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Viral Culture

The Northeastern Humanities Center, which is housed in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, has selected two Northeastern University graduate students for the 2013-14 Humanities Center Resident Fellowship Program with the theme “Viral Culture.”

The two graduate student fellows and their projects are:

Lana Cook, PhD Candidate, Department of English, College of Social Sciences and Humanities; “Altered States: The American Psychedelic Aesthetic”

Lana Cook’s project focuses on American literature and film from 1954 to 1969. The project catalogues the formal and thematic strategies of the psychedelic aesthetic, a tradition of literary, cinematic, and visual representations of psychedelic drug experiences. In this understudied, but richly influential tradition, artists employed realist narrative structures to situate the psychedelic experience. By analyzing audience engagement with psychedelic themes of empathy and expanding consciousness, Cook explores the way in which the psychedelic aesthetic spread virally across American culture, contributing to postmodernism and the social liberation movements of the 1960s.

M.J. Motta, PhD Candidate, Law and Public Policy, College of Social Sciences and Humanities; “Policy Innovation, Learning, and Diffusion in Offshore Wind Development”

M.J. Motta’s research examines how new policy areas originate, and how they initially spread across jurisdictional borders, by asking two questions: How do policymakers engage in policy learning in a newly developing policy area? And how do these policymakers apply the results of their policy learning—that is, how do implementation practices diffuse across borders in a newly developing policy area? To this end, Motta’s study utilizes an in-depth, comparative case study of mid-level state policymakers in Massachusetts, Texas, Rhode Island, and California as they implement offshore wind energy policy.

These two graduate students will join the previously announced six faculty fellows:

  • Nicole Aljoe, Assistant Professor, Department of English, College of Social Sciences and Humanities; “‘Do you Remember the Days of Slav’ry?’: The Neo-Slave Narrative in Contemporary Caribbean Cultural Production”
  • Ryan Cordell, Assistant Professor, Department of English, College of Social Sciences and Humanities; “Uncovering Reprinting Networks in Nineteenth-Century American Periodicals”
  • Ilham Khuri-Makdisi, Associate Professor, Department of History, College of Social Sciences and Humanities; “The Waves That Bind: Radio Broadcasting in Lebanon and Beyond, 1958-1968”
  • Justin Manjourides, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Sciences, Bouvé College of Health Sciences; “The Application of Infectious Disease Surveillance Methodologies to Humanities Data”
  • Suzanna Danuta Walters, Director of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program; Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, College of Social Sciences and Humanities; “‘The Viral is Political’: Sexual Identity, Sexual Violence, Social Media”
  • Sara Wylie, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, College of Social Sciences and Humanities; “Redesigning WellWatch with Open Source Hardware Tools for Environmental Investigation”

The program, which will run from September 2013 to May 2014, will facilitate productive discussions and collaborations among the participants. Fellows will attend regular meetings with a rotating schedule of research reporting and collaboration; participate in monthly research colloquium presentations for Northeastern faculty, staff and students; and share their work at a yearly summit celebrating the theme.

The 2013-14 theme of “viral culture” names modes of circulation and transmission of information, ideas, and biota across time and space. The Humanities Center thinks of “viral culture” as a way to engage an array of important and emergent contemporary phenomena related to areas as diverse as social networks, the internet, new media, public health, sexuality, marketing, and globalization. Viral culture has roots, as well, in fields as diverse as the history of public health, economics, literature, transportation, and print culture. With this theme, scholars working in diverse fields and periods will consider the ways in which the viral transmission of memes, diseases, electronic signals, and print texts – of varied forms of culture – inform new research.

Future themes for the Northeastern Humanities Center Resident Fellowship Program will include “By Design” (2014-15) and “Trans-identification” (2015-16).
For more information on the program, please visit the Humanities Center’s website at

– Courtesy of CSSH Dean’s Office

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