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Fellows 2024-2025

May 16, 2024 — The Kaplan Humanities Institute is delighted to announce our Faculty Fellows for 2024-2025!

Kaplan Institute Fellowships offer faculty course reductions so that they can develop research projects within an interdisciplinary community. Kaplan Fellows, who are selected by an external team of reviewers, present work at weekly colloquia, participate in Institute events, and develop an undergraduate course to offer in the Institute the year following their fellowship.

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Kyla Ebels-Duggan

Kyla Ebels-Duggan

Professor, Department of Philosophy
Director of the Brady Program in Ethics and Civic Life

Project: An Ethics of Love: Iris Murdoch's Moral Philosophy 

"Best known as a novelist, Iris Murdoch was also an insightful moral philosopher. She argued that ethical thinking begins with the stories that we tell and accept. These stories make certain ethically significant concepts available to us while occluding others. She holds that moral philosophy, done well, expands our conceptual repertoire, allowing us to see reality more clearly. In her view love is the most central moral concept: love of others, rather than merely choosing and acting well, is the most important moral task. I am working on a monograph that brings Murdoch into conversation with contemporary moral philosophy and ethical theory. The book includes chapters on ethical concepts, narrative and justification, freedom, value, ideals, God, love, and moral community."

Heather Radwan Jaber

Heather Radwan Jaber

Assistant Professor in Residence, Communication and Liberal Arts Programs, Northwestern Qatar

Global Humanities Fellowship jointly sponsored by the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities and the Buffett Institute for Global Affairs.

Project: Feeling Like the Global South: Recoding Digital Bahdala in the MENA

"My research offers bahdala—the Arabic word for a humbling ridicule—as an emotions framework for the underlying economy of the Internet. I argue that a rising entrepreneurial class across the MENA channels spectacles of shame online, gaining capital in global market economies that cause bahdala in the first place. For publics across Lebanon and Egypt invested in global inclusion, encounters on platforms forge a geopolitical, nation-based Global South which is at odds with a postnational Global South consciousness."

Michael Perry

Michael Perry

Head of Assessment and Planning, Northwestern University Libraries

Library Fellow 2024- 2025

Project: Understanding the Roots of Political Music: The Political Themes of the Music of Max Cavalera

This project will analyze the music of noted Brazilian heavy metal musician Max Cavalera and identify how political themes developed throughout his career. Expanding on existing scholarship covering his influential band, Sepultura, this project will examine his entire career with a focus on his work after leaving Sepultura and his immigration to the United States.

Miriam J. Petty

Miriam J. Petty

Associate Professor, Department of Radio/Television/Film
Associate Dean for Academic Programs, The Graduate School

Project: Madea’s Baby, Tyler’s Maybe: Tyler Perry on Stage and in Film, 1997-2019

"Madea’s Baby, Tyler’s Maybe analyzes the first twenty years of media mogul Tyler Perry’s career. I employ a media studies-centered, yet rigorously interdisciplinary approach to Perry, and to the overlapping historical, industrial, and cultural roots of his success. My book mobilizes Perry’s elder drag character 'Madea' as the complex locus of his dynasty, mapping his attempts to channel and control this powerful matriarchal figure—across time and space; through distinct media formats; alongside Perry’s own aging; and coeval with transformations in mainstream and public discourses on gender and sexuality."

Ariel Rogers

Ariel Rogers

Associate Professor, Department of Radio/Television/Film

Project: In the Frame: Organizing and Delimiting the Moving Image from Virtual Reality to Cinema

"My book explores the ways in which the rise of virtual reality enables us to reassess the concept of the frame and the practice of framing in moving-image media. Drawing on an interdisciplinary discourse on frames and framing, I advocate conceptualizing the mediatic frame not as a delimited view but rather, more expansively, as the frame of reference for a range of processes of organization and delimitation operating across formal, material, and social registers."

Rebecca Seligman

Rebecca Seligman

Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology and Program in Global Health Studies

Project: Conditions of Meaning: An Ethnography of Mind-Body Illness

This book project asks the question, what if we take seriously the idea that idiom, story, and script shape the experience of body and the course of illness? Engaging that question, this project draws on the layered stories of people’s intimate experiences with Functional Neurological Disorder—a surprisingly common, yet enigmatic illness with symptoms that mimic those of other neurological disorders but without discernible organic cause. The book coalesces around a number of critical themes, including: gender and power, bodily languages of protest, medical discourses and moral personhood, social scaffolding of sensation, bodily affordances, and embodied metaphor. Tracing the vivid personal accounts of people living with a disorder often dismissed as “all in their heads,” this project seeks to create a broader understanding of how we listen to and make meaning of our bodies.

Charif Shanahan

Charif Shanahan

Assistant Professor, Department of English

Project: Dear Whiteness: Poems 

Dear Whiteness is a book-length series of epistolary poems. Epic in scope and global in orientation and form, the poems move episodically across time and space—from the 7th Century Arab Slave Trade in the Maghreb to the contemporary Bronx—comprising traditional lyric and poetic erasures of legal texts, racial taxonomies, and slave narratives. Choral, with many “authors,” both historical and imagined, the letters-as-poem interrogate where racial constructs fall apart—the edges, the liminal spaces without a name or familiar narrative—in terms of both mixed-race embodiment and experience, as well as cultural contradiction. By demonstrating how racial constructs exist to preserve and protect the existence of Whiteness, broadly construed, across national context and period, the poems articulate the imaginative possibilities of inhabiting a racial liminality.

Sarah Thorngate

Sarah Thorngate

Data Analysis Librarian, Digital Scholarship, Northwestern University Libraries

Library Affiliate 2024-2025

Sarah Thorngate is part of the Digital Scholarship team at Northwestern University Libraries. In that role, she collaborates with faculty and graduate students interested in using computational methods in their research. She has a BA in music, religion, and English from St. Olaf College, an MLIS from the University of Illinois, and an MA in sociology (PhD in progress) from Loyola University. Her research and teaching interests include social class inequalities in higher education and critical data, digital, and information literacies.

Tracy L. Vaughn-Manley

Tracy L. Vaughn-Manley

Assistant Professor, Department of Black Studies
Charles Deering McCormick Distinguished University Professor of Instruction

Project: Pens and Needles: Toni Morrison, Quilts, and Community

Tracy Vaughn-Manley’s current book project, Pens and Needles: Toni Morrison, Quilts, and Community, is a study on the ways in which Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison uses quilts and quilting in her work as an editor, author, and public scholar.  Drawing upon current theories of resistance, Black feminism, performance, and cultural aesthetics, Vaughn-Manley demonstrates how these theories intersect and illuminate the importance of quilts, quilt-making, and community building in Morrison’s work. 

Erica Weitzman

Erica Weitzman

Associate Professor, Department of German

Project: Bluster: Bourgeois Anxiety and Expository Style in Late Nineteenth-Century Germany

"My project investigates a strangely dominant, yet largely unexamined tone in mid- to late nineteenth-century German literature: a paradoxical combination of bombast, avuncularity, belligerence, and petulance that I, taking a cue from an early book review by Friedrich Nietzsche, designate with the name “bluster.” Through readings of particular works of popular philosophy and the both stylistic and thematic debates that they provoked (as well as some fictional examples), I explore the implications of this tone as simultaneously a form of self-legitimation and a response to a legitimation crisis: the expression of masculine bourgeois fragility in the age of the bourgeoisie’s supposed triumph."