Valerie Babb, PhD

Professor, ECAS, African American Studies

American Epic: Slavery’s Ever-Present Story

American Epic: Slavery’s Ever-Present Story goes beyond a black-white binary to illuminate the impact of representations of enslavement on Latinx, indigenous Americans, white European ethnics, and Asians. Using the oral histories, writings, and performances of those who fall outside the reductive labels of black and white, this study charts how a variety of media from the colonial period to the early twentieth century shaped images of enslavement into an epic influencing understanding of American society and citizenship.

The body of scholarship reinterpreting slavery’s social impact and its influence on American race dynamics continues to grow. Slavery and the Making of America (2004) by James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton, The Psychic Hold of Slavery: Legacies in American Expressive Culture (2016) edited by Soyica Diggs Colbert, et. al., and Slavery and the University: Histories and Legacies (2019) edited by Leslie M. Harris, et. al., are examples of works attempting to deepen understandings of slavery’s reach. My study contributes to these excellent resources by examining the broad cross section of American groups that engaged the ideas and themes generated by the system to understand their own national belonging.

As the New York Times groundbreaking “1619 project” recently argued, perhaps 1619 should replace 1776 as the symbolic beginning of the nation because the institution of slavery suffused every facet of American life. Only a holistic view of the institution’s centrality to concepts of who and what is American will lead to a full understanding of the system’s ongoing effects on American society.1

Hwisang Cho, PhD

Assistant Professor, ECAS, Russin and East Asian Languages and Cultures

Halle Institute for Global Research/URC Award

The Tales of the Master: Transmedia Storytelling and the Materiality of Charisma in Korea, 1570–1975

This project investigates how historical figures gained charismatic authority in Korea, which interacted with the cultures of storytelling, materiality of media forms, and (re)configuration of people’s self-identities. It focuses on how T’oegye Yi Hwang (1501–1570) was brought to prominence as arguably the most prominent Confucian master of Korea. It claims that his charismatic appeal did not originate simply from the power of his scholarship or moral stature. Rather, T’oegye’s academic heirs put together and co-opted the records of his spoken words to mark themselves as a distinct academic group. The writings they produced in this context have since become the history of the “T’oegye school” and the main texts for “T’oegye studies.” These stories traveled across diverse genres, depending on different agendas instilled into them, and each story also took its own material forms. Diverse genres of storytelling and their respective material characteristics appealed to different audiences, who grappled with how to be a member of the T’oegye School, the Confucian civilization, the emergent Korean nation, the Japanese empire, or South Korea under the authoritarian regime. The versatility of these records as diverse media experiences evinces that T’oegye’s charisma has been rooted in the flexible renderings of his scholarship and life events into stories, which could become either esoteric or exoteric depending on the audience and social needs. Overall, this book will demonstrate that the combination of diverse genres of storytelling, their respective materiality, and the subsequent reading modes—the triangular mechanism of T’oegye’s charisma—configures the manifestations of various communities and self-identities of their members from late-sixteenth- to late-twentieth-century Korea.

Kevin Corrigan, PhD

Professor, ECAS, Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies

A Less Familiar Plato

Plato is often represented as an essentialist thinker who believed in abstract entities known as the Forms, a thinker who privileged universals over particulars, thought over sensation, the disembodied soul or mind over the embodied mind and the body, and who rejected art in favor of censorship and rigid authoritarianism. This book argues for a rather different understanding—a less familiar Plato for many in the modern world—a Plato who believes in Forms but is not an essentialist; thinks in new ways about thought models but develops a positive, scientific view of perception in the middle and late dialogues (before Aristotle); offers many positive models of art that need to be evaluated together with the critique he provides in the Republic and maintains in the Laws; develops an ideal but finely layered view of friendship and love that provided throughout antiquity a practical guide for the beginner; does not so much split the disembodied from the embodied mind as see both as a dynamic, coextensive continuum with a model of separation before death; thinks of the problem of classification, so important for the development of modern scientific thinking, in new and interesting ways; and provides a depth framework for understanding fundamental issues connected with what we today regard as problems of ecology and sustainability. Above all, Plato provides posterity with a framework for understanding and articulating the mystical imagination, ranging from what we might call the intellective imagination to the vision and touch of the beautiful and the good—which are not abstract principles open only to the educated but the invisible bases of life.

Astrid M. Eckert, PhD

Associate Professor, ECAS, History

Halle Institute for Global Research/URC Award

Germany and the Global Commons: Environment, Diplomacy, and the Market

I propose a book project in environmental history titled Germany and the Global Commons. Although current challenges to the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere are global and will ultimately affect all of humanity, international environmental diplomacy remains predicated on the executive and legislative action of individual states. An understanding of how individual countries have related to the Global Commons over time, both in their use of natural resources and in their role of (not) protecting them, is therefore imperative. Germany stands at the center of this study because it is widely perceived as a leader in sustainable practices, renewable energy, and environmental policy. This project pursues select aspects of Germany's historical relationship to the Global Commons and puts its current reputation as a "green leader" to a critical test. It moves the interactions between the global and the national through several registers by addressing Germany as a player in environmental diplomacy on the European and the global level; analyzing its changing energy policies from fossil fuel and nuclear power to renewables; exploring the manifestations of green capitalism in Germany; and tracing those into everyday life. Applying rigorous historical analysis reveals that the path towards Germany's "green" reputation has meandered significantly over time in response to a variety of pressures, contexts, and events. Understanding Germany's historical trajectory offers crucial insights for American audiences and policy makers at a time when environmental and climate protection are losing critical political support.

Timothy Holland, PhD

Assistant Professor, ECAS, Film & Media Studies

Halle Institute for Global Research/URC Award

Divided Cinema: On the work and legacy of Marie-Claire Ropars-Wuilleumier

This project interrogates the gender and disciplinary politics of film studies’ institutionalization through an intellectual biography of Marie-Claire Ropars-Wuilleumier (1936–2007), a pioneering French scholar of cinema and literature. My focus on Ropars-Wuilleumier is due to three factors. First, her influence on the institutionalization of what today has become the field of film and media studies: in the late 1960s, Ropars-Wuilleumier joined likes of Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, and Roland Barthes as a founder of the Experimental University Center of Vincennes in Paris where she created the university’s cinema department, the first of its kind in France and a model for the burgeoning field worldwide. Second, Ropars-Wuilleumier was a prolific author and editor. Highlights include: her initial writings on cinema with the French publication, Esprit, beginning in the late 1950s; co-founding and editing Hors cadre, a pivotal, interdisciplinary journal that incorporated articles on film theory from an international cast of authors; and her eleven books and over sixty articles/chapters. Third, the surprising fact that only a fraction of her published corpus has been translated into English, in addition to the absence of her work from the majority of Anglophone film theory anthologies, institutional histories of film and media studies, and accounts of the heyday of so-called “French Theory.”

Referencing the title of Ropars-Wuilleumier’s seminal 1981 book, The Divided Text [Le texte divisé], “Divided Cinema” argues that the nonappearance of her work in contemporary Anglophone film and media studies remains a consequence of the militant politics that not only came to define 1970s and 80s film theory, but also indelibly shaped the field’s institutionalization. Ultimately, this absence reflects Ropars-Wuilleumier’s misalignment with the prevailing discursive trends of the era, as well as her position as a woman in the academy. Beyond amplifying the intellectual wakes of a currently neglected figure, “Divided Cinema” illuminates the political shadows enduring within film and media studies today, while also highlighting the underrepresentation of women writers and thinkers in the film theory canon.

Peter Höyng, PhD

Professor, ECAS, German Studies

Reading Beethoven's Reading through the Lens of Censorship

Throughout his life Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was an avid reader. Besides immersing himself in musical scores and musical studies, he read materials on the natural sciences, geography, history, and religion. Above all, he relished literature appreciated for its aesthetic qualities, and cherished in particular the writings of an entirely new generation of German authors. His habitual reading only intensified during the gradual decline of his hearing, which eventually led to deafness during his last decade.

Scholars of music history have treated Beethoven’s genuine interest in reading, and particularly in literary works, in a rather cursory rather than wide-ranging fashion. As a literary scholar and cultural historian, I argue that reading Beethoven’s readings can help explain both how he conceptualized some of his groundbreaking compositions and how we as an audience can make meaning of his works in the twenty-first century.

Following established scholarship, I maintain that a) Beethoven’s life-long interest in continuous reading and learning make him a poster child of the Enlightenment, and b) that his reading habit remained overall unchanged during his life. One aspect, however, has escaped scholarship on Beethoven to date: all of his reading took place through times of censorship which stifled his intellectual horizon as much as it fueled his artistic endeavors.

My book provides case studies for each of the three primary domains of censorship: moral, religious, and political. Within each of these domains I will discuss specific readings by Beethoven and how they either influenced or are reflected in his compositions.

John Johnston, PhD

Professor, ECAS, English

Techno-thrillers: Mapping the High-Tech Assemblages of Crisis Capitalism

My project is to complete a book in progress on the techno-thriller as a new genre of popular narrative fiction. At the time of this writing, there is no book or lengthy study of the techno-thriller as a narrative form, and thus my book will fill a significant gap in current scholarship on contemporary prose fiction. Typically, the techno-thriller represents the contemporary high-tech milieu and new forms and sites of agency within the dense “information spaces” enabled by the Internet, digital technology, and the new techno-sciences such as biotechnology and computer science. Within this milieu, a central character usually discovers that an experimental science or developing new technology has gone out of control and could pose a serious threat to the surrounding human population. Consequently, the narrative’s initial affect is one of worrying uncertainty and danger, which often escalates to the fear of a runaway technical system and possibly imminent catastrophe. In thus evoking both the high-tech milieu and its potential for chaotic breakdown and environmental crisis, the techno-thriller narrative becomes a powerful expression of an underlying anxiety about the safety of our increasingly complex technical systems in a climate of corporate irresponsibility and greed. This anxiety, characteristic of the techno-thriller genre as a whole, necessarily extends to and implicates contemporary capitalism.

Helen Jin Kim, PhD

Assistant Professor, Candler School of Theology, American Religious History

Halle Institute for Global Research/URC Award

A Matter of World Affairs: Gender and Capitalism in the Largest Church.

A Matter of World Affairs is a history of the gendered and capitalist dimensions of the “prosperity gospel,” preached and practiced at the largest church in the world—the Yoido Full Gospel Church, located in South Korea. No community better exemplifies the late-twentieth century “explosion” of Christianity in the context of South Korean capitalism than Yoido, as it grew to 800,000 members by the 1980s. Though led by a male clergy espousing traditional gender norms, membership has been majority female, representing a major shift in late-twentieth century Christianity—the average Christian in the world was no longer a European, but a woman in the global South. What role did women play in this shift, especially in the context of the rise of prosperity teachings and global capitalism? I argue that women have historically run the largest church, for they were prayer warriors, evangelists, missionaries, and “cell group” leaders, driving activity at the smallest unit level, the bread and butter activities that made the church function. If Yoido’s senior pastor was the “CEO,” they were at the bottom of the ladder, driving growth. Women did so because they believed they were “laborers” engaged in a matter of world affairs—contributing to the spiritual realm as well as the economic and political realms of society. At the same time, they were caught in the sticky web of negotiating their gendered subordination in the church, a price they paid to engage the world through religious labor.

Stephen Lösel, PhD

Associate Professor, Candler School of Theology, Systematic Theology

The Johannine Epistles: A Theological Commentary

This project provides a theological commentary on the three Johannine epistles of the New Testament. I explore the contemporary theological relevance of the letters’ faith claims about Jesus of Nazareth and the connections between dogmatic orthodoxy, Christian ethics, and theological epistemology. More specifically, I propose two major theses. First, I contend that the authors challenge contemporary Christian theology to uphold what Reformed theologian Karl Barth once referred to as the Christian “scandal of particularity,” namely, the claim that belief in God cannot be divorced from the incarnation, cross, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Second, I contend that the Johannine letters challenge contemporary Christians to connect belief and ethics, because a correct understanding of God requires Christ-like living, or christological orthodoxy a christomorphic existence. Only those who live as Christ did, can truly know him for who he is. This demand to imitate Christ requires obedience to the commandment to love and culminates in the influential identification of God with love: “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them” (1 John 4:16). In sum, I argue that the Johannine letters challenge contemporary theology both on the left and the right to link passion for right belief with unconditional love for one’s fellow Christians.

Xochiquetzal Marsilli-Vargas, PhD

Assistant Professor, ECAS, Spanish and Portuguese

Halle Institute for Global Research/URC Award

Silencing as Care: Narratives in Minors’ Asylum Petition Cases

My research analyzes interactions between unaccompanied minors from Central America who entered the United States to seek asylum, officers of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), immigration lawyers, and translators. My analysis highlights two crucial aspects of these interactions. First, I focus on how the minors’ narratives are constructed through diverse discursive formats, translations, and media technologies in order to fit the legal category of asylee. Second, I analyze how, sometimes overtly, often implicitly, the concept of care is embedded in these interactions through the juridical principle “the best interest of the child” (BIC), and how it plays a central role in judicial decisions about child welfare and child asylum or legal residency applications. The BIC principle in some cases overrides the minor’s desires and expectations, complicating cultural, scholarly and philosophical understandings of agency and intentionality. Silencing and speaking in the name of the minors become common practice when discussing their safety. While scholars have analyzed minors’ discourses in migration settings, my research is innovative in focusing on how the various parties who co-construct the asylum narrative do not merely help minors create a coherent account that meets the criteria for protection; they also “perform care” by deciding what best ensures that the minors gain legal recognition as refugees. The project thereby brings together discrete bodies of scholarship that to date have not been in dialogue: the narratives and testimony of asylum seekers, the hermeneutics of translation, and the “best interests of the child” paradigm of care.

Pablo Palomino, PhD

Assistant Professor, Oxford College, Latin American & Caribbean Studies

Halle Institute for Global Research/URC Award

Carnivore Capitalism: A Global Cultural History of Argentine Beef

One of the main drivers of climate change is the carbon emission of the expanding global meat industry, which is the result of a global rise in consumption, particularly in Asia. This consumption is celebrated as a symptom of progress in living standards but also subject to questions and debates on human-animal ethics and wider concerns about environmentally sustainable futures. This research project explores the global carbon “hoofprint” from the unexplored perspective of Latin American cultural history.

This transnational cultural history investigates the enduring power of meat consumption in shaping human taste, ethics, and culture, by reconstructing some of the transnational economic networks that created cultural forms of signifying and understanding meat in the past—who eats what kinds of meat, how they do it, and how they interpret this act of consumption? This project focuses on one of the earliest modern meat-centered societies, Argentina, which is among the world’s top meat production and export hubs and per-capita consuming countries. The project studies the emergence of Argentina’s rural cattle culture in the 19th-century, its re- shaping in the 20th century by a domestic modernization process and by US and British neocolonial investments and demand. Through archival work in London, Chicago, and Buenos Aires, it analyzes how meat fostered a national myth around the unique properties of Argentine beef, of Argentinians themselves, and of their role as food providers to the world. Today, as Argentina exports beef to global markets, and also grains to feed global cattle, the history of Argentine meat can illuminate global debates about the role of carnivore cultures in current and projected scenarios of economic and human progress.