URC – Halle Global Research

Mónica García Blizzard, PhD


Neorealism and Mexican Cinema

Scholars have long observed the impact of neorealism (a style of filmmaking that emerged in postwar Italy and aspired to represent social struggle ethically) on the evolution of Latin America cinema. While the existing scholarship highlights how neorealism influenced the directors of Argentine third cinema, Brazilian Cinema Novo, and Cuban imperfect cinema (Schroeder Rodríguez, 2016), Mexican filmic production has largely been left out of the conversation (Giovacchini and Sklar, 2012; Brancaleone 2020 and 2021). That is in part because no comparable oppositional filmic movement emerged in Mexico, and because of Italian cinema’s position within Film Studies as an indispensable contributor to motion picture history, while the discipline tends to cast the Mexican filmic tradition as both peripheral and nonessential.

“Neorealism and Mexican Cinema” addresses the paucity of scholarship on the relationship between the influential neorealist movement and Mexico’s filmmakers and audiences. Juxtaposing two film traditions that are rarely put into conversation, this innovative project explores the ways in which Mexican and Italian productions take similar approaches to representing marginality and the underbellies of their respective “economic miracles.” Furthermore, this project utilizes print materials like Mexican and Italian film magazines of the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s, as well as various archival collections in Italy, Mexico and the U.S. to illustrate how neorealist Italian films were received in Mexico, the extent to which some Mexican films where interpreted as akin to neorealism in Italy, as well as the correspondence and collaborations among some Mexican filmmakers, Italian neorealist directors, and the movement’s proponents.

Adriana Chira, PhD


In the Plantations? Shadows: Black Peasants and Land Ownership by Possession in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Spanish Equatorial Guinea, 1850-1950

This comparative project explores a mode of land tenure that rural communities transitioning from slavery to freedom relied on to tackle food insecurity and racialized dispossession between the 1850s and the 1950s: direct land occupation without title. To this day, occupation continues to be common across former regions of the Spanish Empire where the legal framework had offered protections. My project focuses on Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Spanish Equatorial Guinea, leading cash crop producers for the world markets during the period under research. It explores the legal tactics through which land occupants living along the margins of agricultural corporations protected access rights. Historians who have approached possession have looked at national legal frameworks. Through comparison, my work bridges between locales with shared Iberian legal legacies in order to understand why possession has been such a resilient practice within such spaces even after the demise of the empire. Understanding communities organized around possession can help us re-think hegemonic narratives that tie economic justice to secure private property rights. Development advocates have blamed socio-economic disempowerment on weak property rights. Occupants allegedly cannot leverage their property as collateral, have little incentive to improve holdings, and because of the informal nature of their tenure might be prone to extortion. But possession does receive some protection in legal systems still bearing an Iberian imprint, which means that land occupants often act legally or in legal gray zones. My work suggests that it is popular litigation that has shaped legal frameworks around occupation.

Clifton C. Crais, PhD


Born in Blood

Born in Blood explores the violent making of the modern world that witnessed the emergence of humans as a global geophysical force. The book overturns many of the common arguments on what is called the Anthropocene, the geological Age of Man. These invariably are Eurocentric and rarely if ever explore the role of violence in the rise of anthropogenic change. Born in Blood concentrates largely on histories unfolding outside of Europe, and how violence against humans and non-humans reshaped the world and were inextricably bound with developments scholars usually describe as the Industrial Revolution. I demonstrate how the period roughly from the middle of the eighteenth century to 1900 was shockingly violent, indeed the most violent in the history of our species. I call this period the Mortecene—the Age of Killing.

The now vast literatures on the Anthropocene also tend to treat humans as an abstraction and avoid discussions of politics such as the development of states and empires. Born in Blood recounts how the combination of killing and commerce as industry and trade exploded culminated in the great political convulsions of the time. Anthropogenic change and the creation of a new world order became inextricably interlocked, completely redrawing the world’s political map by the end of the nineteenth century. Politics made global warming permanent. URC funding will support completion of three chapters on these political crises and completion of the entire book.

Jason Francisco, MFA


Reading (past) the Surfaces

In 1999, on the Greek island of Crete, the ancient city of Chania celebrated the rededication of the Etz Hayyim (“Tree of Life”) synagogue, a six hundred year old structure that had fallen into ruin in the half century following the Holocaust. The synagogue complex was restored to a high level of refinement. Its sanctuary, plus its mikvah, anterooms and courtyard, all possess an unmistakable beauty and spiritual power, and have rightly become one of the city’s most visited sites. The renewed Etz Hayyim is the only synagogue on Crete, and one of the few in Greece as a whole.

Its regeneration involved the World Monuments Fund and an extraordinary international collaboration, which in turn seeded the leadership of the organization today: a crack team of Greek and international scholars and activists dedicated to a progressive vision of historical memory. Etz Hayyim is home to a distinctly open-spirited and nonsectarian Jewish community and, also, an ambitious cultural center. Its ethos and activities consistently emphasize the connections between Jewish history, memory and identity and that of other minority communities, now and in the past. In particular, Etz Hayyim has become a leading voice for reclamation of Crete’s deeply multicultural history, in which Jews, Christians and Muslims created a uniquely ecumenical world over several centuries.

In collaboration with Etz Hayyim, my project will create a photographic work of public history, visually reading the urban geography of contemporary Chania to deepen understanding of minority communities, and their contributions to the city’s life.

Jehu J. Hanciles, PhD


A Study of the African Immigrant Contribution to American Religious Life and the Implications for Understanding New Trajectories in American Christianity

The impact of post-1960s immigration on American Christianity and religious life will likely be more extensive than the previous, predominantly European, wave that peaked about a century ago. In both cases the vast majority of new immigrants are Christian. But the current wave of immigrants is more numerous, more diverse (in terms of national origin and religious traditions), overwhelming non-white, and more connected to global networks. Scholarly assessment of the long term religious contribution of new Christian immigrants is limited. Yet, the substantively Christian character of America’s new immigrants has significant bearing on analyses of America’s shifting religious landscape, including ongoing changes in religious belonging and how faith traditions contribute or respond to major developments in American society. African immigrants constitute a small but rising segment of this current wave. Despite limited scholarly attention, their growing presence and ministries factor in the browning of American Christianity (its decreasingly white character) and add new elements to debates around assimilation, racial justice, and the nature of the black Church. This project, which builds marginally on my 2008 study, investigates how African immigrants and their immediate descendants are contributing to transformations in American Christianity at a time of major transitions, including long time decline in White Christianity, resurgent Christian nationalism, growing religious pluralism, extensive demographic change, and spirited debate about America’s global influence. The research plan incorporates appraisal of select Christian movements on the African continent (with energetic international reach) and survey of up to 100 African immigrant congregations in the U.S.

Adam Mirza, PhD 


Musical Hybridity in Contemporary Composition

My project Musical Hybridity in Contemporary Composition is to create a new multimedia work for electric guitar, live electronics and video that incorporates several aspects of cultural and technological hybridity into contemporary composition. I will visit Izmir, Turkey in spring 2023 to work with Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies Dr. Timuçin Şahin, a guitarist and specialist in jazz, free improvisation, conducted improvisation, and intercultural music. The new work is part of Naegleria Fowleri, my ongoing series of audiovisual pieces. My research will involve the development of audio software for live electronic performance, audio and video recording, and participating in Şahin’s improvisation orchestra. I will work with Dr. Şahin to develop a new musical and multimedia language as I compose the new work. After completion, the piece will be premiered by Şahin in Izmir. Subsequently, I will create an audiovisual version which I will submit to international conferences and festivals that showcase new multimedia work. Dr. Şahin and I will seek further opportunities after the grant period to perform the work in other venues in the US and internationally. Eventually the audiovisual version will be included in the completed Naegleria Fowleri series and released as a DVD or through an online video streaming outlet.

James H. Morey, PhD


The Prick of Conscience Window

A church in the city of York, England, contains one of the most remarkable stained glass windows to survive from the fifteenth century. Fifteen panels represent one of the most widespread motifs in medieval ecclesiastical literature: the fifteen signs before Doomsday. This window is unique in having captions, in Middle English, that are quoted from a poem entitled the Prick of Conscience, an 8,000 line poem dating from the mid-fourteenth century that outlines the means by which one may avoid damnation and achieve salvation. My project is to align the 120 manuscript witnesses of the poem with the surviving text from the windows. Over the past six years, on multiple research trips, I have consulted 85 of the 120 manuscripts. My goal is to examine the remaining 35, including the 24 in England I have not yet seen. With a complete database of readings, I can reconstruct the caption readings with the highest possible degree of certainty.

Cassandra Quave, PhD


Targeting ESKAPE Pathogens with Egyptian Medicinal Plants

Antimicrobial resistant infections are responsible for 700,000 deaths annually, projected to reach 10 million deaths per year by 2050. Innovative approaches to identifying novel chemical compounds that could serve as the next generation of antibiotics are in high demand. Plants have played a fundamental role as the basis of the pharmacopoeia of many different cultures since ancient times. One of the oldest existing records of the medicinal applications of plants is the Egyptian “Ebers Papyrus”, which dates back to circa 1550 BC, written more than three-thousand years ago. Despite the historic importance of Egyptian flora in the foundation of medicine, many of the species documented in this record remain unstudied by the lens of modern science. Working with our collaborators in the Faculty of Pharmacy at Heliopolis University in Cairo, Egypt, Dr. Quave’s research group (including partners in the Emory Herbarium, which she curates) will undertake a research expedition to collect flora of interest in the Bahariya Oasis, a natural depression located in the Western Desert of Egypt. We will collect and authenticate herbarium specimens of each species under study and create extracts for chemical characterization and pharmacological evaluation in a panel of antibacterial and toxicity laboratory models. Undergraduate researchers will be mentored throughout the project and will contribute to the research as part of their scientific training experience.

Chris Suh, PhD


East Goes West, Back to East: The Korean American Diaspora in the US-Occupied South Korea, 1945-1948

Focusing on a group of Korean Americans who returned to their ancestral homeland during the US military occupation of South Korea (1945-1948), this book project explores questions of race, diaspora, and US-East Asia relations during the age of global decolonization. These Korean Americans found themselves in a difficult situation. On one hand, they were able to return because the Allied victory in World War II ended Japan’s colonial rule of Korea (1910-1945). On the other hand, they returned as interpreters and advisors to the US military government (1945-1948), which was established in the southern half of Korea upon the war’s end because US leaders believed that Koreans were not ready to govern themselves. Neither Koreans in Korea nor the US military regime trusted them. Unable to overcome this predicament, most of these Korean Americans came back to the United States, where they spent the rest of their lives permanently as members of the Korean diaspora.

Rather than seeing the immediate post-World War II years in the Pacific as a prelude to the Korean War (1950-1953) fought between communists and anti-communists, as most existing works do, my project will reorient the scholarship to investigate how the process of decolonization in Korea contributed to the formation of a Korean American identity and, at a more ambitious level, helped shape US policy towards the decolonizing world.

With the support of the URC-Halle award, I will conduct research in South Korea to make significant progress on this project, which will become my second monograph.