HWW Alumni Board Spotlight: Nushelle de Silva

Nushelle de Silva headshot
Nushelle de Silva

Meet Nushelle de Silva, who received her PhD in the History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture and Art program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2022. She holds a SMArchS, also from MIT, and a BA in Architecture from Princeton University.

de Silva is currently a 2022-23 Diversity Scholars Postdoctoral Fellow at Ithaca College and will be taking up a position as Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History and Music at Fordham University in Fall 2023. Her work is broadly concerned with how culture is defined and deployed to further imperialism in the present.

Her dissertation, "Moving Experiences: Traveling Museum Exhibitions and the Infrastructures of Cultural Globalization," examines how the ambitions of international organizations dedicated to cultural peacebuilding spatially reorganized museums to prioritize object exchange through traveling exhibitions in the mid-twentieth century, and argues that the uneven globalization facilitated by these exhibitions still augments rather than alleviates the coloniality of museums. Her doctoral research has been supported by the Winterthur Museum, the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, the Society of Architectural Historians, and the Design History Society, among others.

What is one thing you learned at the HWW workshop that impacted your life?

I learned how important it is to take stock of my whole self when setting goals, checking in with myself, or considering new opportunities. All aspects of my life deserve as much effort as my work, and my work is better when I reflect on the specific values and needs that brought me to a position to begin with. It reminded me to expand my definition of what constitutes a fulfilling life.

What advice do you have for workshop participants?

Be prepared to think expansively, to relinquish the scarcity mindset that we’re acculturated into, and to see an academic career as just a job – one of many possible jobs! Dive into those informational interviews and listen for the enthusiasm with which your interviewees describe their lives. A life that you can talk about with joy really shouldn’t feel like too much to ask for.

What was the most memorable part of the HWW workshop?

So many quotable quotes! Most notably, “HWW was my demolition kit.” And it’s true; HWW gave me tools to pull apart my life and think about different ways I could put it back together. Also, a wonderfully lengthy running “to-read” list co-curated by all, because what else would you expect from a group of humanists?

Describe Humanities Without Walls in 1-2 sentences.

What does it look like when you bring a bunch of humanists together and give them unfettered space to imagine and collaborate? This is it.