Faculty

Hosam Aboul-Ela focuses on cultures of colonialism and imperialism from a comparative perspective. His first book, Other South: Faulkner, Coloniality, and the Mariategui Tradition (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007), traces a genealogy of thought about imperialism and culture from Jose Carlos Mariategui through Latin American dependency theorists to contemporary post-leftist and post-dependentista thought across Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. The book’s innovation is its application of this critical discourse to the literary work of William Faulkner, thus reversing the traditional core-periphery binary between “First World” theory and “Third World” texts in global literary studies. His current research also focuses on conceptions of imperialism. With the working title Domestications: American Empire, Literary Culture, and the Postcolonial Lens, this book explores the uniqueness of American style imperialism, focusing on the post-World War II period and reading American empire contrapuntally against global literary cultures. Aboul-Ela’s transnational and comparative approach to the study of imperialism is also supplemented by his work in literary translation. He has translated three novels from Arabic into English, and he co-edits the book series “Theory in the World” with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.

Margot Backus publishes and teaches courses in Irish and British modernism, gender, critical sexuality studies, and empire studies. Her first book, The Gothic Family Romance: Heterosexuality, Child Sacrifice, and the Anglo-Irish Colonial Order, appeared in 1999 in Duke University Press’s “Poet-Contemporary Interventions” series, edited by Fredric Jameson and Stanley Fish. The first full-length study of sexual subject formation in a settler colonial setting, The Gothic Family Romance won the American Conference for Irish Studies prize for a distinguished first book. Backus’s scholarship in Irish studies focuses on interconnections among gender, sexuality, class, and the politics of national and transnational representation. Her second book, Scandal Work: James Joyce, the New Journalism, and the Home Rule Newspaper Wars, was published in 2013 by the University of Notre Dame Press. She is the Board President of Voices Breaking Boundaries, a political arts organization in Houston that draws together work by artists and activists in geographically disparate communities whose perspectives are marginalized in terms of class, race, ethnicity, culture, gender, and sexuality.

Ann C. Christensen is an early modernist. Her work uses the lens of empire studies to explore the changing perceptions and experiences of commercial travel and domesticity in England’s “age of commercial expansion.” Christensen’s forthcoming book Separation Scenes: Domestic Drama in Early Modern England 1590-1630 (University of Nebraska Press) explores the social and cultural articulations of husbands’ business travel and wives’ domestic life to argue that the popular genre of domestic tragedy deliberated the impact of global travel at home. Christensen’s previous scholarship on the ambivalent roles of tradesmen’s wives in city comedy and representations of women’s work in general, the labor practices and writing of the East India Company, and the history of economic criticism in the field has appeared in Early Modern Studies Journal, SEL, Marlowe Studies Annual, and Early Modern Women and the collections, Gendered Routes and Spaces in the Early Modern World (Ashgate, 2015) and Global Traffic: Discourses and Practices of Trade in English Literature and Culture from 1550-1700 (Palgrave, 2008). She welcomes students interested in the period to consider the intersections between and among gender, place, work, commerce, and travel in the literature and society of early modern England, and those interested in Empire Studies to reach back to what some critics view as “the stirrings of Empire” as early as the 1580s.

Karen Fang writes and teaches in film studies and British Romantic literature. Melding these disparate media and historical epochs through an interdisciplinary and comparative approach that often focuses specifically upon imperialism, surveillance, or consumer culture, Fang explores how visual and textual art helps conceptualize a multicultural and geographically dynamic global modernity. She studied local and global differences in the late twentieth-century reception of Hong Kong action cinema in John Woo’s “A Better Tomorrow” (Hong Kong University Press, 2004) and Romantic writing about exotic art and commodities in the early nineteenth-century periodical press in Romantic Writing and the Empire of Signs (University of Virginia Press, 2010). Fang continues to blend her scholarly interests in two new projects. Her current books manuscript, Arresting Cinema: Surveillance in Hong Kong Film, places one of the world’s most successful non-Hollywood film traditions within a world canon of films on surveillance and social control. She is also interested in the interracial, transnational, and nineteenth-century origins of modern surveillance theory and practice.

Auritro Majumder teaches and writes on postcolonial studies, particularly India, 20th century literatures, cinema and critical theory. He is particularly interested in the long history of anticolonial thought, both progressive and conservative, and the incursion of radical politics and aesthetics in such fields as philosophy, modernism, postcolonialism and cultural criticism. He is currently at work on his first book, tentatively titled Insurgent Imaginations: Culture, Postcolonial Planetarity and Maoism in India. It offers an intellectual-literary history of the Naxalite movement as an alternative mode of decolonizing practice to liberal, Hindu nationalist, and Gandhian visions in post-colonial India. At UH, Majumder offers courses in postcolonial studies, Anglophone writing and introduction to literary studies. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Research in African Literatures, Comparative Literature StudiesJournal of Postcolonial Writing, Critical Asian Studies, The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Postcolonial Studies, as well as the book volumes Crossing Borders (Fairleigh Dickinson UP), Contentious Connections: Social Imagination in Globalizing South Asia (Cambridge Scholars), and Modern Social Thinkers (Setu).

David Mazella teaches and writes about eighteenth-century British literature, but he has often studied how this body of writing has entered into other discursive, historical, or geographic domains. His current research project is a literary history of the year 1771, analyzing Anglophone writings published or produced in or around 1771 in London, Edinburgh, Kingston (Jamaica), and Philadelphia. This study focuses heavily on periodical sources, journals, and diaries to give a textured sense of the everyday lives and reading of the inhabitants of those cities during that brief period. The goal is to use these sources to describe the texture and temporality of events experienced by the scattered publics united in one way or another by their virtual and material relations to the British empire. At the same time, he aims to use this microanalysis of the productions and reading publics of these four cities to talk about the diffusion and circulation of genre at this historical moment. Mazella has discussed portions of his 1771 project in several conference presentations and talks.

Kavita Singh is a specialist in Caribbean literature and culture, and an affiliate of Comparative Cultural Studies, African American Studies, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Dr. Singh teaches courses in Caribbean and postcolonial literature, and her research comparatively investigates the Francophone and Anglophone Caribbean. Her writing interests are diverse, and she is currently working on projects on gender and ethnicity in Trinidad, on the erotic in Caribbean women’s writings, and on the intersection of performance and language in postcolonial Caribbean writing. Her book manuscript, The Carnival Language: Exhibitive Multilingualism in the Postcolonial Caribbean brings her passion for thinking language and translation together with her interest in Carnival culture. The Carnival Language reframes the literary and cultural quest for national identity consolidation by theorizing performance as as privileged mode for politically and aesthetically responding to the particularities of postcoloniality against the backdrop of global neoliberalism.

Cedric Tolliver teaches and does research in African-American literature and culture. He grounds his scholarship in the notion that African-American culture has been and continues to be constituted within, through, and against the various permutations of American empire. His current book manuscript, Of Vagabonds and Fellow Travelers: African Diasporic Cosmopolitanism and the Early Cold War, investigates black radical cultural work developed against the imperial designs of both the United States and the Soviet Union. In their particular response to the restrictive Cold War climate, such figures as Aime Cesaire, Paul Robeson, and Lorraine Hansberry embodied the effort of African diasporic peoples to rewrite themselves as the subjects of, and not merely subject to, capitalist modernity. Working with primary texts representative of this effort in both English and French, his manuscript employs a methodology that does not assume the nation as the most appropriate frame of analysis. His work has appeared in the journal Safundi: the Journal of South African and American Studies and the collection Paris: Capital of the Black Atlantic.

Lynn Voskuil teaches and writes in the area of Victorian literature and culture. She was led toward empire studies when she researched and wrote about the imperial perspective of Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli for a chapter in Acting Naturally: Victorian Theatricality and Authenticity (University of Virginia Press, 2004). In the process of learning an immense amount about late-Victorian foreign policy, she encountered the ongoing effects of that policy in today’s world–and became convinced of the need to study empire further. Drawing on both empire studies and environmental studies, she is currently completing a manuscript entitled Horticulture and Imperialism: The Garden Spaces of the British Empire, 1789-1914. Voskuil is interested not only in how plants functioned as imperial commodities in the British empire but also how the imperialist assumptions of nineteenth-century Britons were challenged by the plants themselves, especially by exotic specimens that claimed global space in unfamiliar ways. In addition to Acting Naturally, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in a number of collections and journals.  

Jennifer Wingard researches and teaches at the intersection of neoliberal economics and rhetorical production. As a scholar of rhetoric, she examines how representations of specific locations produce the cultural contexts in which public and legal texts are formed. Although her scholarly focus is on twenty-first-century trends in economics and politics, she recognizes the deep historical and cultural influences that the British and Spanish empires and their legacies of colonialism have had on current sociopolitical conditions. Wingard’s scholarship draws from transnational feminist and postcolonial theory as well as empire studies. Her book Branded Bodies, Rhetoric, and the Neoliberal Nation State worked to show how modern day political discussions and memes often have antecedents in colonial histories, and how micro-discussion of economics and/or political unrest can shed light on the macro.  In addition to her book, Wingard’s work has appeared in several key anthologies and journals in the field of Rhetoric and Composition.

Lauren Zentz works in the area of linguistic anthropology and applied linguistics. She uses ethnographic and critical discourse methods and analysis to examine language policies and the construction of nationhood in postcolonial contexts; nation-states’ resistance and attraction to former colonial languages and cultures; and language learners’ identity formation processes as they learn languages that have come to be associated with labels such as “local,” “indigenous,” “national,” and “international” or “global.” Her work thus far has been carried out in Indonesia in a dissertation entitled Global Language Identities and Ideologies in an Indonesian University Context. Her larger research project aims to build on interests in nation-states’ negotiations of their own positions concerning language use and learning within borders: who should learn and speak what languages, how often, and why or why not; in other words, how do languages threaten or support nationhood? She also explores nation-states’ interactions and collective/resistant behaviors toward each other through language policies and the politics of language at regional supranational levels such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the European Union.  

Note: for 2016-17, the members and responsibilities of the Steering Committee will be as follows:

Ann Christensen (Advising, Course Rotation): achrist@uh.edu

Sebastian Lecourt (Events/Programming): sjlecour@central.uh.edu

Auritro Majumder (Communications, Archives): amajumder@uh.edu