Congratulations to the recipients of the Humanities Research Center’s Residential Fellowships for Spring Semester 2017! Professors Catherine Ingrassia, Shermaine Jones, Brooke Newman, and Oliver Speck will be working together on “Conditions of Confinement: Identity, Race, and Subjectivity.” They describe their joint endeavor as follows:
Engaging the disciplines of history, literature, and film studies, our group examines the fundamental limitations and instabilities engendered by various states of confinement, whether legal, discursive, bodily, or cinematic. Through a shared emphasis on externally and internally imposed restrictions, we uncover conditions of confinement intended to fix particular individuals, groups, and genre conventions in place while simultaneously giving rise to unexpected social, political, and narrative dilemmas. Covering a range of geographic areas, subjects, and time periods—Atlantic racial classifications in the age of slavery, eulogy in early African American writing, eighteenth-century British narratives of captivity, and depictions of race and bondage in modern films—our projects are centrally concerned with the formation and disruption of the boundaries of everyday life, be they institutional, cultural, aesthetic, or material. Encompassing colleagues in three departments at different career stages, our group asks what happens when conditions of confinement are disrupted or transcended? What exactly does freedom from the restrictions of state, self, society, or genre entail? By loosening the conceptual bonds of oppositional, binary thinking, how might we more fruitfully interrogate meanings of captivity and liberation? To what extent might these reconsiderations resonate with current national conversations about race and incarceration as well as community initiatives at VCU?
Each year this program gives four faculty who are working on related issues or topics release from teaching responsibilities for one semester so that they can focus on their individual research projects and at the same time engage regularly with each other. This is the third group of faculty to benefit from this program and I look forward to many more colleagues doing so in future years. A call for a fourth round of applications will go out in the late fall.