Mellon/ACLS Scholars & Society Fellows

The Mellon/ACLS Scholars & Society program provides opportunities for faculty who teach and advise doctoral students to engage significant societal questions in their research, serve as ambassadors for humanities scholarship beyond the academy, and deepen their support for doctoral curricular innovation on their campuses. Scholars & Society Fellows pursue research projects while in residence at US-based cultural, media, government, policy, or community organizations, where they can create mutually beneficial partnerships in which they collaborate, interact, and learn about each other’s work, motivating questions, methods, and practices. In addition to supporting a year of research in residence, the awards also provide funding for fellows to develop on-campus and off-campus programming that draws on connections developed during the fellowship year and fosters greater understanding of the value of humanities scholarship and doctoral education beyond the academy. The program is made possible by a grant from 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. 

Jennifer L. Anderson
Jennifer L. Anderson  |  Abstract
Jupiter Hammon, the first published African American poet, lived in bondage on Long Island for most of his 90 years at Joseph Lloyd Manor, an historic site now owned by Preservation Long Island (PLI). His life coincided with a momentous era in our nation’s history that included a revolution, the founding of a new republic, and the end of slavery in the North. Yet he also witnessed the struggles of fellow people of color to achieve their aspirations in the face of serious obstacles. By highlighting their stories, this project illuminates how Long Island became—as it remains—one of the most segregated regions in the nation. Spanning from the mid-seventeenth to the twentieth century, this project examines how, despite hardening patterns of systemic racism, African and Native Americans endeavored to secure land, employment, and other opportunities. While oft-described as the vanguard of American suburbanization, Long Island’s mixed outcomes—separate and unequal—deserve greater scrutiny to unearth the deep roots of its color lines. Partnering with PLI, this project includes: producing a research-based monograph; developing innovative educational programs and resources to enhance historical interpretation; and fostering public dialogue about the consequences of slavery and racial inequality in America.

Associate Professor, History, State University of New York, Stony Brook  -  Jupiter Hammon’s Long Island: Freedom, Community, and the Roots of Inequality
Preservation Long Island

Matthew Johnson
Matthew Johnson  |  Abstract
In a city that already hosts the fourth largest police force in the United States, two of Philadelphia’s universities have created yet another layer of policing. Set in predominantly black communities, the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University host the largest private and public university police departments in the nation, respectively. Partnering with the American Friends Service Committee, this project works with black students at Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania, as well as with black residents in the surrounding neighborhoods, to uncover the rise and consequences of university police forces. Ultimately, this project is an effort to explore how these universities have contributed to mass incarceration and to chart a new way forward.

Associate Professor, History, Texas Tech University  -  Incarceration U: The Rise, Consequences, and Future of University Police Forces in Philadelphia
American Friends Service Committee

Rachel Bloom-Pojar
Rachel Bloom-Pojar  |  Abstract
This qualitative project examines rhetorics of health, language access, and reproductive justice with promotores de salud (health promoters) who work with Spanish-speaking communities and Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin (PPWI). Designed collaboratively with PPWI’s Director of Latinx Programming and Initiatives, Maria Barker, this study is guided by three questions: 1) How do barriers to language access impact reproductive justice for Latinx communities? 2) How do promotores de salud rhetorically navigate communication in between communities and institutions? and 3) What experiences and knowledge do promotores de salud have that can help health practitioners and researchers better understand the complexities of immigrant communities' experiences with healthcare? This research highlights the rhetorical expertise that promotores de salud have for creating spaces of confianza (trust) to discuss reproductive and sexual health. It also demonstrates how the promotores step in where institutional outreach fails to help their communities navigate healthcare systems and social services. This residency at PPWI will help deepen relationships with community educators and administrators, enhance analysis of focus group and interview data, and develop a model for culturally sustaining care that centers the experiences of the promotores de salud and their communities.

Assistant Professor, English, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee  -  Navigating Rhetorics of Reproductive Justice and Language Access with Promotores de Salud
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin

Roshanak Kheshti
Roshanak Kheshti  |  Abstract
During the 2020-21 academic year, performance ethnography workshops will be offered at the William Grant Still Arts Center in the West Adams neighborhood of Los Angeles. A member of the Harlem Renaissance, Still was described as the "Dean of African American Composers" and wrote numerous symphonies, operas and even music for film, offering novel sonic representations of African Americans in the public sphere. This project will present the ethnographic research methods of Zora Neale Hurston, another Harlem Renaissance figure who worked in sound. As two members of the Harlem renaissance, Hurston and Still experimented with African American aesthetics in sound; Hurston shared with Still a sense that African American cultural patrimony resonated especially in sound and song. The project is an effort to repatriate ethnographic methods Hurston developed, which broke from the salvage ethnography conventions of the times. The West Adams neighborhood's rapid gentrification has led to fears of cultural loss. Hurston's methods eschew salvage and promote cultural production. This collaborative performance ethnographic research is an integral part of “We See with the Skin”: Zora Neale Hurston’s Synesthetic Hermeneutics, where the innovations in Hurston’s ethnographic fieldwork methods are highlighted as well as her representations of this research and the models of theorizing and interpretation engaged in through each of the diverse media she employed.

Associate Professor, Ethnic Studies, University of California, San Diego  -  The Harlem Resonance: Sound, Blackness and Ethnography at the William Grant Still Arts Center
William Grant Still Arts Center

Leigh Anne Duck
Leigh Anne Duck  |  Abstract
Using transferable tax credits to lure film production, Louisiana achieved its goal of becoming “Hollywood South” early this century. Researchers have vigorously studied such programs, which are integral to today’s global film industry, but the resulting films, which often disguise production locales, have received little systematic attention. Louisiana’s incentives, however, expanded production in landscapes that, though previously depicted as exotic, have become icons for broad contemporary concerns. This project examines how works shot and set in Louisiana—independent and major studios, local and transnational productions, fiction and documentary film—have developed new aesthetic forms for exploring racial injustice, changing social and political values, and ecological peril. Research is being conducted in collaboration with the New Orleans Video Access Center (NOVAC), which provides training for Louisianans who wish to join the industry, assists Hollywood productions in recruiting more diverse production crews, and collaborates with local organizations who seek to mobilize documentary film in their quests for social justice and environmental reform. This collaboration provides a new model for studying how cinematic representations of location shift in a rapidly transforming production context, where diverse stakeholders understand the stakes of these aesthetic choices in profoundly different ways.

Associate Professor, English, University of Mississippi  -  On Location in Hollywood South: An Aspirational State in Uncertain Times
New Orleans Video Access Center (NOVAC)

Treva B. Lindsey
Treva B. Lindsey  |  Abstract
Transformative Black Feminism(s) Initiative (TBFI) is a multi-sited, multi-pronged, and multi-year project committed to engaging Black feminist theory, methods, and concepts to explore social and political inequities disparately affecting Black women and girls. Over the course of the fellowship, I will work with Zora’s House in Columbus, Ohio, an inclusive learning space for the larger community on issues of race, politics, economics, arts, and culture to develop a dynamic community partnership. One of the key components of the TBFI is working with a community partner on affecting social change at the local level. Zora’s House in Columbus, Ohio offers a unique space to build with Black women and girls in mid-Ohio in an effort to combat pressing issues such as Black maternal morbidity, basic needs insecurity, mass criminalization and incarceration, and violence.

Associate Professor, Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, The Ohio State University  -  Transformative Black Feminism(s) Initiative
Zora's House

Kevin Escudero
Kevin Escudero  |  Abstract
“Education for Community Empowerment” is a project in collaboration with the Guam Museum to develop a curriculum on decolonization for use by teachers in Guam’s public schools. As a present-day US territory, in 1997 the Guam government established the Commission on Decolonization to engage members of the public in determining the island’s future political relationship with the United States. A critical component of the Commission’s work has been educating the public about the various political status options: independence, free association, or statehood. Through qualitative research with members of the Commission’s three task forces this project entails developing materials for K-12 students and hosting trainings at the museum to familiarize teachers with use of the curriculum. This research will also support the writing of a monograph which examines indigenous and immigrant communities’ participation in decolonization activism, drawing on the interrelated frameworks of U.S. imperialism, militarism, immigration federalism, and indigenous self-determination. The primary museum and a key educational facility in Guam, the Guam Museum’s mission is to “foster a greater understanding of the CHamoru culture and the art, history and natural environment of Guam.”

Assistant Professor, American Studies, Brown University  -  Education for Community Empowerment: Curriculum Development for the Guam Commission on Decolonization’s Three Status Options
Guam Museum

Nicholas D. Mirzoeff
Nicholas D. Mirzoeff  |  Abstract
This project was devised as a response to the events at Charlottesville in 2017 around the statue of Robert E. Lee, which made apparent a resurgence of white supremacy directed toward visual culture, using monuments and statues as its symbols, and aestheticizing borders. It will seek to configure an antiracist visual activism in the context of the pandemic in New York City, specifically focused on whiteness, inspired by, and dedicated to, the late Maurice Berger. The project follows the logic that connects the border to the monument and museum as what Frantz Fanon called the “aesthetics of respect for the established order.” Together, these infrastructures form a hostile visual environment organized around whiteness at the interface of the state and social media. This hostility has been directed at the post-2008 young, urban, non-white and online global majority. Committed to an expanded and diverse concept of photography, Magnum Foundation partners with socially-engaged imagemakers. As part of this project, Magnum Foundation will help host a series of workshops with activists, curators, practitioners, and scholars on the practices of antiracist visual activism in this unforeseen moment of crisis, in which the invisible virus makes visible racialized segregation and marginalization. Anticipated research outputs will include an academic book, an exhibit, online interventions, and an international event in 2021.

Professor, Media, Culture and Communication, New York University  -  The Visual Politics and Practices of Whiteness: Antiracist Visual Activism in a Hostile Environment
Magnum Foundation

Donal Harris
Donal Harris  |  Abstract
"Citizens of Cossitt" is a collaboration between the University of Memphis (UM) and the Memphis Public Library (MPL) to research the history and reimagine the future of MPL’s first library, Cossitt Library. Guided by librarians at both institutions, faculty and student researchers will use MPL archives and UM special collections to create public exhibitions and digital learning tools about the role of Cossitt Library in the city’s long civil rights history. Then, using public outreach surveys conducted by Cossitt staff, and in consultation with the UM Benjamin Hooks Center for Social Change, the project will develop training workshops and exhibition space for library patrons to produce their own physical and digital exhibitions about the library's place in civic life.

Associate Professor, English, University of Memphis  -  Citizens of Cossitt: The Legacies and Futures of Public Libraries in Memphis, Tenn.
Memphis Public Library, Cossitt Branch

Craig S. Perez
Craig S. Perez  |  Abstract
Climate change is one of the most urgent challenges in the Pacific today. Rising sea levels, unprecedented storms, record temperatures, coral bleaching, and ocean acidization have become existential threats to Pacific ecologies, peoples, and cultures. This project engages centuries of indigenous artistic practice in order to demonstrate how Pacific poetry articulates indigenous ecological beliefs, critiques the legacy and history of ecological imperialism, advocates for environmental and climate justice, and imagines healing and sustainable futures. In collaboration with the Hawaiʻi based non-profit Pacific Writers Connections (PWC), this project also is facilitating a series of monthly creative writing workshops, discussion groups, and literary readings related to climate change; developing new educational resources and curriculum, including an anthology of Pacific environmental writing; and establishing an internship at PWC for undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Hawaiʻi, Mānoa who are interested in the public humanities and non-profit management. Ultimately, this project is creating an opportunity for communities in Hawaiʻi to creatively process and express their fears, anxieties, hopes, and dreams about the future of our islands.

Associate Professor, English, University of Hawaii at Manoa  -  Climate Change, Environmental Poetry, and the Public Humanities in Hawaiʻi
Pacific Writers Connection

Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof
Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof  |  Abstract
The Immigrant Justice Lab (IJL) is collaborative public humanities project that produces a wide range of scholarly artifacts for and with community partners working in immigrant advocacy in Michigan. In response to needs identified by partners, the IJL trains and supervises interdisciplinary teams of students to create materials for use in immigrant advocacy and defense, community education, and much more. It accomplishes this work through integration with courses, independent studies, paid internships, and volunteer opportunities. The mission of these projects is 1) to provide the best possible academic work to our community partners; 2) to create opportunities for undergraduate and professional students from diverse backgrounds to learn academic skills through projects that address pressing social issues; and 3) and to enable graduate students to gain experience in designing and implementing publicly engaged scholarship. The residency, at the IJL’s lead partner, the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC), will expand the project and make our work accessible to a wider public. MIRC is a non-profit agency that provides pro bono legal services in naturalization and citizenship matters. MIRC also engages in advocacy on behalf of survivors of domestic violence, refugees, unaccompanied minors, and farmworkers.

Professor, History and American Culture, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor  -  Immigrant Justice Lab and the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center
Michigan Immigrant Rights Center

Jennifer Suchland
Jennifer Suchland  |  Abstract
“Abolition Today” is a collaboration with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (NURFC) in Cincinnati, Ohio that focuses on the connections and tensions between contemporary movements for prison abolition and current movements to abolish human trafficking (often called “modern day slavery”). The museum’s mission is to engage the public about the historical record of chattel slavery, the underground railroad, and social justice efforts that continue the legacy of abolition. The expanding concern for human trafficking as a contemporary form of enslavement presents both an opportunity and challenge for those who are concerned with remembering and addressing the legacies of chattel slavery, including activism to address the problem of mass incarceration. Using humanistic social science methods and modern museum practices, as well as community input, collaborators will build a digital platform to spur reflection on the dual meanings of abolition. In addition, collaborators will organize events designed to introduce the digital platform and invite reflection on the connections and tensions between different calls for abolition today. The collaboration affirms the importance of museums such as the NURFC to foster public reflection and advance dialogue on the most pressing issues of the day.

Associate Professor, Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies, The Ohio State University  -  Abolition Today: An Initiative for Public Reflection on Human Trafficking and Criminal Justice
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center