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. 

  • Colonial Things, Cosmopolitan Thinking: Locating the Indigenous Art of Spanish America  |  Abstract

    Recognizing that the humanistic disciplines have often had an uncomfortable relationship with objects created outside Western traditions, this project illuminates how indigenous objects in the Spanish colonial past have been used and invested with meaning. This collaboration actively participates in both long-standing and current debates about that which is foreign and unfamiliar within the context of Western hermeneutics. Indigenous art and creativity are among the least studied topics in art and early modern history. This project redresses these lacunae by examining three issues: how indigenous Americans created their place in the wider world to which Spanish colonialism introduced them; how perceptions of indigenous art have shifted over time, both for natives and outsiders; and how, therefore, indigenous art contributes to the understanding of colonialism and its history. The collaborators write as art historians—one specializes in the Andes, the other in New Spain— yet take an interdisciplinary tack, drawing on the study of history, anthropology, literature, and religion. Building upon their study of hybridity in colonial Spanish America, this project represents the first extended collaboration by these scholars. The result will be a co-authored book that explains how indigenous art, global trade networks, and cosmopolitan ambitions intersected in colonial Spanish America (ca. 1500-1850), producing innovative research on indigenous objects by forging new links among the histories of art, colonialism, and global exchange. Award period: July 23, 2012 – July 22, 2014

    Carolyn Dean
    Carolyn Dean

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

    Dana Leibsohn
    Dana Leibsohn

    Professor, Art, Smith College

  • Émilie Du Châtelet and the Struggle between Science and Philosophy  |  Abstract

    During the height of the French Enlightenment, Émilie Du Châtelet (1706-1749) tackled the pressing question of how philosophy could provide a metaphysical foundation for the Newtonian physics then spreading through Europe. Unjustly overshadowed by her famous collaborator, Voltaire, Châtelet employed rigorous argumentation, dashes of irony, and unusual wit to flout the gender conventions of her day. Her magnum opus, Foundations of physics (Paris, 1740), is a tour de force that highlighted how philosophy and the new science could be united together in a single intellectual vision of the world. The collaborators build on their expertise in early modern women philosophers and in early modern Newtonianism and bring together fields that rarely interact: the history of early modern philosophy, the study of gender relations in Enlightenment Europe, and the history of modern physics. This project will culminate in the first English-language monograph on Châtelet’s philosophy and its intellectual landscape, examining her substantial philosophical influence and the unique challenges she faced as a woman writing in the mid-eighteenth century. Award period: June 1, 2013 – August 31, 2014

    Karen Detlefsen
    Karen Detlefsen

    Associate Professor, Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania

    Andrew Janiak
    Andrew Janiak

    Associate Professor, Philosophy, Duke University

  • Healing and Heritage: Sorting out Ethnic Traditional Medicine in China  |  Abstract

    The traditional medical systems of China’s 55 recognized minority nationalities are emerging as an important arena of research for the nation’s public health and social science experts. This collaboration thus links two rich topics: the heritage cultures of China’s minority nationalities and the rise of medical diversities in the modern world. At this conjuncture, a dynamic form of knowledge production and health service development is beginning to take shape. Working from small research agencies in China’s southwest, this ethnographic study explores the cultures of folk healing that at present still escape the formal health sector even as they are being “discovered” by social research; at the same time the research focuses on the structure and practice of the state-led surveys that seek to “salvage and sort” ethnicities and medicines. Training and working alongside local researchers at seven “minority” sites, the collaborators contribute to understanding how knowledge and culture are produced, both in transnational flows of information and under the regulation of modern states. They draw on their previous research on the historical development of traditional medical institutions and forms of knowledge in China; they have worked together before on training workshops for lay anthropologists and on similar research for a project that will lead to an edited volume of field memoirs in Chinese by local researchers that will be an intervention in anthropological writing in China. The collaboration will result in a co-authored book combining ethnography and science studies as well as a variety of articles with each other and local researchers in Chinese and English. Award period: July 1, 2012 – June 30, 2013

    Lili Lai
    Lili Lai

    Lecturer, Medical Humanities, Peking University

    Judith Farquhar
    Judith Farquhar

    Professor, Anthropology, University of Chicago

  • Learning How: Apprenticeship in France, 1675-1830  |  Abstract

    Apprenticeship, in the spirit of Marcel Mauss, is a “total social phenomenon”: an activity and an institution, practices and discourses that impinge on all aspects of social life, from the economic to the cultural, from the educational to the political, from the legal to the religious, from the ideological to the aesthetic. Conducting research in French archives and libraries, making use of apprenticeship contracts, police, judicial and guild records, philosophical treatises, and other printed and manuscript sources, the collaborators establish a multi-faceted approach that is a new synthesis between economic, quantitative history and cultural and intellectual history. This first-time collaboration draws on the scholars’ expertise in the history of work and guilds in early modern France, in women’s and gender history, and in the history of political economy and royal administration. This project will culminate in a co-authored book on apprenticeship in France from 1675 to 1830, which will be comparative on a national scale, long-term in chronology, and inclusive of methods from multiple fields of history. Award period: December 1, 2012 – November 30, 2014

    Steven L. Kaplan
    Steven L. Kaplan

    Professor Emeritus, History, Cornell University

    Clare Haru Crowston
    Clare Haru Crowston

    Associate Professor, History, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  • Rethinking the Cultural Origins of the English Revolution: John Felton, George Eglisham, and the Secret History of Early Stuart England  |  Abstract

    Debate on the causes of the English Revolution of 1640-60 has reached an impasse. This project reignites the debate by shifting the terrain of analysis from “causes” to “cultural origins,” and by utilizing interdisciplinary methodology that places histories of media, image-manufacture, and popular perception at the core of the analysis. The collaboration will produce two co-authored books: a study of the 1628 assassination of the English court favorite George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham; and a study of the manufacture, appropriation, and shifting political meanings of the allegation that Buckingham had poisoned King James I. The monographs explore from different perspectives the role of underground media in the long-term origins of the English Revolution: libelous verse and illicit pamphlets, scandalous political images of corrupt royal favorites and their kingly masters, and popular perceptions of courtly misgovernment and royal misrule. This project builds upon the complementary research expertise and methodological innovations of two historians of early Stuart politics and culture, and rests upon their collaborative archival research into a vast array of manuscript and printed material scattered in archives across Britain, the US, and Europe. While the scholars have collaborated before with other colleagues on essays and critical editions, these books represent their first major collaboration together. They will capture a culture whose unraveling in the 1640s would produce phenomena—a dynamic political public sphere, radical political philosophy, and constitutional experimentation—usually taken to be constitutive features of political modernity. Award period: January 1, 2013 – December 31, 2013

    Thomas E. Cogswell
    Thomas E. Cogswell

    Professor, History, University of California, Riverside

    Alastair James Bellany
    Alastair James Bellany

    Associate Professor, History, Rutgers University-New Brunswick

  • The Historical Classroom: Disciplinary History for the Twenty-First Century  |  Abstract

    Official disciplinary histories of English literature describe the discipline’s past as divided between eras in which literature was valued and eras in which knowledge was produced about its historical contexts. This divide—between professing value and producing knowledge—lives on in descriptions of the disconnect between undergraduate teaching and scholarly research. This collaborative project provides a new history of how English professors created value through, rather than despite, their research practices; this history has remained untold because its primary scene is that most devalued of disciplinary spaces: the classroom. Examining the major archives and more minor traces of mid-century literary critics like Cleanth Brooks, Edmund Wilson, W.K. Wimsatt, Monroe Beardsley, J.L. Lowes, Arthur Ransom, L.C. Knights, Sterling Brown, and J. Saunders Redding, the collaborators follow these critics’ research as it traverses the spaces of their classrooms, libraries, and offices by examining the syllabi, lecture notes, and records of student work they left behind. These neglected materials newly illuminate the alternate ways that English professors of the past created value in the classroom—ways that are not necessarily tied to literary canons, aesthetic form, or trans-historical ideas of the human. As a Victorianist and a Modernist, the collaborators’ expertise is chronologically contiguous but conceptually distant; they meet at the time during which the academic study of English literature was invented, giving the project both a deep grounding and a wide view. Their previous collaboration resulted in an article in New Literary History (43.1); their continued research will produce a jointly-authored book. Award period: September 1, 2012 - August 31, 2014

    Laura Heffernan
    Laura Heffernan

    Assistant Professor, English, University of North Florida

    Rachel Sagner Buurma
    Rachel Sagner Buurma

    Assistant Professor, English Literature, Swarthmore College

  • Transmedial Collaboration: Literary Criticism as Digital Humanities Scholarship  |  Abstract

    Digital literature poses many challenges to traditional literary criticism, for such works combine text, audio, moving images, and computational processes as well as hardware and software technologies to produce their aesthetic effects. This project models a new practice of collaborative literary analysis in which three digital humanities scholars each apply radically different methodological perspectives to works of electronic literature in an effort to produce shared readings. Through a series of case studies, they develop a collaborative method of digital humanities scholarship that integrates “traditional” hermeneutics with more recent methodologies—namely, media visualization, critical code studies, and digital forensics—to provide the multiple perspectives necessary to approach digital media and its poetics. To enable these collaborative reading practices, they will create a web-based critical media compendium to present their methodologies and application. It will also provide data sets and working models as a framework for future scholarship in this emergent field. Building upon a manuscript in-progress written by the collaborators, the project demonstrates the necessity of collaborative transmedial research and publication. Award period: January 1, 2013 – December 31, 2013

    Jeremy H. Douglass
    Jeremy H. Douglass

    Postdoctoral Scholar, Visual Arts, University of California, San Diego

    Jessica Pressman
    Jessica Pressman

    Assistant Professor, English, Yale University

    Mark C. Marino
    Mark C. Marino

    Associate Professor, Writing Program, University of Southern California