University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Research and Creative Collaboratives 2012-13

Africa, The African Diaspora, Black Environmental Thought: Translocal and Transnational Dialogues on Sustainability and Community Engagement

In light of the intersections of the concept of “Black Environmental Thought” with movement for food sovereignty, against economic inequality, for environmental justice, and for the multiple claims and rights of communities of African descent to participate equitably in the promotion of a more sane, environmentally and culturally sound approach to agriculture, AfroEco, Summit-U Planning Council, and other community partners in collaboration with faculty from the Department of African American & African studies will continue and extend the work forged in the dialogues and planning for the BET II conference.

Conveners: Rose Brewer (African American & African Studies), Seitu Jones (City of Minneapolis, Department of Community Planning & Economic Development )

See Amir Hussain’s article on a BET youth urban summer gardening project, BET Summer.

Childhood and Youth Studies across the Disciplines

The emergent field of Childhood Studies (encompassing pre-adult phases of the life cycle more generally) is developing as an interdisciplinary conversation among a wide range of scholars. The field augments traditional disciplinary scholarship in sociology, history, anthropology, education, psychology, and other fields. Beginning with an understanding of “growing up” as a set of historically-bound practices neither naturally given nor entirely constructed, Childhood Studies traces various connections and processes through which childhood and youth come into being as categories and experiences. Some of the questions that Childhood Studies asks include: How do our conceptions of children govern what we do to/with them? How do these conceptions vary across time and cultures? How do we conceptualize children’s agency at different ages?

Conveners: Kysa Hubbard (Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature), Mary Jo Maynes (History)

See Amir Hussain’s article on this collaborative.

Choreographing the Moving Cell

Our understanding of cellular processes derives largely from images obtained through the lens of the microscope. Yet, the resulting picture masks the truly violent nature of the random kinetic motions of molecules. Remarkably, despite the random motions, ordered structures emerge, allowing cells to divide and migrate. These structures are not permanent, and frequently undergo catastrophic failure. However, the catastrophes are a natural part of cell behavior that allows the cell to be highly dynamic as it progresses to the next stage in its life cycle. In many ways the catastrophe in the cell can be viewed in more human terms of molecules/humans cooperating to achieve new structures, but then dynamically failing as a natural consequence of overall system dynamics. Dance movement is a potentially evocative way with which to portray the violent dynamics, order, and catastrophe that constitute the cell’s behavior. In this project we seek to convene a collaboration that will bridge from life and physical science to theatre and dance. Our goal is to portray dynamic processes of the cell through human movement.

Conveners: Carl Flink (Dance) and David Odde (Biomedical Engineering)

Crisis Economics: Inciting Economics and Economy as Sites of Change

Crisis Economics operates from the premise that we inhabit a moment of crisis that is, at once, a socioeconomic crisis that has exacted a steep human toll and an epistemic crisis, where the self-assigned guardian of the economy, the discipline of economics, has proven abjectly inadequate or unable to anticipate, prevent, and diagnose this crisis. While there are different opinions about what ails mainstream economics, only diehard defenders of the discipline will claim that it is healthy. We approach the crisis as a moment of opportunity to rethink how economics is taught at institutions of higher education, to foreground heterodox approaches to the economy that have been sidelined by the discipline’s mainstream, and to reinvent pedagogy about the economy within the university and beyond. Embracing an experimental, action-oriented mode of engagement, we propose to orient the collaborative around the development of new curricular resources, teaching strategies, a writing initiative that will ideally result in a publishable compilation of mini-essays around the theme of “crisis economics”, and a large-enrollment undergraduate course.

Conveners: Karen Ho (Anthropology), Vinay Gidwani (Geography, Institute for Global Studies)

Critical Asian Studies

This collaborative seeks to develop a new model for Asian Studies for our current epoch often referred to as “the Asian century.” We intend to develop new intellectual, pedagogical, and outreach models for Asian Studies. Our consideration of Asian studies will include the geographical areas of South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia, and diasporic Asia. Our work will be interdisciplinary and consider the ways in which an approach that favors discipline-based methodology over nation-state based empiricism can enliven the field of Asian studies in the US. In other words, we will use the collaborative to develop an intellectual vision for the field of Asian studies suited to concerns of this century. The collaborative intends to focus on three directions for the study of Asia: Intra- Asian dynamics and movement – the movement of media, technology, and capital; environmental studies in Asia; and a critical examination of the category, “Asia.” In developing these thematic areas of inquiry, we will challenge established theoretical paradigms commonly used in the study of Asia; namely, postcolonial studies and the orientalist approach to the study of Asia that aligns theory with “the West” and empirical case study with “the East.”

Conveners: Hiromi Mizuno (History), Chris Isett (History), Travis Workman (Asian Languages and Literatures)

Digital Humanities 2.0

In the collaborative’s first year (2011-12), we began to establish a community of persons at the University and other institutions in the Twin Cities who are interested in advancing humanities research through the use of digitization and Web 2.0 technologies. In our second year, we will continue to organize and host presentations at IAS by leading scholars and practitioners in this vital field, designed to inform the community about its achievements and current prospects, and we will also focus our energies more narrowly on a research project that we hope will attract external support, involving the social tagging of graphic images in the HathiTrust Digital Library.

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

Mapping Spectral Traces: A Dakota Place

Mapping Spectral Traces (MST) is an international network of scholars, artists, and community leaders who work with and in traumatized communities, contested lands, and diverse environments. We value a socially engaged creative practice, to ‘map’ the unseen and unacknowledged difficult pasts that continue to structure present-day social relations. We share our work through workshops/projects/publications/exhibitions. The MST network is convening in Minnesota in October 2012 for a special event, workshops, and exhibitions to be held at the University of Minnesota and the Mill City Museum. We are organizing with our community partners, an innovative event to listen, and only listen, to Dakota elders and artists as they share stories and knowledge of their homeland. Through follow up workshops and ongoing dialogue, MST members and invited community members (Dakota and not-Dakota) will reflect and exchange thoughts on the role of history, story and land in contested places. The MST Collaborative will facilitate all of this work and the production of a catalogue to document and reflect on Mapping Spectral Traces: A Dakota Place.

Conveners: Rebecca Krinke (Landscape Architecture), Christine Baeumler, Joyce Lyon, Gulgun Kayim, Mona Smith, Pat Nunnally (River Life Program), Karen Kinoshita (Institute for Advanced Study)

Mediterranean Exchange

In its fourth year, the Mediterranean collaborative will to focus on the broad theme of Mediterranean exchange, collaborating in an ambitious series of lectures on Venice in fall 2012 and organizing a video conference with the Santa Cruz Mediterranean seminar. We also hope to bring in three international speakers from diverse Mediterranean backgrounds for a symposium in April 2013. We wish to establish ties with institutions abroad, and attendance by our members at Mediterranean Studies Association meetings is facilitating these aims, as is the TASI summer seminar that may again be held at Minnesota in the near future.

Conveners: Kathryn Reyerson (History), Patricia Lorcin (History), John Watkins (English)

Music and Sound Studies Interdisciplinary Graduate Group

Since the inception of the Music and Sound Studies Initiative as an IAS collaborative in 2008, dozens of scholars from all over the world have come to the University of Minnesota to share their research in the burgeoning area of sound studies. Now known as the Interdisciplinary Music and Sound Studies Graduate Group, the initiative has developed an international profile, afforded its participants valuable opportunities for scholarship, creative activity, and professional development, and set up an online clearinghouse for relevant abstracts and video content at Now reestablished as an IAS collaborative, we continue with our mission: to bring leading sound studies experts to the University of Minnesota and promote interdisciplinary research that unites specialists in music theory, historical musicology, ethnomusicology, music cognition, communications studies, and cultural theory, among other disciplines.

Conveners: Laura Schmitz (Music) and Eloise Boisjoli (Music)

Performance and Social Justice: A Corporeal Creative Research Project about Women and Violence

In this phase of the Performance and Social Justice Collaborative’s anti-violence quartet, we will create and produce Mohona/Estuaries of Desire, a performance project investigating the multiple impacts of violence through the paradigm of water. Working through an intersection of traditional scholarly research, and improvisation-based embodied knowing, we seek to foreground multiple epistemologies in seeking understanding and sharing knowledge about specific contexts of gendered violence and the harnessing of a natural resource such as water through corporate monopolies, and how they collude in devastating multiple communities. Working with bodies and movement to both investigate and produce knowledge, this project will emphasize in particular the materiality of women’s struggles in these contexts and the ways in which women have reimagined their lives in response. Other events marking our process will be workshops for project participants, workshops for community and youth groups, showings, dialogues, “community conversations,” and formal presentations. The Collaborative will also prepare a manuscript bringing together critical readings of the performance, reflections on the process, and poetry and visual art that responds to the work and process.

Conveners: Ananya Chatterjea (Theatre Arts and Dance), Jigna Desai (Gender Women, and Sexuality Studies), and Rose Brewer (African American & African Studies)

Teaching Heritage Collaborative

The Teaching Heritage Collaborative seeks to: develop curriculum and program structures that support interdisciplinary approaches to heritage education at the University; build partnerships with heritage agencies and organizations to enhance faculty and student opportunities for community-engaged research; increase and disseminate new ideas, knowledge, and potently theories about heritage pedagogy through research, participation at conferences, and scholarly publication; and continue supporting and developing the Guantanamo Public Memory Project, a pilot initiative to create strategies for teaching public history, public memory, and heritage more broadly, and to advance models for collaborative research and interpretive projects. Achieving these goals involves participation of faculty collaborators from many departments across several colleges including history, anthropology, architecture, forest resources, landscape architecture, and museum studies.

Conveners: Katherine Hayes (Anthropology), Gregory Donofrio (Architecture), Phyllis Messenger (IAS), Anduin Wilhide (History)

Theorizing Early Modern Studies (TEMS): Experiences with the Real

TEMS is a collaborative, interdisciplinary workshop investigating Europe and the wider world during the early modern period, late 14th – early 19th centuries. TEMS has built upon local existing research strengths to establish UMN as a hub for innovations in research of the early modern period. In addition to training graduate students, furthering the research of our own faculty, and serving as a means of attracting and retaining outstanding faculty in early modern studies, we bring top-level researchers to Minnesota to benefit from the collaborative research model that we propose, and who in turn enrich our local research community. We have demonstrated that the laboratory model in the humanities is an important complement to the formal conferences, publications, graduate seminars, and solitary work that characterizes successful research in our fields. Building on our accomplishments of the past ten years, we propose to continue our model of collaborative research and learning by exploring the theme of “Experiences with the Real.”

Conveners: Juliette Cherbuliez (French and Italian), Michael Gaudio (Art History), Matthias Rothe (German, Scandinavian, and Dutch), J.B. Shank (History)