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2020 SIAH

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Contested Bodies: Power, Identity, and the Life Cycle

June 22- August 21, 2020

Contemporary Western societies and American popular culture are fascinated with the body—its desirability and fertility, birth and death, development and aging, health and illness, transformation and modification, and ability and disability. In the contemporary world, the body stands at the nexus of the forces of individualism and collectivism. The body is simultaneously the location of both affirming and contesting cultural norms, political hierarchies, and socio-economic relationships. The way the body has been sensed, experienced, and imagined, however, has changed over time, as has its relationship to the world around it. How have societies understood the body, acted on the body, and made sense of the body’s life cycle over time and across cultures? How have broader struggles about identity, power, and ethics played out on the body and through the body? How might a historical and cross-cultural study of these meaning-making processes shape our own understanding of the ways in which the body dominates popular culture and politics in our society today? The 2020 Summer Institute for Arts and Humanities (SIAH) will draw on case studies on the body in various societies from the ancient to the contemporary world. Each case study will offer a different set of insights into how the biological and conceptual body has been implicated in meaning making around identity, sexuality, reproduction, aging, health, illness, and death across cultures. Students will be invited to consider the constructedness of the body and the debates surrounding it, and they will conduct research to focus on the contested, variegated ways in which the body has been ascribed meaning in the past and present. By understanding the construction of the body across history and cultures, students will be able to better reflect upon how the body is imagined and experienced in our own time and culture. By focusing on the historically and culturally unfamiliar, students will reevaluate what is familiar and debated about the body in their own society. Students will participate in experiential learning activities, lectures, group discussions, workshops, excursions, peer reviews, and faculty tutorial sessions. They will read and discuss theoretical readings and employ critical frameworks from a variety of fields in the arts and humanities. Students will then apply these approaches in completing multi-disciplinary research projects on the body motivated by their own ethical, intellectual, and creative commitments, concerns, and curiosities.

The institute will conclude with a day-long “Contested Bodies” seminar and event, in which students will present and/or perform their research projects. Learn more about the 2020 teaching team, application process, and sign up for an information session.

Teaching Team

Adam Warren

Associate Professor, History

Associate Professor, Adam Warren
Adam Warren is an associate professor in the Department of History, where he teaches courses in Latin American history and the history of medicine. A specialist in colonial and republican Peru, his research examines how medical and scientific research have been used to explain social inequalities and frame projects of population reform and control in the Andes. He is the author of Medicine and Politics in Colonial Peru: Population Growth and the Bourbon Reforms, published by University of Pittsburgh Press in 2010, and co-author of Baptism Through Incision: The Postmortem Cesarean Operation in the Spanish Empire, published by Penn State University Press in 2020. He has also published numerous articles in history of medicine and Latin American history journals that examine the intersection of Spanish, Indigenous, and African healing practices and ideas about the body in Peru and Bolivia, as well as the treatment of Indigenous patients by Spanish practitioners. His new research focuses on epidemics, the history of medicine, and racial science research in Peru during the late nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century.


Mira Green

Lecturer, History
Mira Green Shoulders away from Camera, Head pointed towards camera in front of wall
F. Mira Green is a Lecturer in Ancient History in the History Department at the University of Washington. Her research focuses on questions of hierarchy and power that are intertwined with ideas about status, gender, food, daily routines and household technologies, and the material expressions of mastery in the Roman world. She has recently finished a book manuscript that examines Roman attitudes towards bodies that eat, digest, and excrete, and the practices associated with these most basic somatic demands. She has also published articles on the sexual lives of female and boy slaves in ancient Rome and the embodied experience of cooks in Roman homes.



Hamza Zafer

Assistant Professor, Near Eastern Languages & Civilization

Hamza Headshot
Hamza M. Zafer is the Assistant Professor of Late Antiquity and Early Islam in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization. His historical and linguistic expertise covers Arabia and the Middle East during the first millennium C.E., with a focus on the religious writings of early Muslims, Jews, and Christians. His forthcoming book The Ummah and Quranic Communalism (Brill, 2020) is an in-depth history of the early Muslim concept of community or “ummah”. He is currently working on a second book titled, The Matriarchs of Medina: Muhammad’s Mothers, Wives and Wet-Nurses in the Quran and Early Islam.



Xiaoshun Zeng

Doctoral Candidate, History

Xiaoshun Zeng Outside on a sunny day
Xiaoshun Zeng is a doctoral student in the Department of History at the University of Washington. Before coming to the UW, he received his BA and MA from Peking University in Beijing, China. His research focuses on history of medicine, history of socialism, and history of modern China. He is currently completing his dissertation project on the history of anti-syphilis campaigns in China’s ethnic minority regions in the 1950s and 1960s.