2012-13 Working Groups

Scholarship of Engagement: Language, Literacy, and School Success in Rural Iowa for Immigrant Families


This group will work on issues of language, literacy, and school success across the lifespan for immigrant families in rural communities in Iowa. Some participants are current involved in research situated in rural Iowa communities (such as Columbus Junction and West Liberty). Other participants contemplate community partnerships with rural Iowa community members. Members reflect shared research interests across institutional boundaries. Significant to our work is a deep understanding of the role of campus-community partnerships in order that we give attention/respect to the voices of community partners.

Circulating Cultures


The Circulating Cultures group brings together a range of colleagues in varied disciplines across campus to provide a fertile opportunity for intellectual exchange regarding issues involved in the circulation of cultural forms. Our readings, so far have approached the notion of "cultural forms" in a broad sense, including literature (written, verbal and nonverbal), music, dance, film, as well as more abstract notions such as ideas and identity. Readings approach the topic from diverse theoretical perspectives, providing a framework for discussions of the processes involved in "moving culture," how “culture” is expressed and embodied in various contexts/locales, and how or what is involved in detaching" "it" from specific contexts or locales (decontextualized) and moving into new arenas where it is “recontextualized.” We consider the various mediating institutions, social roles, actors, technologies, and ways they and the relations of power they entail effect processes of cultural movement.

Contemporary Literary and Film Theory


The Contemporary Literary and Film Theory Working group explores the ways in which debates in contemporary literary theory and film theory do and do not overlap. While the disciplines of literary studies and film studies have developed in parallel since the 1970s, the theoretical debates in each discipline have a more varied trajectory. For example, the disciplines have considered the relation between print and audiovisual culture and processes globalization from quite different perspectives, even though the concept of transnationalism has been a key term in both disciplines for at least decade. Likewise, both disciplines have revaluated the relation between ethics, politics, and the arts, but have come to different conclusions regarding central aspects of the relation (including matters of subalternity and counter-hegemony). Finally, matters of digital or new media have prompted both disciplines to reconsider previous theoretical work on narrative and discourse. 

Aging Mind and Brain Initiative


The Aging Mind and Brain Initiative's mission is to develop and study innovative ways to diagnose, prevent, and delay mental decline in older persons. Understanding how aging epigenetically affects brain functioning will allow the understanding, prevention and effective treatment of cognitive degenerative disorders. Under strong leadership, we integrate experts from multiple disciplines to translate expanding knowledge in neuroscience, engineering, biomedical design, nursing and health science systems, and law to ensure a better quality of life for older people now and even more so in the future.

The Grand Challenge is to design and implement specific interventions that measurably increase mind and brain health and quality of life across the lifespan of all Iowans. Indispensible ways to meet this challenge are to modify Iowan’s sedentary lifestyles that lead to known health risks, by translating discovery on key biologic, genetic, behavioral and environmental underpinnings into action.

Missing the Woods for the Trees: A Critical Examination of Sustainable Development


This multi-disciplinary working group will study the intricate connections between energy, forests, water and socio-cultural factors that are intrinsic to the notion of “sustainable development”. The particular focus of the group is to understand what sustainable development means in economically stressed parts of the world, particularly in Asia, South America and Africa. In these locales firewood is the primary energy source for families. Approximately 3 billion people cook with firewood. The result of this activity is loss of forest areas, with the attendant biodiversity loss, rainfall shortages, diminishing groundwater, topsoil loss and desertification. These tragic events put already stressed communities into a spiral from which recovery is difficult. Cooking with fire is time consuming for women and leads to severe health problems (respiratory illnesses constitute the fifth largest health threat in the developing world). And yet firewood collection also helps to sustain communities. Sale and barter of firewood supplements the meager income of these families. In addition, collection of firewood offers women (who collect firewood) social spaces where they can form bonds with neighbors and their children.

Comparative Ethnic Studies Working Group


The Comparative Ethnic Studies Working Group aims to create a space for scholars to engage in a discussion about race and ethnicity as it intersects with additional aspects on difference, including gender, sexualities, ability, and class in national and transnational contexts.

Gender and Social Justice


The focus of this working group is broadly Gender and Social Justice. More specifically we propose to use the lens of cosmopolitan feminism to look closely at three areas:
1) feminist theory,
2) gender and justice,
3) sexuality, gender, and health disparities.

While these may appear only loosely connected, there is a great deal of overlap, and it is that overlap which draws together the scholars interested in this working group. The legal, social, corporeal, and economic issues women face in places across the globe that were previously colonialized (decolonized),  occupied, isolated, and/or economically marginalized are often similar to the issues that women who have been incarcerated in the United States face as survivors of poverty, abuse, addiction, educational and medical marginalization. The status of medical care and access to health education is also similar for women who are incarcerated and women who live in geographical  locations that are isolated, where development has stagnated, the economic infrastructure has crumbled, and the local resources have been depleted or have always been scarce.

While every location offers a different context and set of circumstances with which to wrestle in terms of history, oppression, policy, and need, we would like to combine our interdisciplinary expertise to explore, apply and create theory around these ideas in specific geographical contexts that could be fruitful for the development of feminist scholarship and practice on campus.

The University of Iowa UNESCO City of Literature Mobile Application Development Team


In October 2010, following two years of development, The University of Iowa UNESCO City of Literature Mobile Application Development Team [“UCOL”] launched "City of Lit," an app for Apple mobile devices. The app is the result of a collaborative effort by faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate researchers in the School of Art and Art History Media Social Practice and Design - Intermedia Program, the School of Library and Information Science, Computer Science, English and the Writing University. Our group includes two recent UIowa PhD alumni, now working at other educational institutions.

UCOL research reflect a growing interest at The University of Iowa and nationally in public digital humanities and interdisciplinary practice. “City of Lit” highlights the University of Iowa and Iowa City’s rich literary history via traditional scholarship, multimedia, and mapping technologies. Home of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop since 1922 and designated in 2008 as one of only five “UNESCO Cities of Literature,” Iowa City has a long and proud history as a community of writers, one recognized nationally and internationally.