2021–22 Theme: Symptoms of Crisis

The annual theme for the 2021–22 fellowship year is “Symptoms of Crisis.”

Symptoms are, most obviously, indicators of disease: recurrent evidence of the susceptibility of mind, body or spirit to breakdown — or at the very least, to a departure from “the norm.” But they are also signs of system failure, manifestations of structural instability, features of compromised organisms and omens of crisis at both the material and metaphorical level. As portents and clues, symptoms may be more or less welcome, more or less visible, more or less readable as signs of crisis depending on what and who they threaten to reveal, and when. The symptom can be a warning but it can also be a trickster, diverting attention toward effects and away from underlying conditions and states of emergency both longstanding and in the process of becoming. At the very least, symptoms throw assumptions about what’s normal into chaotic relief, often at multiple scales.

Reading for symptoms is, arguably, a characteristic feature of contemporary humanities thinking: a way of interpreting underlying suppositions and even repressed intentions, whether up close or from a distance. It has become a form of investigation and diagnosis, if not of prognostication as well. In some quarters of the humanities, reading for signs as a form of critique has reached its limit. As method, it has come itself to be seen as symptomatic of larger crises of modernity, postcolonialism and now, perhaps, post-globalism as well. Do we need new interpretive practices for reading symptoms? For assessing what counts as a symptom, for whom and under what conditions? For re-thinking immunity? For engaging the temporalities of crisis? Or is the symptom a red herring, a distraction from other modes of seeing and interpreting and acting?

We look forward to engaging in research that engages these questions and attempts to reckon with what is at stake in thinking through symptoms of crisis wherever and however they manifest. Whether you take symptoms literally, metaphorically or methodologically, we invite you to work with us to wrestle with these questions in the present and into the unforeseeable future.

2021–22 Fellows


John Levi Barnard (Comparative and World Literature), “The Edible and the Endangered: Food, Empire, Extinction”

Anne Burkus-Chasson (Art History), “The Oddity of Chen Hongshou: A Telling Sign of Seventeenth-Century China?”

Eleanor Courtemanche (English), “Fragile Capitalism: The Long Afterlife of Victorian Crisis”

Carolyn Fornoff (Spanish and Portuguese), “Mexican Culture in the Era of Climate Change”

Bruce Rosenstock (Religion), “Flesh of One’s Flesh: A Black Hebrew Theology of Kinship”

Sandra Ruiz (Latina/o Studies / English), “Minoritarian Pedagogy: Psychoanalytic Affections in the Space of Aesthetics”

Emily E. LB. Twarog (Labor and Employment Relations), “Hands Off: A History of Sexual Harassment Resistance in the US Service Industry, 1936–2020”

Graduate Students

Joseph Coyle (Anthropology), “Queer Pentecostal World-Making in an Uncertain Brazil”

Megan Gargiulo (Spanish and Portuguese), “Race, Gender, and Recogimiento: Discursive Representations of Space, Sexuality, and Productivity in Late Colonial Mexico”

Erin Grogan (English), “Cruising Dystopia: Queer Futurity and Toxic Temporalities in the Anthropocene”

LeiAnna X. Hamel (Slavic Languages and Literatures), “Undisciplined Bodies: Deviant Female Sexuality in Russian and Yiddish Literatures, 1877-1929.”

Lilah Leopold (Art History), “Countering Apocalypses Then, Now, and Tomorrow: Land Use, Resource Extraction, and Contemporary Art”

Sarah Marks Mininsohn (Dance), “Performance Nests: Choreographing Frameworks for Instability and Contamination”

Jessica Witte (English), “The Fasting Girl: A Literary, Digital, and Medical History of Anorexia from the Novel to the Clinic (1740–1900)”