Junior Faculty Manuscript Workshops

Chris Dunkel Schetter, Associate Vice Chancellor of Faculty Development at UCLA, recently announced a Junior Faculty Manuscript Workshop Program, to be funded through the Academic Personnel Office. These manuscript workshops grew out of an initiative by Kathleen McHugh, CSW Director from 2005 to 2014. Generously funded by longtime supporters Penny and Ed Kanner, CSW’s junior manuscript workshops were held between 2012 and 2014. Such workshops have also been successful in supporting the advancement of junior faculty, including women faculty and faculty of color. Many universities, including the University of Michigan, UC Berkeley, and Stanford, have similar programs. In CSW’s program, junior faculty completing their first monographs received funding to bring in two senior scholars in their area to review and advise on the manuscript. Additionally, UCLA faculty members with related research interests were invited to participate. Funding also provided for a graduate student to attend the workshop and assist in its implementation. Through this process, the graduate student was mentored in kind.

Five faculty received workshop funding in the CSW program. The Fall 2012 workshop featured Allyson Nadia Field, then an assistant professor in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies (She has since left UCLA for the University of Chicago). Field’s manuscript was then titled: “Filming Uplift and Projecting Possibility.” It has since been published as “Uplift Cinema: The Emergence of African American Film and the Possibility of Black Modernity” by Duke University Press (2015). The book examines the significant yet forgotten legacy of African American filmmaking in the 1910s. Field looks at films made at the Tuskegee and Hampton Institutes to promote education, as well as The New Era, which was an antiracist response to D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation. Field also shows “how Black filmmakers in New York and Chicago engaged with uplift through the promotion of Black modernity. Uplift cinema developed not just as a response to onscreen racism, but constituted an original engagement with the new medium that has had a deep and lasting significance for African American cinema. Although none of these films survived, Field’s examination of archival film ephemera presents a method for studying lost films that opens up new frontiers for exploring early film culture.” Her mentee, doctoral student Samantha Sheppard is now an assistant professor of Cinema and Media Studies at Cornell. She is working on “Sporting Blackness: Race and Embodiment in Sports Films,” a book that will explore how race plays a central role in generic representations in sports films. She also edited From Madea to Media Mogul: Theorizing Tyler Perry (U of Mississippi Press, 2016)

CSW’s Winter 2013 workshop featured Uri McMillan, assistant professor in the Department of English. McMillan’s manuscript was titled “Embodied Avatars: The Art of Black Performance”; it has since been published as “Embodied Avatars: Genealogies of Black Feminist Art and Performance” by NYU Press (2015). Examining the work of Joice Heth and Ellen Craft, Adrian Piper and Howardena Pindell, and Simone Leigh and Nicki Minaj, McMillan “reframes the concept of the avatar in the service of black performance art, describing black women performers’ skillful manipulation of synthetic selves and adroit projection of their performances into other representational mediums.” Specifically, the book focuses on how these historical subjects all use the device of the alter ego, or avatar, in their performances. The examined performances occur in engravings, video art, photographs, slave narratives, abolitionist lecture stages, street performances, and newspapers. McMillan’s mentee, Freda Fair is a doctoral student in the Department of Gender Studies. Her dissertation research argues that black gendered and sexual personhood has been central to the construction of the American Midwest.

Leisy Abrego, associate professor in the Department of Chicana/o Studies, was featured the Spring 2013 workshop. Abrego’s manuscript has been published as “Sacrificing Families: Navigating Laws, Labor, and Love Across Borders” by Stanford University Press (2014) and was selected as Winner of the 2014 Outstanding Academic Title Award, sponsored by Choice. The book “offers a first-hand look at Salvadoran transnational families, how the parents fare in the United States, and the experiences of the children back home. It captures the tragedy of these families’ daily living arrangements, but also delves deeper to expose the structural context that creates and sustains patterns of inequality in their well-being.” Abrego’s mentee was Guadalupe Escobar, a doctoral student in the Department of English. Escobar’s research interests include globalization and gender studies, decolonial feminisms, u.s. Latina/o literature, literature of Central America, true “stories,” and scriptotherapy, third stage.

“Still Modernism,” a manuscript Louise Hornby, assistant professor in the Department of English, was featured in a Winter 2014 workshop. It addresses the critical purchase of photography in the context of the invention of motion pictures in the early part of the twentieth century. An interdisciplinary project, it draws from the fields of film studies, literary studies and art history. Hornby’s mentees were Justine Pizzo in graduate student in the Department of English and Adrienne Posner, a doctoral student in the Department of Comparative Literature. Pizzo’s dissertation, “Solid Air: Victorian Atmosphere and Female Character in British Fiction 1847-1893,” focuses on the intersection between nineteenth-century meteorology, female embodiment, and literary form. Posner works on topics relating to the intersections of nineteenth-century novels, the history of photography, and conceptions of race and racial representation.

In Spring of 2014, a workshop featured a manuscript by Anurima Banerji, an assistant professor in Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance. She had this to say about the workshop’s value:

As a junior faculty member at UCLA, I found the workshop to be an invaluable resource in my development as a scholar and writer. My book-in-progress, “Odissi Dance: Paratopic Performances of Gender and State,” theorizes Odissi’s gender practices and the form’s changing relationship to state regimes over a large historical span, using an intersectional and interdisciplinary lens that draws on postcolonial, queer, biopolitical, and feminist theories. This is my first academic book, and the Kanner workshop came at the ideal time in my writing trajectory and career at UCLA. Hearing senior scholars’ perspectives on my work allowed me to explore methods and approaches with an array of experienced guides, which will also serve my future writing endeavors. Certainly, it will add to my toolkit as teacher, since I can share some of the workshop ideas with my graduate students as they embark on their own research.

Banerji’s mentee, I-Wen Chang, is a doctoral student in the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance who theorizes how Taiwanese construct identity through the practice of salsa. Wen is the co-author of the book Pina Bausch: Dancing for the World (Taipei: 2007).

Such workshops clearly have a substantive effect on the career success of faculty and students. CSW is proud to have initiated a program and pleased that Associate Vice Chancellor Dunkel Schetter has initiated a similar program in the Faculty Development unit of Academic Personnel Office.