Fellowship

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!!

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”

20 Years of Fellows: Debapriya Sarkar

As part of our 20th anniversary celebrations, we've checked in with former fellows to gather reflections on their fellowship years, to get an update on their fellowship projects, and to see what they are working on next. Read them all here.

headshot of Debapriya Sarkar2019–20 Faculty Fellow Debapriya Sarkar is Assistant Professor of English at the UConn. Her research interests include early modern literature and culture, history and philosophy of science, environmental humanities, and literature and social justice. She has co-edited, with Jenny C. Mann, a special issue of Philological Quarterly called “Imagining Early Modern Scientific Forms” (2019). Her work appears or is forthcoming in English Literary Renaissance, Shakespeare Studies, Spenser Studies, Exemplaria, and in several edited collections. Her current project, Possible Knowledge: The Literary Forms of Early Modern Science, traces how literary writing helped to re-imagine the landscape of epistemic uncertainty at the time of the Scientific Revolution. She is the recipient of the Huntington’s 2021–22 Fletcher Jones Foundation Fellowship.


What was your fellowship project about?
While at the UCHI, I was working my first book, Possible Knowledge: The Literary Forms of Early Modern Science. In this project, I study speculative habits of thought—such as hypothesis, conjecture, prophecy, and prediction—that were at the core of Renaissance poetics, fascinating writers from Spenser, Bacon, and Shakespeare to Milton and Cavendish. I call these ways of thinking “possible knowledge,” and I use them to show how poesie (a general early modern term for literature) helped to re-imagine the landscape of epistemic uncertainty at the time of the so-called Scientific Revolution.

Would you give us an update on the project?

The book is forthcoming from The University of Pennsylvania Press in 2023.

How did your fellowship year shape your project, or shape your scholarship in general?

The fellowship year was instrumental in shaping the final contours of my argument. During my year at the UCHI, I was working through a lot of the conceptual issues that ultimately appear in the book’s introduction. Given that my book studies the relations between literature and science, and engages with the works of historians and philosophers of science, it was extremely helpful to have the chance to discuss these ideas with colleagues in those fields—these discussions helped me to address questions of methodology and audience that have become very important in the final version of the project.

Would you share a favorite memory from your time as a UCHI fellow?

My favorite memory from the UCHI is definitely the weekly gatherings of the fellows—these events produced so many interesting, and unexpected, exchanges of ideas! I especially recall the serendipitous nature of forming connections across our diverse experiences and interests—both scholarly and beyond—as one of most rewarding and exciting things about my time there.

What are you working on now (or next)?

I am completing the final revisions for my book, and I am starting a new project on the intersections of early modern ecocriticism, critical race studies, and postcolonial theory—in this project, I ask how early modern literary and cultural artifacts can help us think about the long, entangled histories of environmental and racial justice.

Our theme for UCHI’s 20th anniversary year is “The Future of Knowledge.” What would you say are some of the challenges facing the future of knowledge? And what do you think is most exciting or promising about the future of knowledge?

One challenge facing the future of “knowledge” is to confront the significance and scope of the term itself—our understanding of what constitutes knowledge, and what methods are the most appropriate ways of knowledge-production (the so-called objective scientific method, let’s say), are inevitably shaped by our training, our positionality as scholars and students, and the resources available to us. For instance, how might questions in the history of science and environment shift if we centered the insights of Critical Indigenous Studies? I would be interested in thinking through such shifts in our own scholarly practices—to think of knowledges, rather than knowledge as a universal idea. This challenge is, perhaps paradoxically, one of the most exciting things about the topic: as an early modernist, it has been eye-opening to see how the import—and universality—of the term “Scientific Revolution” has been challenged and complicated by scholars working on women’s knowledge practices, Islamic science in the pre-modern period, etc. We thus already have models to rethink the meaning of what constitutes varied bodies of knowledge—by delving into the long, and global histories, of these questions, we can make the future of knowledge(s) as capacious as they have been in the past.

20 Years of Fellows: Asha Bhandary

As part of our 20th anniversary celebrations, we've checked in with former fellows to gather reflections on their fellowship years, to get an update on their fellowship projects, and to see what they are working on next. Read them all here.

Headshot of Asha Bhandary2010–11 Dissertation Research Scholar Asha Bhandary is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Iowa. She is a political philosopher and feminist ethicist whose work incorporates the human need for dependency care at the level of the foundational assumptions, premises and concepts in the liberal tradition. In her published work, which includes her monograph, Freedom to Care: Liberalism, Dependency Care, and Culture (Routledge) she advances a theory of distributive justice for caregiving arrangements that is structured by the liberal values of autonomy and transparency. It defends the importance of an abstract understanding of caregiving arrangements with her concept the “arrow of care map” as a way of tracking distributive inequalities by categories including race, gender, ethnicity, class status.


What was your fellowship project about? Would you give us an update on the project?

As the CLAS Dean’s graduate fellow at UCHI, I was working on my dissertation, which then became my first book, Freedom to Care: Liberalism, Dependency Care, and Culture (Routledge, 2020). The book was the subject of an author-meets-critics session at the 2020 Central APA, a journal symposium in the Critical Review for International Social and Political Philosophy, and several lectures at academic conferences as well as bookstores, including the internationally renowned series Live from Prairie Lights. What I developed during my fellowship year was really one of the cornerstones of the book’s argument. I established that care has to be included as one of the circumstances of justice, working within a framework of liberal political theory. I showed that care has the same or greater value than the other things that are included as circumstances of justice—protection from attack, income and wealth—thereby demonstrating that care is one of these foundational needs. In doing so, I united the existing care ethical literature, which asserts the value of care, with the literature in liberalism that establishes the idea of distributive justice as a system of fair cooperation for everyone.

This cornerstone later became an article that was published in the Journal of Philosophical Research, with a response by Jan Narveson, a well-known libertarian, and with my response to him. It was that variety of interlocutor I had in mind when I developed that argument—someone who doesn’t necessarily believe that care should be included in our accounts of what is most fundamental to society in our accounts of justice—the person who thinks that maybe care is a private concern, or that it’s properly the domain of women, or that it just occurs naturally—I was arguing against them.

I continued to develop this project, and to write the book as an assistant professor. The result, my monograph, Freedom to Care, sets forth a new form of liberalism that is an anti-oppression liberalism that incorporates care as well as the facts of group-based oppression into the justificatory structure of liberalism. This form of justification acknowledges that what theorists know is going to be informed by what real people in the world assert as valuable. But, when we’re trying to decide on the parameters for a fair system of social practices, we cannot solely rely on what people assert in our actual conversations. We also need to engage in the kind of abstract theoretical exercise that is the philosopher’s expertise, which creates the possibility of a “metalucidity” (that is Jose Medina’s term to characterize the ability to understand the norms that structure the world around us) about how our assumptions are informed by existing inequalities. To get distance from those existing inequalities, I use a version of John Rawls’ idea of the original position as a modeling device.

How did your fellowship year shape your project, or shape your scholarship in general?

Last month, I completed a semester as a Fellow-in-Residence at a similar research institute at the University of Iowa called the Obermann Center. And my experience at the Humanities Institute at UConn definitely contributed to my interest in applying for that fellowship. At both Institutes, I found that I was in dialogue with other people who genuinely care about their scholarship—who are deeply immersed in it, and engaged in a specific academic debate but who are also interested in discussing it with people outside that debate. As a graduate fellow at UCHI, it was wonderful to be a member of that kind of community as a graduate student. I was one of, I think, two graduate students in our cohort, and then the rest of the fellows were faculty. When you’re in a position like that, you learn so much by absorbing how other people are going about their projects. In terms of how it shaped my scholarship, being part of that interdisciplinary group of scholars helped me learn to articulate my work in a language that is understandable to people who aren’t just at the interior of the debate. For philosophers, that’s really important because it helps us test whether what we’re doing matters. Being able to talk about your work in more general terms applies pressure to the ideas, because you have to think about what other people are talking about and what they value and how to translate the work that you’re doing into language that’s going to make sense to people from a wide variety of backgrounds. Of course, this is always a huge challenge for academics, because we’re working in highly specialized areas, within which we’re contributing to specialized debates. Moving back and forth between that specialized debate, where we’re making a really specific refinement in a concept, and then talking about the work more broadly is difficult. I think that being a fellow at the Humanities Institute helped me begin to gain this skill at a very early stage of my career.

Would you share a favorite memory from your time as a UCHI fellow?

Again, the context for this is that as a graduate student, I was very early in my career. I remember an interaction with one of the senior scholars that led me to conclude that she was totally Boss. In a conversation during her office hours, she told me that that if she had to leave her writing for household responsibilities, (maybe she had a baby, I don’t quite remember) she would wait until her writing reached a logical stopping point, and her husband just had to wait. Those insights about how female intellectuals manage micro-interactions are incredibly valuable early in one’s career.

What are you working on now (or next)?

I just published a co-edited volume called Caring for Liberalism (Routledge 2021) and I’m going to be speaking at a panel related to it at the Pacific APA in Vancouver this April. I’m also working on a response to critics for another symposium on Freedom to Care, which will be in the journal Dialogue: The Canadian Philosophical Review. This summer, I will be one of the Distinguished Visiting speakers at the NEH Summer Institute Philosophical Perspectives on Giving, Receiving, and Conceiving Care. Right now, my new writing is for an article for the journal philosophies that is connected to my next monograph,
provisionally titled Being at Home: Liberal Autonomy in an Unjust World.

In it, I’m thinking about how to conceptualize autonomy when you begin from the subject position of a woman of color. To do so, I am combining personal narratives with philosophical analysis to yield a plural account of autonomy. Self-sovereignty is one part of autonomy; that’s the "this is my domain, don’t mess with me," component. Then there’s an authenticity component: Who are you really? How can you act in a way that’s true to who you really are? In addition, I am also thinking about the way affordances in the world are informed by racialized entitlements, which also brings me into bioethics. This new project is an extension of the theory in my first monograph, where I look at caregiving arrangements and show how our caregiver arrangements are unjust and need to be rectified. The new book will establish a link between thinking from the subject position of a woman of color who asserts full claimant status, to the demands for a just society that includes justice in caregiving arrangements. Because women of color are so often the repository of needs of others, globally, women of color are not granted full claimant status in informal spaces. In interactions when women of color assert full claimant status, we are often met with various forms of resistance—anger, confusion, hostility. This experience of resistance changes how we should think about autonomy because I take seriously that women of color are autonomous.

My research overall, is an ambitious program in political philosophy that evaluates the nature of entitlements, distributive justice, freedom, and autonomy in a way that is informed by through feminist and anti-racist philosophy. In Being at Home, I continue that project by drilling down into the concept of autonomy and then also looking at the way that we're autonomous in the world as it is—in a nonideal world—where part of what everyone wants is to achieve a state of “being at home” in the world. An explication of this state of being at home is something I developed in chapter nine of Freedom to Care. It’s a state of affairs where you have access to your valued relationships and you have access to other essential goods. In the new book, I’m looking at the relationship between being at home and autonomy, which occurs against the backdrop of our society.

Our theme for UCHI’s 20th anniversary year is “The Future of Knowledge.” What would you say are some of the challenges facing the future of knowledge? And what do you think is most exciting or promising about the future of knowledge?

People’s social media habits create challenges for our habits of mind—in particular, for our ability to think independently and clearly and to maintain habits of mind that allow for intensive concentration. And this is a challenge that I think about for myself, as a professor, as a mother with two children, a teenager and a seven-year-old. I strive to protect my kids’ brains for sustained concentration that is not interrupted or filled in by the thoughts of others. We do that by limiting their access to technology more substantially than most people. However, on the other side of the equation about the goods of technology in relation to knowledge, is that social media platforms have upended gatekeeping practices in ways that are really exciting. For instance, in popular culture, there is so much more diversity in the voices that we can have access to—that we can read and listen to and watch. That this transition happened as rapidly as it did was because of technology and social media.

20 Years of Fellows: Margo Machida

As part of our 20th anniversary celebrations, we've checked in with former fellows to gather reflections on their fellowship years, to get an update on their fellowship projects, and to see what they are working on next. Read them all here.

Margo Machida at the Honolulu Museum of Art, standing between two sculptures of faces, mounted on the wall.2010–11 Faculty Fellow Margo Machida is Professor Emerita of Art History (School of Fine Arts) and Asian and Asian American Studies (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) at the University of Connecticut. Born and raised in Hawai`i, she is a scholar, independent curator, and cultural critic specializing in Asian American art and visual culture. Her most recent book is Unsettled Visions: Contemporary Asian American Artists and the Social Imaginary, published by Duke University Press in 2009. This book received the prestigious Cultural Studies Book Award from the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS) in 2011. She also co-edited the award-winning volume Fresh Talk/Daring Gazes: Conversations on Asian American Art (University of California Press, 2003). She is the 2021 recipient of the prestigious CAA Award for Excellence in Diversity.


What was your fellowship project about?

My 2010–2011 fellowship project, “Resighting Hawai‘i: Global Flows and Island Imaginaries in Asian American and Native Hawaiian Art,” profiled work by fifteen living artists of Asian, Indigenous Hawaiian, and mixed heritages. Drawing on the extensive oral history interviews I conducted with these artists, this project investigated how their visual production negotiates complexly entwined histories, conflicts, and claims to place in the Hawaiian Islands and in the Asia Pacific region.

Would you give us an update on the project?

This fellowship research provided the basis for several subsequent publications including: “Remixing Metaphors: Negotiating Multiracial Positions in Contemporary Native Hawaiian Art,” in War Baby/Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art (University of Washington Press, 2013); “Trans-Pacific Sitings: The Roving Imagery of Lynne Yamamoto,” in Third Text special issue, “The Transnational Turn: East Asian Mobility” (2014); and “Pacific Itineraries and Oceanic Imaginaries in Contemporary Asian American Art,” in Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas journal (Brill, Spring 2017).

How did your fellowship year shape your project, or shape your scholarship in general?

The fellowship period was an invaluable opportunity to exclusively focus on this research. The transcripts from these digitally recorded interviews provided the primary source material for developing a comparative thematic framework to analyze works of art emerging from Indigenous and ʻsettler’ groups in Hawaiʻi and their continental U.S. diasporas.

Would you share a favorite memory from your time as a UCHI fellow?

I enjoyed the supportive collegial atmosphere and the privilege of being able to listen to work-in-progress, especially from colleagues whose informal talks introduced me to a range of investigative strategies in other fields. Whereas my scholarship is anchored in recorded exchanges with contemporary artists, those sessions likewise conferred a keen appreciation for what could be achieved through sustained archival research.

What are you working on now (or next)?

My research with contemporary Asian American artists is ongoing, including an interest in artists from Hawaiʻi. The scope of my attention has also extended to earlier generations of Asian American modernists from the Hawaiian Islands who traveled to New York and other East Coast cities between the 1930s and 1970s. Their presence in the American art world remains a comparatively understudied subject.

Our theme for UCHI’s 20th anniversary year is “The Future of Knowledge.” What would you say are some of the challenges facing the future of knowledge? And what do you think is most exciting or promising about the future of knowledge?

The COVID pandemic continues to impact life at every level. In this profoundly disruptive and uncertain time—and especially during the 2020 closure of universities and museums—I was moved by the extraordinary generosity shown by colleagues across the United States and abroad who remained readily available to answer research questions online, and to think through complicated issues together. Our exchanges reinforced the signal importance of maintaining durable communities in the collaborative production of knowledge. Collaboration is scarcely a novel concept, but it certainly takes on new valences as the means to share resources and to sustain one another in today’s difficult times.

20 Years of Fellows: Dexter Gabriel

As part of our 20th anniversary celebrations, we've checked in with former fellows to gather reflections on their fellowship years, to get an update on their fellowship projects, and to see what they are working on next. Read them all here.

Headshot of Dexter Gabriel2018–2019 Faculty Fellow Dr. Dexter Gabriel is Assistant Professor of History at UConn. He earned his B.A. in history from Texas State University-San Marcos, an M.A. in history also from Texas State University-San Marcos, and his Ph.D. in history from Stony Brook University-New York. His research interests include the history of bondage, resistance, and freedom in the Black Atlantic, as well as interdisciplinary approaches to slavery within popular culture and media. His current research explores British Emancipation in the Anglo-Caribbean and its impact on abolitionist strategies in nineteenth-century North America. His work has been translated into the social arena through panel discussions, lectures, articles, and interviews as diverse as the Federal Reserve Bank of Virginia to Voice of America, BBC America, and elsewhere


What was your fellowship project about?

I was working on turning my dissertation into a book manuscript for submittal. Titled Jubilee’s Experiment, it explored the impact of British Emancipation on American abolitionism in the 19th century.

Would you give us an update on the project?

The manuscript is currently under contract with Cambridge University Press.

How did your fellowship year shape your project, or shape your scholarship in general?

I was able to use that invaluable time to really think through my project. Dissertations are inherently different from book manuscripts, and I was able to go about the process of trying to imagine what those differences were and how they could coalesce into a working narrative.

Would you share a favorite memory from your time as a UCHI fellow?

Sitting and sharing tea, coffee, and dessert with other fellows—talking about our work, the challenges we were facing, and just talking about academic life in general.

What are you working on now (or next)?

Finishing up for final submission of the book manuscript. Next up, research for a book project on African American emigration to the Caribbean during the 19th century.

Our theme for UCHI’s 20th anniversary year is “The Future of Knowledge.” What would you say are some of the challenges facing the future of knowledge? And what do you think is most exciting or promising about the future of knowledge?

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges we’re facing comes ironically from our success. Thanks to technology today, we can both access knowledge and disperse it in ways before unimagined. We are quite literally in an age of boundless information. At the same time, interpreting that information, discerning fact from fiction, and outright misinformation, has become a serious problem. What gives promise is that despite these challenges, it does show that people are still curious about the world around them, about the past, and their place in the world. I don’t think that quest for knowledge is disappearing from the human experience any time soon.

20 Years of Fellows: Joseph Ulatowski

As part of our 20th anniversary celebrations, we've checked in with former fellows to gather reflections on their fellowship years, to get an update on their fellowship projects, and to see what they are working on next. Read them all here.

Headshot of Joseph Ulatowski2019–2020 Visiting Fellow Joseph Ulatowski is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, and Director of the Experimental Philosophy Research Group at the University of Waikato. His research focus is the nature and value of truth, the problem of action individuation, self-narratives, and practical challenges that arise from these theoretical areas. His approach to these matters is pluralistic, employing both traditional philosophical methods and empirical methods.


What was your fellowship project about?

My fellowship project explored the fundamental question: why do facts matter? The philosophical study of facts has largely focused upon metaphysical questions: What are facts? What is their structure? Do they even have a nature? In the book resulting from the fellowship project, aptly titled Why Facts Matter, I investigate how our answers to these questions are driven by contextual factors and pragmatic considerations. The metaphysics of facts has to be responsive to practical considerations. If this is correct, then what facts are is sensitive to whether and how they are valued.

Would you give us an update on the project?

The book is nearly complete, but then again I imagine any author would say that. Over the course of this project, I have witnessed how our collective relationship to facts has evolved. While I think we have a greater appreciation of facts, some people, what I call “social bandits,” have become more savvy in evading or manipulating them. Gatekeepers, in conjunction with upholding high standards and practices of one’s discipline, have been charged with protecting facts from these bandits. Yet, as I claim in the book, even these gatekeepers are susceptible to psychological biases and colonialist attitudes. Because of this ever-evolving situation, I get stuck into closing and reopening parts of chapters I had thought were complete. So, nearly complete!

How did your fellowship year shape your project, or shape your scholarship in general?

I left the Institute with a much different and, to my mind, far better project than the one I entered with. Before my year at UCHI, I thought of my project as constrained to the philosophical problem of facts. A project on facts, I quickly learned, should be informed not just by what philosophers have said about them but by what others working in the humanities and sciences more generally say about them. The discussions and conversations I had with others at UCHI reshaped the project, allowing me to bring ideas from the history and philosophy of science, literature, sociology, anthropology, and psychology to bear on why facts matter.

Would you share a favorite memory from your time as a UCHI fellow?

The AY 2019–2020 was likely one of the most unusual academic years in modern memory because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite that, if there was a moment that stood out to me, it was Nathan Braccio’s talk on Algonquian and English spatial understandings of New England. Listening to his presentation and speaking with him throughout the year recalibrated my understanding of the purpose of maps. Here was my naïve view: maps represent how things stand in the world. Maps are pictorial facts! Nathan’s presentation brought to light that maps are a means of expressing how one understands and appreciates the space around them. My naïve view of facts was shattered; hearing about Nathan’s project was a watershed moment that began my thinking more perspicuously about a fact’s normative value and how such value plays a much more significant role in the nature of facts than philosophers had acknowledged.

What are you working on now (or next)?

While I am finishing Why Facts Matter, two projects are on my mind. One is a project with my University of Waikato colleague, Jeremy Wyatt. In collaboration with an international team of scholars, we’ve undertaken a University-funded project called Truth without Borders. The main purpose of this project is to better appreciate how truth is used, understood, and valued in different languages. The second project is in a more nascent stage. Tentatively titled, War of the Words: Truth and Virtue in Everyday Communication, I question what it means for truth to win out over falsehood in a marketplace of ideas and attempt to deal with deeply polarized views, whether in politics or elsewhere, by arguing that we should institute rules of conversational conduct to govern our speech acts, much like we institute rules of conduct in war.

Our theme for UCHI’s 20th anniversary year is “The Future of Knowledge.” What would you say are some of the challenges facing the future of knowledge? And what do you think is most exciting or promising about the future of knowledge?

The paramount challenge facing the future of knowledge is the jaded, one-dimensional and westernized view that Enlightenment science is going to solve all the riddles, puzzles, and paradoxes of humanity. Indigenous knowledges and epistemologies, like those found in Māori and Pasifika communities, not only deserve to be a resource for science but they should be a driving force in the sciences. Such epistemologies have been unjustly suppressed and marginalized because of an overly colonialist perspective that science be restricted to one-way of doing it. Providing intellectual space and listening intently to Indigenous knowledges and epistemologies is likely the most promising and exciting prospect for the future of knowledge.

20 Years of Fellows: Dimitris Xygalatas

As part of our 20th anniversary celebrations, we've checked in with former fellows to gather reflections on their fellowship years, to get an update on their fellowship projects, and to see what they are working on next. Read them all here.

Dimitris Xygalatas headshot2016–2017 Faculty Fellow Dimitris Xygalatas is Associate Professor of Anthropology at UConn. His interests include ritual, sports, cooperation, the interaction between cognition and culture, and the impact of cultural practices on psychophysiological wellbeing. His research combines laboratory and field methods to study human interaction in real-life settings. He has conducted several years of fieldwork in Southern Europe and Mauritius. Before coming to UConn, he held positions at the universities of Princeton, Aarhus, and Masaryk, where he served as Director of the Laboratory for the Experimental Research of Religion (LEVYNA). At UConn, he directs the Experimental Anthropology Lab, which develops methods and technologies for quantifying behavior in real-life settings. He is affiliated with the Cognitive Science Program, the Connecticut Institute for the Brain and Cognitive Sciences, the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy.


What was your fellowship project about?

My fellowship led to the development of a book proposal, a project that summarizes my work on ritual from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Would you give us an update on the project?

It is called Ritual: How Seemingly Senseless Acts Make Life Worth Living. I am happy to say that is has now been completed and is scheduled to come out this spring by Profile Books.

How did your fellowship year shape your project, or shape your scholarship in general?

In a practical sense, having dedicated time to work on a single project is invaluable to any academic. I simply wouldn’t have been able to get this project off the ground without this fellowship. But perhaps more importantly, my work is radically interdisciplinary. I hold the view that anyone who is trying to understand human behavior should not only move between scientific and humanistic perspectives, but in fact be scientific and humanistic at the same time. Unfortunately, the way contemporary academia is set up, there are both practical and ideological obstacles to this consilience. Thankfully, there are structures like UCHI that supersede disciplinary divisions, allowing their members to venture into more holistic perspectives.

Would you share a favorite memory from your time as a UCHI fellow?

All the vibrant conversations we had, often into the late evening, after the weekly talks, some of the best of them with people you’ve never met before.

What are you working on now (or next)?

It is partly a natural extension of my previous work, but one that has become much more salient to me since the pandemic broke out. I’m interested in cultural practices (think of ritual, art, sports, and music) as tools for resilience in the face of adversity.

Our theme for UCHI’s 20th anniversary year is “The Future of Knowledge.” What would you say are some of the challenges facing the future of knowledge? And what do you think is most exciting or promising about the future of knowledge?

Oh, boy! Unfortunately, knowledge is not what it used to be. In recent years, we are seeing that the very things that promised to democratize knowledge (things like the internet and the social media) have become tools for the subversion of knowledge, Truth, facts, and even reality itself. Worst of all, this subversion seems to be an emergent phenomenon rather than being imposed from the top (those in the top often merely ride the wave), which likely makes it far more difficult to deal with as well as more dangerous. The fact that UCHI has been discussing these issues for years is tremendously important for the future of knowledge.

Humanities Research Fellowship Information Session

Humanities research fellowships for UConn undergraduates. Information Session. January 27, 2022, 2:00pm. Live. Online. Registration required.

Humanities Research Fellowship Information Session

January 27, 2022, 2:00pm

Live • Online • Registration required

We are holding an information session for prospective applicants for the 2022–23 Humanities Research Fellowship—a year-long fellowship for UConn undergraduates pursuing innovative research in the humanities. In this session, we will go over the application process, offer tips and tricks for writing a compelling application, and answer questions. Register now.

For more details on the fellowship, see the call for applications. Applications are due February 18, 2022.

ACCESS NOTE

This meeting will have automated captioning available. If you require other accommodations to attend, please email uchi@uconn.edu or contact us by phone at (860) 486-9057. We can request ASL interpreting, computer-assisted real time transcription, and other accommodations offered by the Center for Students with Disabilities.