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UF Synergies: Current Scholarship in the Humanities

Funded by the UF Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere

UF Synergies

General Objectives of the Series

The UF Synergies series features informal talks by the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere’s Rothman Faculty Summer Fellows, Tedder Doctoral Fellows, and Rothman Doctoral Fellows. Fellows will speak for 20 minutes in length about their funded work, leaving ample time for questions and discussion. Talks are paired across disciplinary boundaries to stimulate discussions about threads and connections across research areas and allow for synergies of ideas to emerge in interdisciplinary conversations.

FALL 2019

Postcoloniality in the Spanish-speaking World

Monday, September 23, 2019 @ 4:00pm, Humanities Center Conference Room (Walker 200B)


  • Arianne Boileau (Anthropology), Rothman Doctoral Fellow: “Life on the Edge: Documenting Indigenous Community Dynamics on the Maya/Spanish Frontier of Yucatán”

Arianne Boileau’s talk investigates resilience in indigenous socio-cultural systems on the Maya/Spanish frontier of Yucatán. It is generally considered, and documented to some extent, that Maya hierarchical structures remained relatively intact, even under Spanish oversight. Using zooarchaeology, I suggest that the Maya elite of Lamanai (Belize) may have retained, and perhaps enhanced, their political authority by pursuing traditional routes of faunal exploitation and taking advantage of new resources introduced by the Spanish. This would be consistent with the loose control exerted over Lamanai by the Spanish of Salamanca de Bacalar. Overall, this research refines our understanding of indigenous community dynamics along Spanish colonial frontiers.


  • Daniel Fernández (History), Rothman Doctoral Fellow: “A Benevolent Interpretation of National Laws: Transnational and National Efforts to Resettle Spanish Republican Refugees in Cuba, 1939-1945”

In 1939, more than 500,000 Spanish Republicans crossed into France after the destruction of Spain’s Second Republic. Subsequently, Spanish refugees attempted a second exodus from Europe to places like Cuba, where a rising tide of nativist decrees prevented their resettlement. However, as this paper reveals, a burgeoning transnational community of Spanish refugees, international aid organizations, and pro-Republican forces in Cuba helped many refugees circumvent legal barriers. By exploring these networks and the contributions of state and non-state actors, who prioritized humanitarianism and solidarity over nationalism, this talk exposes the role of transnational actors on the fluidity of borders in Cuba.


Bodies in Movement and Science

Tuesday, October 8, 2019 @ 4:00 pm, Humanities Center Conference Room (Walker 200B)


  • Dr. Rae Yan (English), Rothman Faculty Fellow: “Redefining Anatomy in the Victorian Age”

Dr. Rae Yan’s talk traces the reshaping of anatomy as subject during the Victorian age. She recovers a history of collaboration between scientific and literary writers fueled by an attempt to negotiate what “anatomizing” should be following a major biomedical ethics scandal—the Burking Affair of 1828—where two men committed murder to profit from selling human remains to anatomical schools. Analyzing a series of correspondences between scientific and literary Victorian writers, Yan argues that these writers were attempting to redefine anatomy as an epistemological practice capable of ethical ends.

  • Meagan Frenzer (History), Rothman Doctoral Fellow: “Undercover & Out of Step: Monitoring and Reforming Chicago’s Dance Halls, 1920-1930”

Meagan Frenzer’s presentation focuses on Chicago’s anti-dance hall campaigns in the early twentieth century. In a 1921 article by the Illinois Vigilance Society in the Chicago Tribune claimed that urban dancehalls were catering to the “lowest elements of society” and turning Chicago into the “Devil’s Playground.” Throughout the early twentieth century, dancehalls developed as urban leisure and labor spaces that evoked both excitement and condemnation. To social reform organizations, dancehalls became the epicenter from which the perceived social disease of immorality spread. Yet, patrons and female workers found fulfillment and labor opportunities unavailable elsewhere in Chicago. Therefore, dancehalls and its diverse participants act as a lens into Chicago’s evolving political, social, and religious environment through the 1920s.


National Humanities Center Summer Residencies

Monday, October 21, 2019 @ 4:00 pm, Humanities Center Conference Room (Walker 200B)


  • Dr. Trysh Travis (CGSWSR), National Humanities Summer Resident: “A Gray Account of a Black and White Issue”

Dr. Trysh Travis will present on the research she conducted while she was in residency at the National Humanities Center in the summer of 2019, which resulted in an article with the working title “‘Lee Was a Gentleman’: Understanding White Women’s Polite Racism in the Confederate Monument Controversy.”  She will discuss her decision to write about a statue of Robert E. Lee that was recently removed from a city park in Dallas, a few blocks from the house where her grandmother grew up. She will draw out the connections and contradictions among her political, intellectual, and “artistic” motivations for this project, and the choices she made among possible approaches, archives, and publication outlets. Along the way she will attend to the ways that the environment at the NHC helped her to think about the material.


  • Luc Houle (History), National Humanities Summer Resident: “Teaching with Archives, Objects, and Maps: Lessons from the National Humanities Center”

All learning begins with curiosity.  In this talk, Luc Houle will introduce lessons learned at the National Humanities Center’s Graduate Student Summer Residency 2019 in order to argue that primary sources should be made more accessible to students and foregrounded more often in the classroom.  Primary sources, such as archives, objects, and maps, spark curiosity among students, leading them to ask questions for themselves.  The instructor can then empower students to help them answer their own inquiries, both individually and in group settings.


Postwar Revolution and Reconstruction

Monday, November 4, 2019 @ 4:00 pm, Humanities Center Conference Room (Walker 200B)


  • Clemens Ottenhausen (Art+Art History), Rothman Doctoral Fellow: “Documenta 1955: Museums, Exhibitions, and Cultural Politics in Postwar Germany”

Clemens Ottenhausen’s presentation analyzes the first Documenta in the context of an internationally operating network of politicians, museum curators, and activists. The inaugural exhibit connected numerous cultural institutions in West Germany through the communication channels of early postwar diplomacy. Since its 1955 inception in Kassel, Germany, Documenta has become one of the world’s most prolific periodic exhibitions of modern and contemporary art. Considering the first postwar decade’s intricate politics, he argues that Documenta was embedded in a series of major endeavors implemented by the same enterprising cultural and curatorial avant-garde. The innovative group seized the opportunities during this specific political climate that provided fertile ground for artistic visions.


  • Madison Cates (History), Rothman Doctoral Fellow: “A Local and National Treasure: Progress, Poverty, and Place in the Fight to Save the New River, 1962-1976”

Madison Cates focuses on the Appalachian Power Company (APCO), which in 1962 announced plans for the Blue Ridge Project, which would build a series of hydroelectric dams along the New River, stretching across miles of North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. For much of the next two decades, local, state, and national factions locked horns over the New River’s fate. Ultimately, the dam project failed. Using this controversy as a window into the transformation of rural communities in the post-1945 South, his talk illustrates the limits and possibilities of environmentalism as a viable, regional force. By highlighting the New River Valley’s white, agrarian heritage as a unique place in an urbanizing and industrializing South, local anti-dam forces brought conservative figureheads like Senator Jesse Helms together with national environmental groups. This quixotic campaign speaks to the largely unacknowledged ways that rural areas became objects of cultural rehabilitation even after decades of farm losses and metropolitan sprawl.





Rethinking Marginal Identities

Monday, January 27, 2020 @ 4:00pm, Humanities Center Conference Room (Walker 200B)

  • Dr. Nina Caputo (History), Rothman Faculty Fellow: “A Jew in the Margins: Some Reflections Jewish Conversion to Christianity in the Middle Ages”

Dr. Nina Caputo focuses on Medieval conversion with the example of Petrus Alfonsi, who converted from Judaism to Christianity in the early 12th century and quickly rose to a position of significance in Iberia and beyond. Shortly after converting, he penned Dialogi contra iudaeos, a dialog between Petrus and his pre-conversion Jewish self, Moses. This text played a role in shaping Christian views of Judaism, conversion, Islam, and science among monastic readers. Using this text as a point of departure, this project explores Jewish and Christian responses to conversion.


  • Dr. Delia Steverson (English), Rothman Faculty Fellow: “Race, Disability, and Labor in the Jim Crow South”

By using archival research from the late African American author, Delores Phillips, Dr. Delia Steverson’s presentation examines the myriad ways that African American authors conceptualize black identity in their works through disability rhetorics. Focusing on Phillips’ biography and her unpublished works, Dr. Steverson’s presentation will first introduce Phillips, of whom little is known. Secondly, Dr. Steverson will offer a commentary on the intersections of race, disability, and labor in the Jim Crow South through Delores Phillips’ only published novel, The Darkest Child (2004). The novel features one of the few representations of deafness in African American literature and serves as a rich text to explore the relationship between literary representations of deafness alongside black and deaf people’s material status in a society.


Women in the Context of State Violence

Monday, February 10, 2019 @ 4:00pm, Humanities Center Conference Room (Walker 200B)


  • Kaitlyn Muchnok (History), Tedder Family Fellow: “Sentenced but Not Silenced: Female Juvenile Delinquency in Mid-Twentieth Century Florida”

Kaitlyn Muchnok’s talk will examine Florida’s female juvenile justice system from 1945 to 1970. Throughout the period, the state opened the Forest Hills School for Girls—the first reformatory for delinquent young black women—and expanded its existing reformatory for young delinquent white women—the Florida School for Girls. By the time the institutions integrated in 1967, Florida officials had expanded their authority over young women substantially and committed thousands of girls to both state reformatories, mostly for “sex offenses” or “social interaction problems.” To explain this, she explores the larger social issues affecting Floridians: anxieties over shifting gender roles, the decline of Jim Crow Segregation, and changes in youth culture in the post-World War II decades. She argues that state officials increased their power over female adolescents as a way to maintain traditional, southern gender and racial hierarchies. By placing the young women officials committed to both reformatories at the center of her study, she emphasizes the ways seemingly unrelated societal changes in southern culture influenced Florida’s leaders to construct a gendered definition and handling of juvenile delinquency.


  • Kyra Rietveld (Art History), Tedder Family Fellow: “Iconography of the Cult of Artemis in the Greek Classical and Imperial Periods”

At the end of the war against Persia in 479BCE, a momentum towards a universal Greek identity arose. Parallel to the socio-political shift, imagery of the goddess Artemis divided into two representations: the huntress, and a fertility goddess. The former representation responded to the new desire for a unified Greek identity, while the latter maintained traditions. Through a series of case studies, Kyra Rietveld interrogates the conflict of representation between the “universal” huntress Artemis, and localized “cult” Artemises. She hypothesizes that the latter promoted geographically specific aspects of her cult that resisted the universalizing trend.


Material Culture in Antiquity

Monday, February 24, 2019 @ 4:00pm, Humanities Center Conference Room (Walker 200B)


  • Dr. Velvet Yates (Classics), Rothman Faculty Fellow: “The ‘chain-saw’ in Archaic Greek quarries on Naxos and Paros”

Dr. Velvet Yates will present on her research on the gigantic unfinished statue that still lies in its quarry on the island of Naxos is surrounded by horizontal grooves cut into the marble cliffside. What tool made these marks? The light quarry pick, usually suggested by scholars, is impossible to wield in this situation. Based on comparative evidence from modern marble quarries and from the Roman quarries at Carrara, Italy, she suggests a type of ‘chain-saw’ incorporating emery stone, the second-hardest mineral in the world. Emery is still mined on Naxos today, and such use would also account for its abundance in the ancient marble quarries on neighboring Paros.


  • Mark Hodge (Art History), Rothman Doctoral Fellow: “From Portrait Blanks to Blank Portraits: Roman Sarcophagus Production and Religious Change in the Third Century”

Through an examination of their nodes of production and distribution, Mark Hodge’s presentation explores how Roman sarcophagi shaped and were shaped by the transformation of Roman religion in the third-fourth centuries. Sarcophagi were designed to be rapidly produced in large numbers, appeal to a wide audience and changing religious expectations. Patrons embraced the formal characteristics molded by these impetuses. Over the course of the third century CE, new meanings were applied to sculptural elements that originated within production strategies. The use of portrait blanks, for example, began as an efficiency measure between quarry workshops and local workshops, but eventually acquired meaning in their rough state.


The Politics of Place and Identity

Tuesday, March 17, 2019 @ 4:00pm, Humanities Center Conference Room (Walker 200B)


  • Mary Elizabeth Ibarrola (Anthropology), Rothman Doctoral Fellow: “Placemaking in the Borderland: An Archaeology of African-Descendent People in Colonial Florida”

During the colonial era, Florida was a region of constant geopolitical turmoil. Mary Elizabeth Ibarrola examines how people of African descent responded to and transformed this turbulent landscape. She considers the various tactics and strategies employed by people of African descent to adapt within the changing political landscape of colonial and territorial Florida through the everyday creation of place. Her research examines six archaeological sites which range from the Second Spanish Period through the Territorial Period and were occupied by individuals of varying legal and social status but overlapping ethnic and racial categorization. She highlights particular insights gained from an examination of site distribution and site arrangement. Through this close spatial analysis, she creates a picture of spatial relationships among sites and their positioning within a physical landscape and demonstrates how that physical landscape might be manipulated to limit or encourage certain kinds of interaction.  Ultimately, her research promises insight into how internal and external pressures influence the structure of diasporic places.

  • Alexandria Wilson (Political Science), Rothman Doctoral Fellow: “Framing Violence: The Women’s Movement and Gender-based Violence in Central Eastern Europe”

In recent years, throughout Central Eastern Europe conservatives have pushed back against the gains made by women’s rights activists. This backlash has been felt the hardest by those activists working to fight gender-based violence (GBV), as conservatives have rallied around their rejection of the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, otherwise known as the Istanbul Convention. To understand how a movement adapts to these pressures, Alexandria Wilson examines the cases of Slovakia, Czechia, and Poland in which she conducted in-depth interviews with activists and analyzed government documents to shed light on the question of how women’s rights activists frame the issue of GBV in a hostile environment.

A reception will follow the final talk.