2016-17: Conservation

Water drop We live in the Anthropocene, an epoch defined by human intervention and a time of rapid and often disconcerting change. Its predominant narrative is one of decline and fall—of transformation, deterioration, and loss. This tragic narrative is a familiar one:  in the humanities we see it, for example, in stories of the material world and its ruins; of the demise of ancient and indigenous cultures and moral systems; of lost arts, artifacts, and aesthetic forms.

Our theme, CONSERVATION, invites inquiry into how humans have responded to that narrative. We associate the idea of conservation with care, repair, and stewardship both of nature and of culture. To conserve is to place oneself in relation to the past—perhaps an imagined past—that one values and believes ought to remain and persist into the future.  In rehabilitating wetlands and restoring great works of art, reanimating lost languages and spiritual traditions, creating archives and preserving work born digital, conservation generates a set of values, techniques, and orientations to temporality and change. These move beyond merely capturing the past on its own terms and toward enlisting it for present and future purposes.

Yet valuing and engaging in conservation raises a number of questions: What do we choose to conserve, and what do we allow to be lost or let die? What imagined visions of an authentic or prelapsarian past fuel our desire to conserve? What conservation modes and methods do we employ, and what are their limits? What is conservation’s relation to traditionalism, conservatism, and reform? How are acts of conservation related to visions of the future: utopias, dystopias, and other fantasies? 


2016-17 Fellows

Brett Behm

Brett Brehm

Brett received his B.A. in English from Amherst College, his M.A. in Art History from the Courtauld Institute of Art/University of London, and his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Northwestern University. In 2011-12, he participated in the Paris Program in Critical Theory, and in 2012-13 he was the recipient of a Jeanne Marandon grant from the Société des Professeurs Français et Francophones d’Amérique, a grant that funded his dissertation research in Paris. For the 2015-16 academic year, he taught French language courses and courses on French and Francophone literature and poetry at Northwestern University as a Visiting Assistant Professor. He has recently presented papers on Herman Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener" and nineteenth-century New York City (American Comparative Literature Association annual conference); French poet and inventor Charles Cros and concepts of acoustic surveillance (Nineteenth Century French Studies Association conference); and Eugène Atget's photographs of Paris (Courtauld Institute of Art, London, "Art History and Sound"). His article, “Soundscapes of Nineteenth-Century Paris: the Cries of Kastner and Mallarmé” was recently published in the journal Nineteenth-Century Contexts.


Reed Gochberg

Reed Gochberg received her PhD in English from Boston University in 2016. Her research and teaching interests include nineteenth-century American literature, intellectual history, and the history of science. Her book project, Novel Objects: Museums and Scientific Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century American Literature, examines how museums shaped broader debates over scientific discoveries in nineteenth-century American culture and informed discussions about the relationship between scientific methods and literary aesthetics. An article from this project, “Novel Inventions: Emerson, Whitman, and the U.S. Patent Office Gallery,” is forthcoming from J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists in 2017. 

Adrianna Link headshot

Adrianna Link

 Adrianna earned her PhD in history of science and technology from The Johns Hopkins University in 2016. Her work examines the intersection of anthropology and the environmental sciences after World War II, particularly the use of museums and archives as sites for organizing and preserving biocultural diversity. She is currently preparing a book manuscript on the development of a program in “urgent anthropology” at the Smithsonian Institution during the 1960s and 1970s. Other interests include the history of ethnographic film, world’s fairs, and human ecology. 

  Caterina Scaramelli headshot

Caterina Scaramelli (Keiter Fellow 2016-2018)

Caterina received her Ph.D. in History, Anthropology, and Science from the Technology and Society Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She works on the culture and politics of environments. Her project during the CHI Fellowship, based on anthropological research, tracks the emergence of the category of the wetland and examines how a varied range of groups in Turkey are making sites of livable nature in watery areas recently reconfigured as wetlands.