Engaged Humanities

Biographies of Speakers and Special Guests

On October 18-19, Wake Forest will host “Movements and Migrations:  A Conference on The Engaged Humanities,” sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  The conference will explore the implications and applications of the academic humanities in public contexts, with special emphasis on migration and population dislocation, including contemporary crises caused by global climate change. The conference builds on and highlights the recent curricular innovations of several Wake Forest humanities faculty, who have taught Mellon funded engaged humanities courses on refugee resettlement in the Triad, interdisciplinary studies of waterways and landscape, narrative and Law, and an experiential course engaging with American indigenous history.

Beyond showcasing innovative and ongoing instances of publically engaged humanities, the conference “Movements and Migrations,” we will query the basic terms organizing our fields and practices, including investigating the purpose and aim of the academic humanities, the politics and ethics of choosing our “public,” and the real challenges for academia and the public alike for being mutually engaged.  In addition, we will explore how various pubic cultures have, in their own way, “engaged” ideas and methods heretofore typically associated with academic humanities.

The conference will feature an opening keynote presentation from Rutgers University Professor of Anthropology and Latino and Caribbean Studies, Dr. Yarimar Bonilla, recently named Carnegie Fellow for work on her second book, Shattered Futures, on the politics of recovery in Puerto Rico; and a closing keynote by Michigan State University Professor of Philosophy and Timnick Chair in the Humanities, Dr. Kyle Powys Whyte, a leading authority on climate policy and its effects on native peoples.  In addition, Michael Pasquire, Jaak Seynaeve Professor of Christian Studies at Louisiana State University will screen and lead a discussion on his documentary film “Water like Stone,” about coastal Louisiana communities responding to the erosion of territory and the destruction of a way of life due to climate change.  The conference will include presentations on Engaged Humanities Teaching and Research by several Wake Forest faculty and their students, including faculty teams whose innovative teaching was made possible by grants from the Mellon Foundation.  In addition, faculty from Winston Salem State University and the University of North Carolina, Greensboro will discuss their research on public identities in political space.

  • Yarimar Bonilla
    Associate Professor of Anthropology & Caribbean Studies
    Rutgers University

    Blurring the lines between political and historical anthropology, Yarimar Bonilla teaches and writes about questions of sovereignty, citizenship, and race across the Americas. She has tracked these issues across a broad range of sites and practices including: anti-colonial labor activism in the French Caribbean, the role of digital protest in the Black Lives Matter movement, the politics of the Trump presidency, and her current research on the political and social impact of environmental disasters.

    Bonilla’s first book, Non-Sovereign Futures: French Caribbean Politics in the Wake of Disenchantment, examines how contemporary activists in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe imagine and contest the limits of postcolonial sovereignty. Challenging contemporary notions of freedom, sovereignty, nationalism, and revolution, Non-Sovereign Futures recasts Guadeloupe, and the Caribbean as a whole, not as a problematically non-sovereign site, but as a place that can unsettle how we think of sovereignty itself.

    Bonilla’s second book project Shattered Futures — for which she was named a 2018 Carnegie Fellow —examines the politics of recovery in Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria and the forms of political and social trauma that it revealed. She is also at work on an ethnographic study of the Puerto Rican pro-statehood movement, tentatively titled The Unthinkable State, which traces how and why annexationism has come to be imagined as a form of anti-colonial politics.

  • Sarah Jane Cervenak
    Associate Professor, Women’s & Gender Studies and African American Studies
    University of North Carolina, Greensboro

    Sarah Jane Cervenak is an associate professor, jointly appointed in the Women’s and Gender Studies and African American Studies programs at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Her areas of research and teaching are critical race theory, feminist theory, Black studies, performance studies, and philosophy. Her current work queries the Black radical, feminist potential of devastation and deformity in the art of Leonardo Drew and Wangechi Mutu. She is the author of Wandering: Philosophical Performances of Racial and Sexual Freedom (Duke University Press). She has also published in the academic journals Discourse, Palimpsest: Women, Gender and the Black International, and Spectator, as well as in anthologies on feminism and the African American novel respectively.

  • Rebecca Evans
    Assistant Professor, Department of English
    Winston-Salem State University

    Rebecca Evans holds a PhD in English from Duke University and a BA from Columbia University. She has previously taught at Duke University and the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. She researches and teaches on twentieth and twenty-first century American literature as it intersects with social and environmental justice. As a teacher, she works to help her students situate literary works in their historical and political contexts. In her classes, students learn to frame literature as something that acts on the world and come to see engaged literary study as a necessary part of political life. As a scholar, she explores how literature responds to problems of social injustice.

    Evans is currently working on a book manuscript (based on her dissertation) in which she shows how contemporary American writers used alternative representations of time and history in an effort to make structural violence legible to readers. This project defines structural violence as a crucial feature of the contemporary—one that forms the theoretical foundation of such varied projects as decolonization, civil rights, mainstream environmentalism and environmental justice, Occupy, and Black Lives Matter—while tracing literature’s unique contributions to this topic.

  • Michael Pasquier
    Associate Professor of Religious Studies & History, Jaak Seynaeve Professor of Christian Studies
    Louisiana State University

    Michael Pasquier, a native of Louisiana, received his B.A. at LSU, graduating summa cum laude in 2002 with majors in history and religious studies. He received his Ph.D. in American Religious History at Florida State University in 2007. He was a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2008-2009. He has been a member of the Religious Studies faculty at LSU since 2008. He has served as Section Head for Religious Studies at LSU since 2013.

    Dr. Pasquier specializes in the history of religion in the United States, with areas of concentration in American Catholicism and religion in the U.S. South. His first book, Fathers on the Frontier, profiles the lives of French missionary priests and the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. His forthcoming textbook, Religion in America: The Basics, is a concise and affordable introduction to the study of American religious history.

    Dr. Pasquier’s work on religion and culture in the Mississippi River Delta has been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is the editor of Gods of the Mississippi, a collection of essays on the history of religion in the Mississippi Valley, and co-producer of the film Water Like Stone, a documentary about a Louisiana fishing village facing environmental and economic decay. He also co-curated the traveling exhibit On Land | With Water: Tracking Change in a Coastal Community, which told stories of cultural transformation through the perspectives of those who live near Louisiana’s deteriorating coastline. He is currently at work on several multidisciplinary projects related to religion and the environment in Coastal Louisiana and the Mississippi River Delta. In 2017-2018, Dr. Pasquier will be producing the audio documentary series Coastal Voices, which will explore the relationships between people, land, and water in Louisiana.

  • Kyle Powys Whyte
    Associate Professor of Philosophy & Community Sustainability
    Timnick Chair in the Humanities
    Michigan State University

    Kyle Powys Whyte holds the Timnick Chair in the Humanities at Michigan State University. He is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Community Sustainability, a faculty member of the Environmental Philosophy & Ethics graduate concentration and the Geocognition Research Lab, and a faculty affiliate of the American Indian & Indigenous Studies and Environmental Science & Policy programs.

    He is Potawatomi and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. He focuses his work on climate and environmental justice and Indigenous environmental studies. His research, teaching, training, and activism address moral and political issues concerning climate policy and Indigenous peoples and the ethics of cooperative relationships between Indigenous peoples and climate science organizations. His work has recently extended to cover issues related to Indigenous food sovereignty and Indigenous critiques of concepts of the anthropocene.

    His writing appears in journals such as Climatic Change, Daedalus, Sustainability Science, Hypatia, Synthese, and Human Ecology and in collections published by Oxford University Press, Routledge, Cambridge University Press, and New York University Press.

  • Lisa Blee
    Associate Professor, Department of History
    Wake Forest University
  • Justin Catanoso
    Professor of the Practice, Journalism Program
    Wake Forest University
  • David Phillips
    Associate Professor, Interdisciplinary Humanities and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
    Wake Forest University
  • Mark Rabil
    Associate Clinical Professor of Law; Director of Innocence and Justice Clinic
    Wake Forest University School of Law
  • Miles Silman
    Andrew Sabin Family Foundation Professor of Conservation Biology
    Director, Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability
    Wake Forest University
  • Penny Sinanoglou
    Assistant Professor, Department of History
    Wake Forest University
  • Ulrike Wiethaus
    Professor of Religion and American Ethnic Studies
    Wake Forest University