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marc bohlen

Marc Böhlen
Associate Professor, Department of Media Study
College of Arts and Sciences
University at Buffalo
231 Center for the Arts
Phone:  716.645.6902, ext. 1491
email: marcbohlen_AT_acm_DOT_org

Web site:
Click here to read a review of Böhlen’s Humanities Institute Fellows lecture


Make Language: Living with Synthetic Speech

Now that machines sound almost like we do it is time to imagine what they might have to say.

The capacity to produce speech is often cited as the core feature of being human. Animals, plants and silicon do not speak. Computers, however, can be constructed to produce speech-like sounds. Indeed the best machinic speech systems today are capable of voice production of surprisingly ‘natural’ quality. This artificial naturalness in speech is a particularly salient example of the opportunities and problems of strong mimesis in synthetic systems; it constitutes a new paradigm in human computer interaction: How shall we deal with systems that sound like us but are everything but human?

The HI Institute research sabbatical enabled me to continue an ongoing inquiry into this topic that I call the MakeLanguage Project.  Synthetic speech is yet another chapter in an age-old struggle with mimesis. Previously, mimetic practices were cultural practices and occurred in the arts (painting and sculpture). Today, mimesis is strongly represented in the engineering sciences, as artificial flavors, humanoid robots and machine generated human-like speech remind us. One of the goals of this project is to query the cultural side effects of these new mimetic practices.

Parts I and II of MakeLanguage deal with constraints and social norms in the production and (industrial) use of synthetic speech. This includes the experimental creation of synthetic accents (German in English and Spanish in English) and situations in which such new  voices best unfold their own awkwardness. It also includes alternatives, rather nasty ones at that, to the endlessly polite robotic voices that greet us at airports and take our orders over the phone. It culminates in a pair of pink robots that read online celebrity trash and get into synthetic hissy fits discussing it. The last part of this work deals with the problem of grounding and embodiment in synthetic speech. It queries the physical forms that contain these voices and the ways in which the physicality of these forms inform (and limit) the speech act itself.

In practical terms, the research sabbatical allowed me to design and implement, almost to completion, the last part of the project. I was fortunate to be able to do this at the AILAB Zürich, a cognitive science research lab that specializes in embodied intelligence.  The lab’s focus on embodied robotics motivated me to concentrate the work on pre-linguistic forms of synthetic utterances that can be tied directly to primitive percepts. This translated in practice into an installation comprising a robotic (amateur) telescope coupled with a digital camera setup that scans the sky for stars and satellites and creates almost human-like utterances of wonder, oohs aahs and wows, when it finds something. I call this the AUTO-WOW project; a machine for people too busy to bother with being awed by the stars at night, but too human not to care about them. That is what machines that sound almost like we do should be telling us.

The research sabbatical also allowed me to reflect on the first two parts of the work and formulate the results in publications. In early 2008, “Robots with Bad Accents” will appear in Leonardo (MIT Press), and at the end of this year “Help from Strangers – Media Arts in Ambient Intelligence” will be published with IOS Press (Amsterdam).

More on this project is available here:

Marc Böhlen, artist-engineer, is associate professor in the department of Media Study at the University at Buffalo, visiting professor at the AILAB, University of Zürich and visiting professor at the University of Toronto’s Al&D (faculty of architecture landscape and design).

Böhlen’s research is tightly coupled to robotics design in methodology and succinctly different from it in scope and critical focus, an ongoing effort to diversify machine culture. His work has been recognized in numerous awards and nominations including VIDA/ALIFE (winner 2004), Rockefeller New Media awards (nominated 2006 and 2007). Recent work has been presented at Satellite Voyeurism (Dortmund 2007), ISEA (San Jose 2006) and Subtle Technologies (Toronto 2006). Recent and upcoming publications include More Help from Strangers; Media Arts and Ambient Intelligence (IOS Press Amsterdam 2007), The House for the Computer for the 21st Century (I4/Frankfurt 2007) and Robots with Bad Accents, Living with Synthetic Speech (Leonardo/MIT Press 2008).

elliot caplan

Elliot Caplan
Professor, Department of Media Studies
Director, Center for the Moving Image
College of Arts and Sciences
University at Buffalo
231 Center for the Arts
Phone: 716.645.6902 ext. 1497
Fax: 716.645.6979
Web site:

Click here to read a review of Caplan’s Humanities Institute Fellows lecture


Hidden Things: a children’s story – Working title
Elliot Caplan – producer/director
Running time – 95 minutes

Hidden Things: a children’s story is a feature-length film on the experience of Jewish children during the Holocaust as seen and understood through the objects – toys, clothing, family heirlooms – which they carried with them. The unique idea behind this film is to show how these objects are the only remaining link with the life that existed before the war. It has been estimated that 1.5 million Jewish children were murdered in the Holocaust, the majority of them under the age of fifteen. Objects played a critical role in helping children survive their ordeal, whether they were in a concentration camp, in hiding, or separated from their families. Objects helped to sustain the memory of parents, siblings, friends and relatives. Emotional bonds were formed between object and the holder of that object ? bonds, which continue to this day. C hildren who survived are now elderly and represent the last living connection to one of the most tragic events in human history. Through documentation, interviews and artistry, this film will capture their testimony and visually link their stories to some of the most poignant artifacts from that time.

Since accepting the position of professor in film at the University at Buffalo , The State University of New York, I have pursued the enhancement between my own work and the university. The Humanities Institute grant, awarded in 2006 afforded me the opportunity to begin post-production on this documentary project.

The Humanities Institute award, the first since the formation of the Institute, came at a formidable time for the film. The grant award was the equivalent to a semester’s relief from teaching. Though, there not sufficient funds to complete the film, I used the time given to advance the film’s agenda. Through a new equipment acquisition fund, I was able to begin the post-production process by supervising the transfer of all film footage into a series of digital storage devices. Graduate students from the Department of Media Study at UB assisted in this process. It will now be possible to access and view all the film material through these digital storage devices. I also pursued fundraising possibilities through meetings with individuals and foundations in both New York City and Western New York , who would potentially be interested in funding the film.

This past March, I delivered a lecture on the film project HIDDEN THINGS in relation to the history of my work in film, video and performance. The editing of this project is scheduled for a four-month period pending the securing of final budget.

Elliot Caplan
Emmy award winning producer Elliot Caplan served as filmmaker in residence at the Cunningham Dance Foundation from 1983 until January 1998, collaborating with Merce Cunningham and John Cage in the production of films and videos. Together, their work has aired nationally on PBS, Bravo, Arts & Entertainment, and internationally to thirty-five countries.

From 1996-2000, Caplan served as segment producer for PBS’s national series on art in America, “EGG,” and received an Emmy Award and Cine Golden Eagle for “Outstanding Cultural Programming.” His work includes segments on Richard Serra and The Whitney Biennial 2000. As producer for City Arts, WNET/THIRTEEN, Caplan’s work included, the making of Carmen Backstage at The Metropolitan Opera with James Levine, Plácido Domingo, Waltraud Meier and Franco Zeffirelli; Jackson Pollack @ MoMA; the restoration of the Rose Reading Room at The New York Public Library, Reading Room Restored; and a segment profiling architect/sculptor, Maya Lin.

Caplan’s other work includes theater design and direction. In collaboration with Tony award winning performer Bill Irwin, Caplan designed an evening of theater and video which was presented at The Roundabout Theatre in New York, June 1999. Caplan designed pieces that were performed by the Cunningham Company at the Next Wave Festival, Brooklyn Academy of Music, October 1997 and in Paris at the Opera Garnier, January 1998. Together with composer Michael Gordon and the orchestra ENSEMBLE RESONANZ, Caplan produced the twenty-six screen video opera Weather, sponsored by the Siemens Foundation Kultur Program and Oper Bonn, which toured five cities in Europe through 2001. In 1991, Caplan and Gordon made Van Gogh Video Opera, first performed at the Bang On A Can Festival and then at the Akademie der Bildenden Kunst, Vienna. With German choreographer Sasha Waltz, Caplan designed a sixteen-screen multi-monitor projection for live performance. Alle der Kosmonauten has been the recipient of numerous awards including, ?Berliner Theatertreffen?, 1996 and the National Theater Festival selection 1997, Seoul, Korea. Caplan produced the film, One To Four with British choreographer, Robert Poole which features Poole as performer. Additional film collaborations include works with Bruce Baillie, Richard Foreman, Yvonne Rainer and Susan Seidelman.

Caplan’s work has received numerous awards, including: 1999-2000 Emmy Award for Outstanding Cultural Programming, National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences; 2000 Cine Golden Eagle Award, Outstanding Cultural Series; 1996 Gold Award, Dance On Camera Festival at Lincoln Center, Best Documentary; 1995 Bessie Award for Best New Video Work; “Grand Prix International Video Danse 1994”, and the “Categorie Captation de Spectacle Prix Academie des Beaux Arts”, Stockholm, Sweden; 1993 Grand Prize, New York Dance on Camera Festival; 1993 IMZ Dance Screen Award Grand Prix; 1992 IMZ Dance Screen Award for Best Documentary for Cage/Cunningham. Points In Space, commissioned by BBC-Television was awarded the “Golden Prague” at the 25th International Television Festival, Czech Republic. Changing Steps received The New York Times Critics Choice, 1990 Gold Award Dance On Camera Festival, and the 2nd Grand Prix International Video-Danse Festival, France. Caplan’s documentary art film on painter, Robert S. Zakanitch won the Chicago International Film Festival and the International Art Film Biennale at Centre George Pompidou, Paris.

Film and video retrospectives have been presented in Portugal, Holland, Japan and the United States. Video installations were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, Buenos Aires (1999); Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York; The Jewish Museum, Vienna (1997); Whitney Museum of American Art, Philip Morris Gallery, New York (1995); and the Cartier Foundation, Paris (1996). Caplan’s work is included in the following permanent collections: The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Musee National d’Art Moderne, Centre George Pompidou and Cinematheque Francais, Paris, the National Institute of the Arts, Taiwan; Tanzfilm Institute, Cologne and the Munich Filmmuseum, Germany, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel, the Instituto Itaú Cultural, Brazil, and The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

He has taught courses, lectured and been in residence at colleges and universities in the United States and abroad including co-direction with Michael Kidd of the Dance/Film/Video Workshop at the Sundance Institute. Caplan has served as a panel member and juror for the National Endowment for the Arts, Mellon Foundation, Jacob’s Pillow, IMZ Dance Screen, British Arts Council, Fulbright Fellowships, and the Sundance Film Festival.

In 1998, Elliot Caplan founded Picture Start Films to produce artistic and commercial media projects. Current projects include, Hidden Thing: A Children’s Story, a feature documentary film funded in part by the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, UTANGO, a performance film currently screening throughout the U.S. and Europe, and Steel Work, an experimental visual symphony on DVD with music by Philip Glass, David Bowie and Brian Eno.

amy graves

Amy Graves
Assistant Professor, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures
College of Arts and Sciences
University at Buffalo
1035 Clemens Hall
Phone:  716.645.2191, ext. 1183


The bulk of my research time as a fellow at the Humanities Institute was spent preparing my book manuscript for publication. My manuscript is entitled Une grande histoire de petits textes: l’historiographie engagée de Simon Goulart and will be published by Droz Press in Geneva Switzerland.

My revisions included a reworking of the theoretical chapter that treats Early Modern historiography as a whole and the chapter is vastly improved by a more thorough grounding in very, very recent secondary literature. The same can be said for the sections of the manuscript dealing with pamphlet literature and political thought?I took advantage of the research time to expand the horizon of my research to include a comparison to pamphleteering and political engagement in Germany and England.

I also had the opportunity to give several conferences, as follows:

  • Kentucky Foreign Language Conference           April 2007
  • Classical Models, Early Modern Innovations: How French Renaisssance Historigraphical Genres Found their Voice
  • Renaissance Society of America             March 2007
  • Panel co-organizer with Irena Backus (IHR-Geneva): Piety in the Margins

“Pious Satire or Satirical Piety? Protestant Polemical Strategies? (paper)

and Panel chair: Agrippa d’Aubigné and Religious Difference , organized by Marcus Keller (Urbana-Champaign)

  • University of Chicago Paris Center            March 2007

Colloque ?Montaigne théologien? ?La théologie en voyage?

  • University of Illinois at Chicago             February 2007
  • University of Chicago               March 2007
  • SUNY at Buffalo                March 2007

?Time, Trauma and Writing: How Historical Narrative Radicalized Huguenot Resistance Theory?

The Montaigne conference will be submitted for publication in the conference proceedings in August.

In addition to scholarly activities directly related to my personal research, I also continued, in collaboration with my colleague Dario Brancato, the transcription of manuscript marginalia in a copy of the first edition of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (Manutius, Venice, 1499) held at the Grosvenor rare books room at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.

Amy Graves earned the Ph.D. degree from the University of Chicago. She specializes in 16th century French literature, history of the book and material culture, propaganda and polemics, wars of religion (Protestant and Catholic Reformations) and Historiography.

carin mardorossian

Carine Mardorossian
Associate Professor, Department of English
College of Arts and Sciences
University at Buffalo
306 Clemens Hall
Phone: 716.645.2575 ext. 1063

Click here to read a Review of Carine Mardorossoan’s Humanities Institute Fellows lecture


What is Left of Radical Feminism?
The Humanities Institute Fellowship allowed me to complete research I needed to do for a chapter of my second book project What is Left of Radical Feminism? The book examines the legacies of the second wave of the feminist movement, and the chapter I was completing deals specifically with contemporary women’s agencies and what distinguishes them from their seventies’ counterpart. I undertook an oral history that took me to Champaign-Urbana and Pittsburgh to interview women who had been involved in the second wave (thanks also in part to a grant from the Baldy Center).

I am currently seeking a publisher for this second book.  The prospectus for this book can be viewed here

Carine Mardorossian specializes in postcolonial and feminist studies and is the author of the “Reclaiming Difference: Caribbean Women Rewrite Postcolonialism” (University of Virginia Press, 2005), which examines post colonialism through the eyes of Caribbean women writers.  She is the author of the study, “Laboring Women, Coaching Men: Masculinity and Childbirth Education in the Contemporary United States.” Her articles have appeared in the journals Gender StudiesSigns: Journal of Women in Culture and SocietyCollege LiteratureHypatia, and Callaloo.

everett zhang

Everett Yuehong Zhang
Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology
College of Arts and Sciences
University at Buffalo
376 Filmore Academic Center
Phone:  716.645.2414, ext. 106

Web site:


Life, Sacrifice, and the Transformation of Chinese Socialism

As a fellow of the Humanities Institute at UB in the 2006-2007 academic year, I worked on the project titled ?Life, Sacrifice and the Transformation of Chinese Socialism.? The goal of this project was to examine the transformation of the ethos of sacrifice prevalent in the Maoist period, particularly in the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).

My primary concern was with how sacrifice of life became a precondition for socialist sovereignty. It consists of three lines of inquiry. First, it engages with a surfeit of literature on religious, ritualistic sacrifice and a reflection on its relevance under modernity, of which the anti-religious socialist China was only an example. Second, it addresses the theoretical debate over the past decade in the social sciences and humanities concerning the relationship between sovereignty and ?bare life,? between sovereignty and governmentality. Third, it explores China ‘s transformation from under the rule of the ?proletarian dictatorship,? a sovereign rule unique to the period of the Maoist socialism and Cultural Revolution to post-Mao China , through the treatment of life both by people in different walks of life and by the state.

I conducted anthropological fieldwork in Fall, 2006 in two cities in China ? Chongqing in the southwest and Shanghai in the east. The two sites form a comparison between ?two Chinas???the East China? as a prosperous and more developed area and ?the West China? as an inland and less developed area. But the two cities both belong to south China , a distinctive regional culture from that of north China and also are located on the bank of the Yangtze River . I traveled back and forth between the two cities two times, focusing on one key site in either city. In Chongqing , I primarily did participant observations and interviews in the Shaping Park Red Guards Graveyard and tried to piece together a picture of sacrifice of human life in the frenzy factional fights of the Red Guards and Rebels some 40 years ago. In Shanghai , I collected narratives of people who had known Jin Xunhua, a Shanghai native who became a national hero after he had died in rescuing the property of the state in a northern province 30 some years ago. I focused on how completely different experience today reshaped the memories of the sacrifice and life itself. It is intended to shed light on the consistent logic behind the forces that drives the move of sacrifice from the Maoist period to the post-Mao Chinese society.

The framework of my project has expanded beyond my original design, in that new sites and events have continued to emerge, and new dimensions and layers of the thematics have kept on coming up, which, nonetheless, is a good sign. As the very first result of this project, I presented a lecture titled ?The Specter of Sacrifice: The Logic of Sovereignty in post-Mao China ? on March 26, 2007 . I was very encouraged by the discussions my lecture generated and the comments and questions I received from faculty members of a variety disciplines (comparative literature, history, political sciences, philosophy, Asian studies, anthropology, etc.). I plan to submit the first article to a journal in this summer, and will produce a book eventually.

Everett Yuehong Zhang
 His research interests include sexuality and medicine, the body and anti-body, subjectification and cultural psychiatry, experience and social construction of human existence, Chinese medicine, Daoist practices in contemporary China (particularly the cultivation of life), the governance of life, Chinese nationalism under globalization, citizenship making and unmaking, masculinity.


David Gray Chair Library Fellow 

maria farland
Maria Farland
Assistant Professor, Departments of English and American Studies
Fordham University
441 East Fordham Road
Phone:  718-817-4026


William Carlos Williams & Agrarian Inferiority

During my stay at Buffalo, I completed an essay on pastoral poetry and ideas of rural inferiority titled “Modernist Versions of Pastoral: Poetic Inspiration, Scientific Expertise, and the ‘Degenerate’ Farmer.” It will appear in the Fall 2007 issue of American Literary History.

I also examined materials relating to an essay I am preparing on William Carlos Williams and agrarian America . Relevant materials include the poetry collection’s extensive published materials on Williams (autobiographies, letters, secondary literature), and manuscripts from the 1910-1930 period available on microfilm.

In addition, Buffalo ‘s poetry collection contains numerous rare volumes from the early twentieth century, and my research helped me to identify several lesser-known writers who shared Williams’s interest in rural social problems. One of the most fascinating of these poets is Wallace Gould, an Abnaki Indian poet praised by Williams, Sherwood Anderson, Waldo Frank, and Marsden Hartley for his exemplary modernism. Gould’s 1917 collection Children of the Sun blends scenes from his childhood in agrarian Maine , with vignettes from the distant native American past, in a series of striking experimental long poems. As part of my work on pastoral, I plan to develop a detailed consideration of Gould’s work alongside that of Edwin Arlington Robinson and Marsden Hartley, two influential contemporaries who shaped a Maine-based rural modern style.

Maria Farland is associate professor of English and American Studies at Fordham University , and has taught at Wesleyan, Columbia , and Johns Hopkins Universities . Her work concerns intersections of literature and science, especially neurological science and scientific agriculture.

David Gray Chair Library Fellow 

stephen fredman
Stephen Fredman
Professor & Chair, Department of English
College of Arts & Letters
University of Notre Dame
356 O’Shaughnessy Hall
Phone:  574-631-7226
Web site:


‘Grief’s Its Proper Mode’: Robert Duncan Re-Enters Caesar’s Gate in 1972

During the two-week period from May 22 to June 2, 2006, I was privileged to read extensively in the treasure trove of holdings on Robert Duncan in the Poetry Collection.  At least half of my reading consisted of the first thirty-seven of Duncan’s notebooks, filled with drafts of poems, essays, and stories, with notes from his reading, and with personal reflections. I was struck by how Duncan found Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein to be continuous provocations and by how often William Carlos Williams and Jean Cocteau also recurred.  Surprisingly, not until her Selected Poems was published did H. D. become a major focus.

The general topics that most obsess Duncan in the notebooks can be subsumed under the headings of Form, Imagination, Borders, Sex, Friendship, Derivation, and Impersonality.  Texts that Duncan copies into the notebooks and responds to extensively during these years include The Zohar, Whitehead’s Process and Reality, and the writings of Jacob Boehme.  The notebooks also contain drafts of prefaces to many of his books, most of which were never published.

The second half of my reading consisted of letters between Duncan and others:  his partner Jess; the filmmakers Kenneth Anger, Larry Jordan, and Stan Brakhage; the artists Jay DeFeo, Wallace Berman, Bruce Conner, and George Herms; the anarchists James and Blanche Cooney; the composers Lou Harrison and Harry Partch; the classicist Norman O. Brown; and the poets Jerome Rothenberg, David Meltzer, Jack Hirschman, and Michael McClure.  In addition, I was able to view a rarely seen short film by Jess, ?HEAVY WATER or THE 40 & 1 NIGHTS or JESS’S DIDACTIC NICKELODEON,” which contains forty-one of Jess’s visual collages accompanied by a sound collage he mixed, each image and sound excerpt lasting five seconds.  I came away with a wealth of notes and photocopies that will be of immense benefit to my current project of placing Duncan within the dynamic California arts culture of the fifties and sixties.

Stephen Fredman

Fredman’s field is 20th-century American poetry and poetics. His first book, Poet’s Prose: The Crisis in American Verse (Cambridge UP, 1983; 1990) , is concerned with the theoretical and historical conditions that make contemporary poetry viable. His second study, The Grounding of American Poetry: Charles Olson and the Emersonian Tradition  (Cambridge UP, 1993), examines the tradition of avant-garde writers in America. His third book, A Menorah for Athena: Charles Reznikoff and the Jewish Dilemmas of Objectivist Poetry  (U Chicago P, 2001), discusses modern American poetry and Jewish identity. He recently edited A Concise Companion to 20th-Century American Poetry  (Blackwell, 2005). He is at work on a new book, tentatively titled Grand Collage: Robert Duncan and California Culture .  Research and teaching interests include the use of performance in postmodern art, the West Coast aesthetic, and the impact of collage on 20th-Century arts. He has been awarded NEH, ACLS, and Lilly fellowships.

Charles D. Abbott Library Fellow

Susanne E. Hall
Graduate Student, Department of English & Comparative Literature
School of Humanities
University of California, Irvine

Poetic-In-Justice: 1960s U.S. Poetry in the Courtroom

My current project explores the work of the poet and of poetry as a site of political action and organization in late mid-twentieth century U.S. culture.  The project maps relationships between U.S. literary culture and the broader cultural and political unrest of the historical period, with specific attention to the advent of mass media. I examine ways in which poets and communities of poets/artists react to and cope with the rapid changes in language, communication, image-making, and representation that are concomitant with the explosive growth of the mass media during the latter half of the twentieth century; in particular, I am interested in poets who struggle to make poetry do political work, variously defined, in this milieu.  In my analysis, I focus in particular on emerging publication technologies and strategies in poetic arts (including performance), the emergence of new poetic communities, and censorship and legal action related or involving poetry.

Susanne Hall’s research interests include Autobiography, Lyric Poetry, and Marxist Criticism

James Joyce Library Fellow

Geert Lernout
Professor, Departments of English and Comparative Literature
Director, Antwerp James Joyce Center
University of Antwerp
Grote Kauwenberg 18  
2000 Antwerp, Belgium
Phone: 032204257
Web site:

Finnegans Wake Notebooks at Buffalo Edition

Geert Lernout will continue his work on the Finnegans Wake Notebooks at Buffalo edition, with a careful scrutiny of those early notebooks that have not been published yet: VI.B.2 and VI.B.11 and the early parts of VI.A. With these three notebooks and the ones that have already been published, we’ll have a complete record of Joyce’s work on Finnegans Wake for the first two years, from the autumn of 1922 to the end of 1924. It is in this crucial period that Joyce laid the groundwork for what would become the last and most ambitious writing project of his literary career.

Geert Lernout is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Antwerp and Director of the James Joyce Centre. His books include The French Joyce (1990), The Poet as Thinker: Hölderlin in France (1994), and Iets Anders: De GoldBerg-Varieties van Bach (2001) and is author of articles on European literatures and literary and editorial theory. He is co-editor of The Reception of James Joyce in Europe (2004) and The Finnegans Wake Notebooks.


Click here to read a Press Release about the Local 2006-07 NYCH Reading Between the Lines Programs:


Alex Bitterman
Assistant Professor, Department of Graphic Design
College of Imaging Arts and Sciences
Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester NY
Email: alex[dot]bitterman[at]rit[dot]edu

Branding of Place: How Corporate-style Branding is Changing Where and How We Live

The community branding phenomenon is a relatively recent development in North America . This type of branding, or “identity making,” is rooted in the marketing and promotion of “place” to tourists but is rapidly changing in terms of tactic, form and outcome. The branding of place as “destination” is slowly becoming less about attracting visitors from a far-away location, and more about demarcating and delineating territories within a local “and often metropolitan” area. Often marked by signature elements such as fabricated place names, unique street furniture and well-developed advertising campaigns, community identity programs (CldP) can distinguish as well demarcate specific geographic locations. While CldP can help to create a sense of inclusion amongst members of a community and can help to create a collective identity from a set of shared characteristics, CldP can also enable spatially-rooted hegemonies that reinforce existing sociological divides. The focus of this group will be to explore the past and present trends used to brand communities, and how these practices have changed over time, as well as how the recent increase in community branding will affect the places and spaces we call home.

Alex Bitterman is an assistant professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology and previously served as a research assistant professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning in the UB School of Architecture and Planning. In May 2007 Bitterman received the RIT Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Luke Goble
Graduate Student, Department of American Studies
College of Arts and Sciences

Immigration and the Idea of America

The history of America is marked by the contradiction that it is viewed as a nation founded on immigration yet riddled at multiple points with ideas of and efforts at exclusion. While social analyses show that immigration, and America’s policies and attitudes toward it, has always been about labor supply, idealogical analyses show how American citizens and new immigrants have imagined each other in conflicting ways. This reading series will focus on the relationship between imaginings of America both by and about immigrants and the realities of immigrants’ experiences throughout American history.

Ben Franklin’s Autobiography has influenced ideas of the American dream and the Horatio Alger rags-to-riches myth for over 200 years. A closer reading of Franklin ‘s advice against his own experiences, however, reveal a more problematic and nuanced treatment of the paradoxes of American identity. Crevecoeur’s Letters gives an early account by a foreigner of sort of ?What is an American, this new man?? during a time when the answer to that question was still very much up for grabs. Bodnar’s Transplanted picks up the story around 1830, dealing with many of the sociological questions and problems of immigration in urban areas. Finally, Ronald Takaki’s A Different Mirror raises questions about the way we see ourselves as Americans by telling and reflecting on the stories of immigrants throughout American history.

As recent events like the minutemen in the Southwest, President Bush’s guest worker legislation, and homeland security issues all show, the question of relationship between immigration and America ‘s self-image is far from resolved. The historical and cultural perspective that these texts provide will help participants to see many of the hidden perspectives necessary to understand historical and contemporary questions regarding immigrants and the idea of America .

Luke Goble received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard University. His Ph.D. dissertation is a study of indigenous peoples and nationalism in the Americas. He is working under the direction of Galen Brokaw, UB Assistant Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and a specialist in Latin American colonial and indigenous culture.


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