: Landscapes of an Indian Coastal City My project will offer a historical account of the making and unmaking of urban infrastructural landscapes through the lens of the commons in the coastal city of Chennai, India’s fourth-largest metropolitan region. Drawing on archival documents and digital technology, the project will explore the making of lands called poramboke. Poramboke, ‘making outside’ or ‘outside’ in Tamil, refers to public (Government) land, the commons, and waste, as well as to the practices of usufruct that congealed around them. These contradictory meanings describe amphibious landscapes that straddle the city’s ecologically sensitive beaches, wetlands, swamps, engineered reservoirs, waterways, canals and their shores. By creating a digital overlay of topographical maps, city plans, aerial and thematic maps I will aim to understand how Chennai’s poramboke as government land, ruin and commons were historically made and unmade in the last 240 years at the intersection of law, ecology and property.
Six-Month Faculty Research Fellows in 2019-2020
Tenured faculty at the University of Toronto, each receives a six-month leave from the normal teaching and administrative duties in order to undertake research (including travel) on the project proposed in their application, and are chosen for demonstrated excellence of their record of scholarship and the merit of the research proposal.
Katherine Blouin, UTSC Historical and Cultural Studies Katherine Blouin (Ph.D. Université Laval / Université de Nice Sophia Antipolis, 2007; postdoctoral diploma, École Pratiques des Hautes Études, 2014) is Associate Professor of History. Her work centres on the socio-economic and environmental history of Roman Egypt. Katherine’s research interests include the Nile Delta, multiculturalism, cultural identities, as well as environments, peoples, and periods that are commonly considered to be ‘marginal’. Her most recent scholarly, pedagogical, and public-facing work has been exploring the ways in which imperialism, colonialism, and Orientalism have impacted (and are still impacting) the fields of Classics, Papyrology, and Egyptology. Her publications include Triangular Landscape: Environment, Society, and the State in the Nile Delta under Roman Rule (2014, Oxford) and Le conflit judéo-alexandrin de 38-41: l'identité juive à l'épreuve (2005, Paris). She is currently editing The Ancient to Modern Nile Delta: Empires, Societies, and Environments (Cambridge) and preparing a monograph titled Living on the Edges: Environmental Orientalism and the Ancient Nile Delta. You can also read her on the blog Everyday Orientalism.
Living on the Edges: Environmental Orientalism and the Ancient Nile Delta (Egypt) Living on the Edges is a project on the history and historiography of the ancient Nile Delta. Through an interrelated series of essays focusing on three areas located at the agricultural margins of the Delta, it proposes to investigate how the traditional, overly Nilocentric narrative regarding Egyptian history is rooted in a series of "occlusions". The result is a system of Classically-fed, historiographical topoi about the region's land, indigenous population, and economy that amount to forms of environmental Orientalism. Thanks to the multidisciplinary analysis of a diverse, multilingual and diachronic set of evidence, Living on the Edges seeks the establishment of a more layered and integrated socio-environmental history of Egypt and, by extension, to foster an enhanced understanding of the Delta's position within the wider Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds.
Katie Kilroy-Marac, UTSC Anthropology Katie Kilroy-Marac (Ph.D. Columbia University, 2010) is Assistant Professor of Anthropology. Her research interests, though varied, show a common concern with: 1) the social history of psychiatric thought, colonial and postcolonial psychiatric practices, and what she calls the “psychiatric imagination,” 2) the ethics and politics of care and the everyday crafting of ethical lives, 3) materiality, material relations, and ways of being with things, and 4) the creation and recognition of difference (social, racial, ethnic, and class-based differences, as well as distinctions between “normal” and “pathological” or “deviant”). Kilroy-Marac’s first book, titled An Impossible Inheritance: Postcolonial Psychiatry and the Work of Memory in a West African Clinic (University of California Press, 2019) was based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted at the Fann Psychiatric Clinic in Dakar, Senegal.
The Passage to Marseille: Colonial Subjects and the Psychiatric Imagination in a Southern French Asylum, circa 1900 Between 1897 and 1914, 144 West African mental patients—103 men and 41 women—were transported from l’Hôpital Civil in St. Louis, Senegal to Marseille, where they were institutionalized within a large public asylum known as l’Asile de St-Pierre. My research examines the constellation of ideas about race, civilization, and madness that were articulated in this colonial experiment, and that emerged out of the psychiatric encounter between French doctors and West African patients at St-Pierre circa 1900. I have compiled a database of archival materials, and will be working with artists to create an installation based on this research that would allow me to bring the story to larger audiences.
Cecilia Morgan, OISE Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, and FAS History Cecilia Morgan (Ph.D. University of Toronto, 1993) is a Professor of the History of Education. Her research interests include the history of gender in Canada, of Canadian popular culture, of commemoration and memory in Canada, and the history of gender and colonialism in the British Empire. She is the author of (among others) Travellers Through Empire: Indigenous Voyages From Early Canada (McGill-Queen’s UP, 2017); Building Better Britains? Settler Societies Within the British Empire, 1783-1920 (U of Toronto Press, 2017); Commemorating Canada: History, Heritage, and Memory, 1850s-1990s (UTP, 2016); Creating Colonial Pasts: History, Memory, and Commemoration in Southern Ontario, 1860-1980 (UTP, 2015); ‘A Happy Holiday’: English-Canadians and Transatlantic Tourism, 1870-1930 (UTP, 2008) and, with Colin M. Coates, Heroines and History: Representations of Madeleine de Verchères and Laura Secord (UTP, 2002). She has just completed a manuscript, “Canadian Actresses on Transnational Stages, 1840s-1940.” Elite Families and Settler Society, Nineteenth Century Ontario My research explores the histories of two upper-middle-class Ontario families, the Hamiltons of Queenston and the Harris family of London, from their arrival in British America in the 1770s to the 1920s. Both families left significant markers of European expansion on places that, until recently, had been Indigenous territory. Many of these families’ male members enjoyed careers that were intertwined with Indigenous peoples’ lives and fortunes, either through the fur trade or the Department of Indian Affairs, and represented important colonial and imperial institutions within the late 18th and early 19th centuries. I plan to explore the ways in which these families were a part of larger processes of settler expansion.
Sergio Tenenbaum, UTM Philosophy Sergio Tenenbaum (Ph.D. University of Pittsburgh, 1996) is Professor of Philosophy. His research examines ethics, practical rationality, moral psychology, and Kant’s practical philosophy. He is the articles of numerous articles on these topics, as well as of Appearances of the Good, An Essay on the Nature of Practical Reason (Cambridge University Press, 2007). He has previously taught at the University of New Mexico, and was Chair of the UTM Department of Philosophy from 2009-2011 and 2012-2015.
The Action Itself: The Extended Theory of Rationality My research aims to provide a systematic account of practical rationality that does justice to the interaction between the temporality of our actions and the indeterminacy of our ends. I argue that most theories of practical reason distort our understanding of the nature of practical rationality by focusing on momentary mental states. My own theory, which I call “The Extended Theory of Rationality”, provides a systematic account of the nature of instrumentally rational agency in the pursuit of long-term, perhaps less than fully determinate ends; that is, ends that cannot be realized through a single momentary action and whose representation leaves partly open, at least to the agent herself, what counts as realizing the end.
Victoria Wohl, Classics Victoria Wohl (Ph.D., University of California-Berkeley, 1994) is Professor of Classics. She works on the literature and culture of ancient Greece. Spanning a wide variety of genres, her research focuses on the social relations, political thought, and psychic life of democratic Athens. She is the author of Intimate Commerce: Exchange, Gender, and Subjectivity in Greek Tragedy (Texas, 1998), Love Among the Ruins: The Erotics of Democracy in Classical Athens (Princeton, 2002), and Law’s Cosmos: Juridical Discourse in Athenian Forensic Oratory (Cambridge, 2010), as well as articles on Greek tragedy, comedy, oratory, philosophy, and cultural history. She also edited a collection titled Probabilities, Hypotheticals, and Counterfactuals in Ancient Greek Thought (Cambridge, 2014). Her most recent book, Euripides and the Politics of Form (Princeton 2015), was based on her 2011 Martin Classical Lectures. She has previously taught at Ohio State University and the University of Texas-San Antonio and is an Associate Editor of the American Journal of Philology.
The Poetics of the Presocratics The “Presocratic” philosophers (writing roughly between 600 and 400 BCE) are credited with inventing a new way of thinking about the universe, reality, and the self. In the process, they also conceived new ways of using language and novel forms of expression. The active interrelation between these two innovations is the focus of my project, which investigates how the Presocratics used literary form to develop their radically new modes of thought.
Yiching Wu, East Asian Studies Yiching Wu (Ph.D. University of Chicago, 2007) is Associate Professor of East Asian Studies and Director of the Dr. David Chu Program of Contemporary Asian Studies at the Asian Institute. His research focuses on the history, politics, and culture of the People’s Republic of China during the Mao era (1949-1976), and in particular on the history and memory of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). He is the author of The Cultural Revolution at the Margins: Chinese Socialism in Crisis (Harvard University Press, 2014). He is currently working on a monograph that reexamines the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, tentatively titled The Slippery Slope: The Coming of Mao’s Last Revolution. How Mao’s Last Revolution Began: Toward a Non-Linear and Conjectural History Beginning in early summer of 1966, Mao Zedong, Communist China’s paramount leader, unleashed a ferocious mass movement to purge his allegedly disloyal senior colleagues and to violently assault the country’s gargantuan party-state bureaucracy that he had founded and personally embodied. Why—and how—Mao initiated the great turmoil during the last years of his rule remains arguably the single greatest puzzle in the conflict-laden history of twentieth-century China. This project reconsiders established scholarly narratives and interpretations of how Mao’s last revolutionary endeavor began. Rather than privileging Mao’s ideological vision, premeditated political intention, and power of manipulation, the project seeks to develop a more contextually sensitive understanding of the open-ended, path-dependent historical processes in which a heterogeneous array of currents and forces became intertwined with one another in contingent and at times unforeseen ways to produce the seemingly inexorable cataclysm.