Tag Archive for American Studies

Kauanui Delivers Keynote Focused on U.S. Militarism and Hawaiian Decolonization

Attached is a photograph of Kauanui with two scholars who attended the gathering, Rebekah Garrison (a doctoral student in American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California) and Tiara R. Na'puti (Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Colorado, Boulder).

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, center, gathers with two other scholars who attended the “Archipelagos and Aquapelagos” conference. At left is Rebekah Garrison, a doctoral student from the University of Southern California, and Tiara R. Na’puti, assistant professor of communication at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, chair and professor of American studies, professor of anthropology, and director of the Center for the Americas, delivered one of two keynotes at a conference on “Archipelagos and Aquapelagos—Conceptualizing Islands and Marine Spaces.”

The gathering, hosted by the Global South Center at The Pratt Institute on March 30—April 1, focused on the need to reinvestigate and reconceptualize the nature of the aggregations of islands commonly referred to as “archipelagos” in order to produce more sophisticated understandings of them, along with the environmental, social, and transnational issues and impacts involved.

As the organizers of the conference, May Joseph, Luka Lucic, and Macarena Gómez-Barris—all based at Pratt’s new Global South Center—explained in the mission, “Archipelagos have become increasingly prominent in geo-political contexts with regard to national territorial boundaries, global migrancy and disputes over fisheries.”

Kauanui’s keynote, “Decolonizing Indigeneity: Hawaiian Sovereignty, U.S. Occupation and the Politics of Settler Colonialism,” focused on U.S. militarism and Hawaiian decolonization. As she explained, “since the purpose of the conference is to explore the interface of land and water ontologies and epistemologies facing vulnerable populations across different small island nation ecologies, looking at the Pacific Islands is instructive for understanding multi-dimensions of U.S. imperialism and settler colonialism, as well as persistent questions of decolonization.” Keeping this U.S. military expansion in mind, her talk explored decolonization in the Hawaiian context.

The other keynote was delivered by Philip Hayward, editor of online journal Shima, from the University of Technology Sydney.

Price ’20 Spends Spring Semester in D.C. as a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Intern

Anthony Price ’20, pictured here by the Washington Monument in Washington D.C., is half-way through a five-month internship on Capitol Hill.

Anthony Price ’20, pictured here by the Washington Monument in Washington D.C., is half-way through a five-month internship on Capitol Hill. “The internship will be a huge asset to the rest of my studies at Wesleyan and it’s a huge stepping stone to help me pursue a career in public service, or perhaps on the Hill,” he said.

As a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation intern, Anthony Price ’20 is spending the spring semester working on Capitol Hill, where he is learning about governing institutions and the inner workings of the U.S. Congress.

The CBCF’s internship programs “prepare college students and young professionals to become principled leaders, skilled policy analysts and informed advocates by exposing them to the processes that develop national policies and implement them—from Capitol Hill to federal field offices. Program participants receive housing, a stipend, office placements, and opportunities to meet and interact with professional legislators and leaders working in all branches of government.”

“Thus far, I’ve enhanced my leadership, adaptability and writing skills immensely,” Price said. “At the end of the program, I know I will have a better understanding of our American legislative process and the work that’s being done day-to-day within the branches of Congress.”

Research by Service-Learning Class Published in Archaeological Society Bulletin

Papers by Professor J. Kehaulani Kauanui and four of her former students are published in the most recent issue of the Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Connecticut.

Four former students who enrolled in the service-learning course AMST 250: Decolonizing Indigenous Middletown: Native Histories of the Wangunk Indian People—taught in fall 2015—are now co-authors of articles published in the Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Connecticut, No. 79, 2017.

Iryelis Lopez ’17, Tiana Quinones ’17, Abigail Cunniff ’17 and Yael Horowitz ’17 partnered with the Middlesex County Historical Society and spent their semester examining 17th- and 18th-century Middletown records that focused on the Algonquian peoples of the lower Connecticut River known as Wangunks. The Wangunks lived near the Connecticut River primarily in present-day Middletown and Portland, Conn.

In February 2016, self-selected students presented their class research papers to the broader Middletown community at an event held at Russell Library called, “Searching for Indigenous Middletown.” The gathering was organized by course instructor J. Kehaulani Kauanui. Kauanui is professor of American studies, professor of anthropology, chair of the American Studies Department and director of the Center for the Americas.

The Bulletin‘s editor, Lucianne Lavin, was in attendance and heard the students’ presentations. Lavin, who also directs the American Indian Studies Institute in Washington, Conn., later invited the young researchers to have their papers published in the Bulletin.

In addition to being published in the Bulletin, research by the students resulted in the first Wikipedia entry on the Wangunk.

The published papers include “Town Bills of Middletown: Material Histories of Settler Colonialism and Indigenous Erasure” by Yael Horowitz ’17; “Decolonizing Indigenous Middletown” by Iryelis Lopez ’17 and Tiana Quinones ’17; and “Militia, Security, and Smallpox in Middletown Settler Society as Related to the Wangunk People (1754–1785)” by Abigail Cunniff ’17.

The special issue contains five other pieces that emerged from an event Kauanui organized in December 2015 on campus at the Russell House, including “Challenging Settler Colonialism in the Recovery of Wangunk Tribal History” by Kauanui; “Pre-Colonial History of the Wangunk” by Lucianne Lavin; “A Brief History of the Wangunk Reservation” by Timothy Ives; “Indigenous Middletown: Settler Colonial and Wangunk Tribal History” by Reginald Bacon; and “Growing Up Wangunk” by Gary O’Neil.

Kauanui has since retooled the course as a “First Year Initiative” class that was taught last semester as a seminar for first-year students, called “Indigenous Middletown.” Besides focusing on the sparsely documented history of the Wangunk, students are introduced to the fields of settler colonial studies, the rapidly transforming field of critical indigenous studies, along with Native American history and historiography addressing southern New England. “And perhaps most importantly,” Kauanui says, “they learn that the Wangunk people continue to live into the 21st century.”

Kauanui Presents “Politics of Occupy Wall Street” Research in Qatar

J. Kehaulani Kauanui

J. Kehaulani Kauanui in Qatar.

J. Kehaulani Kauanui, professor of American studies and anthropology, chair of American studies and director of the Center of the Americas, spent part of winter break in Qatar. She was there to present her research on “Settler Colonialism and the Politics of Occupy Wall Street: Indigeneity and the ‘Other’ 1%” for a panel on “Against Exceptionalism.”

Kauanui joined a global roster of leading scholars in American studies, Middle Eastern studies and other closely related fields who were invited to speak as part of a conference held Jan. 8–11 at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies with support from the Qatar National Research Fund.

The conference, titled “From Tahrir Square to Zuccotti Park: The Arab Spring and the De-Centering of American Studies,” was co-organized by Eid Mohamed, assistant professor of American studies and comparative literature at the Doha Institute, and Melani McAlister, associate professor of American studies and international affairs at George Washington University. Its aim was to “internationalize the study of America to enable critical consideration of where and what is America—particularly in relation to the Arab uprisings and developments in the global map of power.”

Presentations from the conference are slated to be included in an edited volume available in late 2018.

For more information on the conference program and participants, visit https://de-centeringamericanstudies.weebly.com.

 

Slotkin Writes About History of Integration in the U.S. Military

Richard Slotkin

In light of President Trump’s tweeted ban on transgender Americans serving in the military, Richard Slotkin, the Olin Professor of English and American Studies, Emeritus, writes in The Conversation about the long history of integrating minorities into the U.S. military.

The armed forces have long “played a vital role in shaping American social policy toward the country’s minorities,” Slotkin writes. He recalls how “fear and resentment” of African-Americans and immigrants from Asia and Europe “generated a political backlash,” resulting in oppressive Jim Crow laws and an anti-immigrant movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Then, “The crisis produced by American entry into World War I brought these movements up short. Suddenly the nation had to raise an army of millions from scratch, with the utmost speed. There was no way to achieve that goal without enlisting large numbers of African-Americans and immigrants or “hyphenated Americans,” a derogatory term for immigrants first used at the turn of the century. It was in this crisis that American leaders rediscovered the ideals of civil equality that late 19th-century ethno-nationalism had called into question.”

McAlister Writes Op-Ed on ‘Demystifying Vodou’

Elizabeth McAlister

Elizabeth McAlister

Elizabeth McAlister, chair and professor of religion, is the co-author of an op-ed on CNN titled, “Haiti and the distortion of its Vodou religion.”

Together with her co-author, Millery Polyné, a Haitian-American professor of African-American and Caribbean history at the Gallatin School–NYU, she provides an introduction to the Vodou religion—the creation of African slaves who were brought to Haiti and converted by Roman Catholic missionaries in the 16th and 17th centuries. While Vodou shares much with Christianity, and its initiates must be Roman Catholic, it departs in its views of the cosmos. Vodou teaches that there is no heaven or hell, and humans are “simply spirits who inhabit the visible world in a physical body.”

They explain:

Historically, Vodou has been an emancipatory faith that enslaved people turned to when they were brutalized.

For that reason, French slave owners considered Vodou a threat and that is why it has been grossly misrepresented by white colonists and Haitian political and spiritual leaders alike.

Indeed, Vodou spirits inspired the revolution against Haiti’s French colonizers more than 200 years ago that established Haiti as the second independent nation in the Americas after the United States — and the first to abolish slavery.

It was during a religious and political gathering that enslaved Africans and Creoles mounted an insurrection against plantation owners in August 1791. This famous nighttime meeting — known as the ceremony at Bois Caïman — was a tremendous feat of strategic organizing, since it unified Africans assembled from different plantations and diverse ethnic groups.

At this clandestine ceremony, a leader named Dutty Boukman led an oath to fight for freedom. A priestess named Cecile Fatiman consecrated the vow when she asked the African ancestral spirits for protection during the upcoming battle.

Under a tree, she slaughtered a black pig as an offering.

Two weeks later, the rebels set plantations ablaze and poisoned drinking wells, kicking off the revolution.

Panicked slave owners throughout the Americas reacted by clamping down with extra force on all African-based religious practices.

They circulated stories that linked the religion with blood and violence, images that endure to this day.

McAlister is also professor of American Studies, professor of African American studies, professor of Latin American studies, and professor of Feminist, Gender & Sexuality studies.

 

Asian American Culture, Race Discussed at Roundtable

The Center for East Asian Studies hosted a “Roundtable on Race in Asian America” for students, staff and faculty on Sept. 29. Participants were encouraged to discuss what it means to be Asian American and share personal stories.

The Center for East Asian Studies hosted a “Roundtable on Race in Asian America” for students, staff and faculty on Sept. 29. Participants were encouraged to discuss what it means to be Asian American and share personal stories. Pictured is Takeshi Watanabe, assistant professor of East Asian studies. Watanabe teaches Japanese Culture through Food and Life in Premodern Japan.

Long Bui, visiting assistant professor of American studies, and Alton Wang '15 moderated the discussion. While at Wesleyan, Wang studied sociology and government, chaired the Asian American Student Collective and taught a course on Asian American history. He currently works in Washington D.C. engaging voters at Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote and serves on the Board of Directors for the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership.

At left, Long Bui, visiting assistant professor of American studies, and Alton Wang ’16 moderated the discussion. While at Wesleyan, Wang studied sociology and government, chaired the Asian American Student Collective and taught a course on Asian American history. He currently works in Washington D.C. at Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote and serves on the Board of Directors for the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership.

Dakota Access Pipeline, Global Healing to be Discussed at Oct. 7 Talks

Wesleyan will host two discussions related to the Dakota Access Pipeline Project on Oct. 7.

The Dakota Access Pipeline Project is a 1,172-mile pipeline that will connect the Bakken oil field in North Dakota to Illinois. The pipeline would run through federal land less than half a mile away from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation and the tribe’s opposition has inspired protests across the country. Although the pipeline construction has already begun, the project was halted in September after a federal intervention.

At 2 p.m. in Usdan 108, Wesleyan faculty will hold a rapid teach-in addressing key issues about the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), its environmental costs, the indigenous sovereignty and other legal issues,

Anarchist Histories and Activism Presentations Oct. 1

On Oct. 1, Wesleyan students will publicly present their research from the American studies course, Anarchy in America: From Haymarket Riot to Occupy Wall Street, taught by J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, chair and professor of American studies, professor of anthropology. The course focused on anarchism as a political philosophy and practice — a little known, aspect of American culture and society.

Students examined select aspects of anarchist political thought and praxis in the United States and the ways that anarchism has been represented positively, vilified or dismissed. The course explored a range of diverse political traditions including: individualist anarchism, socialist anarchism, anarcha-feminism, black anarchism, queer anarchism, indigenous influences and critiques, and other schools of thought. These presentations – by self-selected students from the class — are based on the final assignment for the course, a research-based political pamphlet. Kauanui will moderate two panels:

10 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. Historical Genealogies & Radical Analysis
“Free Love, Motherhood, and Spiritism: Reading Anarchy Through the Writings of Luisa Capetillo,” Iryelis López ’17
“Love as Prefigurative Politics,” Sarah Lurie ’17
“Black Feminist Resonances: The Overlaps and Intersections With Anarchist Principles,” Kaiyana Cervera ’19

Noon to 1:30 p.m. Community Resistance and Diverse Forms of Direct Action
“Encrypted But Not Cryptic: An Intro to Crypto Anarchy and Practical Resistance of the Modern Surveillance State,” Kate Pappas ’18
“Threads of Anarchism: A Look at Flint Community Action Amidst a State Crime,” Aura Ochoa ’17
“Power to the People! Energy Democracy and the Socialization of our Energy Infrastructure,” Joshua Nodiff ’19

The presentations will take place at Russell Library, 123 Broad Street, Middletown, CT 06457.

Tang Authors Book on Asian American Literature after Multiculturalism

Amy TangAmy Tang, assistant professor of English, assistant professor of American studies, is the author of Repetition and Race: Asian American Literature After Multiculturalism published by Oxford University Press, May 2016,

Repetition and Race explores the literary forms and critical frameworks occasioned by the widespread institutionalization of liberal multiculturalism by turning to the exemplary case of Asian American literature. Tang reinterprets the political grammar of four forms of repetition central to minority discourse: trauma, pastiche, intertextuality and self-reflexivity.

She shows how texts by Theresa Cha, Susan Choi, Karen Tei Yamashita, Chang-rae Lee, and Maxine Hong Kingston use structures of repetition to foreground moments of social and aesthetic impasse, suspension, or hesitation rather than instances of reversal or resolution.

7 Faculty Promoted, 4 Awarded Tenure

In its recent meeting, the Board of Trustees conferred tenure on four faculty members. They are Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, Professor of African American Studies Kali Gross, Associate Professor of English and American Studies Amy Tang, and Associate Professor of Chemistry Erika Taylor. They join eight other faculty members who were awarded tenure earlier this spring.

One faculty member, Louise Neary, was promoted to adjunct associate professor of Spanish.

In addition, six faculty members are being promoted to full professor:

J. Kehaulani Kauanui, professor of American Studies and anthropology
Matthew Kurtz, professor of psychology
Cecilia Miller, professor of history
Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento, professor of theater
Andrea Patalano, professor of psychology
Michael Singer, professor of biology

Brief descriptions of their research and teaching appear below:

Associate Professor Fowler specializes in political communication and directs the Wesleyan Media project, which tracks and analyzes all political ads aired on broadcast television in real-time during elections. Her work on local coverage of politics and policy has been published in political science, communication, law/policy, and medical journals. Most recently, she co-authored Political Advertising in the United States (Westview Press, 2016). Professor Fowler teaches courses on American Government and Politics; Media and Politics; Campaigns and Elections; and Polls, Politics and Public Opinion.

Professor Gross is a scholar of African American history whose research concentrates on black women’s experiences in the United States criminal justice system between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Her book, Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America (Oxford University Press, 2016), explores a crime and trial in 1887 against broader evidence of biased police treatment of black suspects as well as violence within the black community. Professor Gross will offer courses on race, gender and justice and Black Women’s Studies.

Professor Kauanui’s research lies in the fields of comparative colonialisms, indigenous politics, critical racial studies, and anarchist studies. Her book, The Paradoxes of Hawaiian Sovereignty (Duke University Press, due in 2017), explores the cultural and legal politics of the contemporary Hawaiian nationalist movement in relation to land, gender, and sexuality. Professor Kauanui teaches courses on Colonialism and Its Consequences; Race and Citizenship; United States in the Pacific Islands; Hawai’i: Myths and Realities; Decolonizing Indigenous Middletown; and Anarchy in America: From Haymarket to Occupy Wall Street.

Professor Kurtz’s research seeks to clarify the cognitive and social impairments associated with schizophrenia, to develop and assess behavioral treatments for these impairments, and to critically evaluate the history and current status of ideas regarding treatment of the severely mentally ill. He has received significant grant support from the NIH, and has received a Fulbright-Nehru U.S. Scholar Award for Academic and Professional Excellence. He offers courses on Schizophrenia and Its Treatment, Clinical Neuropsychology, Statistics, and Behavioral Neurobiology.

Professor Miller is a European intellectual historian with a focus on the long eighteenth century. Her recent book, Enlightenment and Political Fiction: The Everyday Intellectual (Routledge, 2016), examines five works of fiction to argue that the accessibility of political fiction in the eighteenth century made it possible for any reader to enter into the intellectual debates of the time and that ideas attributed to philosophers and political and economic theorists of the Enlightenment actually appeared first in works of fiction. She offers courses on European Intellectual History, Political Fiction, Theories of Society, and Contemporary Europe.

Professor Tatinge Nascimento is a theater artist and scholar with a special interest in experimental performance and Brazilian contemporary theater. She has performed and published internationally, and most recently is the author of a book manuscript, The Contemporary Performances of Brazil’s Post-Dictatorship Generation, under review with Palgrave Macmillan for the series Contemporary Performance InterActions. At Wesleyan she directs main stage productions and teaches courses on acting, theory, and performance studies.

Adjunct Associate Professor Neary teaches beginning and intermediate Spanish. She is currently collaborating with a colleague on an online Spanish course for the general public, titled Wespañol, and with McGraw Hill on a test bank project for an elementary Spanish language textbook. She has served as head of Spanish, has chaired the Romance Languages and Literatures Honors Committee, and has served on the Language Resources Center Faculty Committee.

Professor Patalano is a cognitive scientist whose research focuses on mental and neural processes involved in human reasoning, judgment, and decision making. Her lines of research address indecisiveness and decision deferral, clinical and neural correlates of discounting, numeracy and choice behavior, and the role of categories in thought. She teaches courses on Cognitive Psychology, Psychological Statistics, Decision Making, and Concepts and Categories.

Professor Singer is an evolutionary ecologist whose research focuses on the plant-feeding habits of caterpillars in the context of threats from predators and parasites of caterpillars. He uses this research focus to inform issues of broad biological interest, such as animal medication, dietary specialization, dynamics of ecological networks, and evolutionary diversification. He teaches courses on Ecology, Conservation Biology, Evolutionary Biology, and Plant-Animal Interactions.

Professor Tang’s research focuses on the relationship between aesthetic form and politics in Asian American literature and theory. Her first book, Repetition and Race: Asian American Literature After Multiculturalism (Oxford University Press, 2016), explores how Asian American writers use structures of repetition to register, and creatively inhabit, the impasses generated by multiculturalism’s politics of identity and recognition. She teaches courses on Asian American Literature, Afro-Asian Intersections, and Literary and Cultural Theory.

Associate Professor Taylor’s multidisciplinary research investigates problems at the intersection of biology and chemistry. Her work strives to advance medicine and environmental sustainability with two long-term goals – developing bacterial enzyme inhibitors and other small molecules with medicinal applications, and engineering microorganisms to improve the efficiency of biomass to biofuel conversion. Professor Taylor has received significant grant support from both the NIH and the Department of Energy, enabling numerous impactful publications in her field. She offers courses in Organic Chemistry, Environmental Chemistry, Biological Chemistry, and Biomedicinal Chemistry.

Wesleyan Class Studies ‘Lost Tribe’ of Lower Connecticut River

The Hartford Courant reported on a study of the Wangunks, the indigenous people of Middletown and Portland, Conn., by members of a Wesleyan course taught by J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, associate professor of anthropology, associate professor of environmental studies. Eleven students spent a semester in the archives of the Middlesex County Historical Society studying the Wangunks as part of a course on local Native Americans: “Decolonizing Indigenous Middletown: Native Histories of the Wangunk Indian People.” Four of those students presented their research at a March seminar at Russell Library.

According to the story:

The Wesleyan students made use of a number of sources to piece together a comprehensive history of the Wangunk peoples, from their contact in the mid-1600s with the first English settlers of Middletown to the tribe’s gradual disappearance.

Through [Gary] O’Neal — a descendant of Jonathan Palmer, a Wangunk Indian who lived in East Hampton in the early 1800s — the students were able to learn about the tribe’s persistence in the area.

“We wanted to understand who the Wangunk were and what happened to them,” said [Maia] Neumann-Moore [’18], who looked at Wangunk migration patterns after the settling of Mattabessett, or Middletown, by the English in 1650. “It was as if the Wangunk disappeared into the woods. But they were here all along.”

The students found that the settlers were increasingly casual in their references to these Native Americans over time, especially their actual numbers. They said the word Wangunk appears often in 17th century records but far less frequently a century later, when a small band was living across the river on a reservation in Portland, known as Wangunk meadows.

Read the full story here.