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New Faculty Seminar Series

Join us for the New Faculty Seminar Series where we will feature the work of new colleagues in the Humanities at UB. By bringing together scholars from a variety of fields, we hope that these seminars will initiate and encourage the development of interdisciplinary conversations.

The seminars are free and open to the public; light refreshments will be served.


Spring 2014 Schedule



Cecil Foster

Transnational Studies

Tuesday, February 11, 3:30PM

830 Clemens Hall


Genuine Multiculturalism: Striving for Comedy in the Tragic Human Condition

The paper will be available on online reserve under HIS000.


Fred Klaits


Monday, April 7, 3:30PM

830 Clemens Hall

God and Therapy in an American Pentecostal Congregation

In this paper, Dr. Klaits revisits the cultural impact of psychotherapeutic discourses on the constitution of personhood through an ethnographic study of a Pentecostal church in suburban Buffalo. For many North American Pentecostals, a personal relationship with God ideally ensures inner peace during times of difficulty. The religious value placed on inner tranquility dovetails with psychotherapeutic goals, yet Pentecostal practice constitutes an auto-critique of secular therapeutic discourses that advance specific norms regarding the nature of proper communication between persons. Pentecostal worship counters therapeutic ideologies of inner reference by inducing believers to question the adequacy of particular verbal, literary, and physical expressions for fostering emotional tranquility and mutual sympathy. Yet insofar as
evangelical practice makes sympathy contingent upon communication to and about God, it is apt to lend itself to exclusionary politics.

The paper will not be circulated.


Marla Segol

Jewish Studies

Wednesday, April 9, 3:30PM

830 Clemens Hall

Beautiful Bodies, Human and Divine

Did medieval Jews believe that God had a body? Did they believe that their own bodies resembled the divine? And why did this matter to them? At this seminar Dr. Segol will present her new research on medieval Jewish conceptions of divine embodiment, and how they mattered for thinking about individual religious and ethical practice.

The paper will not be circulated.


Fall 2013 Schedule


Lewis Powell


September 18, 3:30PM

830 Clemens Hall

Malebranche vs. Hume on Whether Belief is Voluntary

Many early modern philosophers were concerned with the question of whether we have voluntary control over our beliefs. Rene Descartes maintained that belief was voluntary, and appealed to this feature of belief to ensure that mistaken beliefs were attributable to errors on our part, rather than on the part of God. David Hume denies that we have voluntary control over our beliefs, because we cannot form beliefs at will, and because introspection does not reveal to us a unique decision preceding each and every judgment we form. This paper examines the relationship between Hume's challenges to voluntarist accounts of belief, and the innovative version of voluntarism put forward by Nicholas Malebranche, arguing that Malebranche's approach can sidestep the challenges raised by Hume.

The paper will be available on online reserve under HIS000.


Katja Praznik

Arts Management

October 9, 3:30PM

830 Clemens Hall

Autonomy or Disavowal of Socioeconomic Context? The Precarity of Cultural Workers in Slovenia since the 1980s

Cultural workers often criticize capitalist modes of production, but they often don't apply that criticism to their own working conditions. They tend not to see their production process as part of the capitalist system because they understand themselves as situated in an autonomous social sphere. This paper scrutinizes this claim for the autonomy of arts and cultural production in Europe by focusing on the position of freelance cultural workers and artists during the period of transition from self-managed socialist Yugoslavia to the independent nation state of Slovenia. Drawing upon policy analysis and fieldwork, this paper argues that the claim for the autonomy of art is in fact a structural disavowal of the socioeconomic context and therefore a reaction against rather than a progressive response to the destruction of the welfare state during past three decades.

The paper is available on online reserve under HIS000.


David Alff


December 3, 3:30PM

830 Clemens Hall

Paper Projections: Aaron Hill’s Beech Oil Bust (1714-1716)

This essay examines the role of print in the attempted invention of a new eighteenth-century commodity: beech seed oil. It shows how the inventor, Aaron Hill, exploited the material conventions of patents, pamphlets, newspapers, and panegyric poetry to promote beech forests as a cheap source of lubricants for use in Britain’s woolens and soap-making industries. Although this enterprise failed (and disastrously so), its archival remains shed incredible light upon the rhetorical life of an eighteenth-century corporation. Analyzing the folds, fonts, binding, images, and sales venues of beech oil proposal literature, this essay argues that print was an enabling force of entrepreneurship in eighteenth-century Britain, and that publishers, printers, and printed objects themselves were active agents in shaping the composition and reception of projects to improve the nation.

The paper is available on online reserve under HIS000.


Spring 2013 Schedule


Victoria Wolcott


March 5, 3:30PM

830 Clemens Hall

“Radical Nonviolence, Interracial Utopias, and the Long Civil Rights Movement”

Historians have long recognized that utopian communities in antebellum America played key roles in emerging abolitionist and women’s rights movements.  A largely unrecognized parallel utopian movement occurred in the middle of the twentieth century, when white pacifists and black activists formed interracial communities in cities, suburbs, and rural areas.  Participants in these communities pioneered distinctly American forms of Gandhian nonviolence to further the cause of racial equality.  This paper examines a range of urban interracial communities during and after World War II that challenged spatial segregation and put forth a radical vision of equality and economic justice.

The paper is available on online reserve under HIS000.


Fall 2012 Schedule


Marion Werner


Wednesday, October 24, 3:30PM

830 Clemens Hall

"Reproducing Difference, Reproducing Capital: New geographies of export production in the Dominican Republic and Haiti"

In recent years, rising global competition has provoked the retrenchment of
thousands of low-wage workers in the export assembly industry in the Dominican
Republic, while Haiti has emerged as a site for trade zone production, particularly
following the 2010 earthquake. These shifts are part of new, inter-connected
investment patterns and labor geographies between the two countries in relation
to transnational capital. Consistent with the island’s history, the difference in the
respective positions of Haitian and Dominican labor in circuits of capital
accumulation is a key basis for generating profits. Following Marxist, feminist
and Dominican scholars, I argue that this difference – at once gendered,
racialized and constituted as national -- must be continually reproduced through
social and spatial practices. Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork and policy
analysis, I explore how government officials, factory managers, owners and
development policymakers construct these new social and spatial geographies of
profitmaking on the island, as well as the ways that these logics may be

This paper will be precirculated through UB's Online Course Reserve system under HIS000-SEE.



Walter Hakala

English/Asian Studies


Tuesday, November 27, 4:00PM

830 Clemens Hall

A Sultan in the Realm of Passion: Coffee in Eighteenth-Century Delhi

It is naught save the beloved of the noble 

It is always irked by the companionship of the low 

       In whatever place has ‘Hatim’ two breaths of life,  

       Here will be a sip of coffee, there a puff at the huqqah

Thus concludes a poetic encomium to coffee composed by the eighteenth-century Urdu poet, Shah ‘Hatim’ (1699-1783), who enjoyed a long career, interacting with multiple generations of Urdu poets in Delhi and observing firsthand the massive economic and cultural upheavals that accompanied the rapid political decline of the Mughal empire.  He is remembered today primarily for his claim, made some twenty years after he composed this poem, to have purged his earlier collections of poetry of verses that contained “unliterary” vocabulary and outdated puns.  This poem’s survival in his revised divan helps to answer questions about broader efforts by professional poets of Urdu to document emerging modalities of urban connoisseurship for new audiences and patrons in regional centers.

This paper will be precirculated through UB's Online Course Reserve system under HIS000-SEE.

Spring 2012 Schedule

"Imaging Berlin. Urban Demolition in Berlin Photographs 1871 – 1918"

Miriam Paeslack

Arts Management

March 21, 3:30PM

830 Clemens Hall

Download pre-circulated paper here:

This paper interprets the city of Berlin as a palimpsest, as an urban space that contains traces of demolition and rebuilding during Wilhelmine Berlin, the era between 1871 and 1918 when Germany was first united and governed as a constitutional monarchy. It looks at the kinship between photographs and paintings of ruins and destruction to explore how history was invoked in pictorial representations of the city. This paper explores the connection between historical memory and identity and its relation to Germany’s unification.


Fall 2011 Schedule


"Lucid Cameras: Imaging Haiti After the Earthquake of 2010"

Toni Pressley-Sanon

African and African American Studies

October 12, 3:30 PM

830 Clemens Hall



"The Souls of Black Comix: The Secret Origins of Representation as Resistance in the Black Age of American Comics"

John Jennings

Visual Studies

November 16, 3:30 PM

830 Clemens Hall




"Traumautism: Recovering (from) Bruno Bettelheim's Legacy"

Joseph Valente

Professor, English

March 23, 2011, 3:30 PM

830 Clemens Hall


As part of the UB Humanities Institute’s New Faculty Seminar Series, Joe Valente, Professor of English, will speak on: “Traumatism:  Recovering (from) the Legacy of Bruno Bettelheim.”  The lecture will take place tomorrow on Wednesday, March 23rd at 3:30pm in 830 Clemens.  Professor Valente, who recently joined the UB faculty from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, is an internationally renowned scholar of Joyce, Irish literature and Modernism.  The author of several books, Professor Valente’s most recent book is The Myth of Manliness in Irish National Culture, 1880-1922 (University of Illinois Press, 2011).

Professor Valente’s forthcoming talk is on his new work on autism studies, which revisits Bruno Bettelheim’s psychogenic theory of autism, which has been discredited and even demonized. What is the reason behind these now gratuitous assaults? As untenable as Bettelheim’s study The Empty Fortress is, it speaks to features of infant development and sociality that contemporary autism studies has had to exclude to constitute itself as a coherent scientific field—features, accordingly, that continue to threaten that coherence.


"The Sexuality of Abstraction: Agnes Martin"

Jonathan Katz

Associate professor, Visual Studies

October 6, 2010, 3:30 PM

538 Clemens Hall


The first speaker of the fall semester is Jonathan Katz, Associate Professor, Visual Studies.  Jonathan's lecture is entitled "The Sexuality of Abstraction: Agnes Martin".  The palpable disconnect between the rigidly formal terms of Agnes Martin’s art and her metaphysical pronouncements about it have generally been met with an embarrassed silence. She made her rigorous grids the occasion of some the most high-flown rhetoric ever uttered by a post war artist, a period already celebrated for its art of numinous intensity. While some have sought to recuperate her metaphysics in art historical terms through an equally mystical phenomenological account of the work (e.g., Rosalind Krauss), few have sought to historicize and contextualize Martin’s deployment of mysticism. A broader social-historical accounting is clearly called for, and queer studies offers a powerful new tool for understanding the utility of the spiritual in Martin’s oeuvre. This paper marries phenomenology, Zen Buddhism, Gertrude Stein, Freud and Nietzsche towards explicating how Martin's lesbianism structured her turn, late in life,  toward an art of geometric abstraction.


"Italian Futurism: Performances in Intermedial Spaces"

Laura Chiesa

Assistant Professor, Romance Languages and Literatures

November 17, 2010, 3:30 PM

830 Clemens Hall


The second speaker of the fall semester is Laura Chiesa, Assistant Professor, Romance Languages and Literatures. In her lecture "Italian Futurism: Performances in Intermedial Spaces, Dr. Chiesa will present her work in progress on the intermedial spatial theatricality of Italian Futurism. The architectural space of the Italian Futurists is known principally for Sant’Elia ground-breaking manifesto and drawings, which have been considered to be the real roots of unrealized modernism (Banham) or, more recently, as a totally new way of understanding the complex modernist space (Kwinter). During the inter-war years, Italian Futurism didn’t embrace modernist functional or rationalist architecture. Instead, it experimented in the space of theater bringing to the stage abstract, ephemeral and invisible constructions with a dynamic marked by interruptions, jumps and distortions. In the late ’70s, artists (i.e. Goldberg) and experimental architects (i.e. Tschumi) reconsidered this performative aspect of Italian Futurism. The presentation will be dedicated to the analysis of theatricality at play in these Futurist experimentations. While such theatricality always dwells in-between medias and experiments in an interdisciplinary way, it uncannily stretches between extremes: from abstract, or even utopian, intermedial spaces to fascist and propagandistic spaces.  This link is for one of Chiesa's recently published articles which is an in depth analysis of an artist/writer work between1928-1930. The paper will be discussed and expanded upon in relation to Chiesa's work on spatial/architectural performance in Futurism.


"From Exile to Odyssey: A Cuban insurgent's journey home in the circum-Caribbean"

Dalia Muller

Assistant Professor of History

February 23, 2010, 3:30 PM :: 830 Clemens Hall



"Building Socialist Modernity: Politics and Urban Design in Chile, 1970-1973"

Camilo Trumper

Assistant Professor of American Studies

March 16, 2010, 3:30 PM :: 830 Clemens Hall



"Technospectacular Poetics: From Mallarmé to Bernstein"

Jean-Jacques Thomas

Melodia E. Jones Professor of French

October 7, 2009, 3:30 PM :: 830 Clemens Hall


Jean-Jacques Thomas, the Melodia E. Jones Professor of French, specializes in poetry and poetics, nineteenth and twentieth-century French literature and culture, as well as Quebec and Canadian Studies. He has taught at the Université de Paris-VIII, the University of Michigan, Columbia University and Duke University. He has published several books on poetics and contemporary French literature, most recently Poeticized Language with Steven Winspur. He has two forthcoming books, one on the Haitian-Quebecois poet Joël Des Rosiers and the other on Jacques Roubaud, a French poet and mathematician.


“Jewish Translation: Philosophy, History, and the Space In-Between”

Aaron Hughes


November 18, 2009, 3:30 PM :: 830 Clemens Hall

Aaron Hughes, Associate Professor of History and the Gordon and Gretchen Gross Professor of Jewish Studies, specializes in medieval Jewish and Islamic Neo-Platonists, comparative religions, and more recently, the Jewish intellectual history of the Italian Renaissance. Professor Hughes arrived from the University of Calgary, where he spent the previous eight years. He is the author of The Art of Dialogue in Jewish Philosophy (Indiana 2008), Situating Islam: The Past and Future of an Academic Discipline (London: Equinox 2008); Jewish Philosophy, A-Z (Palgrave 2005); The Texture of the Divine: Imagination in Medieval Islamic and Jewish Thought ( Indiana 2004). He also has two edited collections forthcoming this year: New Directions in Jewish Philosophy with Elliot R. Wolfson (Indiana 2009) and Defining Judaism: A Reader (Equinox 2009).


Past Seminars

Fall 2008 Schedule

November 12

1:00 PM

830 Clemens Hall


"Democracy in  Ancient Greece"

David Teegarden, Classics

University at Buffalo

The text for the discussion is available on request.

Humanities Institute New Faculty Seminar Series

October 15

1:00 PM

830 Clemens Hall




"The Queer Pleasure and Frustrations of Chang and Eng's Autopsy"

Cynthia Wu, American Studies

University at Buffalo

The text for the discussion is available on request.

Humanities Institute New Faculty Seminar Series


Spring 2009 Schedule

March 4

1:00 PM

830 Clemens Hall


"'The Excellent Habit of Thrift': Wall Street and the Technology of Imperialism"

Peter Hudson, African-American Studies

University at Buffalo

New Faculty Seminar Series

April 8

1:00 PM

830 Clemens Hall


"'I want to be a Cowboy's Sweetheart': Patsy Montana and the Freedoms of the West"

Stephanie Vander Wel, Music

University at Buffalo

New Faculty Seminar Series