An inquiring mind: a new faculty profile of Kristine Kotecki

Welcome to the latest installment of the English department’s new faculty profile series, where we welcome another new member to our family. Be sure to check out past profiles, which include Silas Hansen, Lupe Linares, Molly Ferguson, Laura Romano, and Vanessa Rapatz.

Say hello to Kristine Kotecki.

Photo provided by Kristine Kotecki

Photo provided by Kristine Kotecki

Kristine earned her Ph.D. from University of Texas at Austin in Dec. 2013, and she was most recently a lecturer at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. Kristine will be teaching courses in world literature, film, media, and digital humanities. In her research and teaching, Kristine focuses on how the past is imagined in contemporary texts. She has written about film festivals, world literature anthologies, neorealist films, fairy-tale films, Eastern European video film exhibits, and anticolonial historiography.

So, how did you get interested in your interdisciplinary research?

I spent an eventful four years between college and graduate school exploring various paths that someone with an inquiring mind and socially conscious disposition might take.

Through experiences…

  1. teaching computer classes and providing basic services as a homeless service center in Venice, California
  2. leading environmental conservation crews in Hawaii
  3. and teaching English in France

…I cultivated the twin commitments to ethical engagement with social problems and critical examination of culture that informs my research and teaching.

Kotecki examines an informal cultural archive

Kotecki examines an informal cultural archive

My graduate work focused on how the unresolved conflicts of the past are mediated across a range of texts. During my M.A. work at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, I specialized in cultural studies, so use the term “text” broadly to mean any cultural object that can be analyzed to reflect something about how we think and act in the world. My work on how memory and context are mediated in settings of conflict started out focused on West Africa. This regional focus emerged in part because, having spent formative years of my childhood (ages 8-17) living in Cote d’Ivoire, I exerted a considerable amount of mental and emotional energy during my young adulthood processing the war that devastated the country soon after I moved to Seattle for college.

My M.A. research focused on the intersections of the popular and the commemorative in West African media interventions. I started out my dissertation with plans to compare commemorative practices at film festivals that advance explicitly political aims, from the pan-Africanist anti-colonial concerns of the FESPACO in Burkina Faso to the anti-war position of the International Theatre and Film festival during the siege of Sarajevo. The logistics of interdisciplinary research (language study, field research, etc) meant that focusing in on one region (Balkans/Southeast Europe) made more sense for the project, but I look forward to incorporating more of my comparative inclinations and training into future projects (as I already do in the classroom.)

How would you describe yourself as a teacher?

I organize my courses such that my role is more often that of “facilitator.”

In other words, I strive to ease students into the questioning and finding and communicating processes essential to learning. I, of course, model how analysis, interpretation, and research can enrich a reading of a text and provide terms and theoretical models as tools that can give shape to the thinking process.

But I emphasize the practice. Students should be thinking during class, working things out, exercising their capacities.

More specifically, I guide students in developing their skills for reading a variety of media and from a variety of contexts. Although reading a cultural theory treatise, a film, and a novel each require skills specific to its form, I emphasize how the basic close reading approach of careful attention to formal language can be adapted from text to text. Furthermore, I underline the importance of context to understanding any text. Careful reading must exceed the text under analysis; it should also involve reading the historical and cultural milieu from which the text emerges in order to evaluate how the text is shaped by and shapes that context.

Overall, I bring to my teaching an interdisciplinary integration of media, film and literary studies that emphasizes hands-on experience communicating and being in community through different modalities. Students should learn to understand the conversations about social issues that they encounter, but they should also learn to enter the conversation about these issues.

What are you working on right now?

I’m currently working on two projects:

  1. putting the finishing touches on an article that analyzes the role that the Sarajevo Film Festival currently plays in hosting the sometimes conflicting concerns about what it means to be Bosnian, Balkan, and European.
  2. I’m also organizing a panel for the American Comparative Literature Association on the intersections of Genre and Geopolitics with Dr. Cheryl Naruse from the University of Dayton, which we are also proposing as a journal special issue.

Once I wrap those two projects up, I plan to dive back into working on my book. Based on my dissertation and the materials I collected during a 7-month Fulbright-Hays funded research trip to Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, the book will connect the dissolution of Yugoslavia with the rise of experimental genres for representing transnational regional belonging.

Welcome to the English Department, Kristine!

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