Humanities Institute

Spring 2017 Faculty Fellows

Health, Well Being and Healing

Phillip J. Barrish (English) teaches American literature in the English department. He is the author of American Literary Realism, Critical Theory, and Intellectual Prestige 1880-1995 (Cambridge UP, 2001); White Liberal Identity, Literary Pedagogy, and Classic American Realism (Ohio State UP, 2005); and The Cambridge Introduction to American Literary Realism (Cambridge UP, 2011). He has recently begun writing about US American literary engagements with health care as a system and has published articles on the political economy of health care in dystopian fiction and medical professionalism in Robert Herrick’s The Web of Life (a striking 1900 novel by a University of Chicago professor).  While participating in the 2016-17 HI faculty seminar Barrish worked to progress on his book manuscript “American Literature and the Political Economy of Health Care,” and began to develop a new course on medicine and the humanities, which will draw on what he learned from other seminar participants.

Read about Dr. Barrish's research, presented at the January 19 meeting of our Spring 2017 Faculty Fellows Seminar, on "Post Civil War American Literature and the Political Economy of Health Care."

David Crews (Integrative Biology) focuses his research on the consequences of endocrine disrupting chemicals in the environment on development, immunity and health. It is evident that increasing life expectancy and lower infant mortality is of little value if the environment in which humans grow and live is compromised. The primary issue facing us today is not mortality, but morbidity, the quality of life.  I believe that given the world we live in, and will continue to live in, the future is best served by treating the symptoms of the rising influx of patients, preferably before advanced stages manifest. Simply put, we can never make whole affected individuals, but we can make them better. The diseases themselves are emergent properties of the developing individual encountering unique exposures during different stages of their life history. It is the interaction of the individual with their environment that is making them ill, not their genes. His seminar project was entitled “Environmental Contamination: EDCs and the Burgeoning Human Health Crisis.”

Read about Dr. Crews's research, presented at the February 2 meeting of our Sprng 2017 Faculty Fellows Seminar, on "Environmental Contamination: EDC's and the Burgeoning Human Health Crisis."

J. Brent Crosson (Religious Studies/Anthropology) is an anthropologist of religion and secularism who works in the Caribbean. His research has focused on contestations over the limits of legal power, science, and religion in the Americas. Prior to joining the faculty at UT Austin, he was an ACLS/Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellow at UC Santa Cruz and a Ruth Landes Memorial postdoctoral fellow in cultural anthropology at NYU. His research on Caribbean practices of healing and legal intervention--known as obeah, spiritual work, or science--has been published in The Journal of Africana Religions. His work on race relations and solidarities has appeared in the Duke University Press journal Small Axe.  As a Humanities Institute fellow he worked to open dialogues with other scholars on notions of healing and politics as he prepared his book manuscript Experiments with Power:  Science, Healing, and Religion Against the Law.

Read about Dr. Crosson's research, presented at the November 30 meeting of our Spring 2017 Faculty Fellows Seminar, on "Healing Divides and Experimental Religions."

Cynthia G. S. Franklin (Social Work) has a primary research area in mental health interventions with at-risk youth and families and dropout prevention. She has over 200 publications and national and international presentations related to these areas. Dr. Franklin has worked with other researchers including her PhD students to advance research and training on Solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT). She helped to create the Solution-focused High School, Garza High School, in Austin, Texas that has been recognized as a model school program for dropout prevention. Dr. Franklin holds two prominent international leadership positions as the President-Elect for The Group for Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work and the Editor-in-Chief for the Encyclopedia of Social Work, Online. Her seminar project was entitled “Inter-disciplinary Teams and Adolescent and Family Mental Health.”

Read about Dr. Franklin's research, presented at the March 16 meeting of our Spring 2017 Faculty Fellows Seminar, on "Interdisciplinary Teams and Adolescent and Family Mental Health."

Alan W. Friedman (English) has published five books, including Fictional Death and The Modernist Enterprise, which concerns how Western culture (like all cultures) reveals itself most nakedly in constructing, managing, and reacting to death and dying, and how it tells that story in its medical practices, associated rituals, death certificates, memorials, artistic depictions, and literary narratives.  He has served on the Board of the Austin Hospice and now serves on the Advisory Board of the Final Acts Project, for whom he delivered a keynote address (May 2016), “Death as a Cultural and Medical Phenomenon,” co-sponsored by the English Department’s 2016-17 TILTS on “Health, Medicine, and the Humanities.”  His focus in the seminar was on the trade-off between end-of-life care in this country (which is disproportionally expensive, at least for well-off Caucasians, and often counter-productive) and the new emphasis on wellness and patient-centered care practiced at places like the Dell Medical Center.

Read about Dr. Friedman's research, presented at the November 9 meeting of our Spring 2017 Faculty Fellows Seminar, on "Patient-Centered End-of-Life Care."

Gloria González-López (Sociology) has conducted research on sexuality and gender with Mexican immigrants, and more recently, she has been studying incest and sexual violence in Mexico. Two of her books examine her research in these areas, Family Secrets (New York University Press 2015) and Erotic Journeys (University of California Press 2005). She is also a couple and family therapist by training and has worked with Latina immigrant women with histories of sexual violence. She is an academic consultant for professionals working in sexual violence prevention and treatment programs at grassroots organizations and academic institutions in Mexico. She used the seminar to nurture her writing of a book manuscript that explores the professional experiences of scholars conducting empirical research on dangerous, controversial, and/or sensitive topics and the ways in which they engage in self-care practices promoting their well-being.

Read about Dr. González-López research, presented at the April 20 meeting of our Spring 2017 Faculty Fellows Seminar, on "The Researchers Heart: Lessons from the Field about Self Care, Sensitive Topics, and Community Engagement."

Laurie B. Green (History) is engaged in a book project titled “The Discovery of Hunger in America: The Politics of Race, Malnutrition and Poverty, 1965-1975.” As a Faculty Fellow, she further explored heated contestation over malnutrition and starvation that became bound up with highly-charged conflicts about race, physiological and mental development that have consequences for today. This work reflects her interests in comparative/relational studies of race and gender, social movements, urban studies and migration, poverty and public health. She is the author of Battling the Plantation Mentality: Memphis and the Black Freedom Struggle (University of North Carolina Press, 2007), and co-editor of Precarious Prescriptions: Contested Histories of Race and Health in North America (University of Minnesota Press, 2014).

Read about Dr. Green's research, presented at the February 23 meeting of our Spring 2017 Faculty Fellows Seminar, on "The Discovery of Hunger in America: Malnutrition, Brain Development, and Social Behavior."

Madhavi Mallapragada (Radio-TV-Film) is an associate professor in the Department of Radio-TV-Film and a member of the Center for Health Communication at UT. She is the author of Virtual Homelands: Indian Immigrants and Online cultures in the United States (2014) and Race and Ethnicity in US Media Industries (in progress; under contract). She worked in the Humanities Seminar to discuss and develop a new book project, tentatively titled, "Disability Tropes in Media Culture: Debating Health, Critiquing Normativity." The research she hopes to examine in this project focuses on children's media, the use of media stereotypes around disability and ill health, and the idea of visibility and invisibility in disability rights discourse. A significant section of the research will be focused on online and social media as they emerge as tools in redressing public stereotypes about disability in children's every day and media culture.

Read about Dr. Mallapragada's research, presented at the April 13 meeting of our Spring 2017 Faculty Fellows Seminar, on "Disability Tropes in Media Culture: Debating Health, Critiquing Normativity." 

Susan Rather (Art History) is the author, most recently, of The American School: Artists and Status in the Late Colonial and Early National Era (Yale, 2016) and a short article on Thomas Eakins’s well-known surgical subject, The Gross Clinic.  She is developing a course on “Art, Art History, and Medicine,” designed to attract premed students in a preemptive strike against the largely ahistorical visual training—however productive for its purposes—that has swept U.S. medical schools since the late 1990s.  The seminar offered for her a timely opportunity to reconsider the first iteration of that course (Fall 2016) while learning from colleagues who have longer engagement with medicine and medical humanities.

Read about Dr. Rather's research, presented at the March 29 meeting of our Spring 2017 Faculty Fellows Seminar, on Art, Art History, and Medicine: A Pedagogical Experiment."

John A. Robertson (Law) held the Vinson & Elkins Chair at The University of Texas School of Law at Austin, where he specialized in Health Law and Law and Bioethics.  He was the author of The Rights of the Critically Ill (1983) and Children of Choice:  Freedom and the New Reproductive Technologies (1994), and articles on advance directives, organ transplantation, reproductive rights, assisted reproduction, embryo screening, and legal rights to select offspring characteristics.  He served on and served as a consultant to national bioethics advisory bodies, including those on organ transplantation, assisted reproduction, and fetal tissue and stem cell research.  His interest in the Faculty Fellows Seminar derived from his long involvement with ethical and legal issues at the beginning and end of life, and current efforts to make health care interactions more patient-centered.  He was especially interested in exploring literary representations of patient experience, using John Updike’s late poetry and short story “The Half-Filled Glass” as examples.

Read about John Robertson's research, presented at the February 23 meeting of our Spring 2017 Faculty Fellows Seminar, on "Fighting Death Through Technology and Accepting It Through Literature."

Sergio Romero (Spanish and Portuguese) examines language variation and change from complementary variationist and socio-cultural perspectives. He is a specialist on Mayan languages and Nahuatl and has published on syntactic change in K’iche’ as well as on new dialect and new register formation in K’iche’, Q’eqchi’ and Nahuatl. He has also published extensively on the emergence of pastoral registers and the translation of Christian theology and ritual into indigenous languages. His current research examines ritual language, healing and the ontology of disease in Ixhil Mayan. His seminar project was entitled “Healing, sacred calendars and Ixil Maya ritual language in Nebaj, Guatemala.” 

Read about Dr. Romero's research, presented at the May 4 meeting of our Spring 2017 Faculty Fellows Seminar, on "Bodies, Healing, and Ixhil Shamanic Chants: When Poetic Cadences Heal."

Dustin Tahmahkera (Currently Associate Professor of American Indian Studies, University of Illinois) is a citizen of the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma and an interdisciplinary scholar of North American indigeneities, critical media, and cultural sounds. For the Faculty Fellows seminar, he explored the restorative puha (Comanche for “medicine”) of indigenous soundscapes through a dual emphasis on ways of “becoming sound” as an embodiment of restoring good health and as the formations of sonic vibrations. Contributing to his third book project tentatively titled “Sounds Indigenous: Listening for Sonic Sovereignty in Indian Country,” Tahmahkera particularly focused on the possibilities of honor songs as affective conduits for communal and individual healing and wellbeing.

Read about Dr. Tahmahkera's research, presented at the February 9 meeting of our Spring 2017 Faculty Fellows Seminar, on "Becoming Sound: On the Restorative 'Medicine' of Indigenous Honor Songs."


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