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2016-17 PWR Research Grant Updates

rodan's thinker

Last year, PWR awarded eight research grants to support the scholarly work and intellectual projects of its instructors.  Now that the 2016-2017 academic year is coming to a close, the grant recipients were asked to reflect on their work over the past few months.  Read below to learn more about each of the projects and their progress:

Note: The recipients of the 2017-2018 PWR research awards will be announced in the next newsletter.

Erik Ellis, Gabrielle Moyer, and Kim Savelson

We’re currently in the storyboarding phase of a project that seeks to reinvigorate the genre of the essay in PWR and beyond. We hope to motivate instructors to find ever new ways of teaching the essay, to imagine what makes an essay most valuable, most desirable--beyond a check list. In keeping with our topic, the pedagogical product of our work will not be a final spoken presentation with handouts but rather something that enacts (at least a few of) the concepts central to our thinking. Our goal here is to be generative rather than prescriptive, to produce an end product that is itself essayistic--dynamic, contextualized, kairotic, at risk, in process .

Kevin DiPirro

My research grant was to research and develop materials for a site-specific devised performance called “Hamlet’s Machine” about tech, surveillance, and secrets, planned tentatively for Stanford Mall. I spent the end of the summer researching plays in NYC on family secrets in particular, including “The Curious Incident,” and “Fun Home.” I interviewed family members on Long Island. Out of other source materials—and my own writings on Hamlet, Prince, and Steph Curry--I created a set of workshop prompts and designs and secured Stanford student Hamlets and space in Roble Arts Gym to develop the next phase. The robo-cop in Stanford Mall that was supposed to be the 21st century apotheosis of Hamlet’s Ghost--and our interactive center in the participatory guerrilla piece—ran over and harmed a child in summer (as my proposal predicted, oh fate!) and has been removed from the mall. So I will be re-imagining what form the work will take out of the spring workshop—I still have video footage of the robo ghost--perhaps there will be a mixed media public ‘master’ class workshop on campus in spring or fall.

Donna Hunter

When I applied for this research grant last year after teaching my PWR 194, “Empathy: A Rhetorical Tool on the Fight for Social Justice?” I was particularly interested in how student activists from marginalized communities might use empathy productively to listen to and understand people whose perspectives conflicted with their own without feeling that their understanding meant or would lead to capitulation. I also wanted to research how this ability could be cultivated in ways that didn’t compromise activists’ mental health but that would instead encourage fruitful dialogue and action within marginalized and activist communities and between marginal and centered communities. This course inspired the Engaging Students’ Lived Experience Faculty Learning Community as well.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to teach the course again this winter, so I believe my sample size is too small to be revealing. With this in mind, I am exploring a more participatory research approach where I work with student activists to determine what research will best serve them. I will propose empathy, as well as how student activists and instructors/professors might work together more productively, as potential foci, but will design the research questions with the student activists.

Maxe Crandall

My research grant helped to fund the Sarah Schulman event I organized in October. Moving forward it will allow me important opportunities for both creative and academic work. I will travel to Paris this summer to complete archival work for my critical biography Gertrude Stein and Men. What remains of the grant will help me attend the Lambda Literary Writers Retreat, where I've been selected as a playwriting fellow. I'm grateful to be in a program where all of my work is recognized and supported.

Selby Schwartz

For the past ten years, I have been writing a book called Drag Dances: Realness, Afterlives, & the Bodies of Others. I started writing this book because I fell in love with a company of drag dancers, and then because, when I tried to teach their work to my undergraduate class at UC Berkeley, I couldn’t find any readings to assign.

If the book didn’t exist, I decided, I would write it myself.

I spent the next decade interviewing dancers in cramped dressing rooms and watching grainy videos.

In fall 2015, I submitted my manuscript to University of Michigan Press.

The PWR Research Award arrived when I had just received my reader reports. The readers were thoughtful and encouraging, but they also urged an expansion of the ‘archive’ of performances, noting that the book could do more to advocate for an inclusive historiography of queer dance. I had struggled with precisely this issue in the research process: while there are abundant venues for drag performance in the US, many of them quite fierce about their status as havens for trans and queer-of-color communities, there have historically been very few commercial dance theaters that present drag dances as dance. Recently, though, mainstream dance has begun to open up; I proposed to do a new round of interviews with artists who were engaging with the politics of embodiment and representation.

With the support of the PWR Research Award, I flew to New York in Sept 2016, did interviews with choreographers like Miguel Gutierrez and Katy Pyle, sorted through early Ballets Trockadero clippings in the Jerome Robbins collection, attended a workshop with Takao Kawaguchi at the Japan Society, and watched non-circulating footage of Mark Morris’ Dido and Aeneas at BAM. Currently, I am incorporating this new material as I revise the manuscript, which I plan to submit this summer.

For the record, I am still in love.

Norah Fahim and Jennifer Johnson

Norah Fahim, in collaboration with Jennifer Johnson, received a PWR research grant for their research entitled “Restory-ing” the Multilingual Narrative: Learning from the Voices of PWR Students at Stanford University.

Through this narrative-based study, we seek to learn about the rich cultural and linguistic resources multilingual students bring to Stanford University, thereby providing our students a space to highlight the often-unacknowledged assets they provide the broader university context. We chose a narrative approach since “narratives represent knowledge from the bottom up” (Canagarajah, 1996, p. 327). When listening to students’ voices we gain a more nuanced perspective on their relevant written and oral communication needs—as situated in their socio-cultural experiences. After receiving IRB approval in Fall 2016, we began reaching out to potential student participants during Winter 2017. Our first round of interviews took place during week 9 of Winter quarter. We completed the remaining interviews at the start of Spring 2017, and in addition we will have one final focus group meeting. We anticipate holding between 10 to 12 interviews in total and we reported our preliminary findings at the Qualitative Research Network's Roundtable at CCCC (Portland, March 2017). In the wake of recent socio political changes, we are finding it ever more important to understand the perspectives and needs of our MLL students here at Stanford. We owe this to our students.

John Peterson

My PWR grant supports travel and research to explore the implications of using Google Docs for classroom instruction, particularly looking at the consequences of online surveillance and corporate control of personal privacy. My focus on surveillance is part of a larger set of research activities I have been doing with Norah Fahim and Jenea Cohn. In fall 2016, we presented ATXpo, a consortium of Bay Area educators (including Stanford, UCSF, UC Berkeley, and others) working with instructional technology. In February 2017, I travelled to Japan, to give a workshop on Google Docs at International Christian University and a keynote address on rhetorical reading at the International Symposium on Academic Writing and Critical Thinking in Nagoya. Norah, Jenae, and I are writing a chapter for the forthcoming book, Writing in a digital age: Surveillance, privacy, and writing infrastructures, due in 2018; our chapter, "Tinkerer, Snooper, Sharer, Spy: The Ethical Implications of Teacher Surveillance in Online Collaborative Writing Spaces” is slated for inclusion in part one: Surveillance & Privacy in the Writing Classroom.

Kathleen Tarr

After a number of meetings and conferences with experts and advocates in the field of entertainment - including the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and Directors U.K. - I convened the third annual symposium on equity in the entertainment industry and awards, Getting Played, at Stanford's BCSC Community Room the Thursday before the Academy Awards. For those who didn't attend (video coming soon to a Stanford Box near you!), a synopsis: Rotimi Agbabiaka opened the symposium with fifteen minutes of his critically acclaimed solo show Type/Caste ... which you have to see in its entirety (it's soooooooo good!). Rotimi was followed by my welcome and introduction of keynote Tamila Gresham, founder and CEO of Represent, a nonprofit working to reach equal media representation in film, television, and theater for people of color, women, the LGBT community, folks with disabilities, and all those who live at intersections of these identities. PWR 194KT students then discussed their work as they progress toward a 5-year strategic plan to usher equity into the entertainment industry (represented by Jimmy Stephens, Oscar Leyva, Ailyn Rivera, and Janei Maynard with Ara Cho (auditor) in the audience). After a short break, Peter Soby, Felix R. Sanchez, Myrton Running Wolf, Dexter Davis, and Jennifer DeVere Brody spoke individually followed by audience Q&A which led to a lively conversation (some would call argument) between panelists. The symposium concluded with the awards segment which honored Torange Yeghiazarian, Lily Tung Crystal, Myrton Running Wolf, Adam Leipzig, and Velina Brown for typically unheralded acts that are nevertheless essential for paving the way toward equity in entertainment media. Although not funded by the PWR Research Grant, essential to progress on this issue was Getting PlayedX, the first of these derivative symposia hosted by Salesforce in San Francisco's Rincon Center the following evening. Moderated by Salesforce Senior Director of Global Strategic Sourcing Linda Chuan, Getting PlayedX brought some of the Getting Played participants (including myself) into a moderated Q&A with special remarks by Molly Q. Ford, Director of Global Diversity Programs in the office of Equality at Salesforce. Chuan expressed eagerness to host another Getting PlayedX at Salesforce next year 2018. More information about both symposia is available at and

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