The Board is seeking to fill two open positions for the three-year term starting in fall 2020. Please review the statements of purpose from our nominees. A ballot will be distributed by email in late April.
Although I am a law professor, I have a deep background in the humanities. Prior to law school, I received my Ph.D. in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition, I have a B.A. and an M.A. in history. I loved my history coursework both as an undergraduate student and as a graduate student. During my studies, I was privileged to have a wide range of exceptionally talented history professors. My professors not only brought history to life but they also showed the rigorous nature of historical inquiry. I entered college expecting my history courses to teach me a single narrative based on an accepted body of facts. But what I found in my classes was so much more interesting, engaging, and challenging. I learned that history is a contested and always changing field with new perspectives on the past constantly emerging. My history courses and dissertation research thus taught me to truly appreciate William Faulkner's famous observation that "[t]he past is never dead. It's not even past."
My training in history continues to shape my life. First and foremost, it informs my worldview. One simply cannot understand current events without seeing them in a broader historical context. But my history background also directly influences my academic career. I have written many law review articles on constitutional law, election law, and international and comparative law. But I have also written a book on an important nineteenth-century Supreme Court case and I am current finishing a book manuscript on the trial of the Watergate burglars. Moreover, I rely heavily on history in my law review articles. For example, I have a law review article coming out this spring in the American University Law Review that is titled "James Madison, Citizens United, and the Constitutional Problem of Corruption." In my article, I examine Madison's career as a candidate, party leader and officeholder for clues of how he might have viewed the controversial 2010 case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which turned on the 1st Amendment's freedom of speech and press clauses which Madison himself wrote. History will always inform my scholarship.
Humanistic inquiry is central to the mission of all great universities. Accordingly, by supporting faculty research, teaching innovation, and a lively scholarly community on campus, the Center for the Humanities is vital to the success of Drake University. It therefore would be a privilege and an honor for me to serve as a member of the Board of the Center for the Humanities.
I would be honored to join the Board of the Center for the Humanities at Drake University in the Fall 2020. My work on Senegalese transnational mobility and settlement is thoroughly interdisciplinary. I draw extensively from philosophy in my analysis of ethics and morality among Senegalese lifeworlds in Catalonia, but also in my critique of the biopolitics of immigration law in Spain in particular and the European Union (EU) in general. My principal research project as Assistant Professor in Anthropology at Drake is on Senegalese personhood and lifeworlds, informed by transcultural psychiatry on the one hand and existential anthropology on the other. My work on the moral stakes people face as migrants aims to contribute to humanistically-oriented social sciences concerned with understanding competing spheres of value and the intersecting social imaginaries that ground them within particular instantiations of being-in-the-world.
My on-going research among undocumented, underemployed and precariously housed Senegalese men in Barcelona demonstrates the manner in which the politics of “illegality” in Spain mobilizes normative person categories attuned to neoliberal governance, largely foreclosing alternative modes of construing everyday lived experience. Against a humanitarian discourse foregrounding the need for pastoral care, my interlocutors emphasize personal will and determination in their projection of models of personhood that are informed by transnational dispositions and embedded in their real-time and in-situ enactment. An overarching concern in my work is the role of language and religion in transnational migration, specifically in the crafting of social identities that mediate people’s position as “immigrants” and their enduring relationships back “home.”
Joining the Board of the Center for the Humanities will allow me to make a greater impact on the intellectual life at Drake University. My teaching is focused on understanding the nuances of worldbuilding in different fields of social interaction. This emphasis on “worlds” is central to my teaching because it allows me to shed light on the phenomenological and semiotic dynamics that underpin the human condition, such as processes of othering and subjectification. Such an approach ensures my courses focus on people’s active role in building and apprehending intersecting social worlds, placing great emphasis on the everyday production of meaning from a local-global dialectic. At a time when our global village needs the humanities more than ever, I look forward to exchanging ideas with fellow faculty at the Center for the Humanities on key questions that most challenge our understanding of the human condition today.
I will bring a unique perspective to the Center for the Humanities that will help strengthen its core mission. I look forward to working with fellow faculty at the Center on proposing colloquiums, workshops and other events that may best serve the Greater Des Moines area. To this end, I am particularly interested in creating liaisons with Latinx and South of the Sarah community leaders in order to identify pressing issues, such as the role of civic engagement during the Covid-19 pandemic and the social impact of this crisis on working class migrant families. I look forward to working with fellow faculty to find ways of making our work translate to greater understanding of the human condition at a time of unprecedented change.
Through dialogue and critical reflection, the Humanities have the power to shed light on emergent global challenges and strengthen our democracies. I look forward to joining the Center for the Humanities in the Fall 2020 and gaining new insights into how humanistic research and teaching can lead to positive social change in communities around the globe.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
I am deeply honored that my colleague nominated me to serve as a board member for the Center for the Humanities. I believe that my experience, research, and areas of academic interest would be in alignment with the board’s work to support humanities center projects and activities and encourage “vibrant, ongoing, and collaborative inquiry.”
When I was new to Drake, I participated in the Humanities Center Colloquium Series. I remember being so impressed to see professors and students of various fields giving and receiving feedback and discussing academic work together. I would love to be a part of the board to further the advancement of similarly groundbreaking work. I believe that my participation on the board would add a new dimension to its membership and I would give my best to any tasks we engage.
Thank you again for this potential opportunity.
My recent activities related to my work in the humanities include: