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jennifer gaynor

Jennifer Gaynor

Inaugural OVPR/HI Fellow
Assistant Professor
553 Park Hall

Archipelagic Mobility and Sama Narrative Transformation

Southeast Asia’s maritime history, deeply enmeshed with colonialism, also extends beyond its temporal reach, both preceding European interest and following movements for national independence. In this long history of maritime endeavors, the region’s coastal people were sometimes captors and sometimes captives. This project aims to examine and contextualize the taking of one woman from her coastal village of Sama “sea people” in 1950’s Indonesia by members of an Islamist rebellion. While contemporaneous archival documents frame the repercussions of her abduction in nationalist terms, narratives about Sama “history” from coastal localities scattered across the archipelago help illuminate other frames of significance for this incident. While the project thus speaks to histories of capture, subordination, and translocation, it also foregrounds the analytical relevance of cultural production by those most invested in how this past is retold, and attends to the ways historical and narrative context affect the representation of practices such as capture.

Jennifer L. Gaynor specializes in maritime Southeast Asia, a region that lends itself to the exploration of histories not framed by state-centered geographies. She received her PhD in history and anthropology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.


Trina Hamilton

Assistant Professor
105 Wilkeson Quad

Market Fictions: Constructing Ethical Spaces for the Global Diamond Trade

Canada is now the third largest diamond producer in the world and has quickly cornered the ethical diamond market. Producers and retailers have traded on Canada’s reputation as an environmental and human rights leader and utopian visions of a pristine arctic landscape to market Canada as an ethical production space. These purity narratives are often contrasted with blood diamond portrayals of Africa. Ethical markets are subject to continuous contestation, however, and alternative narratives, including an African empowerment narrative backed by hip hop mogul Russell Simmons, are challenging Canada’s purported ethical monopoly. This project aims to identify the multiplicity and evolution of narratives used to market ethical production spaces, as well as the consumer desires and personal narratives that motivate ethical consumption and mediate the consumer-led governance of the global diamond trade. This diversity provides a market for both the more and less fictionalized representations of ethical spaces, with very real consequences for social and environmental standards at production sites.

Trina Hamilton is a human geographer who teaches and publishes on corporate social and environmental responsibility, global governance networks, international trade, and diverse economies. She received her BA in Geography and English Literature from the University of British Columbia and her MA and PhD in Geography from Clark University.

david Herzberg

David Herzberg

Assistant Professor
565 Park Hall

The Drug War in the Medicine Cabinet: Prescription Drug Addiction in the Age of Miracle Pills

Why have vast and growing markets for prescription uppers, downers, and narcotics characterized America’s “war against drugs”?  Licit drug abuse has always dwarfed “street” drug problems, yet drug war scholarship focuses almost exclusively on heroin, cocaine, and marijuana.  I correct this with a history of prescription drug abuse and addiction in the 20th century U.S. focusing on drug providers (manufacturers, marketers, prescribers, and traffickers); drug users; and others engaged with the issue (addiction treatment experts, journalists, politicians, and activists).  Their stories complicate the drug-medicine divide, and provide important context and framing for understanding American drug wars—just as studies of masculinity and whiteness are crucial to understanding gender and race.  They contribute to the history of health and illness by exposing how the modern medical system was built in part by monopolizing the provision of legal drugs.  And they reveal a forgotten—but useful—history of pro- and anti-drug campaigns, cultural tropes of addiction, and treatment programs relatively free of racially-charged drug war politics.  Based on extensive research into published and archival historical documents, this project will be the first sustained look at the long history of the licit drug cultures that are regularly “discovered” as new and ominous social problems.

David Herzberg teaches and writes about modern U.S. history, with a particular emphasis on medicines, drugs, popular culture, and consumerism. He is the author of Happy Pills in America: From Miltown to Prozac and a number of articles on licit and illicit markets for prescription medicines. He received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

carolyn higbie

Carolyn Higbie

Park Professor of the Classics
338 MFAC

Imaginative Memory: the Discovery, Reconstruction, and Forgery of the Greek Past

In Imaginative Memory: the Discovery, Reconstruction, and Forgery of the Greek Past, I examine a neglected part of Greek intellectual history: the importance of the past to Greeks from the fifth century BC through the second century AD, why this past mattered to them and how they reconstructed it. Their past, known often through physical remains both large and small, was so valued that some were inspired to support their version of it through forgeries and fakes. Greeks depended on physical objects–the helmet of Menelaus, the tomb of Alcmene, the Cyclopean walls of Tiryns–to imagine their history, but many of these remains were either fakes or misinterpreted. Surviving documents show us ancient authors arguing over the genuineness of a claim made for an object and these arguments need to be examined. Such debates run parallel to the literary scholarship at the Library in Alexandria which was being developed from the third century BC, where scholars debated the genuineness of works claimed to be by Homer and others. As Anthony Grafton has observed in his elegant book, Forgers and Critics, both those who create fakes and those who attempt to detect them draw on the same assumptions about the object or the text. I use a wide range of scholarship from other fields in my study of Greek forgery. Students of medieval culture, for example, have devoted much energy to the study of forgery of saints’ relics, charters, and texts, developing useful definitions of forgery and concepts like authenticatory devices, whereby a forger attempts to make his fake seem believable. Another area in which much work has been done is in collecting: anthropological studies of modern cultures, Native American and Maori, in particular, provide a starting point for my study of ancient impulses for collecting. Finally, literary forgery and its discovery are subjects long established in Shakespearean scholarship. Their arguments can be fruitfully applied to Greek arguments about the Homeric poems, the biography (or even existence) of Homer, and the physical evidence for the poet’s life.

Carolyn Higbie is Park Professor of the Classics and Interim Chair of the Classics Dept. at the University at Buffalo. She has written three books: The Lindian Chronicle and the Greek Creation of their Past (Oxford University Press, 2003), Heroes’ Names, Homeric Identities (Garland Publishing, 1995), and Measure and Music: Enjambement and Sentence Structure in the Iliad (Oxford University Press, 1990). Her articles include studies of the early history of the text of Homer, Athenian uses of the past, and ancient Greek archaeology.

jon nelson

Jon Nelson

Inaugural OVPR/HI Fellow
Associate Professor
216 Baird Hall

Switching on the Lights: The Early 20th Century Musical Avant-Garde Goes Electric

Much of the music written during the early part of the 20th Century was revolutionary with respect to sound, rhythm, and melody. As electricity became more common in major metropolitan areas, many musical works came to reflect the transformative power of this new technology. The development of portable electronic instruments did not take place until shortly after World War II, a time when those instruments came to be most commonly associated with popular forms of music. It was not until the1960’s that classical composers began incorporating electronic instruments into their compositions, leading up to what is now the very common sight of acoustic and electric instruments sharing the stage in classical contemporary performances. For this project I will research, transcribe, and orchestrate music by Anton von Webern, Igor Stravinsky, Edgard Varèse, Bela Bartok, Claude Debussy, Charles Ives, Erik Satie, Serge Prokofiev, and Maurice Ravel. The performing ensemble will be the Genkin Philharmonic, a ten-piece electro-acoustic chamber ensemble I founded in the UB Music Department in 1999. I will adapt and re-orchestrate the works for the electro-acoustic ensemble, as if they had been written in the early 20th Century, incorporating space for the players to perform music both written and improvised.

The Genkin will present a short “works in progress” lecture performance in the spring of 2012. All of the music will be recorded in the summer of 2012 and a formal concert of the completed project will take place in the fall of 2012.

Associate Professor of Music Jon Nelson maintains an active career as a performer, teacher, producer and collaborator. He is a founding member of the internationally recognized Meridian Arts Ensemble, and has worked with numerous artists including Natalie Merchant, Marisa Monte, Pierre Boulez, Duran Duran, Arto Lindsay, Milton Babbitt, and Frank Zappa. He may be heard on over 50 CD recordings, and has performed extensively in the US, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Jon holds a B.M. from The Juilliard School where he studied with Mark Gould.

sasha pack

Sasha Pack

Associate Professor
569 Park Hall

Europe’s Deepest Border: The Making of the Modern Strait of Gibraltar

This study examines the history of the Strait of Gibraltar since roughly 1860. Border security may have become a defining global anxiety of our time, but the concept has long bedeviled the range of kingdoms, empires, alliances, and federations operating in this fluid Euro-African space. By the latter nineteenth century, the Strait’s strategic position bridging continents and seas invited neo-imperial conquest and its attendant rules and technologies, all of which overlay a region that had for five centuries formed the approximate boundary between the Christian and Muslim worlds. As a result, the region became extraordinarily diverse, not only in ethnic and religious terms, but also in the types of polities and borders to be found there. Circulation and cross-border traffic, long major features of the region, became increasingly entangled in imperial and Great Power struggles. From examining police reports, diplomatic cables, and other administrative documents, along with journalistic and literary accounts, a picture emerges of how local patterns of mobility across borders conditioned the actions of and relations among distance centers of sovereign power. Examining this regional dynamic suggests new interpretive directions for the international history of Western Europe and North Africa from the late nineteenth century through the twentieth.

Sasha D. Pack is Associate Professor of History. He came to UB in 2004, after completing his doctorate in Modern European History at the University of Wisconsin. His book, Tourism and Dictatorship: Europe’s Peaceful Invasion of Franco’s Spain (New York, 2006), won the “Best First Book, 2004-2006” Prize from the Association for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies, and has appeared in Spanish translation under the title, La invasión pacífica (Madrid, 2009). He has published articles in The Journal of Modern HistorySegle XX, and other academic revues, and serves on the editorial board of the Bulletin for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies.

ramon soto crespo

Ramón E. Soto-Crespo

Associate Professor
American Studies
1031 Clemens Hall

Biotropics: The Biopolitics of Sexual Identity in Latino American Culture

Biotropics: The Biopolitics of Sexual Identity in Latino American Writing, is an interdisciplinary study of male-male sexual practices in Spanish America, the Anglophone Caribbean, and among Latino groups in the U.S.  Building on scholarship produced in anthropology, sociology, medicine, history, cinema, art, and gender studies, “Primitive Futures” focuses on the bugarrón, an anomalous sexual type in Latino American culture.  It compares anthropological and health-related studies of HIV transmission, and it shows how state agencies tackle the epidemic by conceptualizing sexual practice in Westernized terms of identity.  Rather than understanding the bugarrón as an identity, I suggest that it be understood in Foucaultian terms as a site of struggle over the politics of life and death at the time of the AIDS pandemic in Latino America.  “Primitive Futures” thus examines literary and cinematic representations of this figure during the cultural phase of its attempted extermination.

Ramón E. Soto-Crespo is Associate Professor of American Studies and Director of the Latina/o Studies Program at the State University of New York at Buffalo.  His essays have appeared in American Literary History, Modern Language Notes, Modern Fiction Studies, Contemporary Literature, and Textual Practice.  He is the author of Mainland Passage: The Cultural Anomaly of Puerto Rico. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.

hadas steiner

Hadas Steiner

Associate Professor
311 Hayes Hall

Habitat and Home: a study in co-evolution

The projected manuscript will provide an historical analysis of the evolving use of the terms “habitat,” and by extension “ecology,” in architectural discourse, from the abortive “Charter of Habitat” proposed by Le Corbusier at the seventh meeting of CIAM in 1949, through the work of John McHale in the 1970’s.  It will show how the concepts of habitat and ecology entered the architectural discourse through the biological sciences, and how the understanding of these terms changed throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s as they were variously reinterpreted and employed by Peter and Alison Smithson, Cedric Price and John McHale respectively.

Today, discussions of habitat and ecology in architecture are largely circumscribed by guidelines for environmental sustainability that evince naïveté with respect to the conceptual evolution of these terms.  In returning to the radical practices that originally addressed issues of habitat and ecology in the architectural context, this study will provide a theoretical foundation upon which contemporary experimental practices can build a more nuanced response to the environmental needs of today.

Hadas A. Steiner is an architectural historian whose research concentrates on cross-pollinations of technological and cultural aspects of architectural fabrication in the postwar period. Her research has been supported by Visiting Scholarships at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Getty Research Institute and London Zoological Society, as well as numerous grants from the Graham Foundation, SUNY and MIT. Steiner is the author of Beyond Archigram: The Technology of Circulation (Routledge 2009) and her work has appeared in OCTOBER, Grey Room, Journal of Architectural Education and Journal of Architecture among other publications. Works in progress include manuscripts on the photographic documentation conducted by Reyner Banham while in Buffalo, the techno-zoological architecture of Cedric Price, as well as on the architecture of extreme conditions, including the work of John McHale. She received a Ph.D. in the History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

camilo trumper

Camilo Trumper

Assistant Professor
American Studies
1010 Clemens Hall

Ephemeral Histories: Politics, Public Space and Public Art in Allende’s Chile

My book project is a cultural history of political change in 20th century Chile that critically examines the place of urban, visual and material culture in political conflict.  At core, it is a study of the emergence of alternative sites and forms of political debate.  I place urban mobilization at the center of Chilean political history, and argue that ephemeral urban actions and visual sources are critical to the telling of this story.  I propose a cross-disciplinary method of study that takes these tactics and the sources they produced seriously as part of a history of late 20th century political change.  I examine the many ways in which a range of groups historically excluded from the public sphere took advantage of post-war political openings and the embattled Allende regime’s commitment to fluid political contest.  Utilizing an original set of tactics, including land and factory seizures, marches and protests, and public forms of visual art, they claimed city streets and walls and transformed them into arenas of political debate, effectively creating the political public sphere rooted in public space.  My research finds that these newly politicized agents fashioned a novel form of political citizenship not through direct struggles for the state, but in their struggles over equal access to, and ownership of city spaces.  Thus, I propose a political history that recognizes urban practice, architecture and industrial design, and visual and material culture as indispensable sources for the study of political conflict and state making.

Camilo Trumper completed his Ph.D. at Berkeley in 2008.  He is interested in the connection between urban history, politics, and visual and material culture.  He is currently revising his book manuscript, a cultural history of political change in late twentieth-century Chile.  He recently published an article in the Radical History Review’s special number on visual culture in contexts of war and violence, entitled Social Violence, Political Conflict and Latin American Film:  The Politics of Place in the “Cinema of Allende”  His future research plans take him into the 19th and 20th centuries through a study of the Chilean port city of Valparaiso in the context of a wider “Pacific World.”  He has taught courses in Latin American urban history, visual and material culture, memory and historical methods, and Latin America foodways.

ewa ziarek

Ewa Ziarek

Julian Park Professor
Comparative Literature
638 Clemens Hall

Natality and Biopolitics

This new book project, Natality and Biopolitics, explores possibilities and limitations of the feminist politics of “natality” in the age of biopolitics. It takes as its point of departure Hannah Arendt’s political theory of natality, a term which refers primarily not to the biological birth, but to the entry into the political order.  For Arendt natality is the condition  of political action, community, and intersubjective freedom. Yet, Arendt is not only the thinker of natality but also, as the Italian philosopher, Georgio Agamben acknowledges in Homo Sacer, the first thinker of biopolitics, that is,  politics which takes the regulation of biological life and the security of the population as its target.  Consequently the most important question for feminist politics of natality is how these two sides of the Western political reality diagnosed by Arendt’s work– biopolitics and democratic political action– can be negotiated.  What is crucial about this question is first of all the possibility of action and intersubjective freedom in the age of biopolitics – the issue Agamben and Foucault grapple with but never resolve or explicitly elaborate.  Second, it is  the diagnosis of the destructive impact of biopolitics, in particular biopolitics in the area of reproduction, on the very condition of intersubjective freedom.  By interrogating these two issues from a feminist perspective, the book will explore multiple intersections between biopolitics and natality in the context of labor, action, birth and abortion, as well as the constructions of motherhood and national security vis a vis the war on terror.

Ewa Plonowska Ziarek is Julian Park Professor of Comparative Literature and the Founding Director of Humanities Institute at the State University of New York at Buffalo. She is the author of  Feminist Aesthetics: Literature, Gender, and Race in Modernity (forthcoming); An Ethics of Dissensus: Feminism, Postmodernity, and the Politics of Radical Democracy (Stanford 2001); and The Rhetoric of Failure: Deconstruction of Skepticism, Reinvention of Modernism (SUNY, 1995); the editor of Gombrowicz’s Grimaces: Modernism, Gender, Nationality, (SUNY, 1998); and the co-editor of Revolt, Affect, Collectivity: The Unstable Boundaries of Kristeva’s Polis (SUNY 2005) and Time for the Humanities: Praxis and the Limits of Autonomy (Fordam UP 2008). and Intermedialities: Philosophy, Art, Politics (Rowman &Littlefield 2010)).  She has published numerous articles on Kristeva, Irigaray, Derrida, Agamaben, Foucault, Levinas, Fanon, feminist theory and literary modernism.


Charles D. Abbott Library Fellowship

Kurt Ozment

Ph.D. University of California Irvine
Program in Cultures, Civilizations, and Ideas (CCI)
Bilkent University, Turkey

Dr. Ozment will be working with the Morton Feldman Papers, 1950-1999, in the Special Collections of the Music Library as well as the C.F. Peters Collection of Morton Feldman Manuscripts, 1961-1969, and the Archive of the Center of the Creative and Performing Arts, 1964-1980.  These collections are particularly important for Dr. Ozment’s two main areas of research: the rhetoricity of Feldman’s writings and the visuality of Feldman’s scores.  The collections are helpful for deepening the understanding of the context in which Feldman composed.  In addition, the collections provide access to Feldman’s working methods.  The research Dr. Ozment will continue at the University at Buffalo will compliment archival research he has previously completed Switzerland and Los Angeles


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