Current Fellows

Jump to: Interseminars Initiative | Mellon Public Humanities Fellow | Summer Faculty Research Fellows

HRI Campus Fellows 2022–23: Un/Doing

Faculty Fellows


Headshot of Janett Barragan Miranda

Janett Barragán Miranda, Latina/Latino Studies
“Hungering for Equality: The Community of Mexican-Origin from Post-WWII to Civil Rights”

During the twentieth century, advancements in food production technologies offered the promise of ending hunger—a promise that was never realized. This study unpacks how federal efforts to end hunger reinforced notions of a normative, proper way of eating and details how responses by the community of Mexican origin contributed to the social history of eating in the United States. To do this, the study employs primary source materials from archival repositories and oral history interviews. The community, challenged the idea that it was Mexican American people, culture, and food, rather than poverty, racism, and ethnic discrimination, that led to hunger and malnourishment.

Headshot of Yuridia Ramirez

Yuridia Ramírez, History
“Indigeneity on the Move: Transborder Politics from Michoacán to North Carolina”

Indigeneity on the Move: Transborder Politics from Michoacán to North Carolina traces the movement of P’urhépecha migrants from Cherán, Michoacán, México, to and from North Carolina during the late twentieth century. I contend that the evolution of P’urhépecha indigeneity as it travels and changes through time provides a counternarrative to “Mexican migration” that assumes a homogenous community. Indigeneity on the Move illustrates that Indigenous people have the power to link communities and individuals across great distance and establish a contiguous sense of belonging. My work shows how transborder Indigenous communities have adapted racial and ethnic identifications as tools of empowerment. Professor Ramírez's website

Headshot of Deena Rymhs

Deena Rymhs, American Indian Studies
“Putting back together: re-worldings in annie ross’s Pots and Other Living Beings”

My proposed project focuses on a recently published book of poet and weaver annie ross (Maya). Composed of diptych photographs stitched together in a poetic travelogue through nuclear-infused (Indigenous) lands, Pots and Other Living Beings re-envisions social and ecological relations, notions of value, and frameworks of knowledge in its encounter with violated landscapes of the US southwest. Like ross’s weaving and visual installations, this work is alive to relations of reciprocity and kinship with more-than-human worlds in what one could best describe as a spiritual engagement with the abandoned, unremarked leavings of nuclearization, industrial capitalism, and waste cultures.

Headshot of R. Elizabeth Velásquez Estrada

R. Elizabeth Velásquez Estrada , Latina/Latino Studies
“Intersectional Justice Denied: Racist Warring Masculinity, Negative Peace and Violence in Post-Peace Accords El Salvador”

My research seeks to un/do the dominant notion of peace and practices of peacemaking that prevail in Central America, El Salvador. Drawing on activist research ethnography with Salvadoran women over ten years, I argue that the 1992 Peace Accords in El Salvador developed a masculinist notion of peace that, while ending a twelve-year civil war, naturalized ongoing violence against women and racialized state violence as low-grade parts of everyday life. I suggest that the effective path to dismantling the logics that sustain this notion of peace and practices of peacemaking is to proactively engage in what I call “intersectional justice” to redress multiple and intersecting forms of violence.

Headshot of Emma D. Velez

Emma D. Velez, Gender and Women’s Studies
“Orienting Historias: Unraveling the Coloniality of Gender through Las Tres Madres”

Orienting Historias conjures the figures of La Llorona, La Malinche, and La Virgen de Guadalupe as rich grounds for decolonial feminist theory and praxis. Drawing on these historias and Latinx decolonial feminist frameworks, this manuscript shows how the processes of colonization shifted embodied and emplaced orientations to social life through the imposition of the categorial logics of race, gender, and sexuality. I argue that as “orienting historias” Las Tres Madres hone our ability to unravel the coloniality of gender. This project contributes to the growing, interdisciplinary field of decolonial feminisms and bridges conversations in philosophy, ethnic studies, and feminist theory. Professor Velez on Academia website

Headshot of Damian Vergara Bracamontes

Damian Vergara Bracamontes, Gender and Women’s Studies
“The Administration of Illegality and Mexican Migrant Life”

My book manuscript traces the formation and consolidation of illegality in a new phase of social exclusion and control in San Diego, California. I turn to the 1970s as a formative moment in which the federal, state and county governments identified the Mexican undocumented as a problem, conducted research, and crafted policy to regulate the integration of undocumented migrants into society. Based on government reports and migrant testimony, I demonstrate that undocumented status is neither a coherent nor stable category. Instead, I argue, the undocumented condition is constituted through an iterative and spatial process of exclusion and marginalization.

Graduate Student Fellows

Headshot of Dilara Caliskan

Dilara Çalışkan , Anthropology
“World and Kin Making: Family, Time and Memory among Trans Mothers and Daughters in Turkey”

My research is an ethnographic exploration of how trans women who do sex work in Istanbul creatively compose spaces of relatedness through mother and daughter relationships to challenge social and material forms of marginalization. I particularly focus on material and affective circulations of memories among trans mothers and daughters that disturb gendered and sexualized understandings of body, kinship, language, and time. By tracing daily interactions and narratives of trans mothers- daughters, I analyze how trans women challenge politics of memory and normative conceptualization of “inter-generational” transmission of memory while unsettling the unquestioned practices of queer kinship.

Headshot of Nicole Cox

Nicole Cox, Anthropology
“Re/Moving the State: Multiple Productivities of Embodied Practice in Indian Diplomacy”

Focusing on the role of embodied practices such as dance and yoga in India’s public diplomacy, this project seeks to undo invisible and oversimplified notions about global Indian heritage, state power, and the moving body. Using ethnographic and archival research in three international settings - the Republic of Fiji, the United States, and the United Kingdom—I examine the layers of power, meaning, and negotiation created by the juxtaposition of movement practitioners and state expectations. This approach sheds new light on complex state strategies, heritage, colonial legacies, pervasive social ideologies, global hierarchies, and assumptions of allegiance.

Headshot of Daniel DeVinney

Daniel DeVinney , Communication
“The Post-Racial Imaginary: Visual Logics of Race in the Obama and Early Trump Eras”

The “post-racial” myth is a problematic attempt to undo race. Post-racialism constricts conversations on race and undermines anti-racist efforts. I argue that the post-racial imaginary directs viewers’ eyes in particular ways. Post-racial visual logics ask us to look some places and not others, to see some features and ignore others, to recognize some bodies and disregard others. These logics attempt to undo and remake race through visual culture. I explore these ideas by analyzing images that visualized race in the public sphere from 2008 to 2018. My dissertation seeks to answer the question: how does post-racialism ask us to look?

Headshot of Kadin Henningsen

Kadin Henningsen , English
“Biblionormativity and Trans* Capacity: Gender, Race, and the Material Book in Nineteenth Century America, 1840–1910”

My project theorizes trans capacity (the potential for making visible the mutability and multiplicity of gender) by mapping the development of aesthetic and material norms of the book—what I am calling biblionormativity. Through case studies on bookbinding, typography, editing, and extra-illustration, I argue that through the formation of these biblionorms the materiality of books worked discursively to inform the consolidation of white cisheteronormativity as a “natural” default by the end of the nineteenth century, and in so doing makes trans capacity legible. Reciprocally, the legibility of trans* capacity un/does the assumed stability of sex/gender, race, and the book.

Headshot of Jessennya Hernandez

Jessennya Hernandez , Sociology
“Mycorrhizal Assemblages: Everyday Latinx Strategies and Embodied Feminist Knowledge”

My interdisciplinary project examines the everyday lives of working-class queer immigrant Latinx women and femme political-creatives living in greater Los Angeles. I build on queer of color critique and Women of Color and Transnational Feminisms. Focusing on my interlocutor’s poli-creative practices and their networks, I use what I call Mycorrhizal Assemblages as an analytical tool to understand their knowledge production and space-making strategies. I argue that these assemblages redefine urban citizenship in Los Angeles; navigate social and state inequities through mutual aid and diasporic connections; and enable liberatory imaginations integral for un/doing, or moving beyond, their material conditions.

Headshot of Lingyan Liu

Lingyan Liu History
“Just Call It the Noise: Chinese Opera and the Sounds of China in Race-Making and Modern Citizenship, 1850s–1930s”

My project explores how the sounds of Chinese opera, speech, and environments were historically constructed as unnatural and noisy, leading to the sonic configuration of the “yellow” race in the U.S. My project also examines how Chinese intellectuals re-imagined Chinese opera’s place in “universal” musical trajectories in order to define modern citizenship through a new distinction between appropriate sounds and unwanted noise. By undoing the centuries-long process through which Chinese sounds have been racialized, this research reorients “yellow” race studies that has overwhelmingly focus on visual evidence and also provides a corrective to the whiteness of sound studies in general.

Headshot of Amanda Smith

Amanda Smith, French and Italian
“21st Century Black Beauty Resistance: Collectivism, Individuality, and In/Visibility in Black French Women’s Body and Hair Representations”

How does a Black women-centered gaze un/do the limits of white supremacy? I examine representations of Black women’s bodies and hair in Francophone autobiographical, sociocultural, and literary texts written by 21st century Black women to uncover how they illuminate white supremacy’s borders and transcend them. Building upon Postcolonial, Critical Race, and Afropessimist theory, I look beyond how they survive the white male gaze, slavery, and colonialism to consider how they exercise power. I focus on the relationship(s) between collectivism, individuality, and in/visibility related to Black bodies and hair to elucidate the conceptual attributes and power of a Black women-centered gaze.

Interseminars Initiative

2022–23 Project: “Imagining Otherwise: Speculation in the Americas”

Faculty Conveners


Headshot of Josue David Cisneros

Josue David Cisneros, Communication

Josue David Cisneros is an associate professor in the Department of Communication, and affiliate faculty in Latina/o Studies and the Unit for Criticism, specializes in social movement communication and activist rhetorics, especially as they pertain to struggles for racial justice and immigrant rights.

His focus on activist communication and social movement culture draws attention to the explicitly political and contestatory role of speculative and futurist work as a part of struggles for policy change and broader social transformation.


Headshot of Patrick Earl Hammie

Patrick Earl Hammie , Art and Design

Patrick Earl Hammie, an associate professor in the School of Art and Design, specializes in storytelling and visual expressions of cultural identity and the body in culture.

His work draws from history and pop culture to explore his personal journey through spaces, relationships, and expectations toward articulating the institutional, economic, and cultural migration of Black people.


Headshot of Jorge Lucero

Jorge Lucero , Art and Design

Jorge Lucero, an associate professor in the School of Art and Design, is an artist born, raised and mostly educated in Chicago. He currently serves as Chair and Associate Professor of Art Education at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Lucero's books include Mere and Easy: Collage as a Critical Practice in Pedagogy, Teacher as Artist-in-Residence: The Most Radical Form of Expression to Ever Exist, and the forthcoming books, What Happens at the Intersection of Conceptual Art and Teaching? and Alongside Teacher: Conversations about what, where, and who artists learn with. He is the author of numerous peer-reviewed articles and chapters in books. Lucero has exhibited, performed, and taught all over the U.S. and abroad. He received his degrees from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Penn State University. He is currently the co-editor of the international journal, Visual Arts Research.

Graduate Fellows


Photo of Kofi Bazzell-Smith

Kofi Bazzell-Smith, Art and Design

Areas of study: New Media, Manga, Comics, Film, Japanese Language







D. Nicole Campbell

D. Nicole Campbell, Communication

Areas of study: Rhetoric and public discourse, specifically rhetoric of prisons and prison abolition






Daniela Morales Fredes

Daniela Morales Fredes, Urban and Regional Planning

Areas of study: Environmental and historic preservation and cultural heritage as a resource for community development






Adanya Gilmore

Adanya Gilmore, Dance

Areas of study: Politics of gender and Black women, their relationships with each other, the body, the world/other people






Beatriz Jiménez

Beatriz Jiménez, Spanish and Portuguese

Areas of study: Spanish literature and culture






Ray Martinez

Ray Martinez, Spanish and Portuguese

Areas of study: Hispanic literature and culture






Emerson Parker Pehl

Emerson Parker Pehl, English

Areas of study: Queer Indigenous theory, settler colonialism studies, and decoloniality






María B. Serrano-Abreu

María B. Serrano-Abreu, Education

Areas of study: Antiracist and afro-centered education; Headwraps, racial identity, and beauty standards; Culturally responsive pedagogy; Qualitative and Decolonial methodologies






Toyosi Tejumade-Morgan

Toyosi Tejumade-Morgan, Theatre

Areas of study: Performance Activism, Production Dramaturgy, Traditional and Contemporary African Drama, theatre history and criticism

Mellon Pre-Doctoral Fellow in Public Humanities

Eva Kuras

Eva Kuras, Comparative and World Literature
“Crossing Paths”
Faculty Mentor: Eleonora Stoppino (French and Italian)

“Crossing Paths” is a biweekly book club at the Champaign jail that engages the participants through discussions of poetry, short stories and books from a cross-cultural perspective. We talk about the intersection of cultures from around the globe, including encounters and exchange with immigrants, travelers, and multiethnic communities. I bring in music and art objects as supplementary exempla of the adaptation and transformation that occurs when cultural artifacts cross borders. The material covers the ancient, medieval and modern worlds so that we can see the vicissitudes of cross-cultural contact and exchange across time and space.

Summer Faculty Research Fellows

Nir Ben-Moshe

Nir Ben-Moshe, Philosophy
“Idealization and the Moral Point of View: An Adam Smithian Account of Moral Reasons”

I will be working on a book, entitled An Adam Smithian Account of Moral Reasons, which is under contract with Oxford University Press. My aim in the book is to go beyond the shortcomings of David Hume’s sentimentalism and utilize ideas from Adam Smith’s moral philosophy in order to offer a novel account of moral judgment and moral reasons. In particular, I argue that the standpoint of what Smith calls “the impartial spectator” can both determine what is morally appropriate and inappropriate and provide the basis for reasons for action—including reasons to act on moral demands—to nearly all human beings. The account of moral judgment that I provide specifies the idealized conditions that guarantee the reliability of agents’ responses in constituting the standard of moral judgment, and if agents are not under those conditions, their responses are not reliable as setting this standard. Nevertheless, these conditions can themselves be constructed from the psychology and interactions of actual human beings. In other words, facts about the morally appropriate are constituted from idealized conditions that––while agents in a given society might have yet to attain them––can be constructed from those agents’ shared experiences. In doing so, the account offers a standard of moral judgment that can transcend the biases and prejudices of the society that gave rise to it. Moreover, my account of reasons is both desire-based and accommodating of an adequate version of the requirement that moral demands have overriding reason-giving force.

Eda Derhemi

Eda Derhemi, French and Italian
“Endangered Arvanitika in Zeriki, Greece”

Derhemi’s summer project focuses on Arvanitika, an old variety of Albanian which has been used in the territory of today’s Greece as a result of migrations since the 12th and 13th centuries. Dr. Derhemi will conduct fieldwork in the small mountainous village of Zeriki (Zeriq), near Livadhia (Λειβαδιά) in Viotia (Βοιωτία), inhabited only in summers by a few old people. She will work with two elderly sisters, Maria, now 91 years old, and Pagona, 89, who decided to move in together after the deaths of their husbands. Not only have these two speakers continued to preserve the Arvanitika they once used to speak, but the two of them recreate, on a small scale, an actual “community” of Arvanitika speakers, which is impossible to find anywhere else in Greece today. Dr. Derhemi plans to systematically record these speakers' narratives about the history of the village, the people, and the use of their language when Arvanitika was still spoken in the community. Arvanitika is classified as “severely endangered” in the Atlas of World Languages in Danger and, if the situation does not change, might only have a few decades left before its extinction.

David O’Brien

David O’Brien, Art History, Art and Design
“The Cult of Napoleon in Material Culture, 1815–1848”

My project examines the myriad objects representing Napoleon made between 1815 and 1848. Napoleon’s image pervaded French material culture in this period because he personified, more than anyone else, the dramatic and disputed significance of the recent past. The objects commemorating him were obviously shaped by politics, but I argue that they register other shifts in post-Revolutionary culture as well, such as anxieties about a rapidly disappearing past, the effects of a nascent celebrity culture on politics and memory, and efforts to relocate spiritual experience.

Research Clusters

The HRI Research Clusters initiative enables faculty and graduate students in the humanities and arts from the Urbana campus to develop questions or subjects of inquiry that require or would be enhanced by collaborative work.

View the current list of HRI Research Clusters.