The Humanities Labs Project

Enhancing undergraduate education by building on contemporary areas of interest that have been a long-standing part of our undergraduate curriculum.

Areas of Study

  • Visual Culture, Film and Media
  • Postcolonial Literature and Culture
  • Environmental Humanities
  • Social Justice

Providing a more robust sense of academic community for undergraduates, by extending these Areas of Study beyond English in collaboration across departments, including social sciences and Rockefeller College. Our goal with this collaboration is to rebuild and reinvigorate the humanities across campus.


Baseera Khan, artist-in-residence
Baseera Khan, an artist-in-residence as part of the University Art Museum’s current exhibition, ACE: Art on Sports, Promise and Selfhood, climbs her rock wall installation on Tuesday, October 22, 2019.
Fall 2019 Labs
The Visual Culture Lab

The Humanities Lab in Visual Culture, Film and New Media, led by Mary Valentis (English) and Rae Muhlstock (WCI) was built around a collaboration between the English Department and the WCI (Writing and Critical Inquiry) Film Festival.

Classes included:

1. Mary Valentis, English 350: Contemporary Writers at Work (40 students)
2. Mary Valentis, English 374: Visual Studies (40 students)
3. Rae Muhlstock, UUNI 110: WCI: Food Literature and Cultures (40 students)
4. Rae Muhlstock, UFSP 100: Freshman Seminar: Food on Film (25 students)

Events/collaborations included:

1. Sept 4 Sam Margolius, CEO of Branch VFX, a highly successful special effects studio in Albany that integrates art, entertainment, technology, and film production. Branch VFX is a STARTUP NY company focused on high-level TV and Film projects and has worked with Netflix, Paramount, Disney/Marvel, Nickelodeon, and other entities.

2. Oct 2 Bhawin Suchak, UAlbany English Department graduate and Executive Director of Youth FX, a highly successful visual production studio in Albany that works with disadvantaged and under-represented youth to develop technical and creative skills for video and film production.

3. Oct 9 Deb Goedeke, Albany Film Commissioner, and Convention Services manager for Discover Albany. Deb is responsible for brokering arrangements with major film companies to shoot in the Albany area, including Disney/Marvel’s The Punisher, The Pretenders (directed by James Franco), As You Are (2016 Sundance nominee in US Dramatic competition category), Moving Pictures’ Fourth Man Out (winner of several LGBT Film Festivals), HBO's Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight, Columbia Pictures SALT and The Other Guys. And the HBO series Succession.

4. Nov 8 Tony Shalhoub: Emmy and Golden Globe Award winning actor and Keynote Guest for the WCI Film Festival in Fall 2019 at WAMC’s The Linda Auditorium.

5. Nov. 8-10 Writing and Critical Inquiry (WCI) 2019 Film Festival, “Food on Film” and Lecture Series. The Food Symposium was held November 7 on UAlbany’s Downtown Campus, with guests including authors, artists, podcasters, cosplayers, business owners, and professors. The Film Festival was held November 8-10 at The Linda Auditorium and featured screenings of a diverse selection of international films, short lectures, open discussions, artistic creations, and other events.

6. Dec 4 Phil Arensburg, comedy improve actor, community organizer and affiliate of the year-long global community of artists based on the annual Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert of northwest Nevada.

Social Justice Lab – Native American Histories and Cultures Social Justice

The Social Justice Lab in Native American History and Culture, organized by Wendy Roberts (English) and David Hochfelter (History) developed a robust series of events on Native American history and experience ranging from Early American Literature and History to our contemporary moment.

Classes included:

1. Wendy Roberts English Department, “Early Native American Literature”
2. David Hochfelder History Department, “Public History”
3. Maeve Kane History Department, “Iroquois History”
4. Christopher Pastore History Department, “Colonial America to 1763”
5. Fritz Schwaller History Department, “Intro to Latin American History”

Events/Collaborations included:

National Public History Project: Jamestown – 400 Years of Inequality Community partners: NY State Museum

1. Oct 23. Kay Olan, Mohawk Storyteller, Humanities 352. Kay Olan is a storyteller and educator who works to sustain the oral narrative traditions of the Haudenosaunee people, and who teaches in the public school system and helped change the NY State requirements for teaching early New York/Native history.

2. Nov 4 Brian Broadrose, Historian, Anthropologist and Archaeologist, U Mass Dartmouth, Crime & Justice Studies Program. “The Haudenosaunee and the Trolls Under the Bridge,” BB 08. Professor Broadrose works and does research on various academic approaches in regard to the Haudenosaunee/Six Nations Iroquois, especially focusing on archaeological excavations and on the racial and other prejudices that have shaped the disciplines of history and anthropology that have shaped native American history.

3. Nov 12 Angela Calcaterra, Literary Scholar, On Charles Eastman PH 123. Professor Calcaterra specializes in pre-1900 American literature, Native American literatures, and Indigenous Studies and teaches courses that range from Early American Protest Writing to Contemporary Native American Literature and Film. Her first book, Literary Indians: Aesthetics and Encounter in American Literature to 1920 (U of North Carolina Press, 2018), centers Indigenous aesthetic practices in early and nineteenth-century American literary history. Charles Alexander Eastman (1858-1939) was a Santee Dakota Sioux, and a physician educated at Boston University, as well as a prolific writer, national lecturer, and reformer. In the early 20th century, he was one of the most prolific authors and speakers on Sioux ethnohistory and American Indian affairs.

4. Nov 19 Film Screening, AWAKE: A Dream from Standing Rock LC 20. AWAKE is a documentary built as a collaboration among three film-makers that chronicles the extraordinary stand by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota, which captured world attention through their peaceful resistance against the U.S. government's plan to construct the Dakota Access Pipeline through their land. Moving from summer 2016, when demonstrations began over the demolition of sacred Native burial grounds, the film offers a visually stunning collage of imagery from the Standing Rock protests interspersed with scenes of environmental catastrophe and degradation.

5. Dec 5 Tom Wickman, Historian, Trinity College, Connecticut, “Winter’s History and Future.” This lecture discussed the “Little Ice Age” (c. 1300-1850) and explored how indigenous communities dealt with the cold, both in their practices (snowshoes, food storage, and related practices), and in their storytelling. The lecture suggested a bias in the historiography of early North America, and links new decolonial methodologies to climate history and our environmental future.

Postcolonial Lab – A Conversation on the Social and Political Responses to 9/11

The Postcolonial Lab on Social and Political Responses to 9/11 was based on two innovative courses in the English Department curriculum, “American Experiences” and “Challenges in the 21st Century,” which focused on the diversity of American experience with a focus on race, gender, pluralism and citizenship, and on the American literary tradition from slave narratives through the late Toni Morrison, including major figures in postcolonial and black feminist thought.

Courses included:

1. E. C. Koch English, AENG 240Z, American Experiences
2. Nazia Manzoor English, AENG 270, Challenges in the 21st Century, “Women, Race and Nation”
3. Niloufer Siddiqui Political Science 554, CEHC554, “Political Violence, Insurgency, and Terrorism”
4. David Rousseau Political Science, CEHC, RPOS 210, “Critical Inquiry”


Collaborations/Events include:

New York State Museum, Aaron Noble, Curator, 9/11 Collection University at Albany Art Museum

Oct 2 New York State Museum, 5:00 – 6:00 pm. The NY State Museum hosted a private showing and tour by Aaron Noble, Curator of the 9/11 collection and History Department doctoral student, for UAlbany undergraduates, followed by refreshments at the museum from 6-7 PM.

Oct 23 Discussion, art exhibit and performance event with Baseera Khan, visiting artist, University Art Museum. Baseera Khan is a New York based artist who uses a variety of media in her practice to visualize patterns and repetitions of exile and kinship shaped by economic, social, and political changes in local and global environments, with special interests in decolonization processes. She is a self-identified queer Muslim artist whose work explores issues of sexual, racial and religious identity in contemporary America. Her work and public performance on October 23, is part of the University at Albany Art Museum’s Fall exhibit titled ACE: Art on Sports, Promise, and Selfhood, June 28 – December 7, 2019.

Nov. 6 5:00 – 7:00, HU 354, Roundtable Discussion with Niloufer Siddiqui (Political Science Department), David Rousseau (Political Science, College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity), Nazia Manzoor (English Department), Eric Koch (English Department), and Aaron Noble, Curator, 9/11 Collection, New York State Museum, and Department of History.



Social Justice Lab – The Harriet Tubman Interdisciplinary Lab

The Harriet Tubman Lab was organized around the 170th Anniversary of Harriet Tubman’s Escape from Slavery. Originating from a course titled “Race, Rape Culture and the Law” co-taught by Professors Hobson and Young, the Harriet Tubman Lab broadened its reach with the help of Kasey Waite and Eugene Pae in English, to include a series of conversations and events on the history of slavery in America, from early American slave narratives to the increasingly volatile horizon of contemporary American experience.


1. Janelle Hobson and Donna Young, WSS 533 and Albany Law, “Race, Rape Culture and the Law”
2. Rebecca Rouse, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, GSAS 1600, “History and Culture of Games”
3. Kasey Waite, English, AENG240Z American Experiences, “Narratives of Slavery”
4. Eugene Pae, English, AENG240Z American Experiences, “Black Lives Now”

Collaborations/Events include:

Nov 22 A special preview and breakfast, exclusively for UAlbany students, to preview an exhibit on Harriet Tubman at Albany Barn, a residential artists’ community and exhibit space in Arbor Hill, Albany.

Nov 23 Art exhibit on Harriet Tubman, and discussion at Albany Barn in Albany’s Arbor Hill neighborhood. Presenters included Janelle Hobson (Department of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies), Donna Young (Albany Law School), Kasey Waite (Department of English) and Eugene Pae (Department of English).

Dec 4 HU 354 “Race, Culture, and Slavery: Activism in Practice,” A Presentation by Professor Wen Liu and Professor Barbara Sutton (Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies), organized by Kasey Waite and Eugene Pae (English Department).