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HI Faculty Fellow Spotlight: Jordan Fox Besek

February 23, 2021

Each month, we will feature one of the Humanities Institute Faculty Fellows and their answers to a short questionnaire. This month’s featured fellow is Jordan Fox Besek whose [Virtual] Scholars@Hallwalls talk, “W.E.B. Du Bois And Interdisciplinarity: How Du Bois Fused Natural Science Into His Political Projects” takes place on Friday, March 5th at 4pm. Click here to register to attend Jordan’s talk.

What material(s) sparked your current project that you are now working on as a faculty fellow?

  • I consider this work to be only one piece of a broader project to recognize how W.E.B. Du Bois’s work has been ignored and/or tokenized, and to better think through the ways he can inform present critical discussions. In this, it draws from Reiland Rabaka’s Du Bois’s Dialectics, Aldon Morris’s The Scholar Denied, and Cedric Robinson’s Black Marxism. I am also indebted to Julian Go’s Postcolonial Thought and Social Theory, Raewyn Connell’s Southern Theory, and, as always, the oeuvre of Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin.

What has been a source of entertainment these past months as we deal with coronavirus? Any specific recommendations (books, podcasts, film/tv, etc.)?

  • Lillian, our youngest, was born just as the pandemic began which created this surreal, cloistered, space that had its limitations but was ideal for watching movies, if only for 10-40 minutes at a time. So, the two of us decided to become (re)educated in French New Wave/Left Bank cinema, bit by bit. Plenty of Godard, Rohmer, Varda, Truffaut, Marker, and the like, which we loved. Tati, too, of course, whose work perhaps more than anyone else’s is enjoyable at any age. We also think the world of the films of Claire Denis, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Asghar Farhadi, Miguel Gomes, and Christian Petzold. The three films we enjoyed the most that came out recently were Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Groß’s My Happy Family, and Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s Shoplifters. As for books, novels do not yet appeal to Lily, but the novelist I most enjoy right now is Alejandro Zambra. Otherwise, Lily’s favorite show is Puffin Rock, and Fox’s (my five-year-old) favorite writer is Dav Pilkey, who you know as the author of the Captain Underpants novels.

What is your favorite place outdoors in WNY?

  • I like to go for walks and bike rides in Buffalo neighborhoods I have not been before, getting a bit lost. Though now with two small kids in a pandemic I mostly stick to North Buffalo, usually walking around the Carmelite monastery or the Darwin Martin House

Is there a UB colleague whose research or work you think others should know more about?

  • I will pick two, with recent titles. Jaume Franquesa’s book Power Struggles: Dignity, Value and the renewable energy frontier in Spain and Erin Hatton’s Coerced: Work Under the Threat of Punishment. Both are essential, though I draw inspiration from many at UB.

Originating as a 19th century parlor game, popularized by Marcel Proust’s responses, pick a question from the so-called “Proust Questionnaire” to answer.

  • Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
  • I tend to call too many things “outstanding.” Perhaps my bar for what is in good standing is too low…

Our thanks to Jordan for sharing with us! For more information about Millie and the rest of the 2020-21 HI Faculty Fellow cohort, please visit our Faculty Fellows page.