Author: Della Zazzera, Elizabeth

Congratulations to UCHI’s 2021–2022 Graduate Research Scholars

UCHI wishes to extend congratulations to this year’s graduate research scholars—Erik Freeman, Carol Gray, Drew Johnson, and Anna Ziering. All four of the 2021–2022 graduate fellows are headed off to postdoctoral fellowships or tenure-track jobs this fall.

Erik Freeman (History) will be assistant professor of American History at Snow College in Ephraim, UT. He will be defending his dissertation, “The Mormon International: Transnational Communitarian Politics and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 1830-1890,” this summmer. His committee members are Christopher Clark (advisor), Manisha Sinha, and Sylvia Schafer (Nina Dayton and Segio Luzzato are readers).

Carol Gray (Political Science) was awarded the Mary Miles Bibb Post-Doctoral Teaching Fellowship at Framingham State University (FSU) in Framingham, Massachusetts. The two-year fellowship, at the rank of Assistant Professor, begins in Fall 2022, and focuses on courses in American Politics and Pre-Law. The Fellowship is named for Mary Miles Bibb who was the first Black woman graduate of FSU in 1843 who went on to teach in Boston and Philadelphia. Gray will be defending her dissertation, “Law as a Site of Struggle for Human Rights,” a case study about Egypt and human rights NGOs, in June. Her committee members are Jeremy Pressman (advisor), Cyrus Zirakzadeh, Thomas Hayes (Jennifer Sterling-Folker and Bruce Rutherford are readers.)

Drew Johnson (Philosophy) will be starting a two-year research postdoc in August, associated with the ERC-funded GoodAttention project at the University of Oslo. He will be working on Subproject 1 of the Descriptive Strand of the project, on identifying natural norms for attention. Drew recently defended his dissertation, “A Hybrid Theory of Ethical Thought and Discourse.” His committee members are Dorit Bar-On (advisor), Michael Lynch, Paul Bloomfield, and William Lycan.

Anna Ziering (English) has accepted a position as assistant professor of Women’s and Gender Studies (affiliated with African American Studies) at Oglethorpe University. She recently defended her dissertation, “Dirty Forms: Masochism, Race, and World-Making in U.S. Literature and Culture,” and her committee members are Chris Vials (advisor), Greg Pierrot, and fellow 2021–22 UCHI fellow Micki McElya.

Please join us in congratulating Erik, Carol, Drew, and Anna!!

Year in Review: 2021–2022

A twentieth-anniversary year in review. 2021–2022. A look back at our year celebrating twenty years of fellowship, scholarship, and innovation.

It has been a celebratory year here at UCHI. The year began with our return to in-person work after our completely virtual 2020–2021 academic year. For the first time since March 2020 fellows could use their offices, share thoughts around the coffee machine, and attend each other’s talks in our conference room. Visitors to the Institute could once again browse the fruits of fellowships past on our bookshelves, peruse past winners of the Sharon Harris Book Award, and attend post-event receptions in our collaborative space. And while that would be more than enough cause for celebration, this year we also commemorated the Institute’s 20th anniversary. Since its founding in 2001 UCHI has served as a hub for all things humanities at UConn. Over the years, we’ve embarked on projects like the Digital Humanities and Media Studies Initiative, invited brilliant speakers like Toni Morrison to campus, and offered time and space for work to over 250 fellows. We are incredibly proud of how the Institute has flourished over these twenty years. Here’s a look back at some of what we did as we celebrated twenty years of UCHI. (Click any image to see it full-size.)

Welcome Reception

The year began with our welcome reception, held outside Homer Babbidge Library. We were fortunate to have good weather as we gathered under the portico, seeing colleagues in person for the first time in a year and half. Director Michael Lynch addressed the gathered crowd, thanking UCHI’s founding director, Richard Brown, as well as administrators, fellows, and staff past and present for their support of the Institute, noting that, “We’ve come a long way in twenty years thanks to the work of so many—from a small suite of rooms in Austin to our expansive home here in the library, the intellectual center of campus.”

A crowd gathered outside the UConn library for the UCHI welcome reception.
UCHI director Michael Lynch stands at a podium giving a speech
The 2021–2022 UCHI fellows stand in a group at the welcome reception.

Humanities Undergraduate Research Symposium

In November, we welcomed a group of talented undergraduate humanities researchers to our conference room for the first student-run humanities research symposium at UConn. Students presented on topics from human rights to Shakespeare to Afrofuturism, attended a workshop about humanities-related careers, and listened to a keynote address by UCHI’s own Alexis Boylan. The student organizers, Madelon Morin-Viall, Aarushi Nohria, and Rylee Thomas deserve all the credit for spearheading what we hope will become an annual tradition.

The three organizers of the Humanities Undergraduate Research Symposium, Madelon Morin-Viall, Aarushi Nohria, and Rylee Thomas stand in front of a white wall.
A group of students sit at a conference table

Events

We hosted both hybrid and Zoom-only events this year, inviting members of the UConn community and beyond to learn about publishing for the public, Black digital humanities, the artist Camille Billops, and more. We also co-sponsored more than a dozen events across campus and funded working groups that explored topics from political theory to the history of science.

UCHI fellows seated in the conference room.
UCHI fellow Sherie Randolph stands at a podium giving a talk
A group of people listen to a man speaking from a podium at a cosponsored event, “ Misinformation: Creating a Misfire for American Gun Policy“

Celebrating Twenty Years of Fellows

Throughout the year, we published interviews with past fellows about their experience at UCHI, their fellowship projects, and what they are working on now.

A quote from former fellow Allison Horrocks, "I spent many hours in a chair against one of the walls or bookcases in the UCHI conference room. I loved learning from the visiting fellows and seeing new and compelling work presented to a group of peers."
A quote from former fellow Kornel Chang: “A quote from former fellow Allison Horrocks, "I spent many hours in a chair against one of the walls or bookcases in the UCHI conference room. I loved learning from the visiting fellows and seeing new and compelling work presented to a group of peers."”
A quote from former fellow Joseph McAlhany: “The opportunity to present nascent ideas to a warm, encouraging, and diverse group of intellects was a true gift—their feedback opened up alternative paths of thought which would otherwise have remained hidden.”

Nikole Hannah-Jones

Nikole Hannah-Jones and Manisha Sinha talked history, race, journalism, and the nature of patriotism at our capstone event, attended (in person and online) by over 650 people. Hannah-Jones also met with UConn’s Faculty of Color Working Group, directed by Melina Pappademos.

Nikole Hannah-Jones and Melina Pappademos at a meeting of UConn's Faculty of Color Working Group.
Attendees arrive at the Student Union Theater for the Nikole Hannah-Jones event.
Nikole Hannah-Jones and Manisha Sinha sit facing each other on stage.
Nikole Hannah-Jones and Manisha SInha sit on stage in front of a large audience.

Welcome 2022–2023 Humanities Institute Fellows!

The University of Connecticut Humanities Institute (UCHI) is proud to announce its incoming class of humanities fellows. This year, we are especially excited to welcome our two inaugural Undergraduate Research Fellows, who will join three visiting fellows (including our Henry Luce Foundation Future of Truth fellow), four dissertation scholars (including the Draper Dissertation Fellow and the first Richard Brown Dissertation Fellow), and seven UConn faculty fellows (including the Mellon UCHI Faculty of Color Working Group Fellow). We have fellows representing a broad swath of disciplines, including History; English; Philosophy; Political Science; Linguistics; Digital Media and Design; Literatures, Culture and Languages; and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. Their projects take many forms including scholarly monographs, biographies, documentary films, and novels, and cover topics from the history of early modern empires to the language of time and possibility. For more information on our fellowship program see our Become a Fellow page. Welcome fellows!

 

Undergraduate Research Fellows

Karen Lau Headshot

Karen Lau
“Kimchi Jjigae for the Soul: Ethnic Studies and Social-Emotional Learning”
Project advisor: Jason Oliver Chang

Rylee Thomas headshot

Rylee Thomas
The Ghostly Dynasty: Victim-Blaming, the Gothic Novel, and the Modern True-Crime Drama”
Project advisor: Ellen Litman

Honorable mentions:

Kathryn Atkinson, “Cenabis Bene: A Culinary Odyssey through Apicius
Monika Rydzewski, “Look at the Screen!: Merging Media with Gossip”

Visiting Residential Fellows

Joseph Darda headshot

Joseph Darda (Texas Christian University; English)
“The Naturals: How Sports Make Race in America”

Andrew Jewett headshot

Andrew Jewett (Harvard University; History)
“Race and Science in the Environmental Justice Movement”

Kareem Khalifa headshot

Kareem Khalifa (Middlebury College; Philosophy)
Future of Truth Fellow
“Segregation and Social Inquiry”

UConn Faculty Fellows

Hind Ahmed Zaki headshot

Hind Ahmed Zaki (Political Science / LCL)
“The Price of Inclusion: Feminist Politics in the Shadow of the Arab Spring”

Heather Cassano headshot

Heather Cassano (DMD)
“The Fate of Human Beings”

Cornelia Dayton headshot

Cornelia Dayton (History)
“John Peters, A Life”

Anna Mae Duane headshot

Anna Mae Duane (English)
“Like a Slave: Slavery’s Appropriation from The American Revolution to QAnon”

Stefan Kaufmann headshot

Stefan Kaufmann (Linguistics)
“What was, what will be, and what would have been”

Ally Ladha headshot

Hassanaly Ladha (LCL)
“Solomon and the Caliphate of Man”

Santiago Muñoz Arbeláez headshot

Santiago Muñoz-Arbeláez (History / LCL)
“The New Kingdom of Granada. The Making and Unmaking of Spain’s Atlantic Empire, 1530–1620”

Elva Orozco Mendoza headshot

Elva Orozco Mendoza (Political Science and WGSS)
UCHI Faculty of Color Working Group Fellow
“The Maternal Contract”

Dissertation Research Scholars

Julia Brush headshot

Julia Brush (English)
Richard Brown Dissertation Fellow
“State/Less Aesthetics: Queer Cartographies, Transnational Terrains, and Refugee Poetics”

Yuhan Liang headshot

Yuhan Liang (Philosophy)
“Confucian Exemplarism and Moral Diversity”

Britney Murphy headshot

Britney Murphy (History)
“Outsiders Within: Volunteers in Service to America and the Boundaries of Citizenship, 1962–1971”

Shihan Zheng headshot

Shihan Zheng (History)
Draper Dissertation Fellow
“The Opium Discourse in China, 1830–1910”

The 2022 Sharon Harris Book Award

UCHI is honored to announce the winner of the Sharon Harris Book Award for 2022:

Robert A Gross headshot

Robert A. Gross

Draper Professor of Early American History, Emeritus, UConn

for his book

The Transcendentalists and Their World (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021)

The Sharon Harris Book Award Committee notesTranscendatalists and their World book cover, “A monumental work of scholarship, this book allows us to view one of the central movements in American literature and philosophy through the magnifying lens of the community of Concord, MA.”

Honorable mention:

Peter Zarrow headshot

Peter Zarrow

Professor of History, UConn

for his book

Abolishing Boundaries: Global Utopias in the Formation of Modern Chinese Political Thought, 1880–1940 (SUNY Press, 2021)

Book cover for Abolishing Boundaries by Peter Zarrow“A thorough exploration of the writings of four important figures of 20th century Chinese political philosophy, Abolishing Boundaries makes a case for the importance of utopianism in shaping Chinese modernity.”

We thank the award committee for their service. The Sharon Harris Book Award recognizes scholarly depth and intellectual acuity and highlights the importance of humanities scholarship. The 2022 award was open to UConn tenured, tenure-track, emeritus, or in-residence faculty who published a monograph between January 2019 and December 31, 2021.

Truth and Politics: A Workshop

Truth and Politics: A Workshop, with Manuel Almagro, Hady Ba, Michael Hannon, Elizabeth Edenberg, Douglas Edwards, Michael Lynch, Alessandra Tanesini, and Lynne Tirrell. May 25–26, 2022, Humanities Institute Conference Room.

Truth and Politics

A Workshop

May 25, 2022, 4:00–6:00pm
May 26, 2022, 8:00am–6:00pm

Humanities Institute Conference Room

Register to attend in person

This event will also be livestreamed with automated captioning
Register to attend virtually, Day 1. Register to attend virtually, Day 2.

What has truth to do with politics? The Future of Truth project at UConn is hosting a two-day workshop on this question. Papers will consider the nature of political truth, whether democracies have a particular interest in promoting true beliefs in their citizens, and the various alleged threats, technological, political and epistemological, to the value of truth often associated with the idea that we are living in a "post-truth" culture.

Speakers will include Manuel Almagro, Hady Ba, Michael Hannon, Elizabeth Edenberg, Douglas Edwards, Michael Lynch, Alessandra Tanesini, and Lynne Tirrell.

Schedule:

May 25

4:00pm: Michael Lynch, “The Political Meaning of Truth”
5:00pm: Reception

May 26

8:00am: Breakfast
9:00am: Alessandra Tanesini, “Hopes and Political Understanding”
10:00am: Manuel Almagro, “Is Polarization an Epistemic Phenomenon?”
11:00am: Break
11:30: Michael Hannon, “Public Discourse and its Problems”
12:30pm: Lunch
1:30pm: Elizabeth Edenberg, “Algorithmic Personalization and Seeking the Truth”
2:30: Douglas Edwards, “Institutional Truth and Political Reform”
3:30: Break
4:00: Hady Ba, “The Paradoxical Indispensability of Truth in Politics”
5:00: Lynne Tirrell, “Truth, Trust, & Fear of Expertise”
6:00pm: Reception

Speaker Bios and Abstracts

Michael Lynch, “The Political Meaning of Truth”

In this paper, I have two aims: the first is to outline some of the main challenges we face in understanding the role and nature of truth in politics. The second is to emphasize one of those challenges, e.g. understanding what I'll call the political meaning of truth: that is, the ways in which our use of truth ascriptions and our pursuit of true beliefs can contribute to political activity, both negatively and positively. I'll argue that we must be careful not to read political meanings into the nature of truth itself, but we should also not be naive about the ways in which metaphysical theories of truth's nature can and do carry political meanings.

Alessandra Tanesini, “Hopes and Political Understanding”

Alessandra Tanesini is Professor of Philosophy at Cardiff University. Her current work lies at the intersection of ethics, the philosophy of language, and epistemology with a focus on epistemic vice, silencing, prejudice and ignorance. Her latest book is The Mismeasure of the Self: A Study in Vice Epistemology (Oxford University Press, 2021).

Manuel Almagro, “Is Polarization an Epistemic Phenomenon?”

Manuel Almagro is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Granada, Spain. A good amount of his research is focused on the relationship between philosophical issues and social practical concerns. Currently, he’s working on political polarization. He’s also interested in epistemic injustice, disagreement, evaluative language, Wittgenstein’s philosophy, mental health and the political philosophy of language generally.

Michael Hannon, “Public Discourse and its Problems”

Michael Hannon is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Nottingham and Faculty Fellow (2021–22) at The Murphy Institute. He is author of What’s the Point of Knowledge? (Oxford University Press, 2019) and co-editor of Political Epistemology (Oxford University Press, 2021).

Elizabeth Edenberg, “Algorithmic Personalization and Seeking the Truth”

Elizabeth Edenberg is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Baruch College, CUNY. She specializes in political philosophy, political epistemology, and the ethics of emerging technologies. Her research investigates ways to develop mutual respect across the moral and political disagreements that characterize contemporary society, while securing just structures of political cooperation that protect the equality of marginalized populations. She also works in collaboration with computer scientists on broader ethical and political challenges posed by emerging technologies, especially questions of privacy, consent, and social justice as they arise within big data and artificial intelligence.

Prior to joining Baruch College, she served as Senior Ethicist and Assistant Research Professor at Georgetown University’s Ethics Lab where she led translational ethics projects designed to empower both students and experts to address the urgent issues of our time. She led collaborations with a wide variety of partners beyond the academy, from public impact projects to policy teams seeking practical progress on complex ethical issues. She also led Ethics Lab’s work integrating ethics into courses across the university, from computer science to international policy and foreign service.

Douglas Edwards, “Institutional Truth and Political Reform”

Douglas Edwards is a philosopher who works primarily on truth and associated issues in metaphysics, philosophy of language, and epistemology (and occasionally dabbles in professional wrestling). He is the author of Properties (Polity Press, 2014), Philosophy Smackdown (Polity Press, 2020), and The Metaphysics of Truth (Oxford University Press, 2018), which won the American Philosophical Association’s 2019 Sanders Book Prize. He has written numerous articles in leading philosophy journals along with public philosophy pieces, is the editor of Truth: A Contemporary Reader (Bloomsbury Press, 2019), and is an Associate Editor of the journal Analysis. He is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Utica University.

Hady Ba, “The Paradoxical Indispensability of Truth in Politics”

According to Arendt, “it may be in the nature of the political realm to be at war with truth in all its forms.” First, I will show why it is almost impossible to reconcile politics with truth be it in an authoritarian system or democratic one. I will then argue that truth may be contradictory to politics but it is indispensable to policy and to the survival of society. Therefore, it is indispensable for society to ensure that truth preserving mechanisms are introduced into the political system and ultimately into politics.

An Associate-Professor of Philosophy at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Senegal, Hady BA is at University of Connecticut as a Fulbright Scholar. He holds a PhD in Cognitive Science from The Jean Nicod Institute in Paris and is currently writing a book on the epistemology of the Global South.

Lynne Tirrell, “Truth, Trust, & Fear of Expertise”

Lynee Tirrell is professor of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut.  Her research concerns issues at the intersections of philosophy of language with social and political philosophy. She focuses on  the ways that linguistic practices influence or shape social justice or facilitate injustice, how these practices enhance or violate human rights.

Access note

If you require accommodation to attend this event, please let us know via the registration form, or contact us at uchi@uconn.edu or by phone (860) 486-9057. We can request ASL interpretation, computer-assisted real time transcription, and other accommodations offered by the Center for Students with Disabilities

The Political Theory Workshop Presents Luis Beltrán-Álvarez

THE POLITICAL THEORY WORKSHOP PRESENTS

“From Creolization of Theory to Praxis: Feminist and Community Organization’s Decolonial Empowerment in Puerto Rico”

Luis Beltrán-Álvarez, Political Science, UConn
with commentary by Dr. Gregory Doukas, Political Science, UConn
April 18, 2022 from 12:15–1:30pm, Oak 438 and Zoom

Luis J. Beltrán-Álvarez is from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. He earned his bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Sociology from the University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras and then earned a Master’s degree in Philosophy from the same institution. He is now a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science in Political Theory and Comparative Politics at the University of Connecticut. His main research interests are political subjectivities, social movements, decolonial feminism, anticolonialism and decoloniality, anarchism, populism, philosophy of race/racism, and discourse theory.

With generous support from the UConn Humanities Institute, Africana Studies, Anthropology, El Instituto, OVPR, Philosophy, POLS, and Sociology.

Questions? Email jane.gordon@uconn.edu

Fellow’s Talk: Fiona Vernal on Race and Identity in Hartford

Hartford Bound: How African Became and African American and Caribbean City. Associates Professor of History and Africana Studies Fiona Vernal, with a response by Carol Gray. April 27, 2022, 4:00pm. Humanities Institute Conference Room.

Hartford Bound: How Hartford became an African American and Caribbean City

Fiona Vernal (Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies, UConn)

with a response by Carol Gray

Wednesday, April 27, 2022, 4:00pm, Humanities Institute Conference Room, HBL 4-209

Add to Google calendar Add to Office 365 calendar Add to other calendar

The event will also be livestreamed with automated captioning.

Register to attend virtually

This talk explores Fiona Vernal’s current book and digital humanities project, Housing Hartford: Mobility, Race, and Identity in Post-World War II Hartford, which examines the convergence of three great migrations of African Americans, Puerto Ricans, and West Indians in the Greater Hartford region. The book project integrates oral history, archival research, and GIS methodologies to reframe the history of how Hartford became an African American and a Caribbean city. This narrative of community formation told through the lens of housing, migration, and mobility, offers counter narratives to hardened scripts of slum clearance, white suburban flight, redlining, urban renewal, and gentrification. By exploring the intersections of space, place, mobility, and identity, Hartford Bound offers new visual and spatial histories of race, ethnic belonging, and community succession.

Fiona Vernal is the director of Engaged, Public, Oral, and Community Histories (EPOCH) and Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies at the University of Connecticut. The project she will present today is part of a suite public humanities projects recently awarded the University of Connecticut’s Provost’s Awards for Excellence in Community Engaged Scholarship, a UConn Humanities Institute fellowship, and the Sustainable Global Cities Initiative (SCGI) Faculty Research Grant.

Access note

If you require accommodation to attend this event, please contact us at uchi@uconn.edu or by phone (860) 486-9057. We can request ASL interpretation, computer-assisted real time transcription, and other accommodations offered by the Center for Students with Disabilities.

Fellow’s Talk: Sherie Randolph on Camille Billops

"I See it as a Feminist Statement": Camille Billops and the Art of Liberation. Associate Professor of History, Georgia Institute of Technology. Sherie Randolph. With a response by Laura Mauldin. April 20, 2022, 4:00pm. Humanities Institute Conference Room

“I See it as a Feminist Statement”: Camille Billops and the Art of Liberation

Sherie Randolph (Associate Professor of History, Georgia Institute of Technology)

with a response by Laura Mauldin

Wednesday, April 20, 2022, 4:00pm, Humanities Institute Conference Room, HBL 4-209

Add to Google calendar Add to Office 365 calendar Add to other calendar

The event will also be livestreamed with automated captioning.

Register to attend virtually

Photo of Camille Billops sitting in a chair, wearing a wide-brimmed hat, under a sculpture of a woman with wings.
Photo of Camille Billops by Coreen Simpson, 1984.

Given the socioeconomic structures and cultural constraints that limited Black women’s options both within and outside of the Black community, Black mothers had little space to determine their own lives, protect their bodily autonomy, and pursue their individual passions. How do we understand “bad” Black mothers who rejected contemporary forms of mothering and placed a greater value on their own creative and political work during the long 1960s? Sherie Randolph’s talk looks specifically at the Black feminist artist Camille Billops (1933–2019) and explores how she understood her contribution to Black arts as more valuable than her role as a Black mother. She learned to view her own happiness as freedom from parenting. In short, Billops’s life choices are in line with current research that suggests that if a woman wants to be content, it is best to remain childless. This talk places Billops’s artwork alongside interviews, her personal papers, and other archival sources to examine how she defied the boundaries of heteronormative motherhood in the postwar United States and went on to become an award-winning artist, filmmaker and archivist. In doing so, Billops enlarged Black feminist understandings of the possibility of Black liberation.

Sherie M. Randolph is an associate professor of history at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the founder of the Black Feminist Think Tank. Formerly an associate professor of history and African American Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Randolph’s book Florynce “Flo” Kennedy: The Life of a Black Feminist Radical, published by the University of North Carolina Press (October 2015), examines the connections between the Black Power, civil rights, New Left, and feminist movements. The former Associate Director of the Women’s Research & Resource Center at Spelman College, she has received several grants and fellowships for her work, most recently being awarded fellowships from the University of Connecticut’s Humanities Institute and Brown University’s Howard Foundation. Randolph is currently writing her second book “Bad” Black Mothers: A History of Transgression.

Access note

If you require accommodation to attend this event, please contact us at uchi@uconn.edu or by phone (860) 486-9057. We can request ASL interpretation, computer-assisted real time transcription, and other accommodations offered by the Center for Students with Disabilities.

You Should…watch Drive, dir. Nicolas Winding Refn (Stephen Dyson, Political Science)

In celebration of 20 years of UCHI and as part of our ongoing You Should… series, we’ve asked former fellows and other friends of the Institute to recommend something related to their work or process. Read them all here.

Drive (2011) movie posterDrive (2011) is a movie about boundaries and boundaries blurred—between day and night, between the criminal world and the world of bystanders, between moments of tenderness and—fair warning—moments of intense violence.

The protagonist is a Hollywood stuntman / criminal getaway specialist credited only as “Driver.” He speaks in short, staccato bursts. He communicates mostly to set limits to his interactions with others, such as the petty criminals to whom he disdainfully lends his expertise.

His obligations are fleeting—a five-minute window where “anything happens, and I’m yours.” A tick of the clock either side of those five minutes: “you’re on your own.” Each dictation of terms ends with a rhetorical “do you understand?” Driver doesn’t want an answer, the question is purely to reinforce the limits of his engagement with his environment.

And that environment—a neon-lit nighttime Los Angeles, beautifully framed by director Nicholas Winding Refn—is viewed from the margins by Driver. In the James Sallis novella that provides the source material, we are told that Driver “existed a step or two to one side of the common world, largely out of sight, a shadow, all but invisible.” He prizes anonymity, taking short-term leases on nondescript apartments, forming no ties, collecting no baggage, ready to leave on a moment’s notice.

But chance intervenes and soon Driver is no longer setting the terms of his engagement with the world.
Listen for the strange alchemy of the soundtrack. The anthem “A Real Hero” captures the soul of the story with its double-edged refrain “a real human being, and a real hero.” The track which plays over the opening credit, “Night Call,” sets the dark tone; the Chromatics’ “Tick of the Clock” accents the precision of Driver’s craft; the glorious torch-song “Oh My Love” is deeply moving in context.

Note too the way that heroic archetypes are skillfully deployed: The man with no name, the cowboy who rides into town to solve problems then rides off into the sunset, the road-warrior of the Mad Max series. But this is an anti-hero tale at its dark heart. Driver is a violent man and the world in which he operates is brutally Darwinian.

Drive then is a contemporary noir about a man who has carefully constructed a context in which he can function. The question is what happens when the boundaries he has drawn for himself are, suddenly, erased. Who, in the end, is Driver—a real hero, or a somewhat shabby and fallen human being?

– Stephen Dyson
Professor of Political Science
University of Connecticut

Photograph of Stephen Dyson, wearing a suit.Who is Stephen Dyson? Stephen Dyson is Professor of Political Science at the University of Connecticut. He received his Ph.D. from Washington State University in 2004. His scholarly work focuses on representations of politics and international relations in popular culture, particularly science fiction, and on elite decision making in foreign policy. He teaches classes on politics and popular culture, international relations, political leadership, and the history of nuclear weapons.

You Should… watch Sambhaji Bhagat (Manisha Desai, Sociology)

In celebration of 20 years of UCHI and as part of our ongoing You Should… series, we’ve asked former fellows and other friends of the Institute to recommend something related to their work or process. Read them all here.

You should watch Sambhaji Bhagat, a Dalit artist, activist who has revived and revolutionized Jalsa, a Marathi folk performance art to foster Dalit rights but also challenge other social inequalities, including gender and those resulting from neoliberal globalization. Traditionally, all the parts were performed by men. Sambhaji includes women in his Jalsas. In this clip he excoriates those who take the measure of a person in terms of their caste and identifies who these people are, some in Delhi (i.e., politicians) some in Mumbai (i.e., corporate and entertainment titans) and some right here in the audience. He addresses issues of Hindutva and neoliberal globalization among others.

There are few translations of his performance and along with colleagues in Mumbai, we’ve begun a project of translating his songs and poems in an anthology.

You can learn a little more about him in this article.

– Manisha Desai
Professor of Sociology and Asian and Asian American Studies
University of Connecticut

Headshot of Manisha DesaiWho is Manisha Desai? Manisha Desai is Professor of Sociology and Asian and Asian American Studies at the University of Connecticut. Committed to decolonizing knowledge and social justice, her research and teaching interests include Gender and Globalization, Transnational Feminisms and women’s movements, Human Rights movements, and Contemporary Indian Society. Currently, she’s working on a book manuscript on the Changing Contours of the Women’s Movement in India. Based on nine months of ethnographic research, funded by the American Institute of India Studies Senior Fellowship, she examines the new articulations of women’s activism with Dalit struggles, Anti-Communalism, and the rural and urban crises of neoliberal policies for the marginalized. Her forthcoming publication with Rianka Roy, Krantijyoti Gyanjyoti Savitribai: The Light of Revolution and Knowledge is the start of a new project on what she calls “the second decolonial moment,” in the Global North and South, to bring the work of 19th century Dalit theorist Savitribai Phule and her collaborators in the Satya Shodhak Samaj (the Society of Truth Seekers) to a larger audience.