Primary Investigator
T.J. Demos is Professor in the Department of the History of Art and Visual Culture, at University of California, Santa Cruz, and Founder and Director of its Center for Creative Ecologies. He writes widely on the intersection of contemporary art, global politics, and ecology and is the author of numerous books, including Against the Anthropocene: Visual Culture and Environment Today (Sternberg Press, 2017); Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology (Sternberg Press, 2016); The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary During Global Crisis (Duke University Press, 2013)—winner of the College Art Association’s 2014 Frank Jewett Mather Award—and Return to the Postcolony: Spectres of Colonialism in Contemporary Art (Sternberg Press, 2013). Demos co-curated Rights of Nature: Art and Ecology in the Americas, at Nottingham Contemporary in January 2015, and organized Specters: A Ciné-Politics of Haunting, at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid in 2014.




Hunter Bivens is Associate Professor of Literature and German Studies at the University of California Santa Cruz, where he has served as the Director of the UCSC Center for Cultural Studies. He received his PhD from the University of Chicago, and he has published on the work of Anna Seghers, Bertolt Brecht, Brigitte Reimann, Volker Braun, and on East German cinema. His book, Epic and Exile: Novels of the German Popular Front (Northwestern UP 2015) reads German exile literature as a set of complex formal negotiations of the crisis of classical modernity in the mid-twentieth century. His current project turns to literature and film in the early GDR, focusing on the relationship between the cultivation of public feelings in the East German public sphere and transforming regimes of labor in the period of socialist construction.


Mayanthi Fernando works on Islam, secularism, and the politics of difference in the North Atlantic. Her current project tracks the secular genealogies of the recent posthumanist turn. Reading this scholarship alongside other traditions of nonhuman ontologies, including Islamic sciences of the unseen, she asks whether we might rethink “natureculture” as “supernatureculture.” Mayanthi Fernando is Associate Professor of Anthropology at UCSC, and Director of the Center For Emerging Worlds. Her current project attends to the nexus of sex and religion in the articulation of modern secularity, analyzing how the secular state’s project of regulating and transforming religious life is interwoven with its project of sexual normalization, i.e. the production of secular, sexually “normal” citizens. She is interested in how proper religion and proper sexuality are mutually constituted (often in opposition to each other) by secular rule.


Deborah Gould is Associate Professor of Sociology at UC Santa Cruz (and affiliated faculty in Feminist Studies, History of Consciousness, and Politics). She received her PhD from the University of Chicago in Political Science in 2000 and was a post-doctoral Harper-Schmidt Fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts at the University of Chicago, 2000 – 2004. Her first book, Moving Politics: Emotion and ACT UP’s Fight Against AIDS (University of Chicago Press, 2009) won the Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Best Book Award from the American Sociological Association’s Political Sociology Section (2010), the Ruth Benedict Book Prize from the American Anthropological Association (2010), and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in LGBT Studies (2010). She is currently working on a second book, also about political emotion, called Appetites, Encounters, and the Not-Yet of Politics: A Solidarities Project. She was involved in ACT UP/Chicago for many years, and later in Queer to the Left, and was a founding member of the research/art/activism collaborative group, Feel Tank Chicago, most famous for its International Parades of the Politically Depressed.


Matthew D. O’Hara is chair of the History Department and Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, he lives in Santa Cruz, CA. A Rockefeller Foundation grantee and the award-winning author of A Flock Divided: Race, Religion, and Politics in Mexico, O’Hara’s most recent book is The History of the Future in Colonial Mexico (Yale, 2018). Going against the grain of most existing scholarship, O’Hara in this latter explores the archives of colonial Mexico to uncover a history of “futuremaking,” revealing how colonial subjects used the resources of tradition and Catholicism to craft new futures.


Postdoc Researcher


Hannah Meszaros Martin is an artist, writer, and recent PhD graduate of the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths, University of London. She is a researcher in Forensic Architecture, a European Research Council funded project, which she has been a member of since 2012. With Forensic Architecture, she has exhibited at the House of World Cultures (Berlin), MACBA (Barcelona) and MUAC (Mexico City), and contributed to the book FORENSIS (Sternberg, 2014). She has exhibited solo work in Medellín, London, and documenta(13). She has published with Open Democracy, Third Text and Different Skies, a publication that she co-founded in 2012.


Ph.D. Fellows


Chessa Adsit-Morris is a curriculum theorist, environmental educator and assistant director of the Center for Creative Ecologies. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Visual Studies and Evolutionary Biology at UC Santa Cruz. She is author of the book Restorying Environmental Education: Figurations, Fictions, Feral Subjectivities (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). Her research interests include feminist science studies, SF, ecological thought, art activism and environmental justice.



Isabelle Carbonell is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and a PhD Candidate at the University of California, Santa Cruz in Film and Digital Media, thinking through a cinema of the anthropocene, and how we think on multiple possible futures in this time of ecological crisis. Her work lies at the intersection of expanded documentary, environmental justice, invasive species, eco-disasters, and experimental ethnography. Her scholarship has been published in the Internet Policy Review, Conexión Journal, and the Cultural Anthropology Journal. Recent completed film works include: The River Runs Red (2018), The Blessed Assurance (2018) and, The Camel Race (2019).


The Humanities Institute


Managing Director

Irena Polic is the Managing Director of The Humanities Institute and a passionate advocate for the humanities in the public sphere. She studied philosophy, literature, and linguistics and is a UC Santa Cruz alumna (BA and MA in Linguistics). She returned to UC Santa Cruz in 2008 to help lead the effort to reimagine the humanities research infrastructure on campus. Prior to that, Irena worked at the UC Humanities Research Institute at UC Irvine where she managed special research projects and organized workshops, seminars, and art exhibits with international collaborators. Irena was profiled in the UC Santa Cruz Review Magazine in 2012 and selected as the Outstanding Staff Member for UC Santa Cruz in 2017. She is an active member of the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes, UC Humanities Network, and the National Humanities Alliance.


Program Manager

Evin Knight has been part of the Humanities Institute team since 2013. She has more than ten years experience managing programs, events, and communications for academic, nonprofit, and environmental organizations. Evin has a BS in Business Administration from San Diego State University and she is passionate about workplace engagement, particularly making the work environment an inclusive, cooperative, efficient, and environmentally friendly place. She especially enjoys building green teams and creating an organizational culture of sustainability. Evin is not afraid to question the status quo and is inspired by new challenges, special projects and new opportunities.


Communications and Web Design

Melody Nixon is a pakeha (settler) writer, editor, and artist living in the U.S., between the Bay Area, California, and New York City. She is currently a PhD Candidate in the History of Consciousness department at UC Santa Cruz, where she studies race and contemporary U.S. poetry. She has a background in communications and web design, and is a Graduate Student Researcher with The Humanities Institute where she coordinates the Institute’s online communications, web editing, and social media.