— A two-year series of seminars, lectures and films that explores interethnic and intercultural issues —
The Mellon Advancing Intercultural Studies (Mellon AIS) project sponsors four academic seminars over two years. Each seminar focuses on an aspect of intercultural engagement, connecting and contributing to the goals of the overarching project. In addition to academic seminars, the project hosts public lectures and free film screenings designed to engage public audiences in the project themes.
Learn about upcoming public events in this series by visiting our Events page.
For more information about the project, click the + links below to expand/contract the page.
During this seminar, participants will examine contrasting responses to economic inequality, which has been on the rise in most rich Democracies for nearly three decades. We’ve witnessed two very different kinds of responses. On one hand, movements including Occupy Wall Street, the Bernie Sanders campaign and radical resistance to austerity and the promotion of multiculturalism in Europe, advocate progressive responses that seek to reduce economic inequality. On the other, right-leaning populist and anti-immigrant parties/movements in Europe and the United States, including Brexit (UK), the National front (France) and the Donald Trump campaign (US), have responded with attempts to scapegoat and exclude already marginalized groups from a shrinking economic pie. Thus, we seek scholars who examine the paradoxical relationship between rising inequality and bigotry, on the one hand, and progressive politics, on the other. The seminar is methodologically and epistemologically agnostic, but we are particularly interested in historical and empirical approaches to economic inequality and its backlashes, and in projects that can demonstrate connections between them.
Matthew Mahutga – Convener
Matthew C Mahutga is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Riverside. His research examines the global determinants of economic organization and their consequences for a range of political and socio-economic outcomes. His work appears in interdisciplinary outlets including Europe-Asia Studies, Global Networks, Review of International Political Economy, Social Forces, Social Networks, Social Problems, Social Science Research, Urban Studies, and elsewhere, and has been supported by the National Science Foundation. Michaela Curran is a collaborator on this project.
Research: Income Polarization in Rich Democracies: Household Composition, Labor Markets and Socio-Economic Change – Our project synthesizes competing and complimentary theories of household income polarization and develops an empirical framework to evaluate them. We show that both lower-tail and upper-tail income polarization are increasing in many rich democracies, but rising inequality in the upper-tail is the more common experience. Our theoretical synthesis suggests that household income polarization is a function of the interaction of household composition with the labor-market participation of household earners, and of the latter with socio-economic change (globalization, skill-biased technological change and financialization) and institutional context (unions, wage-coordination and welfare states) at the macro level. While household composition and labor markets have clear distributional effects, globalization, skill-biased technological change and financialization are the most important explanation for the magnitude of distributional change observed. Our findings call for theories of political economy that place an ideal-typical market capitalism at the center of the analysis, and conceptualize institutions as alternative responses to the common pressures it imposes.
Carolyn Sloane is an Assistant Professor of Economics at UC Riverside. Her research agenda is focused on understanding persistence in non-employment, uncovering the causal impacts of rising local wage inequality, and studying the allocation of talent in the public sector. Carolyn holds a PhD in Public Policy from the University of Chicago, a Masters of Business Administration in Economics and Finance from the University of Chicago and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Spanish from Vanderbilt University. She previously worked as a legislative staffer in the United States Senate.
Research: Due to methodological hurdles, analysis of the real effects of increasing wage inequality is largely missing from the academic literature. As part of a larger research agenda, my coauthor, Lancelot Henry de Frahan, and I have proposed an identification strategy to separately analyze the causal impact of changing inequality and growth on many economic phenomena. In our working paper, Rising Wage Inequality and Human Capital Investment, we find consistent evidence that increasing wage inequality causes declines in local community college and four-year institution enrollments. Economic theory posits an incentive response to rising wage inequality. As the premium offered for worker skill increases, the incentives to acquire skill intensify. In a local labor market, we may expect to see these incentive responses through: (1) the skilling up of the local population, or (2) by in-migration of skilled workers. Our main results in Rising Wage Inequality and Human Capital Investment negate the skilling up prediction. This leads to the question: do we see an incentive response on the migration margin? In other words, in cities where wage inequality is increasing, do we see in-migration of skilled workers? Alternatively, do we see workers fleeing cities with rising inequality? This topic, the migration response to rising local wage inequality, is the focus of the work that I will pursue during Session #1 of the Mellon AIS.
Paul Teten is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Riverside. He specializes in American politics and mass behavior with a focus on poverty, economic inequality and elite behavior. Paul earned his B.A. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota, Duluth. He has held positions with a number of governmental organizations such as the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the US Census Bureau, and a United States Senator. His current research focuses on the pressing issue of economic inequality and the link between the poor and their political representatives.
Research: With the immense expansion of economic inequality in democracies around the world, there has never been a more important time to study the effect inequality will have on politics. One of the most fundamental aspects that research on inequality must address is the impact it has on political representation. Research has shown that when the interests of the poor conflict with that of the wealthy, their preferences do not get served. This biased representation limits the ability of the government to properly address growing economic inequality. My research examines which factors increase the likelihood that a legislator will hold policy preferences that serve the interests of the poor. My theory posits that legislators who were raised in areas with higher economic inequality, will be more likely to advance redistributive policies once in office. Growing up in an area with greater wealth disparity will expose the legislator to the difficulties experienced by those in poverty compared to the privileges that accompany wealth. I expect that this exposure will play a consequential role in the legislator’s political socialization that makes them more sympathetic to the poor and they will therefore be more likely to support redistributive policies. This research will use original data from a survey of political elites regarding their exposure to inequality. The information gained from the survey will be used to observe the impact of exposure to economic inequality on the legislator’s activity in office, specifically the likelihood of introducing and cosponsoring redistributive legislation.
Stephen Hong Sohn is Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Riverside. Sohn is the author of Racial Asymmetries: Asian American Fictional Worlds (NYU Press, 2014).
Research: Asian American cultural studies has been influenced but also constrained by Marxist critique. The field currently demands a reconsideration of racial formation and class, especially in this era of the new economy, neoliberal philosophy, and continuing globalization. I hope to add a humanistic element to this particular seminar through the potential investigation of novels (such as Han Ong’s Fixer Chao, Helen Wan’s The Partner Track, among others) and the few Asian American cultural studies that engage class as a major dimension of their analysis (such as Christine So’s Economic Citizens and Pawan Dhingra’s Managing Multicultural Lives: Asian American Professionals and the Challenge of Multiple Identities). I’m especially interested in exploring the ways in which racial minorities—who are professionals (often in white-collar occupations) or working class, Asian Americans and otherwise—become un/related to the progressive, activist-oriented roots of the Civil Rights Movement. What are the responsibilities of Asian Americans to larger discourses of economic inequality, especially insofar as the wealth gap continues to widen? How does Asian American literature intervene in discourses related to economic inequality? I hope to answer such questions and others like it through this seminar and attend to such inquiries through a variety of disciplinary methodologies.
Josh Hueth – Undergraduate Student
I am a transfer student majoring in English and a second year Mellon-Mays Undergraduate Research Fellow. My research interests include horror, Am. Lit., and Marxism. My non-research interests include Rick and Morty, carnivorous plants, and Pokémon. I don’t have much to say about myself, so thank you to Professors Vint, Sohn, and Doyle for inspiring my work and continuing to push me intellectually. Thank you also to the people at the CIS for this wonderful opportunity!
Research: My research begins with two seemingly unrelated observations. First, I noticed American literary texts such as Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Herman Melville’s The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids, and Rebecca Harding Davis’s Life in the Iron Mills tend to depict scenes of economic depravity using formal elements of the horror genre. These depictions may seem out of place in texts otherwise not considered horror, or if they are it is typically under the convention of the American Gothic. Through my research this Fall I would like to extend my close readings of these texts revolving around the unhuman nature of Capital and begin to answer the question: What particularly suits the horror genre at depicting these scenes? Second, in a ‘debate’ between Graham Harman and Slavoj Žižek, Harman describes Karl Marx as an Object Oriented Ontologist. To paraphrase Harman: For Marx, a potato is not a potato unless it sits in relation to other commodities and can be made into French Fries. I began to think of both Marx’s Capital beginning with the commodity analysis, and Marx’s detailing of the social constitution of commodities. What might be suggested through the use of horror, as dealing with what Eugene Thacker describes as limit thoughts in his The Horror of Philosophy series, in scenes depicting economic disparity is the unhuman nature of Capital. Thus, I would also like to begin to think through a Capitalism which maintains the commodity as central, but is simultaneously decentering to the human.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the University of Texas’s affirmative action program in June 2016. Yet, arguably, efforts at diversity in higher education need now to go beyond attempts to provide greater access to institutions of higher education for under-represented groups to explore gender and racial campus culture of the institutions themselves. Such questions include issues of intra-student racial tensions (as those that arose recently at the University of Missouri); disparate undocumented student access (largely dependent upon state policies); gender equality, safety, and other Title IX issues (unsettling almost every campus in the United States); questions about symbols that may be racially charged (e.g. the names of Calhoun College at Yale and the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton and the flying of the Confederate flag at the Citadel); and concerns about the possible conflict between ensuring free speech and providing so-called safe spaces (e.g. the controversy of the Silliman College e-mail at Yale). Among other questions, this seminar would ask what colleges and universities owe their students in terms of resources, safe spaces, curriculum, and the like; how exclusionary symbols might be best dealt with in a way that acknowledges contentious histories and what new policies might be necessary to deal with sexual harassment, violence, and ethnic tensions.
Convener: Jennifer Nájera (Ethnic Studies)
Rita Kohli is an Assistant Professor in the Education, Society and Culture Department in the Graduate School of Education at UCR, and is co-director of the Institute for Teachers of Color Committed to Racial Justice. She has spent over 15 years in urban public schools across the country as a teacher, teacher educator and educational researcher striving for educational justice, and is co-editor of the book, Confronting Racism in Teacher Education: Counternarratives of Critical Practice. She received UCR’s Change Maker Award for Social Innovation in 2016, and Scholar Activist Award from the American Educational Research Association in 2017.
Research: Shaped by historical, social and political influences, as part of higher education, U.S. teacher education programs have been revealed as sites that privilege whiteness. With a traditionally white demographic of teacher candidates and teacher education faculty, a curriculum that normalizes White histories and perspectives, and pedagogy that tends to overlook the strengths of non-dominant teachers, teacher candidates of Color often feel silenced, racialized, and invisibilized in their education. Thus, as universities diversify teacher education, they must move beyond considerations of access and understand the ethics of recruiting students of Color into programs that are racially marginalizing spaces. This research study bridges theories of whiteness, campus racial climate, and teacher education to understand the ways in which a teacher education program that serves predominantly students of Color can continue to uphold whiteness. In Southern California, many teacher education programs draw a majority student of Color population into its teacher education program. Many of the students come from the communities and schools they are being trained to teach within. Even so, from their instructors to their peers, students of Color reported feeling undervalued, dismissed, and othered across factors including race, religion, language, and documentation status. With student of Color pushout as a documented outcome of hostile racial climate within predominantly White institutions, this study aims to understand the impact of racial climate within a predominantly student of Color serving institution, as well as the supports students of Color need to feel visible, safe and centered in their own learning.
Lawrence Lan is a PhD student in the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of California, Riverside (UCR). His research interests include racial capitalism, human geography, and left/progressive labor and community organizing in southern California.
Research: This research project focuses on an important moment at the University of California, Riverside (UCR)—campus organizing against Proposition 209 during the 1990s—to understand how contemporary conditions on UCR’s campus have come to be produced through the dialectical relationship between campus activism and the public university. Importantly, too, this project will document how activists have dreamed new visions, repurposed and adapted previous tactics and strategies, and built new spaces in response to varying assaults on and attempts by the university to incorporate minoritized groups. Drawing methodologically on qualitative interviews with activists involved in the organizing around Proposition 209, as well as archival research housed in the University Archives in Tomás Rivera Library, this research project will situate campus activism around Proposition 209 in the context of the university’s history, and the history of the UC system more broadly, as it considers new (or sometimes, the same) policies and approaches that student activists continue to fight for. Considering the university’s structural position as a public land-grant university and a settler colonial institution on indigenous Cahuilla land, UCR will offer a complicated, generative site of analysis in terms of its geographies as well as its political, economic, and social histories. This project proposes that the university’s ongoing commitments to offer resources, safe spaces, and curricula in the service of students of color, and its attendant commitments to confronting sexual harassment, violence, and racial/ethnic tensions, must first reckon seriously with its gendered and racial pasts—and the activisms that accompanied them.
Addison is a Ph.D. candidate in the English Department at UC Riverside, where he also earned his master’s degree. His scholarly work specializes in twentieth-century American literature and modernism while his teaching is heavily invested in new approaches to critical pedagogy. His current project focuses on the role of intellectuals in American culture while arguing that the university has played a more critical role in that development than is regularly acknowledged, which holds large stakes for minority intellectuals.
Research: This project combines literary analysis with sociohistorical methodologies to understand the formal university’s role in shaping the modern intellectual. I argue that, since the turn of the century, intellectualism has gradually become synonymous with higher education, which holds especially large stakes for people of color who have historically been denied institutional access. While critics have done important work to reveal this development, they fail to acknowledge the stakes of this merger and lament the decline of a romanticized notion of the intellectual. Instead, this project shows how the minority intellectual’s very different relationship to higher education calls for a renewed understanding of American intellectual history as well as alternative measures for academic diversity and inclusion. Through analyzing texts like Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Tomás Rivera’s …y no se lo tragó la tierra, and Mary McCarthy’s The Company She Keeps, my project voices more nuanced accounts of the structural and ideological ways academic practice reshapes the intellectual lives of minorities, in ways that quantifiable measurements often elide. I read these texts in light of the historical developments of the modern university, while pointing more specifically to institutions like the UC system as well as Historically Black Colleges and Universities, to consider how the complex intersections between higher learning, the state, and the racialized subject come together at the campus level. Additionally, this project considers counter-sites of knowledge within and beyond the university, which are explored through the archival correspondences of prominent, minority intellectuals and their academic colleagues.
Convener: Muhamad Ali (Religious Studies)
This seminar will examine issues of religious identity and diversity. The United States is one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world. Academic discourses and publication on religious harmony, tolerance, pluralism, and freedom have developed significantly. Yet religious diversity also takes other forms: religious tension, conflict, violence, terrorism, and discrimination. The terrorist shootings in San Bernardino near Riverside, the killings in Orlando, the shootings of Sikhs, and the 2016 Presidential Campaign, have raised fears of an increased Islamophobia. The ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Syrian civil war, and the Muslim Rohingya issue in Buddhist Burma, have raised tension and public debate about the role and impacts of religious identity more globally. This seminar will consider questions of religious identity and diversity, violence and peace, discrimination and harmony, hate speech and love activism, and the vexed relation between religion and politics.
A free summer film series hosted at the Culver Center of the Arts.
Details on next year’s series will be released in Spring 2018.
Convener: Georgia Warnke (Political Science)
Omissions and questions beset the study of the histories of marginalized groups. The subtitle of a 2003 article on the 1873 Colfax Massacre in which white southerners slaughtered a group of African American citizens who had assembled in a local courthouse after a contested election reads “Stumbling on a forgotten Reconstruction tragedy.” Yet this headline represents the fate of countless similar events in the United States not only during slavery and reconstruction but well afterwards. This seminar focuses on questions of historical scholarship as well as on still under-examined historical events and experiences as they affect contemporary intercultural relations in the United States.
The call for Seminar #4 participants is now open: Deadline November 6, 2017.
We welcome applications from UCR faculty and graduate students for the FALL 2018 seminar. More information and application information is available on the Contested Histories CFP page.
A final, capstone conference in the 2019 winter quarter will draw all project participants together to share seminar research, explore outcomes and generate ideas for future projects. More information about this free, public conference will be posted in 2018.
Funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by the Center for Ideas and Society, the Advancing Intercultural Studies (AIS) project builds on the long-standing strengths of UCR’s College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS) in addressing ethnic, interethnic, cultural and intercultural developments in novel ways.
The current AIS grant is an extension and expansion of the original two-year grant project which ran from 2014-2106 and focused on intercultural interactions and conflicts at UC Riverside and in southern California. The purpose of the AIS seminars, lectures and events has been to contribute to understanding existing and future aspects of diversity in the United States and to enhance our appreciation of both the problems and the opportunities to which it can give rise.
Tensions arising amidst a diverse population have been at the front of public discussion in the past few years. The police shootings of African Americans as well as the murders at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church have focused the nation’s attention on questions of race and racial divisions; the fight against terrorism has raised concerns about immigration, religious tolerance and religious diversity; college campuses have struggled with issues of sexual harassment and race and gender relations; the 2016 election campaign brought to the fore the impact of increasing economic inequality and class disparities. What has been in arguably short supply in discussions of these issues has been the practices of civil discourse, reasoned debate and respect for the views of others. The seminars, public lectures and film series of the Mellon Advancing Intercultural Studies project are designed to engage university faculty, students and members of the Southern California community in thoughtful considerations of these important issues. The goal is to contribute to a democratic public sphere that avoids impassioned rhetoric in favor of deliberative discourse and mutual understanding.
From 2017 to 2018, the AIS project will host a series of four quarter-long seminars to explore key themes and topics. Each seminar includes faculty, graduate students and upper-level undergraduate students. Seminar members meet weekly on a formal basis to explore seminar themes, present and discuss their research and identify new questions and areas of investigation to which the seminar research might lead. Each seminar participant also generates original research; graduate student and undergraduate participants produce research papers.
During the quarter, each seminar group will host a public lecture by an eminent scholar and a film screening designed to engage public interest in seminar themes.These seminar events will be complemented by two summer film series and a final conference featuring and extending the work of seminar participants.
Learn more about the first Mellon AIS project.
The Mellon AIS grant is administered by the UCR Center for Ideas and Society under the direction of PI Georgia Warnke and co-PIs Matthew Mahutga, Jennifer Nájera and Muhamad Ali. For questions on this or any other CIS project, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.