News Update

In the following weeks several events of interest to early modern scholars will be taking place on UCONN’s campus.

The first thing to note is our regular events. On Wednesday, 9/26/2018, Transcribathon will be meeting in the UCHI collaborative space at 10am. We will be transcribing John Ward’s diary, but feel free to bring any thorny paleography challenges from your own research. On Thursday, 9/27/2018, at 12pm, the Early Modern Studies Cross Cultural Interactions Reading Group will be meeting in the UCHI conference room to continue its discussion of Matthew Dimmock’s Mythologies of the Prophet Muhammad in Early Modern English Culture.

On October 10th from 2:30-4:00pm in the Stern Lounge, AUST 217, Debapriya Sarkar will be giving a talk titled “‘endless error’ The Literary Methods of Early Modern Science.” This talk is part of the English Department’s Brown Bag Series. The flyer for the talk follows.


You SHOULD…Look At: Pincushions


“You SHOULD…Look At: Pincushions”



“The method of reading material things as scripts aims to discover not what

any individual actually did but rather what a thing invites us to do.”


— Robin Bernstein, Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil

Rights  (2011): 11.


“Round, filled with stuffing, and covered with shiny fabric, pincushions are ornamental objects despite their quotidian purpose. As household commodity, they embody a distinct home-tied intimacy. An object which dates back to the fourteenth century, pincushions were arguably in their heyday during the Victorian “cult of domesticity” era. In the mid- to late-nineteenth century, it was believed that having a tomato on the mantle would bring prosperity and wealth. A tomato pincushion served as a convenient facsimile when tomatoes were out of season.


For me, a pincushion immediately reminds me of my mother, a Japanese woman and military wife who used patterns bought at the Base Exchange to make my clothes. The pincushion she owned both fascinated and scared me. Bordered by eight clinging figures with identical faces and matching pony tails, my mother’s pincushion was strikingly “exotic.” But what scared me were the faces, which featured exaggerated slanted eyes and thin smiling mouths. Their faces were a constant reminder of my own difference as one of the few Asian Americans in my school. My non-Asian American classmates took considerable pleasure in highlighting that difference by “slanting” their eyes, asking if my family ate dogs, and telling me to “go back to where I came from.”


It was not until graduate school, when I made the fateful decision to shift my area of focus from Victorian literature to Asian American studies, that I came to see my mother’s pincushion as a historically-driven artifact. When Chinese immigrants were recruited en masse in the 1850s and 1860s to labor in mines and work on the western portion of the transcontinental railroad, they were met with great xenophobia and racial violence. Unlike their Irish counterparts, Chinese railroad workers – as so-termed “sojourners” — were not allowed to bring their families. As early as 1854, in People v. Hall, Chinese were – along with indigenous people and African Americans – prohibited from testifying against whites in the newly annexed state of California. After 1878, in a ruling issued by the Ninth Circuit Court in California, Chinese immigrants were denied the right to naturalize. And, in 1882, Congress passed what would – until recently – be the only immigration prohibition to name a specific ethnic group: the Chinese Exclusion Act.


Cast as inassimilable subjects, treated as disposable “coolies,” and depicted as a “yellow peril” Chinese immigrants faced considerable discrimination in the U.S. labor market. As Irish women moved out of the laundry business, Chinese men unable to find work, filled the void. They came to dominate – out of racialized necessity – the industry, a reality reflected in laundry service product advertising which repeatedly accessed a Manchu hair style (the queue) and traditional dress to economically depict “Chinese-ness.”


In closing, situated within a longue durée history of immigration and racialization, the pincushion my mother owned was both byproduct of and testament to fact that the United States – notwithstanding claims otherwise – was not always a welcoming “nation of immigrants.” Despite this, the very fact it was in her possession, coupled with its intimate connection to an Asian American childhood, accentuates a nostalgia that I cannot fully shake.”

Cathy J. Schlund-Vials
Associate Dean for Humanities & Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Professor of English and Asian/Asian American Studies




Constitution Day Event


Constitution Day is a celebration of the formation and signing of the U.S. Constitution by thirty-nine of the 55 Delegates to the Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787. The date is also designated Citizenship Day to focus on the rights and responsibilities of citizens under the Constitution. All educational institutions that receive Federal funds are required to develop a Constitution Day program for their students.  This year, coordinated by UConn Hartford, Constitution Day at the University of Connecticut strives to educate students and community members about the Constitution historically and as it applies to today’s challenges.


This year’s Constitution Day Event:

The Importance of a Free Press for U.S. Democracy

Monday, September 17, 2018


Hartford Public Library
Center for Contemporary Cultures Room

500 Main St, Hartford, CT 06103


This round table discussion brings together Professors Molly Land (Law School/HRI), Marie Shanahan (Journalism), David Yalof (Political Science), and Richard Wilson (Law School and Anthropology)

to discuss the importance of a free press for U.S. democracy and will be moderated by Professor Michael Lynch.


Please join us for additional related activities during the month of September:

  • 9/8: Celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Dodd Center)
  • 9/26: Political Science’s lecture by Keith Whittington on “Why Free Speech Matters on Campus” (Konover Auditorium, 4 pm)
  • 9/29: UCHI’s Encounters Program on the Treaty of Hartford—(Courtroom, Old State House, 10am-12pm)





Together Event

When: 9:00AM – 12:00PM

What: Initiative on Campus Dialogues “Office Hours”

Where: Humanities Institute Seminar Room, Babbidge Library, 4th Floor

Organizers: Initiative on Campus Dialogues

Interested to offer a dialogue on confronting racism in your classroom, but wish to know a little more about process, possibilities and potential pitfalls? Drop in on the Humanities Institute’s Initiative on Campus Dialogues (ICD) “office hours” where participants in ICD will be available to walk through different dialogic approaches, share their experiences discussing difficult questions, workshop strategies for running a structured conversation in the classroom, and generally do what they might to answer your questions. Those confirmed for the day include the following:

  • Hilary Bogert-Winkler (PhD Candidate, History; ICD)
  • Sian Charles-Harris (PhD Candidate, NEAG; ICD Fellow)
  • Gina Devivo-Brassaw (Associate Director for Community Outreach Programs, Services, and Initiatives)
  • Richard Frieder (ICD Fellow)
  • Brendan Kane (History; ICD)
  • Cynthia Melendez (PhD Candidate, International Studies-Latino Studies)
  • Dana Miranda (PhD Candidate, Philosophy; ICD)


When: 7:00PM – 8:45PM

What: Confronting Racism Together: A Model Dialogue

Where: Dodd Center, Konover Auditorium

Organizers: Brendan Kane, Humanities Institute; Glenn Mitoma, Dodd Center

Description:  Join UConn leaders as they take part in a public dialogue exploring their experiences with racism. Dialogue is one of the most powerful tools we have in confronting racism. But actual dialogue – as opposed to debate, deliberation or conversation – rarely occurs. In part that is because it can be challenging: the bravery it takes to speak honestly and unscripted, and the discipline to listen with empathy and be present, can be difficult in a world so crowded with stimulus and distraction.  Confronting racism, however, requires such bravery and discipline, such honesty and presence. It also needs people who through their public truth-telling can inspire others to truly dialogue over racism. Please join us as members of our community take part in this important conversation, facilitated by Valeriano Ramos of Everyday Democracy. Participants are drawn from across the University:

  • Sulin Ba (Associate Dean, School of Business)
  • Kazem Kazerounian (Dean, School of Engineering)
  • Ian McGregor (PhD Candidate; Curriculum and Instruction, NEAG)
  • Joelle Murchison (Chief Diversity Officer)
  • Mark Overmyer-Velazquez (Director, UConn Hartford Campus)
  • Jeremy Teitelbaum (Provost)
  • Irma Valverde (USG President)



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.

Get to Know Our Fellows: Four Questions with Sarah Berry


-What is your academic background and what is your current position at UConn?

I am a PhD candidate in the English department at UConn. I began the program in 2012. Before that, I earned a bachelor’s degree in an interdisciplinary Great Texts program from Baylor University and a master’s degree in English literature from Boston College.


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

The title of my dissertation is “The Politics of Voice in Twentieth-Century Verse Drama.” It is a transatlantic study of plays that are written in verse (instead of prose) during the last hundred years. I argue that verse drama gets revived in the twentieth century not as a genre in its own right but as a hybrid of poetry and drama, which makes it a venue for experimentation with different literary and dramatic forms as well as literary and dramatic voices. All this experimentation with voice has political implications as well, since voice is as much a political concept as a literary one. Twentieth-century playwrights use the different vocal possibilities of verse drama to respond creatively to a variety of contemporary political crises, including fascism, colonialism, the struggle for civil rights, class conflict, and sectarian violence.


-How did you arrive at this topic?

I came to this topic from an interest in weird plays: radio plays, plays with stage directions written in verse, plays in which characters blur together or become someone else. I realized that what makes these plays so weird is that they are half drama, half poetry. They combine the rules and conventions of lyric poetry with those of modern drama, but sometimes these rules and conventions contradict one another. So I set out to investigate the tension between the dramatic elements and lyric elements of these plays.



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

My hope for this study is that it will make people rethink the relationship between poetry and drama. We often think of poetry, especially lyric poetry, as the opposite of drama, but there is a long history, right up to the present day, of the interaction between these two genres. In fact, I think our conceptions of these genres are interdependent—that is, our understanding of lyric poetry is based on shifting notions of what drama is, and our understanding of what drama is has been informed by the emergence of lyric poetry as its own genre during the nineteenth century. This study is timely in genre studies, where scholars are contesting the value of categories like the lyric. But verse drama also provides us with an opportunity to think more broadly about the way that genres are created and reinforced.

I also hope that my study will demonstrate the inextricable relationship between form and genre on the one hand and politics on the other. Genre theory can sometimes seem abstract—or only of interest to literature scholars—but I think these plays show that questions of genre are necessarily intertwined with questions of politics, specifically through voice, which is always both literary and political.

Publishing NOW!





Adam McGee, Boston Review
October 2, 2017, 4pm 

Adam McGee is the Managing Editor of Boston Review. He previously was Acting Managing Editor for Transition. He also served as Associate Editor for the Harvard Art Museums. Adam earned his Ph.D. in African and African American Studies from Harvard University. He has taught religious and cultural studies and cultural anthropology at Harvard University, Tufts University, and Northeastern University, and has published a number of scholarly articles on Haitian Vodou. In addition, Adam is a Pushcart nominee whose poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Cimarron ReviewPainted Bride QuarterlyMemoriousAssaracusRHINOThe Doctor T.J. Eckleburg ReviewSAND JournalBayou Magazine, and other places. To learn more or to contact him, visit www.adammichaelmcgee.com.




The UCONN Collaborative to Advance Equity Through Research on Women and Girls of Color and The Humanities Institute


The UCONN Collaborative to Advance Equity Through Research on Women and Girls of Color (“The Collaborative”) is a part of the national Collaborative, comprising over 50 institutions and universities, with Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry and the Anna Julia Cooper Center at Wake Forest University, serving at its helm. These institutions and universities are signatories to a national commitment to support research on women and girls of color. UCONN committed to this effort as early as November 2015, and 2016-2017 served as the inaugural year of full programming dedicated to promoting research and campus and community engagement of research and discourses on women and girls of color.

Part of UCONN’s commitment included funding two post-doctoral fellowships and several research projects on women and girls of color, related to environment and public health and STEM and pipeline issues. (See the research abstracts, here). In an effort for The Collaborative to build a brain trust committed to sorting through research topics, discourses, and contemporary issues affecting women of color, as they relate to the two themes, it co-sponsored research workshops with the Humanities Institute.

The Collaborative also joined with UCHI in co-sponsorship of its research workshops to promote The Collaborative’s Brain Trust(s) for its Post-Doctoral Fellows, Research Fellows, and contributing scholars at the University of Connecticut. The Humanities Institute has contributed to these Research Workshops by hosting a welcoming, supportive, and enriching intellectual space to flesh out ideas and refine multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research on women of color.

UCHI looks forward to continued work with the Collaborative to Advance Equity Through Research on Women and Girls of Color!