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Kaplan Humanities Institute Names 2015-16 Fellows

Faculty and staff selected to develop interdisciplinary projects

  • Competitive award juried by eminent humanities faculty at other universities
  • Recipients granted a precious commodity: Time to pursue research
  • Seven fellows include seven faculty members, one library staffer
  • Fellowship inspires research within an interdisciplinary setting
EVANSTON, Ill. --- The Kaplan Institute for the Humanities at Northwestern University has named eight new fellows who will spend the year researching a wide range of issues, including antiwar activism in the 1970s, new media and the politics of sexual health.  

The 2015-16 Kaplan fellows -- seven faculty members and a Northwestern University Library staff member -- are granted either a full year of leave or a significant reduction in teaching duties in order to develop research within an interdisciplinary setting. Serving as the core members of Northwestern’s humanities community, the fellows discuss their work throughout the year and critique the efforts of graduate and undergraduate affiliates. 

Once the fellowship year concludes, the fellows will circulate their work more broadly by teaching a humanities course to undergraduates.

The highly competitive award is juried by eminent humanities faculty at other universities.

The Kaplan Humanities Institute is the center of cutting-edge discussions on research and teaching numerous humanities departments and programs. The 2015-16 fellows and their own descriptions of the research projects follow:

Michael Allen, associate professor of history, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

“Tug of War: Confronting the Imperial Presidency, 1966-1992”

“This project explains why leading liberals joined grassroots peace activists and civil libertarians in the "long 1970s" to challenge what many came to consider the core contradiction of Cold War liberalism: its reliance on war power as the basis of state power and its concentration of that power in the presidency. Such efforts, I argue, moderated modern liberalism's foreign policy militancy but sacrificed its grip on presidential power, ceding control of the national security state to more bellicose foes.”

Mark Alznauer assistant professor of philosophy, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

“Hegel and the Logic of Self-Constitution”

This project will focus on one of Hegel's most peculiar and provocative claims: Certain human enterprises -- like art, religion, and philosophy -- are distorted when they are understood as expressions of the finite ends of individuals.  I will argue that Hegel understands these activities as distinct because they aim at self-transcendence.”

Aymar Jean Christian, assistant professor of communication studies, School of Communication

“Open TV: Developing Art and Community-Based Networked Television”

“The Open TV project will investigate the possibilities of web video for community-based arts by those marginalized in corporate creative industries (primarily queer, trans, and people of color). The project adapts television development processes for digital markets by releasing stories in different lengths and times and syndicating existing productions. The goal is to empower artists with control and ownership of their work and to promote conversation about art and identity online.”

 Steven Epstein, professor of sociology, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

“Sexual Health as Buzzword: Histories of Emergence and Politics of Proliferation”

 “In recent decades, the idea of “sexual health” has gone from obscurity to ubiquity. My research examines the emergence of the concept in its modern form, its extensive proliferation, and its partial and differentiated standardization, with an eye to the contexts in which sexual health is professed as well as the consequences of attempts to lay claim to it.”

 Elizabeth Hurd, associate professor of political science, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

“Religion and Global Politics Beyond Freedom and Violence”

“Rejecting both the certainties of the secularization narrative and naïve attempts to ‘re-accommodate’ religion in the public sphere, this project seeks new ways of thinking about religion and modernity. Drawing on a multidisciplinary archive, it will explore the sites where religion, governance, and law intermingle at a time when constructs such as secularism and religious freedom appear to be exhausted and unproductive.”

Christina Kiaer, associate professor of art and chair, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

“An Aesthetics of Anti-racism: African-Americans in Soviet Visual Culture”

“This project investigates how images of African-Americans, in paintings, photographs, films, posters, advertisements and illustrations, from the moment of the Revolution through the 1960s, produced a visual environment of anti-racism in Soviet Russia. Anti-racism as an official policy emerged there at least forty years before such policies became standard in other countries.” 

Taco Terpstra, assistant professor of classics, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

“The Development of Roman Intercommunity Trade: Institutional Continuity and Change”

“This research project focuses on how the institutional structure of Roman long-distance trade developed to meet the preindustrial problems of information scarcity and lack of government enforcement of contracts. The leading question informing this research is: what did the mercantile organization of the Roman Empire inherit from earlier times and what did it pass on to the period that followed?”

Marcia Tiede, Library Fellow, University Library

“Modibo Keita’s “L’Enfant Sarakolle” (1936): autoethnography in French colonial West Africa”

“This manuscript by the future president of Mali, written while in teacher school at the Ecole William Ponty near Dakar, is an example of the hundreds of student papers created between 1934 and 1946.  I will transcribe and translate it (along with a comparable text by his classmate Kefing Keita), and write an introductory chapter that explores the concept of autoethnography (in the sense of ‘insider ethnography’) as it was promoted through the French colonial education system."

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