2021–21 Working Groups

The pandemic forced many faculty and graduate students to focus intensely on their teaching. They moved courses to online platforms, responded to students’ understandable stress and confusion, and braced up to the reality of engaging black boxes on a screen. Research projects were slowed or put on hold as travel restrictions and closures shut down archives and access to source materials. Conferences, an intellectual lifeline for many scholars, were canceled or moved online.

In this atmosphere, Obermann Working Groups served as unique spaces where research questions remained paramount. Trading the Obermann library for a Zoom screen may have been a disappointment, but the groups met routinely, even gathering new members from areas outside of Iowa City. Some groups turned their focus to reading, and others to program planning. Although the Obermann Center doesn’t require groups to produce a tangible end-of-year outcome, several groups were prolific despite many obstacles and all of the groups provided much needed intellectual, collegial, and sustaining community.

Lina-Maria Murillo and Natalie Fixmer-Oraiz discuss the process of jointly composing a book chapter during a pandemic.

Select Highlights from Our Working Groups:

2020-21 Obermann Working Groups & Directors

  • Addressing the Crisis: The Stuart Hall Project — Deborah Whaley (African American Studies, American Studies, CLAS)
  • Algorithms & Social Media — Brian Ekdale (Journalism & Mass Communication, CLAS; Rishab Nithyanand, Computer Science, CLAS)
  • The Cassandra Project: Critical Approaches to the Study of Scripting & Reading Apparatuses — Sabine Gölz (German, CLAS)
  • Circulating Cultures — Elke Heckner (German, CLAS) and Julie Hochstrasser (Art & Art History, CLAS)
  • Contemporary Literary & Film Theory — Kathleen Newman (Cinematic Studies and Spanish & Portuguese, CLAS)
  • Environmental Futures — Meena Khandelwal (Anthropology and GWSS, CLAS) and H.S. Udaykumar (Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering)
  • Global Media Studies — Melissa Tully (Journalism & Mass Communication, CLAS)
  • Latina/x/o Migration and Education — Lisa Ortiz (Obermann Center and GWSS, CLAS)
  • Latina/o/x Studies — Rene Rocha (Political Science, CLAS)
  • Liberal Arts Beyond Bars College in Prison Program — Heather Erwin (UI LABB)
  • Opera Studies — Robert Ketterer (Music, CLAS)
  • Performance Studies — Kim Marra (Theatre Arts and American Studies, CLAS) and Jen Buckley (English, CLAS)
  • Project on Rhetoric of Inquiry (POROI) — Naomi Greyser (English and GWSS, CLAS)
  • Reproductive and Maternal Politics — Natalie Fixmer-Oraiz (Communication Studies and GWSS, CLAS)
  • Scholarship of Public Engagement — Carolyn Colvin (Language, Literacy, & Culture, College of Education)
  • Secularity & Sanctity in the Modern Era — Jenna Supp-Montgomerie (Communication Studies, CLAS)
  • Sustainability & the Environment — Blake Rupe (Office of Sustainability & the Environment)
  • Translation in the Humanities — Aron Aji (Literary Translation, CLAS) and Morten Schlütter (Religious Studies, CLAS)
  • Writing University — Carol Severino (Rhetoric, CLAS)