You Should

You Should…Pre-Election Edition. Part V

In advance of the upcoming election, we’ve asked members of the UCHI community to suggest a book, article, poem, painting, video, or piece of music that they think everyone should take a look at in this current moment.

Melanie Newport says you should read…

Dan Royles, To Make the Wounded Whole: The African American Struggle Against HIV / AIDS (UNC Press, 2020). This humane and timely book recounts how people fought against racism and for safety, healing, and political power during a global epidemic.

Book cover of Dan Royles' To Make the Wounded Whole


Shaine Scarminach says you should watch…

Peter Watkins’s film La Commune (2000), to see how ordinary people can seize the reins of history and build a better world.

Promotional image for the film La Commune. A woman, her back to the viewer, reads a broadside.
Promotional image from the film

Sarah Willen says you should consider journaling…

with the Pandemic Journaling Project. This combined journaling platform and research study, hosted right here at UConn, has become an online space for chronicling the turbulent world swirling around us—and for glimpsing others’ experiences of these wild times. In about 15 minutes a week, you can create your own downloadable journal in writing, audio, or images. To see public posts contributed by folx around the United States and the world (over 550 journalers in 24 countries so far), check out PJP’s Featured Entries page.

How will you tell your COVID-19 story to your children & grandchildren? The Pandemic Journaling Project.


Contributors

Melanie Newport is assistant professor of history at the University of Connecticut and a 2020–21 UCHI Faculty Fellow. She is affiliated faculty in the American Studies, Race, Ethnicity, and Politics, and Urban and Community Studies programs. She teaches urban history and criminal justice history at UConn’s Hartford campus. She holds a BA from Pacific Lutheran University, an MA from the University of Utah, and PhD from Temple University. She is a contributor to Oral History, Community, and Work in the American West and a forthcoming volume, New Histories of Black Chicago. Newport’s work has been supported by the Center for the Humanities at Temple, the Black Metropolis Research Consortium, and the University of Illinois at Chicago and University of Chicago libraries.

Shaine Scarminach is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History and a 2020–21 UCHI Dissertation Research Scholar. He received a BA in history from the University of San Francisco and an MA in history from California State University, Los Angeles. He studies the history of the U.S. in the World, with an emphasis on the historical relationship between U.S. empire, world capitalism, and the global environment. His research has been supported by the Tinker Foundation, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, and the Rockefeller Archive Center.

Sarah S. Willen, PhD, MPH is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut and Director of the Research Program on Global Health and Human Rights at the university’s Human Rights Institute. A former NIMH Postdoctoral Fellow in Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, she holds a PhD in Anthropology and an MPH in Global Health, both from Emory University. She is one of the co-founders of the Pandemic Journaling Project.

You Should…Pre-election Edition. Part IV.

In advance of the upcoming election, we’ve asked members of the UCHI community to suggest a book, article, poem, painting, video, or piece of music that they think everyone should take a look at in this current moment.

Mark Overmyer-Velázquez says you should listen to…

The melancholy, cleansing rhythms and melody of Ozomatli’s “Cumbia de los muertos,” in honor of the Day of the Dead and the Covid-fallen.

A group of men standing in a field.
Ozomatli, 2013. Photograph by Christian Lantry. Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Amy Meyers says you should look at…

One of John Constable’s cloud studies. Take a moment to contemplate a beautiful study of clouds and wheeling birds, painted by John Constable on Hampstead Heath in 1821—the year when the artist devoted himself to an intensive empirical and, to the standards of the day, scientific examination of the sky. The pink-tinged clouds rush above a thin band of earth, and the birds soar, calling our attention to the clear, blue heavens above—just the momentary release we now need from the tragic pandemic and heightened cultural tensions that we face as a nation.

A painting of clouds over a blue sky, with some small birds flying through them.
John Constable (1776-1837), Cloud Study, 1821, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. B1981.25.155.

Contributors

Mark Overmyer-Velázquez is Professor of History and Latino & Latin American Studies at the University of Connecticut and Campus Director of the University of Connecticut–Hartford. His book Visions of the Emerald City: Modernity, Tradition and the Formation of Porfirian Oaxaca, Mexico (Duke University Press, 2006) won the 2007 Best Book Prize, New England Council on Latin American Studies.

Amy Meyers (Yale Ph.D., American Studies, 1985) retired from the directorship of the Yale Center for British Art in June of 2019. Prior to her appointment in July of 2002, she spent much of her career at research institutes, including Dumbarton Oaks; the Center for Advanced Study in Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, where she served as Curator of American Art from 1988 through June of 2002. Meyers also has taught the history of art at the University of Michigan, the California Institute of Technology, and Yale, where she was an affiliate of the History of Science and Medicine Program and an adjunct professor in the Department of the History of Art. She is the University of Connecticut Humanities Insitute’s 2020–2021 Luce Foundation, Future of Truth Fellow.

You Should…Pre-election Edition. Part III

In advance of the upcoming election, we’ve asked members of the UCHI community to suggest a book, article, poem, painting, video, or piece of music that they think everyone should take a look at in this current moment.

Micki McElya says you should read…

Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (1994). This book has been like a warm blanket and darkly funny, knowing friend in these days of struggling to teach, mourn, write, rage, understand, and remain hopeful.

Book cover of Anne Lamott's Bird By Bird


Kenneth Gouwens says you should read…

“Desiderata,” an early 1920s prose poem by the American writer Max Ehrmann. At this moment, we might consider some famously wise words from a meatpacker in Terre Haute, Indiana (who also took grad courses in Philosophy at Harvard). Those who find this too earnest might at least get momentary comic (if corrosive) relief from current preoccupations by listening to the National Lampoon parody, Deteriorata.

Desiderata
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.


Contributors

Micki McElya is Professor of History at the University of Connecticut. She received her B.A. in history from Bryn Mawr College in 1994 and a Ph.D. from New York University in 2003. Before joining the faculty of the University of Connecticut, she was an assistant professor of American Studies at the University of Alabama (2003-2008). Her recently published book, The Politics of Mourning: Death and Honor in Arlington National Cemetery was a Choice Outstanding Academic Title of 2017 and a finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. It was a co-winner of the 2018 John Brinckerhoff Jackson Book Prize from the Foundation for Landscape Studies, winner of the inaugural Sharon Harris Book Prize from UConn’s Humanities Institute, and finalist for the 2016 Jefferson Davis Book Award from the American Civil War Museum.

Kenneth Gouwens is Professor of History at the University of Connecticut. He has published extensively on the culture of Renaissance Rome. His current research interests include Cultural history of Italy, 1494-1530; Pope Clement VII (Giulio de’Medici); and the distinctions drawn between humans and simians in the Renaissance and in our own era.

You Should…Pre-election Edition. Part II.

In advance of the upcoming election, we’ve asked members of the UCHI community to suggest a book, article, poem, painting, video, or piece of music that they think everyone should take a look at in this current moment.

Amanda Douberley says you should look at…

Rye Beach, New Hampshire (1863) by Martin Johnson Heade. It is the painting she is discussing with First Year Experience classes on virtual visits to the Benton this semester. Painted at the height of the American Civil War, it expresses all the turmoil, uncertainty, and ultimately hope that many of us are feeling right now.

A painting of a dark curving beach, the water almost black. In the yellow sky, red and black clouds loom.
Martin Johnson Heade (American, 1819-1904), Rye Beach, New Hampshire (1863). Oil on canvas, 8 3/8 x 22 ¼”, William Benton Museum of Art, Louise Crombie Beach Memorial Fund, 1967.26.

Manisha Desai says you should look at…

Kara Walker: Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War at the New Britain Museum of American Art. Kara Walker’s pieces at New Britain Museum were spectacular. We have to keep that history in mind. You can also take a virtual tour of the exhibit.


Contributors

Amanda A. Douberley is a historian of twentieth-century American sculpture and public art. She holds a Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Art History, as well as English Language and Literature, from the University of Virginia. She is assistant curator/academic liaison at the University of Connecticut’s William Benton Museum of Art.

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.

You Should…Pre-election Edition. Part I.

In advance of the upcoming election, we’ve asked members of the UCHI community to suggest a book, article, poem, painting, video, or piece of music that they think everyone should take a look at in this current moment.

Nasya Al-Saidy says you should watch…

Hamilton: An American Musical. This (mostly) historically accurate account of one of our Founding Fathers features a hyper-diverse cast and parallels today’s controversial political atmosphere.

Promotional poster for Hamilton


Jane Gordon says you should listen to…

The Resistance Revival Chorus and Rhiannon Giddens’ cover of Woody Guthrie’s “All You Fascists Bound To Lose.”

A black and white photo of Woodie Guthrie playing the guitar. On his guitar a sticker reads "This Machine Kills Fascists."
Woody Guthrie, 1943. Photograph by Al Aumuller. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

John Bell says you should listen to…

Aaron Copland’s 1942 orchestral composition Fanfare for the Common Man. It embodies a kind of yearning for bi-partisan or non-partisan investment in the idea of the United States as a democracy that can bring the different peoples of the country together, by means of the ideals and processes of democratic society. Copland composed this in the middle of World War II, in a very “American” sense, to praise everyday people across the United States. One can hear in it a kind of solemn celebration of our democratic goals, which are ultimately achieved by voting, the machinery of democracy. This World War II vision may seem quaint or naive at this time of deep polarization in our country, but it offers a vision of how democracy might be achieved.

A black and white photograph of Aaron Copland seated at a piano, writing on sheet music with a pencil.
Aaron Copland, 1962. CBS Television, Wikimedia Commons.

Contributors

Nasya Al-Saidy is a Ph.D. candidate in the Economics department at the University of Connecticut. Her research focus is on Environmental Economics and Microeconomics. At the University of Massachusetts Boston, her thesis explored the cost-effectiveness of phytoremediation to reduce brownfield pollution in Boston’s low-income urban areas. Her current work seeks to extend and improve upon the game theoretic models used within the emissions permit market. She is currently serving as a financial coordinator for the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute and fiscal officer for the Humility and Conviction in Public Life Project. Nasya also serves as President of the Association of Graduate Economics Students and as a senator in the Graduate Student Senate.

Jane Anna Gordon is Professor of Political Science with affiliations in American Studies, El Instituto, Global Affairs, Philosophy, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She is a specialist in political theory, with a focus on modern and contemporary political theory, Africana political thought, theories of enslavement, political theories of education, and methodologies in the social sciences. Gordon is, most recently, author of Statelessness and Contemporary Enslavement (Routledge 2020) and Creolizing Political Theory: Reading Rousseau through Frantz Fanon (Fordham University Press 2014).

John Bell is a puppeteer and theater historian who began working in puppetry with Bread and Puppet Theater in the 1970s, and continued as a company member for over a decade. He is the director of the University of Connecticut’s Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry. He studied theater history at Columbia University, and has since taught at New York University, Rhode Island School of Design, Emerson College and other institutions. He is a founding member of the Brooklyn-based theater company Great Small Works, and the author of many books and articles about puppetry, including “Puppets, Masks, and Performing Objects,” “Strings, Hands, Shadows: A Modern Puppet History,” and “ American Puppet Modernism.” His wife Trudi Cohen is also a puppeteer and member of Great Small Works. Their son Isaac is studying at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

You Should… Read: Dr. Brittney Cooper’s Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower (Shardé M. Davis, UConn Communication)

In the words of Angela Davis, we are living in a time that we have never seen before. Americans are experiencing a myriad of emotions in response to the horrific events that are taking place in our country, from police brutality against Black bodies, racist effigies, lynchings of Black people, Covid-19 and its disproportionate effects on the health of Black and Brown people, and the lack of presidential leadership. The ugly truth is that some Americans have the privilege to be emotional about what is transpiring around us (e.g., white women throwing crying fits when confronted about a racist act). But Black women have a unique relationship with our emotions; an overt display of emotions by Black women, particularly negative emotions like sadness, anger, and doubt, is pathologized in the U.S. What I love about Cooper’s book is that she confronts this idea head-on and flips it on its head. She writes that our anger has fueled every political movement in the United States, from suffrage to Civil Rights to #MeToo. Black women’s anger is a powerful, unshakeable force that sends people from marginalized communities into the streets, the courtrooms, the classrooms, and beyond to fight for the more just world that our ancestors fought for and our descendants will fight for long after we’re gone. If you’re a Black woman, you should read this book as a form of validation and self-healing. If you’re not a Black woman, you should read this book because it necessarily contextualizes Black women’s emotions in ways that are so befitting for such a time as this.

My summary of the book won’t do it justice, so let me give you a taste of Eloquent Rage from the Cooper’s own pen:

This is a book by a grown-ass woman written for other grown-ass women. This is a book for women who expect to be taken seriously and for men who take grown women seriously. This is a book for women who know shit is fucked up. These women want to change things but don’t know where to begin.

To be clear, I’m not really into self-help books, so I don’t have one of those catchy three-step plans for changing the world. What I have is anger. Rage, actually. And that’s the place where more women should begin—with the things that make us angry.

Here’s the thing: My anger and rage haven’t always been “focused with precision.” The process, of both becoming a feminist and becoming okay with rage as a potential feminist superpower, has been messy as hell. We need to embrace our messiness more. We need to embrace the ways we are in process more. Very often Black girls don’t get the opportunity to be in process. So just know that you don’t have to have everything figured out to read and enjoy this book.

Shardé M. Davis
Assistant Professor
Department of Communication

Who is Shardé M. Davis? Shardé M. Davis is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and a faculty affiliate of the Africana Studies Institute and the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP) at the University of Connecticut. Her primary area of specialization is interpersonal communication, with emphases in racial and gender identity, resistance, counter hegemony, and resilience, intra/intergroup dynamics, and supportive communication. Davis, along with Joy Melody Woods, created a Twitter hashtag #BlackInTheIvory in early June 2020. The hashtag immediately went viral and brought people together to discuss racism at institutions of higher learning.

You Should..Watch: “Dark” the TV Mini Series (Siavash Samei, UCHI)

In this brave new world of self-isolation, I have come to lose track of time. Time, or rather our concepts of the passage of time, are constructs that we animate and breathe life into, out of the necessities of our mortal lives. But to quote a Tralfamadorian from Slaughterhouse-Five: “ All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is.” Making sense of time and distorting our limited understandings of it have been at the heart of many great works of literature and art. For me, the latest iteration of this feat of human imagination is the German sci-fi noir series, Dark, created by Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese. You should watch it, not because it is a binge worthy thriller (it most certainly is), or because it might bring a sense of reassurance in these times of uncertainty (it will not); but because it is a must-experience masterpiece.

 Dark is the, well…dark…story of the residents of a small German town; each dealing with their own personal traumas, double lives, and troubling pasts. We begin in the “present,” in 2019. But the story eventually spreads into subplots and story lines in 1921, 1953, 1986, and 2053; as various characters engage in time travel through a wormhole in a near-by cave. They travel in order to make sense of their lives, and to find answers to and perhaps prevent tragedies that befall them—murders, suicides, disappearances, and infidelities. As the “pasts” of the residents travel into the “present” and the “future,” and as the “presents” of the same characters travel into the “past” and the “future,” we come to appreciate the long-term ripple effects of human decisions and random encounters in each period across time and space.

But, more importantly for me, as the various story lines interweave through interpersonal interactions across the different time periods, we begin to lose any sense of which temporal iteration of which character is “real.” Thus, we come to lose track of a linear and directional concept of time and even question the very idea of the “self.”

Dark elegantly blends various genres into a complex narrative through which the viewer is confronted with the totality of the human experience, and grapples with issues of determinism and free will.

The series builds up in pace and complexity as it progresses. In a way, Dark “isn’t a show you watch. It’s a show you solve.”

The first two seasons of Dark are available on Netflix.

So, solve away!

 

Siavash Samei
Postdoctoral Fellow, Humanities Institute
University of Connecticut

Who is Siavash Samei? Siavash was born and raised in Tehran, Iran, but moved to the US in his teenage years. He earned his PhD from the UConn Anthropology Department in 2019, after which he joined the UCHI team as a postdoctoral fellow. Siavash is an archaeologist who has conducted field work throughout the Middle East, specifically in Iran and Armenia. His research examines human-animal interactions and the evolution of animal husbandry as a subsistence strategy throughout the Middle Eastern highlands at the time of the Urban Revolution in Mesopotamia (ca. 40002200 BCE). Next year Siavash will join the faculty at The College of Wooster as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Archaeology.

You Should..Listen to: The “Feel Free” Audiobook (Fiona Vernal, UConn-History)

There is only so much Netflix and Hulu one can watch and replaying Contagion and Outbreak are not the best antidote for COVID-19’s many anxieties. I suggest you find refuge in an audio-version of Feel Free, Zadie Smith’s 2018 eclectic and wide-ranging collection of essays. Banish all thought of the staid five-paragraph essays of undergraduate habitude; this collection will whisk you back to what the essay form was meant to do originally—reflect and be relevant. Even if you have not discovered White Teeth or On Beauty, you’ll get a crash course in Smith’s literary evolution from an awe-struck young writer to a mature, reflective artist. Feel Free will surprise and delight, offering ruminations on freedom, multiculturalism, aesthetics, art, dance, fiction, domesticity, middle class dreams of the British sort, optimism, family, individuality, social media, race, and narcissism. In a curious juxtaposition of characters, you’ll discover low-brow and high-brow culture, ways of seeing, ways of being, and the gulf between husbands and wives and parents and children. Where else will you find Martha Graham and John Berger; Philip Roth and Balthasar Denney; Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Vladimir Nabokov and Jay-Z; and the single-monikered Prince, Madonna, and Beyoncé?  In one of the most brilliant pieces, a bathroom becomes a lucid symbol of a father’s thwarted dream, a mother’s exile, and the sacrifices that permit their children to cross social, racial, geographic, and economic boundaries. Since you can’t have this conversation with Zadie Smith in person, listening to Feel Free is the next best option!

Fiona Vernal
Associate Professor of History
University of Connecticut

Fiona Vernal Behind a PodiumWho is Fiona Vernal? Fiona Vernal is a native of Trelawny, Jamaica and grew up in Trenton, New Jersey. She earned her MA and PhD from Yale. Since 2005 she has taught at the University of Connecticut’s Department of History. Her book, The Farmerfield Mission (Oxford, 2012) explores the relationship between African Christian converts, European missionaries, and the politics of land access, land alienation and the “civilizing” mission of African social and economic improvement in nineteenth century South Africa. She consults with the Connecticut Historical Society on oral history projects including an exhibit documenting and recording the impact of 9/11 on Connecticut victims, families, and first responders.

You Should…Read: Midnight in Chernobyl (Marisa Chrysochoou, UConn-Civil and Environmental Engineering)

Cover of the book "Midnight in Chernobyl"The role of the humanities and liberal arts education in the 21st century is a topic of intense debate. If the sciences are the foundation for inventing new technologies, the humanities are the foundation for implementing these technologies sustainably and ethically. Adam Higginbotham’s account of the Chernobyl accident is what the New York Times called “an enthralling and terrifying history” of technology gone wild in human hands. There is no better evidence of the role of politics, ethics and psychology in the making of a disaster over a period of decades. The Chernobyl accident was not a human error of the moment, nor a slip in judgment that inevitably happens to scientists and engineers when we fumble with experiments and machines on a daily basis. It was the result of an entire political system that pursued short-term wins, covered inconvenient truths, and promoted allegiance to ideology.

Does this remind you of anything in our current handling of a crisis?

And yet I am sure that there will be many climate-change deniers who read the book and sneer at the incompetence and blindness of their Soviet counterparts of 1986.

Regardless, you will also have supreme fun reading this book that is written as a Stephen King suspense novel.

 

Marisa Chrysochoou
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Connecticut

Maria Chrysochoou's photoWho is Marisa Chrysochoou? Marisa Chrysochoou is a professor and the head of the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department. She received her Ph.D. in 2006 from the Stevens Institute of Technology. Her research focuses on fate and transport metals in the environment, environment and surface chemistry, and treatment and reuse of industrial waste, contaminated soil, and sediments. She has also been awarded a prestigious Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship.

You Should…See: Shoplifters (Françoise Dussart, UConn-Anthropology)

Cover photo of the five members of the household in the movie ShopliftersYou Should take the time to watch Shoplifters by Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda who is often compared to Kurosawa, Bergman, and other great humanists of the cinema.

Shoplifters—inspired by a local news story—is the best movie I have seen in 2018–2019. And yes, I watch a lot of movies!

Shoplifters is a subtle Dickensian tale in a contemporary modern crowded Tokyo.

Shoplifters is about five members of a household: Osamu, Nobuyo, Shota, Aki a-k-a Sayaka, and Grandma who adopt a starving little girl Yuri.

Shoplifters is about the kinship bonds we develop with strangers we chose to love.

Shoplifters is about empathy, generosity, compulsive kindness and incredibly moving moments of joy.

Shoplifters is about trauma, fear of poverty and coming-of-age.

Shoplifters is about three generations of Invisible people in a cold and judgmental capitalist world.

Shoplifters is about people nursing secrets and lies which should never be revealed.

Shoplifters reveals a paradox that despite shoplifting, cheating and coning, Osamu, Nobuyo, Shota, Aki and Grandma create a happier life for little Yuri than her violent law-abiding parents.

Shoplifters is a magical film with overwhelming endings.

Oh, and You Should see Shoplifters because it requires reading subtitles…

Françoise Dussart
Professor of Anthropology & WGSS
University of Connecticut

 

Photo of Françoise Dussart

Who is Françoise Dussart? Françoise is a professor of anthropology and women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Uconn. Trained in France and Australia, her specialties in social anthropology include Australian Aboriginal society and culture (as well as other Fourth World Peoples), iconography and visual systems, various expressions of gender, ritual and social organization, health and citizenship. She is currently curating the very first major presentation of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts from Australia in Canada, at the Musée de la Civilisation in Quebec City.