Month: October 2017

Get to Know Our Fellows: Four Questions with Jorell Melendez Badillo


What is your academic background and what is your current position in UCHI/at UConn/Your Home Institution?

I possess a BA in History and a MA in History of the Americas from the Inter American University in Puerto Rico. I was also a recipient of the Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship (2016-2017), which allowed me to make substantial progress in my project. At UCHI, I will finish writing my dissertation, currently titled Our Turn to Speak: The Creation of Puerto Rican Workers’ Intellectual Communities, 1897-1952.


What is the project you’re currently working on?

My dissertation tells the story of how a cluster of self-educated workers burst into Puerto Rico’s world of letters at the turn of the twentieth century. These workers navigated the polity that emerged from the 1898 U.S. occupation by asserting themselves as citizens, as producers of their own historical narratives, and ultimately, as learned minds. My project shifts the historiographical focus from class-based analyses towards the study of workers’ intellectual yearnings, aesthetic sensibilities, and radical desires.


By following leads, often as small as a stamp on a letter, I have traced the trajectory of workers that went from being ignored by the cultural elite to eventually become part of the national mythology. Following these traces have taken me to archives in Puerto Rico, Europe, and the United States, and allowed me to document how workers participated in the international circulation of print media, imagining themselves as part of the global labor community. However, while these workers took part in these transnational networks, labor leaders enacted exclusions locally by pushing black people, women, and non-skilled workers to the margins of the labor movement they founded and the historical archive they produced.


How did you arrive at this topic?

My dissertation grew out of the research for my first book, Voces libertarias: Orígenes del anarquismo en Puerto Rico, currently in its third edition. Tracing the circulation of anarchist ideas developed my broader interest in global subaltern circuits of knowledge. While I had initially located Puerto Rico in a global context, it became increasingly important to situate my work within a Latin American framework to fully grasp the events covered in my dissertation. This led me to explore the connections of seemingly local incidents with wider regional developments, such as nation-building processes, populist politics, and the relation of marginal intellectuals with the state.

Beyond academic influences, my interest for the topics I study comes from lived experiences. Listening to family stories can have a profound impact on one’s career choices and passions. It certainly did for me. Raised by my grandparents in a rural barriada, or working-class neighborhood, in Puerto Rico, I came of age listening to fifteen great aunts and uncles recount long shifts in tobacco factories and train rides across the island in search of work cutting sugar cane under the blistering sun. What I learned from their memories about labor struggles, exclusions, and migration shapes my worldview and provides me with a compass for the questions I ask in my own scholarly research and in my teaching.


What impact might your work have on a larger public understanding of your topic?

“In the institutional knowledge of universities in the United States, the place of Puerto Rico is very uncertain,” wrote literary scholar Arcadio Díaz Quiõnez more than two decades ago. He continued, “Since it’s neither ‘Latin American,’ nor ‘North American,’ it ends up being erased.” Thus, my work’s major intervention is to locate Puerto Rico in the broader cartography of knowledges within US academia. More broadly, my dissertation seeks to yield light on the production of ideas of those that were not considered legitimate producers of knowledge because they lacked academic degrees or access to cultural capital. In sum, it demonstrates how those in the margins, those that were deemed culturally unfit, and those that were silenced because of their race or their gender have been crucial in shaping the ever-incomplete process of imagining the Puerto Rican nation.

You SHOULD…Read: Women at the Front: Hospital Workers in Civil War America By Thomas Lawrence Long

        Race and gender disparities. Factional hostility breaking out into violence. Struggles for adequate health care. The right to vote. Although these phrases seem “ripped from the headlines” today, in fact they represent conditions in the US a century and a half ago in which women in nursing found themselves struggling for self-representation with implications for just pension laws, racial equity, and voting rights. The book you must read in order to understand how writing and publishing media were put to use in these social and political struggles is Jane E. Schultz’s 2004 book Women at the Front: Hospital Workers in Civil War America. A professor of English at Indiana University and a fellow and life member of Clare Hall, Cambridge, Schultz turns the skills of archival historical research to understand how some of the over 20,000 Union women served in military hospitals during the Civil War. She examines the nurse narratives published during the war and in the decades afterward (several published by Hartford subscription publishing houses), analyzing the reach of these publications. By moving the domestic practice of nursing outside their homes and caring for the bodies of strangers, wartime nurses were breaking new social and professional ground for women. Within a decade of war, professional nursing education would be established in the US. It would take another three decades after the war for women’s wartime nursing service to be recognized by a federal pension act. Schultz documents, however, racial and class disparities: White middle-class women were routinely classified as “nurses” while Black and poor White women were categorized as “cooks” and “laundresses” (even though they often performed the same tasks), with disparate pensions. Because Union nurses risked their health and lives in service to the country, they also implicitly dismantled a persistent argument against woman suffrage, i.e., that only men should vote because only men could defend the nation. It would take people like Civil War health care organizer Mary Livermore to make this argument explicitly on behalf of women’s right to vote in her book My Story of the War and periodical articles.


Thomas Lawrence Long is associate professor in residence in the School of Nursing, serving on the core faculty of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. He is the curator of the School of Nursing’s Josephine Dolan Collection of Nursing History.





Nashe Harrows Harvey, who Hellishly Gnashes his Teeth

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On September 7-9, Ken Gouwens (History) attended the Folger Institute’s Fall Symposium, “Thomas Nashe and His Contemporaries.” Below are his thoughts on the event:

This past weekend I was so fortunate as to participate in a symposium at the Folger on “Thomas Nashe and His Contemporaries,” a summit for scholars of the most exuberant and perversely creative of all Elizabethan wits. I was drawn to the event because my book-in-progress on monkeys and humans includes a chapter on “apes of Cicero” that closes with a discussion of the flyting (verbal jousting) between Nashe and the Ciceronian rhetorician Gabriel Harvey in the 1590s. I’ve returned home laden with useful bibliography, including a reference to Thomas Dekker’s Seven Deadly Sinnes of London, the fifth of which is “Apishnesse.” Who knew? Certainly not I, but soon I’ll see what I can glean from it!

This ranks among the most enriching symposia I have ever attended. For two days we were immersed in lively, congenial, and deeply learned conversations about a challenging author whose work has defied generic classification. Presiding over the sessions were the editors of a new critical edition of Nashe’s works, which Oxford University Press will publish as a six-volume set. We discussed subjects as diverse as editorial protocols, urban geography, the physical production and layout of pamphlets, the soundscapes of Nashe’s London, and the difficulties of interpreting a thinker equally comfortable with expressions of religious piety (in Christ’s Teares Over Jerusalem), playful eroticism (in The Choise of Valentines or the Merie Ballad of Nash His Dildo)  and graphic descriptions of extreme violence (in The Unfortunate Traveller). While he consciously imitated the flamboyant Italian writer Pietro Aretino (known as “The Scourge of Princes”), in his prose Nashe can appear uncannily like Rabelais, whose works however he had not read.

How does a high-quality, inspiring symposium like this come to be? Certainly the organizers deserve great credit. The opening lecture, “Thomas Nashe’s London,” delivered jointly by Jenny Richards and Andrew Hadfield, set the stage beautifully. Participants ranged from second-year graduate students to professors who hold endowed chairs at major universities, and to the distinct credit of the latter, there was never any condescension. On the contrary, fledgling Elizabethanists (and non-Elizabethanists such as I) could float ideas knowing that they would not be shot down but instead could open up fresh lines of inquiry. Meanwhile, our gracious hosts Owen Williams and Elyse Martin did the Folger Institute proud: all ran smoothly. I’m immensely grateful for this opportunity. To anyone considering participating in the Institute’s offerings, I can only say, emphatically: Apply!

Get to Know Our Fellows: Four Questions with Tracy Llanera


What is your academic background and what is your current position in UCHI/at UConn/Your Home Institution?

After completing my BA and MA in the Philippines, I moved to Sydney, Australia to do a Ph.D. in philosophy at Macquarie University in 2012. I wrote a thesis on the American pragmatist Richard Rorty and the idea of redemption in modernity. My degree was awarded in Apr 2016. At present, I am affiliated with Macquarie University and teach undergraduate and postgraduate courses at the Department of Philosophy and Department of Anthropology.

This Fall, I’ll be a residential fellow at the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute for the project Humility & Conviction in Public Life. After my fellowship at UCHI, I’ll be a visiting research fellow in philosophy at Keele University, United Kingdom in Winter 2018.


What is the project you’re currently working on?

I’ll be working on a project entitled “Combating Egotism: Intellectual Humility as Self-Enlargement” at UCONN. I aim to develop the concepts of egotism and self-enlargement as ways of understanding what the virtue of intellectual humility might mean in the healthy functioning of a modern liberal democracy. In particular, I’d like to fashion the idea of self-enlargement in a manner that is indebted to the pluralist conception of intellectual humility. This is an exciting turn for me since it serves as my first attempt to take my research toward the direction of virtue theory. If successful, I’d like to next work on exploring the relationship between the concept of irony and the virtue of intellectual humility.


As a separate project, I’m also working on a book entitled Outgrowing Modern Nihilism. In this work, I challenge the orthodox view that human culture should overcome the malaise of nihilism. In contrast, I argue that it should instead outgrow the problem. It’s going to be tough to defend this argument — good thing I don’t have a deadline!


How did you arrive at this topic?

Egotism and self-enlargement are important concepts in my Ph.D. thesis, a thesis that generally belongs in the area of philosophy of religion and the philosophical problems of modernity. Applying for the fellowship made me realize that these concepts could be potentially useful in social and political philosophy as well, especially if read through the lens of intellectual humility. I’m really glad that I could explore this new phase of my research at UCONN, where there are so many philosophical experts on virtue theory.


In terms of nihilism, well, I like the irony behind the fact that there is so much to talk about nothing!


What impact might your work have on a larger public understanding of your topic?

I’ve set three practical goals for the fellowship project. First, I hope to articulate a philosophically workable concept of egotism. While egotism is Richard Rorty’s trope, the concept has room for stronger analysis from a conceptual and historical perspective. Egotism is already familiar and adaptable to different disciplines (philosophy, psychology, psychoanalysis). It has family resemblances to socially recognizable traits and conditions (e.g., narcissism, egocentrism, megalomania) which interest audiences both in the academia and the general public. The conceptualization of egotism I offer retains its fundamental link to the metaphysical frameworks of religion and science, which the language of philosophy (especially Rorty’s) can effectively articulate. Second, I try to explore how egotism could be overcome. My project recommends cultivating a deep commitment to self-enlargement in a liberal democracy, which in my view challenges deep-seated and implicit biases about what it means to pursue projects of self-authenticity and good citizenship in a liberal democracy. Third, this fellowship project develops some of my work for public engagement on egotism. In terms of engaging a broader audience, my essay “Seeking Shelter in a Terrifying Father Figure” published in The Indypendent profiles two political egotists: United States President Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. In the future, I hope to write more incisive pieces for better public understanding of egotism as a result of my research at UCHI.


You SHOULD….Listen…and also read by Bhakti Shringarpure

I’m almost always more comfortable laying down the law on what you should NOT be doing so I’m glad to dig deep and find my inner positivity. The should-LISTEN these days is the Politically Re-active podcast series with comedians W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu. They talk to writers, professors and activists and its all a way to make sense of and try to laugh a little at our horrendous political climate. My recent favorite was the one in which bell hooks talks about DACA, current protest culture, problems with mainstream feminism, her sex life and so much more, she’s always challenging, relevant and brilliant. In terms of reading, I’m a huge fan of queer theorist Jasbir Puar and I just read an excerpt from her upcoming book The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability. It was eye-opening because one of the issues that Puar addresses is how radical resistance movements are still pretty ableist even though there has come about a simultaneous “spectacle of disability empowerment.” I can’t wait to get my hands on the entire book. Pre-order it now, its going to become a should-READ! 

You SHOULD….Read The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition by Manisha Sinha

At the risk of gross self-promotion, I would recommend my book The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition (Yale University Press, 2016). When I researched and wrote the book over a period of ten years, I could hardly have anticipated how much it spoke to contemporary issues. The book, which expands the chronology of abolition from the classical pre-Civil War period back to the colonial era, reimagines abolition as a radical, interracial movement in which the enslaved themselves played a central role. It argues that abolition was one of the first social movements to systematically develop the concept of human rights at a time when slaveholders and their allies dominated the American state. Many current activists against mass incarceration, for immigrant rights and the sanctuary movement, Black Lives Matter, and Occupy Wall Street can learn from the diverse tactics and ideologies espoused by abolitionists since their concerns were first articulated by them. The book shows how abolitionists developed transnational networks of protest and overlapped with contemporary radical movements such as women’s rights, pacifism, utopian socialism, the rights of labor, immigrants, and Native Americans. They, especially the more radical Garrisonian wing of the movement, also presciently fought against capital punishment and the criminalization of blackness.


To learn more listen:


Interview, The Diane Rehm Show, NPR,


Interview in Ben Franklin’s World: A Podcast About Early American History, Episode 142, Manisha Sinha, A History of Abolition,


Interview with Sam Seder, The Majority Report,


Interview, The Marc Steiner Show,

You SHOULD…Go on Holiday By Kristin Eshelman

Holiday was created in 1946 for “a world in which recreation will be more important to everyone than ever before – more important in this busier world of new stresses and strains because more and more doctors are prescribing escape, and travel, and fun.”  For three decades, the travel magazine promoted the advice of neurologist Santiago Ramón y Cajal, “The sun, the open air, silence, and art are great physicians.”  I suffer from the anxiety, fatigue, rampant skepticism, and extreme boredom that plagues the unlucky, middling members of the generation called “X”.  On the advice of my doctor, I considered a Holiday.  Over the summer, I squeezed in a trip with James Michener to Japan, saw the Great Barrier Reef in Australia with Arthur C. Clarke, and I was escorted to Norway by Robert Capa.  Henri Cartier-Bresson has been tagging along and promised to share his snapshots with me for my photo album.  Over drinks, John Steinbech and I have been considering the value of an American tourist.  I’ve also been taking practical advice about what and how to pack from fashionable women, who actually travel, from Italy, France, Spain and Scotland.  Because I’ve been on the go so much, I’ve decided my next trip will be a staycation, New Hampshire with John Cheever.  I just don’t know when I’ll find the time to buy a new pair of inlaid shorty boots for my trip with Debs Myers to that Colorado dude ranch.  The good news is I’m dutifully following my doctor’s advice, taking my medicine and feeling better all the time.  You might do the same.

Holiday.  Philadelphia, Pa.: Curtis Pub. Co., 1946-1977 (ISSN0018-3520)


Humanities LIVED – You Should…Listen



You have to listen to Sarah Jarosz performing her song “Annabelle Lee.”  Jarosz is a 26-year-old superstar in what I suppose you could call “roots” music; she plays just about every instrument but I’m blown away by her banjo playing. The lyrics for Annabelle Lee are adapted from Edgar Allan Poe’s last poem, written in 1849 and published after his death.  It’s a creepy story told by a man of his childhood love Annabelle Lee; their love for each other was so strong that it made the angels jealous and led them to do away with her. Jarosz accompanies herself on the banjo, playing in an old, highly rhythmic style called “clawhammer” in which the player strikes the strings with one rigid finger as opposed to plucking the strings as one does in folk or bluegrass banjo. The haunting quality of Jarosz’s voice, together with the modal tune and the driving banjo accompaniment combine to bring Poe’s poem to life in a way that scares me silly every time I hear it. 


Hearing this song for the first time made me resolved to learn to play clawhammer banjo.



Poe’s Annabelle Lee


Jarosz performance

Get to Know Our Fellows: Four Questions with Alycia LaGuardia-LoBianco


-What is your academic background and what is your current position in UCHI/at UConn/Your Home Institution?

I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Philosophy Department here at UConn, where I have studied for five years. I received my B.A. in Philosophy from Stony Brook University. 

-What is the project you’re currently working on?

 During my fellowship year, I will be finishing my dissertation, “Action Guidance in Complicated Cases of Suffering,” in which I assess ethical responses to suffering given the nuanced ways in which someone may suffer. Ethicists hold that suffering is ethically relevant: another’s suffering calls for some ethical response, often relief of that suffering. However, this general formula hides some problematic assumptions. It takes the suffering agent as an unwitting victim who ought to be helped but does not necessarily owe anything to herself. It also assumes that, barring extreme circumstances, suffering ought to be relieved. My dissertation challenges these assumptions, arguing that the suffering agent is a moral agent, not just a victim dependent on others, and who therefore has obligations to herself. Additionally, I argue that relief of suffering is not always ethically appropriate. Rather, ethical responses to suffering are not unidimensional, but are as complex as suffering itself.

-How did you arrive at this topic?

I was lucky to take a philosophy course with Joel Kupperman here at UConn. During our discussion of Buddhism, which takes as its starting point the elimination of suffering, I was stuck on the question, why should we want to eliminate suffering? From there, I started thinking about the potential value of suffering, arguing that there are virtues that come from suffering that make it worthwhile. I then pivoted and became interested in internalized trauma and self-caused suffering. I turned to oppression literature for a framework to discuss cases in which someone unwittingly contributes to their own suffering because of oppressive or abusive forces. I realized that much ethical literature treats suffering as a blanket emotional or physical pain, and in so doing, oversimplifies widely varying experiences. These nuances matter: we should expect that the right ethical response to suffering depends on variables like the appropriateness of that suffering, whether suffering is caused by internalized behaviors, or whether an individual wants to suffer. This led me to take the suffering agent, rather than the phenomenon of suffering, as the focus of study, in an effort to recast her as a moral agent rather than a mere victim. Now, my dissertation is driven by analyzing difficult cases of suffering (such as self-injury or self-defeating behavior) with the suffering agent at the focus of analysis. 

-What impact might your work have on a larger public understanding of your topic?

I’m interested in messy, real-life problems that have been overlooked by philosophical analysis yet which can benefit from it. I think philosophy is meant to deal with just these sorts of difficulties, rolling up its sleeves and trying to untangle a problem knowing that the solution won’t be neat and pretty but trying to find an answer anyway. Real suffering is complicated. It can change someone from the outside in, it can test and destroy close relationships, and it can become something an individual depends on to feel like herself. It matters to our lives, to who we are and who we care about. So, suffering and suffering agents deserve the careful attention that philosophy provides to make some headway in understanding and addressing this painful reality. My hope is that this work will give others (philosophers or not) a new avenue to reckon with their own experiences of suffering. 

Publishing NOW!

George Thompson, CLAS, Publisher-in-Residence
October 24-27, 2017 

George Thompson has been a professional editor since 1984, beginning his career at Johns Hopkins University Press as an acquisitions editor. At JHUP, George developed the geography and environmental studies list, including the “Creating the North American Landscape” series.  In 1990, George founded the Center for American Places, which he directed and served as publisher until November 2010, when he founded his own imprint. Books developed and published under George’s care have won more than 100 book awards, honors, and prizes, including best-book recognition in 31 academic fields.  George is also the editor, co-editor or author of five books of his own and has served as publisher-in-residence at a number of universities. More information is available here 

If you would like to meet with George during his visit, please contact Maria Shah ( 860-486-2713 in the CLAS Dean’s Office to schedule an appointment.

Appointment times are listed in Google Docs at: