Unit Team

D. Fairchild Ruggles, Director

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An historian of Islamic art and architecture, Dr. Ruggles’ research examines the medieval landscape of Islamic Spain and South Asia and the complex interrelationship of Islamic culture with Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism and the precise ways that religion and culture are often conflated in the study of these. She is the author of two award-winning books on gardens: Gardens, Landscape, and Vision in the Palaces of Islamic Spain (2000), and Islamic Gardens and Landscapes (2008). Additionally she has edited or co-edited numerous works, including Women, Patronage, and Self-Representation in Islamic Societies (2000), the award-winning Sites Unseen: Landscape and Vision (2007), Cultural Heritage and Human Rights (2007), Intangible Heritage Embodied (2009), On Location (2012), and Islamic Art and Visual Culture: An Anthology of Sources (2011).


Taisuke L. Wakabayashi, Research Assistant

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Tai is a PhD student in the Department of Landscape Architecture, holding a master's degree in Architecture and a bachelor's degree in English. His research explores the profound role of design thinking in the emergence of nuclear infrastructures and landscapes, encompassing both built and unbuilt environments of the 20th and 21st centuries. These environments, born from military experiments or shaped by disasters, serve as propositions, offering insight into humanity's negotiation with the enduring and hazardous nature of radioactive toxicity. Drawing from Poststructuralism and New Materialism, Tai scrutinizes the intricate, techno-political aspects of nuclear technology, emphasizing the production, management, and disposal of radioactive waste. He uses deep geological repositories to demonstrate how such designs delegate environmental responsibilities to geological space and time. Central to his research is the concept of "entrusting” to characterize humanity’s reliance on ecology’s self-healing capacities.


Jamie Keener, Research Assistant

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Jamie is a PhD student in the English Department and the Program in Medieval Studies. Her research is in Premodern Race and Ethnic Studies and, more specifically, the ways that mixed race studies intersects with depictions of fairy to define boundaries of the non/human in Middle English romance. Her research interests also include Cultural Studies, materiality, and Orientalism in the Global Middle Ages. She is further interested in exploring interdisciplinarity, the public humanities, and playful pedagogy. To this end, she co-organizes semesterly film screenings, accompanied by discussions of medievalisms, with Medieval Movie Knights, which is open to anyone in the Champaign-Urbana community.