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2016 Research and Writing Groups

Wyoming Institute for Humanities Research

2016 Research and Writing Groups

For 2016, we are proud to announce the formation of several research and writing groups.  Members of the UW community are invited to join them by contacting the coordinators named.

UW at Abbotsford: A multi-disciplinary research group in the humanities

Coordinator: Caroline McCracken-Flesher (English),

Where do disciplines meet? Every moment, every place, is an intersection between disciplines that we recognize through the humanities. Walter Scott’s house at Abbotsford in Scotland makes this obvious, and makes the phenomenon accessible to study. Scott was a writer, lawyer, agricultural improver, publisher—even an oil and gas man. Our project brings together faculty from across the humanities, and ultimately from across UW, to exchange knowledge and to permeate disciplinary boundaries through shared study. We begin at UW, with a study group. Our goals escalate over the next few years: Year 1: Research and reading group at UW, to determine the range of methodologies that can be employed to understand a distinct location in and across time. Year 2: Faculty research group at Abbotsford; individual publications. Year 3: Student summer course: research and practicum at Abbotsford with cross-disciplinary faculty. The core group includes:
Caroline McCracken-Flesher, Department of English
Anne Alexander, Department of Economics
Isadora Helfgott, Department of History
Mary Katherine Scott, Department of Art and Art History
Barbara Logan, Department of History

Humanities in Economic Development: Working Toward a More Comprehensive Development Plan in the State of Wyoming

Coordinator: Justin Piccorelli (Public Administration)

The group seeks to reflect on the impact of the humanities in economic development planning, provide some concrete ways in which we might go about improving economic development so as to incorporate these seemingly intangibles, communicate these findings and work with the state of Wyoming, and eventually publish its findings in a related journal. Questions we will address include: How does research and study in a field like philosophy actually impact us as citizens, and how might it ultimately impact the state of Wyoming? If humanities can help people become happier, then what role might happiness play in cultivating thought, attracting and retaining business? Does this simply mean that humanities might help to ameliorate violence, improve relationships, or even lead to higher quality work being done? What are some of the seemingly intangible things associated with the humanities, and how might we begin to incorporate these into economic development planning? The group would like to meet every month in a relaxing location that will promote thought.

Identities Construction through language indexicality

Prof. Irene Checa-García, Modern Languages (

Our group focuses on the study of indexicality as a way to construct meaning, and in particular group identities. Very broadly, indexicality is a type of meaning that is connected to context and goes beyond referential meaning. Virtually any object can convey indexical meaning if it is socially connected to this meaning in a particular context. A good example of this is clothing, as it can convey a lot of information about the person beyond its more literal meaning of a certain cut or a certain fabric, such as status, urban tribe, or even political tendencies in some cases. We are interested in how choosing to use a certain language at a certain moment can convey different meanings by the indexicality of that language choice in different societies. More specifically, we want to know by which pragmatic and linguistic means this indexicality can build group identities, positive or negative. Sample questions include: How are positive or negative images of groups constructed through language choice? What is being indexed by inserting certain languages in an otherwise monolingual discourse? What semantic and pragmatic tools define indexicality?

The group plans to meet twice per month. Our meetings will be hybrid. We plan on reserving a room in the library for discussing readings with a screen and connection to the Internet, where Checa-Garcia and the students will be physically present, while the other two members, abroad or out of state, will be connected online.

Core members of the group:
Prof. Pamela Innes, (Anthropology)
Prof. Juan José Colomina-Almiñana, (University of Texas-Austin)
Two graduate students from Spanish and three graduate students from Anthropology

Environmental Humanities

Coordinator: Frieda Knobloch, American Studies Program (

The proposed Research and Reading Group intends to explore emerging meanings and practices of environmental humanities broadly construed. Humanist approaches to environmental questions are a component of group members’ interests and commitments, from a wide variety of areas at UW. Though some members of the proposed group have connections with Environment and Natural Resources, the range of people interested in discussing environmental humanities includes people and questions outside ENR. There is no venue currently organized at UW for humanists with environmental interests, or people working on the role of the humanities in environmental contexts, to share ideas, and—importantly—contribute to what environmental humanities might look like as a field and at UW. Preliminary activities of the Research and Reading group would include general introductions to members’ interests and questions about what humanist environmental work includes or emphasizes, with the possibility of shared readings, an invited speaker, or other activities the group chooses to illuminate questions or approaches important to the group.

Core membership:
Sarah Strauss (Anthropology)
Maggie Bourque (Environment and Natural Resources)
Courtney Bethel Carlson (Environment and Natural Resources)
Robert Mcgreggor Cawley (Political Science)
Carlos Martinez Del Rio (Berry Center)
Teena J. Gabrielson (Political Science)
Erin E. Forbes (English)
Michael E. Harkin (Anthropology)
Doug Wachob (Environment and Natural Resources)

Human Ties: Culture, Language and Identity

Coordinator: Joy Landeira, Modern and Classical Languages (

Our group is a recognized subgroup of UW’s International Education Steering Committee. Aware of the need for all UW faculty to expand their knowledge about how to welcome International faculty and students onto our campus and into our classrooms, our members will meet to read and discuss memoirs written by immigrants and exiles to the United States. Identity is central to the Humanities and is tied to Language and to Place. The Human Ties between culture, language, and identity are unraveled and frayed when immigrants and exiles are displaced, misplaced and replaced. Our group members seek to understand how Human Ties are untied and united through culture, language and identity. Sample questions include: How are human ties rebound? How is Identity returned to Humanity? How do people who are torn from their homes and families ever rebound from the tears and the tears of loss of identity, language, place, and culture?

We will read, research, and discuss 6 texts over the course of the fall 2016 and spring 2017 semester. We hope to meet on campus, on average 3-4 times per semester.

Reading List
Bass, Thomas A. Vietnamerica: The War Comes Home. New York: Soho, 1996. (Vietnam/US)
Dorfman, Ariel. Heading South, Looking North: A Bilingual Journey. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1998. (Chile/US)
Grande, Reyna. The Distance Between Us: A Memoir. New York: Washington Square, 2013. (Mexico/US)
Hoffman, Eva. Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language. New York: Penguin, 1989. (Poland/US)
Pipher, M. The Middle of Everywhere: Helping Refugees Enter the American Community. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 2003
Wainaina, Binvavanga. One Day I Will Write About This Place: A Memoir. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Greywolf, 2011. (Kenya/S.Africa)

Core members:
Bunny Logan (History/GWMST)
Petra Heinz (Modern and Classical Languages/ESL)
Jenna Shim (Educational Studies/ESL/Literacy)
Ruth Bjorkenwall (Global and Area Studies)
Susan Frye (English and Outreach School)

Humanities in Prison Working Group

Coordinators: Bonnie Zare, ( and Susan Dewey (, Gender & Women’s Studies

Whether living in ancient or contemporary times, people have used the humanities and storytelling to ask the largest possible questions, to bridge material and spiritual concerns, and to illuminate the trials of the human heart. Nation-wide, humanities programs have led the way in conducting educational workshops inside prisons by encouraging incarcerated people to admire and appreciate shared truths expressed through artistic means. Our proposed Humanities & Math in Prison Working Group comprises 28 faculty, staff, graduate students, and community partners who will design and teach a Fundamentals of Humanities & Math class at the Wyoming Women’s Center (WWC) in Lusk. Upon receipt of WIHR funding, all working group members will attend a series of intensive on-campus meetings strategically focused on developing the kinds of interdisciplinary and cross-college collaboration necessary to build a long-term and sustainable higher education in prison program. Members of the working group will travel to Lusk in April, May, and June, on dates determined in conjunction with the Department of Corrections (DOC), to teach course content developed in these meetings. We anticipate that receipt of initial WIHR support will be followed by other funding sources to sustain bimonthly visits by both our working group and others who become interested in this important endeavor. Our Wyoming Pathways from Prison research team already enjoys supportive collegial relations with the DOC, and Dewey recently joined Bratton to teach twice a month at the WWC. This support, combined with significant faculty and staff interest, are strong predictors of our likelihood of building a successful higher education in prison program that will constitute a vital form of statewide outreach.

Group’s confirmed membership:
Cathy Connolly, Gender & Women’s Studies
Peter Parolin, English
Matt Gray, Psychology
Jennifer Deckert, Theater & Dance
Susan Frye, Outreach School
Barbara Logan, History
Ruth Bjorkenwall, Global & Area Studies
Scott Henkel, English
Terry Burant, Education
Eric Wodahl, Criminal Justice
Seth Ward, Religious Studies
Jane Warren
Myron Allen, Mathematics
Jason Williford, Mathematics
Hakima Bessaih, Mathematics
Gregory Lyng, Mathematics

African American & Diaspora Studies Faculty Reading Circle

The African American & Diaspora Studies Faculty Reading Circle includes scholars from a wide-range of disciplines and academic units focused on contemporary and historical issues related to race. The group meets monthly to discuss, review and comment in person and in writing on active projects that include papers, book chapters, work for edited collections and monographs. The questions we will ask are generated by the specific historical and contemporary issues raised by specific faculty research projects. There is no unified set of research questions that we revisit regularly across a given semester.

The African American & Diaspora Studies Faculty Reading Circle meets once-per-month at a variety of on-campus locations reflective of the diverse membership of participants.

The core group includes:
Kerry Pimblott (African American & Diaspora Studies/History)
Tracey Owens Patton (African American & Diaspora Studies/Communication and Journalism)

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