Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellows

ACLS created the Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars to support scholars in the humanities and social sciences in the crucial years immediately following the granting of tenure, and to provide emerging leaders in their fields with the resources to pursue long-term, unusually ambitious projects. The 2020 cohort is the twenty-first and final for the program, which over the past two decades has supported nearly 275 scholars as they took up year-long residencies at independent research centers and universities.
The Burkhardt Fellowships are generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. They are named for the late Frederick Burkhardt, President Emeritus of ACLS, whose decades of work on The Correspondence of Charles Darwin constitute a signal example of dedication to a demanding and ambitious scholarly enterprise.

Read more about this fellowship program.

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

Colin J. Beck
Colin J. Beck  |  Abstract
What do scholars think we know about revolution? To what extent is our social knowledge dependent on how we have interpreted revolution? Do our interpretations hold across time and space? This project examines all comparative studies of revolution published from 1970 to 2019 to reveal which events the field as a whole studies, how they have been studied, and what knowledge results. Content analysis shows how authors select their cases and which comparisons scholars draw among revolutionary events. Social network analysis examines who produces knowledge about revolution and their connections to each other, as revealed by acknowledgements in books. Finally, meta-analysis shows which theories apply to which revolutions, and which causal factors have the most explanatory power across many cases.

Associate Professor, Sociology, Pomona College  -  What Do We Really Know about (the Social Science of) Revolution?
For residence at the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Irvine during academic year 2020-2021

Gabriel S. Mendlow
Gabriel S. Mendlow  |  Abstract
Thought crime is the stuff of dystopian fiction, not contemporary law. Or so we’re told. Yet our legal system may in a sense punish thought regularly, even as our legal philosophy lacks the resources to recognize this state of affairs for what it is, or to explain what might be wrong with it. The leading Anglophone jurisdictions quietly employ a style of criminalization in which certain laws nominally prohibit outward acts but actually sanction offenders for their inner thoughts. This style of criminalization clashes with critical yet overlooked principles of political morality concerning the right to freedom of mind and the relationship between punishment and policing. By bringing these conflicts to light, this project aims to change how we understand criminal responsibility, how we regulate prosecutorial and judicial discretion, and how we punish numerous criminal offenses, from attempts to terrorism to hate crimes.

Professor, Law and Philosophy, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor  -  Thought Crime
For residence at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress during calendar year 2022

Ellen R. Boucher
Ellen R. Boucher  |  Abstract
“Be Prepared” explores how Britons have understood, and sought to prepare for, catastrophic risks in the modern era. The project follows the public debate about the hazards of empire, industrialization, war, and nuclear annihilation from the Victorian period through the 20th century, uncovering the broader cultural pattern that underlay British responses to risk. By moving beyond the conventional narrative of Britain’s 20th century, which has centered on the world wars and the rise of the welfare state, “Be Prepared” illustrates that Britons have long perceived risk in ways that value individualism, self-reliance, and competition over social trust and collectivism. The study thus reveals the deep roots of Britain’s “neoliberal sensibility,” helping to explain the popular basis of neoliberalism today.

Associate Professor, History, Amherst College  -  Be Prepared: Risk and the Neoliberal Sensibility in Modern Britain
For residence at the Department of History at the University of California, Berkeley during academic year 2021-2022

Dana Velasco Murillo
Dana Velasco Murillo  |  Abstract
The war against stateless peoples in the second half of the sixteenth century in America’s first borderlands—New Spain’s emerging near northern silver mining district—devastated nomadic indigenous populations (generically called Chichimecas). Traditional native hunting and foraging lands experienced intense ecological change and native men and women were killed or sold into long-term enslavement. Worn down by years of violence and deprivation, native peoples gradually submitted to Spanish rule in the late 1580s, agreeing to resettlement in reducciones (reservations). The focus on state peoples and events casts Iberians and sedentary indigenous migrants from central Mexico as the main subjects of this foundational borderland’s history. This book recovers and repositions Chichimecas as central protagonists. It considers how they experienced the war, took an active role in peacemaking, responded to social reorganization in reducciones, and navigated the state’s attempts to transform their lifeways.

Associate Professor, History, University of California, San Diego  -  The Chichimeca Arc: War, Peace, and Resettlement in America’s First Borderlands, 1546- 1616
For residence at the Huntington Library during academic year 2020-2021

Stephanie DeGooyer
Stephanie DeGooyer  |  Abstract
"Acts of Naturalization" recovers an alternative account of national belonging in legal and literary developments in support of immigration in the eighteenth century. This project reveals how early “English” novels were profoundly entangled with the incipient legal framework of naturalization, which understood nationality as an identity that could be created by the secular power of law. Together, the law and the novel experimented with a new idea of nationality as an endlessly modifiable exterior identity, separate from both biological and cultural life. Literary and legal writers developed crucial naturalizing techniques for expanding conceptions of national community that are distinct from the categories of assimilation and ideological acculturation that are used to conceptualize nationality today.

Associate Professor, English, Willamette University  -  Acts of Naturalization: Immigration and the Early Novel
For residence at the Department of English at the University of California, Los Angeles during academic year 2020-2021

Gwen Ottinger
Gwen Ottinger  |  Abstract
For 25 years, residents of communities adjacent to oil refineries have developed new technologies for representing air quality, and with them, new concepts for expressing harms caused by pollution. Their interventions have been misrecognized by regulators as bids for inclusion rather than responses to epistemic injustice. This project develops the concept of “epistemic innovation” to better characterize communities’ novel representational strategies. Combining ethnographic research with ideas from science and technology studies, political theory, and feminist ethics, it shows how epistemic injustice can become structural through scientific and technological standards, and argues that epistemic innovation is necessary to achieving environmental and social justice.

Associate Professor, Politics, Drexel University  -  Justice in Environmental Policy through Epistemic Innovation
For residence at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences during academic year 2020-2021

Deborah Dinner
Deborah Dinner  |  Abstract
In July 1983, women’s liberation activists marched in the sticky summer heat of the nation’s capital to demand sex equality in insurance. The protest underscored both the importance of private insurance to social welfare and the inequities this generated. Activists highlighted a tension between antidiscrimination principles, which mandate neutrality in the face of difference, and actuarial principles, which use sex, race, and other identity characteristics as proxies for risk. In addition, activists criticized the ways in which private insurance entrenches inequality by segmenting populations and selectively spreading risk. This project examines the legal history of private insurance across the twentieth century. The actuarial sciences acquired authority under law by portending to objectivity and thereby obscuring how ideas about familial, gender, and race difference shaped insurance practices. By transforming collective, public problems into individualized, private ones, insurance law has impoverished our political response to systemic insecurities, creating “A Nation at Risk.”

Associate Professor, Law, Emory University  -  A Nation at Risk: Private Insurance and the Law in Modern America
For residence at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress during academic year 2022-2023

Shailaja Paik
Shailaja Paik  |  Abstract
“Becoming ‘Vulgar’” offers a multisite and microhistorical analysis of how Indians of various castes and classes paid intensive attention to managing social danger and moral disorder to make “decent” communities. In particular, they sought to discipline supposedly vulgar Dalit (“Untouchable”) women’s immoderate and overabundant sexuality through divergent methods of sexual violence and social and political control. Based on ethnographic and archival research and utilizing hitherto unexamined oral, legal, musical, and performative evidence, alongside vernacular textual sources, this research exposes how vulgarity became a political project for advancing the hegemonic interests and identity of elite Indians in twentieth-century Western India.

Associate Professor, History, University of Cincinnati  -  Becoming "Vulgar": Caste Domination and Normative Sexuality in Modern India
For residence at the National Humanities Center during academic year 2022-2023

Mehmet Dosemeci
Mehmet Dosemeci  |  Abstract
"The History of Disruption" is an investigation of disruptive social struggle in the Atlantic world since the 1700s. The project traces the eighteenth-century maturation of a European "economy of movement" predicated on expanding the flow of goods, credit, and bodies across the transatlantic world. It then examines the 300-year resistance to this economy, corralling such disparate social struggles as English and French food riots, Caribbean maroon societies, piracy, European and American syndicalism, the New Left, Black Power, radical feminism, and environmentalism into a history of politics as disruption. In doing so, it questions why we have come to understand social struggle through the category of movement and the consequences and costs of this understanding for humanistic inquiry.

Associate Professor, History, Bucknell University  -  The History of Disruption
For residence at the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University during the academic year 2021-2022

Sean Parr
Sean Parr  |  Abstract
This project situates the idea of heroic singing in the crucible of nineteenth-century vocal revolutions. Richard Wagner pushed singing to its limits in his vision of a German singing style as heightened speech. Whereas prior investigations of Wagnerian singing have typically centered on its sheer volume, this study examines how a school of singing defined by the disciplining of the breathing body has shaped the last century of Wagnerian singing. In approaching heroic singing from the perspective of breath, ”Singing at the Limits” opens up a new avenue to understanding connections among voice, sound, and body, and, in so doing, upends the conventional notion that singers are defined by and as their voices.

Associate Professor, Fine Arts, Saint Anselm College  -  Singing at the Limits: Wagner, Breathing, and the Heroic Voice
For residence at the Department of Music at Dartmouth College during academic year 2021-2022

Ira Dworkin
Ira Dworkin  |  Abstract
“’Imperfectly Known’: Nicholas Said and the Routes of African American Narrative” is a study of a Muslim writer from Borno in northeastern Nigeria. After being enslaved in Africa, Europe, and Asia, Said arrived in the United States as a free person, and soon thereafter volunteered for the African American Massachusetts Fifty-Fifth Regiment during the Civil War. Over the course of four chapters, “Imperfectly Known” traces the geographical, narrative, and textual routes of Said’s two autobiographies—one of which appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in 1867 and another which he self-published in 1873—as a means to examine race, religion, nation, and citizenship in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century United States. This consideration of Said’s writings about literacy and education illuminates the centrality of Africa and Islam to the broader development of African American communities.

Associate Professor, English, Texas A&M University  -  “Imperfectly Known”: Nicholas Said and the Routes of African American Narrative
For residence at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study during academic year 2020-2021

Antje Pfannkuchen
Antje Pfannkuchen  |  Abstract
"Printing the Invisible: The Invention of Photography as a Cultural Technique" studies the birth of photography in the early nineteenth century as an innovation reaching far beyond the scope of a new technology or a novel art form. The concept of a “Kulturtechnik” (a cultural technique) provides a theoretical frame work to investigate a variety of influences participating in the conception of this emerging imaging process. This new examination integrates the canonical considerations of optics, chemistry, and art history with so far unappreciated developments, such as eighteenth-century electrical experiments and Romantic poetry, to reveal how photography originated not so much as a method to copy an existing view or object but as a process to make visible something that could not be seen otherwise.

Associate Professor, German, Dickinson College  -  Printing the Invisible: The Invention of Photography as a Cultural Technique
For residence at the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Johns Hopkins University during academic year 2020-2021

Heather Ferguson
Heather Ferguson  |  Abstract
This project uses edicts, wills, commissioned manuscripts, dynastic histories, monuments and ceremonies to create an alternative historical index of imperial politics from a rare vantage point: the final undertakings of Ottoman and Habsburg rulers. The techniques adopted to shape the image of sovereignty, preserve the legacy of the sovereign’s body and sustain the imperial polity shift our understanding of "archive" from fixed site to mobile practice by revealing a trans-imperial circulation of commemorative methods. "Sovereign Valedictions" presents these techniques as an entangled vocabulary of governance that crosses ethnolinguistic, territorial and juridical boundaries. It pivots away from comparative methods that use the “Islamic” as a “European” counterpoint toward a thematic analysis of efforts to combat time and ensure continuity.

Associate Professor, History, Claremont McKenna College  -  Sovereign Valedictions: “Last Acts” and Archival Ventures in Early Modern Ottoman and Habsburg Courts
For residence at the Department of History and the Center for 17th & 18th Century Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles during academic year 2021-2022

Pooja G. Rangan
Pooja G. Rangan  |  Abstract
“Audibilities” fundamentally rethinks a basic documentary tenet—“giving voice to the voiceless”—by scrutinizing the humanitarian habits of listening that documentary media endorse when they beckon audiences to hear disenfranchised subjects. Documentary teaches us that listening is the highest ethical act. Listening, we are told, brings the voiceless into the domain of audibility, where their humanity can be evidenced, heard, and recognized. “Audibilities” challenges this belief. Interdisciplinary by design, the project analyzes marginalized oral and aural practices alongside critical theories of race, language, and disability. In attending to what is not immediately audible as a voice, this study paves a path for a more expansive listening and documentary praxis that embraces mutual dependency and mediation.

Associate Professor, English, Amherst College  -  Audibilities: Documentary and Sonic Governance
For residence at the Center for Media, Culture, and History at New York University during academic year 2020-2021

Allyson Nadia Field
Allyson Nadia Field  |  Abstract
“Minstrelsy-Vaudeville-Cinema” reframes the emergence of American cinema through the lens of Black performance and representation, and especially the ubiquity of minstrelsy in US culture. Built out of analysis of rare film artifacts and archival research, the book traces the development of performance tropes, themes, and practices from minstrelsy to the vaudeville stage and movie screen. In so doing, it reveals the depth and complexity of minstrelsy's influence on the emergence of US cinema and accounts for its popularity and longevity beyond the first years of moving pictures. By using a series of racialized performances in early cinema as case studies, this book shows how Black performers and artists negotiated issues of race in a rapidly changing social order while also exploring moments of creative resistance to the prevalence of dehumanizing portrayals of African Americans.

Associate Professor, Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago  -  Minstrelsy-Vaudeville-Cinema: American Popular Culture and Racialized Performance in Early Film
For residence at the Newberry Library during academic year 2020-2021

Trinidad Rico
Trinidad Rico  |  Abstract
This research project examines tensions between the practices associated with cultural heritage preservation and religion, with a focus on the Muslim world. It addresses local, regional, and global scales through ethnographic research in Qatar and archival work in the Arabian Peninsula, Paris, Geneva, and London, bringing together historical and contemporary heritage narratives and policies. This examination of the global rise of heritage industries, its civil societies, and decolonizing discourses, redefines questions of agency for the broad Muslim world in a field dominated by conflict and terrorism-driven agendas.

Associate Professor, Art History, Rutgers University-New Brunswick  -  Muslim Cultures of Heritage
For residence at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences during academic year 2020-2021

Kifah Hanna
Kifah Hanna  |  Abstract
This book presents an original study of non-normative sexualities during periods of political upheaval in the contemporary Arab Middle East. The conceptual innovation of “floating sexualities” allows a nuanced examination of non-normative sexualities as they travel across genres (literature, film, and social media) in relation to the lived realities of war and regional instability. The concept also facilitates a simultaneous analysis of local and global contexts and presumes a constitutive relationship between sexuality and the rise of new configurations of literary, artistic, and political narrative. "Floating Sexualities" urges the rethinking of the Arabic literary canon and the reconceptualization of contemporary Arab sexualities as malleable aesthetic and political formations.

Associate Professor, Language and Culture Studies, Trinity College  -  Floating Sexualities in Contemporary Arabic Literature, Film, and Social Media
For residence at the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, at Columbia University during academic year 2020-2021

Scott Andrew Schroeder
Scott Andrew Schroeder  |  Abstract
Although most of us think of science as an “objective” or “value-free” endeavor, philosophers and other scholars of science have shown that this isn’t right. Doing good science requires making value judgments - e.g., in constructing classification schemes, operationalizing concepts, analyzing data, and managing uncertainty. Current codes of scientific ethics provide scientists with little guidance in making such choices. This project develops a framework to help scientists make those value judgments. The key innovation is to view the choices as lying within the domain of political philosophy, rather than ethics. This makes concepts like democratic legitimacy and accountability central, and gives the public an important role in the process. In collaboration with scientists, the project aims to produce a set of case studies and concrete guidelines to help scientists better navigate the value judgments their work requires.

Associate Professor, Philosophy, Claremont McKenna College  -  Navigating Social Values in Science: A Project in Political Philosophy of Science
For residence at the Institute for Practical Ethics at the University of California, San Diego during calendar year 2021

Olabode Ibironke
Olabode Ibironke  |  Abstract
This is a study of the history of affect, and especially comedy, in Africa. Comedy is the essential cultural currency, a condition of global citizenship as envisioned by Moses Adejumo, who developed àwàdà, a comedic genre of irony, lightness, and unassuming wit when he began the first televised comedy series in Africa, in 1965. The confluence of a newly available mass audience and the unique personality of the artist induced imitators throughout Anglophone Africa and permanently marked Nigerian society. Grounded in the theory of comedy and the modes of popular culture that have come to saturate the modern, global understanding of that phenomenon, the study probes how comic creativity and innovative technologies, from television to mobile technologies, modify sensibilities and affects to produce new conceptions of public culture. It illuminates how performative and creative qualities original to socially embedded African forms coexist with powerful influences and technologies from the West.

Associate Professor, English, Rutgers University-New Brunswick  -  Comedy and Modernity: New Media and Genres in Postcolonial Africa, 1965-1995
For residence at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress during academic year 2020-2021

Kirsten Swenson
Kirsten Swenson  |  Abstract
“Landfills are the city’s largest remaining open spaces, not, like classic earthworks, splendid in desert isolation,” Mierle Laderman Ukeles wrote in 1992, advocating for “public earthworks” accessible by subway. This book addresses park design as a public art form, focusing on remediation projects by Ukeles, Nancy Holt, Agnes Denes, Robert Morris, and others that merged concepts of land art with cultivation, landscape design, and urban planning. These parks, associated with the deindustrialization of US cities after the 1970s, reimagined the public sphere, articulated land use history, and introduced new forms of engagement with ecology and the built environment. This book considers a set of visionary parks—both existing and unrealized—within their historical context and in light of the uneven development of today’s cities.

Associate Professor, Art & Design, University of Massachusetts Lowell  -  Public Works: Land Art and Urban Redevelopment
For residence at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress during academic year 2021-2022

Michelle Lelièvre
Michelle Lelièvre  |  Abstract
This interdisciplinary study critically reflects on the process of conducting collaborative archaeological fieldwork with indigenous communities to ask broad questions about the relevance that humanistic social sciences have to contemporary conversations about reconciliation between settlers and indigenous peoples. The project puts evidence rooted in Western disciplines into dialogue with local indigenous knowledge to document the long-term presence of Nova Scotia's indigenous Mi'kmaq on a landscape encroached upon by Europeans. It also argues that the sociality fostered by the intimacy of archaeological fieldwork helps to collapse the essentializing categories of “settler” and “indigenous,” thus making it possible to examine the daily work of reconciliation. This is a collaborative project, whose team members shares the results of their research in academic publications and through public-facing experiential learning programs developed with Mi'kmaw communities.

Associate Professor, Anthropology and American Studies, College of William & Mary  -  Radical Reconciliation: Collaborative Research as Survivance on Nova Scotia's Chignecto Peninsula
For residence at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress during academic year 2022-2023

Philip Thai
Philip Thai  |  Abstract
This project presents a transnational history of “Greater China”—Communist China, Nationalist Taiwan, British Hong Kong, and Portuguese Macao—during the Cold War. It explores how front companies, petty merchants, ordinary fishermen, and mobile criminals crisscrossed this geopolitical battleground for profit and even survival by negotiating the tangled web of domestic strictures and international embargoes. Their activities reveal a vast world of shadowy connections and economies that traversed formidable barriers erected by rival camps and expanded in tandem with the region’s tightening links to global trade. This project draws from diverse sources to provide an unconventional perspective on the Cold War by tying high diplomacy and elite politics to underground economies and survival strategies. In rethinking the dynamic interplay between geopolitics and everyday life, it brings to light hidden or overlooked experiences to engage with key issues in international, Chinese, and economic history.

Associate Professor, History, Northeastern University  -  In the Shadows of the Bamboo Curtain: Underground Economies across Greater China during the Cold War
For residence at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study during academic year 2022-2023

Erik Linstrum
Erik Linstrum  |  Abstract
How did British society respond—or fail to respond—to the use of torture in its overseas empire after 1945? Although the absence of sustained outrage has often been attributed to the absence of information, awareness of brutal violence was in fact widespread. Networks made up of activists, soldiers, journalists, filmmakers, and others bridged the gap between the conflict zones of empire and everyday life in Britain. But the same ways of knowing that eroded secrecy about violence also undermined action to stop it. “Age of Emergency” chronicles the tactics of accommodation that blurred epistemology and ethics: insisting on the unknowability of definitive truth about violence; distinguishing between knowledge and the duty to act on it; and valorizing the acceptance of “hard truths.”

Associate Professor, History, University of Virginia  -  Age of Emergency: Living with Violence at the End of Empire
For residence at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress during academic year 2021-2022

Sarah J. Townsend
Sarah J. Townsend  |  Abstract
This project focuses on the Teatro Amazonas, an opera house in Manaus, Brazil, built in the late nineteenth century during the Amazonian rubber boom. Designed to host touring companies from Europe, the theater served an odd array of purposes after the shift of the rubber trade to Southeast Asia and the end of international opera’s heyday. Since 1997, however, it has hosted an annual festival, which originally imported productions and performers but quickly became the fulcrum for a major expansion of the state cultural apparatus and now relies primarily on local talent. “Opera in the Amazon” illuminates this history by exploring performances at the theater, political meetings and other events held within its walls, and films and novels in which the building appears. By tracing connections between culture and extractive economics, the book reveals that opera has long been a global genre closely tied to the development of capitalism.

Associate Professor, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, Pennsylvania State University  -  Opera in the Amazon: Culture, Capital, and the Global Jungle
For residence at the Newberry Library during academic year 2021-2022

Tracy McMullen
Tracy McMullen  |  Abstract
"Jazz Humanism" contends that jazz as an African-American practice has held and transmitted a necessary counter-epistemology and ontology to the dominant logic of Western modernity. The focus for outlining this counter-view and practice is an analysis of jazz as a pedagogy that begins in the early twentieth century and continues today. The activities of Billy Taylor, Jason Moran, Terri Lyne Carrington, Wynton Marsalis and several current alternative jazz education programs illuminate this alternate worldview.

Associate Professor, Music, Bowdoin College  -  Jazz Humanism: Responsibility and Blur in the New Human
For residence at the Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, at the Berklee College of Music during academic year 2020-2021