Month: January 2018

Get to Know Our Fellows: Four Questions with Jeffrey Ogbar


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

I am a Professor of History, with concentration in the 20th century U.S., African American. My research spans radical social movements, popular music and urban history. I am a UCHI resident fellow.


What is the project you’re currently working on?

I am writing a book on the rise and expansion of black municipal participation and control in Atlanta, beginning from the late 1960s.


How did you arrive at this topic?

My undergraduate experience at Morehouse College in Atlanta sparked my initial interest in the city. Since my graduation in the early 1990s, the city has attracted more black migrants than any city in the country– by far. Widely perceived as the “Black Mecca,” only the metropolitan area of New York City has more black people than Atlanta metro. In most years, it is the first or second most visited destination for African American tourists It has the highest concentration of black millionaires, black-owned businesses and an over-representation of blacks in municipal and Fulton County government. I’ve been long fascinated how Atlanta, once the headquarters for the Ku Klux Klan, and deeply-entrenched white supremacist control, emerged as this model of black success.


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

This book will be a useful source for scholars of urban history, African American history, and urban studies. It will make important interventions in both urban history and some facets of political science. There is a subfield of Africana studies, “Black Power Studies,” that will likely find this study an important addition. I hope (as perhaps many of us) that this will also serve as a possible general interest for people interest in the Capital of the South.


You SHOULD…See: “In Between”

“You should see “In Between,” a film currently showing at Real Art Ways in Hartford. It’s a wonderful film about three very different Palestinian women sharing an apartment in Tel Aviv, and the film follows their challenges and triumphs to balance traditional life with modernity. One is a successful attorney, one is a lesbian who works at various jobs (DJ, bartender), and one is a traditional Muslim woman who is finishing her degree in Computer Science and engaged to be married. All of them struggle against patriarchal control, violence and abuse, and imposed limitation, one by her partner, one by her father, and one by her fiancé. The film does a terrific job of destroying the monolithic stereotypes of what it means to be a Palestinian woman (or any woman), showing the great diversity of possibility. And it draws the common lines between these women and women everywhere as we all grapple with the same issues. In the end, sisterhood is powerful, no matter who we are!”

-Davita Silfen Glasberg,
Interim Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Professor, Department of Sociology

Publishing NOW : George Thompson

George 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. He can provide help and advice on book and article projects at any stage of development.  More information is available here

George’s schedule:

To make appointments, contact Stephanie Beron in GEOG at

Get to Know Our Fellows: Four Questions with Harry van der Hulst

Harry van der Hulst

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

I was born and educated in The Netherlands, where I taught at Leiden University after finishing my PhD in 1984. In 1999, I moved to the US, starting my work at UConn in 2000, after having been a visiting fellow for one year at Skidmore College on a project about ‘Creativity in Art and Science. I’m a professor of linguistics who is specialized in the study of the sound structure of languages (‘phonology’). I have worked on different phenomena such as ‘syllable structure’ , ‘word stress’ and ‘vowel harmony’. When I discovered that there are languages that have no sound structure (sign languages), I included those in my research. These languages use visual display instead of sound to express meaning, but other than that they are just like spoken languages in grammatical structure and functionality.

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

The project that earned me a fellowship at the Humanities Institute this year focuses on the relation between the  perceptible form of languages and meaning, specifically looking (!) at visual languages. The question of how words get to have their perceptible form (whether audible or visible) is very old (e.g. discussed in Plato’s dialogue Cratylus). Forms relate to meaning on a continuum from the form being totally arbitrary (as most words in spoken language; why do we refer to a cat with the word ‘cat’?) to being in some sense motivated by the meaning (as in the Chinese word for cat which is ‘mao’). We call this iconicity. Iconicity plays a much larger role in sign languages and I want to investigate the factors that play a role in allowing this to happen and suppressing it in the case of spoken languages (where it actually happens more than most linguists want to admit). In my project, I also include another visual ‘language’, namely the language of drawing, especially in the context of  ‘comics’ or ‘graphic novels’.

-How did you arrive at this topic?

My project combines a number of research lines that have developed gradually over many years. My route from spoken languages to sign languages occurred because realizing that not all languages have sound structure (which was the focus of my attention for many years) came as a shock. Had I spent many years of my life on a side of language that is non-essential? But then I realized that sign languages have a counterpart to phonology because indeed all languages (in fact, all communication systems) need a perceptible side to convey meaning. So this relationship (form/meaning) crystallized as a central issue. From a young age, I’ve liked drawing and graphic novels. I then discovered that there is a blooming academic field that studies this art form. Extending my work into this domain was a natural step (and a perfect excuse to integrate a childhood interest within my academic endeavors).

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

Language is something that everyone finds interesting. Yet, many misunderstandings exist among both lay people and academics. This is especially so with respect to sign languages. My work will contribute to erasing ‘language myths’ and allow insights that have been gained in linguistics to be shared with a larger community. By broadening the perspective and including both spoken and signed languages, as well as other, specifically visual, communication systems, my project will highlight the fact that human culture is essentially a web of communication systems and that the relationship between their forms and meanings is a perfect theme to unite the study of these systems.

You SHOULD…Read: “The Power”

“You should read Naomi Alderman’s The Power.


In which women suddenly develop the ability to overpower men by projecting electrical currents from their hands. This causes a revolution in gender relations and, eventually, world politics. Men are at first puzzled, then alarmed, and finally subjugated.


The bio-mechanics are easily understood – women develop a sheet of muscle across the collarbone, known as a skein, and the power comes from there. But no one can quite figure out what caused the skeins to grow. The best guess is it has something to do with chemical pollution, the detritus of mankind’s wars and industry, seeping into the water table.


Alderman’s fiction is a sort of inverted Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood mentored the writer), and asks some profound questions about human nature. The inhabitants of Alderman’s new world have little nostalgia for the old; they remember what it was like to live in the patriarchy. But her vision is bleak. She suggests that power has the same dynamics, regardless of who holds it. Why do powerful people do bad things, she asks? Because they can.”

-Stephen Dyson,
Associate Professor of Political Science,
Director, Humanities House



Publishing NOW: Brian Halley

Brian Halley
Feb. 6, 2018
Title: Publishing 101: The Basics on Getting Your Scholarly Book Published

Brian Halley is Senior Editor for the University of Massachusetts Press, based at UMass Boston. Before joining the Press in 2009, he was Editor at Beacon Press. He served on the Board of Directors for the Association of University Presses (AUP) from 2015 – 2018. Halley has built UMass Press’s lists in American Studies, environmental studies, gender & sexuality, literary studies, and regional titles, including for the newly launched regional trade imprint, Bright Leaf.

You SHOULD…Host: a Carpool Karaoke

“We all spend so much of our days “in our heads” with thoughts of work, fascinating projects, and the world around us.  Often, when I get into the sanctuary that is my own car, I am able to release some of the pressure of the day by tuning into music that awakens my inner Katy Perry, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, Queen Elsa, ___________________(you fill in the blank)  and lyrics that transport me to someplace other than here.  I am in awe of the creativity and amazing talent of others on this human journey.  And the best part is, performing in my own little Honda bubble is so much FUN!  You should give yourself permission to be “that crazy person” in the next car over (you’ll only be seen for a fleeting moment at the stop light!)

I encourage you join me and to immerse yourself in something otherworldly, if only for a song or two!”

-Jo-Ann Waide, Program Assistant for UCHI