The National Endowment for the Humanities has named Visiting Assistant Professor of Art and Architecture Angelique Szymanek a Summer Scholar for 2017. Szymanek participated in a Summer Institute titled “Diverse Philosophical Approaches to Sexual Violence,” held at Elon University, N.C. in June.
The Institute was well suited to Szymanek’s research interests. “This particular institute directly addressed a subject that is at the center of my own research and writing: rape,” she says. Her 2015 dissertation was titled ‘The Fear of Rape, The Threat of Looking: Art, Activism, and Spectatorship.’ “It was about a number of feminist artists who confronted the subject of sexual violence in their practice within the context of the feminist movement of the 1970s,” she says.
Szymanek’s writings have explored the work of artists such as Suzanne Lacy, Elina Chauvet and Emma Sulkowitz, a Columbia University student whose performance piece, Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight) involved her carrying a mattress wherever she went on campus to protest what she saw as the University’s mishandling of her sexual assault complaint. “In a culture wherein forcible and/or violent heterosexual sex is normalized, if not romanticized, how can rape become visible?” says Szymanek.
The Summer Institute included discussions by emerging and established scholars who considered the philosophical questions surrounding the persistent social problem of sexual violence. The Institute was directed by Ann J. Cahill, author of Rethinking Rape, and a professor of philosophy at Elon. Other participants included Nicola Gavey of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and Louise du Toit of Stellenbosch University in South Africa. “I am thrilled to have had the honor to work with some of the most prominent thinkers on the subject to discuss an issue that is granted very little space for intellectual engagement within academia,” says Szymanek.
Szymanek, who earned a B.A. and M.A. from SUNY University at Buffalo and a Ph.D. from SUNY Binghamton, hopes to implement the insights of the Institute in her teaching and scholarship. “I believe that the shared ideas, conversations and expanded insight that this Institute offered will help me engage with the subject of sexual violence in all of the myriad ways it appears in my life as a scholar, educator, and, more broadly, a woman,” she says.
NEH Summer Institute grants support professional development programs in the humanities for school educators as well as college and university faculty. The application process is competitive, attracting thousands of applicants.