New Humanities Scholars, Given a Start at Duke, Show Off Their Research

The first of five presentations by new humanities scholars will be held next week.

Orlin Vakarelov, a specialist in the philosophies of cognitive science and information, will present "Pragmatic Semantic Information" at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14, in 202 West Duke Building.

Vakarelov is in the second group of American Council of Learned Societies New Faculty Fellows to come to Duke. The two-year program began here last year as a way to help new humanities scholars start their academic careers. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, it also bolsters humanities departments at a time when money for new hires is still lacking. This year's Duke group is among 38 ACLS has sponsored at universities across the nation.

"It is designed to offer a two-year post-doctoral experience to recently minted humanities PhDs who might otherwise have to leave their field because of the current dearth of academic jobs academic market," said Peter Burian, dean of the humanities. "The fellows gain teaching experience in their chosen field and some research time, and the university benefits from their courses and presence. And, since Duke courted them and they chose Duke, both feel that this is a good fit."

Vakarelov, who holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Arizona, focuses on understanding how information becomes meaningful, and his views often contradict popular theory in the area, he said. With a background in math and logic, his work often connects with sociology and anthropology and other humanities fields.

It is an approach, he said, that makes him a bit of a reach for officials at may universities hiring new faculty.

Vakarelov said he was also drawn to the Duke IDEAS program, which encourages faculty members to collaborate on new curricula.

"Everybody likes interdisciplinary work, but when they have to make the hard decision, they prefer to be safe," he says. "This fellowship gives me a lot of freedom to do what I want to do."

Other new fellows and their presentations include:

-- Nima Bassiri, who received a doctorate in rhetoric from the University of California -- Berkeley. Bassiri will present "Can the Brain Speak the Truth of the Self? Notes on a Historical Development," Thursday, Oct. 11, at 4:30 p.m. in Friedl 225.

-- Cheehyung Kim, who has a doctorate in East Asian/Korean history from Columbia University. He'll present "Between Market and Nation: the People who Leave North Korea," Friday, Oct. 19, at 1 p.m. in 240 Franklin Center.

-- Morgan Adamson, who received a doctorate in Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature from the University of Minnesota -- Twin Cities. She'll present "Inflation and the Image: The 1970s, Ambivalence and the Reign of the Zero," Thursday, Nov. 1, at 4:30 p.m. in Friedl 225.

-- Bradley Rogers, who holds a doctorate in rhetoric from the University of California -- Berkeley. Rogers will present "Beyond Narrative and Spectacle: Melodrama, Musical Theater & the Politics of Disintegration," Tuesday, Dec. 4, at 4:30 p.m. in 128 Bryan Center.