2015-16 year in review

Guest lecture: “Asians At Ellis Island: Seen and Unseen,” by Anna Pegler-Gordon, Associate Professor of Social Relations and Policy at Michigan State University. Professor Pegler-Gordon is author of In Sight of America: Photography and the Development of U.S. Immigration Policy. Her new research project, and the subject of her talk, is a study of Asians at Ellis Island. Most histories of Asian migration focus on Angel Island in San Francisco and the western United States.  However, Asian immigrants also entered the United States through Ellis Island and, especially in the period from 1924 until the station closed in 1954, Asian New Yorkers, stowaways, smugglers and sailors were detained and deported through Ellis Island.  This lecture is part of a larger book project which asks: What changes in our understanding of Asian exclusion when we view it through Ellis Island?  And what changes in our understanding of Ellis Island when we see it through the prism of Asian migration?  Exploring images of Asians at Ellis Island, as well as the absence of images, this presentation considered how the conceptual framework of the “seen” and “unseen” challenges historiographies of Asian exclusion and American immigration. As part of this guest lecture event, Professor Pegler-Gordon also met with graduate students to discuss several of her other projects as well as graduate student professionalization.

Co-sponsorship of guest lectures: Nicholas Mirzoeff, NYU (with the English Department); Simone Brown, UT Austin (with the Digital Studies Workshop); and David Alworth, Harvard (with the American Studies Consortium).

Image and chapter workshops: The VCW continued our community-building tradition of hosting “image workshops” in which group members are invited to share and discuss images on which they are currently working. The VCW also organized two faculty-student dissertation chapter workshops with Cass Adair (PhD English Language and Literature) and Joshua Morrison (PhD Screen Arts and Culture).

U-M roundtable on non-traditional scholarship: This year we took note of the growing interest across our humanities departments in exploring new modes of doing and communicating scholarly work outside of traditional formats. Graduate students are often invited to create final projects in non-traditional modalities, such as visual, digital, or hybrid forms. Nearing finals season, we held an informal workshop with faculty and graduate students to explore the pedagogical goals behind and the intellectual opportunities involved in such projects.

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