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McKibben to present 2015-16 Humanities Week Keynote Address

Bill McKibben is one of America’s best known environmentalists. As a bestselling author, he has written books that, over the last quarter century, have shaped public perception–and public action–on climate change, alternative energy, and the need for more localized economies. McKibben is the founder of, the first big global grassroots climate change initiative.

McKibben is the author of a dozen books about the environment. His seminal books include The End of Nature, widely seen as the first book on climate change for a general audience, and Deep Economy, a bold challenge to move beyond “growth” as the paramount economic ideal and to pursue prosperity in a more local direction — an idea that is the cornerstone of much sustainability discourse today. A former staff writer for The New Yorker, McKibben is a frequent contributor to The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Orion Magazine, Mother Jones, The New York Review of Books, Granta, and Outside. Bill has been awarded both the Guggenheim and Lyndhurst Fellowships, as well as the Lannan Prize for nonfiction writing.

In 2007, McKibben founded to demand that Congress curb carbon emissions that would cut global warming pollution 80 percent by 2050. On April 14, 2007, as part of the effort, McKibben helped lead over a thousand demonstrations, across all 50 states, a watershed moment described as the largest day of protest against climate change in the nation’s history.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS – April 11-15, 2016

We have set the dates for next year’s Humanities Week — April 11-15, 2016.  Keynote speaker, William “Bill” McKibben will be on campus April 13, 2016, in the CUB senior ballroom.  We will host a roundtable discussion on a second day during the week and we are working on inviting our colleagues from the University of Washington to present a second roundtable late in the week prior to the full start of Humanities Week.  Please watch for further developments.

C. Richard King


Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies

Playing with Indigeneity

Playing with Indigeneity offers a comparative assessment of racial play today. It concerns itself with public performances of the qualities associated with and ascribed to indigenous cultures and peoples. It builds upon established scholarly discussions of playing Indian, and nearly two decades of study by the author of American Indian mascots and popular representations of Native Americans, to ask new questions about the history and significance of Indians playing Indian. Playing with Indigeneity pivots around four themes: the ongoing significance of enactments of indigeneity, the racial politics of playing with inidgeneity, the transnational flow of such racial play, and the oppositional possibilities emergent from such stagings. It explores them through a series of case studies, which individually and collectively produce a more rounded account of how indigeneity and enactments of it matter. While anchored by more familiar US and Canadian examples, it also engages with cultural patterns and social practices in Australia, New Zealand, and Germany. Doing so encourages readings across and against–across national borders and stylistic boundaries, across continents and color lines, and against conventions and expectations. A monograph to be published by the University of Toronto Press will be among the key outcomes of the Fellowship.

Humanities fellows selected for 2015-16

April 10, 2015

Three professors, representing the fields of history, philosophy, and ethnic studies, have been selected Washington State University’s humanities fellows for the 2015-16 academic year.

C. Richard King, professor in critical culture, gender, and race studies; Claudia Leeb, assistant professor in politics, philosophy, and public affairs; and Matthew Sutton, associate professor in history, were chosen for the fellowship awards based on research proposals they submitted to the Humanities Planning Group (HPG).

“The selection of these three proposals and scholars emphasizes the broad nature of the humanities,” said Christopher Lupke, chair of HPG and professor of cinema studies and Chinese. “We’ve now awarded fellowships in all the humanities units at WSU.”

Other academic disciplines within the humanities include literature, ancient and modern languages, art history, classics, and linguistics.

“We are promoting an appreciation for the breadth and depth of humanities and their critical role in understanding life and society,” Lupke said.

Each of the three awards is accompanied by a $12,500 grant. The fellow designation and funding are intended to promote further research and encourage pursuit of greater, external funding for humanities research.

A committee of senior WSU scholars evaluated all of the submitted proposals and made their recommendations to the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), which has sponsored the Humanities Fellows program since it was launched in 2014.

Public lectures to highlight fellows’ year

As a condition of selection, each fellow will deliver a free, public presentation during the upcoming academic year. A schedule will be announced this fall and will be available on the HPG website,

King, is an expert in indigeneity. His research during the past two decades has sparked numerous conversations about use of American Indian mascots and popular representations of Native Americans.

He is currently working on a book “Playing with Indigeneity,” which offers a comparative assessment of racial play today.

His project will examine public performances of the qualities associated with and ascribed to indigenous cultures and peoples. It builds upon established scholarly discussions of “playing Indian” and the ways indigeneity, and enactments of it, matter.

A monograph, to be published by the University of Toronto Press, will be among the key outcomes of King’s fellowship.

Leeb, who is trained in political theory and psychology, plans to complete a book during her fellowship. It draws on Hannah Arendt and Theodor Adorno to demonstrate that an adequate dealing with feelings of collective guilt resulting from a nation’s past crimes is necessary to create inclusive and functioning social and political communities in the present.

“The Tragedy of Silence: Guilt and Democracy,” by Leeb, will analyze court documents of Austrian perpetrators, as well as recent public controversies surrounding Austria’s hidden involvement in the Nazi atrocities, to answer the question of how perpetrating individuals and collectives deal with guilt.

Sutton’s research focuses on the relationships among religion, politics, and American culture from the late nineteenth century to the present. He draws from and addresses issues in the fields of history, religious studies, political science, American Studies, and global studies.

His project, “Wild Bill’s Army of Faith: Religion and American Espionage in World War II,” attempts to tell the story of a small but influential group of missionaries and religious activists in espionage and covert operations employed by the US government during World War II. Office of Strategic Services director, William “Wild Bill” Donovan, support by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, helped to create the modern American security state and shape the future of the national intelligence and clandestine network.

Through never-before-seen archival materials, Sutton will reveal the significant roles these missionaries played in a book project his fellowship will help him complete.

Humanities in action at WSU

HPG is a group of faculty members who are working to create a Center for the Humanities at WSU. A proposal to the Faculty Senate is now being finalized.

The group has sponsored a variety of events and initiatives on the Pullman campus. It is partnering with the Pullman and Whitman county libraries to sponsor speakers and conversations, and has applied for a Humanities Washington grant to support community programming.

Three Founding Latin American Women Photographers

Women played an important role in early Latin American photography, and photography provided women with an important cultural genre for examining women’s issues and expressing feminist interpretations.  Grete Stern (Argentina), Annemarie Heinrich (Argentina), and Hildegard Rosenthal (Brazilian) came out of German cultural backgrounds (in Stern’s case, Jewish German roots), but all three were responsible for significant innovations in the development of Argentine and Brazilian photographic traditions.

Marco Berger: Filming Queer Masculinities in Argentina

With a series of audacious and strikingly original films made during the past five years, Argentine director Marco Berger (born 1977) has moved to the forefront in the field of queer filmmaking in Argentina, a country that has itself taken the lead in Latin America in producing provocative films that shed the cliches of so much commercial gay filmmaking in the United States.  Going beyond the formulas of boy-meets-boy and boy-beds-boy texts, which necessarily involve the money shot of actual sexual gymnastics at the expense of the subtitles of human emotion and erotic complexities, Berger’s films focus on the circumstances in which individuals are suddenly confronted with the potential for homoerotic experience, often against their awareness and in contradiction to their presumed heterosexuality.  It’s not that these individuals “discover” that they are “really” gay.  Rather, they are led to discover a wider arena of erotic potential for their bodies than they had previously imagined.  Three key Berger films are discussed Plan B (2009), Ausente (2011), and Tension sexual: volatil (2012).  Berger’s films are an integral part of the importance of a queer consciousness in contemporary urban Argentina.

Three WSU Humanities Fellows named

Three professors in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) at Washington State University are the institution’s inaugural cohort of Humanities Fellows for 2014-15.

Donna Potts and Susan Dente Ross, professors of English, and Michael Hubert, assistant professor of Spanish, were among 14 WSU faculty members who submitted research proposals that were evaluated by an independent senior faculty committee who subsequently made recommendations to the dean for approval. The three awards and accompanying $12,500 grants were conferred through the Humanities Planning Group (HPG) at WSU, with funding support from CAS.

“The work of these three fellows underscores the integral nature of the humanities to intellectual life and society in general,” said Christopher Lupke, chair of HPG and professor of cinema studies and Chinese at WSU.

The humanities fellow designation and accompanying grant are intended to promote further research and to encourage pursuit of greater, external funding for humanities research.

Academic disciplines within the humanities include history, philosophy, religion, ancient and modern languages, cultural studies, literature, art history, classics, and linguistics.

First public lecture in Humanities Fellows series Oct. 14

Each of the new humanities fellows will deliver a public lecture about her or his proposed research.

Potts, whose expertise is in Irish and world literature, women’s studies, and trauma theory, will present an examination of literary and cinematic representations of sexual assault, especially in the college setting, on Oct. 14 at 5:30 pm in Goertzen Hall room 21. Her lecture, “‘Readings Will Grow Erratic’: Reading Rape in the Humanities,” is also part of the WSU Honors College’s Distinguished Lecture Series.

Ross, who specializes in public policy and media issues as well as social movements and peace and cultural studies, will present her research into the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness through examination of associated biases, sexism and misunderstandings. Ross’s lecture “A Madwoman in Suburbia: Life In and Out of Asylums” is scheduled for March 3, 2015.

Hubert, whose research focuses on second-language acquisition, particularly Spanish, investigates the widely misunderstood relationship between speaking and writing in the development of foreign language proficiency. Hubert will present “The Development of Speaking and Writing of Foreign Language in Academia” on April 2.

Humanities in action at WSU

HPG is a cohort of WSU faculty members who have been working to create a Center for the Humanities at WSU. The group has sponsored a variety of events and initiatives on the Pullman campus, and plans to submit a proposal this fall to the Faculty Senate to establish a center at WSU.

Michael Hubert


Michael Hubert
The Development of Speaking and Writing of Foreign Language in Academia

The relationship between the development of speaking and writing proficiencies in second/foreign language acquisition is, at present, poorly understood and information on the limited amount of available research on this topic has yet to be widely disseminated.

Where most language instructors appear to be aware of differences in student learning styles, personalities, and general aptitude for language learning, many do not appear to take into consideration the differences in achievement across the productive modalities that exist for individual language learners.  Despite compelling research evidence suggesting that the speaking and writing proficiencies of most adult learners do not progress in a symmetrical way, and that strength in one modality appears to support the development in the other (Weissberg, 2000, 2006; Hubert, 2013), courses for both English as a Second Language learners and foreign language students very often do not integrate writing (i.e., composing) and speaking in the classroom (Weissberg, 2006, Hubert, 2008, 2013).  These are, instead, frequently regarded as discrete phenomena to be both taught and assessed separately, very possibly due at least in part to this lack of understanding concerning the way in which the different language proficiencies develop over time.  This presentation will report on a longitudinal research study tracking the development of speaking and writing proficiencies in FL Chinese, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish students over several years.  A comprehensive treatment of this topic will be provided, the methods that guide this study will be explained, and a series of pilot data informing this project will be presented.

Susan Dente Ross



Susan Dente Ross

A Madwoman in Suburbia: In and Out of Asylums

A Madwoman in Suburbia examines my mother’s mental illness within the shifting medical practices of the last half of the Twentieth Century to personify the historical and gender-inflected aspects of mental health diagnosis and care in the United States.  Here both the scientific understanding and my mother’s experience are contested truths.  This work brings together the personal and the statistical to explore their reciprocal construction of mental illness within the broader play of power.  Priscilla Allen Garland Dente Westberg’s personal trajectory through mental illness is set within a myriad of medical, social, cultural, economic, and emotional conditions that illuminate how gender, power, and proprietary construct illness and treatment as a means of social control.  The dialogue between my mother’s story of mental illness and the medical, legal, and statistical data in the field creates a complex and nuanced narrative to contribute to growing exposure of the misunderstandings, biases, and manifest sexism that have marked the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.

Donna Potts


Donna Potts

Readings Will Grow Erratic: Reading Rape in the Humanities

My book, Sexual Assault in Academia, is an interdisciplinary study of the problem of rape in higher education.  It involves research in many areas of the humanities, including philosophy, literature, religion, film, music, anthropology, cultural studies, and history.  Thomas Jefferson regarded the primary purpose of higher education as preparation for citizenship in a democracy, although his era extended the rights of citizenship on to free, propertied, white men.  One of the primary purposes of the humanities is to develop a sense of civic duty.  If we wish to ensure that women, who constitute over half of the university population, have a voice and agency that will permit them full participation in the classroom as well as in the citizenry of a democracy, we need to address the issue of campus rape, which affects approximately 20-25 percent of female college students.

My book begins with an introduction that reflects on how my rape as an undergraduate shaped my own experience in academia.  Chapter 1 explores the stories of survivors–from student-on-student rape to presumably “consensual” relations with professors–discussing how university administrations responded to the crimes when reported as such; how victims were treate4d; how perpetrators were tre4ated’ what the role of bystanders was; what short-term and long term impacts were.  Chapter 2 examines rape culture and how it manifests itself in academia.  It explores the rape myths that underlie and perpetuate rape culture,l and how the early failure to respond appropriately to rape, particularly in the formative years of high school, exacerbates the situation in college.  Whereas literary and cinematic representations of rape (Chapter 3) are numerous, and often serve to perpetuate the rape myths that many perpetrators and victims internalize, representations of rape in academia are less common.  Although women comprise slightly more than half of the human population, they were marginalized in or omitted entirely from every branch of the humanities and humanistic study for centuries, and only relatively recently gained access to higher education.  Surveying literary and cinematic representations of rape offers more nuanced insights into contemporary attitudes toward rape and its victims.  Because 40 percent of rapes involved multiple perpetrators, and gang rapes by sports teams or fraternities are fairly common at universities, “fraternal rape” (Chapter 4) deserves separate consideration.  Finally, the rising student debt load combined with economic collapse has prompted many students to resort to online sites at which they could connect with “Sugar daddies,” presumably to serve as escorts (“Sugar Babies”) in exchange for college fees, but actually to be prostituted.  Prostitution, which virtually always involves some form of coercion, is discussed as a form of sexual assualt in Chapter 5.  Chapter 6, “Fighting Back,” chronicles recent efforts to challenge academia’s failure to address the subject of rape.  Recent efforts by the federal government and by campuses such as WSU aim to improve the environment for female students, and I would hope that my book will contribute to these efforts.