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Center Fellows

Mortuary Science and the Language and Practices of Care
Lora Arduser, Department of English

In this book project, I explore how the materiality of corpses signify embodied care in the discourse and practices of mortuary science. Using a praxiographic methodology, the book specifically focuses on the death care industry in the United States since the Civil War, a period that has seen significant technological, sociological, and cultural changes in the ways we talk about and interact with death. Drawing on archival texts, interviews, and ethnographic observations, each chapter examines a concept connected to care-—evidence, emotions, risk, work, ethics, expertise, and gender. The major focus of the project is to theorize care by answering the question: How does the material post-mortem body “matter”?

Speaking, Sensing, and Abstracting Away
Peter Langland-Hassan, Department of Philosophy

Langland-Hassan is interested in the relationship between language and thought, and in the nature of the cognitive differences between humans and other animals. He will approach these questions while at Taft by considering whether our abilities to understand and produce language can be seen as on a par with more general capacities for perceiving and acting on the world, shared across the animal kingdom. In particular, he will ask whether contemporary artificial intelligence, which incorporates the same kinds of algorithms in both visual tasks (such as face recognition) and language-related tasks (such as speech recognition and production), warrant the conclusion that language use is itself a rarefied form of perception. A positive answer would suggest that the linguistic and other cognitive differences between humans and other animals are a matter of a degree rather than kind.

A New Realism: Modern Japanese Art Criticism of the Interwar Years
Mikiko Hirayama, Department of German Studies

This book project deals with the revival of realism in Japanese oil painting during the 1930s. Following the introduction of the avant-garde art movement in the previous decade, some Japanese leftist oil painters began to re-adopt realism, acknowledging that it was not merely a conservative mode of painting. Their ultimate goal was to counteract the elitism of avant-garde art and revitalize naturalistic painting as a wholesome, effective means of promoting social equality. I will examine this major transition in the role of realism in modern Japan and the role of art criticism therein.In so doing, I also critique the meta-narrative of modern art history by shedding light on the unique relationship between realism and modernism in Japanese art. Research on modern Western art and literature often posits realism and modernism in a dichotomous relationship. However, my manuscript offers a new, non-Western perspective, revealing that modernism and realism functioned as equally relevant vehicles for social commentary to pre-WWII Japanese artists.

Memory and Liberation in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction
Cassandra L. Jones, Department of Africana Studies

As a Taft Center Research Fellow for 2020-2021, she is completing her manuscript, Memory and Liberation in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction, under contract with Ohio State University Press for the New Suns: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Speculative series. The book explores memory and decolonization found in tropes of alien invasion, time travel, and rootworking in the speculative fiction of authors such as Octavia E. Butler, Tananarive Due, and Nnedi Okorafor.

Cherokee of the Cumberland
Kenneth Tankersley, Department of Anthropology

This book project is about an overlooked community of Cherokee living in a remote region of the southeastern United States. Previous Cherokee research has either focused on the original southern territory of the Cherokee Nation, the forced relocation of Cherokee from their ancestral homelands, or the establishment of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. This book will focus on a group of Native Americans who refused to move, retreating into the wilderness of the Cumberland Mountain and Plateau region, inter-marrying with white traders and settlers. In some cases, family members escaped the removal process and found their way back to live in their homeland. Their survival depended upon their ability to suppress their culture and heritage publicly, generation after generation. Despite almost two centuries of cultural concealment, the Cherokee of the Cumberland have survived in this region for more than 14,000 years.

Previous Center Fellows

Previous Center Fellows
2019 - 2020