OVPRED/HI Seed Money, Award Recipients 2016
Ana Mariella Bacigalupo, Associate Professor
“Forging the Human: Civic Engagement and the Re-sacralization of Space in Northern Peru”
This ethnographic project takes a fresh interdisciplinary approach to the understanding of the human in space, considering ideals of re-sacralization, sustainable development, and civic engagement within a single analytical frame. I analyze the resacralization of space by communities in northern Peru — a process in which natural spaces and medicinal plant gardens inhabited by spirits are understood to have agency and impact community development and civic engagement. Since indigenous people understand the human, morality, and well-being as deeply embedded within their relationships to plants and the power of spaces, they see the resacralization of space as a public good, a “cosmopolitics” through which they can achieve public respect and through which they can develop the skills, knowledge, and policies to make a difference. This research will be of interest to scholars across the humanities and social sciences.
Irus Braverman, Professor
“Governing Coral: The Emergence of Lively Oceanic Legalities”
Existing legal scholarship on nonhumans typically values large, terrestrial, vertebrate, and, generally, more-like-us beings, rather than microscopic, oceanic, invertebrate, and symbiotic life. My project will challenge these tendencies, illuminating their biases and exposing the biopolitical hierarchies “naturalized” through their modes of classification and operation. Corals and their legalities will serve as my focus in this project, which is situated at the nexus of posthumanism, animal geography, science studies, multispecies ethnography, and Foucaultian biopolitics. I will attempt to export some of the insights of these traditions into the legal domain, exploring how destabilizing the centrality of human bodies and their purported organic boundedness, demarcating the boundaries among species and their fixity, and paying close attention to the relational interplays among different forms of biological life may alter existing modes of legal thinking. My project will demonstrate that coral life and death are not only biological and cultural, but also legal, phenomena.
Erin Hatton, Associate Professor
“Between Work and Slavery: Coerced Labor in Contemporary America”
In recent years the problem of precarity has become a primary focus of both popular and academic accounts of work. Yet precarity is not the only troublesome feature of the contemporary economy. I argue that coercion—rather than precarity—is central to a broad array of work relations in the U.S., which are not typically examined in studies of work and employment, including prison labor, foreign “guestwork,” undocumented immigrant labor, workfare, student-athlete labor, and graduate student work. For these workers, the fundamental concern is not whether they will lose their jobs or work enough hours in a week; rather, it is what will happen if they refuse to comply with employer demands—demands which are structurally more likely to exceed the bounds of reason (and legality) and which workers are structurally less able to refuse than in traditional employment relationships. My current book-length project examines coerced labor in contemporary America. For this project, I have already interviewed more than 80 incarcerated and workfare workers, and I have written two journal articles based on this research. In order to strengthen its comparative lens, however, this project requires investigation of one more category of coerced labor: student athletes.
Lindsay Hunter, Assistant Professor
Theatre and Dance
“Too Solid Flesh: Disembodied Hamlets and Digital Theatricality”
My application for funds through the OVPRED/HI Seed Money program is in support of fieldwork necessary to my current research project: an analysis of mediatized, intermedial and media-rich performances of Hamlet, which constitutes a chapter in my book about media and theatrical, televisual, and game-based performance. The chapter uses as an anchoring case study high-definition live relays of stage productions of Hamlet to cinemas, and I have been invited to observe the production of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s upcoming broadcast of the play, one the performances which will ground this work. As live relay performances (which are currently under-theorized despite their popularity and mounting relevance to theatre and media studies) claim to communicate the essence of theatrical productions without the immediacy or embodied presence usually considered fundamental to live theatre, they make a compelling site for the chapter’s pressing questions: how should we understand contemporary theatrical practices which pointedly refuse to rely on the live presence of performers, and what does it mean to efface, or even remove embodied human actors from a foundational text of Western humanism? The implications of this practice for prevailing notions of liveness, immediacy, and presence resonate throughout the humanities.
Nicholas Lustig, Assistant Professor
“Variegated Mobilities of Real-Time Crime Centers: The Uneven Spread of High-Tech Policing in U.S. Cities”
This project examines the spread of Real-Time Crime Centers (RTCCs) to cities around the U.S. Justified as efforts to improve departmental efficiency and predictive capabilities, urban police departments nation-wide are spending millions of dollars to redesign their information infrastructures, expand their visual surveillance systems, and integrate billions of digitized records into their data analytics and mapping systems. The command centers, data warehouse, and analytical programs of RTCCs are at the heart of this process. This project draws upon policy mobility studies to analyze the variegated spread of RTCCs—their complicated spatial and temporal pathways of diffusion, the many actors at multiple scales that facilitate their spread, the systematic interconnections that emerge that tie projects together, and the significant degrees of localized divergences due to differences in the conditions and strategies of reception, construction, and evolution of the RTCC techno-policy package. This project utilizes multiple methods—interviews, discourse analysis, archives, and photography—to document the operations of RTCCs in ten different cities, with an initial set of studies done in Memphis and St. Louis. This project contributes to debates in policing, surveillance, policy mobilities, comparative urbanism, and critical smart cities studies.
Ruth Mack, Associate Professor
“Habitual Knowledge: Theory and the Everyday in Enlightenment Britain”
Habitual Knowledge: Theory and the Everyday in Enlightenment Britain offers a new prehistory of cultural anthropology through a wide range of eighteenth-century texts: from novels to devotional manuals, to pattern books. I argue that while “habit” is usually understood as the obverse of Enlightenment, the writers of the period were instead focused on rethinking the habitual in relation to modernity. In so doing, they asked probing questions about topics we now associate with the discipline of anthropology: about the relationship between the observer and the observed, for instance, and about the social status of material objects and beliefs. The project focuses on eighteenth-century Britain, but its larger questions are wide ranging and intersect with current debates about the relation between literary studies and the social sciences, and about the relation between academic theory and everyday practice.
Mark Shepard, Associate Professor
“False Positive (on the null hypothesis)”
FALSE POSITIVE (on the null hypothesis) is an ongoing research-based creative project that aims to catalyze public debate surrounding the surreptitious network practices of contemporary informatics regimes and the infrastructural politics underlying mobile communications systems. Through a series of performances, workshops and related events, the project focuses on exposing both the subtle processes by which personal data can be collected as well as the social and spatial associations that can be subsequently inferred. The project probes the grey areas of both personal consent and statistical probability where a speculative association is established when there is in fact none.
Henry Taylor, Jr., Professor
Urban and Regional Planning
“East Side History Project”
The UB Center for Urban Studies (UB CENTER) – East Side History Project (ESHP) is an effort to create a comprehensive collection of historical documents on Buffalo’s African-American community, giving a voice to people who are traditionally underrepresented in archival collections, but who make up a majority of the population on Buffalo’s East Side. The project expands a partnership with the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library (B&ECPL) by utilizing the B&ECPL “Digital Commons” (DC), a public history website dedicated as a platform for local groups to store and manage their digitized historical documents. The DC is tool developed to reimagine the way public document collections are housed, displayed, and accessed in the 21st century. The ESHP utilizes public outreach to collect the individual histories of current and former East Side residents, and identifies local organizations that have valuable materials that can document the history of the area, but are inaccessible to the public until they are digitized and organized for placement on the DC. Completing the ESHP provides a blueprint for the UB CENTER and its partners to achieve its long term goal of securing major external funding to create a comprehensive collection of all Buffalo population groups.