University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Annual Report 2011-12
IAS Research and Creative Collaboratives

In 2011-12, the IAS supported ten research and creative collaboratives, selected from twenty-two proposals. Seven of these were new collaboratives; three groups successfully applied for renewal of support. Collaborative conveners represented thirteen departments or centers from four colleges University-wide interdisciplinary institutes: College of Design, College of Liberal Arts, College of Science and Engineering, and the Institute on the Environment.

Black Environmental Thought II: Translocal and Transnational Dialogues and Collaborations
Conveners: Rose Brewer (African American & African Studies), Seitu Jones (Agricultural Systems, College of Food Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences)

The collaborative made plans for a major conference, “Black Environmental Thought II: Translocal and Transnational Dialogues and Collaborations” in September 2012. Conveners Rose Brewer and Seitu Jones gave the keynote address “Seeding the Future at the Imagining American conference, which took place at the University of Minnesota and Macalester College in September 2011.

Choreography of the Moving Cell: Bodystorming and Creating a Soundscape
Conveners: Carl Flink (Theatre Arts and Dance, CLA), David Odde (Biomedical Engineering, College of Science and Engineering)

The Choreography of the Moving Cell Project (MCP) spent 2011 projecting its presence and research beyond the University, establishing the collaborative as an increasingly powerful platform for developing and communicating new scientific and artistic research and results. Building on its ongoing exploration and development of the research technique Bodystorming, MCP was invited to present “When Dancers and Biologists Collide” at the November 2011 Chicago Humanities Festival. In February 2012, Odde also presented on his work with Flink’s Black Label Movement dance company as an invited speaker at the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering Annual Conference in Washington D.C. The MCP developed its collaborative relationship with Science Magazine correspondent and trained chemist John Bohannon to develop a presentation entitled “A Modest Proposal,” which examines the potential of encounters between scientists and dance artists, for the 2011 TEDx Brussels in Belgium. Since being posted online by the primary TED organization in December 2011 the video of this presentation has been viewed an estimated 1.5 million times. This also led to an invitation to create a new presentation for the 2012 TED: Full Spectrum in Long Beach, CA in March 2012. MCP was invited to participate in a 2012 summer convening biochemists, biologist and biomedical engineers at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA. The purpose of this residency is to further examine, share and test the benefits and challenges of encounters with scientists and artists.

Digital Humanities 2.0
Conveners: Laura Gurak (Writing Studies) and Michael Hancher (English)

The collaborative began to establish a community of people at the University of Minnesota and other institutions in the Twin Cities who are interested in advancing humanities research through the use of digitization and Web 2.0 technologies. After an organizational meeting that attracted some 30 people, it sponsored five presentations at IAS by leading scholars and practitioners in the field, designed to inform the local scholarly community about the field’s achievements and prospects. The collaborative established a Digital Humanities listserv, to which more than 110 people on campus have subscribed. Attendance at presentations has ranged from more than a dozen to almost a hundred people, including faculty, staff, and graduate students from several colleges of the University, and interested visitors from elsewhere in the Twin Cities. Online videos of presentations have attracted an even wider audience: for three of the presentations, more than a thousand viewers each, and more than 2,600 for Dan Cohen’s April 19 presentation. Responding to a request made by the organizers of the First Digital Humanities Summit, which was co-sponsored by the University of Nebraska and the Committee for Institutional Cooperation (CIC), the collaborative gathered information about the variety of digital humanities initiatives that are currently under way at Minnesota; see

Conveners: Juliette Cherbuliez (French and Italian), Bruno Chaouat (Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies), Margaret Werry (Theatre Arts and Dance)

The Fail collaborative met 4 times over the course of the 2011-12 academic year. Meetings were attended by 6-8 people per session, with an occasional interested member of the public joining the discussion. Our goal was to construct collectively an intellectual history of failure. Although the concept may be said to be ubiquitous (e.g. undergirding the Judeo‐Christian view of agency, permeating our understanding of modernity, defining certain scientific experimental processes), there is no coherent account of failure as a concept, practice, or event. More specifically, in our readings of Agamben, Virilio, Freud, Butler and other critics, we endeavored to locate, within these accounts of the history of modernity and the modern self, the role of failure: as thematic, as intellectual “straw man,” or as a modus operandi for modern thought. If it is tempting to declare that the Fail collaborative failed, it would be a bit grandiose. On one hand, we did not reach our goals. The reasons were quite simple: as opposed to assembling a group of scholars with diverse but convergent interests in the question of failure, we had created a collective of individuals whose research intersected with but did not consistently take up failure as an object. One person’s object was another’s obstacle; one kind of history was someone else’s methodological error. On the other hand, the original goals of the collaborative seem to have been reaffirmed by the group’s lack of cohesiveness and even fractured agenda: a genealogy of failure, alongside a deeper understanding of methodologies of failure in creative and research practices, is sorely needed.

Mediterranean Identities from the Middle Ages to Today
Conveners: Kathryn Reyerson (History, CLA), Patricia Lorcin (History, CLA), John Watkins (English, CLA)

The collaborative’s theme for 2011-2012 was identity and violence, a focus that evolved in the course of the year into other dimensions of identity. The highlight of the year came in late March 2012 when we expanded our intellectual community to include Mediterraneanists at other institutions of higher learning in Minnesota in a stimulating daylong workshop on Mediterranean exchanges. The result was a wonderfully fruitful exchange of ideas across the broad chronology from the Middle Ages to the present. We have continued work on the volumes of papers emerging from our 2011 conference on Mediterranean Identities. The medieval/early modern volume, edited by John Watkins and Kay Reyerson, will be published by Ashgate. The modern volume, edited by Patricia Lorcin and Todd Sheppard, is under consideration by a university press. In our colloquia over the course of the year, we had a rich series of lectures by local scholars and invited guests. We ended the year with informal dialogues in our May planning meeting and in a small cluster of collaborators who met to discuss a symposium for next spring on “The Mediterranean South: Manuscripts and Orality,” designed to emphasize the African component of the Mediterranean which is often overlooked. Our curricular development has continued apace, beginning with TASI international seminar of July 2011 on the theme of violence across the Mediterranean to Northern Europe. Undergraduate courses on the Mediterranean and an interdisciplinary graduate seminar on Mediterranean Studies are scheduled for next year. Our recruitment of graduate students committed to the interdisciplinary study of the region’s history and cultural production continues.

Performing the Enlightenment in the Twenty-First Century
Convener: Michal Kobialka (Theatre Arts and Dance)

This year, the collaborative made plans for a major multidisciplinary conference in fall 2012 that will reopen a discussion of the Enlightenment in today’s economic crisis, when the basic driver of the academy is the distribution of riches.

Studio Co-Laboratory
Conveners: Diane Willow (Art) and Marc Swackhamer (Architecture)

The Studio Co-Laboratory Research Collaborative was conceived as a “think and do tank”, a catalyst for interdisciplinary research and project-based collaboration. Participants from the  Colleges of Liberal Arts, Design, Biological Sciences, Science and Engineering held monthly meetings to share current research interests, make tangible the varied modes of research practice within the group, and to foster an emergent process for defining a collaborative project that would bring together participants’ wide-ranging expertise. When developing a proposal for the MN Futures Grant, we articulated an area of research at the nexus of art, design, biology, and engineering, one that reflected a shared commitment to the humanistic and social nature of our research focus. The project, Junk Power: Ambient Energy Harvesting and Emergent Modes of Community Participation, proposed the use of the University of Minnesota campus as a participatory research site for the gathering and reuse of energy that is currently the by-product of human activity. The Junk Power concept presented this energy with its utilitarian capacity to recharge our mobile devices and a concurrent stress-reducing, affective, and poetic capacity to recharge ourselves. Although our proposal did not receive funding, the collaborative is creating a prototype sketch that introduces an example of Junk Power as mobile, interactive campus furniture that is a catalyst for engaging the University community in the gathering and utilitarian and poetic re-purposing of this energy.

Teaching Heritage Collaborative: New Pedagogies
Conveners: Katherine Hayes (Anthropology), Patrick Nunnally (River Life Program), Gregory Donofrio (Architecture)

The Teaching Heritage Collaborative implemented four types of interrelated activities. It convened a series of meetings of faculty and non-university professionals to discuss the state of heritage pedagogy and practice. Participants expressed broad support for expanding and potentially restructuring heritage education opportunities at the University and beyond, with partners in the field. Several heritage scholars invited to campus by the collaborative gave public lectures in spring 2012 about emerging heritage issues, including Liz Ševčenko (Director of the Guantánamo Public Memory Project at Columbia University), Randal Mason (University of Pennsylvania), and Elizabeth Chilton (University of Massachusetts). Throughout the year, two undergraduate research assistants collected and synthesized information about heritage studies programs around the country. This information was the basis of a paper coauthored by the collaborative conveners and presented at the Society for American Archeology Annual Meeting on April 21, 2012 in Memphis, Tennessee. Collaborative outcomes included building and strengthening relationships across the University, with heritage related organizations in the region, and with our professional colleagues across the U.S. and internationally; submitting proposals for two additional scholarly papers to be presented at other professional conferences in 2012-13; laying the groundwork for an interdisciplinary minor in “heritage studies and public history; and identifying additional partnership and funding opportunities to further our stated goals for the Collaborative and for the University.

Theorizing Early Modern Studies (TEMS): The Passions
Conveners: Juliette Cherbuliez (French and Italian, CLA), Michael Gaudio (Art History, CLA), J. B. Shank (History, CLA)

The Theorizing Early Modern Studies Research Collaborative continued its now eleven-year-old pattern of catalyzing research and faculty student dialogue in early modern studies through a robust program of scholar-led research seminars, invited lectures, and faculty-student reading groups. Visitors this year included Andrew Curran (French, Wesleyan University), Jane Newman (Comparative Literature, University of California, Irvine), and Melissa Hyde (Art History, University of Florida). We also hosted local guests Daniel Brewer (French and Italian, University of Minnesota) and Ernesto Capello (History, Macalester College) for works-in-progress seminars. A collaboration with the Quadrant also supported a lecture and a work-in-progress seminar with Keith Bresnahan (Design History and Theory, OCAD University). Three distinct year-long reading groups attended by faculty and graduate students from a wide array of disciplines focused on the kulturwissenschaft of Aby Warburg and its legacies, the writings of Denis Diderot, and theories of knowledge-making in the sciences. Our year ended with the ninth annual Graduate Student Roundtable, which included graduate student presenters from the Departments of Art History, French and Italian, and German, Scandinavian, and Dutch.

The University Seminar
Conveners: John Mowitt (Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature) and JB Shank (History)

The University Seminar was conceived to engage faculty and other university stakeholders in a wide-ranging conversation about the state of the university in the twenty-first century. Wanting to avoid a narrow focus on the specific challenges specifically facing the University of Minnesota today, the collaborative sponsored three events designed to provoke broad reflection about the state of the university as an institution and a site for contemporary intellectual life. One event was a public forum centered on the question of disciplinarity that brought University of Minnesota faculty and administrators into dialogue with invited guest Myron Gutmann, a senior administrator at the National Science Foundation. A second event staged a public conversation about the character and purpose of the public research university today with new Provost Karen Hanson and Professor Naomi Scheman, faculty member in the Departments of Philosophy and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies and current President of the University of Minnesota chapter of the American Association of University Professors. In a third event, Professor Premesh Lalu of the University of the Western Cape, South Africa, led us in a discussion of the university as global institution and the current debates about its role in Africa.