Dr. Levenda's project explores how infrastructural breakdowns fuel techno-political change. We specifically focus on the three aspects of anti-pipeline activism. First, we analyze how risk is framed and mobilized by activists to become an important resource in resisting pipeline expansion. Second, we trace how activists use infrastructural breakdown and regulatory failure to contest the legitimacy of development initiatives and corporate governance regimes. Third, we investigate the way pipeline ruptures and associated environmental disasters mobilize fossil fuel resistance through social movement networks and circulating imagery. Throughout the project, we work directly with indigenous groups and environmental activists with the goal of advancing a more just energy future.
Forum Grant Recipients
2020-2021 Theme: "Ruptures and Reconciliations"
Anthony Levenda, Assistant Professor of Geography and Environmental Sustainability
Project Title: “Rupturing Pipelines, Reconciling Risk”
Carolina Rueda, Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies
Project Title: "Oklahoma Mon Amour"
The film "Oklahoma Mon Amour" tells the story of the Gaertners, a family of five separated by a tragedy that left them in solitude –in Oklahoma, Mexico City, and London. While addressing the characters’ rupture and conceivable reconciliation, Dr. Rueda's film also touches upon political tensions affecting the world today. Instead of relying on expected Mexico/United States migratory flows, this essay-film proposes a radical variation by showing the American character Sebastian traveling south into Mexico, dissatisfied with the politics of his country (late 2016) and hoping to reconcile with the family.
Screenings will take place at universities and national and international film festivals. It will be distributed through traditional and online outputs.
Rhona Seidelman, Assistant Professor of History
Project Title: "Claiming My Egypt"
"Claiming My Egypt" examines the fractured Egyptian identity that Dr. Seidelman inherited through her mother who was born in Alexandria in 1946 to a tight-knight Egyptian-Jewish family and fled with her parents and siblings in 1955. The questions Dr. Seidelman asks in this study are: What of Egypt is left in the children of Egypt’s Jewish diaspora? What claim, if any, do we have to the country that has shaped who we are? Are we at all Egyptian?
This project is inspired by, and continues in the tradition of, scholarly, autobiographical reflections of women intellectuals of Middle Eastern descent. Dr. Seidelman argues that the history and wounds of Egypt did not stop with our parents; it continued on to the next generation, contributing layers of identity that are at once rich, transnational and displaced.
Samer Shehata, Colin Mackey and Patricia Molina de Mackey Associate Professor of Middle East Studies
Project Title: "Egypt's Moment of Democracy"
Dr. Shehata’s project is a short documentary film about Egypt’s first and only democratic legislative elections after the 2011 Egyptian “revolution.” Although intended to set the country on the path to democracy, the elections turned out to be the first — and last — free and fair parliamentary elections in the country’s history. Egypt’s democratic experiment abruptly ended in July 2013 when a military coup ousted the country’s first freely elected president. Shehata’s project, entitled "Egypt’s Moment of Democracy," is based primarily on original footage he filmed in Egypt in 2011 during the elections, and examines a pivotal moment of rupture in the country’s history.
Mirelsie Velazquez, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
Project Title: "Space, Place, and Schooling: African American and Indigenous Oklahoma, 1865-1925"
Fitting with this year’s theme, “Space, Place, and Schooling: African American and Indigenous Oklahoma, 1865-1925” speaks to the need to place both Oklahoma and communities of color (African American and American Indian), into a larger conversation within the history of American education and the U.S. more broadly. By centering and documenting schools and schooling Dr. Velazquez hopes to challenge monolithic readings of schools as not only sites of oppression within Oklahoma and Indian Territories, but similarly speak to how both groups enacted agency to situate these spaces as sites of liberation prior to statehood.
2019-2020 Theme: "Origins"
Rangar Cline, Associate Professor of Religious Studies
Project Title: "Sacred Travel in the Roman Empire and the Origins of Christian Pilgrimage: Data Digitization and Forum Discussion"
Dr. Rangar Cline’s current book project examines the origins of Christian pilgrimage with the context of Greek, Roman, and Jewish pilgrimage traditions and considers the motivations and economic consequences of pilgrimage in the later Roman world. Dr. Cline will be creating an on-line database for hosting open-access data related to the economics of late antique pilgrimage and he will be presenting a public forum for invited scholars, OU faculty, and students to discuss the origins of Christian pilgrimage.
Joyce Coleman, Rudolph C. Bambas Professor of Medieval English Literature and Culture
Project Title: "The Illuminated Author: The Iconography of the Book in Late Medieval Secular Manuscripts"
Dr. Joyce Coleman will complete her monograph that focuses on how illustrations in early medieval manuscripts depicted the origins and uses of books, and on how that imagery migrated over to and was adapted for secular texts, in a process linked to the birth of lay literacy and vernacular literature.
Joshua Frydman, Assistant Professor of Japanese
Project Title: "Word on the (Ancient) Street: Premodern Graffiti and the Origins of Literary Transmission"
Dr. Joshua Frydman explores the appearance of inscriptions of literary works (loosely defined) on objects and architectural elements across various premodern societies. Through comparing examples of graffiti and other inscriptions that quote or appear similar to literature, we can understand how people in premodern societies composed, transmitted, and enjoyed important works in their own time.
Paulo Moreira, Associate Professor of Portuguese
Project Title: "Latin America: A Journey Into the Origins of an Idea"
Dr. Paulo Moreira's project aims to investigate Latin America as an identity and as an imagined place by tracing the use of botanic tropes when writing about Latin America and the terminological disputes between competing names for the continent.
Ping Zhu, Associate Professor of Chinese Literature
Project Title: "The First U.S.-China 'Trade War' (1905) and the Diasporic Origin of Chinese Nationalism"
Dr. Ping Zhu's project explores the transpacific connection between the building of an interracial-democratic nation in America after the Civil War and the rise of Chinese diasporic nationalism culminating in the 1905 anti-American boycott (the first US-China trade war). By comparing the public sentiments, policies, and literature surrounding the Chinese Exclusion Act on both continents, Dr. Zhu demonstrates that the resistance of diasporic Chinese played a pivotal role in supplying the strength, ideas, material support, and even martyrdom for the rise of nationalism in their homeland. Overall, this project shows the complex picture of how the transpacific formation of racism worked as a shaping force for modern nationalisms and identities.
2018-2019 Theme: "Surfaces"
Bill Endres, Assistant Professor of English
Project Title: "The Three-Dimensional Nature of Surfaces: Building a Portable Virtual Reality Workstation for Experiencing and Studying Medieval Manuscripts
To experience the splendor of illuminated manuscripts, it is time for students and scholars to step away from the limits of a computer screen and into the dynamic realm of virtual reality (VR). For this project, Dr. Bill Endres will work with Matthew Cook (OU Libraries) and Brandt Smith (manager of OU FabLab) to build a travelling two-person VR workstation. With it, he will engage conservators and scholars across the world, the Lichfield Cathedral community (home of the illuminated St. Chad Gospels), and students at OU to explore digital features and tools that will make VR an even more inspiring space for studying the visual wonder of illuminated manuscripts.
Jill Hicks-Keeton, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
Project Title: "Stable Surfaces for Unstable Scripture: Art and Artifact at the Museum of the Bible"
In this project, Dr. Jill Hicks-Keeton analyzes the Museum of the Bible, a brand new museum blocks from the National Mall in Washington, D.C., from the perspective of academic Biblical scholarship. Visitors to the museum encounter “the Bible” on a series of surfaces: ancient manuscripts and artifacts, contemporary art displays, and the usual interpretive trappings of explanatory placards and decorative façades. Yet the MOTB overlays a singular narrative about a singular Bible upon its diverse biblical manuscripts and artifact collection, covering over a subterranean landscape of diversity and competition that lies beneath the surface of a seemingly stable Bible.
Sherri Irvin, Associate Dean, Graduate College; Presidential Research Professor of Philosophy and Women's and Gender Studies
Project Title: "Understanding the Surfaces of Contemporary Art"
Dr. Sherri Irvin will complete her book Immaterial: A Philosophy of Contemporary Art, in which she discusses what is required to understand the surfaces of contemporary artworks. Many contemporary works are governed by rules about how objects should be displayed, conserved, or interacted with. Irvin argues that these rules are in fact part of the work, and knowledge of the rules helps us understand what the work is and what meanings it might have.
Robert Lemon, Associate Professor, German
Project Title: "Surface Tensions and Thick Descriptions: Ethnography and Ethnology in the Works of Franz Kafka"
Dr. Robert Lemon’s project argues that to crack the hermetic surface of Franz Kafka's prose we must read his texts anthropologically. This interpretation draws on the anthropologist Clifford Geertz's notion of "thick description," or a hierarchy of meaningful structures, to plumb the depths of the complex cultural codes at work in these texts. By emphasizing the ethnographic and ethnological premises and ramifications of Kafka’s oeuvre, this project challenges the notion that his writings present riddles to be solved, and instead places the entire hermeneutical enterprise, the very issue of interpretation itself, front and center as a fundamental thematic preoccupation.
Marc Levine, Assistant Professor of Anthropology & Curator of Archaeology, Same Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History
Project Title: "Monte Albán’s Main Plaza: A Virtual Exploration of Mesoamerica's First City"
Dr. Marc Levine's digital archaeology project will create a virtual interface representing the ancient capital of Monte Albán (500 BCE – 800 CE), located in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. Participants will be virtually transported to the surfaces and spaces of the city’s Main Plaza, surrounded by monumental pyramids, palaces, and temples featuring carved stone monuments with hieroglyphic writing and elaborate iconography. This virtual environment will be developed from data recently obtained during an extensive UAV or “drone” survey of the site carried out in the summer of 2017.
Deborah Richards, Assistant Professor of Architecture
Project Title: "Surface Flux"
Dr. Deborah Richards’ project, “Surface Flux,” investigates the ways in which the physical environment can be understood and shaped through different philosophical perspectives. Three unique surfaces will be computationally designed and digitally fabricated as part of a final exhibit. The first surface will explore networks, the second will explore objects, and the third will explore the tension between the two, while also engaging the viewer as part of the built environment narrative. An April exhibition of “Surface Flux” is planned for Oklahoma City.
2017-2018 Theme: "Sovereignty in Performance, Poetics, & Politics"
David Anderson, Associate Professor of English
Project Title: "Shakespeare, BC: Ethics, Religion, and Historical Contingency in the Greco-Roman Plays"
Dr. David Anderson will undertake work on Shakespeare’s last tragedy, Coriolanus. He will argue that Coriolanus depicts a world where sovereignty — personal and political, conceptual and material — is regarded as the highest good and where social bonds are conceived of purely in terms of power. He hopes by the end of the year to have produced a full chapter on this theme for his current book project on Shakespeare’s Greco-Roman plays, as well as a related journal article which focuses on the common ground between Coriolanus and Satan from John Milton’s Paradise Lost.
Edgar Heap of Birds, Professor of Native American Studies
Project Title: "Genocide, Sovereignty, and Democracy"
Artistic visual and conceptual expressions are an excellent vehicle for public consideration and contemplation regarding challenging issues and concepts. Via his Forum Grant Dr. Edgar Heap of Birds plans to forge an intellectual presence that will illuminate the timely themes of genocide, sovereignty, and democracy for today. This presence will be realized through the execution of an ambitious suite of poetic ink on rag paper lithographic mono prints for museum exhibition and originally produced in Santa Fe, New Mexico; the exhibition will be expanded via public events at OU. MPR News Story
Waleed F. Mahdi, Assistant Professor of International & Area Studies and Modern Languages, Literatures, & Linguistics
Project Title: "Arab Americans in Film: Representations of Citizenship and Belonging in Us"
Dr. Waleed F. Mahdi has been awarded a Forum Grant for his book project examining the representation of Arab Americans in Hollywood, Egyptian, and Arab American filmmaking. He will compare the politics and portrayal of identity, belonging, and citizenship in each of these three cinemas. The comparative framework locates the sovereignty of this country's 3.5 million Arab Americans at the disjuncture of the sustained relevance of nationalism in today’s globalized context and the solidifying demand by diasporic communities for hybrid identities.
Kimberly J. Marshall, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Project Title: "Erasing the Erasure of the Boise Valley People: The Poetics and Politics of Representational Sovereignty"
In her research, Dr. Kimberly Marshall traces the outlines of the erasure of the Boise Valley people from the landscape of this metropolitan center of Idaho. As an anthropologist, she is interested in how this erasure informs Boise’s contemporary culture, particularly as it manifests in expressive form: in contemporary folklore, visual arts, public artwork, musical culture, festivals, museums, and dance. Her research also aims to use Indigenous methodologies and an “Ally” mindset to partner with contemporary descendants of the Boise Valley people in projects that help to re-assert that which has been erased. In particular, her research aims to create projects and conditions which allow contemporary descendants of the Boise Valley People to re-assert "representational sovereignty" over the Boise Valley landscape. Under the auspices of the OU Arts & Humanities Forum she aims to host a workshop for contemporary Native Idaho artists in Norman, bringing them into conversation with Native Oklahoman artists, in order to foster discussion around the theme of representational sovereignty. Cross-tribal discussions will provide artists from all tribes with a broader context for local struggles for representational sovereignty and help foster continuing alliances.
Kimberly G. Wieser, Assistant Professor of English, Native American Studies, & Environmental Studies
Project Title: "Gathering at Our Headwaters: Poetry and Prose from the 25th Anniversary American Indian Indigenous Storytelling and Literary Festival"
Dr. Kimberly Wieser's Forum project intends to demonstrate change in a writing community of color over the course of time. The Returning the Gift Festival will take place at the University of Oklahoma during the 2017-18 academic year; its focus will be “Gathering at Our Headwaters,” which connects directly with the Humanities Forum’s theme of “Sovereignty in Performance, Poetics, and Politics.” One of the culminations of this event (and demonstrated transformation in the Native writing community) will be the development of an anthology of Indigenous creative writing, including poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, drama, and other forms of expression. This year’s festival will mark the 25th anniversary of the first Returning the Gift conference, which took place in Norman in 1992.