ACLS Collaborative Research Fellowships

The ACLS Collaborative Research Fellowship Program provides support to small teams of two or more scholars to collaborate intensively on a single, substantive project, which leads to a tangible research product (such as joint print or web publications) for which the collaborators will take equal credit. It is hoped that projects of successful applicants will help demonstrate the range and value of collaborative research in the humanities and related social sciences, and model how such collaboration may be carried out successfully.  

2016-2017 marked the ninth year of the ACLS Collaborative Research Fellowship Program, generously funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Read more about this fellowship program.

Please note: affiliations shown are as of time of award. Please click on fellows' names for current information.

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Watch "Emerging Themes and Methods of Research: A Discussion with ACLS Fellows," an annual meeting session featuring recent ACLS fellows. 

  • Art that Dies: Iconoclasm, Transformation, and Renewal in African Art  |  Abstract

    The short life for many African art objects is commonly misattributed to climatic conditions. In fact, “African art time” often presupposes an expectation on the part of makers and users that an object has a specific lifespan, ending in a form of death and rebirth. This project explores the “cultural biography” of works of art and the reasons why they may be intentionally destroyed, transformed and renewed. It shows how periodic episodes of destruction are frequently pivotal to the creation of new artistic forms. Despite widespread destruction, certain African societies have sought to create enduring objects, of which the Benin bronzes are the most famous. The goal is to analyze motives for creating both ephemeral and permanent works of art in diverse West and Central African societies. The collaborators bring complementary research experience in different parts of Africa to the project and by joining forces will be able to present cross-cultural and historical data in West and Central Africa. The research will culminate in the publication of a scholarly treatise (collaboratively argued in single-authored essays) and the mounting of an exhibition at The Museum for African Art in New York. Award period: July 1, 2009 – June 30, 2011

    Zoe S. Strother
    Zoe S. Strother

    Professor, Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University

    Elisabeth L. Cameron
    Elisabeth L. Cameron

    Associate Professor, History of Art and Visual Culture, University of California, Santa Cruz

  • Constructing and Negotiating the Islamic Milieu: New Moralities and Spatialities in Shi‘i Lebanon  |  Abstract

    This project explores the relationship of the Shi‘i Islamic milieu in Lebanon to notions of “culture,” appropriate leisure, and spatial production. It asks how do various select sites—an ecotourism facility, a series of ‘family-oriented” amusement parks, and cafes and restaurants in Beirut—map onto spaces in Lebanon and how do different groups inhabit and/or appropriate these spaces? Who is involved in producing and experiencing these spaces and what notions of “culture,” appropriate leisure and spatiality do they deploy, redefine, and challenge? What is the relationship of the growing Islamic milieu and its leisure sector to the consumption practices of the emergent Shi‘i middle-class? In answering these questions, this project, and the resulting co-authored book and articles, will contribute to scholarship on Islamic movements, urban space, leisure, and consumption, as well as scholarship on Islam and Lebanon. Both Lara Deeb and Mona Harb have published extensively on the Shi‘i Lebanese community and especially on the southern suburbs of Beirut. They bring to this project different research networks, methodological and theoretical approaches, and groundings in bodies of scholarship (English, French and Arabic). As a cultural anthropologist, Deeb’s work has taken an ethnographic approach, and has been theoretically grounded in literatures on modernity, gender, and public spheres in relation to Islam. As a political geographer, Harb’s work has analyzed qualitatively the role of political and religious organizations in local urban governance and service delivery, bringing together urban sociology and politics with theories of social mobilization, public action and political legitimization. The field research phase of the collaboration was supported by a Wenner-Gren International Collaboration Research Grant (1/2008-6-2009). Award period: September 1, 2009 – July 1, 2011

    Mona Harb
    Mona Harb

    Associate Professor, Architecture and Design, American University of Beirut

    Lara Deeb
    Lara Deeb

    Associate Professor, Anthropology, Scripps College

  • Interfaith Dialogue avant la lettre: Desideri in Tibet, 1716-1721  |  Abstract

    The Italian Jesuit missionary Ippolito Desideri (1684-1733) spent five years in Tibet, gaining an extraordinary mastery of the Tibetan language and a detailed understanding of Tibetan Buddhism. Indeed, he should be considered the founder of the field of Tibetan Studies in Europe. Desideri wrote several works in Tibetan; his magnum opus—never translated into a European language— was a refutation of the doctrines of rebirth and emptiness, and quoted extensively from Buddhist scriptures. It is a work of great historical importance but also has particular contemporary significance as a model for a critical but respectful dialogue between religions. The purpose of this project is to produce a complete annotated translation of this forgotten text from Tibetan into English with the two collaborators serving as co-translators. This will be Jinpa and Lopez’s second collaboration having just completed (with the support of an NEH Collaborative Research Grant) a full translation of the Golden Chronicle (Gser gyi thang ma), the extensive work of the leading Tibetan author of the first half of twentieth century, Gendun Chopel (1903-1951). Award period: July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012

    Thupten Jinpa
    Thupten Jinpa

    Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Religious Studies, McGill University

    Donald S. Lopez
    Donald S. Lopez

    Professor, Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

  • Law and Order in Nineteenth-Century Korea: Translation and Analysis of Inquest Records  |  Abstract

    This collaborative book project explores multifaceted yet vibrant socio-cultural–legal aspects of nineteenth-century Korean society under the rule of the Confucian Chosŏn court (1392–1910), by translating and analyzing selected inquest records that contain the previously untold stories of people from all walks of life—men and women who were marginalized in male-centered history writing. The project examines these inquest records to understand traditional Korea’s legal institutions as well as to show how people’s motivations and choices were shaped separately from judicial construction, in accordance with their personal values and interests. The project brings together two scholars with complementary expertise in early modern Korean and East Asian history. Sun Joo Kim is a leading scholar in social history as well as the history of marginalized people. Jungwon Kim, an emerging scholar, has been interested and trained in gender, family, and legal issues and has previously conducted research on the particular Korean legal archives. Award period: July 1, 2009 – June 30, 2011

    Jungwon Kim
    Jungwon Kim

    Assistant Professor, East Asian Languages and Cultures, History, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    Sun Joo Kim
    Sun Joo Kim

    Professor, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University

  • The Bayeux Tapestry and St. Augustine’s: Patronage, Politics, and Pictorial Narrative in Late Eleventh-Century England  |  Abstract

    Pastan and White argue that to reach a full understanding of the medieval embroidery known as the Bayeux Tapestry, one must dispense with the hypothesis that as its patron, Bishop Odo played a micromanaging role in shaping its narrative and focus instead on the monastic community where this work was created. Scholars have long regarded the monastery of St Augustine's, Canterbury as the place where the Tapestry was produced because of its artistic traditions and its ties to Odo. But because earlier analysis postulated an outmoded model of the patron acting in a dominant authorial role and misread St. Augustine's history after 1066, scholars have failed to realize the full extent of the monks' collective contribution to the embroidery’s creation. A multi-disciplinary approach draws on Pastan and White's respective scholarly specialties: Pastan is an art historian with expertise in monumental pictorial cycles from her work on medieval stained glass, while White is an historian of English and French law, politics, and the lay patronage of monasteries. Pastan and White’s long standing scholarly collaboration, which includes co-teaching, joint conference presentations and a co-authored article on the Tapestry, has prepared them for this book project. Award period: September 1, 2009 – August 31, 2010

    Stephen D. White

    Professor, History, Emory University

    Elizabeth Carson Pastan
    Elizabeth Carson Pastan

    Associate Professor, Art History, Emory University

  • Wastelands and Wilderness  |  Abstract

    As they are usually understood, the designations "nuclear wasteland" and "pure wilderness" are opposites; when they converge on the sites of decommissioned nuclear weapons lands we often describe this circumstance as "paradoxical" or "ironic." Defiled areas come to be free of humans—and therefore thought of as wilderness; wilderness areas formed the "pure" backdrop for nuclear testing. Taking stock of plans to handle these lands that will remain saturated with isotopic toxins for tens of thousands of years, scientists, anthropologists, and psychologists have begun to try to mark these vast regions for the unimaginably far future. The collaboration will result in “Wastelands,” a co-directed and co-edited film at the intersection of scholarship and documentary film, about the attempt to mark and isolate nuclear wastelands for the deep future. Galison, whose work intersects the humanities and the physical sciences, and Moss, an established documentary filmmaker, also want to encourage, by example, the further development of what one might call Visual Science and Technology Studies. The project builds on previous collaborations between Galison and Moss, such as “Secrecy” (2008) an award-winning documentary that treats the topic of classified information. The film has been well-received by the scholarly community because it communicates knowledge in a way that could not be done by written analysis alone. Award period: July 1, 2009 – June 30, 2011

    Robb Moss

    Lecturer, Visual and Environmental Studies, Harvard University

    Peter L. Galison
    Peter L. Galison

    Professor, History of Science; Physics, Harvard University