ACLS Project Development Grants

ACLS Project Development Grants offer flexible seed funding to help advance the research agendas of faculty at teaching-intensive colleges and universities. This new program is part of ACLS’s commitment to recognize scholarly excellence from all sectors of higher education and beyond, and it is funded by our endowment, to which many individuals and institutions have contributed, including The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, ACLS’s Research University Consortium and college and university Associates, former fellows, and individuals and friends.

Read more about these awards on the ACLS Fellowship program page.

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. 

Candace Lea Bailey
Candace Lea Bailey  |  Abstract
This project explores how women from across the southern United States used music in pursuit of gentility, thereby challenging the modern tendency to assign both gentility and parlor music to the white middle class alone. Through music, women participated in a gendered practice that placed embodied performance within clearly defined social environments. Deploying music as a form of cultural capital, they transformed their social positions and gained power both within and outside of their own circles. The grant will support archival research in Boston and Chicago, as well as course coverage during the academic year.

Professor, Music, North Carolina Central University  -  Women, Music, and the Performance of Gentility in the Mid-Nineteenth-Century South

AnaLouise Keating
AnaLouise Keating  |  Abstract
This comprehensive analysis of Gloria Anzaldúa’s theories and aesthetics systematically integrates her unpublished writings into an overview of her complex philosophy, thus exploring intellectual developments not found in her published work. Through archival research at the Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas at Austin, this project will showcase Anzaldúa’s subversive use of decolonial wisdom traditions and develop an innovative research method for scholars investigating Anzaldúa’s archive or the archives of other queer authors of color.

Professor, Multicultural Women's and Gender Studies, Texas Woman's University  -  Bridges, Borderlands, Nepantlas: Gloria Anzaldúa’s Decolonial Philosophy

Jason David BeDuhn
Jason David BeDuhn  |  Abstract
The Manichaean religion’s distinctive concept of the soul intersects with recent re-evaluations of selfhood and reveals sophisticated ancient psychological analysis. This project, by elucidating that concept, contributes to a historical genealogy of the soul and brings fresh perspective to current debates about the nature of selfhood and humanity. The grant will support archival research in the Indiana University, University of Notre Dame, and University of Illinois collections.

Professor, Comparative Cultural Studies, Northern Arizona University  -  The Manichaean Soul

Emily Susan Lieb
Emily Susan Lieb  |  Abstract
“The City’s Dying and They Don’t Know Why” is a biography of one West Baltimore neighborhood called Rosemont. By following Rosemont from its development in the progressive era to its near-abandonment in the mid-1970s, the book will explain some of the many ways in which inequality has shaped, and continues to shape, urban places in the United States. The grant will support research and writing trips to Baltimore during the 2018-19 academic year.

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Matteo Ricci Institute, Seattle University  -  “The City’s Dying and They Don’t Know Why”: How Baltimore Suffocated a Neighborhood and Sabotaged its Future

Karen M. Cook
Karen M. Cook  |  Abstract
The fourteenth century witnessed new approaches to notating musical rhythm, including a trend toward using increasingly smaller note values. This led to logical quandaries when people started to use new notes that were “smaller than the smallest” note value possible. This monograph traces the development of this phenomenon in both theory and practice over more than a hundred years. The grant will support fall course buyouts that will allow for time to complete the first full draft.

Assistant Professor, Music History, University of Hartford  -  Non est minimo dare minus: The Fracturing of Rhythm in the Late Medieval Period

Derek C. Maus
Derek C. Maus  |  Abstract
This project aims to articulate a more nuanced understanding of how African American and African Canadian identities have been represented in contemporary fiction. It emphasizes not only the overlaps between these two literary-cultural traditions, but also the areas in which existing models of diasporic black solidarity fall short of explaining the significant divergences between them. The grant will fund trips to archives and scholarly conferences, as well as the acquisition of primary and secondary source materials.

Professor, English and Communication, State University of New York at Potsdam  -  The True (Black) North: Surveying the Contours of African Canadian Identity through Contemporary Fiction

Jorge L. Giovannetti
Jorge L. Giovannetti  |  Abstract
This project will produce a comparative study of life in rural Cuba and Puerto Rico after World War II and before the transformations in the sociopolitical landscape caused by Operation Bootstrap and the Cuban Revolution. Using untapped anthropological sources from the 1940s and 1950s, such as fieldnotes, journals, and images, the project explores the intellectual history of US anthropology as well as the formative years of Caribbean area studies. The grant will support archival research in the United States during 2018-19.

Professor, Sociology and Anthropology, University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras  -  Rural Life, History, and Anthropology in the Post-World War II Hispanic Caribbean

Alexander Olson
Alexander Olson  |  Abstract
The concept of creativity is a product of history that was largely absent from US vernacular prior to the 1930s. More democratic than “genius” and more inclusive of the sciences than “culture,” creativity offered a heuristic for explaining a host of active verbs: discover, create, learn, imagine, invent, and sell. Yet it also foreclosed an earlier, more complicated conceptual landscape. This book investigates the vocabularies, practices, and identity scripts through which Americans understood the nature of learning and discovery before the emergence of creativity discourse. The grant will support research and writing during the summers of 2018 and 2019.

Assistant Professor, History, Western Kentucky University  -  Before Creativity, 1860-1940

Alison Griffiths
Alison Griffiths  |  Abstract
“Nomadic Cinema” examines films shot in Borneo, Central Asia, and the American Southwest in the golden age of expedition filmmaking during the interwar period. Grounded in rigorous archival research, the book draws upon several interdisciplinary fields as it analyzes the habits of seeing and writing among leaders of both famous and obscure twentieth-century expeditions, while tracing the rich lineage of exploration image-making to the medieval period. This grant will support visits to archives in Norway, Scotland, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles.

Professor, Communication Studies, City University of New York, Baruch College  -  Nomadic Cinema: A Cultural Geography of the Expedition Film

John W. Ott
John W. Ott  |  Abstract
Spanning the Scottsboro Boys trial to Brown v. Board of Education, this project investigates black and white artists’ efforts to achieve racial integration in their imagery as well as within art institutions. Chapters address images of racial solidarity produced in New Deal art programs, Jacob Lawrence’s paintings of the armed forces’ desegregation, and black modernists’ efforts to claim abstraction as an integrationist visual style. The grant will support research in Washington, DC at the Archives of American Art, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Professor, Art, Design, and Art History, James Madison University  -  Mixed Media: The Visual Cultures of Racial Integration, 1931-1954

John Gruesser
John Gruesser  |  Abstract
“Man on the Firing Line” challenges current notions about the audience for, and the content, production, and dissemination of, politically engaged US black fiction. The project contributes to the critical reassessment not only of Sutton Griggs, but also of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century African American and US literary, print, and religious culture. This grant will support research in key places connected to Griggs, including Dallas, Nashville, Memphis, Philadelphia, and Chicago.

Senior Research Scholar, English, Sam Houston State University  -  Man on the Firing Line: The Literary Life of Sutton E. Griggs, 1872-1933

Allyson M. Poska
Allyson M. Poska  |  Abstract
In 1803, Charles IV initiated a campaign to vaccinate the diverse populations of the Spanish Empire against smallpox, opening vaccination rooms across Spain and sending the vaccine around the globe with the Royal Philanthropic Expedition. This project explores the complex responses to the campaign as it challenged traditional racial, gender, and political hierarchies. The grant will support research at archives in Madrid and La Coruña in November and December of 2018.

Professor, History, University of Mary Washington  -  Contesting Equality: Smallpox Vaccination in the Spanish Empire, 1803-1810

Eleanor Helms
Eleanor Helms  |  Abstract
Do thought experiments provide new evidence, and if so, what kind? Current accounts of thought experiment emphasize reason and explanation rather than perception. Drawing on philosophical research in aesthetics, this study proposes a new account of how thought experiments help people to see differently. The project integrates contemporary work in philosophy of perception with Søren Kierkegaard’s use of the term tankeexperiment in the 1800s. The grant will support summer research in preparation for a trip to the Kierkegaard Research Center in spring 2019.

Associate Professor, Philosophy, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo  -  The Structure of Imagination: Belief, Perception, and Thought Experiment in Kierkegaard

Arne Spohr
Arne Spohr  |  Abstract
Modeled on the garden villas of renaissance Italy, pleasure houses became important spaces for courtly recreation and representation in northern Europe. These sites were often spatially arranged to conceal musicians from view as they played, so that their performance appeared as an acoustic miracle to visitors. Through the lens of pleasure houses, with their complex array of acoustic, visual, and spatial signs, this study investigates the interrelations between sound, space, and visual media in early modern cultural practice. The grant will support research at archives and libraries in Germany and the Czech Republic.

Associate Professor, Musicology, Composition and Theory, Bowling Green State University  -  "Like an Earthly Paradise": Concealed Music in Early Modern Pleasure Houses

Audra Jennings
Audra Jennings  |  Abstract
As a transformative moment in the history of US welfare policy, the New Deal propelled momentous state growth. “Insecurity” analyzes how disability informed that era, by helping to define notions of insecurity and delineate divides between work and relief, while also serving as an object of state growth. This grant will support conference and research travel and provide a stipend for archival research.

Associate Professor, History, Western Kentucky University  -  Insecurity: Disability, the Great Depression, and the New Deal State