Middlebury archives

The Axinn Center for the Humanities supports a yearly Humanities Faculty Research Seminar focused on a particular theme.

The seminar is designed to support faculty as they pursue their research projects and to create collaboration and community around those projects.

With input from the participants, the seminar leader develops a rough outline of thematic connections to explore in relation to the theme, along with a short bibliography. Seminar participants each work on a piece of scholarship connected to the chosen theme—an article, book chapter, or other defined scholarly product.

The seminar convenes at least monthly, following an agreed-upon schedule of readings and/or short presentations along with discussion. Participants then present their work in a panel presentation or series of talks either in the spring of their seminar year or during the following fall.

’The Body‘ Seminar Participants

Laurie Essig

Professor of Gender, Sexuality, Feminist Studies

Leader of the Seminar

Kristin Bright

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Activism, Labor, and the Body under Biocapitalism
In the realm of international cancer policy, there are digital writers and activists who engage in hundreds of hours of uncompensated yet highly consequential labor every year, affecting the direction of public opinion and clinical research. In this project, I look at cancer activism as a site of dissolving screens, where separations of the physical and digital body, computer and clinic, and paid and unpaid labor are increasingly blurred. Online activism offers possibilities for mobilization, but individual efforts are rarely recognized or compensated even as they are material to the success of patient engagement and drug sales. In conversation with critical appraisals of technoscience and care (Puig de la Bellacasa 2011) and biofinancialization (Lilley & Papadopoulos 2014), I consider the critical value of humanities frameworks in making activist bodies and labor legible. 

Madison Felman-Panagotacos

Visiting Assistant Professor of Luso-Hispanic Studies

Genie Giaimo

Assistant Professor of Writing and Rhetoric; Director, Writing Center

Chronic: Narratives about Aging, Chronic Illness, and Disability in Academia shares findings from a field-wide survey and in-depth interviews of academic workers who are experiencing different life events (e.g., chronic illness, disability, new diagnosis, caretaking, aging) and how these impact their work. This project reveals deep and widespread systemic ableism in academia and offers ways in which we can make our workspaces more ethical and supportive.


Chong Han

Professor of Sociology

Rachael Joo

Associate Professor of American Studies

Cynthia Packert

Christian A. Johnson Professor of History of Art

Patricia Saldarriaga

Professor of Luso-Hispanic Studies

’Digital Humanities‘ Seminar Participants

Carrie Anderson

Associate Director of The Axinn Center for the Humanities, Assistant Professor of History of Art and Architecture

Leader of the Seminar

For this project I am extracting and visualizing archival data related to the eighteenth-century Dutch bead trade in West and West Central Africa and the Americas. This work is part of a larger project that interrogates the relationship between the material commodities that drove Dutch Atlantic trade—especially textiles, coral, and glass beads—and the European images, documents, and literature that describe them. Rather than reinforce the social and cultural meanings ascribed to them in European art and literature, this project recontextualizes these material goods within the African and American geographies in which they circulated. The goal of this project is to tell a richer story of Dutch Atlantic art and trade, one that speaks to the dialogic and intercultural nature of bodily adornment in the early modern world.

Ellery Foutch

Associate Professor of American Studies

Rebekah Irwin

Director and Curator, Special Collections and Archives

My project centers on a little known voice from Middlebury’s past: Viola Chittenden White (1890-1977), the first curator of American literature in Middlebury’s Starr Library. Viola White was described as a poet, scholar, and loner who preferred books to people. To compensate for her reclusiveness, Viola White turned to Middlebury’s natural surroundings for companionship. She often embarked before dawn on a twelve-mile walk for breakfast at a local inn, returning by foot to start her day in the library. She recorded her daily walks in diaries—roughly 50,000 pages survive—which she later self-published as Not Faster Than a Walk (1939) and A Vermont Diary (1956). I hope to explore how spatial visualizations—possibly using GIS and an accompanying StoryMaps website—can reanimate Viola White’s diaries. I plan to revive her writings with maps, images, and audio not only to re-enact her walks but to reveal Viola White’s character and stamina to new audiences. I also aim to offer a case study in the uses of data visualization to renew and revitalize the sometimes slow and painstaking process of archival research.

Marguerite Lenius

Assistant Professor of History of Art and Architecture

Elsa Barraza Mendoza

Assistant Professor of History

Kathryn Morse


John C. Elder Professor of Environmental Studies; Professor of History

I am working on a born-digital visual history of rural anti-poverty programs during the late New Deal Era, currently entitled After Migrant Mother.  Created on the digital publishing platform Scalar, this book combines images and text to explore the visual narratives created by Farm Security Administration supervisors, as well as the on-the-ground experiences of the rural Americans who sought loans and help from the government on small farms in the rural south and west.  Through these sources, I explore connections between and amongst ideas of land, family, race, class, and gender in rural America.  While exploring the ways in which the FSA itself used data to track and narrate the success of its programs I am also using U.S. Census data and even broader databases (ancestry) to place the individual families in FSA programs within the broader context of national patterns in rural population and agricultural production as the nation entered the Second World War.

Christopher Star

Professor of Classics