Latest News

UCHRI Awards 2024-25

We are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2024-25 UCHRI grants!

Congratulations to the following UCR faculty:

✪ MC Faculty Working Groups

Crystal Baik, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Reparative Memories: Communities in Crisis and Archival Care 

✪ Engaging Humanities Grant

Elyse Ambrose, Department for the Study of Religion and Department of Black Study
Black Trans Ethical Worldmaking Lab 

✪ Graduate Student Dissertation Support

Iliana Cuellar, Comparative Literature PhD Student
Palimpsexts and Body Doubles: Autotheory in the Films of Agnès Varda, Albertina Carri, Laetitia Masson, and Lina Rodriguez

✪ Climate Action Training and Summer Dissertation Fellowship

Grecia Perez, Anthropology PhD Student
The (il)legibility of the Black experience in Mexico: Citizenship, Antiblackness, and Ecological Authority

✪ Junior Faculty Manuscript Workshops

Trisha Remetir, Comparative Literatures and Languages
Unfamiliar Waters: Filipinx Aesthetics against Extractive Capitalism

✪ Conference Grant

André Carrington, English 
Reimagining the Archive: Eaton Speculative Fiction Conference 

✪ UC Underrepresented Scholars Fellowship

Michael Moses, Education

May 7, 2024|

Center for Ideas & Society Awards 2024-25

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


Eaton Speculative Fiction Conference: Reimagining the Archive

andré carrington (English), Loren Barbour (English), Chelsea-Mae Yuipco (Media & Cultural Studies), K Persinger (Media & Cultural Studies), and Liza Wemakor (English)

The 2020s thus far have been defined by numerous and often interrelated crises, which have prompted widespread conversation on the urgent need to imagine and implement better, different, and innovative solutions for the future. Influenced by feminist, queer, decolonial, and critical race theories, speculative fiction writing and scholarship have likewise become increasingly invested in care, resistance, and liberation as strategies toward futurity. In accordance with these concerns, this project will relaunch the Eaton Conference of Science Fiction around the theme “Reimagining the Archive” in order to investigate reparative approaches to speculative fiction and its history, specifically with the archive. From the prominence of the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy to its Speculative Fictions and Cultures of Science program, the study of speculative fiction has deep significance to the University of California, Riverside. In seeking to revive the Eaton Conference, the organizers aim to bolster UCR’s prestigious reputation in the field and foster a network of new and emerging scholars and artists. Supporting emergent talent is an ongoing act of care that this version of the conference will prioritize as it addresses ongoing disparities in the field (and across academia) and (re)imagines the future of humanities research.


UCR Science and Technology Studies (STS) Workshop Series

Linda Hall (Anthropology) and Yolanda Moses (Anthropology)

The UCR Science and Technology Initiative will host a series of workshops to advance an interdisciplinary dialogue by UCR faculty across colleges about existing Science and Technology Studies (STS) knowledge and research. The participants will share interdisciplinary ways of knowing regarding STS and help to define the challenges, expectations, and possible future viability of a more integrative teaching and research model. The outcomes of these workshops will include creating new synergies across disciplines and with Island Empire communities. The workshops are intended to promote the collaborative research and problem solving that will support UCR’s goal to serve as a global partner and premier research institution in the international field of STS Studies.

Horror of Color Working Group

Magda Garcia (English)

The Horror of Color Working Group is a space for students and faculty to collaboratively engage research in horror studies with a specific focus on scholarship on horror and race and horror cultural productions by U.S.-based creators of color. The group brings together students and faculty across the humanities and social sciences to address topics ranging from the development and solidifying of genres such as Afro Horror, Indigenous Horror, and U.S. Latinx horror to fandoms of color with the goal of fostering intellectual exchange on the topic of EthnoHorror by 1) holding discussions of works in progress, 2) organizing conversations around shared readings, and 3) invited talks/panels.


Self-Consciousness and Mutual Recognition

Alexandra Newton (Philosophy) and Andrews Reath (Philosophy)

That the subject, or the I, is not an object in the world is one of the most fundamental insights in philosophy. It is also one of the most difficult. It is an insight that is often associated with Kant, and with later German Idealism, but it is also prevalent in the French tradition and in early analytic philosophy. In this conference, participants will discuss the questions: How can we develop accounts of selfconsciousness and mutual recognition that do justice to this insight? What is it to be conscious of ourselves as subjects of thinking and of acting? And how do we recognize others as subjects? The questions will be approached through discussion of the history of philosophy and through its development in more recent approaches from contemporary philosophy. The conference is interdisciplinary in its reach, because it is only by answering these fundamental questions about selfconsciousness and mutual recognition that we can begin to understand the different ways in which we learn about ourselves and about others in the more specialized humanistic disciplines.

April 3, 2024|

Director’s Musings

By Jeanette Kohl

Dear colleagues and friends of the CIS,

As we all find ourselves in the midst of the fall quarter already, I write to you with some updates and good news from the Center. I am happy to announce three new initiatives in the Being Human event stream, all of which are part of our efforts to create a robust cross-disciplinary discussion platform, emphasize the role of the Arts and Humanities in our university, and increase international exchange.

Thanks to the continued support of Rodolfo Torres, VC for Research and Economic Development, we will launch a second round of our successful mini labs, under the theme of Innovation Through Humanities. MiniLabs.02 supports experimental collaborations and cross-campus conversations with an interest in Humanities as a motor for innovation and problem-solving. The program provides opportunities for interdisciplinary brainstorming between faculty across different schools, with the potential for later grant applications. At least two members must be from CHASS, and each member will receive $ 500 in research funds. Mini labs can take place any time between January and September 2024. If you are interested, check out the application guidelines.

We are also hosting a new series of lunch conversations on current themes in medicine and society. The Albert Lunches, sponsored by Dr. Albert Stroberg, are organized together with David Lo, Senior Associate Dean for Research at the School of Medicine. The conversations will be recorded, and transcripts will be available on our website. Our first conversation is on Nov. 1, on: Just a Job? Medical Education between Science and Practice.

I am also proud to announce our first CIS Visiting International Scholar, Finnish scholar Jussi Parikka, who will join us in January 2025. Parikka is professor in digital aesthetics and culture at Aarhus University in Denmark and an internationally renowned media archaeology scholar. His work in technological culture and digital aesthetics provided the scholarly framework for UCR ARTS’s Digital Capture programming, part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time initiative in 2024/25. Parikka will conduct a student workshop and give a public lecture. His visit is funded by UCR’s VP for International Affairs, Marko Princevak.

I just came across an essay on the UC’s DEI policies in Berkeley’s Center for Studies in Higher Education online series that I want to share with you. It is co-authored by UC faculty Steven Brint and built as an open controversy, which I find heartening.

Finally, please join me in welcoming two new members of our advisory committee: Kris Neville, chair of Art History, and Bruce Link, distinguished professor of Sociology and Public Policy. We are glad to have you aboard!


October 24, 2023|Tags: |

Director’s update: October 2023

By Dylan Rodríguez

Dear UCR colleagues, students, and staff,

It is an honor to begin my third year as Co-Director of the Center for Ideas and Society.

I am excited about the Fall 2023 schedule of events for the Decolonizing Humanism(?) programming stream, including a lecture and performance by globally renowned scholar, lawyer, and activist Dr. Ana Flauzina (UCR Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow, 2021-2023) on October 30-31 (in person) and “On Violence: Fall 2023 Experimental Study Sequence” (online). Clickable link to participate in the “On Violence” sequence is here.

I invite you and anyone who may be interested to join the “On Violence” study sequence over the course of the Fall quarter. Below this note is a list of the online study sessions for “On Violence,” featuring some of the most significant emerging and established scholars in their fields of study.

I have taken great pleasure in collaborating with faculty and students from across the UCR campus and UC system over the last couple years, especially in the context of organizing numerous co-sponsored roundtables, lectures, panels, and experimental activities through the Decolonizing Humanism(?) programming stream. A few recent examples of these collaborations include Collective Escape: Trans Worldmaking Against Catastrophic Violence, The Inedible Plate: On Caste, Race, and Food Politics, Disability Justice, Reproductive Justice, and Sexual Agency, Spirituality and Abolition, and Black Liberation and Revolutionary Struggle NOW: A Roundtable Conversation with Sekou Odinga.

I look forward to seeing you at upcoming CIS events in the coming days!

October 23, 2023|Tags: |

2023-24 Conferences & Symposia Awards

The Center is pleased to announce the following 2023-24 Conferences & Symposia award winners:

A Panoply of Colors, A World of Materials: Global Connections of Early Modern Dyes
Spring 2024

Yong Cho (History of Art), Jody Benjamin (History), Savannah Esquivel (History of Art), Fatima Quraishi (History of Art)

This UCR conference will bring together a leading group of scholars studying dyes and related materials to shed light upon the vast and entangled networks that constituted a global world of colors. While this conference takes indigo as the primary case study, the goal of this conference is to engage with the transcultural histories of other prominent colorants that circulated globally and appeared alongside textiles. The conference will be divided into three thematic sessions. The first, “Origins,” focuses on labor, examining knowledge of cultivating dyes and textile materials as both an embodied and intellectual practice. The second, “Mobility,” telescopes out to examine dyes in a global, connected world, charting the trajectories of materials and technologies across maritime and overland trade routes. Finally, the third theme, “Patterns of Use,” considers vibrantly colored dyed fabrics as they enfolded bodies and draped over structures. The conference will conclude with a tour of the UCR Botanical Garden.

Embodying Caste, Re-Casting the Body
Spring 2024

Anusha Kedhar (Dance), Sammitha Sreevathsa (PhD Candidate, Dance)

*Also awarded a UCHRI Conference Grant

This interdisciplinary conference brings together studies of caste, which have historically been the remit of the social sciences, with discourses of the body, which are rooted in the arts and humanities, to think about the body as a site of caste violence and caste reproduction as well as a site of refuge and healing from caste oppression. While the connections between caste and the body are rooted in the origins of the caste system, there has been little scholarly overlap between disciplines that study caste and disciplines that study the body. This conference will address this gap by featuring scholars from Religious Studies, Anthropology, Ethnic Studies, History, and Dance Studies as well as caste-oppressed performers and activists from the US and India. Bridging the arts and humanities with the social sciences, it aims, in the short term, to introduce audiences to the problem of caste from multiple disciplinary points of view. In the long term, the goal is to spark other scholars in humanistic fields to consider the intersections of caste and the body in their work.

Beyond “Best Practices”: Proliferating Memory Work through Community-Grounded Oral History
Spring 2024

Crystal Mun-hye Baik (Gender & Sexuality Studies)

This symposium convenes an interdisciplinary research team of scholars (in education, gender and sexuality studies, Indigenous studies, performance studies, information studies, disability studies), community archivists, and independent oral historians to discuss community-grounded approaches to oral history with the UCR campus and broader public. Conceived by UCR’s Memory & Resistance Laboratory (MEM-RES) in collaboration with Separated: An Oral History Project, this gathering will be the research team’s first opportunity to share preliminary findings from an 8-month study that examines how practitioners across cultural contexts are engaging oral history in ways that challenge assumptions reproduced by professional bodies like the Oral History Association (OHA). This convening will seed a high-impact project: the development of a community-centered, location-sensitive toolkit that will serve as an alternative guide to OHA’s generalizable “best practice” policies.

July 5, 2023|

2023-24 UC Humanities Research Institute Award Winners

Congratulations to the following UCR faculty and students for being awarded a UCHRI grant!

✪ Multi-Campus Graduate Student Working Group
Daisy Herrera (History) – Refusing to be Refugees: Mapping Sites of Chicanx/Latinx Defiance and Activism in California

✪ Conference Grant
Anusha Kedhar (Dance) – Embodying Caste, Re-casteing the Body

✪ UC Underrepresented Scholars Fellowship
Elyse Ambrose (Religious Studies and Black Study)
Courtney Baker (English)
Jasmin Young (Ethnic Studies)

✪ Dissertation Support Grant
Samarth Singhal (English) – Artistic Agency in the Contemporary Indian Anglophone Picturebook

May 31, 2023|

Director’s update: February 2023

By Dylan Rodríguez

It continues to be a privilege and pleasure to participate in shaping the work of the Center for Ideas and Society. I trust that this brief correspondence will help encourage you to attend, participate in, and organize activities that reflect the experimental, inter/trans/counter/anti-disciplinary, creative character of the Center. As always, please feel free to reach out to me if you have ideas or questions:

Success! AFD Grant update
I’m happy to report that the Faculty Commons Project will continue to be supported through 2023-2024 as a result of our successful application for renewal of the UC Advancing Faculty Diversity (AFD) grant. I especially wish to acknowledge the Center’s Executive Katharine Henshaw and Grants and Finance Analyst Kathy Ann Hitchens for collaborating with me on this successful grant renewal. Crucially, the AFD grant will enable the expansion of the Faculty Commons Project to include two new and vital components: the creation of a Queer and Trans Studies Faculty Commons Group, and support for the heretofore unfunded work of the Dreaming Retention Think Tank.

Fall 2022 partial recap
A busy Fall 2022 quarter at the Center for Ideas and Society included several events co-sponsored by the Decolonizing Humanism(?) programming stream i proudly curate, including:

  • “Menino 111,” a lecture-performance with visiting Brazilian scholar/artist Aline Serzedello Vilaça;
  • “Unbreakable Resolve,” a presentation and discussion with nationally recognized community leaders and formerly incarcerated organizers Jerome Morgan and Robert Jones, co-founders of Free-Dem Foundations in New Orleans;
  • “Protests in Iran,” a national panel of experts discussing the ongoing Iranian protests, moderated by Prof. Fariba Zarinebaf (History);
  • and Race, Neoliberalism and the Transformation of the University, a daylong workshop with scholars from across the UC system, convened by Prof. David Lloyd (English).

I hope all of you will continue to reach out with other programming ideas that can include the Center as a collaborator and co-sponsor.

Upcoming: “Rethinking Retention, Redefining (Faculty) ‘Diversity,’” with UCOP/UCR administrators
On February 13, 3-5 pm, the Dreaming Retention Think Tank will host “Rethinking Retention, Redefining (Faculty) ‘Diversity,’” a potentially impactful online roundtable event featuring six UCR faculty colleagues and several UCOP/UCR administrators, including UC systemwide Vice Provost for Academic Personnel and Programs Douglas Haynes, UC
systemwide Vice President and Vice Provost for Graduate, Undergraduate and Equity Affairs Yvette Gullatt, UCR Vice Provost for Academic Personnel Daniel Jeske, and UCR Vice Chancellor and Chief Diversity Officer Mariam Lam. (Register at

This roundtable is the result of a collaboration between CIS and Imagining America, a peer research center at UC Davis led by our wonderful colleague (and fellow 2020 Freedom Scholar) Erica Kohl-Arenas.

I urge you to attend this roundtable. It promises to address significant and ongoing institutional challenges that require creative, concerted responses guided by our collective Insight and will. The roundtable will be held online and will be recorded for posting on the Center for Ideas and Society YouTube channel, which is in the process of becoming our primary site for hosting recorded events.

Open invitation: February 9 happy hour
Finally, i hope you will join us on Thursday, February 9, from 4-6 pm in INTS 1113 for the Faculty Commons and Dreaming Retention Think Tank happy hour. Faculty Commons participants and potential participants are all welcome! Appetizers, soft drinks, beer and wine will be served.

February 6, 2023|Tags: |

Postcard from Hamburg

Dear colleagues and friends of the CIS,

I hope you have all had a good start into the new academic year! My CIS letter today comes from Germany, where I am in residency at the Institute for Advanced Study in Hamburg (HIAS) until June 2023. It is a trip down memory lane for me. My mother and her family are from Hamburg, and as a child I spent many summers here and on the beaches of the nearby North Sea. I thought I’d share some impressions from where I am with you.

The “Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg” is the second largest city in Germany with almost 2 million people. It is a wealthy town with a long history as the main trading hub of the “Hanse,” a powerful alliance of harbor towns that dominated the foreign trade in the North of Germany from the 12th to the 17th century. Situated on the banks of the river Elbe, it has a particular charm – with its impressive town hall from the Renaissance, its nineteenth-century arcades that add a Mediterranean vibe to parts of downtown, the spectacular architecture of the new Elbphilharmonie, and the beautiful Alster lake with its many swans right in the city center. Its harbor is one the largest in Europe, and the city has always been more international than the rest of Germany – Hamburg calls itself “the gate to the world.”

The HIAS ( is a fairly young institution, located in the city’s Rothenbaum district by the Alster. It is funded through the city’s universities and art schools as part of Germany’s federal ‘excellence initiative’ – a competition under the auspices of the Ministry for Education and Research that, every seven years, awards money to the most promising and innovative academic “future concepts.” Good and bad things can be said about the initiative, but in a country whose university system is almost exclusively public, it provides the most important opportunity to kick-start forward-thinking academic projects.

My fellow fellows at the HIAS are a mixed bunch of lovely people from five continents. We have a composer, an economist, a writer, a biophysicist, a mathematician, a medical researcher (from UCSF), philosophers, political scientists, historians, a philologist, a lawyer, and an oceanographer. Three scholars are from Ukraine, and one of them – Oksana Koshulko in Refugee Studies – is currently organizing a large international conference on “Russia’s War in Ukraine. Trauma, Victory, Future in the E.U. and NATO” at HIAS, probably in January 2023. Once we have a date and program, we will publish a link in our CIS newsletter.

The shock waves of the war in Ukraine are very palpable here. In a way, it is a different Germany that I have returned to – different from even a year ago. Many people are anxious and on edge. There is a split through the middle of European societies, not unlike the US. It is a worrisome trend fueled by the insane pace of inflation, the restrictive approach of the German government to the pandemic, a new pandemic fall surge, the looming energy crisis and, in consequence, the forced reversal of Germany’s nuclear phase-out, diplomatic frictions with France, a new government from the far-right in Italy, the political mess in the UK, the situation at the Russian-occupied nuclear plant in Zaporizhzhya, the war crimes, the deaths, the hate… In the US, one tends to forget how close the many European countries and cultures are – geographically, economically, and through the political structure of the EU –, and just how interdependent. Let’s hope that the domino-effects we are seeing at the moment can be contained in the future.

While it is good to be back in the hustle and bustle of a European metropolis, I also miss California and will remain present at the CIS with a small number of events. The first, on December 14, is a workshop/tutorial with members of a grass-roots initiative located in London, “100 Histories of 100 Worlds in 1 Object.” It is a much-noticed project that seeks to rewrite the narratives of museum objects, empowering groups and voices formerly excluded from museum discourses to tell their own histories, in their own ways. We will publish the event in November.

Then, in the winter quarter, the Being Human Initiative at CIS will continue addressing Big Questions with a conversation between physicians and philosophers on “The Art of Dying (Ars moriendi).” And early in the spring quarter, we will launch the new Desert Spotlight series with a talk by Anne-Lise Desmas, curator at the Getty Museum, in our Palm Desert location.

In the meantime, a big and heartfelt thank you to Katharine and the CIS-team for shouldering the time-consuming move to College Building South and making a new home there! I have not seen it yet, but I am sure that you will find a warm and welcoming atmosphere in a safe environment.

Wishing you all a healthy and productive fall quarter, and Moin Moin! as the locals here say for good morning – which oddly they say all day long.


October 27, 2022|Tags: |

A year of collective work

Colleagues, it has been a privilege to serve as Co-Director of the Center this year. I have taken special joy in the numerous collaborations reflected in the collective work of the Decolonizing Humanism(?) programming stream, which I proudly initiated in Fall 2021. As the nationwide attacks against Critical Race Theory continue to saturate the politics and institutional culture of K-12 schooling, it has also been distressing to observe how overlapping and related forms of intellectual reaction and academic repression have crept into public university settings. Of course, such attacks, reactions, and repressive responses are neither new or surprising: in fact, their apparent spread and intensification is an indication that the creative, world-making labors of multiple communities of scholars and artists are indelibly reshaping humanities (and related) paradigms, archives, and epistemologies. I could go on, but would rather encourage you to click this link to check out some of the recorded events that I’ve had the pleasure of curating and facilitating during this past year as part of Decolonizing Humanism(?).


June 7, 2022|Tags: |

A year of changes and opportunities

Dear colleagues and friends,

At last, summer is around the corner – after what felt like an unusually long and demanding academic year. We did get a lot done at the Center for Ideas and Society, with the revamping of our internal structure, two new event streams designed by Dylan and me with Katharine’s input, and a variety of activities on zoom and in person, most notably perhaps our two impromptu zoom events at the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, attended by a lot of you.

We were also dealing with an unexpected event at the beginning of spring quarter: the abrupt loss of our home in College Building South, which gave us a big headache Luckily, we now have a new temporary home on the top floor of College Building North, right next door. Please come and join us there for in-person events, starting in the fall (fingers crossed)!

That said, I will be on leave for the entire year of 2022/23, on a fellowship at the Hamburg Institute for Advanced Study (HIAS). While I am very much looking forward to the extended time in Germany, I also know that I will miss UCR and the CIS. I am planning to participate in a couple of events each quarter, and I will be returning to SoCal for several weeks in the spring. In my absence, Dylan and Katharine will take care of most of the CIS programming, with the exception of a few events that have already been in the making for the “Being Human” event stream.

I also wanted to update you on a couple of other things: “Being Human” is partnering with UCR Arts for the 2024 Pacific Standard Time (PST) initiative, a collaboration of art institutions across SoCal, made possible largely through Getty Foundation grants. We are planning for additional programming around the CMP’s “Digital Capture” project, which is part of PST. A huge thank you to our Vice Provost for International Affairs, Marko Princevak, who agreed to fund our first international CIS Visiting Scholar for this project collaboration with the CMP, and to Susan Laxton (Art History) and Judith Rodenbeck (MCS) for taking the helm on things.

Conversations with the Getty Research Institute and Museum have been started about joint events with the CIS on our Palm Desert Campus in 2023/24, such as curator talks and events with guest scholars. Another set of conversations with the Medical School and the Center for Health Disparities Research as part of a new CIS “Connecting Colleges” initiative is underway; the series of joint discussions with physicians (When Will This Pandemic End?, What Happens When We Nearly Die?) will be continued with an event on Life at all Costs? in 2022/23.

Finally, a heartfelt shout-out to our donors Barbara Brink and Georgia Elliott for generously sponsoring two graduate student travel grants to Germany in 2022/23. We never have enough of those, and their contribution to the education of our graduate students will make a big difference! You will hear from us from Berlin in this newsletter.

If you have ideas for events or collaborations, please do not hesitate to be in touch! My involvement with the CIS will be noticeably reduced in 2022/23, but I am looking forward to robust and energetic planning for the year after.

Warmly, wishing you a productive and calm summer,

June 7, 2022|Tags: |

CIS Advisory Committee Statement

We the members of the Advisory Committee for UC Riverside’s Center for Ideas and Society learned with grave disappointment that the university will not preserve College Building South, which has been the Center’s home for nearly a decade. This historic structure, built in 1916 as a residence for the Director of the Citrus Experiment Station, offers a retreat-like setting for research and writing. We are distressed that the Center which serves as a center of gravity for faculty research, intellectual community and retention efforts will have no permanent location, with no apparent plans to re-allocate such a space. The Center’s offices and meeting spaces serve Center staff, affiliated faculty and fellows, students, the broader campus, and the community. Over the last decade, hundreds of faculty and students have worked in residency at CIS, which hosts dozens of conferences, symposia, and workshops each year and is home to the prestigious Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows Program. 

We write to register our concern about the Center’s ability to carry out programming given the lack of consultation or planning. Importantly, the haste of this announcement illustrates the administration’s lack of vision for the Center’s future. Yet the directors and advisory committee have an ambitious vision for CIS, which we want to continue to fulfill. As faculty representing multiple disciplines, departments, and colleges, we witness and benefit from the Center’s support of interdisciplinary and transformative research advancing humanistic studies, intellectual exchange, and creative activity. 

We serve on the CIS Advisory Committee because of our gratitude for the Center’s support of us, our colleagues, our community partners, and our students in scholarly and creative endeavors. We host colleagues from around the world here, extending the reach and reputation of UCR in doing so. Our students learn and are celebrated here, bringing this experience into their professional lives as alumni. The Center is essential to the campus because it plays a unique role in enabling rigorous humanistic intellectual work, fostering trans-disciplinary dialogue and community building necessary for creatively addressing the overlapping global crises we face today. Such challenges require active, community-engaged scholarship, which requires physical space–a healthy and positive workplace–for staff, scholars, and the community to convene in order to collaborate, co-imagine, and co-create.

We urge the university to make public its plan for the Center’s future, especially what will serve as the Center’s physical home–a space with capacity for staff, scholars, and community to continue their work–in the immediate term. Without a clear site for the important work CIS accomplishes every day for UCR, faculty and students risk losing crucial momentum and productivity in their current and upcoming projects. Faculty, staff, and students require a representative space that reflects our vision and mission, that enables community building, and that fosters the innovative, interdisciplinary, and community-based scholarship that CIS supports and that can be found in no other location in CHASS or on campus. 


Paulo Chagas (Music); Andrea Denny-Brown (English); Kim Yi Dionne (Political Science); Cathy Gudis (History); Tamara Ho (Gender and Sexuality Studies); Ruhi Kahn (Media & Cultural Studies); Matthew King (Religious Studies); David Lo (Biomedical Sciences); Vorris Nunley (English); João Costa Vargas (Anthropology); Ni’Ja Whitson (Dance)

April 23, 2022|

War in Europe

by Jeanette Kohl, Center for Ideas and Society Co-Director

In the summer of 2011, I wrote an article on Vladimir Putin for the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.  Dmitry Medvedev was still president of Russia, with Putin, then prime minister, eagerly waiting in the wings. His aspirations to take over power in the world’s largest country were unmistakable. In my article, I looked at the ways in which Putin made use of historical image types of military prowess, sexualized male power, and the Machiavellian qualities associated with Renaissance rulers – some of them updated for a 21st century audience, others not so much: Putin bare-chested on a stallion in the Russian Taiga, Putin hunting a Siberian tigress on foot, Putin piloting a firefighting plane, Putin whale hunting on a rubber raft. The images and their blatant message, circulated internationally by his office, were strangely atavistic and to a considerable degree ludicrous – at least to the Western eye. Yet they were also surprisingly successful in establishing Vladimir Putin’s image as a fearless man of action, a confident ruler in the long lineage of mythical superheroes, a Machiavellian prince of the proletariat.

I am sharing this brief story with you barely a week after the same Vladimir Putin launched a brutal military attack on Russia’s neighbor to the West, Ukraine, a democratically ruled state that shares borders with several NATO states. Yesterday morning, the world woke up to the unsettling news that Putin has put his nuclear forces on alert. There is war in Europe – something I, a convinced European, hoped I would never have to say during my lifetime. The world is left in a state of shock and disbelief: How can this happen in the 21st century? Is this the beginning of a third world war? What has gotten into Putin?

One wonders, indeed, what has gotten into the man who was once celebrated by Time Magazine as “Person of the Year 2007,” with a cover story about his intelligence, ambition, and the beginning of a new era for Russia and the world. The puffy, ashen-faced man who last week delivered a bewilderingly convoluted one-hour history lesson to the world – filled with anger, baseless claims, historical falsifications and interrupted by weary sighs – is a different Putin altogether. With Putin’s agonizing tirade on my laptop screen, I could not help but think that it marks a historical moment: the beginning of the end of Russia as we know it, and the beginning of the end of Putin. It certainly meant the beginning of immense suffering for Ukrainians.

Putin is a politician with Machiavellian beliefs, and the idea of ‘limited warfare’ as a natural extension of failed diplomacy is self-evident to him. But why war now? While I am not a political analyst and certainly not qualify to comment on the political workings of Russia or Putin’s inner circle, I still want to share the following brief thoughts with you.

This war, terrifying and saddening and outrageous as it is, seems to be the symptom of something larger, more than an autocratic ruler accidentally pushed over the edge. Might it say something not only about Putin and his claim on territories historically entangled with Russia but also about the state of our own western democracies, our societies, and our lives? It will not have escaped Putin’s attention that democracy, a political system that we have taken way too much for granted in the past decades, has reached a point of deep crisis; that the world’s oldest and seemingly strongest democracies – the UK and the US – have become particularly prone to erosion by loudmouth populist leaders who care little about the principles on which these democracies are built; that we are fighting culture wars on the inside whose bitterness has entrenched us and weakens our solidarity with one another; and that the ideological warfare between left and right, the loss of a common ground of middle-class values, and a general climate of censoriousness, mistrust, and self-righteousness is weighing us down. My own aversion for aggressive political agendas and hermetic belief systems and ideologies, left or right, sits deep. As a German I grew up in a country ravaged by radical ideologies that lead to dictatorship – first by the Nazis, then by anti-fascist socialism on the other side of the German wall. Russia’s war on Ukraine is a clear sign of the return of an age of ideologies and the havoc they cause, and it is the symptom of societal crises around the globe, crises that transcend geopolitical borders.

My German colleague Yascha Mounk (Johns Hopkins), in a recent op-ed on his Persuasion platform, emphasizes the far-reaching, sad historical significance of the recent events: “Putin’s invasion of Ukraine puts to rest the hopeful view of the future which dominated the western world in the decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The certainties on which we built our worldview have long been morphing into illusions; the missiles which fell around Kharkiv, Kyiv and Lviv in the early morning of February 24, 2022 confirmed that the metamorphosis is complete. (…) Nothing, from the survival of democracy in its traditional heartlands to our collective ability to check the ambitions of the world’s most ruthless dictators, seems certain any longer.”

Let us stand firmly against aggression, censorship, and fundamentalism of any kind. And let us pause and think about the sort of values it will take to strengthen and mend our democracies again from the inside, enlightened values such as tolerance, solidarity, science, and reason, all of which should be non-negotiable.

My thoughts are with the people of Ukraine. Let us hope for the best.



February 28, 2022|Tags: |

From the Directors

Dear CHASS community, colleagues, friends:

It would have been nice to start our “monthly musings” from the Center for Ideas and Society with a heartfelt “Welcome back to campus after the holiday break!” As things stand, we might have to wait a while before we can all meet, teach, and talk in person again. In the meantime, we all the Center for Ideas and Society do wish you a happy, healthy, and productive year 2022, looking forward to many new and stimulating collaborations!

Dylan, Katharine, and I sat down, mostly on zoom, for a series of brainstorming sessions in the fall. We discussed the cornerstones of our visions for the CIS, and we are excited to present some of the outcomes to you today. As can be expected, there were both distinctly separate fields of interests as well as shared visions for the Center, and the future of our college.

In the new year 2022, we are launching a series of events jointly with Graduate Division, dedicated to the future of Graduate Studies in CHASS: Arts and Humanities 2.0: Re-Imagining Scholarship, Study, and Graduate Education at UCR. There will be a UCHRI Stories from the Field presentation discussing shared experiences of recent UC graduates in March, a roundtable on the future role of the Arts in graduate education in April, a chairs and directors forum in May, and two workshops organized by CHASS faculty in spring and fall. We will share more details with you in the coming months.

We are particularly excited to present two brand new initiatives at the CIS: Decolonizing Humanism(?), a programming and activity stream organized by Dylan, and Being Human with a series of activity bubbles that I put together. They are dedicated to the humanities in motion and a global society in transformation. Both are permeable, growing structures, and they are meant to be in flux. We aim to inspire your creative input so that both initiatives can expand and flourish into various directions through collaborative processes.

The Decolonizing Humanism(?) stream, in Dylan’s words, “invites all forms of inter-/trans-/anti-disciplinary collaboration that address the categories of ‘human’ and ‘humanism’ as formations of colonial power/violence. ‘Decolonizing Humanism’ centers knowledge, archival, and aesthetic practices that challenge the presumptive coherence of the ‘humanities’ as such, including canonical and hegemonic institutionalizations. This collaborative labor cultivates conversations and connection across intellectual sites, within and beyond university and academic spaces.” Recent collaborations within this stream have included sponsorships or co-sponsorships of activities with UCLA’s Racial Violence Hub, Prof. Courtney Baker’s (English) Black Horror Salon series, the CHASS Black Study Departmental Initiative, and the Oakland based Black Organizing Project (alongside the statewide Cops Off Campus coalition). Videos of recent events can be viewed at the CIS’s own Vimeo page here. The Decolonizing Humanism(?) stream will support a series of events and programs in the Winter and Spring 2022 quarters, including a January 28 event with Critical Resistance Abolitionist Educators and Spring events with Imagining America (based at UC Davis) and the UC Berkeley Black Studies Collaboratory.

My own Being Human Initiative is a moving platform for innovative thinking between the disciplines and colleges at UCR. With the humanities at its center, it tackles ‘big’ questions about the human condition in times of altered pandemic realities, climate change, rising nationalisms, and shifting academics. Being Human promotes experimental research collaborations, global education and cosmopolitanism, and inquisitive, open-minded thought. Under its umbrella, we are presenting a series of conversations on Big Questions: (When) Will This Pandemic End? with David Lo (SoM) on January 13, 2022, What Happens When We (Nearly) Die? with John Fischer (Philosophy), Brigham Willis (SoM), and William Stigall (Cook Children’s Medical Center, Austin/TX) on January 31, 2022, and “Do We (Still) Need Nation States” with Reza Aslan (Creative Writing) later this year. (Post)Pandemic Futures organizes events such as “Why the Arts / How the Arts in a Post-Pandemic World?” (Erith Jaffe-Berg, TFDP), “Objectivity in the Humanities” (Paul Kottman, Institute for Philosophy and the New Humanities at the New School in NY) and “Resilience” (Michele Salzman, History). Roots and Wings: Global Education launches the Center’s new guest scholar program. Funded by the Office of the VPIA, we will host an international guest scholar for a workshop with students and a lecture inspired by ideas of cosmopolitan education. Desert in Action – still in the making! – brings UCR faculty out to the desert for off-campus salons and on-campus lectures.

Stay tuned for more details as we update our website over the coming weeks– and join us for these and more events at the Center in winter and spring! And for those who enjoyed our first Happy Hour event in November, rest assured: There will be more.


Jeanette and Dylan

January 12, 2022|Tags: , |

Welcome to the new Co-Directors: Jeanette Kohl and Dylan Rodríguez

The Center for Ideas and Society is pleased to announce that Jeanette Kohl (History of Art) and Dylan Rodríguez (Media & Cultural Studies) have been appointed as co-directors. This innovative and ground-breaking partnership will draw on their combined visions, strengths and experiences to develop new projects and opportunities for the UC Riverside campus. Special thanks to interim Dean Juliet McMullin, Dean Daryle Williams, and all the faculty, students and staff who contributed to the search.

Dylan Rodríguez:

“To embrace the privilege of this co-directorship is to accept the responsibility of sustained, rigorous, active engagement with the conflicts, innovations and massive questions shaping this historical moment. The terms and conditions of academic scholarship are being radically confronted and constructively disrupted by a range of intellectual and scholarly movements as well as emerging creative and artistic insurgencies. Within this tension and irruption, the Center for Ideas and Society is an invitation to a build decolonizing collegiality, feminist fellowship, queer interdisciplinarity, Black study, and many other projects still to be thought, honored and created. My aspiration is to be your co-conspirator, co-planner and creative collaborator rather than a mere co-director. I invite you to inhabit this moment of disruption, transformation, danger and still unknown possibility with the Center at your disposal.”

Jeanette Kohl:

“We stand at a crossroads, and it is with tremendous excitement about the experiment of a co-directorship in CIS that I am looking forward to many inspiring collaborations and celebrations will all of you. I bring to this position a vision that is based on three main pillars: an interest in intellectual history and in innovative projects that integrate deep and critical interdisciplinarity to incubate new research directions and help pave new ways in graduate education; the internationalization of the Center’s projects, fellows, and guests – which means connecting our students and faculty with the world and bringing outside views to the Inland Empire; and an emphasis on human integrity and inclusion, with a particular eye on the Center’s role as a place that fosters diversity and equality on all levels and in a broad array of constellations. The current planetary crises have served as a powerful reminder that we need to rethink our traditional academic and social strategies to find sustainable solutions, work together, and concentrate on our shared humanity in times of increasing rifts in our societies. As co-director, I am here to listen and support while we forge networks, think about novel forms of cross-disciplinary and transnational dialogue, and continue to build an open and respectful discussion culture together. Together, we have the unique chance to collaboratively reinvent the Center as an intellectual and social powerhouse that leads by example and moves the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences right into the heart of the university.”

September 27, 2021|

UC Humanities Research Institute Award Winners for 2021-22 | Part 2

Congratulations to the following UCR faculty and students for being awarded a UCHRI grant for the year 2021-22!

Brittany Carlson, English, UC Riverside
(Re)mediating Math Anxieties with The Narrative, the Ephemeral, and the Visual, 1830-1930
✪ Graduate Student Dissertation Support Grant

Jorge Leal, History, UC Riverside
The Discursive Power of Rock en español and the Desire for Democracy
✪ Podcast Support Grants

María del Rosario Acosta López, Hispanic Studies, UC Riverside
On the (In)audible in Art: Tracing the Sound of lo inaudito in Latin American and Latinx Interventions
✪ Podcast Support Grants

Jennifer Syvertsen, Anthropology, UC Riverside
Healthy Disruptions
✪ Podcast Support Grants

View full list

May 27, 2021|

In Focus: Melina Packer

Melina Packer
Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in Gender & Sexuality Studies (2020-2022)
Faculty Mentor: Jade Sasser

Top three texts I would take to a desert island: The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, Mating by Norman Rush
Favorite Activity: Hiking with my dog
Something people might be amazed to know about me: I am deathly afraid of swimming.
A ‘famous’ scholar I would love to meet: Michelle Murphy
Theme song: “I Want to Break Free” – Queen
URL to share:

Q: Your research agenda summed up in one sentence:

I am interested in how sexual and racial ideologies seep into modern science, and how these embedded biases affect broader applications of scientific knowledge.

Pepper the dog sitting with Melina on the couch, looking superior as always. (Photo credit: B. Nahid.)

Q: Six words that describe your work:

queer feminist science studies, critical race theory, political ecology

Q: How would you characterize the contribution you are making to your field of study?

Like other work in critical feminist science studies, my research emphasizes that science is neither neutral nor objective, and that being more honest about the inextricable politics of science will produce better, more justice-centered scientific research and applications.

Q: What are working on currently?

My current project is a critical feminist analysis of US toxicology. My archival and ethnographic research shows that founding toxicologists were aligned with chemical manufacturer interests (military and industrial). I argue that these early allegiances help explain why toxicants remain so ubiquitous, poorly regulated, and unevenly distributed today.

Q: What led you to this topic in particular?

What started me on this research path/topic was a hunch that the “evil corporations” vs. “pure scientists” explanation (for why harmful toxicants are so pervasive) was not telling the whole story, particularly in terms of the imperial ideologies haunting synthetic chemical production and deployment.

Q: Do you have a favorite book you like to recommend?

Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest, by Anne McClintock, because this book so clearly and powerfully demonstrates the physical/material and psychological/spiritual reverberations of “the implacable rage of male paranoia,” as she phrases it.

Q: What do you find rewarding about the process of research?

I am repeatedly blown away by the generosity and thoughtfulness expressed by the people I interview for my research. I learn so much from my interviewees, and love hearing their stories.


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

May 10, 2021|Tags: |

In Focus: Claudia Holguín Mendoza

Claudia Holguín Mendoza

Department: Hispanic Studies
Assistant Professor
# of years at UCR:
2.5 years
Top three texts I would take to a desert island:
“Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico: Photographs,” The Tao Te Ching,” and “The Dispossessed” by Ursula Le Guin.
Favorite things to do:
Hiking and gardening.
Something people might be amazed to know about me:
I can cook very tasty food.
An “adventure” I am looking forward to, post-pandemic…
Theme songs:
Betty Davis as an inspiration.
Learn more about Claudia’s work at

One of the many photos taken during Claudia’s writing retreats/hiking trips to Joshua Tree National Park.

Q: My research agenda summed up in one sentence:

I study the intersectional relationship between language, race, class, and gender in the Mexican borderlands and Mexico, as well as Critical Pedagogies in higher education.

Q: What do you hope to learn from studying these relationships?

I want to develop practical and concrete ways to increase our critical awareness about race, class, gender, ability and other social constructs inside and outside the classroom.

Q: What experiences led you to this research focus?

I was a volunteer teacher for adult literacy in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, while I was a college student in the late 90s. Since then, I have personally witnessed how Critical Pedagogies work by empowering students.

Q: What are you working on currently?

I am so excited about my current collaboration with a wonderful group of Mexican women scholars developing Critical Pedagogies for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Mexican university students.

Q: What do you love about your work in higher education ….and what would you change if you could?

I love teaching and collaborating on exciting projects, but I would change assessment. I would like to change how we evaluate our students and how we assess faculty’s work as well.

Q: Any favorite resources to share?

“English with an Accent: Language, Ideology and Discrimination in the United States” by Rosina Lippi-Green.

Q: What advice would you give to new teachers/instructors?

Create an intimate safe space to share personal experiences that can potentially impact student’s learning more than any particular lesson plan.

April 13, 2021|Tags: |

UC Humanities Research Institute Award Winners for 2021-22

Congratulations to the following UCR faculty and students for being awarded a UCHRI grant for the year 2021-22!

Melissa Wilcox, Religious Studies, UC Riverside
Queer and Trans Studies in Religion in the 2020s: Defining the State of the Field

✪ Conference Grants

Jacqueline Shea Murphy, Dance, UC Riverside
ICR Pachappa: Navigating Place
✪ Conference Grants

María Regina Firmina-Castillo, Dance, UC Riverside
ICR Pachappa: Navigating Place
✪ Conference Grants

Grecia Perez, Anthropology, UC Riverside
California Economies Collective
✪ Multicampus Graduate Student Working Groups

March 31, 2021|

In Focus: David Lo

David Lo
Advisory Committee Member, Center for Ideas and Society

Department: Biomedical Sciences, School of Medicine
Rank: Distinguished Professor, and Senior Associate Dean of Research
# of years at UCR: 14
Top three texts I would take to a desert island: The Eighth Day of Creation, Horace Freeland Judson. (it’s a history of modern molecular biology); Joy of Cooking, Rombauer, Becker (enough said); A History of Western Philosophy, Bertrand Russell (it’s fun for triggering internal arguments with the book)
Favorite thing(s): Anything SciFi/ComicCon, and a well-stocked and equipped kitchen with lots of different spices and condiments!
Something people might be amazed to know about me…. I had a brief stint as a professional musician. I was a union card carrying violinist in the local symphony orchestra, and even played in the pit orchestra for Tony Orlando and Dawn. In medical school with a group of classmates, we started an orchestra and put on a few Broadway musical shows. But I decided that science held out a better long term career for me.
An “adventure” I am looking forward to, post-pandemic: Having a day out at a museum, including a nice quiet lunch
My theme song: Once in a lifetime (Talking Heads)
URLs to share: ( ( (

Part of David’s SciFi collection.

Q: Your research agenda summed up in one sentence:

My main research interest has always been in how the immune system is regulated to produce responses to triggers such as vaccines or allergens, or how it may instead be convinced to produce no response at all.

Q: Broadly speaking, is there a central problem you are trying to solve?

My projects explore how immune regulatory pathways can be misled into developing patterns of responses that lead to chronic inflammatory diseases, such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or allergic asthma. For example in some of our work, we are looking at how environmental exposures may increase susceptibility to chronic inflammatory disease even in areas where man-made pollutants or toxins are relatively low. If we can figure out how these systems go awry, we might find more sophisticated or targeted approaches to clinical treatments instead of resorting to nonspecific immunosuppression.

Q: What are you working on currently?

We are working to solve the puzzle that living near the Salton Sea is associated with a high incidence of asthma. The Salton Sea is a drying salt lake, and a stressed ecosystem, so we are asking whether certain aerosol components produced by the sea cause lung responses triggering allergic responses and asthma. Alternatively, do these aerosols induce a different kind of disease that resembles asthma but has a rather different mechanism?

Q: What led you to a focus on health disparities in your research?

I came to this approach by an indirect path, where colleagues got me interested in the questions of health disparities and how air quality and health effects could be a particularly interesting health disparity research topic in smoggy Southern California. But I learned about the health disparities in Eastern Coachella Valley, that childhood asthma was unusually high among Latino families living near Salton Sea. Asthma is already an interesting but difficult immunology problem, but this also brought in the additional aspect of disparate impact on a specific community.

Q: What do you love about your work?

I enjoy solving difficult puzzles and discovering new biological mechanisms. I particularly enjoy finding problems that require an interdisciplinary approach that requires a diverse team of researchers. Our asthma project has been a great example of an interdisciplinary team, because we’ve engaged in a partnership with affected families to learn from them about the illness, collaborated with climate scientists to understand how seasonal winds affect the residents’ exposures to dusts from different origins, worked with environmental microbiologists to study the aerosols in the region, and worked with engineers to build a novel experimental system to test the biological effects of aerosols.

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

It would be to change the perverse incentives in the power structure that incentivizes selfish behavior and penalizes cooperation; it reinforces an environment where there is little interest in learning about other academic disciplines and cultures across campus. Yet we still call it a university!

Q: Is there a key resource you often encourage students to access?

Their professors. Students are not encouraged enough to engage with the faculty and simply sit down and have them tell stories about how they got to the university. Hearing all those stories from both sides can be just as valuable as formally organized career development and mentoring; my own career was shaped by a lot of these early conversations.

Q: What have you learned from the experience teaching?

That each individual has their own path to knowledge and understanding, and being trapped by teaching evaluations, or trying to bribe the students will only block you from finding that new unique path for the next student. It seems that those unique students are the most rewarding as a teacher.

Q: How are you maintaining a connection with students during the pandemic?

I set aside plenty of time for one-on-one discussions with those students who are committed to understanding; this can also help lead to customizing their path.

Q: What service do you wish UCR provided more of in the future?

Providing diverse and quality food options, especially permanent spots for food trucks! So much productivity, conversation and teaching happens when people eat enjoyable meals together!

February 22, 2021|Tags: |

In Focus: Worku Nida

Worku Nida
Developing African Studies Initiative Participant

Department: Anthropology
Rank: Assistant Teaching Professor of Anthropology
# of years at UCR: This is my 5th year.
Top three texts I would take to a desert island: 1) Mediocre, by Ijeoma Oluo, which I am reading now; 2) A Promised Land, by Barack Obama, 3) WE WANT TO DO MORE THAN SURVIVE, by Bettina Love.
Favorite activities: Tennis in sport, music (Ethio-jazz, various ethnic music), love museums and open-markets, walking, kitfo (Ethiopian dish)
Something people might be amazed to know about me: That I have a multiracial and multicultural family.
An “adventure” I am looking forward to, post-pandemic: My wife and I have a plan to have a large out-door post-pandemic party.

Seals greet Worku on his morning walk near the marina.

Q: Your research agenda summed up in one sentence:

My research examines how people craft their identities through migration, entrepreneurship, and diasporic processes.

Q: Is there a main focus or issue your work is trying to explore?

The central question my research addresses is how identities are formed and shaping people’s life chances.

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

My current project is investigating the so-called “random” police searches in high schools and students resistance against such policy in LA.

Q: What led you to this topic?

This project evolved from my voluntary teaching cultural anthropology to disadvantaged minority students at an alternative high school in LA.

Q: What do you love about your work?

Teaching, and helping my students develop critical thinking skills.

Q: Is there a tool or resource that helps teach this important skill in a “virtual” classroom?

Critical Thinking Writing assignments where students engage course materials in juxtaposition with their own lived experiences.

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

I would allocate a lot resources to make it more meaningful and accessible to all types of students, especially, those who are disadvantaged and marginalized.

Q: What is the most important thing that professors learn in the classroom?

One of the most valuable lessons I gained from teaching is that I can learn a great deal from my students.

February 17, 2021|Tags: |

In Focus: Bella Merlin

Bella Merlin
Advisory Committee Member, Center for Ideas and Society

Department: Theatre Film and Digital Production
Rank: Professor
# of years at UCR: 7
Top three texts I would take to a desert island: The Complete Works of Shakespeare (because I haven’t read them all yet); The Toe-Rags by Daphne Anderson (a poignant memoir of growing up in Southern Rhodesia by my husband Miles’s mother); The God on the Hill: Temple Poems from Tirupat by the fifteenth-century saint Annamayya (these poems wring my heart every time).
Favorite things with favorite beings: Walking with my husband, Miles, and our rescue dog, Dempsey, whom we adopted the day before lockdown in March 2020. She has not only saved our emotional sanity, but she also makes us laugh from the moment we wake up till the moment we go to sleep.
Something people might be amazed to know about me: It never occurred to me I’d be a university professor: I always thought I’d be a “movie star” or a singer-songwriter.
An “adventure” I am looking forward to, post-pandemic… A road trip with Miles and Dempsey to New Mexico. And then go see my family in the UK. I miss them.
My theme song: “All you need is love” by The Beatles
Personal website:

Q: Your research agenda summed up in one sentence:

My “research agenda” is pretty much my “life agenda”: to investigate and incarnate the invaluable role that actors play in how human beings collectively make meaning out of this extraordinary experience called Life.

Q: Is there a theme or central question that organizes your work?

I have always been passionate about acting as a serious human activity and stories as vital collective experiences. So, in both my creative activities as an actor and my practice-based research as a scholar, I’m probing how we can use fundamental actor-training tools to expand our capacity for empathy, insight and compassion. This central question has taken various avenues (and a few ‘dead ends’) over the years, but ultimately it all boils down to celebrating and elevating the mysterious activity of embodying other people and sharing that embodiment with audiences.

Bella’s husband Miles and Dempsey on one of their walks, Jan. 2021.

Q: What are you working on now, given that most performance venues have shuttered during the pandemic?

My current projects are taking me in a somewhat new direction: dramatic writing. At this very moment (January 2021), I’m composing five songs for a new Zoom-play to be created with UCR students in Spring 2021 entitled 20:20 Vision. I’m also in the research phase of a television drama called The 3AM Club, exploring what happens when our bodies are doing things (like getting older…), but we don’t necessarily feel we’re ready for them to do those things yet.

Q: What inspired this change of mode/direction?

I’d just finished co-authoring a book (Shakespeare & Company: When Action is Eloquence, my seventh academic tome), when I had a heart-felt drive to stop writing non-fiction books and, instead, explore the manifestation of stories through dramatic means. An inner rebel was rousing up inside. This inner rebel-rousing came (perhaps not by accident) just as COVID-19 was changing our lives. Since acting in both stage and screen ‘holds a mirror up to nature,’ it seemed imperative to provide my students with a means of recounting their own COVID experiences through the dramatic medium (which is what 20:20 Vision entails). Meanwhile, the place where I live – the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains in Sunland-Tujunga, near Los Angeles – has been a daily companion in my COVID-lockdown experience: there seemed to be a story striving to be born (The 3AM Club) about connecting a particular human body (i.e., mine) to the permanence, enormity and Native American ancestry of the surrounding land. It’s also about the body in transition: for women into menopause, the transition between genders, and the male body into older age. I’d written two one-woman theatre pieces before, but I’ve never been brave enough to try screenwriting. Yet I’m surrounded by terrific film and television professors (actors, directors, writers, dramaturgs) in my own department: so why not learn from their insights and experience? And I’m hoping at least two of them will be involved in the eventual manifestation of the project.

Q: Many people profess terror at the thought of “getting up in front” of an audience. What do you say when folks ask you why you love to do it?

How can one not love acting? It’s the ultimate transformative, transcendent experience. To put one’s own body, imagination, intellect, emotional landscape, spirit, heart at the service of another (the written character) is an artistic adventure of the most holistic kind. To take an audience on a journey that they might never have thought to go on before can enable us (actors and audience alike) to see other perspectives, other world views, other experiences. It is a collective act that can be healing, thought-provoking, empathic, and galvanizing in unexpected ways. Yes, it can feel terrifying – because it’s vulnerable and important. But ultimately, it’s fun!

Q: Turning to the academy, what is one thing you would change, if you could?

…it would be to change, once and for all, the ways in which the arts, humanities and social sciences are viewed. Qualitative, experiential research is all too often undervalued, under-resourced, under-funded, and undermined. In the arts, we are training something invaluable to all human beings: imagination. Elon Musk wouldn’t have reached space without imagination. Pfizer wouldn’t have come up with a vaccine without imagination. There would certainly be no artificial intelligence without human imagination. And in the performing arts, we’re training the embodiment of imagination: an electromagnetic communication between living, breathing human beings, which is manifested when we truly listen and connect. If I could change STEM to ASTEM, I’d be happy.

Q: Do you have a favorite resource that you find yourself often recommending?

That’s tough, there are many great resources, and even more being created during this lockdown time. Also, I find myself constantly shifting my ‘favorite’ resources, as acting constantly shifts according to what’s happening socially and globally. That said I love listening to Tami Simon’s ‘Sounds True: Insights at the Edge’ podcasts and Bryce Michael Wood’s ‘For Your DisComfort’. Both of these podcasts certainly inform my teaching. For my students, I’ve found Intimacy Directors International’s ‘5 Pillars of Intimacy’ very useful when working in the classroom, rehearsal room or on set.

Q: What have you learned from teaching students?

I have learned that I am always learning. My students teach me all the time. In an acting class, the students are the curriculum. So, I never really know what’s going to happen during the term until I meet the group and understand what their desires and ambitions for themselves and the course may be. Perhaps one of the most valuable lessons I learned from my mentor and actor trainer Vladimir Ananyev is ‘Catch people doing things rights.’ Because acting is so vulnerable, I strive to nurture each student’s confidence and playfulness, before we start fine-tuning and correcting.

Q: How has Zoom impacted this kind of classroom connection?

I’ve found that Zoom actually brings a new kind of intimacy. It has surprised me how quickly we can create a classroom community, despite not being in the same room together. And using the Chat for the students to give each other feedback on their performance work means that everyone has a chance to share their responses and therefore everyone’s perspective is granted equal valence – not just the two or three who put up their hands or from whom we have time to hear.

Q: What university service opportunity have you found to be rewarding?

I have served on the Student Conduct and Academic Integrity Programs Committee since I arrived at UCR in 2014: I love this committee. I appreciate the deepened understanding of challenges students may be facing that might cause them to ‘err’ in judgement. I appreciate the student committee members’ sense of fairness and their deep valuing of UCR’s academic integrity. I enjoy striving to find ways of guiding individuals towards better choices in the future.


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

February 1, 2021|Tags: |

In Focus: Thomas Cogswell

Thomas Cogswell

Department: History
Rank: Distinguished Professor
# of years at UCR: 21
Top three texts I would take to a desert island: Robert Caro’s volumes on Lyndon Johnson, Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair, and Melvin Bragg’s podcast In Our Time.
Favorite foods: A toss up. A nice Mysore Masala Dosa or Korean Tofu Hotpot.
Something people might be amazed to know about me …. I love exploring cities, one neighborhood at a time.
An “adventure” I am looking forward to: Returning to the Hoover Wilderness in the Sierras and the archives. Not simultaneously, of course.  But what if they moved the British Library and the Kew Archives to Yosemite?  I know. A harmless drone.
Little known – but fun!- resource:

Q: My research agenda summed up in one sentence:

How vicious rumors, scurrilous outbursts and rude libels helped Britain descend into revolution in the mid-seventeenth century.

Q: What is your current topic of research?

Figuring out why Lt. John Felton stabbed the Duke of Buckingham in 1628.

The Île de Ré is now a posh French resort. But in late 1627, it witnessed the slaughter of several thousand of British troops. Among the few survivors were Buckingham and Felton. Here I am visiting the French fortress on the island. Ah, the things I do for scholarship!

Q: Your research and writing goals have shifted in the past few years. Why?

Having produced a small mountain of proper [i.e. boring] scholarship [yawn], I now want to write things people might want to read.

Q: What is your favorite part of research?

Reading other people’s mail … that is four centuries old.

Q: If you could make one change to “the academy,” what would it be?

More tolerance and charity, less pomposity and pettiness.

Q: What books or resources do you often recommend to students?

G.E. Cokayne’sComplete Peerage, the Anglo-Saxon poem The Battle of Maldonand short clips from Monty Python and Terry Deary’s Horrible Histories.

Q: Any advice on how to capture students’ attention in lecture?

Abandon the podium and roam around the classroom, and use LOTS of visual images and music.


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

January 26, 2021|Tags: |

In Focus: Sherryl Vint

Sherryl Vint

Department: English/Media and Cultural Studies
Rank: Professor
# of years at UCR: 8
Top three texts I would take to a desert island: There is no way I could pick just three. It would depend on the day and the project and so would always change.
Favorite entertainment: I love films, not just sf films, but films of many genres, periods, and countries.
An “adventure” I am looking forward to, post-pandemic…I’d like to say travel, and certainly I love to visit ruins and galleries and I have been a frequent traveler in the past. But I’ve also learned during the pandemic that I can also enjoy not having to deal with airport screening. And so we shall see.
Learn more about my work @

Q: My research agenda summed up in one sentence:

I examine how popular culture responds to the ways that developments in science and technology have an impact on social and political life.

Q: Would you say that there is a central theme or aim in your various projects?

The central problem my research explores has to do with the relationships among popular culture, public imaginaries, and social change, focusing on speculative fiction. I’m interested in understanding how fictional texts reflect popular beliefs and preoccupations, sometimes serving to pave the way for certain sociotechnical changes to be accepted and at other times drawing attention to potential long-term consequences that might not be anticipated in the spaces of scientific research and technological design. Speculative fiction extrapolates both sociotechnical change and daily life, foregrounding questions of cultural values, social justice, family and gendered relations, and the like as it thinks about the possibilities and risks associated with scientifically driven change. It is also a genre deeply concerned with futurity and difference, with imagining life into the future, but also with challenging the status quo and thus imagining new social and material lives. This connection to utopian discourse is what motivated my initial decision to focus on speculative fiction.

Bell Lightbox Theater, the central venue of the Toronto International Film Festival.

Q: How is your current project developing these questions?

My current research looks at the intersections between economics and speculative fiction (“sf”), looking especially at the way that technology has become more central to financial practices, such as high-frequency trading via algorithms. I’m interested in the various utopian promises that are attached to innovations such as blockchain, including and beyond its role in cryptocurrencies, and in analyzing how sf writers take-up these promises to imagine concrete futures of social change (in both utopian and dystopian modes). I’m also interested in theorizing how sf and financialization share a future-oriented temporality, especially in the centrality of trading financial instruments based in debt (such as the CDOs that initiated the 2008 crash). Finally, this project will take up texts that imagine economic systems and a world beyond and after capital, looking at how they anticipate the achievement of social, racial and environmental justice.

Q: What inspired this area of inquiry?

My interest in economics emerged from my previous work on biopolitics and sf, which mainly explored the commodification of biology and its ethical and political implications. While conducting that research, I became aware of the importance of speculative narrative techniques in the documents written to secure venture capital funding in biotech, documents that I understand as a kind of speculative fiction. Another factor was that I was invited to write a chapter about the future of money for a book about the sociology of money, and the more I learned about money as a social technology, the more I began to see connections between financial innovations, especially blockchain, and speculative extrapolation.

Q: What do you tell friends and family when they ask you what you love about your work?

What I love most about my work is that I am always able to learn new fields and new frameworks of knowledge as I seek to understand how they have been taken up by popular culture. Each of my books explores how sf responds to research developments in a particular field, and much of my own process is learning about these fields as I theorize the sf response to them. In many ways I’d prefer to be the student, as I enjoy learning new things, and my mode of research allows me to take on something novel for each new project.

Q: What would you change about higher education, if you could?

If I could change one thing about the academy, it would be the centrality that grades to the classroom. I understand that students need feedback and that this includes some way of signaling if they understand the material well or need to improve. Nonetheless, I feel that anxiety about grades is detrimental to the learning experience, repressing curiosity and the sheer pleasure of learning in favor of a narrower focus on maximizing one’s grade.

Q: Do you have a favorite or “go-to” resource you recommend?

I often use the FutureStates short film series, available for free on YouTube, in my teaching. It offers a wide range of short films that illustrate the ways that sf responds to many problems facing the world today, from climate change, to surveillance by social media, to genetic engineering, to loss of jobs due to automation—and more. The films offer diverse perspectives on these issues and often highlight issues of inequality in how technology is distributed.

Q: Any tips for managing the online learning environment?

A tried-and-true teaching practice that also works well online is the small-group discussion. I think zoom would be a disaster without the break-out rooms feature, but this tool to enable smaller group discussion means that class can remain interactive and social, at least to a degree.


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

January 20, 2021|Tags: |

In Focus: Eric Schwitzgebel

Eric Schwitzgebel

Department: Philosophy
Rank: Professor
# of years at UCR: 23 (~44% of my life)
Top three texts I would take to a desert island: The collected Borges, Montaigne, and Zhuangzi. See my Five Books interview on the philosophers of wonder!
Favorite activity: Long walks in beautiful places. Or maybe, during a lecture, the well-crafted pause — that silent moment when the attention of the audience slowly gathers.
Something people might be amazed to know about me: I doubt that anything about me would be amazing to most people. So instead, I will share a picture of my new pet garden snail named Mermaid (image below).
An “adventure” I am looking forward to, post-pandemic: Visiting England and Scotland with my family.
My blog: The Splintered Mind

Q: My research agenda summed up in one sentence:

Something very weird must be true about how human consciousness is related to the rest of the universe, but we’re not in a good position to know where exactly the truth lies among the various weird possibilities.

Q: A good portion of your recent work links philosophy and science fiction. Do your various projects have a similar or common aim?

Broadly speaking, my projects aim to lay out the various possible theories of the mind’s place in the cosmos. I aim to show that every viable theory of mind and cosmos is both bizarre and dubious. Sometimes these bizarre and dubious possibilities are best understood by way of philosophical argument. At other times, they are best understood by means of speculative empirical science or thoughtful science fiction.

Q: My current project…

…will hopefully convince you that the world is even weirder than you thought.

Q: What started you on this research path?

(1.) thinking about how scientific and philosophical theories of consciousness would or wouldn’t apply to hypothetical aliens, artificial intelligence systems, and group minds and (2.) thinking about puzzles in cosmology concerning multiverse theory, the consequences of infinitude, and simulation theory.

Eric’s pet garden snail, Mermaid, exploring his most recent book.

Q: When folks ask you what you love about your work, what do you say?

I tell them… about garden snail sex. Garden snails are some weird alien creatures right here in our gardens, and scientific and philosophical theories of the mind struggle to make sense of them.

Q: If you could change something about the structure of the university, what would it be?

I’d reduce the bureaucratic burdens on faculty and staff, especially concerning grant applications and grant expenditures. We should spend our time on the core missions of researching and teaching, rather than spending so much time requesting money.

Q: Do you have a favorite resource you like to recommend?

The TV series Black Mirror is doing some of the best thinking right now on the ethics of technology.

Q: What have you learned from teaching and mentoring students over the years?

I have learned to meet people where they are and show how what you want to teach them connects through to what they were already interested in.

Q: What tried and true teaching practice have you found also works well online?

Regular check-ins with your advisees. These are easy to do online and more important in this time when some students are feeling out of touch with campus life.


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

January 11, 2021|Tags: |

2020 Emory Elliott Award Winner

Victoria Reyes’ book Global Borderlands: Fantasy, Violence and Empire in Subic Bay, Philippines is the winner of the 2020 Emory Elliott Award. For more information about her work, we are sharing an updated version of her 2019 interview in our In Focus series. A big congratulations to Victoria!


In Focus

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 kids have been at home since March, so it’s been extremely difficult to work on my second empirical project, which is on how reputations (that are racialized, gendered and colonial) shape markets. What I’ve been working on instead is a book of essays that blend critique and the personal on what it’s like to be an outsider in academia. The title, Academic Outsider, draws on, and is a homage to, Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider. I was also inspired by recent books like THICK by Tressie McMillan Cottom. I’m thankful to have received funding from CIS for a book workshop and receive helpful feedback on the draft by scholars committed to public writing.

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.

January 11, 2021|
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