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NEH 50–Questions in Common@Illinois: “What Is the Work of Scholarly Expertise in a Rapidly Changing World?”

NEH 50–Questions in Common@Illinois: “What Is the Work of Scholarly Expertise in a Rapidly Changing World?”

This event is free and open to the public.

As part of IPRH’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Humanities, we are launching “Questions in Common@Illinois,” a series of events that aims to capitalize on the huge talents of faculty and students through conversation and dialogue—one of humanists’ major forms of experimentation and interpretive energy. Our first such event is Monday Sept. 21 and centers on the question “What is the work of scholarly expertise in a rapidly changing world?”

Today’s social challenges and changing institutional contexts have put new demands on scholarly expertise.  Contemporary pressures require us to be flexible—to think beyond our training, to embrace interdisciplinary methods and to teach beyond what we know. To be sure, scholars have always done this to some degree. But the availability of information on the Internet and the democratization of knowledge and authority more generally means that the role of scholarly expertise is not as clear as it once was.

This forum is intended to put some of these issues on the table: Why is expertise value added? Is it the same as competency? Is interdisciplinarity a complement to it, or is deep disciplinary knowledge the sine qua non? Should we all be generalists as well as specialists in our fields? How are we training graduate students to cultivate expertise in response to new configurations of scholarly research and teaching and alternatives to academic careers? Does working in a public research university with a land grant mission matter to these questions?

The idea is to provoke conversation and debate about the ongoing work of scholarly expertise, a question that lurks at the edges of our practice and hence merits collective discussion.

Please join us for a roundtable discussion of these issues. As these questions are not limited to humanities inquiry alone, please consider reaching out to a colleague or two in other quarters of campus who you think might be interested in hearing and/or participating in the discussion. And please mark your calendars for the visit to campus of the Chairman of the NEH, William Adams, on October 29, 2015, as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations. He will delivering a public address at the Knight Auditorium at the Spurlock Museum that evening at 7:30.



Carla Cáceres (Director, School of Integrative Biology; Animal Biology)
Carla Cáceres is Director of the School of Integrative Biology and a professor in the Department of Animal Biology. Her research is focused at the interface of population, community and evolutionary ecology and addresses questions such as how biodiversity influences the spread of infectious diseases. She joined the UIUC faculty in 2001 and has been involved in several initiatives aimed at transforming undergraduate education in STEM courses. She is also currently a co-PI on two interdisciplinary NSF training grants, one for graduate students (IGERT) and one for undergraduate students (BioMath). She received her B.S. in Biology from the University of Michigan and her Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Cornell University.

Wl S. Hassan (Director, Center for Translation Studies; Comparative and World Literature / English)
Waïl S. Hassan is Professor of Comparative Literature and English and the Director of the Center for Translation Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he is also affiliated with the Department of French and Italian; the Centers for African, Global, Latin American & Caribbean, and South Asian & Middle Eastern Studies; the Lemann Institute for Brazilian Studies; and the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory. A specialist in modern Arabic literature and intellectual history, he is the author of Tayeb Salih: Ideology and the Craft of Fiction (Syracuse, 2003) and Immigrant Narratives: Orientalism and Cultural Translation in Arab American and Arab British Literature (Oxford, 2011). He has co-edited Approaches to Teaching the Works of Naguib Mahfouz (MLA 2012) and several journal issues on Arabic and postcolonial studies. He is also the translator, from Arabic into English, of Abdelfattah Kilito’s Thou Shalt Not Speak My Language (Syracuse, 2008), and from Portuguese into Arabic, of Alberto Mussa’s O enigma de Qaf, published in Cairo, Egypt, as Lughz al-qaf (National Center for Translation, 2015). He is currently writing a book on Arab-Brazilian literary and cultural relations and editing The Oxford Handbook of the Arabic Novel.

Craig Koslofsky (History)
Craig Koslofsky, professor of History and Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, studies the early modern period (c. 1450-1800) of European history. His teaching and research explore the history of daily life; skin and skin color in the Atlantic world, darkness and the night in early modern Europe, cultural transformation between the late Middle Ages and the Reformation, and the history of Christianity. Dr. Koslofsky's most recent book, Evening's Empire: A History of the Night in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2011) won the Longman - History Today 2011 Book of the Year Award, and was chosen as one of The Atlantic magazine’s Books of the Year for 2012. He is also the author of The Reformation of the Dead: Death and Ritual in Early Modern Germany, 1450-1700 (Macmillan, 2000) and numerous journal articles. Dr. Koslofsky has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Newberry Library. He is current writing a history of skin in the early modern world, 1450-1750.

Ruby Mendenhall (Sociology / African American Studies)
Ruby Mendenhall is an Associate Professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She holds joint faculty appointments in Sociology, African American Studies, Urban and Regional Planning, and Social Work. She is currently a Faculty Affiliate at the Woese Institute for Genomic Biology and the Institute for Computing in the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. Mendenhall’s research focuses on Black women and resiliency, racially segregated neighborhoods and community violence, sociogenomics, racial microaggressions, economic mobility, and public policy. She teaches the following courses Research Methods; Social Stratification; Urban Communities and Public Policy; Black Women in Contemporary U.S. Society; Genes and Behavior: Black Mothers in Englewood from Science to Society; and Stress and Health in Urban Communities. Her research has appeared in academic journals such as Social Forces, Social Science Research, Demography, Housing Policy Debate, The Review of Black Political Economy, The Black Scholar, and Social Service Review

Renée Trilling (English)
Renée R. Trilling is Associate Professor of English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of The Aesthetics of Nostalgia: Historical Representation in Old English Verse (Toronto, 2009; winner of the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists’ Best First Book Award), and co-editor of A Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Studies (Blackwell, 2012). She has published articles on Beowulf, Wulfstan the Homilist, Ælfric’s hagiography, and Anglo-Saxon historiography. Her current work draws on recent trends in neuroscience and related fields to explore the role of materiality in Anglo-Saxon notions of subjectivity.

Monday, September 21, 2015