ACLS Collaborative Research Fellowships

The ACLS Collaborative Research Fellowship Program provides support to small teams of two or more scholars to collaborate intensively on a single, substantive project, which leads to a tangible research product (such as joint print or web publications) for which the collaborators will take equal credit. It is hoped that projects of successful applicants will help demonstrate the range and value of collaborative research in the humanities and related social sciences, and model how such collaboration may be carried out successfully.  

2016-2017 marked the ninth year of the ACLS Collaborative Research Fellowship Program, generously funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Read more about this fellowship program.

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. 

 

  • Agriculture’s Energy: Learning from the History of Biofuels in Brazil and the United States | Abstract

    This coauthored book project traces the linked histories of biofuels in the United States and Brazil during the twentieth century. This story contributes to scholarship and public debate in several ways. First, despite rapidly growing interest in the fields of energy and environmental history, few historians have tackled the long history of biofuels as alternatives to gasoline, nor addressed the long history of ethanol in a comparative or transnational context. Biofuels are distinct from other renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind power, since they depend on agriculture and therefore lie at the nexus of agricultural and energy policy in both the United States and Brazil. Understanding their history unlocks crucial new insights into comparative agricultural, food, and energy policies in the western hemisphere. Second, this project approaches energy history through a comparative, mesoscale analysis that allows historians and social scientists to understand how national cultures, policies, and economies shape energy regimes. By approaching the story both comparatively and transnationally, this project weighs differences and seeks connections. Understanding how and why certain patterns and problems arose out of these biofuels programs sheds light on issues arising in the emerging renewable energy regime. The book will be pitched at a general audience, especially people interested in future energy policymaking, and, as a historically-minded examination of renewable energy regimes, will make a compelling case for the value of humanistic research in the global energy debate. Award period: July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2020

    Thomas Rogers
    Thomas Rogers

    Associate Professor, History, Emory University

    Jeffrey T. Manuel
    Jeffrey T. Manuel

    Associate Professor, Historical Studies, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

  • At the Origins of the Hispanic Legal Tradition: A Translation and Commentary of the Book of Judgments | Abstract

    In 654, Recceswinth, king of the Visigoths, issued a law code for the territory of Iberia and southern France that represented the culmination of a centuries-long process of cultural and normative integration between the Hispano-Roman populace of the region and the Germanic elite that had taken control of the territory in the fifth and early sixth century. Combining Roman and Germanic normative traditions, this new Book of Judgments (Liber Iudiciorum) served as a catalyzing social force that helped weld the peninsula into a culturally diverse but politically unified whole. This Visigothic Law Code was supplemented and mildly revised in 681, and both the 654 and 681 recensions survive up to the present. These have been published in a modern critical edition in Latin which has never been properly translated. Historian of ancient Europe Damian Fernández and classicist Noel Lenski will translate the Latin text and furnish it with a fulsome introduction and historical commentary. Lenski has worked extensively on ancient law and was a member of the team that recently published a complete translation of the sixth-century Codex Justinianus. Fernández has published on the history and archaeology of Visigothic Iberia. They join forces to provide access to this crucial text to specialists in Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages, but also to a much wider audience. The considerable powers the Book of Judgments grants to the Visigothic monarch were readily adapted to serve reconquista royal power. Its extensive provisions on slaveholding allowed Spain and Portugal to maintain a robust slave culture which was then exported to the New World. And its strident anti-Jewish measures set the stage for the later tensions in a culture that cultivated convivencia for the seven hundred years after Muslim rulers took control of Spain in 711. This translation thus will not only provide access to the single most important source for Visigothic Iberia but also for the broader Hispanic legal tradition. It will be published in both print and online formats. Award period: September 1, 2018 through August 31, 2020

    Noel E. Lenski
    Noel E. Lenski

    Professor, Classics and History, Yale University

    Damián Fernández
    Damián Fernández

    Associate Professor, History, Northern Illinois University

  • Comparatizing Transylvania: Rurality, Inter-Imperiality, and the Global Modernist Market | Abstract

    A geopolitical entity since at least the fifteenth century, Transylvania has been claimed serially by a number of empires and nation-states. It maintained a separate identity within the Ottoman Empire and the Habsburg Empire, was incorporated into the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the nineteenth century and into the Romanian state in the beginning of the twentieth. Several languages have historically been spoken in the region: Romanian, Hungarian, German, Armenian, Greek, Yiddish, and Romany. Not coincidentally, Transylvania is considered to be the birth place of the discipline of comparative literature. A study of the region thus contributes a singular perspective on the imbrication of nation-building, postcoloniality, and inter-imperiality. The project, which brings Transylvania into ongoing, interrelated conversations on world literature, world history, and world systems-analysis, draws on literature scholar Anca Parvulescu’s writings on Eastern European modernity as a function of the region’s (post)coloniality and sociologist Manuela Boatcă’s work on semiperipheries in the modern/colonial world-system and the geopolitics of knowledge in Eastern Europe and Latin America. The project thus aims to place this region in a comparative framework that yields a fresh perspective on comparatism itself. Guiding questions are: What does “the world”(-system) look like when seen from the standpoint of a small village in Transylvania? How is comparative methodology transformed when one’s standpoint is Transylvania? In a methodological and pedagogical experiment, the project operates through a multilayered reading of one Transylvanian document, Liviu Rebreanu’s novel Ion, published in Bucharest in 1920. The project’s multimethod analysis centers on the region's inter-imperial history, developing a notion of postcoloniality as the aftermath of multiple, conflicting empires in the longue durée. The project frames Transylvania as a spatial node of multi- and inter-imperial relations, demonstrating that these scalar imperial layers coexist in the first decades of the twentieth century. The study will result in a coauthored book that contributes to scholarship on both comparative literature and the world history of capitalism. Boatcă and Parvulescu have several coauthored chapters and articles, as well as an ongoing joint teaching project involving classes and guest lectures in the United States, Germany, Sweden, and Romania. Award period: July 1, 2018 through July 31, 2019

    Anca Parvulescu
    Anca Parvulescu

    Professor, English, Washington University in St. Louis

    Manuela Boatcă
    Manuela Boatcă

    Professor, Sociology and Global Studies, Albert Ludwigs Universität Freiburg, Germany

  • Data Feminism | Abstract

    With their ability to depict hundreds, thousands, and sometimes even millions of relationships at a single glance, visualizations of data can dazzle, inform, and persuade. It is precisely this power that makes it necessary to ask: Who is creating these visualizations? Who are they for? Whose interest are they serving? By whose values are they informed? These are some of the questions that emerge from what this project calls data feminism, a way of thinking about data and its visualization that is informed by the past several decades of feminist critical thought. The project draws upon examples that range from the jittery election gauge that was displayed on the front page of The New York Times on the night of the 2016 presidential election, to the starkly designed and provocatively titled map of a section of Detroit drawn in 1970 called “Where Commuters Run Over Black Children on the Pointes-Downtown Track.” It prompts questions about how challenges to the male/female binary can also help challenge other binary and hierarchical classification systems; how the concept of invisible labor can help to expose the invisible forms of labor associated with data work; and how an understanding of affective and embodied knowledge can help to expand the notion of what constitutes data and what does not. A collaboration between Lauren Klein, a scholar of American studies and digital humanities and Catherine D’Ignazio, an expert in data visualization and civic media, the project reveals how a feminist approach to thinking about data not only exposes how power and privilege operate in data science and visualization work, but also suggests how new design principles can help to mitigate inequality and work toward justice. In addition to a jointly authored book, Data Feminism will result in a companion website and an art exhibition of feminist visualization work, scheduled for installation in Boston in Fall 2019 and Atlanta in Fall 2020. Klein and D’Ignazio have previously collaborated on the IEEE Visualization workshop paper, “Feminist Data Visualization” (2016). Award period: January 1, 2019 through December 31, 2020

    Lauren Klein
    Lauren Klein

    Assistant Professor, Literature, Media, and Communication, Georgia Institute of Technology

    Catherine D'Ignazio
    Catherine D'Ignazio

    Assistant Professor, Journalism, Emerson College

  • Insurgent Mobilities: An Ethnography of the Balkan Route as Movement | Abstract

    In 2015 and 2016, more than a million people traveled the Balkan route seeking safety in Europe. In what activists called the long summer of migration and mainstream media referred to as the European migrant/refugee crisis, people on the move made their way from Turkey, across the Aegean sea to Greece, up through the countries of the former Yugoslavia to Hungary and onward to Northern Europe. Along the way, they found activist allies who supported their movement and fought against the eventual closure of the route. For a brief period, the route disrupted the European border regime, an elaborate, robust, and expensive apparatus designed to prevent exactly such migration. How, in this era of proliferating and securitized borders, did this unprecedented movement of people from the Global South to Global North succeed? Anthropologists Nadia El-Shaarawi and Maple Razsa will coauthor an ethnography of the Balkan route that tells the story of the migrants who challenged and circumvented borders in their efforts to reach Europe in a struggle for what they and their activist allies called freedom of movement. Razsa has researched and worked in ethnographic filmmaking within radical activist networks in the former Yugoslavia and beyond, with a focus on direct action, migrant labor organizing, antiborder protests, and the radical political imagination. El-Shaarawi’s ethnographic work in the Middle East and North Africa has focused on urban displacement in the Global South as a form of containment and refugees’ challenging experiences navigating formal resettlement programs. Since 2015, El-Shaarawi and Razsa have collaborated on this project to investigate how migrants and activists opened the route through a series of clandestine and open border struggles. Together they have conducted participant observation at sites along the route and collected oral histories of migrants and activists to study the forms of collaboration and struggle that made mobility possible. El-Shaarawi and Razsa’s book puts the route in historical and social context to argue that the Balkan route can be read not as a humanitarian crisis, but as a literal social movement—where mobility itself challenged, for a brief moment, existing border regimes. Award period: September 1, 2018 through August 31, 2020

    Nadia El-Shaarawi
    Nadia El-Shaarawi

    Assistant Professor, Global Studies, Colby College

    Maple John Razsa
    Maple John Razsa

    Associate Professor, Global Studies, Colby College

  • The Epistemology of the Copy in Early Modern Travel Narratives | Abstract

    The rise of the printing press in sixteenth-century Europe coincided with European exploration and awareness of the wider world, including a previously unknown continent. Yet in order to illustrate the texts describing peoples and places never before seen, early modern European printers often resorted to pirating images from other presses and earlier texts. Sometimes illustrations were recycled for reasons of economy and expedience, as in popular travel accounts that appeared in numerous editions like Hans Staden’s 1557 Warhaftige Historia recounting his captivity in Brazil. Other times images were copied to substantiate textual claims in ambitious travel account collections, such as Theodor de Bry’s lavishly illustrated Grands and Petits Voyages, published in numerous volumes between 1590 and 1634. While scholarship has traditionally dismissed copied illustrations as inferior, derivative, or arbitrary, this project explores their epistemological function in disseminating information about distant places and shaping stereotypical perceptions of the non-European world. The project aims to credit the conventional and repeatable nature of prints as essential to publishing history, to the development of visual literacy, and to the circulation of images of non-European peoples and places that would provide the basis for colonial projects and imperial self-imaginings. The project requires multidisciplinary and multilingual expertise in order to address texts and images representing different geographies in multiple languages, and thus draws on German and comparative literature scholar Elio Brancaforte’s research on European travel accounts to Safavid Iran and Azerbaijan; art historian Stephanie Leitch’s work on visual culture and ethnography in German prints of Africa, Asia, and the Americas; and Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American literature scholar Lisa Voigt’s research on accounts of travel, shipwreck, and captivity in the Atlantic world. The seed of this project was planted in Voigt and Brancaforte’s coauthored article, “The Traveling Illustrations of Sixteenth-Century Travel Narratives” (PMLA 2014), and subsequently developed in a Collaborative Cluster Fellowship held by Leitch and Voigt at the John Carter Brown Library in August 2017. The resulting coauthored book will trace the spread of stereotypes across national, linguistic, and confessional borders as well as their relation to European imperial, commercial, and colonial projects. Award period: May 1, 2019 through April 30, 2021

    Lisa Voigt
    Lisa Voigt

    Professor, Spanish and Portuguese, The Ohio State University

    Elio Brancaforte
    Elio Brancaforte

    Associate Professor, Germanic and Slavic Studies, Tulane University

    Stephanie Leitch
    Stephanie Leitch

    Associate Professor, Art History, Florida State University

  • The Great Asian Deerskin Boom: Consumer Revolution, Inter-Asian Trade, and Environmental Degradation, 1600-1800 | Abstract

    During the early modern period, the deerskin trade stretched across Asia, binding hunters, shippers, artisans, and consumers together in sprawling networks. Propelled by voracious demand for soft and pliable leather, hundreds of thousands of skins were shipped out each year, first, from hunting grounds across Southeast Asia and, later, from Ezo (Hokkaido) to Japan’s booming ports and cities. While a great deal is known about the wider impact of European consumers via their demand for commodities, this project examines how the purchasing choices of Asian consumers for the most quotidian of items—deerskin socks and purses—created a powerful, transregional engine that connected and transformed early modern Asia. Combining environmental, legal, social, and economic history, the project shows how the deerskin trade remade a vast region of the world, sparked the creation of new zones of maritime jurisdiction, and drove conflict between different status groups in Japan. Looking across the full extent of the deerskin commodity chain challenges the prevailing image of Tokugawa Japan as a uniquely sustainable society by showing how the green fields of the archipelago depended on the availability of a wider hinterland that could be tapped for natural resources to feed Japan’s consumer revolution. The project brings together historians Xing Hang, Daniel Botsman, and Adam Clulow. Hang has written widely on Chinese mercantile networks and port settlements in early modern maritime Asia with particular focus on Eurasian integration and economic transition. Botsman is a Tokugawa specialist with expertise in studying Japan’s outcaste communities. Clulow is an expert on the Dutch East India Company, trade between Southeast Asia and Japan and early modern legal networks. The three scholars have worked closely together on several previous collaborations including a series of chapters and a journal special issue. This project will result in a workshop and a series of joint publications, including a coauthored monograph. Award period: July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2021

    Xing Hang
    Xing Hang

    Associate Professor, History, Brandeis University

    Daniel Botsman
    Daniel Botsman

    Professor, History, Yale University

    Adam Clulow
    Adam Clulow

    Senior Lecturer, History, Monash University

  • To Speak of Common Places: A People’s History of Oregon’s Public Lands | Abstract

    Through the lens of Oregon’s public lands, this project addresses fundamental questions about the future of US democratic culture: First, is there still such a thing as an “American public,” a national public, and if so how does that public define its common interests? Second, how does attachment to a specific place—through recreational use, hunting/fishing, or agricultural work—shape political and cultural affiliations? Finally, can common places—places managed for use by diverse stakeholders—provoke nonpartisan dialogues, cross-partisan affiliations, and democratic participation regarding questions of resource management? Public lands are sites of rich possibility for democratic participation, despite the fact that they are more endangered than they ever have been. Much of the archive for this project consists of oral histories of Oregonians speaking for themselves about the challenges and pleasures of living and working within the public lands at five distinct regional sites, each representative of a unique ecosystem and environmental history within the American West. Ranchers, farmers, farmworkers, Native American tribes, professional resource managers, and natural scientists are among the diverse voices that inform the project’s narrative about the public lands in Oregon, a state that is well-known for its significant political divisions—often reflecting the stark distinctions between urban and rural US cultures. The results of the interviews and archival research will culminate in a coauthored book, and a digital companion to the book. The project’s field work, book, and digital project are intended to spur conversation among diverse stakeholders about what the future of America’s public lands might be, what kinds of cross-partisan venues devoted to land management decisions have been models of democratic process, and how best to find political and cultural middle ground. Stephanie LeMenager and Marsha Weisiger codirect the Center for Environmental Futures at the University of Oregon. Weisiger is a historian of the American West, with long-term research interests in environmental history, while LeMenager is an environmental humanities scholar and has published widely on environmental media and culture. Award period: September 1, 2018 through August 31, 2020

    Stephanie LeMenager
    Stephanie LeMenager

    Professor, English and Environmental Studies, University of Oregon

    Marsha L. Weisiger
    Marsha L. Weisiger

    Associate Professor, History, University of Oregon

  • Zionists on Trial? The Slánský Affair and the Dynamics of Czechoslovak Stalinism | Abstract

    In 1952 the Czechoslovak Communist regime sentenced eleven men to death and three more to life in prison. All, including General-Secretary Rudolf Slánský, were high-ranking Communist officials. All but three were Jews. This project, which brings together historians Chad Bryant, Kateřina Čapková, and Diana V. Dumitru, challenges predominant interpretations of the so-called Slánský affair as a foreign import imposed by Soviet advisors and an antisemitic Stalin. Building upon the breadth of expertise among team members, the project draws from previously ignored archival documents in Prague, Moscow, Jerusalem, and Washington, DC to focus on local dynamics, while reconsidering the Czechoslovak Communist Party’s relationship with the Soviet Union more generally. In contrast to the totalitarian and neo-totalitarian schools that emphasize the coordinated, efficient, and centralized aspects of communism, Bryant, Čapková, and Dumitru pursue an understanding of nationalism and antisemitism within Eastern European communist regimes after World War II by asking what led comrades and friends to betray each other. Čapková is a scholar of Jewish history based in the Czech Republic. Bryant has published on issues related to Czech nationalism. Dumitru works on nationality policies in the Soviet Union, with a particular interest in Soviet Jews under Stalin. Their coauthored book, to be published in English and Czech, will challenge common notions about communism and communist rule while probing the deep roots of xenophobia found in much of the region today. Award period: September 1, 2018 through August 31, 2020

    Chad C. Bryant
    Chad C. Bryant

    Associate Professor, History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    Katerina Capkova
    Katerina Capkova

    Adjunct Associate Professor, Campus in Prague, New York University

    Diana V. Dumitru
    Diana V. Dumitru

    Associate Professor, History and Social Scienses, Universitatea Pedagogică de Stat "Ion Creangă", Moldova