Study of the U.S. Institute for Scholars (SUSI) on Contemporary American Literature

Written by Karen L. Bystrom
August 18, 2017

On June 23, Seattle University officially welcomed 18 scholars and educators from 18 different countries to SU’s first Study of the U.S. Institute for Scholars (SUSI) on Contemporary American Literature, a program authorized by the Fulbright Hays Act and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Eighteen scholars from 18 countries in residence at Seattle UAdditional photos are available to view on the College of Arts and Sciences Facebook page.

Charles M. Tung, the Director of the SUSI at SU, says that he’s “very excited to have received the three-year award and will strive to honor the strengths of the Institute, which was developed in and hosted by an excellent university humanities center for over a decade.  But we’ve added our own equally compelling content, too—a diverse range of literary and cultural expression distinctive to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, as well as works that consider how our region figures in the imagination of the contemporary U.S.  And Associate Director Ken Allan has added an important art and visual culture component to the SUSI.”

“The purpose of the Institute,” Tung explained, “is to host professors of contemporary American literature and culture from other countries for six weeks, to offer new, interdisciplinary research and teaching materials to our international colleagues in academic seminars on the diversity and complexity of the contemporary US, and to create further opportunities for the meaningful exchange of ideas and experiences, which is the overarching aim of Fulbright-related programs.”

“We are honored to be part of this very important international scholarship initiative,” said David Powers, Dean of the Seattle University College of Arts and Sciences. “We highly value the opportunity to work with these scholars from around the world, exploring U.S. literature from the vibrant perspective of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.”

This year the participating scholars included:

  • Elisa Lima Abrantes (Brazil)
  • Maria Chionis (Greece)
  • Jawhar Ahmed Dhouib (Tunisia)
  • Virginia Frade Pandolfi (Uruguay)
  • Gbassi Ayah Juliette (Cote d’Ivoire)
  • Jo Li-Hsin Hsu (Taiwan)
  • Sun Tharita Intanam (Thailand)
  • Gunel Jannatova (Azerbaijan)
  • Muhammad Kamal Khan (Pakistan)
  • Hicham Mahdjoub-Araibi (Algeria)
  • Abdullah Al Mamun (Bangladesh)
  • Edwin Roldán Medina López (Honduras)
  • Nibedita Mukherjee (India)
  • Haris Abdelwahab Fayez Noureiddin (Egypt)
  • Miharisoa Larah Raharison (Madagascar)
  • Ece Saatçıoğlu (Turkey)
  • Min Sun (China)
  • Edwin Ntumfon Tangwa (Cameroon)

At the welcome dinner on June 26, Washington Lieutenant. Governor Cyrus Habib delivered the keynote address. The Lt. Governor, who has a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.Litt. in English Literature from the University of Oxford, centered his speech on a quote by Edward Said: “Critical thought does not submit to commands to join in the ranks marching against one or another approved enemy. Rather than the manufactured clash of civilizations, we need to concentrate on the slow working together of cultures that overlap, borrow from each other, and live together.” More about his speech is available on the Lt. Governor’s website.

SUSI scholars pose with a statue of Alfred Einstein at the Einstein National Academy of ScienceParticipants bonded over the four-week academic residency at Seattle University and enjoyed our city and campus. During their time in Seattle, they attended the Fifth Avenue Theatre’s opening night performance of Fun Home, the touring Broadway musical based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, and they had the opportunity to meet and talk with author Sherman Alexie.  They also attended 17 academic seminars on texts and topics ranging from Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, and Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, to ecocriticism, postmodernism, and contemporary art.  In the middle of the Institute, participants went on a two-week study tour to sites of historic, cultural, and literary interest in San Francisco/Berkeley, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.

Eleven Seattle U faculty members led seminars:  Christina Roberts, Ben Stork, Nalini Iyer, Ali Mian, Hilary Hawley, David Neel, Molly Clark Hillard, Susan Meyers, Sonora Jha, Sharon Cumberland, and June Johnson.  Three University of Washington faculty-led seminars, including Dr. Brian Reed, the chair of English. On the study tour, two Georgetown University professors led discussions: Dr. Ricardo Ortiz, chair of English, and Dr. Robert Patterson, the inaugural chair of African American Studies.  Other professors who participated came from Florida State, UC Berkeley, Scripps College, Loyola Marymount, and Hamilton College.

Ece Saatcioglu, scholar from TurkeyEce Saatçıoğlu, from Turkey, remarked that “The six-week program on Contemporary American Literature hosted by Seattle University enriched my horizons in numerous ways.  I was amazed by the richness of the syllabus; all the books, articles, movies, artworks, and the other optional activities displayed not only the diversity of US culture but also the high quality of the Institute. I was given the opportunity to partake in a series of informative seminars led by prestigious professors, writers, poets, and artists.  Their lectures and the ideas shared throughout the discussions were remarkable.  Additionally the field trips in Seattle and the study tours to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington DC, contributed a lot to my understanding of US literature, arts, culture, and society… I am thankful for having this unique and privileged SUSI experience, which is on the whole life-changing.”

Scholar Edwon Ntumnon Tangwa from CameroonEdwin Ntumfon Tangwa, from Cameroon, said, "When I got to SUSI, I had no idea my thinking, worldview, and research interests were about to undergo a revolution; and then for six weeks I was plunged into this amazing world of boundless possibilities, an enchanting, exhilarating (but more importantly, transforming) academic experience."

Scholar Sun Tharita Intanam from ThailandEchoing many of the participants’ reflections, Sun Tharita Intanam, from Thailand, said that "SUSI at Seattle University is a wonderful chapter of my life.  I love the hard-core reading and discussion activities, site visiting, study tour, and non-academic things we did together.  It is once in a lifetime and will definitely not be the last time we connect to each other."

Scholar Muhammad Kamal Kahn from Pakistan"My SUSI experience at Seattle U brought me an abundance of opportunities for enhancing my personal and professional ties in the US and around the world,” added Pakistani professor Muhammad Kamal Khan. “This first-hand experience of … contemporary American literature and visiting various art museums and historical places, among other things, will increase my capabilities as a teacher and researcher of American literature.  I am looking forward to the outcome of this institutional collaboration very soon."

Charles M. Tung, PhD, associate professor of English, who played a key role in bringing this program to the university, serves as Director of the Institute. Ken Allan, PhD, associate professor of Art and Art History, served as the Associate Director, with administrative support provided by Tonja Brown and graduate assistant Dan Benston.