Jason Oliver Chang

Three UConn Faculty Awarded NEHC Seed Grants

Three UConn faculty members are among 30 scholars from across 11 New England institutions who were awarded seed grants by the New England Humanities Consortium. These competitive seed grants are awarded for research initiatives in the humanities that seek to capitalize on the collaborative network of the consortium.

Jason Oliver Chang (Department of History and Asian & Asian American Studies Institute) and Fiona Vernal (Department of History and Africana Studies Institute) serve as co-Principle Investigators on a project entitled Shade: Labor Diasporas, Tobacco, Mobility, and the Urban Nexus. This project, which will be conducted in collaboration with former UCHI fellow Jorell Meléndez-Badillo (Dartmouth College) and Sony Coranez Bolton (Amherst College), will investigate. the ways that U.S. imperialism, colonization, corporate industry, and white settler normativity have evolved and matured in the Connecticut River Valley.

The other UConn awardee is Kevin McBride of the UConn Department of Anthropology. He is a co-Principle Investigator on a project entitled Public Memory, Place, and Belonging: Unearthing the Hidden History of the Native and African American Presence on Block Island. Other co-investigators and collaborators on this project include Amelia Moore, Jessica M. Frazier, and Kendall Moore (University of Rhode Island). This project will support fieldwork and planning that will lead to the development of a temporary, traveling exhibition, opening in July 2022. After its initial display at a number of regional museums, the exhibit will eventually find a permanent residence at the Gobern family homestead on Block Island, the future site of a Manissean community center.

You Should…Watch: Now Those Days Are Gone

Now Those Days Are Gone Duke Riley 2017 Seashell Mosaic on wood

"This beautifully detailed work of art measures three and half feet tall and fourteen feet long, using thousands of shells to depict the USS Kansas. The Kansas was a Connecticut-Class Battleship built in New Jersey and launched in 1905 to become a part of the, so called, Great White Fleet. This fleet, order by President Theodore Roosevelt, consisted of several other battleships that circumnavigated the globe making various military and diplomatic stops to display U.S. naval power in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War. This victory lap around the world sought to celebrate White American racial superiority as the fleet made stops in the recently occupied Caribbean and Pacific Island colonies. The delicate seashell construction contrasts vividly with the brutally destructive power of the battleship with canons, guns, and torpedoes. The warm colored shells in the sky suggest a maritime sunset with radial embellishments in the upper corners. The radiating rays seem to indicate a ubiquitous presence invoking the circumnavigation of the Great White Fleet. Riley’s use of the artwork’s title, now those days are gone, within the piece draw greater attention to multiple inflections of the phrase and it’s relationship to the U.S. imperial power. On the one hand, the phrase invokes a nostalgia for nationalist imperialism, yet the tender construction of the piece reverses this meaning to show it’s fragile nature. The nostalgic interpretation also points to a contemporary decline of U.S. global power and the dangers of reasserting such a position now. Alternatively, the title might indicate that such small battleships, as the Kansas, were immediately eclipsed by the larger, faster, and more deadly Dreadnaught class of battleships. In this interpretation, the days of small battleships are gone, ironically reflected in the tender material of the seashells replaced by behemoth war machines growing ever larger. In the multiple meanings which this artwork puts in play, it also signals a possible future without battleships. One without the racial ideologies and imperial economies which fuel seaborne violence."

- Jason Oliver Chang
Associate Professor of History and Asian American Studies
Director, Asian and Asian American Studies Institute
University of Connecticut