IAH welcomes fall 2013 Fellows


August 20, 2013 | Angie Barker

As we kick off a new semester and a new academic year, the Institute for the Arts and Humanities welcomes the faculty members awarded Faculty Fellowships for the fall 2013 semester.

Faculty Fellows Program

The Faculty Fellows program provides faculty with semester leaves to work on research and creative projects or to develop new material for courses. Fellows gather in Hyde Hall weekly to share a meal and discuss

their work in an interdisciplinary setting. This fall is Michele Tracy Berger’s first semester leading the program as its associate director, and we are excited to have her join us in Hyde Hall each week as well.

The Faculty Fellows program comprises several fellowships. IAH Faculty Fellowships support work related to the arts, humanities and qualitative social sciences. Digital Innovation Lab (DIL)/IAH Fellowships are awarded to faculty pursuing interdisciplinary and collaborative digital humanities projects and are a component of the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative, funded in part by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Offered in conjunction with the UNC Provost’s Office as a University teaching award, the Chapman Family Faculty Fellowships recognize outstanding teachers of undergraduate courses.

The Faculty Fellows and their respective projects for the semester are: 

Jocelyn Chua, T. Winfield Blackwell Jr. Fellow
Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology
“In Pursuit of the Good Life: Aspiration and Suicide in Globalizing South India”

Chua will be completing a book manuscript entitled In Pursuit of the Good Life: Aspiration and Suicide in Globalizing South India. Once heralded a development miracle, the south Indian state of Kerala has reported the nation’s highest suicide rates since the 1990s. Drawing on more than three years of ethnographic fieldwork in Kerala’s capital city, the book explores how suicide is understood and experienced as the signature injury of shifting aspirational horizons and failed projects of modernity at the crossroads of development, economic liberalization, and global change. In these uncertain times, the management and prevention of suicide in Kerala has had more to do with anxieties and contested ideas about proper objects of desire, aspiration, and progress than with any demographic “reality” of suicide. Suicide must therefore be understood, not only or primarily as empirical “fact” predicated on the strength of numbers, but rather as a social and moral reality whose diverse forms inflect realms of contemporary political, social, and familial life in the region.

Daniel Cobb, Wilmer Kuck Borden Fellow
Associate Professor, Department of American Studies
“Warrior: The Life and Times of Clyde Warrior”

Cobb’s fellowship project is a book about Ponca activist Clyde Warrior (1939-1968), who emerged during the 1960s as the leading figure of the American Indian youth movement. As both an activist and a radical intellectual, he established signposts for succeeding generations of Native nationalists to follow. Based on his personal papers, archival research, and extensive oral interviews, Warrior provides a unique window on his life and, in so doing, challenges conventional wisdom about his times. His experiences offer critical new insights into struggles for racial and economic justice, youth and power movements, and global anticolonial campaigns.

Renee Alexander Craft, DIL/Turner Family Fellow
Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Studies
“Digital Portobelo: Art + Scholarship + Cultural Preservation”

Digital Portobelo: Art + Scholarship + Cultural Preservation is a collaborative interdisciplinary digital humanities initiative that focuses on an Afro-Latin community located in Portobelo, Panama, who call themselves and their performance tradition “Congo.” It represents the second phase of a twelve-year ethnographic project that began in 2001. By the end of her fellowship, Craft and her team will launch a beta version of Digital Portobelo. Built with the Digital Innovation Lab’s new Digital Humanities toolkit (DH Press), it will feature an online searchable digital repository of written and performed scholarship, including visual art, audio and video interviews with English and Spanish transcripts, and short contextual videos focused on the Congo community of Portobelo. This project responds to a call from the community for greater cultural preservation as well as researchers’ desires for better mechanisms to share and expand upon existing research.

Mark Crescenzi, Chapman Family Fellow
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science
“Economic Rent, Competition, and Conflict”

Crescenzi’s project will focus on competition and rent-seeking in trade as a source of conflict among states in world politics. He will develop a theory of economic competition and conflict that provides a novel explanation for conflicts such as the Persian Gulf War, as well as the emergence of civil war in countries such as Sierra Leone. Using historical as well as quantitative analysis, he aims to improve our understanding of when and how economic interactions in world politics exacerbate political violence.

Kathleen Duval, John W. Burress III Fellow
Associate Professor, Department of History
“Independence Lost: The Gulf Coast and the American Revolution”

DuVal is completing a manuscript entitled Independence Lost: The Gulf Coast and the American Revolution. It tells the largely unknown story of the American Revolution in a place that became part of the United States in the nineteenth century but that was not a site of rebellion during the Revolutionary War. Rather, as her book will show, the people of the Gulf Coast – European, African and Native – assumed the war was another imperial war. The surprise came in the decades after the war, when the new republic took over their lands and, for most of them, eroded their independence.

Tessa Joseph-Nicholas, DIL/Taylor Family Fellow
Lecturer, Department of Computer Science
“IVI: Inquire, Visualize, Interact: Collaborative Course Development for the Humanities”

Joseph-Nicholas is developing a web-based, graphical course creation and scheduling application that utilizes a representative sample of tools in the digital humanities context—specifically, data visualizations and social media-style feedback tools—to enhance the functionality of existing course and learning management systems (CMSs or LMSs) at UNC and beyond. The application, IVI (Inquire, Visualize, Interact), will be designed for Sakai integration to ensure that it reaches a significant initial audience, with a goal of eventual stand-alone deployment. IVI’s design expresses its dual purpose: to provide a more interactive, constructivist approach to course creation and implementation than the top-down methods offered in current CMS/LMS implementations, and to familiarize students and instructors with the function and purpose of emerging digital humanities methodologies, demystifying these processes and promoting their wider adoption.

Michele Rivkin-Fish, Branson and Frances Marley Fellow
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology
“Unmaking Russia’s Abortion Paradigm: Gendered Citizenship at the Nexus of Nationalism, Religion, and Public Health”

Rivkin-Fish’s fellowship research will focus on the advent of democratic market economics that has transformed Russian reproductive politics. This development has enabled the moralization of abortion as an individual ethical decision with political implications for the nation; the introduction of new technologies for deliberately planning pregnancy; and the positing of legislative restrictions for solving state demographic goals. This project undertakes a historical genealogy of contemporary Russian abortion politics to understand the broader contemporary gendering of post-Soviet citizenship. It contextualizes current reproductive contests within the historical trajectories of Soviet- era policies and the post-Soviet resurgence of Russian nationalism, which values fertility for ensuring ethno-genetic continuity. It parses the ways contraception represents a charged political issue, condensing anxieties over demographic vitality, public health, and women’s status as citizens.

Jane Thrailkill, Chapman Family Fellow
Professor, Department of English and Comparative Literature
“Arts of Mind: Humor, Play, and Experimentation in the Writings of Alice, William, and Henry James”

Thrailkill’s book project examines a literary commitment to philosophical playfulness shared by three nineteenth-century U.S. writers: Alice, William and Henry James. Children of an impulsive, unorthodox father who gave them an erratic but stimulating education, the three had overlapping intellectual roots yet diverging life trajectories. Alice wrote letters and a personal diary that used humor as a way to make sense of essential, everyday human experiences. William developed an action-oriented philosophy that centers on the playful ways that humans encounter, navigate and derive pleasure from the world around them. Henry, known primarily as a novelist, created clever tales and ghost stories that constitute experiments in human perception and cognition. While each sibling adopts a different genre, taken together, the writings of these intimately related turn-of-the-century thinkers illuminate the extraordinary plasticity of the human mind. Thrailkill’s project seeks to examine how their literary practices work—through modes of disruption, play, and experimentation—and to trace through the work of Alice, William, and Henry James the deep affinities among arts of mind across disciplines.

Jeff Whetstone, Faculty Arts Fellow
Associate Professor, Department of Art
“The Visible Wild”

Whetstone’s fellowship project is an art exhibition inspired by the Eastern Cougar, which occupied habitat from Florida to Maine before it was hunted to extinction 90 years ago. Proponents of its existence still try to find evidence of the animal, and, craving to depict it, they digitally enhance forest surveillance photographs to such an extent that the line between observation and fabrication is blurred. His exhibition will interpret this cultural phenomenon as a model of how imagery and desire can conflate to codify belief – in this case, belief in a resilient and powerful wilderness in our midst at a time when ecological strain is plainly obvious. Through examining the current state of the medium of photography and the implications of mediated photographs of the natural world, this exhibition will propose an alternative depiction of the current state of the American wilderness.


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