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CAORC Announces 2021 Fellows

CAORC is pleased to announce the 2021 award recipients for the Multi-Country Research Fellowship, the CAORC - National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Research Fellowship, and the Mary Ellen Lane Multi-Country Travel Award.

CAORC - National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Research Fellowship

The CAORC-NEH Senior Research Fellowship supports advanced research in the humanities and enables fellows to spend four to six consecutive months at an Overseas Research Center. For the 2021 competition, three fellowships have been awarded to projects that will be carried out in Algeria, Indonesia, and Mexico. This fellowship is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities under the Fellowship Programs at Independent Research Institutions (FPIRI).

Multi-Country Research Fellowship

Now in its 28th year, the Multi-Country Research Fellowship supports advanced regional and trans-regional research in the humanities, social sciences, and allied natural sciences for U.S. doctoral candidates and scholars who hold a PhD. For the 2021 competition cycle, nine fellowships have been awarded for grants of $11,500 each. The program is funded by the U.S. Department State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Mary Ellen Lane Multi-Country Travel Award

The 2021 Mary Ellen Lane Multi-Country Travel Award has been granted to William Taylor of the University of Colorado, Boulder toward his project, ‘Understanding Pastoral Prehistory in Inner Asia’s Mountain Zones Through Glacial Archaeology.’ This award is granted to the highest-ranking Multi-Country Research fellow and provides an additional $1,000 towards travel expenses. The award is named after CAORC’s founding director, Dr. Mary Ellen Lane, who led CAORC for 28 years.


View the full list of 2021 fellows, project titles, and abstracts below.

CAORC - NEH Senior Research Fellows

Colleen Alena O’Brien

Postdoctoral Researcher, Institut für Romanistk, Friedrich–Alexander University Erlangen

Overseas Research Center Affiliation: AIFIS (Indonesia)

Collaborative Documentation, Description, and Analysis of the Gorontalo Language

The goal of this project is to describe the grammatical system of the Gorontalo language of northern Sulawesi while also documenting the daily language use and oral traditions of the Gorontalo people. The project will be community-driven and collaborative with both native speaker academics and community members. The project will apply a mix of methods from the fields of linguistics and linguistic anthropology, including audiovisual documentation, participant observation, interviews and surveys, and linguistic analysis. We will create a corpus that consists of audio and audiovisual recordings of traditional stories, personal narratives, songs, understandings of the environment, and conversations in the language, while the grammatical description will be a sketch of the language, highlighting features of typological interest. This corpus will be used to analyze the grammar of the language. It is important to record cultural and linguistic heritage that might otherwise be lost, both for future generations of the community to be able to use and also in order to inform our understanding of human language and diversity of cultures.

Susan Slyomovics

Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles

Overseas Research Center Affiliation: CEMA (Algeria)

The Afterlives of France’s Colonial Monumental Heritage in Algeria

This project in Algeria concerns the ways in which this “living on” of a vibrant afterlife of French Algeria is made manifest in memorials, commemorations, pilgrimages to monuments, and the artifact itself in Algeria. Given high numbers of Algerian Muslim dead in two world wars, how has their participation in defense of France been understood and transformed across generations especially when the glories of the Algerian War of Independence overshadow everything else? How have European forms of war memorializations, formed in the crucible of the Franco-Prussian war and two world wars, emerged in contemporary Algeria out of interactions with colonization, military service conscription of the colonized, and postcolonial relationships? This research in the anthropology of art engages the social sciences and humanities to address the enduring material presence of statues, steles, monuments, and other effigies of a difficult military and colonial past.

Daniel Steinhart

Associate Professor of Cinema Studies, Department of Cinema Studies, University of Oregon

Overseas Research Center Affiliation: ARENET (Mexico)

Cross-Border Hollywood: Production Politics and Practices in Mexico

After World War II, Hollywood had a close and complex relationship to the Mexican film industry through investment, production, and talent exchange. My book project "Cross-Border Hollywood: Production Politics and Practices in Mexico" examines the fascinating history of Hollywood productions in Mexico from the mid-1940s until 1970. It sheds light on the industry and aesthetic interconnections between Hollywood and the Mexican film industry using an array of archival materials, interviews with veteran production workers, and an analysis of the 135 Hollywood films shot in Mexico during this period. By taking a historical and global perspective, it offers humanities scholars and students a useful framework for understanding the effects of globalization on filmmaking and visual culture. Ultimately, this project historicizes the current debates about production offshoring between the United States and Mexico while revealing the cross-cultural exchanges that have long connected these two countries.

Multi-Country Research Fellows

Nicholas Bartos

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Classics, Stanford University

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): AIIS (India), AISLS (Sri Lanka), ARCE (Egypt)

Human Geographies and Maritime Economies of the Western Indian Ocean, 100 BCE – 700 CE

With the last gasp of Cleopatra and her Ptolemaic Kingdom, the Romans inherited Egypt and its access to lucrative maritime networks extending from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf and across the open ocean to the shores of India and Sri Lanka. Over the next seven centuries of Roman imperial control of the East, commercial relationships intensified within this broad western Indian Ocean sphere, enmeshing people and goods from the Mediterranean, East Africa, Arabia, Western Asia, and South Asia into mutually constituted webs of production, exchange, and consumption. My project examines how maritime economic interaction in the Indian Ocean was conditioned by its diverse environmental contexts and the differential involvement of regional participants and commodities over time. By applying a network science perspective, my project models these networks from 100 BCE to 700 CE using modern environmental data, proxies for ancient sailing performance, archaeological signatures of exchange at representative port sites, and ancient and historical textual sources. I will investigate to what extent ports were integrated within distinct economic regions across this space and how these connections were affected by marine topographies, the technological parameters of ancient seafaring, and the changing socio-political circumstances of the states involved. This fellowship will facilitate primary fieldwork at archaeological sites in Egypt (Berenike) and India and consultation of archival material and specialist reports housed at the American Research Center in Egypt, the American Institute for Indian Studies, the American Institute for Sri Lanka Studies, and the American Institute for Yemeni Studies.

Sophie A. Brady

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Music, Princeton University

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): WARC (Senegal)

Radio Dakar, Experimental Music, and the Forging of a Global Avant-Garde

My research explores how movement between Africa and Europe shaped mid-twentieth-century experimental music. I argue that African musicians and radio technicians were central to the development of experimental avant-garde music. Most histories of experimental music focus on the role of composers in Europe and North America, but my research examines the previously unrecognized contributions of African musicians and technicians to this history. I trace their activities from their training in Paris during the 1950s and 1960s through their careers at Radio Dakar and other Francophone African radio stations in the 1970s. These artists lived through a pivotal epoch; many left their countries as colonial subjects and returned as citizens of independent nations. In Paris, they learned skills that composers were employing in electronic music studios in Europe and North America, including manipulating pre-recorded audio, inventing electronic instruments, and composing music for radio plays. This experimental ethos remained when they returned to their home stations in Africa, where their musical recordings and broadcasts transcended divisions between traditional, popular, and experimental music. While Radio Dakar’s primary audience was African listeners, recordings made in its studios also circulated globally, influencing popular and art music worldwide. By engaging with these musicians’ legacy, my project reveals the global interconnectedness of twentieth century experimental music, and it also complicates conventional notions of African music that define it exclusively as traditional or popular and fail to engage with its avant-garde history.

Kurt Kuehne

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): AIFIS (Indonesia), Inya Institute (Myanmar/Burma)

Hidden from the Heartlands: Precarity, Boundary- Making, and Temporary Migrant Workers in the Global City

Drawing on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork, I describe how Singaporean labor policy strategically maximizes the economic benefits of South and Southeast Asian migrant workers while minimizing the social, political, and economic costs borne by the state. The dissertation pursues three interrelated questions. First, how does the state collaborate with private employers to segregate one million migrant workers (over 15% of the population and 25% of the workforce) from mainstream public life? Second, how are these controls adapted and gendered for each of two distinct labor populations: male South Asian manual workers and female Southeast Asian domestic helpers? And third, how do employers and the state externalize the costs of exploitation back to migrants’ countries of origin in the Global South?

Whereas extent research overwhelmingly fixates on narrow subsets of the migrant workforce (e.g., male Thai construction workers, female Filipina domestic workers), I use comparative methods to analyze multiple labor regimes operating within the same political space. I illustrate how gender segregated male and female migrant workers are subject to parallel but strategically differentiated labor regimes: including separate debt financing models, employment legislation, and labor dispute systems.

Ultimately, I argue that Singapore’s migrant-driven economy relies on a strategic “politics of sight” (Pachirat 2011): if the human costs remain tidily out of sight and out of mind, ethically-fraught labor relations are legitimized and even normalized by everyday citizens. Thus, a wide variety of political objectives depends on a migrant labor force that is cheap, pliant, socially segregated, and ultimately expendable.

Yasser Nasser

Doctoral Candidate, Department of History, University of Chicago

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): AIIS (India)

Creating ‘New Asia’: Sino-Indian Friendship and its Global Afterlives, 1947-1962

How did threats that the Cold War would shatter the dreams of a postcolonial world free of domination by either superpower prompt resistance in China and India in the 1950s? My dissertation argues that Sino-Indian friendship stemmed from a belief in ‘New Asia’: a political universalism that aimed to address the legacies of colonialism domestically and internationally by advocating for friendship as a viable alternative to bloc politics. For the Indian and Chinese states, Asian friendship meant struggling against renewed imperialism and interventionism, while accepting the possibility for different political and ideological approaches to that struggle. Thus, New Asia offered a system of international solidarity in stark contrast to the ideological blocs espoused by the superpowers. Inspired by this, disparate groups of Buddhists, feminists, trade unionists, peace workers, and land activists localized state rhetoric of friendship in New Asia to bolster their own specific political objectives and galvanizing their communities. By developing friendship as a set of practices including marches, signature campaigns, festivals and delegations, these publics staked out their own contributions to ensuring the success of New Asia. Thus, Indian and Chinese activists imbued their emergent national identities with an explicitly transnational one and preached the virtues of New Asia throughout the region. Consequently, the practices of Sino-Indian friendship inspired new forms of solidarity in Japan, Southeast Asia, the United States, and beyond. Tracing the rise and fall of New Asia, this dissertation offers a rich history of friendship as a new mode of politics in the decolonizing world.

James Nye

Retired Bibliographer, Committee on Southern Asian Studies, University of Chicago

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): AIIS (India), AISLS (Sri Lanka), ANHS (Nepal)

Enhancing and Expanding Digital and Physical Resources for South Asian Studies

This fellowship project is designed to enhance newly emerging digital resources for scholarship on South Asia and to expand capacities for discovery of print and manuscript items in subcontinental collections. It builds on decades of experience collaborating with academics, librarians, and archivists in South Asia as well as grant funding for projects to address a fundamental problem: specifically, South Asian studies scholars have far fewer digital resources available to support research than their peers from other world regions. The two major themes for this fellowship build upon thoroughly researched topics that have been endorsed by funding bodies. The first theme centers on enhancements to major components of the Digital South Asia Library (DSAL), one of the most heavily used and trusted online resources for research on the subcontinent. Those include: a) building further the Digital Dictionaries of South Asia (DDSA) through workshops with language and linguistics scholars and meetings with dictionary publishers to negotiate rights for presentation of additional volumes under DDSA; b) engaging with the national census commissioners in India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives to expand existing agreements to include all historical decennia; and c) exploring collaboration with photographers for presentation of their private collections of high quality images to complement the major collections currently available under DSAL. The second theme focuses on collaboration with colleagues at several South Asian collections to strengthen their institutional structures and facilitate plans for expanded services, most notable of which will be easier location of publications and manuscripts in subcontinental collections.

Maru Pabón

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Comparative Literature, Yale University

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): CEMA (Algeria), PARC (Palestinian Territories)

Agitated Layers of Air: Language, Cultural Decolonization, and Poetics of Solidarity across Algeria, Cuba, and Palestine

Examining archival materials from Palestine, Algeria, and Cuba, my research asks how a generation of writers (Mahmoud Darwish, Ghassan Kanafani, Fayad Jamís, and Jean Sénac among them) found ways to foment a new kind of internationalism across what began to be called “the Third World." Taking the 1955 Bandung Conference as my starting point, I track the emergence of "cultural decolonization" as a project that united Third Worldist intellectuals. Its goal was the invention of ways of speaking, writing, and being that displaced the lingering influence of colonial structures––their imposed languages, racial hierarchies, and cultural forms. A key strategy was cultural cooperation across linguistic and national boundaries. Networks of circulation, translation, and exchange among Algerian, Palestinian, and Cuban intellectuals during this period thus radically shaped the social function of literature, marking it as a site through which “revolutionary will” could be inculcated. Significantly, one of the primary ways these intellectuals interacted was through transnational journals like Lotus, Revista Unión, and Revista Casa de las Américas. Bringing them together allows us to see a poetics of solidarity as it developed across diverse linguistic traditions, and helps us understand how reciprocal translation practices have shaped literary and aesthetic currents across the Global South in previously unexamined ways.

Aaron Schneider

Professor and Associate Dean, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): AIIS (India)

Why Emerging Powers Don’t Emerge: Boom and Bust in Brazil and India

A decade ago, countries like Brazil and India received accolades for developmental success - rising international prominence, economic growth, and democratic deepening. Such optimism was not new, but following each prior boom, sudden busts ensued. Every few decades, countries like Brazil and India experience booming growth only to suffer debilitating crisis. Middle power busts are particularly worrisome because they tend to go along with populist and authoritarian gambits at home and unpredictably illiberal behavior internationally. Too often, extreme booms and busts appear in isolation, with scholars seeking explanations for growth or stagnation, but never the two together. Repetition calls for a better understanding of the pattern as a cycle. The project focuses specifically on the way middle income countries take advantage of international finance, technology, know-how and markets to enter high value-added activities. Brazil excels in aeronautics, with national champion Embraer and related firms dominating global markets for regional jets. India achieved similar success in information technology, serving as the software and programming backoffice to the world. Yet, over time, international insertion has shifted the relative balance in power between productive and financial, national and international capital, especially in moments of downturn, complicating the challenges developing countries face in attaining and maintaining booms. Current economic and political reversals in both countries evidence the difficulty of escaping what recent observers label the “middle-income trap” and earlier observers termed “overcoming backwardness,” and outcomes in these regionally-dominant middle powers will shape global competition among great powers.

William Taylor

Curator of Archaeology, Museum of Natural History, University of Colorado, Boulder

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): ACMS (Mongolia)

Understanding Pastoral Prehistory in Inner Asia’s Mountain Zones Through Glacial Archaeology

Although pastoral lifeways transformed both the cultures of South and Central Asia and the trajectory of human history, the poor archaeological record and logistical challenges of archaeological research in these regions has prevented a clear model for the initial emergence of animal domestication and livestock economies in these regions. Mountain ice has preserved rare clues to this process that are now melting for the first time due to global climate change, and require urgent survey, recovery, and scientific attention before they are lost. Through archaeological investigation and pilot study of melting mountain ice in western Mongolia and northern Pakistan, this project will test the hypothesis that early emergence of herding economies in the high mountain zones of Inner Asia was linked to early dispersals from Central Asia. Via recovery and scientific study of rare pastoral artifacts, we will clarify the origins of an economic system that transformed global prehistory, and mitigate the urgent loss of scientific data and cultural heritage caused by climate warming.

Christin Zurbach

Doctoral Candidate, Department of History, University of California, Berkeley

Overseas Research Center Affiliation(s): ARIT (Turkey), ASCSA (Greece)

Doctoring Society: The Professionalization of Ottoman Medicine

This project maps the history of the Ottoman medical profession in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and how singling out the figure of the Ottoman doctor and observing his rise to prominence within the realm of medical practice and in Ottoman society can shed new light on late Ottoman history and open up new ways of understanding doctors and their historical relationship to bodies both corporal and political. Although doctors were some among many, such as midwives, pharmacists, and barbers, who treated physical ailments, this project explores how the doctor rises out of this group as the ultimate expert and a figure deemed worthy of elevated social standing and moral authority. It examines debates among medical professionals at this time as well as their perception and activity within their broader communities, in particular their confessional groups. It also examines the professional and personal relationships across state boundaries that doctors at the time formed, and the intellectual and social impact of these intercity and international networks. It integrates an analysis of new institutions – such as the military medical academy in Istanbul, the Ottoman Red Crescent society, a score of new or reimagined hospitals, and the Ottoman Medical Society – with a multi-faceted examination of the people who shaped and were shaped by those institutions. Understanding the changes within the medical profession at this time as well as doctors’ involvement in social and political change can affect existing understandings of the complex and dynamic socio-political landscape of the late Ottoman empire.

View the list of all current and past CAORC fellows here.

Learn more about CAORC Fellowships.


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