Museum studies’ ‘Surviving the Long Wars’ program evolves with NEH grant

Two University of Illinois Chicago scholars will team with two Chicago-based veteran artists through a project backed by a National Endowment for the Humanities’ Dialogues on the Experiences of War grant.

The $100,000 award funds the project, “Surviving the Long Wars: Visualizing Parallels Between the U.S. ‘Indian Wars’ and the ‘Global War of Terror,’” co-led by Therese Quinn, professor and director of museum and exhibition studies, and Ronak K. Kapadia, UIC associate professor of gender and women’s studies. They will partner with Joseph Lefthand, artist, Marine Corps veteran and descendent from the Cheyenne-Arapaho, Taos and Zuni tribes; and Aaron Hughes, artist, Iraq war veteran and UIC adjunct assistant professor of art history.

Building on the successful 2018-2019 NEH Dialogues on the Experience of War grant titled “A Century of War and Survival,” the group will team with the emerging Veteran Art Movement to organize a new program that incorporates academic study, curatorial research and focused group discussions culminating in veteran-led discussion forums at the second Veteran Art Triennial and Summit in Chicago in March 2023.

The group will host a comprehensive program that prepares a cohort of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color veteran artists/community leaders, called veteran fellows, to facilitate humanities discussions based on the themes of intimacy, resilience and solidarity across differences. Hughes will lead a related two-semester course open to undergraduate and graduate students at UIC, where the fellows will serve as discussion leaders.

In preparation to host these discussions, the veteran fellows will participate in a three-phase preparatory program organized around comparative approaches to war, history and identity. During this program, the fellows and UIC students will study an interdisciplinary set of humanities sources illuminating connections and contradictions between the 18th and 19th century U.S. “Indian Wars” and the 21st century “Global War on Terror.”

Collectively, this program will create opportunities for fellows, students and the public to deepen their understanding of the experience of war by examining the multiple, overlapping histories that inform contemporary U.S. warfare as well as alternative visions of peace, healing and justice created by diverse communities.

The project will culminate in veteran-led forums at the second National Veteran Art Movement Triennial and Summit at the Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago Art Club Garden, the Newberry Library, the Hyde Park Art Center and other venues in 2023.

Veteran fellows for the project will include Gerald Sheffield (Army), Eric Perez (Marine Corps), Natasha Erskine (Air Force), Monty Little (Marine Corps) and a fifth fellow to be determined.

The project will include contributions and collaborations with scholars and artists including Tom Jones from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Lucy Mensah from UIC; Michael Rakowitz from Northwestern University; artist Chris Pappan; and Allison Peters Quinn from the Hyde Park Art Center. Through a concurrently funded Humanities Innovation Grant from the UIC Institute for the Humanities, Kapadia and Quinn will co-curate a virtual scholarly lecture series in academic year 2022-2023 on “New Directions in Comparative Ethnic and Native Studies.” The series will feature lectures and discussion by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz from California State University; Kyle T. Mays from University of California, Los Angeles: Laleh Khalili from Queen Mary University of London; independent scholar and activist Harsha Walia; and Nick Estes from the University of Minnesota.

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