Member of the Month: Mayhill Fowler

April 10, 2024

Hometown: DeLand, Florida

Current Position: Associate Professor, Department of History, Stetson University; Affiliated faculty, Program in Theater Studies, Ivan Franko National University of Lviv

Professional Interests: theater in Ukraine, cultural history, theater studies, gender history, Ukraine’s history, society, culture


Why did you decide to join the Shevchenko Scientific Society?

I would have loved to have joined years ago—so I am so grateful for being invited to join in summer 2021. I felt like the Society was acknowledging my contribution to the field of Ukrainian Studies, and I look forward to finding ways to contribute more to the Society.

What do you value about membership in the Society?

I value being a member of a community who is invested in the study of Ukraine. It is so profoundly important right now, precisely now, to convey the importance of the study of Ukraine to the greater public, and it is so important to support the community of scholars who are trying to advance Ukrainian studies. Last year I participated in a panel, “War/Art Balance: Deimperializing the Soviet Avant-Garde at the Time of Russia’s War on Ukraine, its Culture, and People,” which Oleh Kotsyuba organized at the Cooper Union in response to an exhibit there on Moscow’s VKhUTEMAS. It was a fascinating panel—and I hope that people who don’t know much about Ukraine actually heard us.

How did your interest in Ukrainian culture and society influence your career path?

My career is researching Ukrainian culture and society. I am not Ukrainian, not from the diaspora, and I came to Ukraine only in graduate school. But I did learn Ukrainian, have spent years in Ukraine researching and teaching, and now teach online in the theater studies program at Ivan Franko National University of Lviv (as well as trying to teach as much Ukraine as I can in the history department at Stetson!). I write on Ukraine, I publish on Ukraine, and present on Ukraine. My field is Ukrainian studies, so my career is studying Ukraine. Certainly, I began as a historian of the Soviet Union, like so many of us who aren’t from the diaspora or aren’t Ukrainian—but now I identify as a scholar of Ukrainian studies. Ukraine is a rich and important place that changes how we see many other questions, themes, and fields. Studying Ukraine can shift how we see theater history in Eastern Europe, for example.

What is your current research/work project?

I am working on two projects. First, I am finishing a book on women in theater called Theater Women: Place and Performance in 20th century Ukraine, which re-tells Ukrainian theater history through the lens of its women, Ukrainian, Polish, and Jewish. Second, I have a project I am figuring out on military theater in Soviet Ukraine called A Theater of Silence: War and Memory in Ukraine. It is about how societies tell war, and it is about the past, about World War II, but of course, I am interested in how we are telling the current Russian-Ukrainian war as well.

What career advice would you give to new members of the Shevchenko Scientific Society?

Keep studying Ukraine. It can get difficult because so many spaces still feel so Russia-centered, but we have to keep speaking about Ukraine, so that the larger public understands Ukraine as a place of a rich culture, and not simply a place of war and loss. So don’t lose heart, but connect with the rest of us.