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UC Humanities Research Institute Award Winners for 2020-21

A banner year for UCR in awards from the UC Humanities Research Institute! UCR students and faculty won 10 awards including two of the most competitive awards in the system: the President’s Faculty Research Fellowship, won by Gloria Kim (Media and Cultural Studies), and the White Graduate Student Scholarship in Medicine & Humanities won by Jared Smith (Philosophy). Kudos to all applicants and this year’s awardees!

✪ Multicampus Graduate Student Working Group

XIX to XXI: Bringing Spanish language in California to the forefront

Álvaro Gonzelz Alba, Hispanic Studies, UC Riverside
Evelyn Gamez, Spanish and Portuguese, UC Davis

✪ Short-Term Collaborative Research Residency

Reading for Infrastructure, Infrastructure for Reading

Susan Zeiger, English, and Kameron Sanzo, English, UC Riverside
With Adriana Johnson, Comparative Literature, UC Irvine

✪ Editors’ Residency

Moving in the Midst: Critical Indigenous Dance Studies

Jacqueline Shea Murphy, Dance, UC Riverside
Maria Regina Firmino-Castillo, Dance, UC Riverside

✪ The Andrew Vincent White and Florence Wales White Graduate Student Scholarship (Medicine & Humanities)

The Moral Psychology of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Jared Smith, Philosophy, UC Riverside

✪ University of California President’s Faculty Research Fellowship

The Microbial Resolve: Visualization, Speculation, and Security

Gloria Kim, Media and Cultural Studies, UC Riverside

✪ Graduate Student Dissertation Support

Exposed Flesh: A Literary History of Black Being

Sarah Buckner, English, UC Riverside

✪ Conference Grant

Co-Productions: Literature, Media, and Diaspora in the Japanese Transpacific

John Kim, Comparative Languages and Literatures, UC Riverside

✪ Junior Faculty Manuscript Workshop

Indigenous Inhumanities: California Indian Revitalizations and Postapocalyptic Research

Mark Minch-de Leon, English, UC Riverside

✪ Engaging Humanities Grant

Re-Visioning Abolitionist Futures: Beyond the Walls

Setsu Shigematsu, Media and Cultural Studies, UC Riverside

✪ Fall 2020 Residential Research Group

Disciplining Diversity

Mariam Lam, Comparative and Ethnic Studies, UC Riverside (Convener)

June 17, 2020|

Congratulations to the following Center for Ideas & Society award winners!

Conference Awards

¡Que Viva Mexico! – Transnational Film and Audiovisual Art
Paulo Chagas (Music)
Nikolay Maslov (Culver Center of the Arts)

Co-Productions: Literature, Media and Diaspora in the Japanese Transpacific
Anne McKnight (Comparative Literature)
John Kim (Comparative Literature)
Setsu Shigematsu (Media & Cultural Studies)
Traise Yamamoto (English)
Catherine Gudis (History)

(Re)Draft Manuscript Revision Workshops

Undocumented Desires: Fantasies of Latino Male Sexuality
Richard Rodriguez (Media & Cultural Studies)

The ‘Falls’ of Rome: Transformations of the City in Late Antiquity (270-603 CE)
Michele Salzman (History)

Interdisciplinary Working Group Awards

Global 19th Century
Susan Zieger (English)
Jonathan Eacott (History)
Heidi Brevik-Zender (Comparative Literature/French)
Fatima Quaraishi (History of Art)

Making Space: Emerging Theories and Interventions in Critical Anti-Violence Research
Alisa Bierria  (Ethnic Studies)
Andrea Smith (Ethnic Studies)

Retaining and Promoting Diverse Faculty: Intellectual Engagement and the Second Book Project
Victoria Reyes (Sociology)
Jade Sasser (Gender & Sexuality Studies)

Political Economy Seminar
Jana Grittersova (Political Science)
Matthew Mahutga (Sociology)

April 21, 2020|

Success! Book manuscript workshop hosted online

The Faculty Commons Latinx & Latin American Studies Workgroup recently hosted an online book manuscript workshop for Xóchitl Chavez (Music), who found the virtual workshop to be very helpful. “I’m sure it would have been nice to share a meal to build further collegial ties,” she said, “but otherwise what is essential at this point is the content from the workshop.” All the participants in the two-hour Zoom session agreed, calling the workshop a “success” and a “great template” for future virtual meetings.

For tips on virtual manuscript workshops, contact us at

March 26, 2020|

Intellectual community just got an upgrade

Dear colleagues,

In these stressful times, the work of building community is more important than ever. We’re re-designing our book talks, panel discussions, and reading groups so that you can join in online – where ever you are. As we develop our plans, we would love to hear your ideas for meetings, events or programs that help keep us all in engaged and moving forward. Email us at

Check back soon for more details!

March 18, 2020|

In Focus: Matthew King

Matthew King
Mellon Humanities Fellow

Department: Religious Studies
Rank: Associate Professor
# of years at UCR: 5 years
Top three texts I would take to a desert island: Sakya Paṇḍita Sakya Lekshé, Annie Dillard Teaching a Stone to Talk, Michel de Certeau Heterologies.
Favorite thing: a guitar and Anstruther Lake in my Canadian homeland of Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park.
Favorite films: Three documentaries that I have seen in recent years that I regularly bring to my students—all imperfect portraits but which tend to leave viewers aching to think, act, and imagine better—are Happiness: TV Reaches Bhutan,Unmistaken Child, and Qapirangajuq: Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change.

Q. Your research agenda summed up in one sentence:

The social history of knowledge in late-and post-imperial Inner Asia, often paired with a history of the eastward circuit of humanist knowledge from Europe.

Q. Does your work explore a central question or theme?

Broadly speaking, the central problem I am trying to solve: How do communities come to know their past authoritatively in relation to global circuits of discourses and knowledge practices developed elsewhere.

Q. What can you tell us about your current project?

My current project: Examines a circuit of translations of a famous Chinese travel narrative entitled Record of Buddhist Kingdoms (Ch. 佛國記,Foguoji) by the Chinese Buddhist monk Faxian (法顯, 337-422 CE), one of pre-modern Asia’s most ambitious wanderers. I am exploring an Eurasianist circle of translation from the 19th century that brought Faxian’s text to European, Siberian, Tibetan, and Mongolian readers for the first time. In addition to providing an annotated translation of the Tibetan and Mongolian versions of this text, my book will explore the ways that these translations (and their hundreds of footnotes) helped invent “Asia,” “Buddhism,” and the “Silk Road” as contested objects of knowledge between the academy and the monastery and across the frontiers of the West/nonWest.

Q. What else have you been up to, in addition to your current project?

Recently, I have returned from a research fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study at the University of Leipzig, where I developed new work as part of a wonderful working group focusing on “secularisms in pre-modern Asia.” I am spending this academic year (very gratefully) as a Mellon Foundation second project fellow at the Center for Ideas and Society on the book described above. At the moment I am also spending quite a bit of time giving talks about my recently published first book, Ocean of Milk, Ocean of Blood: A Mongolian Monk in the Ruins of the Qing Empire(Columbia University Press, 2019).

Q. What do you love about the work you do? 

No other career pushes you to the very edge of what you are capable of conceiving and undertaking technically (ie. dealing with other languages, other modes of representing and inscribing the human imagination, other traces of tying human life to place and time, etc.).

Q. What has the experience of teaching taught you?

[T]hat the only authority I have as a teacher is when I am genuinely inhabiting the space of an inspired learner.

Photo taken by Venerable Bilguun in South Gobi Province, circa 2006.

Q. What would you change about the academy, if you could?

That we could acknowledge: 1) our very troubling role in deepening forms of social inequality (through, for example, the mass burden of student debt our institutions inflict and that pay our salaries); and 2) our professional implication in creating a massive and I would say mostly indefensible carbon emissions imprint through our rituals of plane travel and professional meetings.

Q. One amazing fact about you…..

I once found a dinosaur bone in the South Gobi Desert in the company of an incarnate Buddhist lama leading a small shih-tzu on a bedazzled leash. (We buried it after taking some pictures and you’ll never find it!)

In Focus is a new interview series that features faculty associates of the Center for Ideas and Society.

December 2, 2019|

In Focus: Marissa Brookes

Marissa Brookes
Mellon Humanities Fellow

Department: Political Science
Rank: Assistant Professor
# of years at UCR: I am in my 7th year now.
Top three texts I would take to a desert island: Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation; Theda Skocpol’s States and Social Revolutions;
Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States
Currently listening to: Dillinger Four, Naked Raygun, Danny Brown, Malibu Ken
A favorite record I encourage students to listen to is: Propagandhi’s 1993 How to Clean Everything. It’s a political punk classic.

Q: Your research agenda summed up in one sentence:

I study the politics of labor in the global economy, including how workers’ transnational activism influences employers to create and maintain “good jobs” (secure, stable, and gainful employment) in both advanced and developing countries.

Q: What contribution do you see your work making to research in this area?

Broadly speaking, the essential contribution of my research is in showing how globalization creates unique forms of power for workers, which they exercise in attempt to compel corporations to improve working conditions and protect labor rights.

Q: What questions are you currently exploring?

My current project, “Bringing Labor Back In: How Histories of Conflict Tame Corporate Power Over Time,” investigates labor transnationalism’s long-term impact on employment relations through a comparative historical analysis of global unions’ evolving relationships with transnational corporations over three decades.

Cover of Marissa’s book: “The New Politics of Transnational Labor.”

Q. You have had a busy year! What have you been up to?

Recently, I published my first book (The New Politics of Transnational Labor, 2019, Cornell University Press), presented a new paper on labor in China at UC San Diego as part of a multi-campus project on Great Power Competition in the 21st Century, and traveled to Mexico City for the Southwest Workshop on Mixed-Methods Research, an annual conference I co-founded and co-organize.

Q. When friends and family ask you what you love about your work….

… I tell them I care most about the practical implications of my research for reducing economic inequality, creating good jobs, and securing labor rights around the world.

Q. What have you learned from teaching students at UCR?

The most valuable lesson teaching has taught me is that students excel when they feel genuinely connected to their course material, their classmates, and their professors. They have to feel connected. They have to care. And they have to know that I care too. Only then do students develop the level of deep interest and active engagement necessary for systematic analysis and the development of critical thinking skills.

Q. If you had the power to change the academy in some way, what would you do?

If I could change one thing about the academy, it would be to eliminate the economic barriers that prevent bright, hardworking individuals from reaching their full potentials.

Q. What might people be surprised to know about the inspiration for your research?

My work is inspired by the difficult, exhausting jobs my family members have had to work over the years and the opportunities I have had for socioeconomic mobility. My mother immigrated to the US from the Philippines during the Marcos regime and never got to finish her degree. My father is a Vietnam veteran who was not encouraged to pursue a college education by his factory-worker father and extended family of coal miners. I feel fortunate and enormously privileged to be able to study the politics of work and employment as a professor at UCR.

In Focus is a new interview series that features faculty associates of the Center for Ideas and Society.

November 18, 2019|Tags: |

In Focus: Jody Benjamin

Jody Benjamin
Participant, Committee on African Studies

Department: History
Rank: Assistant Professor
Educational background: Ph.D. in African and African American Studies with a concentration in African History, Harvard University, 2016
# of years at UCR: Four
Top three texts I would take to a desert island: The best collection of photographs I could find; The Fortunes of Wangrin by Ahmadou Hampate Ba. The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison.
Favorite things: music: afrobeat, hip hop, bebop, jazz, reggae; places: libraries, museums, big cities (Dakar, Lagos, New York City), the woods, farmer’s markets, street festivals/parades, California beaches;  food: Jamaican Brown Stew chicken with rice, peas and plantain, Thiebou Djen (Senegalese fish and rice), Nigerian Egusi stew with pounded yam; crispy fried foods, collard greens, ice cream, cookies and hot dogs with relish and spicy mustard; activity: hanging with good friends and family.

Q. Your research agenda summed up in one sentence:

My research focuses on western African history (Senegal, Mali, Guinea) during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and includes questions of African Diaspora and transnational history.

Q. Broadly speaking, what is the key aim of your research?

To center the significant contributions of continental African history both to the “early modern” period and to contemporary realities; and to push the conversation beyond standard approaches to the Atlantic slave trade and colonialism in Africa.

Q. What is your current project?

“The Texture of Change: Cloth, Commerce and History in Western Africa, 1700-1850.” In it, I explore how people across space and time deployed textiles and dress to claim individual or group status. I argue that choices made within a set of ecological, political and economic constraints structured networks connecting the Atlantic and Indian Ocean perimeters in the pre-modern era.

Q: Why study textiles, in particular?

Textiles were a major industry within the entire West African region going back centuries. They also were the biggest “global” industry of the period I study. At the heart of what became the Industrial Revolution.

Q. Any new developments in your work?

Recently, I received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities to complete my first book. I have been invited to give a talk about my research this fall as part of the Distinguished Africanist Lecture series at the University of Chicago this fall.

Q. When friends and family ask what you love about your work, how do you answer?

I tell them that I get to spend time learning deeply about people, places and processes that have shaped our contemporary lives in ways large and small. Then I get to share what I’ve learned with other scholars, students and different audiences all over the world. How awesome! (Don’t mention all the long hours, though!)

Q. A favorite podcast:

Africa Past and Present: the podcast about African history, culture and politics (; Afropop Worldwide with Georges Collinet (

Q.What have you learned from teaching?

That less can be more. Capturing a student’s genuine interest and giving them tools to take ownership of a particular topic or set of questions makes for much better learning than lots of lecture slides and tons of reading. Mix it up. Try new things. Once you earn their buy-in, amazing things are possible.

Q: If you could change one thing about the academy:

I would like to see an academy where scholars were generally more reflective about their enormous privileges (yes, you’ve earned them, but then what?), more conscious about the (non-verbal) messages they send to students and society, more generous toward their colleagues, and more deliberate about paying it all forward.

Q. Something people might be amazed to know about you:

I got my love of reading from generations in my family. I inherited a large library of books and music from my grandfather who was an autodidact because he had to be. I am the first in our family to (have the opportunity) to earn a doctorate and work as a scholar.

In Focus is a new interview series that features faculty associates of the Center for Ideas and Society.

October 10, 2019|Tags: |

In Focus: Victoria Reyes

Victoria Reyes
Participant, Mellon Advancing Intercultural Studies, Contested Histories Seminar

Department: Sociology
Rank: Assistant Professor
# of years at UCR: Entering 4th year at UCR but 3rd year on campus because during my first year I was on leave for a Postdoc at University of Michigan
Top three texts I would take to a desert island: This is a difficult one…I’d say I would take my phone and internet connection
Favorite thing: Philippine brand dried mangoes

Q. Your research agenda summed up in one sentence:

I study culture, borders, and empires.

Q. Is there a specific question that arises in the intersection of these topics?

The question of territoriality – what is it? What does it look like in practice and on-the-ground? How has it changed over time?

Q. You have a new book out- congratulations!

Yes, thanks! I recently published my first book, Global Borderlands: Fantasy, Violence and Empire in Subic Bay, Philippines (Stanford University Press), and received an AAUW Postdoctoral American Fellowship to work on my second project during 2019-2020. Read UCR News article about Reyes’ book >>

Q. Why ‘borders’ in particular? What sparked your interest?

My initial interest was sparked by my grandmother’s migration story through marriage to a US serviceman. Her nostalgia of the former base in the Philippines clashed with my undergrad classes on empire. I was also fascinated by what sociologists call the socio-cultural boundary-making within the Filipino American community as my grandmother was ostracized, in part because marriage migration can have a stigma of sex work attached to it.

When I went to Subic Bay, Philippines, home to a former US naval base, the differences between inside what was now a special economic zone and outside further intrigued me and the first time I saw a military ship docked, I remembered my grandmother’s awe.

So the borderlands I’m interested in are what I call global borderlands – legally ambiguous places (like overseas military bases, special economic zones, embassies, cruise ships and the like) where rules of life differ within their walls and which are symbolically seen as either arms of empire or as ways to be a part of a modern, cosmopolitan community. It’s this tension that I’m fascinated by.

Q. What are you working on now?

My current project is on reputation of places, how it is differently racialized and gendered by authors and audiences. I’m particularly interested in state attempts to shape place reputation and how that compares to narratives of places on-the-ground.

Q. What do you love about your work?

Everything! I love being able to research what I want, teach interesting subjects to bright students and engage in service work I find fulfilling.

Q. What is your top ‘take away’ from teaching?

The most valuable lesson that teaching has taught me is that the classroom is a partnership between myself, the TAs, and each student. We all learn from one another. Each and every student has something to contribute and I find UCR students to be inspiring.

Q: Given that you love your work, if you could change one thing about the academy….

It would be for the academy to be more inclusive. I dedicate my service time to DEI issues (whether on the UCR Senate’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee, writing advice columns, or establishing new awards for grad students, publicly engaged work and teaching).

Q. Do you have a favorite podcast to recommend?

I’ve been listening to the podcast “Stay Tuned with Preet” which is hosted by Preet Bharara, a former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. It’s an informative take on contemporary U.S. politics under the Trump administration and he and his guests break down what various indictments, reports, and other legal matters mean in lay terms (e.g., like the Mueller Report).

Q. Any interesting facts about you that might surprise people?

I have aphantasia, which means I have zero visual processing and don’t have a “mind’s eye.” I always thought comments like “day dreaming” or how characters looked different on screen than how they imagined when reading books were metaphors! It amazes me that other people can visualize things. I’m also a true crime buff and spend whatever free time I have (which isn’t a lot with a 5 year old and a 1 year old!) reading about unsolved mysteries.

In Focus is a new interview series that features faculty associates of the Center for Ideas and Society.

September 4, 2019|Tags: |

UCHRI Award Winners

Congratulations to the following UCR faculty and students for being awarded a UCHRI grant for the year 2019-20!

Alisa Bierria, Ethnic Studies
Feminist Anti-Carceral Research Initiative
✪ Engaging Humanities Grant

Michelle Dizon, Media and Cultural Studies
Fugitive Archives
✪ Engaging Humanities Grant

Dana Simmons, History
Humanities Careers in Science History, Policy, and Communication (H-SCHIP)
✪ Grad Professionalization Workshop Grant

Samuel Fullerton, History
Sex and the English Revolution
✪ Dissertation Award

Chelsea Silva, English
Bedwritten: Middle English Medicine and the Ailing Author
✪ Dissertation Award

June 25, 2019|

Thank you for another great year!

On behalf of everyone at the Center, we want to thank you for your continued participation and support!

In addition to celebrating the Center’s 30th Anniversary, we’re celebrating another successful year of humanities-oriented programs at UCR. Over the last academic year, Center-sponsored events reached over 800 people through…

  • More than 15 conferences & workshops
  • Over 20 community events
  • 12 faculty-led projects hosting over 50 guest speakers
  • 11 faculty book talks including Emory Elliott Award winner: Close Encounters with Humankind by Sang-Hee Lee
  • 27 graduate dissertation research grants
  • PLUS co-sponsorship of events across campus!

What was the most memorable part of the year for you? We would love to hear your feedback!

Share Feedback

Stay tuned for Film for Thought, a free summer documentary series!

June 19, 2019|

UCHRI Grant Award Winners

Congratulations to the following UCR faculty for being awarded a UCHRI grant for the year 2019-20!

Ademide Adelusi-Adeluyi
Department of History
Imagine Lagos: Speculative Cartography and the Making of a 19th Century African City
✪ Junior Faculty Manuscript Workshop

Alejandra Dubcovsky
Department of History
At the Frontlines of a Forgotten War: Violence, Gender, and Conflict in the Early South
✪ Mid-Career Faculty Manuscript Workshops

Dana Simmons
Department of History
Hungry, Thinking with Animals

✪ Mid-Career Faculty Manuscript Workshops

Erith Jaffe-Berg
Department of Theatre, Film and Digital Production
Legacies of Commedia dell’Arte: “Others” and the production of theatre from early-modern Italy through modern-day California
✪ Conference Grant

April 30, 2019|

Call for Graduate Fellows: Global 19th Century 2019-20 Workshops

The Global Nineteenth-Century Working Group at the Center for Ideas and Society invites applications for Graduate Student Fellows in 2019-20. The Fellowship includes participation in two events:

1) A one-day, interdisciplinary workshop, loosely organized around the sub-themes of “Architectures,” “Devotional Practices” and “Empires” in the long nineteenth century, to take place on Friday, September 27, 2019. At this event, three local and three invited faculty will share works-in-progress. Graduate fellows will read these works in advance and participate fully in the discussions, lunch, and informal conversations with the faculty.

2) At a second event, to be scheduled in Spring 2020, the graduate fellows will present their own pre-circulated works in progress.

The Fellowship stipend is $200. Applicants must be enrolled in a graduate program at UCR and should determine that receipt of the stipend will not negatively impact their current funding. Please send a c.v. and a brief (150-200 word) abstract describing the research topic you would like to present at the Spring 2020 event and confirming availability for the Sept. 27 workshop. The research topic is open to anything related to the Global 19th century; it need not conform to the September workshop categories.

Faculty Project Coordinators

Fatima Quraishi
Art History

Heidi Brevik-Zender
French and Comparative Literature

Jonathan Eacott

Applications should be sent by Friday, May 3 to Katharine Henshaw (

April 18, 2019|

Lalami wins leading literary prize

Laila Lalami, a creative writing professor and author of several books, is the winner of the 2019 Simpson/Joyce Carol Oates Literary Prize.

She was one of five finalists announced last month, selected from authors nominated by publishers, critics, agents, authors, and other author representatives.

Lalami, who received a $50,000 prize, said she was thrilled to receive the award and honored to be in the company of the other finalists. “This award is a wonderful gift of time, which I will use to work on my next project, a book of nonfiction about the relationship between the citizen and the state, exploring the ways in which it can be undermined by race, gender, and national origin,” she said.  “This is a book I have been writing for a while, but it feels especially pressing at this particular moment in American history.”

The Simpson Literary Prize has been awarded annually since 2017 by the Simpson Project, a collaboration of the Laffayette Library and Learning Center Foundation and UC Berkeley’s English Department.

Joseph Di Prisco, chair of the Simpson Literary Project, said Lalami stood out with her “magnificently accomplished works of fiction” as well as her stylish and powerful essays and opinion pieces. “Ms. Lalami brilliantly guides us through the labyrinth of the past, and she illuminates the shadowy stories of our lives here and now, wherever and whoever we are,” he said.

Read Full Article

April 15, 2019|

Lalami on short list for literary prize

UC Riverside Creative Writing Professor Laila Lalami is one of six finalists for the 2019 Simpson Literary Prize, which honors mid-career fiction authors.

Lalami is the author of multiple award-winning novels, including her most recent book, “The Moor’s Account.” Her new novel, “The Other Americans,” will be published later this month.

The $50,000 Simpson Literary Prize has been awarded annually since 2017 by the Simpson Project, a collaboration of the Lafayette Library and Learning Center Foundation and UC Berkeley’s English department.

The finalists, announced March 6, were selected from authors nominated by publishers, critics, agents, authors, and other author representatives. The prize winner will be announced in April.

Lalami said she was delighted to be named a finalist.

“It’s an honor to be included on this prestigious list with Rachel Kushner, Valeria Luiselli, Sigrid Nunez, Anne Raeff, and Amor Towles,” she said.

Lalami’s “The Moor’s Account was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction and has won several awards including the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Award for Fiction, the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, and the Arab American Book Award for Fiction.

Read Full Article

March 18, 2019|

She’s truly the colleague we all hope for

Dana Simmons

Dana Simmons has devoted her life to teaching. She is an associate professor in the department of history and has been teaching at UC Riverside for 13 years.

“With very little, if any, compensation, Dana has been tireless in her efforts to advance the careers of women faculty,” said Goldberry Long, UCR professor of creative writing. “She’s truly the colleague we all hope for, one who wants all colleagues to be successful.  She works on their behalf without any apparent desire for recognition or praise. Words fail me; she’s just wonderful.”

Simmons is a co-convener of the CHASS Women’s Mid-Career Research Initiative (CMCRI). The initiative’s goal is to provide a support network for female faculty and faculty of color, to collaboratively and collectively move towards career advancement at the mid-career level. The initiative offers writing retreats, workshops, panels, and assistance in goal settings for the faculty in research and writing.

The CMCRI was formed by UCR CHASS professors Erica Edwards, Jennifer Hughes and Michelle Raheja in 2011 with support from the UCR Center for Ideas and Society (CIS). CIS has also played a huge part in providing support, funding and providing a place where faculty can continuously learn from each other, and for them to demonstrate their love for their work.

“The reward is being able to share the daily triumphs and challenges of my colleagues and to know that the folks out there are watching out for each other,” Simmons said. “I see them as models for my work.”

Simmons was recently nominated by 30 women faculty for the Rachel Fuchs Memorial Award for excellence in mentorship and service to women and the LGBTQ community.

Simmons will be taking a sabbatical leave during spring quarter to complete her book, focusing on the history of the science and politics of hunger and food insecurity.

Read Full Article

January 29, 2019|

Happy Holidays

Warm wishes from everyone at the Center for Ideas & Society! This coming year in 2019, the Center will be celebrating its 30th Anniversary. As we move forward into the new year, we will look back at the Center’s history and impact over the last 30 years. Stay tuned!

December 17, 2018|

2018 Emory Elliott Award Winner

The Center for Ideas and Society is pleased to announce that the winner of the annual Emory Elliott Book Award is Sang-Hee Lee for Close Encounters with Humankind. Please join us in congratulating Sang-Hee for her outstanding contribution to scholarship in CHASS. An award celebration will be hosted in winter 2019. Details coming soon.

About the Book

What can fossilized teeth tell us about the life expectancy of our ancient ancestors? How did farming play a problematic role in the history of human evolution? How can simple geometric comparisons of skull and pelvic fossils suggest a possible origin to our social nature? And what do we truly have in common with the Neanderthals? In this captivating international bestseller, Close Encounters with Humankind, Korea’s first paleoanthropologist, Sang-Hee Lee, explores some of our greatest evolutionary questions from new and unexpected angles. This book is the perfect read for anyone curious about where we came from and what it took to get us here. As we mine the evolutionary path to the present, Lee helps us to determine where we are heading and tackles one of our most pressing scientific questions―does humanity continue to evolve?

The book was awarded the W.W. Howells Book Award by the Biological Anthropology Section of the American Anthropological Association. The award is given to honor a book that represents “the highest standard of scholarship and readability,” and informs “a wider audience of the significance of physical or biological anthropology in the social and biological sciences, and demonstrate a biocultural perspective.” It is now in five languages (Korean, English, Spanish, Traditional Chinese, and Japanese). Next year (2019) the Greek, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, and Russian editions will be out.

Learn about the Emory Elliot Book Award

December 12, 2018|

Climate change is worsening, but population control isn’t the answer

UCR News Article on upcoming Hot off the Presses speaker, Jade S. Sasser and her new book: “On Infertile Ground: Population Control and Women’s Rights in the Era of Climate Change.”

Jade S. Sasser’s new book highlights contemporary population control’s consequences for poor women in the Global South.

Over the past 100 years, the popularity of population control in the United States has ebbed and flowed. Once considered a responsible way to safeguard the planet and ensure its future viability, population control was later revealed as a coercive tool used to limit the reproductive freedom of low-income and minority groups.

Jade S. Sasser, an assistant professor of gender and sexuality studies at the University of California, Riverside, has spent nearly a decade studying the history of population politics and how they’re interpreted today. According to her, population control is far from a thing of the past; instead, some of its core messages have been repackaged to appeal to a younger generation of American activists.

The resulting narrative links population trends to environmentalism and sexual agency, positioning “empowered” women as key crusaders in the fight against climate change. If women are encouraged and given the materials to control and limit their reproduction, or so the thinking goes, both they and the planet will reap the benefits.

But there’s a problem, Sasser said. Certain women remain disproportionately targeted by such a narrative, the bulk of them poor women living in the Global South, or countries in Africa, Latin America, and developing Asia.

Sasser’s firsthand experiences with young women in the Global South — and their American activist counterparts — form the backbone of her new book, “On Infertile Ground: Population Control and Women’s Rights in the Era of Climate Change” (NYU Press). Described by its author as a “cautionary tale,” the book takes a critical look at the positioning of population growth as a source of climate crisis.

Read Full Article

November 27, 2018|

UCR professor’s American Book Award could boost other Inland authors

Author and UC Riverside Professor Rachelle Cruz gives a speech as she accepts an American Book Award on Sunday, Oct. 28. (Photo courtesy of Cati Porter, Inlandia Institute)

UC Riverside Professor Rachelle Cruz accepted an American Book Award on Sunday, Oct. 28, an honor that the Inland literary community says is a milestone not just for her but also for the region.

Cruz’s poetry collection, “God’s Will for Monsters,” was among 15 winners that the Before Columbus Foundation chose to recognize for  “outstanding literary achievement from the entire spectrum of America’s diverse literary community.”

The book centers around a shape-shifting figure from Filipino folklore called an aswang, which Cruz uses to explore intimate topics like secrets, shame and what it means to be a “witch.”

The child of Filipino parents, she strove for a nuanced look at the traditional culture and how Catholic teachings had changed and marginalized it.

Similarly, she hopes her work will reverse misconceptions about the Inland region, which she said has long had excellent writers but isn’t recognized for its talent.

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November 15, 2018|

Lee Explores Human Evolution in “Close Encounters With Humankind”

Photo by Jimmy Lai/ Student Photographer, CHASS Marketing & Communications

“Close Encounters with Humankind” is not your typical textbook. Every chapter starts with a question. Questions can be about the birth of fatherhood, or farming, or our changing brains.

“A lot of the textbooks talk about the beginning that happened billions of years ago,” Lee said, “but this book starts with a question each chapter.  Each chapter is an exploration.” The questions challenge the traditional progression of evolution and provide intriguing insights into the human origins through Lee’s research. Her conclusions and discoveries will keep readers absorbed and ultimately question whether humanity will continue to evolve.

Lee wants her readers to perceive that we are always evolving and changing. “I want my readers to recognize that our today is made up of an infinite number of todays from the past. If readers can be familiar with the legacy of the depth of time, we hold in ourselves and to be even more curious. That is what I would hope for.”

Lee’s book is the recipient of the 2019 W.W. Howells Book Award and has been published in Korean, English, Spanish, and Chinese. The book is also scheduled to be published in four more languages next year. In the future, Lee would also like to explore more about women in human evolution.

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October 23, 2018|

The Center Receives $1 Million Grant

In a bold acknowledgment of the University of California, Riverside’s humanities programs, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded $1 million to the university’s Center for Ideas and Society.

The award, which comes on the eve of the Center for Ideas and Society’s 30th anniversary in 2019, is the largest the center has ever received. It will support a series of fellowships for faculty members pursuing humanities and humanities-related scholarship, said UCR’s Georgia Warnke, center director and distinguished professor of political science.

“This award reflects confidence in UCR’s humanities faculty broadly understood and a welcome desire to sustain interdisciplinary and humanistically oriented scholarship,” Warnke added. “It’s truly transformative for the university.”

The grant reinforces UCR’s commitment to further enhancing its profile in the humanities and related fields at a time when funding and programming for such fields are under threat at public universities across the country.

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July 16, 2018|

Catherine Gudis Awarded Engaging Humanities Grant

Congratulations to Catherine Gudis (History), recipient of a UCHRI Engaging Humanities Grant for her project: Skid Row History Museum and Archives.

Catherine Gudis is Director of the Public History Program at UCR and teaches classes in public history and 20th century U.S. history, building on her twin interests in modern consumer culture and cultural and urban constructions of race, space, and place. She received her B.A. in Philosophy from Smith College and Ph.D. in American Studies (with distinction) from Yale University, where she also won the Yale Teaching Prize. Professor Gudis is the author of Buyways: Billboards, Automobiles, and the American Cultural Landscape (Routledge, 2004), which traces the relationship between automobility, advertising, and the commercialization of the urban environment. She has contributed to and edited Cultures of Commerce: Representations of Business Culture in the United States (coedited with Elspeth Brown and Marina Moskowitz, Palgrave/MacMillan, 2006) and museum books on art and culture, including Lions and Eagles and Bulls: Early American Inn & Tavern Signs (Princeton, 2001), Ray Johnson: Correspondences (coedited with Donna DeSalvo, Flammarion, 2000), Helter Skelter: L.A. Art in the 1990s (Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art, 1990), Oehlen Williams (Wexner Center, Ohio State, 1999), and A Forest of Signs: Art in the Age of Representation (MIT, 1989).

June 12, 2018|

UCR archaeologist’s exhibition exposes an overlooked ancient Mesoamerican society

Catharina Santasilia (UC Riverside, Ph.D. Candidate, Anthropology) has been featured in Medium’s latest issue. Santasilia was a participant in the Rise of Civilization in Mesoamerica Conference back in February 2018.

Forget the hat and whip made famous by Indiana Jones. For a preteen Catharina E. Santasilia, her love of archaeology started with Daniel Day-Lewis.

It was the actor’s star-making performance in “The Last of the Mohicans” that inspired the Denmark-born Santasilia’s lifelong interest in indigenous peoples and the things they left behind.

“I’ve always been curious,” said 34-year-old Santasilia, who goes by “Cat,” and is an international doctoral student in UC Riverside’s Department of Anthropology. “But two things happened after I watched ‘The Last of the Mohicans.’ I, like many girls, fell in love with Daniel Day-Lewis, and I developed a fascination with the Americas, which is one of the reasons why I wanted so badly to come to the United States.”

Her fascination — cultivated over six summers in Belize studying ancient Maya sites — came to a head in 2015, in downtown Riverside, of all places. Tucked inside a storage room at the Riverside Metropolitan Museum, Santasilia made a discovery that would alter the course of her nascent archaeology career: a collection of nondescript boxes, bequeathed to the museum in 2003 by the descendants of a local archaeologist, which contained never-before-displayed remnants of a 3,000-year-old Mesoamerican society.

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June 12, 2018|

Thank you for a great year!

As the academic year draws to a close, we want to THANK YOU for your participation and support!

We’re celebrating another successful year of humanities-oriented programs at UCR. Over the last 12 months, the Center sponsored…

  • 5 conferences & workshops reaching over 360 people
  • 8 community events with over 450 participants
  • 9 faculty-led projects hosting 27 guest speakers
  • 8 faculty book talks including Emory Elliott Award winner: “Miss Burma” by Charmaine Craig
  • 24 graduate dissertation research grants
  • PLUS co-sponsorship of events across campus on topics such as nuclear disasters, media expertise, the Rohingya crisis, Native American pedagogy, careers for Ph.D. students, healing the Earth and much more!

We have more great programming on the way—
Film for Thought, a free summer documentary series!!

June 11, 2018|

UCHRI Awards Grants to UC Riverside Faculty & Students

Congratulations to Jody Benjamin (History), recipient of a UCHRI Junior Faculty Manuscript Workshop award for his project: The Texture of Change: Cloth, Commerce and History in Western Africa, 1700–1850.

Additional kudos for two UCR graduate students who have received Graduate Student Dissertation Support Grants from UCHRI:

Mackenzie Gregg: Plagues that Fascinate: Literary Leprosy and Queer Affect in the Victorian Fin de Siècle
Hannah Manshel: The Freedom of a Broken Law

May 22, 2018|