Graduate Colloquium

Past Colloquia

View three years of past Graduate Colloquia topics and speakers. 

Doris Day and the Economists:  Celebrity Expertise in the Development Decade

Nick Cullathe, Professor, Indiana University, Department of History/Department of International Studies; Editor, Diplomatic History

In the 1962 romcom That Touch of Mink Cary Grant draws Doris Day close and whispers, “How do you feel about the untapped resources of the developing nations?”  She closes her eyes and breathes, “I think they ought to be tapped.”  Grant was playing a now vanished type, the celebrity development expert—not the celebrity posing as expert—a la Bono or Oprah—but the expert whose international fame comes from an intimate and well-known connection to the romance of development.  Magazines, the Kennedy White House, and Hollywood all had a hand in creating these modern, modernizing personalities.  We will discuss where they came from and why they vanished.

In addition to his keynote, Professor Cullather is keen to meet with interested graduate students from to discuss new directions in American foreign relations history, what this field offers scholars of various disciplines, and how young scholars should prepare their work for publication in journals such as Diplomatic History.

Nick Cullather is an historian of American foreign relations and the new editor of Diplomatic History, the journal of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations. His work on U.S. Empire in the twentieth century - from the American relationship with the Philippines, to CIA covert operations, and the use of food as tool of American psychological warfare - will be of interest to historians and other scholars studying the United States, Asia and twentieth-century empire more broadly

Please note: the talk begins at 5:00 pm at the Buffett Institute

January 29th, 2015

Marco Bocchese (Political Science): "If you can't defeat the rebels, sue them!"  The ICC and the Judicialization of Civil War"

Marco's presentation investigates the conditions under which states have sought international legal scrutiny for domestic episodes of mass violence. My argument is that one logic explains all cases of "self-referrals" before the ICC, other cases wherein states which are not parties to the ICC nevertheless accepted its jurisdiction, and even cases that predate ICC entry into force.

Marco was trained as a lawyer in Italy and in the US (LL.M. from NU Law in 2010). He is currently a 3rd-year PhD student with the PoliSci Department, where he studies the politics of international criminal courts, and in particular how states are moving toward a judicialization of inter-state and intra-state disputes.

Nathaniel Mathews (African History): "Tracking the Transformations in Transnational Family Networks in Oman and Zanzibar, 1840-1994" 

Nathaniel's presentation is a part of a larger chapter about family networks.  His aim in the chapter is first to argue for the primacy of the family as a social form preceding, transcending, and even underlying the nation and state forms. In particular, networks of family seem central to various projects of nation building and nationalist symbolism.  Second, he shows how political and structural changes transformed the structure and idea of Indian Ocean family networks.

Nathaniel Mathews is a Ph.D. candidate in African history at Northwestern University. He is currently writing his dissertation on the post-revolution exile and subsequent return migration to Oman of Zanzibar's Omani-Arab community. The dissertation examines issues of citizenship, national identity, family networks and collective memory. He has conducted research in Zanzibar, Tanzania, Kenya, and Oman.

December 9, 2014

Rana B. Khoury (Political Science): “Refugee Activists and the Struggle for Syria in Jordan”

This talk is based on exploratory fieldwork I conducted in 2014 investigating how Syrian urban refugees make ends meet in Jordan. I found “refugee activists” assisting the community to this end, in addition to providing civil services inside Syria. Refugee activists describe themselves as “fighters” and “resisters” battling the Syrian regime through service-provision, not arms. That is, they are neither the refugee warriors nor the defenseless victims the literature might have led me to expect. Jordanian regime strategies, refugees’ social and political networks in southern Syria, and international organizations, all impact the development of refugee activism. 

Arda Gucler (Political Science): “More than an Oxymoron? Representative Democracy and the Problem of Untimeliness” 

Traditionally, representation has been criticized for being an elitist institution that alienates the public from the democratic decision-making process. My dissertation turns first to deliberative theorists such as Nadia Urbinati and Iris Young in order to understand how they counter this bias against representation. In particular, I focus on the temporal aspect of their argument, which places a normative emphasis on the way representative mediation defers the democratic will and thereby cultivates in people the ability to see their demands as open-ended and revisable. Taking this deliberative framework as its starting point, my dissertation introduces a different sense of deferral through Derrida’s concept of ‘untimeliness’. In this presentation I will first elaborate on some of the key theoretical questions revolving around representative democracy. I will then focus on the Gezi Park events in Turkey and particularly consider how the use of symbols can open up a affirmative way of reading untimeliness in representative politics.  

November 11, 2014

Jessica Pouchet (Anthropology) “Violence and Biodiversity Conservation: An Ethnographic Exploration of Amani”

In Tanzania’s Usambara Mountains, Amani Nature Reserve serves to protect life in its many forms, and to preserve a rainforest ecosystem for future human prosperity. An ethnographic exploration of the area’s communities, who live on the borders of the Nature Reserve and under its jurisdiction, therefore presents an interesting opportunity to examine the juxtaposition of violence on the one hand, with efforts to sustain biodiversity on the other. From the threat of violence experienced when armed forest patrols encounter illegal timber felling operations; to the structural violence of relocating farmers for the sake of establishing a wildlife corridor; to the slow violence of consuming water contaminated by small-scale gold mining operations within the reserve, violence in Amani—which means “peace” in Kiswahili—is multi-scalar with respect to time, targets, and degrees. In this paper, I interrogate signs of violence, and anti-violence, at the multiple scales at which it occurs in Amani. I argue that residents’ and visitors’ practices of identifying, debating, and ignoring signs of violence are an important lens for examining human life in this biodiversity hotspot. 

Amy Swanson (Theatre & Drama): "Resistance and Possibility in Nadia Beugré's Quartiers Libres

Contemporary dance, characterized by experimentation, innovation, and social or political commentary, has proliferated throughout the African continent since the 1980s. Institutions, annual festivals, and workshops support the growth of the dance form while connecting practitioners across national boundaries. I posit that contemporary African dance is a site of agency in which new possibilities and representations of identity can be constructed, subverting a dominant Eurocentric narrative of dancing black African bodies. In this paper, I refer to Daphne Brooks’ concept of Afro-alienation acts and Nicole Fleetwood’s concept of excess flesh in an analysis of one contemporary dance work by an African choreographer: Ivoirian Nadia Beugre’s “Quartiers Libres.” I argue that Beugre resists a colonizing gaze in her re/presentation of the dancing black African body through tactics including implicating spectators, self-inflicted violence, and non-conformance.

May 13, 2014

Alex Hobson (History): “New Horizons: The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and American Empire in the Middle East, 1967-1970”

Between December 1967 and June 1970, units from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (P.F.L.P.) perpetrated multiple operations against U.S. targets. These operations ranged from the killing of American military advisers in the occupied territories, to the kidnapping of American diplomats in Amman, to the hijacking of American commercial aircraft out of European airports. These attacks present a historical problem. The Front had an ideological imperative to launch them, but ideology alone does not explain their timing and form. Nor were they merely ad hoc improvisations in the P.F.L.P.’s guerrilla war. Rather, the Front’s actions against U.S. targets resulted from the interaction between Front leaders Dr. Jurj Habash and Dr. Wad‘i Haddad’s long-term emotional, intellectual, and strategical development, and new forms of U.S. involvement in the Middle East after the June 1967 war. 

Ashley Johnson (History): "Detroit For Detroiter's First": Unions, Employers and the Question of Alien Workers During the Depression" 

In this paper, Ashley draws from her larger dissertation which refocuses questions of border policing and crossing to the urban north, where Detroit, not Tucson or El Paso was America's epicenter for illegal immigration and the immigrants in question were European, not Latino. She will emphasize the problems this new underground labor system created for employers and union leaders, producing tensions that alienated ethnic Europeans from organized labor and forged a tenuous alliance between Detroit's most powerful industrialists and some of its most vulnerable workers.

April 17, 2014

Charles Keenan (History): “Confusion and Correspondence: Papal Diplomacy and the Protestant Periphery in Early Modern Europe” 

This paper explores how the pope and his diplomatic agents attempted to restore Catholic worship in the kingdom of England during the late sixteenth century. Restoring Catholicism in a far-off kingdom that had been officially Protestant since the 1530s was no easy matter, but I suggest the endeavor was especially difficult given how little information the Roman curia actually possessed about the state of affairs there. In particular, I describe the difficulties Rome faced in obtaining information about Queen Elizabeth’s death and the frantic attempts of papal diplomats to confirm whether or not she had died, and how they should act in response. Although the pope could rely on his diplomats in other areas of Europe with some reliability, there were no official Catholic ambassadors allowed in England. I describe the makeshift alternatives Rome used instead, including diplomats stationed in other European cities (Madrid, Brussels, Paris), as well as Jesuits and other clerics sent surreptitiously and often in disguise into England itself. By sifting through the fragmentary and often contradictory correspondence that arrived from these channels, I demonstrate how little Rome actually knew about England, and how that lack of information, in turn, crippled Catholics’ larger plans to retake England.

 Alexandra Lindgren-Gibson (History): “Imagining Class, Imagining Caste: Imperial Knowledge and Imperial Misunderstandings in India 1860-1900” 

Pollie Keen, the wife of a sergeant serving with the British Army in the Punjab, wrote frequently to her mother back in England describing her life in India. Scattered among anecdotes about the children and complaints about her husband’s drinking are accounts of her family’s interactions with native servants and neighbors and descriptions of the celebrations, clothing, and customs of various “castes” of natives Pollie encountered. Pollie and other non-elite correspondents’ use and misuse of the term “caste” is revealing of both the ways in which non-elites reacted to and interacted with native Indians and how the limitations on non-elite British education and social mobility shaped imperial relationships across class, race, and gender. Though non-elite Britons lived and worked amongst native Indians, their own knowledge of Indian culture and customs were limited. Without the educational framework of elite imperially oriented schooling, civil service exams, or family traditions of imperial service, non-elite Britons created their own interpretive frameworks for the Indian world they encountered. Developing out of a British culture in India that positioned non-elite Britons unstably between competing discourses of racial separateness, class position, and sexual morality, non-elite ideas about native Indians and the ways in which they were conveyed to family at home can tell us much about how this understudied population conceived of itself in terms of race, nation, and difference.

March 13, 2014

Sadaf Hasnain (Anthropology): “Persecution, Punishment, and Prosperity:Understanding Narratives of Flourishing among members of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat in Pakistan”

Adherents of the Ahmadiyya faith lead a vulnerable existence in Pakistan. Constitutionally designated as “non-Muslim” against their will, Ahmadis encounter systematic opposition from Pakistan’s largely hostile non-Ahmadi state and public on an everyday basis. However, official discourses produced and circulated by the Ahmadiyya administrative body (the Jamaat) highlight only certain aspects of Ahmadi history in Pakistan, focusing on how divine support enables their community to “flourish” against all odds.  Understanding these narratives of flourishing, divine reward, and triumph as constitutive of an authorized script that is propagated through Jamaat-sponsored forms of discourse, I argue that the central Jamaat provides a particular framework for reading history and interpreting events of opposition through this script: highlighting the merits of patience and optimism for Pakistani Ahmadis, this frame encourages passivity and non-confrontation in the face of persecution. Jamaat officials and members, however, often engage in script-flipping practices by inserting stories of their own everyday experiences of discrimination into the authorized narrative of “flourishing,” thus illustrating the contradictions that arise as grand schemes interact with everyday lives in the practice of religion. This analysis serves, on the one hand, as a first step toward understanding power relations within the Ahmadi community - and between it and the larger society - as mediated by various elements of social structure and political economy. On the other hand, it foregrounds the point where grand narratives and everyday lives interact, highlighting the plural, complex and essentially unsystematic nature of religion as a lived practice.  

Swati Srivastava (Political Science): “Private Sovereigns: Contested Authority and State Power” 

State power is typically said to derive from governing a population through the monopolization of violence, maintenance of rules, and projection of ideology. Historically, such power has been exercised by a variety of actors without claiming any final “right to rule.” However, the consolidation of the sovereign territorial state in Europe usurped such state power for the sole use of “public” authorities. The remaining “private” actors were frozen out of any rightful claims to rule. It is now common to deploy the public/private distinction when discussing state sovereignty and its many challengers.This project takes a more historically situated path to understanding current controversies. It investigates how the public/private distinction obscures much richer relations of governance, authority, and rule. By following various actors as friends and rivals to the eventual sovereign territorial state, the project demonstrates the historical contingency of state power as “public.” Denaturalizing the public/private distinction also moves beyond references to the erosion or resilience of state power and opens up a framework based on relational instead of possessive power. Within this understanding, it is more useful to understand the changing compositions of state power rather than its losses or gains. 

February 18, 2014

Andrew Brown (PhD Candidate, Department of Performance Studies): “Cape Town Calling: Composing Queerness on the African Continent”

This paper is rooted in a close reading of a performance I made with LGBTI refugees in South Africa and looks at the role of sound in the making and undoing of queer worlds. I'm trying to work through how Cape Town gets figured as a queer destination for predominantly gay male international tourists and also for LGBT refugees from across the African continent.  I'm interested in how these divergent calls cross lines and shape the resultant imaginaries and lived realities in the city. In doing so, they also reroute the well-worn trajectories of transnational queerness. 

Mbongeni Mtshalli (PhD Candidate, Department of Performance Studies): “Hottentot Venus Redux: Performance, Gender and Ethno-Cultural Modernity in Post-Apartheid South Africa” 

In this paper I pose a discussion of South African performance artist Nelisiwe Xaba's They Look at Me and That's All They Think (a meditation on the exoticisation of black African women's bodies that takes Sarah Baartman, the Hottetot Venus, as its primary point of reference), alongside South African president Jacob Zuma's trial for rape in 2006, a private domestic drama that played out in an extraordinary public theatre and ignited debate around black sexuality, gender equality, and the place of patriarchal ethnocultural tradition in a modern black South Africa.  I focus specifically on how Xaba's work appropriates the potent iconography of the Hottentot Venus to stage a complicated deferral of race that resists both colonial and contemporary stereotypes of black African gender and sexuality.  I compare and contrast the generative possibilities of the morphological imaginary that underpins this work to the assertions of 'authentic' Zulu-ness that Jacob Zuma used to justify his alleged (mis)recognition of his accuser's sexual desire and availability. 

Kareem Khubchandani (PhD Candidate, Department of Performance Studies): “Dancing Against the Law: Performing Queer Politics in India”

Since the recriminalization of sodomy in India, spectacular displays of sexual and gender politics have manifested in the form of protests, rallies, and community gatherings. The ways in which activists and individuals stage their bodies at these events evidences how the law comes to bear on the body, and how performance can be used to speak back to the law.  This talk will focus on choreographies of sexual and gender politics in Bangalore that respond to IPC 377 as well as other forms of legal and moral policing. 

Beth Lew-Williams (ACLS Faculty Fellow, History Department and Asian American Studies): “Anti-Chinese Violence and the Making of U.S. Border Control: A Problem of Scale”

At what scale does a national border come into focus? Can we best understand a border when we zoom in to see local encounters along the borderlands? Or when we zoom out to see national designs of the state? Or when we zoom out farther still to see international relations and global flows of peoples? Borders are formed at all of these scales and in the connections between them. This talk will re-consider the history of the United State’s first attempt at border control—the story of Chinese Exclusion in the late nineteenth century—and explore how this process of border-making defies traditional scales of analysis. Officially, the federal government drew the boundary line against the Chinese but, locally, white vigilantes held more power than the state. Federal policy failures fueled borderlands violence and local crises transformed national law and international relations with China. This project consciously manipulates scale in order to capture the complex role of violence in the making of U.S. border control.

November 12, 2013

Jade C. Huell (Black Performing Arts Postdoctoral Fellow, Performance Studies and African American Studies): “Nostalgia: The Affect and Aesthetics of Past-Home” 

Since its etymological beginnings, the meanings and usages of nostalgia have shifted markedly.  In the shifting, nostalgia’s associations with the body and with the concept of home have diminished. Dr. Huell’s research focuses on African American nostalgia for Africa using genealogical inquiry, personal and autoethnographic narrative, and performance theory and practice to reinvigorate the relations between body, memory, aesthetics, past, and home.  Attending to operations of time and space, she theorizes the aforementioned relations in order to build a theory of critical nostalgia and to illustrate that nostalgia is an act realized in performance. Her work is informed by Michel Foucault’s method of critical genealogy and Joseph Roach’s genealogies of performance. In her presentation, “Nostalgia: The Affect and Aesthetics of Past-Home,” Dr. Huell articulates performing critical nostalgia as a method of scholarly inquiry, as an active practice of personal and cultural memory, as a tool for representing memories of past-homes, and as a compositional aesthetic for use in performance praxis.  

October 15, 2013 

Morgan Hoke (Anthropology): “Feeding babies, feeding inequalities: An examination of the embodiment of inequality in the Andes through infant feeding and growth” 

The primary objective of this research is to identify how participation in global markets, cultural norms, and social factors influence infant feeding patterns and subsequently infant growth among the Quechua of Nuñoa, Peru. Recent economic changes and the emergence of a new dairy industry have lead to increasing diversity in economic strategies among the Quechua of Nuñoa, Peru. These changes have significantly affected variability in income, food availability, access, and subsequently infant feeding practices. When combined with increasingly Western conceptualizations of health and status, these changes are leading to growing disparities in infant health throughout the district. This presentation will discuss some initial results from preliminary data collected in the summers of 2012 and 2013 as well as plans for the complete dissertation research. By employing a biocultural perspective, embodiment theory, and mixed methods including ethnographic observation, a community level survey, and district wide data, this study aims to explore the effects of global market changes on everyday infant feeding practices and related growth outcomes. 

Elizabeth Harrington (Anthropology): “On the Mechanics of Cultural Production in Abu Dhabi” 

This research explores the construction of a cultural center in Abu Dhabi, and the mechanisms which various organizations are leveraging in the process. The presentation will discuss the methods used by the Tourism and Culture Authority to build audiences of various ages and the ways that they conceive of partnerships with other institutions to situate themselves within the country, region and global art community. In addition, the study will elaborate on the differing authorizing discourses that various organizations in the Emirates use to legitimate their particular production.