Search

MemberBob Pennington

One Sunday, in 2007, at Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, in Ormond Beach, Florida, I heard an appeal for mission volunteers from Bishop Thomas Wenski.[1] I responded to his call by contacting Sister Bernadette Mackay O.S.U., the Director of the Mission office at the Diocese of Orlando. A few months later, I was in the bed of a pick-up truck as it ascended a steep mountain path made of nothing but dirt and rock. My destination was La Cucarita, a remote town in the Cordillera Central Mountains of the Dominican Republic, near the border of Haiti.   La Cucarita proved to be a liminal place for me, a place where I crossed a threshold into a new and unfamiliar reality. Before I arrived in La Cucarita, I could have never imagined that people could express so much joy and happiness while living in a cultural context marked by extreme poverty. La Cucaritan reality ultimately changed my life because I was forced to confront a paradox I did not understand.   I could not understand how everyday experiences caused me to sometimes feel like I had “encountered God” through interactions with joyful, hospitable people, or, through the contemplation of the natural landscape.[2] I also struggled to understand how I could feel the presence of God in a cultural context marked by a lack of material resources like water and electricity. Such a lack of resources necessary for daily life provoked in me a sense that: “This should not be!” Something was “not right.” Seven years later, in my Ph.D. program, I learned that I had what Edward Schillebeeckx describes as a “negative contrast experience.” LaReine-Marie Mosely writes that, for Schillebeeckx, a negative contrast experience is something that has the power to evoke not only “outrage at excessive human suffering,” but also “protest and eventual praxis to ameliorate and end the suffering.”[3]   As my mission work came to an end, the paradox of Cucarita remained a puzzle I could not solve. After I returned to Florida, I reflected on my mission experience and realized that my “social imaginary” had been annihilated.[4] Charles Taylor explains that a social imaginary is the way people “imagine their social existence, how they fit together with others,” and how things ought to go.[5] The paradoxical reality of Cucarita had annihilated my desire to pursue the social imaginary I associated with the “American Dream.”[6] Ultimately, my experience in Cucarita forced me to question my ideals and my goals. And, soon thereafter, I realized I no longer wanted to be a postmodern American whose “idiosyncratic preferences are their own justifications” for happiness.[7]   The change I underwent could be described as a metanoia, a conversion where my “eyes were opened” and my “former world faded and fell away.”[8] La Cucarita had not only opened my eyes to real social injustice but also to a new vision of happiness. I felt compelled to act, I felt inspired to do something. But, what? I chose to pursue graduate studies in theology.   After I earned a master’s degree in Theology at Xavier University in Cincinnati, I enrolled in a Practical Theology Ph.D. program at St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida. In Miami, I learned that my vocation is to be a Catholic theologian, ethicist, and educator who instructs students’ on how to use a theological method to make crucial moral choices in siding with the poor and marginalized in a civic and political context. [1] Wenski is now Archbishop of Miami.   [2] What I mean when I say “I encountered God” is analogous to the way in which Karl Rahner, S.J. spoke as if he were Ignatius of Loyola speaking to a modern Jesuit: “I encountered God; I have experienced him.” For more see, Karl Rahner, Ignatius of Loyola Speaks, trans. Annemarie S. Kidder, (St. Augustine’s Press: South Bend, Indiana, 2013), 6-9.   [3] For more on this topic see LaReine-Marie Mosely, “Negative Contrast Experience: An Ignatian Appraisal,” Horizons 41, no. 1 (2014): 74-95. What is central to Schillebeeckx’s claim is when individuals and communities face evil and suffering—their own and that of others—the universal pre-religious response is “This cannot be allowed to continue!” What is most crucial about Schillebeeckx’s argument for my present and future work is that the feeling of pre-religious indignation becomes the “specific starting point for ethics.”   [4] Charles Taylor, A Secular Age, (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007), 171-2. In Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), James K.A. Smith writes that, in regard to the phrase “social imaginary,” Taylor acknowledges his debt to Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 1991), 65n46.   [5] Taylor, A Secular Age, 171. Commenting on Taylor’s concept, James K.A. Smith suggests that the imagination (an imaginary) is a “quasi-faculty whereby we construe the world on a precognitive level, on a register that is fundamentally aesthetic precisely because it is so closely tied to the body. As embodied creatures, our orientation to the world begins from, and lives off of, the fuel of our bodies, including the ‘images’ of the world that are absorbed by our bodies.” Heuristically, then, the “imagination” (an imaginary) names a kind of faculty that is kinesthetic because it is closely tied to the body and how we make sense of our world. For more see, Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 17-19n37, n38.   [6] James K.A. Smith argues that the modern American social imaginary promotes a narrative of autonomy that indicates that one gives oneself (autos) the law (nomos). For more, see James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, 175n50.   [7] Joseph A. Tetlow, “The Most Postmodern Prayer: American Jesuit Identity and the Examen of Conscience, 1920-1990,” Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 26, no.1 (1994): 33.   [8] Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990), 130. A richer description of Lonergan’s insight is that conversion is “a transformation of the subject and his world. Normally it is a prolonged process though its explicit acknowledgement may be concentrated in a few momentous judgments or decisions.” And, “conversion, as lived, affects all of a man’s conscious and intentional operations. It directs his gaze, pervades his imagination…it enriches his understanding, guides his judgments, reinforces his decisions.” 130-131.

MemberIan Cummins

I am a Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Salford. My main research revolves around the experiences of people with mental health problems in the Criminal Justice system. This includes all areas of the CJS but I have focused on policing and mental illness.  I argue the CJS has become, in many incidences, the default provider of mental health care. In the area of social theory, I am influenced by Wacquant’s analysis of  processes of advanced marginality.and the development of the penal state. I have used has Jonathan Simon’s notion of “governing through crime”  to the analysis of the history of community care. I am exploring social work’s response to poverty. I am working with colleagues to explore societal obsession with violent crime. Like all right thinking people, I am slightly obsessed with the Wire.

MemberElena Machado Sáez

Elena Machado Sáez is a Professor of English at Bucknell University, where she teaches courses on contemporary American, US Latino/a, and Caribbean diaspora literatures. She earned her PhD in English at SUNY Stony Brook and her undergraduate degree in English at Fordham University. Dr. Machado Sáez recently completed an essay offering an MFA teleology for US Latinx literature, two essays on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musicals, In the Heights and Hamilton, and is embarking on a research project comparing Miranda’s self-representation and modes of affiliation on Twitter to that of other Latinx writers. She is author of Market Aesthetics: The Purchase of the Past in Caribbean Diasporic Fiction (University of Virginia Press 2015). The book analyzes historical fiction by Caribbean diasporic authors in Britain, Canada and the United States as part of a global literary trend that addresses the relationship between ethnic writers and their audiences. Machado Sáez argues that the novels address the problematic of intimacy and ethics in relation to readership by focusing on how gender and sexuality represent sites of contestation in the formulation of Caribbean identity and history. Dr. Machado Sáez is also coauthor of The Latino/a Canon and the Emergence of Post-Sixties Literature (Palgrave Macmillan 2007), which discusses how Cuban-American, Dominican-American, and Puerto Rican literatures challenge established ideas about the relationship between politics and the market.

MemberHeather D Baker

As an Assyriologist who has also trained in archaeology and gained considerable experience of Near Eastern excavation, my primary interest is in combining textual information and material culture in the study of Mesopotamian society and economy. I apply this approach to the study of the Babylonian city and to investigating house and household. I am currently PI of an international project, Machine Translation and Automated Analysis of Cuneiform Languages (MTAAC), funded by SSHRC through the Trans-Atlantic Platform Digging into Data Challenge. Research Interests My work focuses on the social, political and economic history and material culture of 1st millennium BC Mesopotamia, with a particular interest in Babylonian urbanism and the built environment, and in the Neo-Assyrian royal household. My research and publications cover the following topics:

  • urbanism and the built environment
  • religious architecture
  • house and household
  • integration of textual and archaeological data
  • Hellenistic Babylonia (especially the city of Uruk)
  • the Assyrian royal palace and household
  • onomastics and naming practices
  • prosopography
  • slavery
  • society and economy
  • political history
  • cuneiform archives and archival practices

Employment

  • 2014–present: Assistant Professor in Ancient Near Eastern History, Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, University of Toronto
  • 2009—2014: Senior Postdoc and PI of project “Royal Institutional Households in First Millennium BC Mesopotamia,” Institut fūr Orientalistik, University of Vienna
  • 2003–2009: Postdoc, START Project “The Economic History of Babylonia in the First Millennium BC,” Institut fūr Orientalistik, University of Vienna
  • 1999–2002: Research Associate, State Archives of Assyria Project, University of Helsinki; from July 1999, Editor-in-Charge of The Prosopography of the Neo-Assyrian Empire
  • 1993–1998: Editorial Assistant/IT Assistant (part-time), A Lexicon of Greek Personal Names (a British Academy Major Research Project)
  • 1994–1995: Curator Grade G (part-time), Department of the Middle East, the British Museum
  • 1984–1989: Field Archaeologist employed on various excavation and post-excavation projects in England, Cyprus, Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq

MemberStephen Etheridge

I was awarded my PhD from the University of Huddersfield in 2014. My research explored contested  themes in social history and musicology. Even though brass bands were a national movement I analysed the  bands of the Southern Pennines to explain why  brass bands became such a powerful metonym of northern working-class culture. I found that this cliché emerged from ca. 1840-1914 through a number of elements that were  largely external to the brass band movement. I have published on brass bands and aspects of class, gender and region. My ongoing research continues into the social networks that emerged from musical groups in the long nineteenth century and beyond. My current research projects include women and gender in military bands; jazz and working-class identity in a 1930’s Staffordshire town, and the role of discotheques in provincial life throughout the 1970s and 1980s. I have led adult-education courses at the University of Huddersfield and the University of York, and I have contributed research to the AHRC-funded  Making Music in Manchester during World War One  project, based at the Royal Northern College of Music. I also write for the northern ezine Northern Soul as a music correspondent. I am seeking post-doctoral opportunities.  

MemberElise Thorsen

I work as an open source/media analyst at Novetta, where my domain knowledge of Russian language and culture helps to make patterns in Russian and East European messaging meaningful and assess the contents and target audiences of adversarial messaging. In research not directly related to my job, I specialize in twentieth-century Russian poetry, especially the early Soviet avant-garde and their successive work and successors under Socialist Realism. This interest in poetry also drives a agenda of developing computational methods to facilitate the study of versification and quantitative poetics. I also enjoy the opportunity to examine other media, particularly film, as can be seen in my notes and reviews on contemporary film for the annual Pittsburgh Russian Film Symposium and Kinokultura.

MemberJulia Voss

Research Interests:

My current and past work examines how literacy learning and performance take place across spaces and modes ranging across classroom and community settings. Informed by an emphasis on modality, my research focuses on the affordances and constraints of different social, technical, and institutional settings to examine possibilities and call for changes that support more equitable participation of all members.

Professional Interests:

My research on classroom design and writing in the disciplines has increasingly drawn my attention to the institutional and infrastructural work of writing program administration. As writing specialists, we need to continue our decades-long work with colleagues across the university to design effective writing curricula based on our own disciplinary knowledge. However, as (unacknowledged) experts in active learning pedagogies, writing specialists and WPAs also have considerable expertise to contribute to learning space design initiatives, involving stakeholders outside academic departments at the level of the university’s physical facilities.

Teaching Interests:

I teach classes in digital and print composing with an emphasis on (multi)modality, technical communication, writing studies, digital culture.