Event Recap: An Afternoon with Tommy Orange

The Center for Research, Artistic, and Scholarly Excellence (CRASE) had the immense pleasure to host celebrated novelist Tommy Orange over three separate events held over Zoom on April 19, 2021.

In the first session, Tommy Orange spoke to a select group of about 15 students from the English Department, the School of Education, and the MFA in Creative Writing program. All the students attending had read There There and had the chance to pose questions they had wondered about in class directly to the author, which is a rare opportunity. Topics ranged from the potential pitfalls of writing autobiographical fiction, the challenges of experimental writing, the importance of indigenous literature, strategies for building characters, and even the thorny ethical dilemmas that can come when one writes about people who are still alive (and just so happen to be members of your family).

Students had great questions about the use of perspective and point of view in the novel, such as the use of second person in one of the chapters. Tommy Orange gave us great insight as to how this is part of his creative process, and how he plays with perspective to see “what it will do” to the story. Additionally, he gave us insight into how much of the story is based on his own experiences, woven into these characters, invoking the concept of “auto-fiction.” These ideas really stuck with students and, again, the opportunity to engage a writer directly with their thoughts, observations, and inquiries was a wonderful way to develop their academic experience! Tommy Orange responded with both thoughtfulness and graciousness. The students asked smart question, and he responded in kind. The event was a great success.

During the second event, Tommy Orange met with faculty to discuss the pieces they wrote in response to his book. Faculty responses, which were published in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Perspectives and Scholarship, reflected on place and identity in a modern world. Each faculty who wrote a response explained their piece to Tommy Orange and how the book inspired their work. The conversation between Tommy Orange and the faculty responders evolved into a dialogue related to his thoughts on the response pieces and next steps for his writing.

When asked about how Native Americans can bridge the dichotomy between tradition and modernity—a theme he addresses in his book—Tommy Orange said that one of the challenges he liked to take up in his writing was giving voice to Native Americans in the present, because they are always otherwise spoken of in terms of the past, relegated to history as it were. He brought up the arguments made in David Treuer’s excellent essay that make a persuasive case for returning America’s national parks to its original peoples. In addressing the experience of visiting national parks and the question of representing Native Americans in the present, Treuer writes, “Indians were barely mentioned on the signage, and I don’t remember meeting any Native rangers or even sensing that we existed as anything other than America’s past tense.”

In the final session attended by over 160 people, Tommy Orange was in conversation with Laleh Khadivi, novelist and Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at USF. In this wonderful, wide-ranging conversation they spoke about the writing process, the genre of auto-fiction (writing that is close to memoir but not quite memoir), literary influences, and Tommy Orange’s second book, among other topics. Tommy Orange read from There There, a section titled “Apparent Death,” and spoke about how his own graphic dreams had informed the depiction of a mass shooting. While his reading struck a somber note—“….the fact that we’ve been fighting for decades to be recognized as a present-tense people, modern and relevant, alive, only to die in the grass wearing feathers”—it was extremely relevant in the context of ubiquitous gun violence, and the here and now of Native Americans in the country.

(With contributions from Erin Grinshteyn, Christina Garcia Lopez, Dean Rader and Tanu Sankalia)

Philosophy in the American West, A Geography of Thought

Picture of Gerard KuperusUSF Associate Professor of Philosophy, Gerard Kuperus, published a co-edited volume (with Brian Treanor and Josh Hayes, Routledge, 2020) about philosophy in our part of the world—the American West. Cities such as San Francisco and Seattle could be considered to be the contemporary equivalent of Ancient Athens, certainly in terms of its wealth, and possibly also as a place ideal for thinking. While Athens was influenced by Asia to the East, the West Coast of the USA is in dialogue with Asian traditions to the West, Europe to the East, Latin America to the south, and is home to indigenous philosophies. The American West as this meeting ground for different traditions can be seen as a fertile basis for philosophy and it is this insight that provides the philosophical background to Philosophy in the American West.

The project started with the 10th anniversary meeting of the Pacific Association for the Continental Tradition (PACT). The conference took place in 2018 in Yosemite and was organized around the theme “Thinking in the West.” PACT is an organization co-founded by Kuperus and has brought together philosophers from different traditions (including Asian and Indigenous), artists, and writers. As a West Coast organization PACT has always emphasized place even while it has attracted scholars from all parts of the country as well as Europe and Asia. In many ways the book is the result of the collaborations that PACT has engaged in during its first decade.

Philosophy in the American West explores the physical, ecological, cultural, and narrative environments associated with the western United States, reflecting on the relationship between people and the places that sustain them.

The American West has long been recognized as having significance. From Crèvecoeur’s early observations in Letters from an American Farmer (1782), to Thoreau’s reflections in Walden (1854), to twentieth-century thoughts on the legacy of a vanishing frontier, “the West” has played a pivotal role in the American narrative and in the American sense of self. But while the nature of “westernness” has been touched on by historians, sociologists, and, especially, novelists and poets, this collection represents the first attempt to think philosophically about the nature of “the West” and its influence on us. The contributors take up thinkers that have been associated with Continental Philosophy and pair them with writers, poets, and artists of “the West.” And while this collection seeks to loosen the cords that tie philosophy to Europe, the traditions of “continental” philosophy—phenomenology, hermeneutics, deconstruction, and others—offer deep resources for thinking through the particularity of place.

The book contains twelve original chapters, including (besides the chapter and co-written introduction by Kuperus) two contributions from other USF faculty: Amanda Parris (Philosophy) and Marjolein Oele (Philosophy).


For more information:

https://www.routledge.com/Philosophy-in-the-American-West-A-Geography-of-Thought/Hayes-Kuperus-Treanor/p/book/9780367489502

The Pacific Association for the Continental Tradition (PACT): https://pactphilosophy.org/

The Art of Insurrection

Pedro Lange-Churión and John Zarobell

On Tuesday, April 20, 2021, Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd and the public has seen, at long last, that our justice system is capable of prosecuting and punishing police officers who brutalize black and brown bodies. This decision can in no way reconcile the injustices faced by minorities in this country. Indeed, during the trial, it was reported that on average three people of color per day are killed by police officers in the United States. This story is not resolved but the protests against police violence that took place over the summer of 2020 and the civil disorder that resulted have also reignited a creative legacy of protest art that has been a key element of social protest movements around the world and in the Bay Area.

This piece, a collaboration between us, was an effort to capture the political divides in this country as they emerge on the contested streets of Oakland. The rifts left by Donald Trump’s efforts to drag the country away from any social progress we might have achieved over the last 100 or so years frames both, the civil unrest and our efforts to read it through the renegade public art that materialized in the very center of the city. We aimed to create a dialectic between images and texts about the city, about racial politics, and about the revolutionary efforts to demand rights for all people and to assert, above all, that Black Lives Matter.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

Floydway

Street sign painted with text "Floydway"
Photo: Pedro Lange-Churión

You had such a vision of the street                                                 As the street hardly understands —T.S. Eliot, Preludes

*

This renaming to Floydway marks the street as a site of trauma. Floyd himself looks on. It is a moment of discontinuity that generates a new symbolic, an intervention against the reality of the power and violence of the state, manifested in the planning and maintenance of the city. Rancière calls this dissensus, this break in consciousness that emerges from the rewriting of the street in the name of those subverted by it. The subversive laughter brings out an unintended response to the city as it is.


Citation and link to the full article:

Lange-Churión, Pedro, and John Zarobell. “Report from Oakland: The Art of Insurrection.” Theory & Event 23, no. 5 (2020): S-110-S-126. muse.jhu.edu/article/775406.

Faculty Spotlight: June Lee

June Lee is an Assistant Professor in Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Strategy, and International Business at University of San Francisco’s School of Management, and recent recipient of the 2020 Emerging Scholar Award from the Women in the Academy of International Business. This award recognizes one female AIB junior scholar for her potential and high-quality research in international business and gender. Our conversation discusses her research interests and how she became a professor at USF.

Briefly describe your research and recent work. How did you first become interested in this topic?

Before I began my career in academia, I was working in financial services. During the global financial crisis in 2008, I noticed that entrepreneurship was withstanding the weight of the crisis; in fact, entrepreneurship was booming. So I became interested in the discipline academically, and decided to pursue graduate degrees at Stanford University where I studied entrepreneurship and innovation.

How have the themes or focuses of your research changed over time? Are the discourses changing in international entrepreneurship and gender?

In recent years, I became more interested in the international aspect of entrepreneurship. Everything is becoming global these days, and unsurprisingly, entrepreneurship is at the forefront of this phenomenon. This leads to interesting topics that we can study and observe. For instance, immigrant entrepreneurs that I interviewed were utilizing cross-border resources and networks, and their outcome and performance would vary greatly because of the institutional contexts that they were faced with. I also became interested in the journey undertaken by female immigrant entrepreneurs—how and why they were choosing to become entrepreneurs, and how their multi-faceted identity shaped the type of entrepreneurship activities that they were engaged in.

What research or work are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my recent publication on female transnational entrepreneurs. In this study, my co-author and I developed a qualitative case study of Korean American female entrepreneurship in the San Francisco Bay Area and explored the intersectionality dynamic of ethnicity and gender. My study establishes a specific ‘gendered’ trajectory of female transnational entrepreneurs whose entrepreneurial motives and performances are influenced and shaped by a number of different individual and structural factors (e.g., gender, family role, immigrant status, ethnic identity, and transnational networks and resources).

Lee, J. Y., & Lee, J. Y. (2020). Female Transnational Entrepreneurs (FTEs): A Case Study of Korean American Female Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Emerging Economies, 6(1), 67-83.

When you earned your PhD from Stanford University, were you focused on becoming an academic or did you consider another career?

My focus was to find an opportunity with which I could apply my knowledge, skills, and interests in the areas of entrepreneurship. In particular, an academic position that would allow me to engage in entrepreneurship research and education was compelling to me.

What brought you to USF?

I discovered this USF faculty position through a professional association to which I belong. I did like the proximity to San Francisco Bay Area, which is considered as the hub of entrepreneurship and innovation. In addition, it would allow me to leverage my existing network of entrepreneurs, investors, corporates, and other professionals in this area. Finally, I liked the balance of both teaching and research at USF and how the two could be aligned to inform each other.

What does the Emerging Scholar Award mean to you?

It was definitely a humbling experience to receive the 2020 Emerging Scholar Award from the Women in Academy of International Business. It motivates me to keep learning from more experienced scholars and senior researchers, and to make greater contributions to the field.

What are you looking at next?

I am working on numerous exciting research projects in the field of international and gender entrepreneurship, with faculty members at both USF and other institutions. For example, one study examines how female immigrant entrepreneurs utilize social media platforms in their entrepreneurship journey; another project assesses the impact of COVID-19 on the Silicon Valley entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Hard Questions: Learning to Teach Controversial Issues

Photo of Judy PaceJudy Pace, Professor in the School of Education, has published a new book. It’s based on a cross-national study–funded by the Spencer Foundation–that examines teaching controversial issues, teacher educators’ methodology for teacher preparation, and novice teachers’ efforts in secondary classrooms. Pace was recently selected to be part of a pilot cohort of grantees in the Spencer Foundation’s Research Communications Grant Program, aimed at broadening the impact of research.

Teaching controversial issues in the classroom is now more urgent and fraught than ever as we face up to rising authoritarianism, racial and economic injustice, and looming environmental disaster. Despite evidence that teaching controversy is critical, educators often avoid it. How then can we prepare and support teachers to undertake this essential but difficult work? Based on a cross-national qualitative study, Hard Questions: Learning to Teach Controversial Issues, examines teacher educators’ efforts to prepare preservice teachers for teaching controversial issues that matter for democracy, justice, and human rights. It presents four detailed cases of teacher preparation in three politically divided societies: Northern Ireland, England, and the United States.

Pace developed a grounded theory that explains an organizing principle across teacher educators’ approaches called “contained risk-taking.” As a group, the teacher educators taught a set of eight strategies for exploring controversial issues in classrooms while containing the potential risks, such as classroom conflict, harm to students, and recriminations from parents or administrators. Contained risk-taking is particularly relevant for teaching controversial issues in a highly contentious and polarized political climate.

The book traces graduate students’ learning from university coursework into the classrooms where they work to put what they have learned into practice. It explores their application of pedagogical tools and the factors that facilitated or hindered their efforts to teach controversy. The book’s cross-national perspective is compelling to a broad and diverse audience, raising critical questions about teaching controversial issues and providing educators, researchers, and policymakers tools to help them fulfill this essential democratic mission of education.

In the following interview, Professor Judy Pace discusses her new book with Valentina Sarmiento, a recent graduate of the USF Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program. They talk about how the book speaks to the current political moment, differences in approaches to teaching controversial issues, and generative ideas for applying the book’s lessons to curriculum development and teaching in today’s classrooms.

Faculty Spotlight: Susan Steinberg

USF Professor and English Department chair Susan Steinberg is the author of four books and recent recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship. Awarded on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise, Professor Steinberg was chosen from a group of almost 3,000 applicants in the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation’s ninety-sixth competition. Our conversation discusses her writing achievements and plans for the future.

Susan Steinberg photo

When did you realize you had a passion for writing?

I liked to write stories as a kid, and I kept diaries as a teenager, but I was always more interested in visual art—I went to art school and majored in painting. At the end of my junior year, I was injured in a car accident and couldn’t paint for months. During that time, I was writing a lot—they were mostly rants that I wrote in columns in a spiral notebook—and I continued to work on these after I was back in the studio. I gradually started taking the writing more seriously, and after graduating, I decided to take a few workshops and was encouraged by a teacher to pursue an MFA in fiction.

How did you end up at USF?

After grad school, I taught in a small town in western Missouri for two years.  It was a great experience, but I wanted to live in a city again, so I applied for several teaching jobs and was most excited about USF.

How has winning a Guggenheim Fellowship impacted your writing?

The Guggenheim has coincided with the pandemic, and I haven’t fully benefitted from it yet.  That said, I feel inspired just knowing the support is there, and I’ve been hard at work on a new project. Once we can travel again, I plan to do much of the writing in Paris and Rome.

Describe some of your recent work.

My most recently published book, Machine, is an experimental novel that follows a group of teenagers living in a beach town in a summer during which a girl drowns; the narrator is a girl who’s fixated on the night it happened.  My previous book, Spectacle, is a collection of linked experimental short stories.

How have the themes of your writing evolved over time, and have recent events changed those?

I’m often convinced that we write one story for our entire lives; it just takes on new forms and details from piece to piece.  Recently, I looked back at some things I wrote when I was a teenager, and I was amazed by how much it resembled the writing in my books, even formally.  I often write about family dysfunction, relationships, gender, privilege, trauma, and loss.  Recent personal events have shifted the themes even more, but recent global events haven’t contributed as much. It’s unlikely I’ll be writing about the pandemic or the election.

How do you bring these themes to your courses at USF?

I don’t intend to bring my own writing topics into class, though similar issues often appear in the work we’re discussing, whether it’s published or student work.  My course topics are often on whatever I’m questioning at the time. Most recently I’ve taught courses on Point of View, Excess, and Literary Controversy, and next semester I’m teaching a course on Distance at the University of Iowa.

What are you looking at next?

I’m currently working on a novel which attempts to subvert the literary “trope” of the “missing girl.” It also explores perceptions of masculinity.