CAHI Research Fellows

“Thinking with Kant’s Critique of Judgment

Michel Chaouli
CAHI Research Fellow, 2014-15

Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgment (1790) is widely seen as the foundational document of modern aesthetics. In “Thinking with Kant’s Critique of Judgment,” Michel Chaouli elucidates the core ideas in this demanding work, but always with one eye on the question: “Why read Kant’s text today?” The answer, finally, is that Kant’s text offers uniquely powerful resources to scholars in the humanities who are grappling with the deepest aesthetic and interpretive questions: what is aesthetic experience? What is the essence of art, the range of interpretation, the relationship between beauty and meaning? Chaouli’s study aims to give us both an accessible and a newly provocative Kant, to bring to the surface what continues to be vital in the philosopher’s great meditation on aesthetics and judgment.

Michel Chaouli is Associate Professor of Germanic Studies, and author of The Laboratory of Poetry: Chemistry and Poetics in the Work of Friedrich Schlegel (2002), as well as essays in New Literary HistoryCritical InquiryStudies in Romanticism,Die Zeit, and elsewhere. He is Director of the Center for Theoretical Inquiry in the Humanities at Indiana University.

“Cinema and Immortality: Hollywood Classics in a Transmediated World”

Barbara Klinger
CAHI Research Fellow, 2014-15

For years, Film Studies’ scholars have lamented the “death of cinema.” Traditions that have defined the medium for over a hundred years—production practices based on celluloid and film exhibition dominated by movie theaters—have been dramatically transformed by digital technologies and multi-screen access to movies. Barbara Klinger’s “Cinema and Immortality” approaches this ongoing conversation by asking a different set of questions: What causes cinema as a medium to endure? How do some films persist as highly visible exemplars of cinema? How have other media helped to constitute and perpetuate a film’s iconic status? To address these questions, Barb examines “popular immortals,” such as Casablanca (1942), that have earned critical regard, cult adoration, and widespread fame among generations of viewers as incarnations of what Hollywood cinema, at its best, was and is. Her historical research explores how these films attained legendary status by analyzing the role played by new media and exhibition venues in securing their circulation from the 1940s to the present. Barb’s research shows that this process of “transmediation” is vital to grasping cinema’s materiality and meaning in changing cultural landscapes over time.

Barbara Klinger is Professor of Film and Media Studies in the Department of Communication and Culture at Indiana University, where she has taught since 1986. Klinger is author of Beyond the Multiplex: Cinema, New Technologies, and the Home(2006), and Melodrama and Meaning: History, Culture, and the Films of Douglas Sirk(1994). She currently serves as President of the Society for Film and Media Studies.

“Kai: Following the Cycle of Life”

Osamu James Nakagawa
CAHI Research Fellow, 2014-15

James Nakagawa is preparing for exhibition and publication an extraordinary series of photographs, titled “Kai: Following the Cycle of Life.” The collection seeks out points of connection and disconnection between actual and constructed memories on both cultural and familial levels. Nakagawa’s images question the link between the self, parent, and child as it relates to his family’s heritage and histories: ultimately the link is always between the past and the present. Powerful as they are when taken on their own, Nakagawa’s photographs are most potent when viewed as a narrative, at once intensely direct and yet enigmatic. James tells us that “the core message of ‘Kai’ is Universal—it is about family, time, and the association between our lives now and that of our ancestors. ‘Kai’ is the circle that keeps turning.”

Osamu James Nakagawa is Associate Professor of Photography in the Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Art at Indiana University. Nakagawa shows his work internationally, and is in the permanent collections of the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, the Kiyosato Museum of Photography, Japan, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, and the University of Houston. He was recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, among other awards.

“Latinos and the Rise of Hispanism, 1910s-1940s”

John Nieto-Phillips
CAHI Research Fellow, 2014-15

In the early decades of the twentieth-century, a network of intellectuals in both Spain and North America worked to promote a cultural program they called Hispanism, the study of the Spanish language and Hispanic culture in North America. In “Latinos and the Rise of Hispanism, 1910s-1940s,” John Nieto-Phillips examines how Latina and Latino intellectuals figured in global circuits of knowledge, how those circuits shaped educational and language-rights struggles at local levels. Proponents of Hispanism—including writers, linguists, educators and journalists—imagined a “spiritual kinship” between Spain and its far-flung former colonies. This global movement not only spanned the Atlantic and the Americas, it penetrated communities throughout the United States, where Latina/o educators sought to advance bilingualism as a key feature of their trans-American citizenship. John’s research will offer the first detailed map of this cultural network in both its horizontal and vertical reach, and will give us a new appreciation for the complexity and historical density of the Latino experience in North America.

John Nieto-Phillips is Associate Professor of History and Latino Studies, and has served as Director of the Latino Studies Program. Author of The Language of Blood: The Making of Spanish-American Identity in New Mexico, 1880s-1930s (2004), Nieto-Phillips is also an award-winning teacher, and has developed and taught a service-learning course that engages students in volunteer (family literacy) work among Indiana's immigrant communities.

“Reading Out Loud: Cistercian Reform, Pedagogy, and the Art of the Book in Twelfth-Century France”

Diane J. Reilly
CAHI Research Fellow, 2014-15

The enormous Bibles produced by Cistercian monks in the twelfth century, littered with eye-catching paintings and each equipped with a detailed textual apparatus, were in effect multimedia objects, designed to link sound, text, and image for the purpose of educating the monks. The Cistercians had turned traditional Benedictine monasticism on its head, not least by freeing the order from financial dependence on powerful noble donors. The Cistercians aimed for an unadulterated pursuit of spiritual knowledge, but by accepting everyone who arrived on their doorstep seeking a monastic vocation, the early Cistercians found themselves saddled with the duty to educate adult converts. In “Reading Out Loud: Cistercian Reform, Pedagogy, and the Art of the Book in Twelfth-Century France,” Diane Reilly shows how the Bibles and other lectern volumes produced by the Cistercians answered this need: these beautiful artworks celebrate the oral form of pedagogy the Cistercians adopted to introduce their spiritual values to these new arrivals, while the textual embellishments tailor the text to the needs of readers, mostly unfamiliar with Latin, who found the duty of singing long passages in night-time prayer vigils thrust upon them.

Diane J. Reilly, Associate Professor of the History of Art, is author The Art of Reform in Eleventh-Century Flanders: Gerard of Cambrai, Richard of Saint-Vanne and the Saint-Vaast Bible (2006), and edited, with Susan Boynton, The Practice of the Bible in the Middle Ages: Production, Reception and Performance in Western Christianity(2011). She has taught at IU since 1998, on topics ranging from the survey of “Ancient and Medieval Art” to a freshman seminar titled, “Monks, Nuns, and Medieval Art.”

“Non-Theatrical Cinema in 1915: Sites, Sponsors, and Circulation”

Greg Waller
CAHI Research Fellow, 2014-15

Historians of silent-era American film, quite understandably, focus on Hollywood, movie theaters, and the cultural impact of the movies as a ubiquitous form of commercial entertainment. In “Non-Theatrical Cinema” Greg tells a more complex story. In the crucially formative decade of the 1910s there was a broad and varied circulation of all sorts of motion pictures across a host of sites outside of movie theaters—in schools and churches, prisons and military bases, homes and asylums, conventions and expositions. Complementing traditional archival material, new digital resources provide evidence of the widespread availability of motion pictures during the 1910s for American audiences across regional, age, class, and racial lines. Greg’s work shows that precisely at the moment when Hollywood was creating and consolidating a remarkably lucrative and influential way of producing, distributing, and exhibiting movies, American institutions and entrepreneurs were establishing the framework for another cinema—one that was non-theatrical, multi-sited, sponsored, and defined by its usefulness and its ability to target specific audiences.

Greg Waller is Professor of Film and Media Studies in the department of Communication and Culture, where he served as Chair for many years. Currently Editor of Film History, Waller is author of several books and numerous articles, including Main Street Amusements: Movies and Commercial Entertainment in a Southern City, 1896-1930 (1995) which won the Theatrical Library Association award and the Katherine Singer Kovacs award of the Society for Cinema Studies.

“In the Name of the Masses: Imagining Crowds in Modern China, 1900-1950”

Tie Xiao
CAHI Research Fellow, 2014-15

“In the Name of the Masses” examines the emergence of the crowd [qunzhong] as a generative—and also contested—concept, one that Chinese intellectuals and writers used to advance competing models of enlightenment and revolution. The crowd is not a socio-political given, some kind of preexisting object to be represented, Tie argues. He seeks instead the historical and epistemological conditions of the intelligibility of “the crowd” in modern Chinese literature, social psychology, and political thought. Ultimately “In the Name of the Masses” explores how and in what ways the crowd became an urgent object of psychological investigation, political investment, and aesthetic representation. From both the Left and the Right, the imaginations of “the crowd” became nothing less than a “technology of power,” a source of legitimation in a China undergoing radical transformation.

Tie Xiao is Assistant Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures. Xiao received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 2011, and has received both a Dissertation Writing Fellowship at the University of Chicago, and a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Xiao is also author of two novels in Chinese, and is recipient of the prestigious Bing Xin Literary Prize in China.

Rae Greiner

Associate Professor of English
CAHI Research Fellow for 2013-14

Recent work on the human/nature divide has shown that what it meant to be human was a matter of some urgency for those writing during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, reaching one of several crisis points with the publication of such works as Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology (1830-33). Scientific discourses increasingly portrayed humans not as unique creations but as one more animal species, which in turn required new ways to account for man’s mental development and survival—or extinction.

Rae Greiner, Associate Professor of English, takes a fresh look at this rich intellectual history in “The Idiocy of Human Life, ” her new project. Work on her previous book on sympathy convinced Rae that “thinking about and with others is really hard.” This new work is not about sympathy, Rae tells us, but rather about other stumbling blocks to thinking, forms of intellectual dimness, as well as what she calls “biological intelligence”: “animal or primitive forms of mind, ” in Rae’s words; “stupid knowing; vegetable (literally, pea-brained) thought.”

Adam Leite

Associate Professor of Philosophy
CAHI Research Fellow for 2013-14

The line of inquiry called “philosophical skepticism” comes to the disappointing conclusion that we cannot know or reasonably believe anything about the world around us. Such skepticism has haunted modern philosophical reflection, but it is not always clear why. Adam Leite, Associate Professor of Philosophy, has been developing the argument that there simply is no way to get from our ordinary epistemological practices and commitments to the skeptical conclusion, that if we start out with our feet firmly in our ordinary, pre-philosophical position, the skeptical argument can’t even get started.

Adam will use his Research Fellowship to gather a number of his recent essays into a book that develops these themes in relation to ordinary language philosophers such as G. E. Moore, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and J. L. Austin. Ultimately, Adam’s book aims to clarify the puzzling relationship between our ordinary lives and the impetus to epistemological theorizing, and to provide the minimal theoretical resources needed for a satisfying response to the perennial challenge of skepticism.

Rebecca Manring

Professor of Religious Studies
CAHI Research Fellow for 2013-14

Rebecca Manring, Professor of Religious Studies and an expert in Middle Bengali, is working on a translation of the 17th century Middle Bengali epic, Dharmamaṅgala. As with the legend of King Arthur, many authors have tried telling the tale of the god Dharma and his champion Lausena. Unlike the Arthurian tales, however, all those of Dharmamaṅgala were written within the span of a single century. The oldest complete extant version, and arguably the most beloved, is that of Rūparāma Cakravarttī, completed around 1663. The work is very much alive today, and yet remains out of reach to all but Bengali speakers.

Rebecca writes that the epic “is most importantly a darn good story, with clever women, valiant heroes, and a wily and relentless villain. My goal with this translation project is to supply scholars and our students a view of all levels of pre- colonial Bengali rural society, to give some voice to those who are often ignored. Rūparāma tells a great and much-loved story of and for his fellow Bengalis, and it’s high time the rest of us heard it.”

Alejandro Mejías-Lopez

Associate Professor of Spanish & Portuguese
CAHI Research Fellow for 2013-14

Literary history in Spain has consistently minimized Spanish American influence by using familial metaphors that always locate authority back in the Spanish “motherland.” Alejandro Mejías- Lopez, Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese, sees it differently. In his new project, “Rediscovering America: Postcoloniality, Literary Authority, and the Untold History of Transatlantic Relations, ” Alejandro argues that Spanish America has had an increasingly transformative role in the development of literary culture in Spain itself. In the 1760’s, to take one example, Peruvian Pablo de Olavide carried out a series of enlightened reforms in Spain that eventually landed him in the dungeons of the Inquisition. Over a century later, Spanish American modernists arrived in Spain, forever changing literary language in Spain. In the 1970’s, too, the internationalization of Spanish American literature spurred a re-awakening of Spanish literary culture after 40 years of the Franco regime. “Rediscovering America” challenges some of the prevalent assumptions behind both the postcolonial and the (Anglo-American) transatlantic paradigms, proposing a more nuanced understanding, in which literary peripheries and centers are relatively fluid rather than monolithic concepts circumscribed to specific and trans-historical geo-cultural regions.

Aaron Stalnaker

Associate Professor of Religious Studies
CAHI Research Fellow for 2013-14

Aaron Stalnaker, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, is researching the early Confucian fascination with cultivating mastery—of certain arts, of the self, and of the leadership of others. Thinking through Confucian models allows Aaron to reconsider the contemporary ideal of autonomy: if, as Confucianism argues, true virtue can only be cultivated through hierarchically ordered relationships in a shared “Way” of life, autonomy cannot be a birthright or a presumption.

Aaron observes that “if humans need to participate in such ordered relationships to flourish, we have good reason to reconsider the suspicion of dependence visible in key strands of modern Western ethics.” A contribution to the flourishing literature on comparative ethics, Aaron’s project corrects overly simple contrasts between “Chinese” and “Western” ethics by articulating novel ways of distinguishing just authority and salutary dependence from domination.

Stephen Vinson

Professor of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures
CAHI Research Fellow for 2013-14

Discovered in the mid-nineteenth century, and first deciphered in 1867, “The First Tale of Setne Khaemwas” (323-30 BCE) is among the finest examples of ancient Egyptian belles lettres. It is a ghost story involving a magic book, a horrifying but ultimately slapstick sexual encounter with a mysterious woman named Tabubue, and some mummies in need of reburial. An internationally known expert in Demotic Egyptian (the original language of this text), Steven Vinson, Professor of Near Eastern Language and Cultures, is at work on a definitive modern scholarly treatment of this fascinating and influential text.

Between the 1870’s and 1930’s, “Setne 1” (as scholars know it) was repeatedly adapted, becoming woven into the popular image of ancient Eqypt. Adventure novelist H. Rider Haggard borrowed from it, as did “The Mummy, ” the 1932 vehicle for Boris Karloff. Zora Neale Hurston, legendary pulp/horror writers Sax Rohmer and H. P. Lovecraft, and even Nobel-Prize-winner Thomas Mann made use of “Setne 1.”


BRET ROTHSTEIN, Associate Professor of the History of Art, and CAHI Research Fellow for 2012-13, is at work on a study of visual enigmatology. "The Shape of Difficulty: On the Character of Visual Challenges” investigates how mechanical puzzles and other objects challenge a viewer, even to the point of courting interpretive failure. A specialist in visual jokes and games, Professor Rothstein's publications have addressed topics ranging from the self-aware image in the fifteenth-century Low Countries to theories of contemporary puzzle design.


JULIA ROOS, Associate Professor of History, and CAHI Research Fellow for 2012-13, has been studying the appeal and limits of atrocity propaganda in the aftermath of the Great War. The German campaign to spotlight the supposed “Black Horror on the Rhine” aimed to discredit the Versailles Treaty by accusing France’s colonial African occupation troops of raping Rhenish women and children. Initially successful, the campaign subsequently became the focus of post-war criticism of propaganda, revealing the direction of a new international peace order after 1924. Professor Roos’s project is titled “Atrocity Propaganda, New Popularized Foreign-Policy Discourses, and the Challenges to Reconstruction after World War I: The “Black Horror on the Rhine.”


ASMA AFSARUDDIN, Professor and Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, and CAHI Research Fellow for 2012-13, is at work on a book titled “Contemporary Issues in Islam,” a series of linked essays analyzing the historical roots and parameters of intra-Muslim debates in the modern period around the issues of engaging modernity, Quranic hermeneutics, the politicization of Islam, women and gender, and interpretations of jihad. Professor Afsaruddin draws upon scripture, exegeses, legal texts, biographical dictionaries, historical works, and humanistic literature to reveal the dynamism and evolution of the Islamic intellectual tradition.


SANDY SHAPSHAY, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, and CAHI Research Fellow for 2012-13, is at work on a book titled “Degrees of Dignity, Schopenhauer's Ethical Thought.” Relatively neglected in Anglo-American philosophy, Schopenhauer is ready for a revival, argues Shapshay, who argues that when charitably understood and shorn of its thoroughgoingly pessimistic elements, Schopenhauer's ethical thought offers an attractive alternative to currently-dominant Kantian, social contract and consequentialist ethical theories. Most notably, it better captures the moral value of non-human animals and the environment as a whole, topics with which contemporary ethics is just starting to grapple.