ACLS Fellows

The ACLS Fellowship Program awards fellowships to individual scholars working in the humanities and related social sciences. Institutions and individuals have contributed to the ACLS Fellowship Program and its endowment, including The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Arcadia Charitable Trust, the Council's college and university Associates, and former Fellows and individual friends of ACLS.

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Please note: affiliations shown are as of time of award. Please click on fellows' names for current information.

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Watch "Emerging Themes and Methods of Research: A Discussion with ACLS Fellows," an annual meeting session featuring recent ACLS fellows. 

Elizabeth Allen
Elizabeth Allen  |  Abstract
In late medieval England, the act of seeking sanctuary from crime in a holy place was codified under canon and common law. Yet documents and literary texts alike reveal the permeability of medieval religious space and the contestation of medieval terms of safety. “Uncertain Refuge” argues that legal sanctuary gives fugitives and pursuers alike a highly-charged opportunity for recasting their relations, providing a site for examining received ideas about civic government, clerical privilege, and monarchy. Sanctuary interrogates the conditions of refuge, the uses of sacrality, and the locus of divinity in the world. The practice finally illuminates a fantasy of protection—and a poignant impermanence—that animates late-medieval literature and culture.

Associate Professor, English, University of California, Irvine  -  Uncertain Refuge: Ideas of Sanctuary in Middle English Literature

Cynthia J. Mills
Cynthia J. Mills  |  Abstract
This interdisciplinary study examines figurative sculpture erected in US cemeteries at the end of the nineteenth century and how it functioned. It situates this new breed of high-style bronze sculpture in the context of sociocultural developments, such as the professionalization of deathways industries, changing landscape aesthetics, and attitudes about mourning, religious faith, management of emotions, and identity formation. It asks what options bereaved patrons had and what values and goals they shared with the cosmopolitan, foreign-trained sculptors commissioned to make their memorials. Finally, this project also looks at the way diverse audiences encountered these aestheticized monuments over the passing decades, when they sometimes responded with ridicule and doubt.

Independent Scholar, Art Museum, Smithsonian Institution  -  Beyond Grief: Art, Mourning, and Mystery in the Gilded Age

Gregory Barnett
Gregory Barnett  |  Abstract
This project is a book-length study of Italian music theory during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that connects the writings and debates on the modes with the Catholic-humanist worldview that pervaded Italian culture at that time. As shown here, the modes functioned less as music-analytical concepts (the role they are typically given in modern scholarship) than as emblems of an idealized Catholicism and a theoretical tradition that reaches back to Classical antiquity. This interpretation fundamentally challenges the ongoing interpretation of the modes as predecessors to modern-day major/minor keys. Rather, the history of modes and keys is revealed as intertwined prescriptive and descriptive theories of tonal organization that coexisted uniquely in Italian writings.

Associate Professor, Musicology, Rice University  -  Emblems of Faith and Authority: The Modes in Italian Baroque Music

Kate Mondloch
Kate Mondloch  |  Abstract
This project is a theoretical and historical analysis of media art informed by feminism from 1990 to the present. Through case studies of exemplary artworks, exhibitions, and critical texts, it offers a historical account of this prevalent yet under-studied field of artistic production, and introduces a new critical framework for understanding its distinctive models of multisensory spectatorship. Ultimately, its theoretical model for assessing contemporary media art—screen-based art made with film, video, or digital technologies—invigorates interdisciplinary research on the impact of media technologies on human experience.

Assistant Professor, Art History, University of Oregon  -  Eye Desire: Media Art after Feminism

Sara Blair
Sara Blair  |  Abstract
“The View from Below” explores the distinctive resonances of the Lower East Side as a site of encounter with the challenges—notably, the intense visuality—of modern experience, through which modern being and being in time are powerfully shaped. Across the boundaries between literary and visual texts, between Jewish, “native,” and other cultural trajectories, this project considers a long history of engagement with the historical ghetto and its images. It argues for its centrality to changing iconographies of modern America; its consequence as a site of experimentation in the work of envisioning historical change; and its uses as a laboratory for understanding the ever more complex relations, in a mass media era, of visual images to other signs.

Professor, English, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor  -  The View from Below: Imaging Modernity and the Lower East Side

Robert Morstein-Marx
Robert Morstein-Marx  |  Abstract
Julius Caesar has been the subject of countless biographies and narratives. But such accounts do not grapple directly or deeply enough with Caesar as a phenomenon of Roman republican political culture. Caesar is typically seen as standing against “the Republic,” a polar opposition that structures most accounts. But recent work on late-republican political culture has revealed the popular role in constructing republican norms and values, and from this perspective the traditional opposition breaks down. What Caesar intended or planned is fundamentally unknowable; but the complex history of this relationship (not always untroubled) with the “populus Romanus” proves to be a new and useful way to think about the popular character of the Late Roman Republic and sheds new light on its crisis.

Professor, Classics, University of California, Santa Barbara  -  Julius Caesar and the Roman People

Margaret E. Butler
Margaret E. Butler  |  Abstract
“The King’s Canvas” is a reconstruction of the institutional change that enabled the sudden emergence of Macedon as a major power in the fourth-century BCE Greek world. Macedon’s growth under Philip II and Alexander the Great, with special focus on their leadership, military strategy, and diplomacy, is the subject of considerable scholarship, as is the failure of Greek city-states to adapt to new political realities. This work takes a new perspective by examining the sociopolitical changes within Macedon and the neighboring Balkan tribes that allowed their mutual and rapid transformation from disorganized tribal kingdoms into a powerful new Macedonian state. An accompanying analysis of Philip’s state-building activities explains Macedon’s rise and the political and military decline of city-states like Athens in a broader theoretical perspective.

Assistant Professor, Classical Studies, Tulane University  -  The King’s Canvas: The Transformation of Ancient Macedon

Quincy D. Newell
Quincy D. Newell  |  Abstract
African Americans and Native Americans represented the largest American racial/ethnic minorities in the nineteenth-century Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, or Mormon, Church) and they occupied distinct places in the LDS cosmos. African Americans were denied access to the temple ceremonies that Mormons believed were necessary to reach the highest degree of glory after death; Native Americans, according to Mormon beliefs, were the descendants of ancient Israelites whose conversion was a necessary precursor to Jesus’s second coming. This study places the experiences of nineteenth-century African American and Native American Mormons alongside one another to show the specific ways in which racial/ethnic identity, gender, and religious experience shaped one another.

Associate Professor, Religious Studies, University of Wyoming  -  Marginal Mormons: African Americans and Native Americans in the Nineteenth-Century LDS Church

Zeynep Celik
Zeynep Celik  |  Abstract
This project contributes to the re-conceptualization of the recent controversies over the possession of antiquities by situating the issue in a historic context and by reading it from different political and cultural positions. It examines the cultural aspects of empire-building at the time, which capitalized on the prestige of ancient history and the power attributed to possessing its material fragments, and argues that the origins of the present-day debate go back to the scramble for antiquities in the nineteenth century. Placing Istanbul, its new museum, and the tightened government control over the work of archaeologists in the Ottoman Empire at the center, the comparative study engages in analysis of claims to the past in London, Paris, Berlin, and New York.

Professor, Architecture, New Jersey Institute of Technology  -  Empires and Antiquities: Appropriating the Past

Viet Thanh Nguyen
Viet Thanh Nguyen  |  Abstract
This project examines the ways that diverse populations in Viet Nam and the United States have remembered the Viet Nam War, particularly via literary and visual cultures from the 1960s until the present. It’s a major departure from earlier monographs on the war, which have had narrower cultural, national, or disciplinary concerns. This study investigates how war memories are fashioned in both countries through art, literature, cinema, photography, memorials, and museums. Its ultimate goal, besides weaving American and Vietnamese memories together within multicultural and international contexts, is determining how to forge an ethical memory, one that draws attention to the inequality of memory, the inevitability of forgetting, and the difficulty of reconciliation.

Associate Professor, English and American Studies and Ethnicity, University of Southern California  -  Memory and the Viet Nam War: A Multicultural, International, and Interdisciplinary Approach

Anthony Cerulli
Anthony Cerulli  |  Abstract
This project examines the ethics of illness and presents a genealogy of the “patient” in the cultural discourses of medicine, religion, and politics in premodern Indian history. By elaborating a hermeneutics of medical discourse, which draws on theories in Religious Studies, Medical Anthropology, and the History of Medicine, this study utilizes narratives of illness in Sanskrit medical literature and Anandarayamakhin’s seventeenth-century allegory, The Joy of Life, as lenses through which to view the role of religion in the historical development and practice of Indian medicine

ACLS/NEH International and Area Studies Fellow
Assistant Professor, Religious Studies, Hobart and William Smith Colleges  -  Medical Narratives and Allegorical Bodies in Indian Medical Literature

Ruth Nisse
Ruth Nisse  |  Abstract
“Jacob’s Shipwreck” is a study of how Jewish and Christian writers of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries rewrite, translate, and circulate ancient texts, primarily the post-biblical literature of the late antique and early medieval periods. The project focuses on these hybrid medieval Latin and Hebrew texts at the point when they enter into either dialogue or disputation with each other over religious and geographic identities in England and Northern France; this dynamic is especially evident during the period of the Crusades. Some of the wide variety of texts and genres include medieval Latin and Hebrew reworkings of Josephus’ Jewish War, the Anglo-French Play of Adam, and the Latin “Romance” of the patriarch Joseph’s Egyptian wife, Aseneth.

Associate Professor, English, Wesleyan University  -  Jacob’s Shipwreck: Diaspora and Translation in the Literature of the Jewish and Christian Middle Ages

Jessica M. Chapman
Jessica M. Chapman  |  Abstract
This project focuses on the immediate post-colonial moment in southern Vietnam from 1953-1956 to explore the nature of Ngo Dinh Diem’s government in the south, the strained relationship between Diem and other southern Vietnamese political actors, and the formation of the US government’s relationship with the emergent South Vietnamese government. It examines the contests between Diem and his non-communist rivals and reveals that he built his government largely in reaction to the threats they posed. He did so over French objections and with support from his American patrons. The infrastructural and ideological means by which he justified his leadership in these early years paved the way for broader, more organized opposition to his government by the decade’s end.

Assistant Professor, History, Williams College  -  From Disorder to Dictatorship: A Domestic and International History of Ngo Dinh Diem’s Construction of South Vietnam, 1953-1956

Juan M. Obarrio
Juan M. Obarrio  |  Abstract
This project explores the contemporary political status of customary law and chieftaincy in postcolonial Africa with a view to developing a comparative study of the current resurgence of custom, "tradition," and its figures of authority across the continent. Indeed, this resurgence is a key political process in contemporary Africa, particularly in post-conflict situations and transitions to neo-liberal "rule of law". Rather than consolidating democratic rights and the rule of law, what the "return" of custom and the figure of the chief, as well as claims on autochtony, local identity, and land, reveal is an ambiguous form of political belonging and sovereignty defined here as “customary citizenship.”

Assistant Professor, Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University  -  ‘Customary’ Citizenship in Contemporary Africa

Paul Cheney
Paul Cheney  |  Abstract
This study is a micro-history of plantation life in Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti) during the decades preceding the French Revolution. Although it was France’s richest colony, even at the height of its development this plantation society was remarkably fragile and susceptible to the sort of crises that erupted in the 1790s, leading to the destruction of Saint-Domingue’s plantation complex and to Haitian independence in 1804. In focusing on one plantation in the highly developed area of Cul de Sac, this project shows how rural Saint-Domingue was an isolated place with a distinctive culture, social structure, and set of economic rhythms; at the same time, it was connected to France and exposed to a wider Atlantic world in peculiar ways that shaped its development.

Assistant Professor, History, University of Chicago  -  Cul de Sac: Plantation Society in Eighteenth-Century Saint Domingue

Elizabeth A. Perrill
Elizabeth A. Perrill  |  Abstract
Historically, beer pots express Zulu nationalism and group membership during drinking ceremonies. Today Zulu pots sold in galleries are symbols of both transforming cultural or national identities and artistic self-expression. “Zulu Surface and Form” documents literal changes in these vessels and their concomitant metaphorical connotations. Utilizing life-history interviews, visual analysis, and archival data, this inquiry into artists’ financial and aesthetic economies of production contextualizes these changes in a postcolonial network of global ceramic institutionalization, contributes to scholarship on imagined communities, and enriches cross-disciplinary studies that trace the ways in which objects and identities are intertwined.

Assistant Professor, Art, University of North Carolina at Greensboro  -  Zulu Surface and Form: The Aesthetics of South African Ceramic Economies

Tamara T. Chin
Tamara T. Chin  |  Abstract
The Han dynasty witnessed the largest-scale territorial expansion in Chinese history. To finance war and occupation the government experimented with controversial firms of centrally planned market reform. This study examines the transformation of the imagination of the political economy during the second and first centuries BCE, across political rhetoric, economic theory, historiography, and poetry. It focuses on a short-lived poetics of commercial empire that embraces the market as an inspiration for social and aesthetic reform. In opposition to this, a traditional Confucian hostility to merchant activity developed into new anxieties that market price was determining gender and cultural norms, as well as social and literary value.

Assistant Professor, Comparative Literature, University of Chicago  -  Illicit Exchange: An Imaginary History of the Han Dynasty Silk Road

Svetlana A. Peshkova
Svetlana A. Peshkova  |  Abstract
This project explores Muslin women’s leadership and post-Soviet Central Asia’s Ferghana Valley, two sensationalized but poorly understood subjects. It describes the everyday lives of local Muslim women teachers and leaders, their feelings about being Muslim, and their visions of social change. By analyzing these women’s roles in religious renewal in the region, this study educates readers and Muslim women’s leadership, history, and the sociocultural diversity of post-Soviet Central Asia. It also challenges existing assumptions about Islam as an oppressive and inherently violent religion. As a result, it presents a more complete post-Soviet social history of the region and provides a corrective to a common perception of the region as a source of religious radicalism.

Assistant Professor, Anthropology, University of New Hampshire  -  Public Life in Private Space: Religion and Change in the Ferghana Valley

Laura Chrisman
Laura Chrisman  |  Abstract
This interdisciplinary project explores how black America and black South Africa reciprocally informed each other’s imaginations, ideologies, and practices from 1900 to 1945. During this formative period of anti-racist struggle in both countries, the two communities developed strong connections across print journalism, literature, social sciences, and political organizations. By analyzing this substantial if generally overlooked archive, we can better understand the national and transnational contours of black political cultures. The project shows how black South Africans both affirmed and criticized black American thought, intimating alternative conceptions of political and cultural leadership for themselves and for the US diaspora.

Professor, English, University of Washington  -  Black Transnationalism: The US and South Africa, 1900-1945

Amy Powell
Amy Powell  |  Abstract
In 1566, a wave of iconoclasm swept through the Netherlands. Churches were purged of images, altars stripped, and walls whitewashed. Although the iconoclasms subsided fairly quickly, the 1566 breaking of images marked the beginning of the rise of Calvinism as the official religion of the northern Netherlands. Because the Calvinist Reformed Church did not permit the use of religious images, the northern Netherlands saw a drastic curtailment of church patronage. Deprived of ecclesiastical commissions, artists began to produce for the open market. The most popular type of painting sold on this open market was the landscape. This project asks how the memory of iconoclasm and the persistence of iconophobia shaped the making of Dutch landscapes in the century or so after 1566.

Assistant Professor, Art History, University of California, Irvine  -  The Whitewashed Image: Iconoclasm and Seventeenth-Century Dutch Landscapes

Nathan J. Citino
Nathan J. Citino  |  Abstract
Using Arabic and English sources, this project examines the politics of modernization in US-Arab relations during the cold war. It argues that Arab and American modernizers, despite radically different aims, imagined societal change similarly. They believed in linear historical progress and described modernity as a system. They debated Arabs’ futures on the terrain of America’s past and present. On this basis, proponents of Arabism, Islamism, American liberalism, and Soviet communism competed to shape Arab development. Faith in rapid modernization did not outlast the 1960s, which culminated in the disasters of Vietnam and the Six-Day War. Rather than a clash of civilizations, the US today confronts the legacies of conflicting development agendas and the assumptions that postwar modernizers shared.

Associate Professor, History, Colorado State University  -  Modernization in US-Arab Relations, 1945-1967

Guy P. Raffa
Guy P. Raffa  |  Abstract
The first complete account of Dante’s skeletal history, from his burial in Ravenna in 1321 to a computer-generated reconstruction of his face in 2006, “Dante’s Bones” provides unique insight into the political and cultural history of Italy, which celebrates its 150th birthday in 2011. Physical claims on Dante’s bones are ultimately ideological ones on his legitimating authority. This project shows how individuals and institutions have exploited Dante’s tomb and remains to promote their various political, religious, and cultural agendas as the poet evolved from an object of regional rivalry between Florence and Ravenna into the prophet of Italy and a proponent of Italian nationalism before becoming the global icon that he is today.

Associate Professor, French and Italian, University of Texas at Austin  -  Dante’s Bones and the Idea of Italy

Jeffrey J. Cohen
Jeffrey J. Cohen  |  Abstract
This project studies two forms of human encounter with stone in the Middle Ages: as a primordial natural substance that provokes wonderment about how the world’s materiality works; and as a seemingly timeless element in architectures that have long outlived their builders (e.g., Stonehenge and Neolithic graves). Stone invited medieval writers to think innovatively about time, materiality, the power of art, and the persistence of history.

Professor, English, The George Washington University  -  Stories of Stone: Dreaming the Prehistoric in the Middle Ages

Nancy Y. Reynolds
Nancy Y. Reynolds  |  Abstract
This project documents and analyzes the cultural and social history of Egypt’s High Dam to challenge the conventional picture of Egyptian politics in the late 1950s and the 1960s as either wholly dictated by the state or wholly oppositional to it. More than a transient political spectacle, the building of the dam reordered much of the southern Egyptian landscape; required the relocation of 100,000 Nubians in Egypt and Sudan; prompted a series of architectural, ethnographic, and geological surveys; launched new forms of consumption and commercialized commemoration; and symbolized a rupture with the past that reverberated through a wide array of social practices, including the status of women, the role of religion, and the forms of residential building.

Assistant Professor, History, Washington University in St. Louis  -  A Pyramid for the Living: The Politics of Environment, Culture, and National Development in the Building of the Aswan High Dam in Egypt, 1956-1971

Bonnie Costello
Bonnie Costello  |  Abstract
“We” has always been an ambiguous pronoun in English, as its scope and relation to the addressee can only be interpreted in context. The modern age—which emphasized collective ideologies, historical process, and public responsibility over aesthetics and individual consciousness—put new pressures on the art world, and fostered new reflections on voice, audience, and address. These pressures are registered with particular sensitivity in poetry, the genre with the most acute linguistic self-consciousness. While the topic of this study is one two-letter word, its reach is wide. In exploring the rhetoric of the first-person plural, it offers both a broad genre study and a focused historical study, 1930-1945. It also includes close readings of Wallace Stevens, W.H. Auden, and Elizabeth Bishop.

ACLS/New York Public Library Fellow
Professor, English, Boston University  -  Private Faces in Public Places: Modern Poetry and the First Person Plural

Karin Sabrina Roffman
Karin Sabrina Roffman  |  Abstract
Although American poet John Ashbery (b. 1927) did not publish his first official volume of poetry until he was almost 30, he knew by the age of 13 that he would become an artist. This project, the first critical biography of his early life, builds a detailed portrait of Ashbery’s intensely productive childhood near Rochester, New York, from previously unknown material—including letters, more than 1000 pages of childhood diaries, and several notebooks full of juvenilia. Together, these materials provide an astonishing record of the development of a young poet’s mind as he actively shaped his poetic voice.

Assistant Professor, English, United States Military Academy  -  A Biography of John Ashbery’s Early Life and Art

Irene D'Almeida
Irene D'Almeida  |  Abstract
This study is the first to examine the poetry produced by women among the Fon people—a major ethnic group in Benin. It involves collecting, transcribing, translating, and analysing this poetry. An important part of the study focuses the nature of “poetry” in the context of orality as the concept of poetry changes in traditional cultures where it is chanted and modulated by song; it is also woven in the fabric of events such as ritual ceremonies. These factors demand a new conceptual frame and innovative analytical tools to examine the subject matters, techniques, traditions, and institutional foundations of women’s oral poetry among the Fon.

ACLS/NEH International and Area Studies Fellow
Professor, French and Italian, University of Arizona  -  Looking for Poetry, Hearing the Song among the Fon Women of Benin

Mark E. Ruff
Mark E. Ruff  |  Abstract
“The Battle for the Catholic Past” historicizes the debates about the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church in Germany and National Socialism. It explains how competing networks of church defenders and critics sought to use the media, the resources of political parties, and the largesse of the national state to achieve larger political, religious, and ideological goals. It argues that the controversies over the church’s relationship to National Socialism were surrogates for larger conflicts over how the church was to position itself in modern society—in politics, international relations, the media and, more broadly, in the public sphere.

Associate Professor, History, Saint Louis University  -  The Battle for the Catholic Past in Germany, 1945 -1975

Barbara De Marco
Barbara De Marco  |  Abstract
The earliest written histories of the American Southwest are contained in archives in Spain and Mexico. To the extent that this original Spanish documentation has been published, it has been available, for the most part, only in English translation. This is the first Spanish edition of a complete set of documents from the Archivo General de Indias, Seville (AGI Patronato Real, legajo 22, ramo 13), that pertain to Juan de Oñate and the exploration and settlement of "La Nueva Mexico" in the early 1600s. This edition expands on the published translations by Herbert Bolton, Adolph and Fanny Bandelier, and George Hammond and Agapito Rey, and includes a study of the methods of transmission and archival preservation of this essential American history.

Editor, Research Center for Romance Studies, University of California, Berkeley  -  The Paper Kingdom of La Nueva México: Edition and Study of Original Documents in the Archivo General de Indias, Seville, Pertaining to Juan de Oñate

Kirsten Schultz
Kirsten Schultz  |  Abstract
This project examines transformations in understandings of authority, society, and culture in the eighteenth-century Portuguese empire in America, focusing on elite debates about the status of non-European peoples during a period of crisis and reform. Based on print culture, imperial correspondence, and records of local responses to imperial policy, this research will assess changing understandings of governance and the governed as royal officials redefined “conquests” and commercial outposts as “colonies” inhabited by vassals who had privileges and duties; by people who were enslaved and free; and by communities of human beings that encompassed physical, religious, and cultural differences, all of whom had to be brought into the fold of royal authority, “society,” and the imperial economy.

Assistant Professor, History, Seton Hall University  -  From Conquests to Colonies: Authority, Knowledge, and Difference in the Luso-Brazilian Empire, ca. 1700-1800

Brian Donahue
Brian Donahue  |  Abstract
“Wildlands and Woodlands” is about the history, ecology, and conservation of the Eastern Forest of the United States—300 million acres of woodland that is home to over 100 million people. An interdisciplinary synthesis, it distills recent work in ecology, environmental history, and conservation biology. The study moves from the ecological dynamics of the pre-European forest, to the social and economic forces that drove widespread clearing and regrowth, to the conflicted history of the conservation movement. It closes by exploring the implication of ubiquitous past ecological disturbance and change for traditional ideas of conservation, and examining the potential for a new approach in the twenty-first century that reconciles wilderness preservation and sustainable productive management.

Associate Professor, American Studies, Brandeis University  -  Wildlands and Woodlands: The Future of the Eastern Forest

Herman Mark Schwartz
Herman Mark Schwartz  |  Abstract
How do ideas about what constitutes the best form of economic governance propagate in political economy as a discipline? Over the past 50-60 years political economists have upheld a succession of national institutional configurations as the ideal model for governance. A sociology of knowledge for these ‘supermodels’ helps us to understand how the newest models will be deployed in the current crisis. Most debates pit one model against another, or seek to understand the beauty of a given model in a few features. Instead, this study asks three “meta” questions about the long list of supermodels. Where do these models come from? How are models propagated politically? Is there cumulative, scientific learning over time or are these models purely ‘political?’

Professor, Politics, University of Virginia  -  Fad and Fashion in Political Economy Models: A Sociology of Knowledge

Sylvia Federico
Sylvia Federico  |  Abstract
“Chaucer and Walsingham” is the first in the field of medieval studies to examine Thomas Walsingham’s unpublished literary texts, which it does in depth and in relation to Chaucer’s major and minor poetry from the period. The project asserts that both Chaucer and Walsingham used classicism as a political vocabulary and that they did so, furthermore, as an expression of a new consciousness of the role of the author in late medieval public discourse.

Associate Professor, English, Bates College  -  Chaucer and Walsingham: Clerks of Venus in Late Medieval England

Micol Seigel
Micol Seigel  |  Abstract
This project examines up to a dozen municipal police archives across the United States in order to analyze US policing during the cold war, a subject historians have neglected. This innovative study attends to the ways police work crosses US borders, toes the line between military and civil action, and links to other pieces of the criminal justice system, particularly prisons. Drawing on interdisciplinary bodies of secondary literature and in-depth archival research, it applies a transnational framework that uncovers the global currents flowing through postwar police practice, revealing otherwise invisible aspects of the criminal justice system.

ACLS Oscar Handlin Fellow
Assistant Professor, African American and African Diaspora Studies, Indiana University Bloomington  -  The Global Precinct: US Policing after World War II

Margaret W. Ferguson
Margaret W. Ferguson  |  Abstract
This study analyzes discourses about maidenheads and hymens in texts printed between 1530 and 1689. Mostly in English and including some illustrations of medical texts, the project archive illuminates an epistemological debate that was particularly acute during England’s emergence as a Protestant nation. The debate concerns how one can know whether the hymen exists or not, in specific cases and in general. A sign of the fraught border between virginity and marriage, the hymen with its sister-term “maidenhead” becomes a locus of skeptical thinking in literary and other discourses. Debates about the hymen converge with questions about the relation between material and immaterial realms, between male and female bodies, and between the inside and the outside of the body politic.

Professor, English, University of California, Davis  -  Missing the Maidenhead: Cultural Debates about the Hymen in Early Modern England

Olga Shevchenko
Olga Shevchenko  |  Abstract
This project explores the popular memories of the Soviet era that are conjured up in the medium that to many Russians represents the most intimate source of information about the past: family stories and photographic collections. It draws on a combination of in-depth interviews with a cross-section of Russians, ethnographic fieldwork, and analysis of the images themselves (all collected between 2005 and 2008) to produce an account of how photographic images and family narratives interact to enable, support, or suppress particular perceptions of the Soviet era. To date, this is the first effort to use the tools of sociological analysis and theory to explore the relationship between popular photography and large-scale historical imagination.

Associate Professor, Anthropology and Sociology, Williams College  -  Snapshot Histories: The Afterlife of Socialism in Russian Family Photographs

Ada Ferrer
Ada Ferrer  |  Abstract
This project explores the encounter between slavery’s destruction in Saint-Domingue (Haiti) and its simultaneous entrenchment in Cuba. In the aftermath of the Haitian Revolution, Cuba became the world’s largest producer of sugar. The study explores the experience of that transformation on the ground, as slaves, masters, and colonial officials witnessed simultaneously the local intensification of African slavery and the proliferation of Haiti’s example of black revolution. It argues that the Haitian Revolution—the circulation of its example and the material consequences of its achievement of emancipation and independence—profoundly shaped the experience of enslavement and colonialism in Cuba. At the same time, the proximity of an ascendant slave regime shaped the course of the Haitian Revolution itself.

ACLS/NEH International and Area Studies Fellow
Associate Professor, History, New York University  -  Cuban Slave Society and the Haitian Revolution

Elena Shtromberg
Elena Shtromberg  |  Abstract
This study traces the encounter of art and information in the politicized art practices that emerged in Brazil during the most violent decade of its twenty-one-year dictatorship (1964-1985). It examines how visual artists adapted to censorship is an important facet of understanding civilian resistance to authoritarian regimes, as much a pressing concern of society during the 1970s as in the present. By focusing on systems and information theory, this approach investigates artistic production as belonging to a more comprehensive network of social spheres, including the specific circumstances surrounding censorship, the local conditions of art production, and the influence of international discourses as they were modified for the particularities of the Brazilian national context.

ACLS/NEH International and Area Studies Fellow
Assistant Professor, Art and Art History, University of Utah  -  Art and Information: Political Encounters in Brazil, 1968-1978

Robert J. Foster
Robert J. Foster  |  Abstract
The Buffalo Museum of Science holds the oldest collection in North America of Pacific Islands artifacts put together by a single person. This project puts the P.G. Black Collection in the economic, political, and cultural contexts of its creation and display. The collection provides important clues about initial encounters between Pacific Islanders and European traders, missionaries, and colonial officials during the late nineteenth century. In the 1940s, display of objects from the collection at museum exhibits promoted acceptance of the idea of Primitive Art in the US The project includes the composition of a brief nonacademic text in support of traveling and online virtual exhibits of the Black Collection.

Professor, Anthropology, University of Rochester  -  A Cultural Biography of the P.G. Black Collection of Pacific Islands Artifacts

Barbara J. Skinner
Barbara J. Skinner  |  Abstract
In the largest mass conversion in the history of the Russian Empire, 1.5 million Greek Catholic Belarusians and Ukrainians formally became Russian Orthodox in 1839. While existing studies generally accept the conversion at face value, this project poses new questions about the precise meaning of Orthodoxy under these conditions and about the actual impact of this mass confessional shift on the culture of Russia’s vast western provinces. Examining evidence of material parish culture, religious education, and the modes of resistance and conformity before and after the conversion, this project studies the participation of the Belarusians and Ukrainians themselves in shaping the religious landscape of the Russian Empire’s geopolitically crucial western region.

Assistant Professor, History, Indiana State University  -  Confessional Engineering, Parish Culture, and Orthodox Expansion in Russia’s Western Borderlands, 1796-1855

Ernest F. Freeberg
Ernest F. Freeberg  |  Abstract
This project examines the impact of electric light on American culture, focusing on the first decades after it left Edison’s laboratory. Creative adaptations of this invention changed the rhythm of work and play, helped create mass culture and modern consumerism, changed interior design and urban planning, and were used to fight crime, disease, and dirt. Electric light played a central role in creating modernity, and its history tells us much about the origin of America’s technological creativity, its fascination with material progress, and the process of creative adaptation of new technologies.

Professor, History, University of Tennessee, Knoxville  -  Incandescent America: Electric Light and America’s Culture of Invention

Christina Snyder
Christina Snyder  |  Abstract
Initiated by the Choctaw Nation in 1825, Choctaw Academy became the first multi-tribal boarding school in the United States. Richard Mentor Johnson, a lifelong politician who became Van Buren’s vice president, established the school on the grounds of his Kentucky plantation, which was home to Native boys and young men from 15 different nations until it closed in 1848. Set in a complex social world, this study looks at interactions between students, staff, enslaved people, and Johnson’s own mixed-race family to evaluate the discrepancy between racial ideology and everyday practice in antebellum America as well as cross-cultural notions of status. Most significantly, this study explores Native articulations of sovereignty during the crucial era of Indian Removal.

Assistant Professor, History and American Studies, Indiana University Bloomington  -  The Indian Gentlemen of Choctaw Academy: Status and Sovereignty in Antebellum America

Matthew Garrett
Matthew Garrett  |  Abstract
Between the 1780s and the 1820s, the early US republic was saturated in episodic texts. This project traces the culture of the episode across the period’s major genres of prose writing, from wildly plotted novels to event-centered memoirs and linked serial essays. Reorienting criticism toward the dialectical analysis of the episode, it shows how this device gave variegated shape to the social, political, and economic conflicts that defined the early republic. The result is American literary history recounted not as the easy victory of grand nationalist ambitions, but rather as a series of social struggles expressed through writers’ recurring engagement with incompletely integrated forms.

Assistant Professor, English, Wesleyan University  -  Episodic Poetics in the Early American Republic

Wendy Swartz
Wendy Swartz  |  Abstract
A nuanced understanding of philosophy and literature’s dynamic mutual construction during the Six Dynasties (222-589 C.E.) is a prerequisite for the study of either field, and of medieval literati culture in general, yet the two are usually treated in isolation. This intimate relation manifests itself in the literary practices of allusion and quotation, which constituted the foundational components of both literary authority and hermeneutics. The “Three Mysterious” texts—Yijing, Daodejing, and Zhuangzi—are cited extensively and to varying extents by the greatest poets of the period. This project examines these cases of deliberate and legitimating intertextuality in order to track the intersections between intellectual trends and poetic practices during this especially innovative period.

Associate Professor, East Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University  -  Poetry, Philosophy, and Intertextuality in Six Dynasties (222-589 C.E.) China

Ellen P. Herman
Ellen P. Herman  |  Abstract
Adjudicating rights and managing risks have been two of the most important responsibilities of government in modem US history. Since 1945, the expansion of rights claims and the multiplication of risk designations have coincided. This project probes that coincidence by considering the case of autism. Today designated as a developmental disability, autism’s key characteristic—aloneness—challenges the sociability that grounds secure personhood and civic belonging. Autism therefore illuminates the boundaries of the human as well as the rights of citizens. This research project explores the following themes: autism and the campaign to measure, predict, and control developmental risks; autism as a controversial and increasingly prevalent clinical entity; autism as the basis for advocacy movements; autism and the right to education and early intervention; and neurodiversity and democracy. Autism illustrates how risk itself became a legitimate basis for political mobilization, collective identification, and rights claims.

Professor, History, University of Oregon  -  Autism, Between Rights and Risks

Helena Katalin Szepe
Helena Katalin Szepe  |  Abstract
In Renaissance Venice, certain kinds of civic manuscripts, which were granted to individual patricians upon assumption to some of the highest offices of state, came to have full-page paintings highlighting portraits of the recipients and extravagant bindings. This project examines the role of these illuminated documents in the formulation of patrician status, ideals of service to the state, and family memory. Methods of manuscript studies are integrated with the comparative examination of art in the service of distinctive political regimes, and the study of material culture in memorializing families. This project reframes understanding of painting in Renaissance culture, to show how imagery transformed documents of temporary value into memory objects, which authenticated and preserved individual and family status.

Associate Professor, School of Art and Art History, University of South Florida  -  Privilege and Duty in the Serene Republic: Illuminated Manuscripts of Renaissance Venice

Kristin L. Hoganson
Kristin L. Hoganson  |  Abstract
This project remaps the history of global connections by shifting attention from coastal areas, borderlands, and major cities to the US heartland. Taking Champaign, Illinois, from 1820 to 1920 as its starting point, it challenges assumptions about Midwestern provincialism by tracing some of the many ties between Illinois farmers and the wider world in the very years that the old Northwestern frontier became the US heartland. This is a local history with global dimensions, one that treats the local less as a given than as an analytical problem. By following the threads that stitched the prairie patchwork to the globe, it finds that foreign relations—broadly conceived—were far more central to Midwestern history than the heartland myth has recognized.

Professor, History and affiliation with Gender Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign  -  Prairie Routes: Making a Global Heartland

Meredith E. Terretta
Meredith E. Terretta  |  Abstract
Through a comparative historical analysis of the ILRM’s engagement with anticolonial movements in the African U.N. Trusteeships, this project explores the relationship between universal human rights (as they were articulated and put into practice through the United Nations and its affiliated NGOs) and the politics of Africa’s decolonization. The study shows the ways in which African activists, particularly in the U.N. Trust territories, looked to organizations such as the ILRM to protect the freedoms of association and speech that enabled them to speak out against their European administrators. Grounded in the ILRM’s files, this work probes the connections between African nationalists’ and Western anti-imperialists’ activism as it unfolded in the U.N., the Trust Territories, and NGOs.

Assistant Professor, History, University of Ottawa  -  “We Have Heard of the Great Assistance that You Render to Many Territories:” African United Nations Trusteeships and the International League of the Rights of Man (ILRM), 1948-1970

Elizabeth W. Hutchinson
Elizabeth W. Hutchinson  |  Abstract
The first comprehensive study of celebrated photographer Eadweard Muybridge’s early work, this project argues that his images helped bring this region into view. The term “Pacific Coast” comes from Muybridge’s own catalog of photographic views, where it gives coherence to the diverse body of work including pictures of isolated lighthouses and densely-built up city streets, sublime wilderness and cultivated gardens, tropical rainforests and glaciers. This range reminds us of the political, economic, and cultural interconnections between the seemingly diverse spaces of the Pacific America made possible by the developments in transportation and communication of the time. Working alongside members of the US Coast Survey, the Light-House Board, the US Army, and the crews of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, Muybridge developed a visual style that partakes of and extends the modernization of the region, giving pictorial form to both the promise and the threat of continental expansion.

Associate Professor, Art History, Barnard College  -  Muybridge’s Pacific Coast: Landscape Photographs and Cultural Topography

Lisa Tran
Lisa Tran  |  Abstract
As a legal history of concubinage, the study analyzes the implications of legal reform on concubines under three political regimes in the first half of the twentieth century, with attention to the effect of the introduction of Western legal ideas on late imperial notions of monogamy and concubinage. As a social history of concubines, the study contests conventional views that attribute a concubine’s victimization to her marginal kinship status, contending instead that the extent to which a concubine could exercise agency depended on how law and society defined the nature of her relationship to her master and his family.

Assistant Professor, History, California State University, Fullerton  -  Law and Custom: Concubines in Early Twentieth-Century China

Lilya Kaganovsky
Lilya Kaganovsky  |  Abstract
Looking at the intersection of art and technology, of politics and policy, and art and the state, this project uses Soviet cinema’s conversion to sound to think about the moment of historical transition (1928-1935) from avant-garde theory to socialist realist practice, and to consider how the “voice” of Soviet power is transmitted via the new technology of film sound.

ACLS/NEH International and Area Studies Fellow
Associate Professor, Slavic Languages and Literatures and Comparative Literature, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign  -  The Voice of Technology: Soviet Cinema’s Transition to Sound, 1928-1935

George R. Trumbull
George R. Trumbull  |  Abstract
This project sketches out a topography of the knowledge, lived experiences, thwarted ambitions, and interrupted lives embedded in a desert as much misapprehended as mysterious. Relying on sources in Arabic and French in four countries, it draws on environmental and narrative history methods to trace the genesis of competing representations and contested policies surrounding water in the Sahara. From attempts at defining the desert that differed dramatically in Arabic and French to conflicts over the petrochemical or nuclear uses of the Sahara, water emerged at the center of images, plans, and implemented policies. A history of water provides a lens that focuses disparate experiences and interpretations, bringing into view conflicting imperatives of imperial and Saharan denizens.

Assistant Professor, History, Dartmouth College  -  Land of Thirst, Land of Fear: A History of Water in the Sahara from Empire to Oil

Eleana Kim
Eleana Kim  |  Abstract
This project investigates how conceptions of nature, environment, and the organic world are constructed in the context of ethnic nationalism, global environmentalisms, and political violence by examining the Korean demilitarized zone (DMZ) as a cultural, political, and economic space. Uninhabited for more than 50 years, the DMZ has witnessed an ecological “revitalization” that is now an object of intense interest for natural scientists, politicians, and environmentalists globally. It has transformed from a scar of war to a green zone representing future peace and national unification. The DMZ provides a unique lens through which to examine how landscape, nature, and history are figured through human/environment interactions and imaginative conceptions of the human and non-human.

ACLS/NEH International and Area Studies Fellow
Assistant Professor, Anthropology, University of Rochester  -  Making Peace with Nature: The Greening of the Korean Demilitarized Zone

Deborah M. Valenze
Deborah M. Valenze  |  Abstract
Thomas Tryon (1634-1703), popular writer on health, nature, and the environment, was the first truly organic intellectual of the Anglo-American world. His life and work offer insights into a formative century of global commerce and print culture. Tryon’s ideas about diets and vegetarianism inspired Ben Franklin and medical authorities of the enlightenment, while his personal philosophy, embodied in advice books on subjects such as land use and housewifery, introduced ideas from Eastern philosophy into Anglo-American culture. Tryon’s complex world brings to light popular views of nature befire industrialism and challenges current interpretations of the ways in which Europeans came to terms with the burgeoning affluence of modernity.

Professor, History, Barnard College  -  Thomas Tryon and His World

Jimmy Casas Klausen
Jimmy Casas Klausen  |  Abstract
This project juxtaposes twentieth-century French critical philosophy and case studies of self-isolating indigenous societies to two ends. First, reading the philosophical work through analyses of interactions among state, civil society, and self-isolating indigenes highlights the explicitly political features of twentieth-century French disavowal of a human nature or essence. Corollary to this is an explication of the “biopolitical” consequences of securing or refusing to create territorial reserves for indigenous isolates. Second, the emphasis on variable practices of living that emerges from a dialogue between French philosophy and indigenous case studies facilitates a regrounding of debates on minority cultural communities away from the liberal focus on rights or multiculturalist recognition.

Assistant Professor, Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison  -  Unknown Political Bodies: Negative Anthropology, Political Theory, and Indigenous Societies

Lynne A. Viola
Lynne A. Viola  |  Abstract
The question of the perpetrator is uncharted territory in the history of the USSR due to historiographical omission, archival secrecy, and the USSR’s survival to 1991. The question is essential to understanding mass violence in the Stalinist 1930s. This study explores the question within three theatres of operation: the village (collectivization), the interrogation room (great terror), and the gulag. The study centers upon the peregibshchik, a stock label of Stalinist scapegoating that focused attention (press and procuracy) on cadres accused of excessive zeal (ie, atrocities). It contextualizes violence, examining the relationship between ideology, contingency, and action. The project is based on extensive archival research and grounding in the literatures on genocide and mass violence.

Professor, History, University of Toronto  -  The Question of the Perpetrator in Soviet History: An Exploration into Violence in the Soviet Union, 1928-41

Sonya S. Lee
Sonya S. Lee  |  Abstract
Cave temples are a unique architectural form that transforms a mountain into a place for religious activities through the installment of pictorial images and other artifacts. This study explores what it meant to integrate cultural practices like these into a natural environment in Sichuan province of China. The region boasts a diverse tradition of cave-building since the seventh century, thus offering a wealth of materials to examine the technologies, mindsets, and aesthetic sensibilities that have fueled the enduring allure of these spaces between culture and nature. By adopting an ecological approach to the analysis of representative sites, a history of cave temples in Sichuan will contribute to critical debates in art history, architecture, history of religion, and environmental history.

Assistant Professor, Art History, University of Southern California  -  Between Culture and Nature: Cave Temples of Sichuan

Chad Williams
Chad Williams  |  Abstract
Over the course of 17 years, W. E. B. Du Bois worked on a history of African American participation in World War I titled “The Black Man and the Wounded World” that remained unfinished and is today largely forgotten. This project tells the story of “The Black Man and the Wounded World,” demonstrating its importance to historical understandings of Du Bois’s life, the experiences of African American soldiers, and the broader meaning of World War I for peoples of African descent. In exploring why “The Black Man and the Wounded World” never materialized, this study reveals how the tensions between history and memory, for both Du Bois and black veterans, reflected the contentious legacy of World War I for African Americans and directly contributed to the ultimate failure of the project.

Associate Professor, History, Hamilton College  -  The Black Man and the Wounded World: W. E. B. Du Bois, African American Soldiers, and the History of World War I

Paul F. Lerner
Paul F. Lerner  |  Abstract
Department stores, which began appearing in German cities and towns in the 1880s, revolutionized daily life, leisure, and commerce. The great majority of these stores, perhaps as many as eighty percent, were owned by Jewish families, but beyond these demographic realities, writers, cultural critics, political agitators, and consumers associated department stores with Jews in a variety of ways. This project investigates the ways in which “Jewishness” was inscribed onto the department store and early mass consumer society in Germany. Using political, literary, and commercial sources, it treats department stores as the setting for Germans’ explosive encounters with nascent mass consumerism and projections about Jewish power over German women and the German economy.

Associate Professor, History, University of Southern California  -  Consuming Encounters: Jews, Department Stores, and Early Mass Consumption in Germany, 1880-1940

Yanna Panayota Yannakakis
Yanna Panayota Yannakakis  |  Abstract
Multilingualism posed a problem to Mexico’s rulers from colonialism’s inception. “Mexico’s Babel” analyzes how the use and interplay of Spanish and indigenous languages in local courts structured inter-ethnic relations, knitted together state-centered and customary law, and put into dialogue liberalism and cultural pluralism. Set in Oaxaca, Mexico’s most polyglot region, the study illuminates how language policy and linguistic practices shaped indigenous peoples’ access to courts and the interpretation and application of the law from circa 1660-1852. “Mexico’s Babel” contributes to scholarship that bridges the late-colonial and national eras by asking how indigenous peoples fared in their transition from subjecthood to citizenship through the lens of law-society relations.

Assistant Professor, History, Emory University  -  Mexico’s Babel: Multilingualism, Law, and Society in Oaxaca from Colony to Republic

Kristin Mann
Kristin Mann  |  Abstract
This project uses court records from the British colony of Lagos to identify persons of slave origin and recover information about their lives. Stories told by these individuals in court are analyzed to recover memories of the slave trade, slavery, and freedom in West Africa and Bahia, as well as insights into the trans-Atlantic social worlds and cultural practices of these individuals. Further research drawing on previously gathered archival and oral data from Nigeria and Britain and new archival research in Bahia flesh out the biographies and social networks of slaves and freed people uncovered in the Lagos court records, illuminating how they sustained relationships with one another through time and across space and created a trans-Atlantic community.

Professor, History, Emory University  -  Trans-Atlantic Lives: Slavery and Freedom in West Africa and Brazil

David G. Yearsley
David G. Yearsley  |  Abstract
This study investigates women and music in eighteenth-century Lutheran Germany, focusing on neglected aspects of the life of Anna Magdalena Bach (née Wilcke), second wife of J. S. Bach. Following her from promising and well-paid young singer to often-bereaved mother and finally to impoverished widow, this project examines the contexts for her music making, both in public as a glamorous star, and in the domestic sphere where her contributions were crucial to the edification of children and to the larger musical economy of the Bach household. This study broadens our understanding of female performance in the period, and explains why women musicians were afforded far fewer performing possibilities by the middle of the eighteenth century than they had enjoyed 50 years earlier.

Professor, Music, Cornell University  -  Anna Magdalena Bach and the Musical Lives of a Lutheran Woman

Louisa C. Matthew
Louisa C. Matthew  |  Abstract
This project that focuses on six materials used by a wide variety of artisans and sold in the shops of the Venetian color-sellers during the Renaissance period. It examines these materials from various points of view, including the history of artisan practice, the history of technology and chemistry, analytical investigation through conservation science, and art and economic history, and asks if changes in the uses of and attitudes toward materials may provide new insights into the history of material culture during the Italian Renaissance.

Professor, Visual Arts, Union College (NY)  -  The Material Renaissance: A History of Colorants in Renaissance Venice

Judith T. Zeitlin
Judith T. Zeitlin  |  Abstract
This project examines the culture of musical entertainment in the late Ming and early Qing dynasties (roughly 1560-1700). During this period, musical entertainment mainly depended on two fashions where elite and popular culture met: courtesans and opera (qu). The study is structured around three key thematic components: the singing voice, the musical text, and the musical instrument. Each category offers fruitful ground for thinking through the material and social aspects of music-making, and for exploring how musical entertainment itself became an important topos to be reflected on in plays, songs, poems, woodblock illustrations, and other works of the time.

Professor, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago  -  The Culture of Musical Entertainment in Early Modern China: Voice, Instrument, Text