My CHR project is to write a synthetic global history of women’s daily lives in the concentration camp, a key tool used by the modern state to control and often dispose of populations. The project starts from the hypothesis that women’s experiences of daily life as inmates of the various historical instances of the concentration camp are key to understanding a gendered reconfiguration of concepts like combatant, security risk, suspect population, and racial or social contamination that enables and enacts a modern politics of population control, forced relocation, social engineering, and/or excisionary violence. The project will grapple with the use of the concentration camp in both authoritarian and democratic regimes, and what that tells us about the tenuousness of the presumed distinction between authoritarianisms and democracies. It asks important questions of the degree to which prisoner agency continues to operate under conditions of extreme control and what that agency reveals about the uses and the limits of the concentration camp as an instrument of disposal. Finally, the project asks how and why this quintessentially modern form of population control emerged when it did and why the control of women was at its heart.
Laura Brannan Fretwell, PhD candidate (History and Art History), "Forgetting the Freed for the Park and the ‘People’ in Richmond, Virginia."
This project examines the history of the creation of a local city park in Richmond, Virginia, in the 1870s that displaced an entire community of free African Americans who lived on site. I argue that the creation of the park, and subsequent displacement of the Black community, reflected the larger Southern trend of “White backlash” in the late Reconstruction era, the period after the American Civil War.
Today, the Chimborazo site in Richmond remains a city park that houses the Confederate Medical Museum, which was established by the National Park Service in 1959. The history of this park during the 1870s is only one part of a larger story that demonstrates how Richmond’s Black freed community was displaced, or “disposed of,” and ultimately “forgotten” on the Chimborazo site over time, while White residents and city officials selectively remembered the Confederacy by establishing the NPS museum. This project is an intentional, much-needed remembering, recovering, and archival “repair” of the history of the freed community who once lived on Chimborazo Hill.
At the intersections of memory, literature, and print culture, my book project explores visual and literary depictions of Black girls and girlhood within Black women writers' aesthetic traditions. I chart how Black women writers and artists utilize memory across genre and time to forge their own distinct narratives with Black girls at the center. In so doing, I demonstrate memory as integral to understanding girlhood as not only a tangible stage and temporal space, but a site of return and recuperation, evidencing new modes for reading and conceptualizing Black girlhood while shifting traditional ideologies around childhood.
This project seeks to build a well-theorized bridge between literary and conflict studies through the increasingly important lens of narrative. By drawing the focus of peace activists in Central Africa to language, I hope to articulate a strategy of “narrative repair” that can be used in real communities. Repair is a central theme of this year’s CHR call for fellows.
As America’s own internal “other,” the South has long served as the nation’s ideological garbage dump and is the last place most people would look to find feminist activism. Yet the Southern Women’s Rights Project conducted in the region from 1977-1981 provides a compelling case study of southern feminism that was racially inclusive and dedicated to the needs of poor and working-class women. An outgrowth of the Women’s Rights Project founded for the American Civil Liberties Union by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the southern project reveals ACLU feminists’ interest in organizing and educational work, on top of their precedent-setting litigation. Southern project director Betsy Brinson’s organizing strategies also provide an especially relevant model for doing feminism in hard times and places—times of backlash (like our own) and places where feminist gains were always hard-won, if they were won at all.
My project aims to look at the aesthetic and formal practice of hip hop sampling to analyze the ways in which it acted (and continues to act) as a means of cultural, spatial, and temporal repair amidst the fragmentary conditions of postindustrialism. Through this research, the project will explore the theme of disposability, democracy, and repair through multiple avenues. First, with a particular emphasis on New York City, I will outline the ways in which various policies of the 1950s-1970s rendered urban working class communities and their cultural forms and social relations disposable. Following this, I will investigate how hip hop arose in the Bronx in the 1970s as a type of democratic public sphere through which communal repair was pursued. I then seek to analyze and articulate the continuing role that hip hop sampling has in attempts to repair patterns of spatial and temporal disjuncture through the aesthetic realm.
Christopher D. Berk, Assistant Professor (Schar School of Policy and Government), "Legal Socialization and Resistance in a Boarding School for ‘At-Risk’ Youth"
I’ll use my time as a CHR residential fellow to draft a book manuscript on youth politics and legal socialization. The focus of the book will be a foundational component of the Center's annual theme of democracy, disposability, and repair: how children encounter the law through experiences with authority in the family, school, and the juvenile justice system. One of my core aims is to show how those encounters might support thoughtful civic engagement by young people, instead of dejection, withdrawal, or alienation.
Jennifer Leeman, Professor (Modern and Classical Languages), "Bilingual education in DC’s gentrifying neighborhoods: The interplay of language ideologies, urban policy and dispossession."
Spanish/English bilingual education programs implemented in the 1960s focused on the educational needs of Latinxs but since the 1980s dual language immersion (DLI) programs, designed to promote bilingualism among English-speakers as well as Spanish-speakers have become the dominant model. Numerous scholars have used the metaphor of “gentrification” to critique the prioritizing of affluent white and English-speaking children and the dispossession of educational resources and opportunities from children of color (especially Black and Latinx children). Despite using a metaphor that references changing demographics in urban neighborhoods, however, prior research has not connected these trends to the political economic processes and policies that have led to the displacement of racialized and socioeconomically disadvantaged groups from surrounding neighborhoods. In this project, my collaborators Dr. Galey Modan (Ohio State University) and Dr. Lou Thomas (Bard Early College DC) and I analyze how DLI programs fit into the larger economic, political and cultural landscape of gentrification in Washington, DC by examining the interplay of educational policies (such as school boundaries and accountability measures); discourses about the economic and social value of Spanish; and housing prices.
In this project, I aim to explore the role of public education in the maelstrom of financial capitalism and the crisis of health. Sparked by the political intensity of the 2018 statewide teachers’ strike in West Virginia and my deep historical interest in the explosive relations of labor and capital in this noted hotbed of class struggle and mass labor militancy in the United States, my dissertation research examines the occupational field of education, emerging from the shadows of the monocultural focus on coal, to the center of the debate revolving around a more democratic reorientation of society toward social need. In particular, I hope to shed light on the experiences among West Virginia educators of the decimation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic and the chances for repair offered by the fresh groundswell of the historical contradictions between labor and capital.
My project investigates the ways in which the French built environment between the Enlightenment and early twentieth century accommodated, and at times failed to accommodate, the disabled subject. During my CHR fellowship, I will focus specifically on efforts to rehabilitate disabled veterans during and after the First World War. The scale of this conflict necessitated a shift from disposing to repairing and even recycling human bodies, and the French government focused on the re-education, training, and reintegration of disabled veterans through labor – at times against their wishes. I will be analyzing the spatial and material dimensions of some of the earliest rehabilitation and professional reeducation centers, situating these institutional developments against early 20th-century veteran activism and charged debates about the nation’s responsibilities to those injured in war.
This project will provide a sociological examination of the relationships between suburban housing development, urbanization, and land-use intensification within the United States. Coming to understand the economic, political, and socio-environmental drivers that influence land-use intensification—as this project seeks to do with regard to suburban housing development and urbanization—is paramount to the discipline of sociology, an interdisciplinary body of scholarship, and a transdisciplinary body of researchers and communities that aim for the equitable co-production of sustainable land systems. It should be noted that features of suburban housing development and relative population growth within rural, suburban, and urban regions of the U.S. are not entirely unique phenomena to this nation-state alone; that is, as suburban housing development has no signs of slowing down globally, this project seeks to problematize claims from seemingly disparate bodies of scholarship that maintains there exists a useful application of what is known as the “town-country” divide into socio-environmental dimensions of land-use and land-use intensification. While this project intends to employ an inductive approach to provide something resemblant of an answer to the questions it raises, forms of disposability and perceptions of repair are exceedingly present with regard to this particular topic of suburbanization as a site of land-use intensification. There are lasting vestiges of the historical, and blatant reminders of the contemporary, claims-making processes—as well as forms of spectacle—that have overwhelmingly relied upon discursive arrangements and formations that have attempted to minimize understanding about the rates of extraction, the fractionalized handlings of “true” ecological costs, and to displace commonly held feelings of precarity that undergird this particular type of social and housing arrangement. Even with the continued development of environmental policy, democratized and growing international agreements, the creation and proliferation of environmental non-governmental organizations, and some publicly visible displays of environmentalism and environmental conscientiousness, this project will appreciate housing as a fundamental human right that has been continually overlooked as a corresponding site of potential resistance, reparation, contested moral worth, and repair toward buckling, intersecting political and economic systems.
River of Resistance is a book of literary nonfiction that I am coauthoring with my School of Integrative Studies colleague Dr. Michael Gilmore. The book, which is under contract with University of Georgia Press, focuses on the Maijuna Indigenous group in the Peruvian Amazon, exploring the deep connections between Maijuna culture and Maijuna ancestral lands. Since Europeans first arrived in their region, the Maijuna and their lands have routinely been treated as disposable by outside actors pursuing various self-interested agendas. But diligent Maijuna efforts at building political agency over the past two decades represent a bright spot in the mostly gloomy post-contact history of Indigenous peoples in the Peruvian Amazon. The book pays close attention to the current Maijuna fight for land rights and environmental justice as they work to block a government-planned highway that would run through the heart of their ancestral lands, violating Maijuna sovereignty and posing an existential threat to the intact rainforest landscape that sustains the Maijuna physically and culturally.