Welcome Spring 2014 Faculty Fellows


January 1, 2014 | Angie Barker

 The Institute for the Arts and Humanities is pleased to welcome our Spring 2014 Faculty Fellows.

Faculty Fellows Program

IAH Faculty Fellowships provide a semester’s leave for faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences to work on research and creative projects or to develop new material for courses and programs. Fellows gather in Hyde Hall weekly to share a meal and discuss their work in an interdisciplinary setting, under the guidance of IAH Associate Director Michele Tracy Berger.

The Faculty Fellows Program is comprised of several fellowships. IAH Faculty Fellowships support work related to the arts, humanities and qualitative social sciences. Chapman Faculty Fellowships, offered in conjunction with the UNC Provost’s Office as a University teaching award, are given to outstanding teachers who regularly teach undergraduate students. This semester’s cohort also includes a recent winner of the Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowship for Recently Tenured Scholars, offered annually by the American Council of Learned Societies.

Spring 2014 Fellows

Emily Burrill, Nelson Schwab III Fellow       

Assistant Professor, Department of Women’s and Gender Studies

“Mother of All Our Children: Aoua Keita and the Birth of Modern Mali”

Mother of All Our Children is a political and intellectual history of the late colonial and early post-colonial period of present-day Mali. The project is centered on the life of Aoua Keita, who was an anti-colonial militant, the first woman elected to Mali’s National Assembly, and a professional midwife. Despite her popularity in Mali and her accomplishments, Keita has not been the subject of extensive research. Mother of All Our Children will expand our understanding of three critical themes of analysis: Muslim identity and secular statemaking, nationalism as gendered knowledge, and women’s rights as human rights in the postcolonial world.

Carl Ernst, Pardue Fellow

William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor, Department of Religious Studies

“A Persianate Hindu: The Islamicate Framing of Indian Religions in The Chain of Yogis by Sital Singh”

This project investigates the antecedents of the modern concept of Hinduism, an English term coined just over two centuries ago, through examination of a previously neglected body of material, the Persian texts commissioned by British officials and written by Hindu intellectuals to explain the religions of India. The chief example is The Chain of Yogis (1800) by Sital Singh, a work steeped in Sufi mysticism and Islamicate terminology, which served as one of the main sources for the first English study of Hinduism, H. H. Wilson’s pioneering study of Hindu “sects” (1828-32). The translation and analysis of this work (illustrated with 47 depictions of Indian ascetics) will document the transition from Mughal administrative classifications of religion to British colonial categories, and offer a reinterpretation of the origin of modern concepts of religion.

Jonathan Hess, Bernstein Fellow

Moses M. and Hannah L. Malkin Distinguished Professor, Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures

“Shylock’s Daughters: Philosemitism, Popular Culture, and the Liberal Imagination”

Hess ‘s current book project studies the transnational performance history of one of the great sensations of the nineteenth-century stage, Salomon Hermann Mosenthal’s Deborah, a German drama popularized in the English-speaking world as Leah, The Forsaken. Deborah/Leah served its era as the most famous dramatic representation of the figure of the “beautiful Jewess” and as a favorite star vehicle for celebrities from Adelaide Ristori to Sarah Bernhardt. The book explores the role that popular culture played in launching a distinctly liberal form of philosemitism, illustrating the promise and the limits of a type of nineteenth-century liberalism that is in many ways still with us today.

Sherryl Kleinman, Blackwell Fellow

Professor, Department of Sociology

“Teaching Issues: Making Inequalities Visible”

The title of Kleinman’s project, Teaching Issues, has a double meaning. First, she takes on pedagogical issues, writing about ways to pre-empt or respond to students’ resistance to learning about inequality, as well as how—and why—she runs courses as she does (e.g. co-facilitating classes with students; having students write guidelines for classroom behaviors, and so on). Second, “Teaching issues” refers to students’ beliefs about courses on inequality. They think of sexism, racism, and other inequalities as abstract “social issues” separate from people’s lives, and about which they have (mere) “opinions.” They expect to toss around those opinions in class rather than grapple with sociological concepts and analyses. Using a memoir voice and techniques of creative nonfiction in the book, she will show how students learn to make sociological sense of humanly-made systems of privilege and oppression, particularly as those systems relate to their lives.

Christopher Nelson, IAH Advisory Board/Burkhardt Fellow

Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology

“Dreaming of the Dragon King: Life and Death in the Ruins of the Everyday”

Nelson writes, “In the course of my earlier research in Okinawa, I realized that it was crucial to reformulate the categories that have been used to investigate historical trauma.  The consequences of events cannot be fully recognized as long as scholars insist on a rigid distinction between past, present and future. The experience of loss cannot be adequately addressed without taking into account the persistence and activity of the spirits of the dead. The everyday cannot be understood unless researchers consider the unseen places that many Okinawans believe constitute part of the social world.  The projects that people have undertaken cannot be appropriately interpreted unless we ask what their tools and their objectives mean to them. And yet, it is not enough to construct an account of the particularity of Okinawan culture.  It must still be part of a critical project to understand an Okinawa that is and has been deeply enmeshed in the networks of capitalist modernity, Japanese nationalism and American imperialism. My book attempts to do so as an ethnography of the efforts of a network of anti-base activists, native ethnologists, patriotic associations of war survivors, formerly homeless construction workers, shaman, and activist artists to make sense of the continuing irruption of the dead into the world of the everyday.”

Thomas Otten, Whitton Family Fellow

Associate Professor, Department of Music

“The Piano Etudes of H. Leslie Adams: A Recording Project”

Pianist Thomas Otten is in the process of making a CD of the second volume of piano etudes by living African-American composer H. Leslie Adams, to be released in Fall 2014 by Albany Records. These fourteen pieces, totaling an hour in length, have not been previously recorded.  Adams’ style, though classically rooted, incorporates strong elements of jazz and pop music, giving it a “crossover” vibe that is most engaging and very current in feel: a Rachmaninoff-meets- Burt-Bacharach sound, if you will.  Otten will also be performing the etudes throughout North Carolina and at schools in Alabama, Tennessee, DC, and California in presentations entitled The Hippest Etudes in Town. He is also coordinating an Etude Festival to be held in November 2014 at UNC-CH, featuring a world premiere performance of the complete Adams etudes.

Kumarini Silva, Cramer Fellow

Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Studies

“Circulating the Romance: Global Gendered Fantasies”

This multi-site project maps the transnational relationships that surround the romance novel by asking how the genre of romance is circulated and interrogating how this gendered fantasy becomes a global concept. Foregrounded by questions of colonialism and contemporary global commodity exchanges, Silva will approach this concept of “the global” through three broad areas: production, consumption and translation. First, she will map the circulation of the books through the publishing houses, as a formalized production of romance. Second, Silva will focus on the global consumption—through a localized ethnography in Colombo, Sri Lanka—of the books. Finally, she will look at the concept of translation, through the lens of post-colonialism, and the production of western romance novels for an Indian audience.

Benjamin Waterhouse, Blackwell Fellow

Assistant Professor, Department of History

“The Myth of Main Street: Small Business and the Modern American Political Tradition”

Waterhouse’s fellowship project is a book about the political uses of “small business” in the United States from the late twentieth century to the present. By exploring the political activism among small business associations such as the National Federation of Independent Business, the policy decisions of the Reagan and Clinton White Houses, and the real effects of changes in technology and reduced opportunities in traditional working class occupations, this project seeks to uncover the historical truth behind the promises and challenges of working for oneself in modern America. At the same time, this research explores the process of political myth making, asking how interested parties promoted the unquestioned virtue of entrepreneurship and the “little guy” even as wage stagnation, industrial decline, and rising inequality undermined economic security.

Brett Whalen, Chapman Family Fellow

Associate Professor, Department of History

“The Last Papal Monarch: Innocent IV and the Thirteenth-Century World Order”

Professor Whalen is working on his second research monograph that explores the papacy of Innocent IV (1243-54) and the idea of supreme Christian governance during the epoch-making events of mid-thirteenth century. He takes Innocent’s conceptualization of the papal office as the starting point for his analysis of critical themes and issues in the development of medieval European history, including the so-called separation of Church and State, the formation of papal monarchy, the nature of Christian sovereignty, and European relations with the non-Christian world.

Rachel Willis, Chapman Family Fellow

Associate Professor, Department of American Studies

“Water Over the Bridge: The Critical Need for Strategic Sustainable Transportation Infrastructure Planning”


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