Summer 2022

Dispatches from a UCHI Intern: Esmé Allopenna

This summer, Esmé Allopenna, a local high school senior, served as the Humanities Institute’s first intern. She assisted with research for ongoing UCHI projects and explored some of her own interests in humanities research. She reflects on her summer at UCHI below.

As an intern at UConn’s Humanities Institute (UCHI) I had the opportunity to see what work and research in the humanities looks like first-hand. With the immeasurable guidance of two UCHI constituents, Katrina Van Dyke and Elizabeth Della Zazzera, I was able to explore my niches in the humanities.

First, I assisted with the Institute’s Seeing Truth exhibition. Reading through the site Atlas for the End of the World, which maps the ‘best’ future of the Earth’s endangered bioregions, I was able to contend how the rapidly-updated, satellite-generated maps fail to consider the specific circumstances of an endangered bioregion. While working to save endangered bioregions may seem like the necessary action, and most all agree that it is, the map disregards whose land is endangered. Often, if a bioregion is endangered on Indigenous land, it is not the fault of the Indigenous peoples living on the land, but rather white people who exploited and/or colonized the land. This being the case, Atlas for the End fails to ask the obvious question: Is it really going to help the endangered bioregions to send help from the same governments that destroyed them?

The Seeing Truth exhibition displays a map of the predicted future of the United States’ imperialism by Dan Mills. Along with Atlas for the End of the World, Mills’ map shows that no matter how scientific a map may be, cartography is an art, subject to the map-maker’s own biases and predilections.

Next, with the help of Elizabeth and Katrina, I was able to explore my interest in the philosophy of language. We started with the paper, “Genocidal Language Games” by Lynne Tirrell. In the paper, Tirrell asserts that language, alone, can be a genocidal act. After reading and discussing the paper, I became fascinated with the power language plays, specifically derogatory terms, and continued to research philosophical explanations as to how and why language is so powerful. I went on to read “Slurring Perspectives” by Elizabeth Camp, “Expressivism and the Offensiveness of Slurs,” by Robin Jeshion, and “Speech Acts and Unspeakable Acts,” by Rae Langton. The research I had accumulated across these papers, with some external sources, culminated in a paper where I argue that the re-emerged popularization of the word bimbo is an unsuccessful attempt at reclamation.

As I am applying to colleges, this experience made it definite in my mind that I will study in the humanities. Interning in a collaborative environment like UCHI has allowed me to discover just how much the humanities link with current issues in our world.