University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Research and Creative Collaboratives represent some of the most innovative work at the University. These self-initiated groups come together with the idea of working on a project of common interest—be it the development of a performance piece, the exploration of a concept or research area through different disciplines, or the creation of a supportive intellectual community. With the Collaboratives, the IAS promotes synergistic interdisciplinary activity transcending departmental structures.

Past CollaborativesApplication ProceduresInformation for Conveners

agrifood 15-16plusAgrifood

Valentine Cadieux, Sociology, CLA
Tracey Deutsch, History, CLA
Rachel Schurman, Sociology, CLA
Stephen Carpenter, Farmers Legal Action Group

Intellectual exploration of food across traditional divides between different disciplines and sectors has become both more pressing and more possible in the context of intensifying interest in understanding food. Building on the seven-year history of the Agrifood Reading Group (which has been an IAS Agrifood Collaborative over the past year and a half) to develop a more regular hub of food scholarship linked to the IAS and the Institute for Global Studies, this collaborative will continue to focus on bringing together diverse and often diverging perspectives on food and facilitating productive exchange between them on contemporary agri-food topics via two main activities: monthly readings and incubation of programming around agri-food topics viewed through the lenses of the social sciences and humanities. Our collaborative brings insights from multiple disciplines to address the difficulties of engaging differences and learning from diverse constituencies. We have supported food-related efforts across the University and Minnesota, we have used our second year of support to build a platform for documenting and sharing our work, and we look forward to building on our recent surge of participation from the humanities and natural sciences in ways that contribute to ongoing translation between different approaches to food and agriculture at the U of M.

aganetha dyck bee arts cropplusBee Arts

Rebecca Masterman, Entomology, CFANS
Marla Spivak, Entomology, CFANS
Diana Eicher, Printshop & Paper Studio, MCAD
Irve Dell, Robert Rosen, Kira Obolensky, & Shawn McConneloug, The Gymnasium at Studio 206

Bee Arts will enact a series of events and opportunities for artists and scientists interested in “cross-pollinating” knowledge and ideas about bees. The current decline of bee populations poses a significant threat to our nation’s food system, but it also represents a larger decline in our planet’s health. Bee Arts activities and events will inspire cross-disciplinary artistic projects that ponder the role of bees beyond their economic necessity: how do bee matter in our creative lives, our community and environment, and our human history? Our collaborative aims to foster new relationships between artists and scientists through workshops, talks with invited speakers, development of collaborative projects, and a public exhibition. Core collaborators and facilitators of Bee Arts include University of Minnesota faculty from the Entomology Department, beekeepers from the UMN Extension program, and local and international artists.

descartes mind body consciousness premodern cropplusBeyond the Modernist Understanding of Consciousness

JB Shank, History, CLA
Apostolos Georgopoulos, Neuroscience, Medical School

Our collaborative is inspired by the proposition that current thinking about mind, body and consciousness is hindered by its encapsulation within “modernist” intellectual paradigms. Recent discoveries in cognitive neuroscience have been touted as advances that cast previous understandings into the dustbin of history. This modernist understanding is accentuated by a disciplinary culture that isolates specialist scientists and their work from other scholarly inquiries about mind, body, and consciousness that might fruitfully complicate overly simplistic understandings. Especially unfortunate is the division of these conversations on either side of the “Two Cultures” divide, a split which in the Humanities has further divided dialogue, with one group eagerly drawing upon the latest neuroscience research — i.e. taking the “cognitive science turn,” as has been declared in many humanities disciplines — while others seek a new dialogue that deploys humanist understandings to engage with cognitive science itself.

Following the February panel discussion launching our collaborative, we aim to form a university-wide, multidisciplinary group devoted to the pursuit of scholarly dialogue about mind, body, and consciousness and aim to hold an academic year 2015-16 faculty/graduate student seminar, modeled on IAS faculty seminars from years past, which focuses on breaking free from modernist approaches to consciousness.

brecht rehearsing failure 15-16 cropplusRehearsing Failure
The Brechtian Moment

Lisa Channer, Theatre Arts and Dance, CLA
Matthias Rothe, German Scandinavian and Dutch, CLA

In taking our previous collaborative “Rehearsing Failure: Brecht’s America” as a point of departure, we will, on the one hand, continue to work on Brecht’s early drama fragments, and on the other, explore the Brechtian legacy in contemporary theater and film. Of central importance to us is the inquiry into theater’s possibility to politically intervene and to provide a unique perspective that can rival hegemonic forms of knowledge. The fragments in question (e.g. Dan Drew, Jae Fleischhacker or the Bread Shop) share a number of characteristics: they were written in the 1920s, they responded to profound financial turmoil in Germany and they all depict economic practices such as commodity futures speculation. They are attempts to (critically) represent the un-representable, namely society, whereas with contemporary political theater and film such representation seems to be no longer at stake. Brechtian theater seems to have turned into a method of undoing and reconfiguring existing representations. Thus our collaborative ultimately focuses on the opposite extreme or breaking points of “Brechtianism”.

finlandplusEnvironmental Humanities

Daniel Philippon, English, CLA
Charlotte Melin, German, Scandinavian and Dutch, CLA

The environmental humanities is a rich interdisciplinary field of study, involving the sub-disciplines of environmental literature, environmental history, environmental philosophy, environmental communication, religious studies, and physical and cultural geography, among other disciplines. The field seeks to apply both traditional and cutting-edge research and teaching methods and recognizes that the insights of the humanities are necessary to interpret and address contemporary environmental problems. The purpose of this collaborative is to create opportunities that will bring together the diverse faculty working in environmental humanities areas at the University of Minnesota for the exchange of ideas, to engage other university colleagues in transformative discussions about the research approaches and pedagogies of the environmental humanities, and to consider strategies for sustaining current efforts on a long-term basis. Fundamental to the project is the recognition that the environmental humanities must play a vital role in addressing global “grand challenges” of the 21st century (like climate change, food security, community resilience).

fused realities anthropocene crop3plusFused Realities: Theorizing the Anthropocene across Identity, Political Economy and Environment

Randy Hanson, GUESS, CLA, Duluth
David Gore, Communication, CLA, Duluth
Rochelle Zuck, English, CLA, Duluth

The “Anthropocene” was proposed by Paul Crutzen to denote a) increasing anthropogenic transformations of Earth’s land, ocean, atmosphere, and biota; and b) to recognize a new, geological epoch in which human activities have ushered us out of the Holocene and into an emergent, unpredictable Anthropocene. The Anthropocene’s industrial triggers, which have historically benefited northern hemispheric societies, raise issues of distributive justice. They portend greater impacts for future generations, including planetary changes that are triggering a sixth mass extinction. Though framed as a scientific concept, the Anthropocene raises profound questions of politics, morality and justice that the Liberal Arts are well positioned to address.

The Anthropocene Research Collaborative (ARC) aspires to deepen engagement with the Anthropocene at UMD, an institution poised on the largest surface freshwater system on Earth. The ARC will promote:
1) Scholarly Dialogue: an interdisciplinary reading group and scholarly presentations; collaboration with UMD’s Alworth Center to harmonize speakers around a common theme;
2) Publication and Research: publications that engage the themes explored over the year; the creation of an ARC blog; and the creation of a digital library of publications and media associated with the Anthropocene; and
3) Long-Range Planning and Sustainability: planning a conference on “The Anthropocene and the Liberal Arts.”

Guantanamo FutureplusHeritage Studies

Gregory Donofrio, School of Architecture, CDES
Katherine Hayes, Anthropology, CLA
Kevin Murphy, History, CLA

The Teaching Heritage Collaborative seeks to: 1) develop curriculum and program structures that support interdisciplinary approaches to heritage education at the University; 2) build partnerships with heritage agencies and organizations to enhance faculty and student opportunities for community-engaged research; 3) increase and disseminate new ideas, knowledge, and potent theories about heritage pedagogy through research, participation at conferences, and scholarly publication. To date, a large cohort of participants has been engaged within the University and in numerous Twin Cities heritage organizations who have contributed ideas and commitments to the proposed curriculum and program structures for interdisciplinary heritage studies and public history.

In 2015-16, the Heritage Studies Collaborative will work toward the launch of a new masters-level graduate program in Heritage Studies and Public History, as well as continued advancement of projects developed in concert with the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS). The Collaborative will facilitate ongoing research initiatives and public programs such as a student-researched and designed exhibition about Bohemian Flats, to be displayed at Mill City Museum from April to October, 2015, and will also provide financial support for, and expert assistance to, the Humanities Action Lab (HAL). Inspired by the tremendously successful Guantanamo Public Memory Project, the theme of HAL in 2015-2016 will be Global Dialogues, a nationally traveling public project on incarceration. University of Minnesota graduate and undergraduate students will research and develop interpretive materials about the history of the incarceration of indigenous peoples in Minnesota.

combined heat and power crop2plusImplementation and the Policy Paradox: Conversations around Combined Heat and Power

Vivek Bhandari, Science Technology and Environmental Policy, Humphrey School
Tim Smith, Institute on the Environment, CFANS
Laura Babcock, MnTap, SPH

Creating sustainable energy systems requires new technology, energy markets and regulatory frameworks. The University of Minnesota’s $96 million project to construct a state of the art Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant provides a unique opportunity for facilitating conversations and collaborations to this end. This collaborative will use the project as a focal point to facilitate multiple vital interdisciplinary conversations on energy and critical infrastructure. These conversations will link technical knowledge with policy, economics and practice. We will work with practitioners and academics across a series of meetings, informing the discussion with interviews, and focus groups. The Minnesota Technical Assistance Program (MNTAP) will be our critical partner, linking businesses contemplating investments in new energy technologies with policy and research communities. The focus of this collaborative is to explore challenges of policy implementation, examining where institutions are open and able to make changes and where more challenges remain. Energy studies are inherently interdisciplinary and the members of this collaborative share common interest and commitment to bring together key actors to exchange their knowledge. Based on these interactions, and using the new CHP plant as a centerpiece, we will develop a grounded model of technology innovation and energy system change.

improvising ecosystems conch cropplusImprovising Ecosystems

Diane Willow, Art, CLA
Scott Currie, Music, CLA
Matthew Tucker, Landscape Architecture, CDES
Maja Radovanlija, Music, CLA

The Improvising Ecosystems Research/Creative Collaborative has been developing new modalities for activating aesthetic, empathetic, and inquiring relationships with particular ecosystems at specific moments in time. Our creative collaborations have been sparked by intensive ecological research site visits led by scientists. Subsequently, our group, comprised of artists, musicians, and landscape architects, newly aware of these perspectives, seeks to know these ecosystems directly. We explore the land attuned to sensory experience and intuition, enhanced by a receptive state of mind and critical stance towards the perspectives that inform our varied disciplinary knowledge.

We are expanding our approach to embrace local Twin City Metro spaces of feral, interstitial, transitional, urban ecologies that we perceive to be spontaneous and improvisational unto themselves. We intend to continue collaborations begun with local musicians and artists who have introduced us to cultural perspectives and practices that are inherently ecological. Our unifying quest into this subsequent year is to delve deeply into varied practices of improvisation and relationships between improvisation and receptivity. Awareness of creative and ecological improvisation will inform the public presentation of our creative work.

performance and social justice cropplusPerformance and Social Justice

Ananya Chatterjea, Theater Arts and Dance, CLA
Jigna Desai, Gender, Women, Sexuality Studies, CLA
Rose Brewer, Afro-American and African Studies, CLA
Roli Dwivedi, Family Medicine/Community Health, Medical School
Hui Wilcox, Sociology, St. Catherine’s University

The Performance and Social Justice Collaborative, comprising an inter-disciplinary team of researchers, investigates the vital work women do in global communities of color to sustain their communities, though such work is seldom acknowledged as “labor.” For 2015-16, the Collaborative will work through a community-engaged research methodology to investigate indigenous systems of healing, modes of emotional recuperation, and strategies of coping and healing that fall outside the realm of institutionalized Medicine. Intersections of epistemologies from a range of disciplines, traditional scholarly research, communally held knowledge, and improvisation-based embodied knowing will characterize our work. Working with a licensed physician and an indigenous healer, we will research the physiological and emotional shifts that are identified as “restorative,” inquire into the role of imagination, and explore group healing. The end goals of this project are to create (a) Horidraa, an evening-length performance project bringing together multiple perspectives on how women activate hope and healing, and (b) an anthology of essays and reflections about the work of the Collaborative and its impact, by scholars and artists. Other events marking our process will be interactive public performances, workshops for community and youth groups, showings, dialogues, “community conversations,” and formal presentations.

internet of things cropplusPhysical Computing and the Internet of Things

Lana Yarosh, Computer Science and Engineering, CSE
Loren Terveen, Computer Science and Engineering, CSE
Lucy Dunne, Wearable Technology Lab, CDES
Barry Kudrowitz, Product Design, CDES
Diane Willow, Art, CLA
Brad Holschuh, Wearable Technology Lab, CDES

The Internet of Things (IoT) describes the network and data that emerge from adding physical computing components such as sensors, actuators, and network adapters to everyday objects. This new area of research promises to revolutionize our interaction with the physical world by providing levels of analytics and automation previously reserved for digital domains. While IoT is of increasing importance to both industry and research, University of Minnesota has yet to capitalize on this opportunity, perhaps because of institutional boundaries that slow our development in this area. IoT developments require collaborations between Computer Scientists who manage the data models and information flows of such a network and Designers who create physical computing objects to provide a compelling user experience. The goal of this collaborative is to enable such a collaboration and help develop students with the skills to lead IoT research and development in the future through two synergistic activities: weekly “hack” sessions where Computer Science and Design students learn new IoT and physical computing skills, and a monthly seminar to create a community and connect with relevant internal and external entities with IoT interest and expertise.

product designplusProduct Design, Social Science and the Humanities

William Beeman, Anthropology, CLA
William Durfee, Mechanical Engineering, CSE
Lana Yarosh, Computer Science and Engineering, CSE
Joseph Konstan, Computer Science and Engineering, CSE

This Collaborative will combine the expertise of researchers in Anthropology, Computer Science, and Mechanical Engineering to explore the relationship between the fields of product design; computer science; and the social sciences and humanities. Product design is a notoriously difficult process. It requires the integration of relevant qualitative human factors data with the quantitative data essential to reaching concrete decisions about the specific functionality and appearance of product features that will satisfy consumer needs. Because product design failure is extensive in industry, improving design process systems will have far-reaching implications across a wide range of industries and markets. The product design process also presents important intellectual problems concerning methods for the integration of qualitative and quantitative data—a longstanding intellectual problem in the sciences, social science and engineering. The Collaborative will meet to discuss ways to advance scientific knowledge of methods for integrating qualitative and quantitative data in the design process.

Design Anthropology is an emerging field that tries to improve the process of integrating quantitative data with qualitative human factors data through the introduction of rigorous ethnographic fieldwork methods to the product design process, along with processes common to the humanities, such as cultural aesthetics and narrative processes. The Collaborative will explore existing product design systems as used in major Design firms, such as IDEO (Palo Alto, CA) and Worrell (Minneapolis). The Collaborative will meet eight times during the academic year and involve colleagues from the University of Minnesota, relevant graduate students and for each session an experienced practitioner from the fields of Product Design and Design Anthropology. Outside collaborators will be invited from the Product Design Management Association and members of the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference. The Collaborative will lay the foundation for further collaboration in research grants, professional publications and classroom training for undergraduates and graduate students.

soil kitchen cropplusSoil Kitchen-Twin Cities

Nicolas Jelinski, Soil, Water and Climate, CFANS
Monica Haller, Minneapolis-Based Media Artist

The Soil Kitchen-Twin Cities Research and Creative Collaborative will bring together scientists and artists interested in urban soil management, urban agriculture, and public health in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area (TCMA). The Collaborative is centered around a culminating event in May 2016 called “Soil Kitchen – Twin Cities”, which will be a public engagement event involving citizen-science and made possible through a work of functional installation art created through this collaborative for long-term use. The Soil Kitchen-Twin Cities culminating event involves researchers and artists and invites community members to bring soil from their own properties for screening of basic soil properties such as pH and texture as well major heavy metals (Lead, Arsenic and Cadmium, determined through a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer) in exchange for soup. Soil samples are screened while participants stay for soup and artist-science programming. Collaborative activities throughout the funding year will center around utilizing the culminating event to catalyze monthly meetings and a consolidation of research interests on urban soil issues among researchers, municipal, state, and federal agency personnel, and community-based non-profits.

onishi unionism cropplusWell-being in the Midwest
African Diaspora

Catherine Squires, Communication Studies, CLA
Keith Mayes, African and African American Studies, CLA

The members of the Well-Being in the Midwest African Diaspora Collaborative, which brings together faculty in the African American Research Collective (AARC) will continue to build on the work, events, research and conversations begun in the 2014-15 year. Two major projects will continue into Fall 2015. First, we will be staging performances of and public dialogues about community-authored narratives scripted from our group’s scholarship in education, health, media and theater arts. Second, we will continue exploring issues around the availability of communal spaces and well-being that emerged as we held events on historical memory, Ferguson, and local institutions that support healthy African American communities. Finally, we will extend our conversations about campus climate, with more emphasis on bringing students into circulation with faculty and local community leaders. Through these activities, our collaborative will continue our pursuit of the questions that have driven our work this year: How can we draw upon ‘usable pasts’ to envision healthier futures for these communities? How can insights from the arts and humanities assist professionals in fields such as public health and social work to engender well-being in African diasporic communities?