The University Record, March 19, 2001

GELS program encourages study of international diversity

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

LS&A has developed a new program to encourage faculty and student interaction on issues of international diversity.

The Global Ethnic Literatures Seminar (GELS) encourages the study of ethnic literature, art, music and culture at the global level by providing resources for the professional development of faculty and graduate students, thereby enhancing teaching on issues of diversity and globalism.

Last fall, GELS co-sponsored a production of Athol Fugard’s The Island. The program continues this month with a free, public conference, “Globalism in Its Place,” March 15–16. The conference will consider such topics as the historical migration of ethnic groups, hunger, food supplies, economic and trade issues, and art and literature, and how they relate to images of people near and afar.

“Over the next few years, GELS will be bringing major thinkers on international diversity to campus and putting them in contact with our faculty and students,” says Tobin Siebers, GELS director. “This inaugural conference sets the tone we want—one of both precise and experimental thinking on diversity and new conceptions of globalism. It is somehow right that the conference also celebrates Ross Chambers, one of the most wide-ranging and innovative scholars we have on campus.”

Homi Bhabba, the Chester D. Tripp Distinguished Service Professor of the Humanities at the University of Chicago, will give the conference’s keynote address, “Looking Global” at 5 p.m. March 15 in the East Study Lounge, Rackham Building.

Conference sessions begin at 9:30 a.m. March 16 at the same location with coffee, followed by a panel discussion titled “Migrations” at 10 a.m.

Afternoon sessions begin at 1 p.m. with a panel discussion titled “Returns,” a coffee break at 3 p.m. and the concluding session at 3:30 p.m., a panel discussion titled “Departures.” A reception begins at 5:30 p.m.

Among the panelists are Carole Boyce Davies of Northwestern University; Ali Behdad and Francoise Lionnet of the University of California at Los Angeles; Joan Dayan of the University of Arizona; and David Porter, Frieda Ekotto, Derrick Cogburn, Simon Gikandi and Scott Spector of the U-M.

The conference is sponsored by the Program in Comparative Literature, LS&A, the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Asian Languages and Cultures, the Department of English Language and Literature, the International Institute, and the King-Parks-Chavez Visiting Professors Program.

For more information on the program or the conference, call (734) 763-2351 or send e-mail to

GELS appoints fellows

Faculty fellows

Vanessa Agnew will join the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures in the fall. She specializes in cross-cultural encounters in literature, music and art. In particular, she is interested in the imagination of “arrival scenes” in scientific exploration, travel, colonization, migration and exile, focusing on practices of greeting, hospitality, control and rejection. She is currently a fellow in the Centre for Cross-Cultural Research at the Australian National University in Canberra.

David Porter is an assistant professor of English and comparative literature who works on the influence of China in 18th-century England. He held a fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton in 1999–2000, and he is the author of Ideographia: The Chinese Cipher in Early Modern Europe.

Sidonie Smith is director of the Women’s Studies Program and professor of English and of women’s studies. Her GELS project is on autobiography, human rights and social change. She is the author of many books on topics as various as African American autobiography and women’s travel narratives.

Ruth Tsoffar is assistant professor of Near Eastern studies. She is working on what she calls “cannibal ideology” in contemporary Hebrew literature—an idea descending from the biblical naming of Israel as “a land that devours its inhabitants.”

Graduate student fellows

Dosinda Garcia-Alvite is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Romance Languages. Her GELS project is on the cultural identity of the citizens of Equatorial Guinea, one of the world’s most isolated countries and the only African country that has Spanish as its official language.

Jennifer Gaynor is a Ph.D. student in the joint anthropology and history program. She is working on the porous social boundary between two unequally related descent groups in Indonesia, the Buginese and the Bajo.

Madelaine Hron studies in the Program in Comparative Literature. She works on the translation of pain in immigrant texts, focusing in particular on Czechoslovakia, Haiti and Algeria. Hron is currently doing research in Prague.

Richard Kim is a Ph.D. candidate in history. He works on Korean transnational politics in 1903–45, when Japan was colonizing Korea and many Koreans in the United States were barred from becoming naturalized citizens.

Maureen McDonnell in a student in the joint English and Women’s Studies Program. Her GELS project tracks how Elizabethan theater, especially Shakespeare, is performed in an international context, from Mississippi-based productions of Romeo and Juliet and Johannesburg’s Titus Andronicus to an Australian As You Like It.

Justin Reed is a Ph.D. student in comparative literature who works on transcultural poetics, in particular, moving among the United States, Spanish America and Brazil. He is especially interested in what the concept of “Latin American” means and its role in modernist/vanguardista poetry.