In this interview with Prof Fred Corney, we find out about the research projects our students tackled during the William & Mary Study Abroad in St. Petersburg program in the Summer of 2013. Fred discusses some of the interesting projects and gives his own perspective on the real importance of this research component in our study abroad programs
Volunteering for Unicef in Perugia
When I arrived in Perugia I knew that I wanted to become a part of the community as quickly as possible. At first I was not sure how I could accomplish this but after speaking with the faculty at the Umbra Institute, an opportunity to work with the Perugia office of Unicef presented itself. I filled out all the paperwork, took a tour of the field office, and was excited to start helping out as soon as possible.
My first assignment was to sell mugs that contained orchid seeds at a farmers market. The profits of the sales and donations went towards purchasing immunizations for underprivileged children. I thought that by volunteering with Unicef I would be filing documents in the office or doing menial tasks—I never thought that I would be out in the street directly interacting with locals. Initially I was afraid to approach people, thinking that I would make mistakes while speaking in Italian. However, with time my confidence grew and I managed to sell some mugs. Throughout the day I spoke more with my fellow volunteers and heard stories of their experiences at Unicef. These interactions with the volunteers were the highlight of the weekend because I learned more about Italian values and outlooks that I had not previously considered. As a Government major I love further understanding new perspectives on global current events. I
believe that by gaining this understanding it is possible to have a firmer knowledge of the culture and society. The other volunteers were more than willing to share and explain their viewpoints, making the experience memorable.
The past few weeks I have been helping make Pigotta dolls at Unicef. The creation of Pigotta, meaning rag doll in the Milanese dialect, started fifteen years ago. Volunteers craft these dolls that are sold to fund immunization programs. The Umbra Institute arranged for American students to go to the Unicef office once a week to help in making these dolls; however most of the American students only have a basic understanding of Italian and the Unicef volunteers do not know English. As a result, I help translate between the two groups of volunteers. Bridging the language gap between the volunteers always gives me a sense of pride. Despite the many differences between the two groups, they come together to help the greater society. By translating for Unicef I have come to learn how critical communication is not only to convey ideas but also to unite groups of people.
Thanks to my time thus far at Unicef I feel that my Italian language skills have drastically improved. I feel more comfortable and confident interacting in Italian with others. If I do not know how to say something or the meaning of a word, the volunteers are all patient with me. I am delighted to have the spectacular opportunity of volunteering within the community of Perugia while helping a global cause. I have already learned so much in the short time I have been in Perugia and I cannot wait to see how much I will grow by the end of this experience!
The Hispanic Studies program hosted the U.S. premiere of two films by Oneyda Gonzalez in October. “The Elf” and “Waiting for the Wild Boar to Fall” were screened in the Botetourt Auditorium. The newly reconfigured space was filled to capacity. Students had several opportunities to meet with the Cuban filmmaker, scriptwriter and poet during her week-long visit to W&M. “Introduction to Hispanic Studies” sections learned of her experiences writing and filming and living in Cuba; “Mapping Cuba” sophomore seminar participants filmed an interview that will become part of the Cuban Cinema Classics DVD
series; and Translation students conversed with the guest about her book of interviews with filmmakers and script writers. Professors Buck, Cate-Arries and Stock deemed the experience exceedingly productive, noting two exciting follow-on projects. In faculty-student research collaborations, W&M Hispanic Studies teams will translate Ms. Gonzalez’s book for publication in the U.S., and will subtitle her short film, “The Elf”, for circulation at international film festivals. Oneyda enjoyed her stay immensely, and even took time out to celebrate Hispanic Heritage at the LASU event. This visit was sponsored by Hispanic Studies, Film and Media Studies and Swem Library.
October was a busy month for Professor Ann Marie Stock and Latin American Studies student Emma Rodvien as they worked to submit the completed manuscript for the Havana volume in the “World Film Locations” series. Stock signed the contract to edit the book, and then invited Emma, a student in her freshman seminar who had expressed an interest in Cuban culture, to assist. With support from a faculty-student research grant (Christianson, administered through the Charles Center), Emma was able to devote the summer to collaborating with Dr. Stock. She translated submissions from Spanish into English, selected the screen shots that will illustrate the volume, and wrote four original “scene description” essays. Watch for more news when the volume appears in print in 2014 (Intellect, U.K.)
Japanese: Writing Fukushima
The world watched in horror on March 11, 2011 as Japan experienced the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis, known in Japan as “3.11.” Two-and-a-half years later, the troubled Fukushima Daiichi plant continues to leak radioactive water, victims languish in temporary housing, and the cleanup effort remains monumental. Japanese Studies Professor Rachel DiNitto is working on a new book titled Writing Fukushima: Imagining Disaster in Japan, in which she analyzes the compelling and deeply moving literature written in Japan after 3.11. The new book will introduce this literature to an English-language audience, and examine issues including how the disaster is defined, questions surrounding who is considered a victim, and the tension between the local experience of the disaster and national representations of it. In her recent talk at the University of Washington, Professor DiNitto grappled with fictional representations of the nuclear disaster in Furukawa Hideo’s novel Horses, the Light is Still Pure, written within months of 3.11. A number of Japanese critics insist that the Fukushima crisis must be seen as a continuation of Japan’s tragic experience with the nuclear, specifically Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and hence Fukushima literature is a continuation of atomic-bomb literature. Yet the link between Hiroshima and Fukushima is not always clear in 3.11 literature, and Professor DiNitto is investigating how the critical parameters of atomic-bomb literature affect our evaluation of the 3.11 works. She is also considering the advantages of reframing 3.11 as “nuclear literature,” which allows us to talk about it in the context of other disasters such as Chernobyl.
Over the course of this year, Professor DiNitto is giving a series of invited lectures on the 3.11 disaster at the University of Washington, Swarthmore College, Keio University, and Washington University in St. Louis. She will also be taking a research trip to Japan this spring to interview writers and critics.
Her interest in the 3.11 disaster started in 2011 during a conversation with a student who had been on study abroad in Japan and was evacuated back to the States. This initial conversation let to a one-credit team-taught class, and then to the course, “The Japanese Culture of Disaster,” that Professor DiNitto taught in the spring of 2013. The class focused on the 3.11 disaster, but also looked at other disasters in Japan’s history, and did some comparisons with the cultural representations of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. The main text for the class was the short story collection March Was Made of Yarn, a widely available English-language translation of 3.11 literature. Students also looked at documentary and science fiction films, photography, and art. For their final projects, they produced compelling photo essays on 3.11. Professor DiNitto hopes to teach the class again and share her research with students.
Professor Fauvel speaks about her latest book on two new Paris museums
Q: Hi Professor Fauvel. You are a specialist in French/Francophone contemporary literature and cinema, and you have published articles and books in both fields. What made you write a book on two new museums in Paris: Exposer l’autre : essai sur la Cité Nationale de l’Histoire de l’Immigration et le Musée du Quai Branly (To Exhibit the Other: Essay on the Museum of Immigration and the Museum of Quai Branly) currently in print at L’Harmattan in Paris?
A: I have always been interested in researching the links and the effects of visual media and literature, and I am an avid museumgoer throughout the world. I was raised in Paris and grew up visiting the Louvre museum for school and then during my graduate studies. I was even a tour guide for German tourists while I was a student in Paris, and organized numerous tours of various museums (including my favorite one, the Rodin Museum in rue de Varennes).
Q: But how can you do research on literature and visual media on one hand, and then research on museums? Isn’t it a completely different field?
A: Paris has been rethinking and reorganizing its museums since the 1970s –starting with the Pompidou Museum in the Marais neighbourhood. In 2006 and 2007 two new museums were inaugurated: the Musée du Quai Branly and the Cité Nationale de l’Histoire de l‘Immigration. They were promising a renewal of the museum landscape in Paris. Both museums fundamentally innovate a new type of museum because of their collections and topics as well as their configuration. Museums are like texts: I analyze their organization, their name, the architecture, and the objectives of these two very promising museums. The Cité Nationale de l’Histoire de l‘Immigration is the very first museum in Europe on the history of immigration for example.
Both present the Other through a collection of artefacts and art objects: the Quai Branly with objects from Oceania, Asia, Africa and the Americas, and through the history of immigration to France from the 19th-century to the 21st-century for the Cité Nationale de l’Histoire de l‘Immigration. Both lie at the crossing of today’s globalization, the age of memory and the age of mediatization. What interests me –beyond their unique collections – is the analysis of the discourses and metaphors in those museums. I am asking: How is the Other represented? Do these museums contribute to a rewriting of a shared world history? And of a transnational and transcultural French national history? Which discourses construct those museums? Does a real dialog between the various cultures exist? How do these museums explain and celebrate transversal, transnational and transcultural influences in the creation of national and international histories and patrimonies — or do they in fact do something else?
Q: … and what is your thesis?
A: Both museums are extraordinary cultural centers: they organize provocative conferences, temporary exhibits, concerts and film showings. They both expose fabulous collections of artefacts, objects of art and of daily use. But I am questioning the discourses and lack of information in the permanent exhibits. In fact I am asking what a museum is today, and should there even be permanent exhibits, given the fact that knowledge grows and changes every day?
While these museums apparently honor and celebrate in gorgeous settings the Other (immigrants and non-western art), they end up dominating and controlling them because they offer only a partial image of them. Both museums in their permanent exhibits reveal a deep unease which France still has towards different cultures (for example, daily objects are exhibited without mention of their origin, their creator, their function or the reason they ended it up in the Musée du Quai Branly; or very little is explained about the reasons why immigrants came to France, or what a positive impact they had or are having on France). Paradoxically, these museums end up putting France on stage rather than their ostensible subjects; they portray France’s military and colonial history, and display a civilization that is afraid of others and wedded to appearances.
In order to underline intersections between museums and politics, and to better understand movements and processes of globalization, my book uses interdisciplinary theoretical approaches from cultural and museum studies, as well as memory studies, and applies them to the history of material culture and the analysis of political discourses. Thanks to these interdisciplinary approaches I am able to explore the role of museums in the construction and the contestation of memory and ideologies, in the dissemination of discourses and narratives that reinforce racial and cultural hierarchies. In the last chapter of my book I present innovative museums in the world on similar topics.
Although they are trying to denounce a certain cultural imperialism, both museums nevertheless reinforce a cultural nationalism that insist on strongly separated cultural realities, as if each cultural group developed independently of others, as if immigration had an impact only on immigrants and left France intact. Therefore both museums –instead of illustrating exchanges, resistance, and interdependency – reinforce a fragmented vision of the world and its cultures. They pretend to ignore the complexity of transnational histories of colonialism and immigration, the complexity of cultural and political exchanges a long time before European conquest, and their continued impact still today. In those museums history and memory become tools to forget!
This year, we are excited to have two new faculty in the Chinese program: Calvin Hui and Lunpeng Ma. Calvin Hui (PhD in Literature, Duke University, May 2013) is Assistant Professor of Chinese Studies. His research focuses on modern Chinese humanities (film, media, literature), critical theory, cultural studies, with an emphasis on Marxist theory, gender and sexuality studies, and post-colonial and ethnic studies. Lunpeng Ma is Visiting Assistant Professor of Chinese Studies. He defended his dissertation on post WWII Chinese cinema in the Department of Cultural Analysis and Theory at Stony Brook University in August 2013.
Interviewer: How do you feel teaching in the Chinese Program at William and Mary?
Calvin: I really enjoy teaching at William and Mary. It’s such a wonderful liberal arts college where students can grow as scholars. I am impressed with W&M students – they are intelligent, diligent, curious, and passionate about intellectual work. It’s such a pleasure to work with them. I also feel lucky to be able to join the Modern Languages and Literatures department and the Chinese program. My colleagues are doing very exciting literary and cultural studies work. I respect them because they are good scholars and good teachers.
Lunpeng: I feel so thrilled to teach in such a dynamic, engaging liberal arts university. The class size is relatively small, the teaching atmosphere is easy-going and fun, and there are more conversations and debates between the professor and students. I am impressed by my students’ hard-working, thought-provoking questions, and avid interest in learning every aspect of China. Another fascinating facet is the cordiality of the faculty members, which makes me feel like a family.
Interviewer: What are you teaching this semester? Tell me about your courses?
Calvin: I am teaching two courses this fall semester. The first one is called “Fashion, Media, and Consumer Culture in (Post-)Socialist China,” a senior thesis seminar for Chinese majors. This course looks at fashion in relation to design, consumption, production, and disposal in the Chinese media landscape. By the end of the course, students have to produce a research paper and present their work in the Chinese major forum. I am already working with them on their final year projects. From the Chinese qipao to the first lady’s fashion, from romantic love and the first kiss to competitive dating shows, from the communist revolutionary to the migrant worker, we are looking at the radical transformations of China from the socialist to the post-socialist and neo-liberal eras. I hope you feel excited about their projects as much as I am! The second course is called “Introduction to Chinese Cultural Studies.” This course focuses on Maoism (political economy, class, and ideology), gender and sexuality (woman and queer cultures), and trans-nationalism (ethnicity and language). Like the way they sample Cantonese dim sum, students can have a taste of the most cutting-edge research in modern Chinese humanities.
Lunpeng: I am currently teaching two classes, three sections. One is on Chinese Popular Culture, and the other Freshman Seminar (Country and City: Modern China in Transformation). The first class takes a generic approach to examine popular literature, Mandopop, mass films, and fashion. The seminar grapples with the drastic procedure in which China transforms from a rural country to a modern nation-state, a key issue that has been represented in various genres and, in particular, embodied in Shanghai’s urbanization.
Interviewer: Tell me about your current project?
Calvin: My book manuscript is called “The People’s Republic of Capitalism: The Making of the New Middle Class in Post-Socialist China.” This project attends to the cultural dimension of the emergence of the new middle class in China’ encounter with global capitalism during the past thirty/forty years. The first part investigates the constitution of the Chinese middle class subjectivity. The second part engages with fashion and cinema to examine the ideology of Chinese consumer culture. The third part looks at the repressed underside of consumption: the migrant worker and garbage.
Lunpeng: My dissertation “Advantageously Adverse: Chinese Cinemas in Transition, 1945-1951,” explores “the second golden age” of Chinese cinema on which no English monograph yet exists. Departing from the misconception “Chinese-language” cinema, I employ a locale-specific and regionally-connected approach to examine Chinese cinemas in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Manchuria. Departing from the scholarship on Shanghai cinema in the 30s, not only do I address the adversities facing postwar Chinese cinemas from a socio-historical perspective, I also reveal the uniqueness of individual cinema and their interconnectedness within and beyond national boundary.
Interviewer: Tell me about your future project?
Calvin: My next project is concerned with the cultures of U.S.-China trans-nationalism, which attempt to theorize and historicize the trans-pacific cultural exchange between the U.S. and China from Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972 to the global rise of China today. This project explores the ongoing dynamics of the most important international relation in the early 21st century.
Lunpeng: I am currently working on a paper in an anthology American and Chinese-Language Cinemas: Examining Cultural Flows to be published by Routledgein 2014. The essay, entitled “Reading Hollywood in Postwar Shanghai: From The Metro News to Western Movie Pictorial” explores the consumption of Hollywood, in print culture rather than in big screen, in postwar Shanghai. It reveals the drastic change of consuming attitude and habit: from embracing everything Hollywood to “Hollywood in Chinese eyes,”and to eventually a wholesale riddance of Hollywood for Soviet Union films.
Interviewer: Anything else?
Lunpeng: So far so good.
Calvin: I’d like to inverse the interviewer and interviewee relationship. Can I interview you now?
New German Studies faculty member Jennifer Gully talks with Mike Blum about her research and teaching. Jennifer received her M.A. at the University of Vienna and her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at UCLA. Her research focuses on translation as a conflicted and often antagonistic process in literature and film. The “clash of languages” has become a fascinating area of discussion and research as multi-lingualism increasingly calls into question the hegemony of the one national language, often an illusion to begin with, and the very unity of understanding and communication are placed under pressure. Jennifer is teaching German Language, Literature, and Film at W&M, and she uses in her work such examples as diverse as Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards and W.G. Sebald’s haunting novel Austerlitz to show how various languages in conflict and the difficulty of translation persist even still, or precisely, in the era of unprecedented anglicization and globalization.