Humanities Institute

Health Humanities Faculty Fellows Seminar

Priscilla Wald Seminar










The Faculty Fellows Seminar is a program designed by the Humanities Institute to promote intellectual collaboration and collegiality across college and departmental lines, the seminar is open to faculty by application. You can read more about current projects here.

In 2016-18 the theme of the Faculty Fellows Seminar was "Health, Well-Being, and Healing."

This theme, chosen to celebrate the opening of the Dell Medical School, was designed to engage faculty, students, visiting lecturers, and the broader community in a wide-ranging discussion of the medical humanities, broadly understood, including the history of medicine; philosophies of embodiment, suffering, and wellbeing; bioethics; narrative medicine; social medicine; comparative healing practices; healthcare relationships; health and the environment; spirituality and healing; the arts and healing; death and dying; disability studies; and more. 

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."

Fall 2017 Faculty Fellows

Health, Well Being and Healing

Read about the culminating Faculty Fellows Symposium on Health, Wellbeing, & Healing Spring 2018.

Robert H. Abzug (History/American Studies) is Audre and Bernard Rapoport Regents Chair of Jewish Studies, Professor of History and American Studies, and founding director of the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Abzug’s research and writing have traversed various fields but concentrate on aspects of the evolution of moral consciousness in American life. His most recent book is an annotated/abridged edition of William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience (2012). Abzug is currently finishing a biography of the American psychologist Rollo May (Oxford 2017) that focuses on the interpenetration of religion and psychotherapy in modern American culture.

Ann Cvetkovich (English/Women’s and Gender Studies) is Ellen Clayton Garwood Centennial Professor of English and Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.  She is the author of Mixed Feelings:  Feminism, Mass Culture, and Victorian Sensationalism (Rutgers, 1992); An Archive of Feelings:  Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures (Duke, 2003); and Depression:  A Public Feeling (Duke, 2012). Her proposed project for the Humanities Institute was a book called The Sovereignty of the Senses, which articulates notions of sovereignty, as well as democracy and freedom, in affective and sensory terms. The concept emerged from her previous book Depression: A Public Feeling (Duke 2012), which argued against the medical model of depression in part by describing it as the sensory experience of capitalism and histories of oppression. With this new project, she placed her emphasis more strongly on strategies for social transformation, liberation and health that are grounded in the material practice and the everyday life of the body. 

Caroline Faria (Geography and the Environment) is a feminist political geographer working on gender and nationalism in East Africa. Through a feminist and postcolonial lens, she examines how the nation is bounded, reproduced and contested in the performances of gendered bodies. Her current work focuses on the politics of beauty, following the commodity chain of synthetic and human hair production, distribution and consumption from Dubai to Kampala and onto the emerging markets in the newly independent republic of South Sudan. Through the lens of the beauty salon, she explores the political economy of business development, the tensions around and opportunities for new migrants, the shifting notions of fashion and beauty, and the contradictory ways in which the foreign, the modern and the cosmopolitan are both celebrated and worried over. Her seminar project was entitled “Circulating Health and Illness through Beauty: Toxic Mobilities in the Gulf and East Africa.”

Kathleen M. Higgins (Philosophy) works in the areas of aesthetics, philosophy of emotion, and nineteenth century German philosophy.  Her current research focuses on the healing role that aesthetic phenomena can play in the context of bereavement (taking aesthetic phenomena to include many ritual and socially prescribed activities, emotional sharing, and various forms of memorializing, whether or not these take the form of art).  She used the “Health, Wellbeing, and Healing” seminar as an opportunity to get feedback on this research, focusing in particular on the healing potential of aesthetic activities in mitigating survivor guilt.

John Hoberman (Germanic Studies) is a medical historian specializing in race and medicine studies. He is the author of Black & Blue: The Origins and Consequences of Medical Racism (University of California Press, 2012) and several articles on related topics. Most recently, “Why Bioethics Has a Race Problem” appeared in the March-April 2016 issue of the Hastings Center Report. He has lectured at medical schools and other medically affiliated institutions on the topic of medical racism. He has taught “Race & Medicine in American Life” seven times since 2001 and served on the social medicine subcommittee of the UT-Dell Medical School curriculum committee. His Fall 2017 Seminar project, “Medical Liberalism and the Challenge of Race,” examined the failure of organized medicine to recognize and dismantle the belief system that has perpetuated medical racism in the United States.

Lori K. Holleran Steiker, Ph.D., ACSW (Social Work) is an addictions therapist turned teacher-scholar in the School of Social Work.  Her research explores adolescent and emerging adult substance misuse prevention, substance use disorder interventions, and recovery with an emphasis on peer-to-peer mentorship. She is the founder of University High School, Austin’s first recovery high school. Her Signature Course “Young People and Drugs” utilizes her own text, Youth and Substance Use:  Prevention, Intervention and Recovery (2016).   She had used the Humanities Institute Faculty Fellowship as an opportunity to get interdisciplinary input on innovations to raise awareness, lower stigma, and improve recovery networks and services for youth with substance use disorders and their families.

Julie A. Minich (English/Mexican American and Latina/o Studies) researches the intersections between Latina/o studies, disability studies, and gender/sexuality studies. Her first book, Accessible Citizenships: Disability, Nation, and the Cultural Politics of Greater Mexico (Temple UP, 2014), received the 2013-2014 MLA Prize in United States Latina and Latino and Chicana and Chicano Literary and Cultural Studies. She used her time in the Faculty Fellows Seminar to advance a new book project, tentatively titled “Enforceable Care: Health, Justice, and Latina/o Expressive Culture,” examining how Latina/o writers and cultural workers represent racial health disparities in the period between the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Affordable Care Act.

Luisa Nardini (Musicology) has two books coming out in 2016. The first, Interlacing Traditions: Neo-Gregorian Chant Propers in Beneventan Manuscripts, is a study of an extended repertory of liturgical music that circulated in southern Italy after the diffusion of Gregorian chant (8th-9th cent.) and that shows signs of influence by the several groups (Romans, Franks, Byzantines, Normans, Jews, and Muslims) that populated southern Italy in the Middle Ages. The second, Intersecting Practices in the Production of Sacred Music c. 1400 - c. 1650, collects the proceedings of a recent conference held at UT on sacred music in Europe and Latin America during the Early Modern Era. She is currently working at another book, Liturgical Hypertexts: Prosulas for the Proper of the Mass in Beneventan Manuscripts that will include an edition and study (both online and in print) of a substantial repertory of sacred music from southern Italy. Her project for the Humanities Institute was a study of the Mass for the Dead in Italian manuscripts from the 10th to the 13th centuries. She was awarded the “Gladiatore d’Oro,” the highest honorific prize of the Province of Benevento (Italy) in 2012 and held a Grace Hill Milam Centennial Fellowship in Fine Arts for 2012-2013.

Abena Dove Osseo-Asare (History) teaches in the History Department at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research addresses the history of science and medicine in African settings. Her first book, Bitter Roots: The Search for Healing Plants in Africa (Chicago, 2014), examines the transformation of six plants into pharmaceuticals. Her next project, Atomic Junction is an ongoing study of one of the first national nuclear program in postcolonial Africa. As a faculty fellow at the Humanities Institute, she explored the history of radiation and health. She received her PhD in the History of Science from Harvard.

Sharmila Rudrappa (Sociology/Asian American Studies) is the author of Discounted Life: The Price of Global Surrogacy in India (NYU Press, 2015). Her current research focuses on how human tissue, body parts, and life processes such as pregnancy are deemed property, and become marketable commodities. As Faculty Fellow she examined the bivalent meanings of property, the first which refers to the material qualities that make human sex cells and human uteri unique, and the second, which references the right to own something from which flow an individual’s rights to use, sell, or rent their property. 

Keri K. Stephens  (Communication Studies) brings an organizational perspective to understanding how people interact with communication technologies.  She is currently an Associate Director for the Center for Health Communication, an Associate Editor for Management Communication Quarterly, and she has published over 50 peer-reviewed papers.  As a Fellow she worked to develop an interdisciplinary team interested in better understanding how communication technologies are used in healthcare environments and to improve health.

Madeline Sutherland-Meier (Spanish and Portuguese) specializes in Spanish literature, particularly the Spanish Ballad or Romancero and Spanish periodicals. She has collected ballads in the pueblos of Spain and has published on the modern oral tradition, including the Judeo-Spanish tradition. Her work on romances de ciego or blindman’s ballads, so called because they were sung and sold by the blind in the plazas and on the streetcorners of Spanish cities and towns, led her to begin studying the history of the blind in Spain. She used the Faculty Fellows Seminar to advance her research on general issues of disability with a focus on the history of disability in Spain. 

Lisa B. Thompson (African and African Diaspora Studies) is an artist/scholar and the author of Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class (University of Illinois Press, 2009) and the play Single Black Female (Samuel French, 2012). During the Faculty Fellows seminar she conducted research for Remember, an ethnographic theatre piece that examines how caregivers, family members and sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia navigate the silent epidemic raging through the African American community. Part memoir, part scholarship, and part ethnography, her project also considers the structural, economic, gender, racial and cultural barriers that shape the quality of care experienced by African Americans with the illness.

  •   Map
  • Humanities Institute

    University of Texas at Austin
    Office Address: SAC 4.138
    Mailcode F1900
    Austin, Texas 78712