Spoken Word as Figure: Visual iconographies of Nenbutsu in Medieval Japan

Enshrined in a Kyoto temple, the 13th century Portrait of the Holy Man Kya sculpturally visualizes the verbal practice of nenbutsu or chanting the buddhas name. Six small sculptural buddhas emerge on a wire extension from the icons mouth, embodying the chanted syllables. Icons are understood in Japanese Buddhism as animate objects, informing and guiding devotional practice. What does it mean to see the voice of an icon? Jess will examine this icons materiality, viewership, and history in order to negotiate the representation of sound in the visual culture of Pure Land Buddhism. She will travel to Japan studying relevant rituals and sculptures, while compiling a catalogue of visualized nenbutsu iconography since the Kamakura period. The broader implications of her research will center on the relationship between spoken word and visual signifiers.

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Geographies of Justice: Reconciliation, and the Role of Transitional Justice in Brazil

On November 18, 2011 federal law #12,528 created the National Truth Commission (Commiso Nacional da Verdade, CNV) in Brazil. The truth commission was created to examine the events carried out by the government, Foras Armadas, during the countrys military dictatorship and produce an official, truthful account of the period. The hope was that by embarking on a collective search for truth, the Brazilian population would work towards national reconciliation, and in the process strengthen their democracy. However, one year after the commission began, criticisms flood the process: many argue that the structure created prevents any reconciliation. By analyzing the rhetoric used in government documents and interviewing those involved in the truth process, I hope to answer the question how does the structure of Brazil’s truth commission affect the peoples’ sense of reconciliation, and broader conceptions of state and public power?

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The Material Language of Elizabethan Artificers

Although historians have studied Elizabethan Englands social and aesthetic transformations of the built environment, little attention has been paid to the labor of its craftspeople. Scholarship on Elizabethan architecture and decorative arts has privileged the study of stylistic trends, written records of patronage, and named surveyor-architects. This approach fails to register the ways in which artificers participated in the visuality of the early modern period. To understand the production practices of Elizabethan artificers and to recognize how these workers shaped material culture, Trevor is pursuing a close examination of select furniture and woodwork at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. He aims to develop a methodologya delicate and precise way of seeing, interpreting, and questioningthat prioritizes the expressive but latent language of the sixteenth century wood carver and joiner.

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Collapsing the Frame: The Moving Body as a Site for Social (De)construction

Collapsing the Frame delves into the space between two categories contemporary and commercial dance to ask how the moving body functions as a site both for composing and deconstructing normative conceptions of embodiment, physicality, identity, and sociality. By researching the particular case of commercially produced choreographies, the project not only problematizes the categorical divide between high culture and popular/commercial culture, but intends to ask how dance productions that cross this boundary function as corporeal and public experimentations with collective identities. Through a comparative analysis of three sites of dance practice and performance (Los Angeles, Brussels and Vienna), the intent is to provide a platform for understanding the ways in which contemporary dance affects and is affected by the burgeoning commercial industry.

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Conceptual Metaphors in Describing Transgender Identities

Ayden is exploring the metaphors used to describe transgender identities and experiences. Cognitive linguistics understands metaphor as central to language and human cognition, allowing us to grasp abstract concepts via physical sensations and everyday experiences. There has, however, been very little put forward for a cognitive linguistics of gender: How are the meanings of gender expressed and perceived? What are the effects of particular linguistic structures on how gender is thought about and performed? How are identities in general rendered meaningful? Ayden will collect data from public sources such as newspaper articles and analyze their underlying structures and assumptions, as well as how they impact the real lived experiences of transgender individuals.

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The World in the Globe of the Eye: Reading Housekeeping Through a Thoreauvian Lens

Current Bio: Zoë is a PhD candidate in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University (MSt in English from Oxford [2016]) writing a dissertation on small forms in 19th century poetry.   Haas Scholars Project: More than once, Marilynne Robinson has invoked Henry Thoreau’s Walden (1854) as an influence on her novel Housekeeping (1980). Zoë’s project investigates the philosophical resonances between these two texts written in the tradition of American Romanticism. Rather than wed Walden to history and read Housekeeping as a modern-day (and specifically feminist) response, Zoë develops a more fluid relation between the two testaments to spiritual solitude. By placing the books in conversation, Zoë explores the relationship between the invention of audience and inwardness. She also asks how the depiction of place can inform a writers persona on the page and vice versa. Zoë’s thesis derives its larger metaphysical context from 19th-century articulations of nature and the […]

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