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CAORC Announces the 2024 CAORC-NEH Research Fellows

CAORC is pleased to announce the 2024 award recipients for the CAORC-NEH Research Fellowship. The fellowship supports advanced research in the humanities and provides the opportunity for scholars to spend significant time in one country with a participating Overseas Research Center as a base. The awards for this year's cohort range from $20,000 - $25,000 each. The program is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) under the Fellowship Programs at Independent Research Institutions (FPIRI).

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


Mackenzie Cooley

Associate Professor & Director of Latin American Studies, Department of History, Hamilton College

Bioprospecting Tenochtitlan: The Global Quest for Cures in Mexico, 1500-1700

Overseas Research Center Affiliation: ARENET (Mexico)

While based in Mexico from May 1 to August 31, I will conduct research on early modern Mexican involvement in the global drug trade. When it came to the Americas, European conquistadors sought not only gold, glory, and God, but also tools to preserve good health. Medicines and spices proved quite as valuable as metals on the global marketplace that emerged in 1500. Immediately following the imposition of Spanish rule in New Spain, residents in Mexico, Tlaxcala, Nueva Galicia and nearby regions sought to use local medical knowledge and access to prized medical commodities to jockey for position under the European system. Local administrators enlisted indigenous medical experts to write reports about the riches of their territory and sought to regularize access to prized medical animals, plants, and minerals that could be exchanged with the Europeans. Knowledge-gathering projects such as the Codex Badianus, the Florentine Codex, the relaciones geográficas questionaires, and the naturalist expedition of Francisco Hernández sought to add more Mexican cures to the lists of medical commodities that had already been popularized by accounts written by Nicolás Monardes and other travelers. As residents of Mexico sought to ensure the protection of their own resources and their standing in the empire by increasing demand for local medical substances, how did they sell local biodiversity to imperial consumers? I will conduct historical research in Mexican archives and libraries to collect lists of materia medica (medically valuable substances), their prices, and the narratives of their extraction from local environments.

Cindy Nguyen

Assistant Professor, Department of Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles

Cambodian Textual Infrastructures: Histories and Community Engaged Scholarship

Overseas Research Center Affiliation: CKS (Cambodia)

The research project brings together two elements: historical research and community engaged scholarship. The historical project traces the evolution of textual infrastructures in Cambodia through a study of top-down knowledge institutions of libraries and archives and bottom-up networked regional exchanges between Siam, Vietnam, and Laos in the long twentieth century. As an ambitious historical study of the long twentieth century, this project focuses particularly on the 1930s to 1950s across colonial and postcolonial divides in order to recenter a regional history against an externally imposed Cold War narrative. This temporal and regional reframing contributes important insights into the legacies of colonialism within postcolonial nation building and contemporary formations of cultural heritage and textual authority in Southeast Asia. My research is committed to feminist, decolonial, and pedagogical work in Southeast Asian Studies through community engaged scholarship, facilitating regional networks for dialogs, digital humanities experiences, and public facing creative and collectively produced publications with cultural heritage institutions and scholars.

Matthew Shutzer

Assistant Professor, Department of History, Duke University

Ready Made: Asian Capital, Bangladeshi Agriculture, and the Transformation of the Global Economy after 1970

Overseas Research Center Affiliation: AIBS (Bangladesh)

This project is a study of the agroecological transformations that conditioned Bangladesh's rise as a world-leading textile manufacturer in the 1970s and 1980s. Shifting scholarly attention from industrial policy and social studies of factory labor, this research will examine the long-term agricultural and environmental crises, accelerated by the famine of 1974, that were fundamental to Bangladesh's "ready-made garment" textile pivot in its political economy of development. Focusing on the experiences of agrarian communities experiencing dispossession, indebtedness, stagnating wages, and urban migration, as well as perspectives from Bangladeshi journalists, politicians, academics, trade unionists, and bankers from the period, this work will produce a bottom-up environmental and social history of Bangladesh's incorporation into the networks of Asian manufacturing capital that defined the closing decades of the twentieth century. This research will be undertaken as an archival and oral history project utilizing repositories and institutions in Dhaka over a 6 month period. The research project will intervene directly in the fields of environmental history, agrarian history, social history, histories of labor and capitalism, and the history of development, as well as interdisciplinary scholarship in anthropology, geography, and agrarian studies.

Andrew Weintraub

Professor, Department of Music, University of Pittsburgh

Years of Living Musically: Affective Politics and Indonesian Populism, 1950-65

Overseas Research Center Affiliation: AIFIS (Indonesia)

Despite its significant contributions to Indonesian nationalism, arts education, and international diplomacy – all concerns of Indonesia today – little is known about the Indonesian left-wing cultural movement LEKRA (Lembaga Kebudayaan Rakyat, the Institute of People’s Culture) that existed from 1950 to 1965. LEKRA was one of six mass organizations affiliated with the Indonesian Communist Party (Partai Komunis Indonesia, PKI), the third largest in the world and a legal party at the time. The PKI and LEKRA were banned after an abortive coup d’etat on September 30, 1965 (G30S) that led to the mass killings of between 500,000 and 1 million people and the elimination of the left in Indonesia under second-president Suharto. As a CAORC-NEH Fellow, I will complete the research for my third sole-authored book. In this project, I will focus on music as a key tool for analyzing the affective relationships that linked LEKRA with civil society and progressive politics in Indonesia from 1950 to 1965. I aim to show how LEKRA’s stated values – anti-colonialism, anti-feudalism, self-reliance, agrarian reform, labor rights, redistribution of wealth, and collective ownership – led to the creation of particular forms of music and, conversely, how music framed LEKRA’s values and goals, shaped power relations, and was instrumental in developing political strategies. As Indonesians themselves have begun to reassess this pivotal moment in history, my research adds the missing yet critical dimension of sound and affect to the erased cultural history of left-wing nationalism in Indonesia.

The next call for applications for the CAORC-NEH Research Fellowship will launch in September, 2024. Learn more about CAORC Fellowships.


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