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. 

  • A New Critical Edition and Complete English Translation of the Correspondence of René Descartes  |  Abstract

    The correspondence of René Descartes (1596-1650) is crucial to understanding the philosopher, mathematician, and scientist because the basis for many of Descartes’ doctrines cannot be found in his works. However, no comprehensive edition of Descartes’ correspondence exists that brings together all the relevant and more recent materials, nor does a version exist that translates it from French, Dutch, and Latin for an English-language audience. Philosophers and ACLS Fellows Roger Ariew and Erik-Jan Bos, joined by their colleague Theo Verbeek, have been working to remedy this deficiency for the past few years and produce a new critical edition and English translation of Descartes’ correspondence, augmented by analytical and historical notes. The new edition will include recently discovered letters and will be accompanied by two additional tools: a calendar of his life and a biographical lexicon of his correspondents. The calendar will contain testimonies, documentary and archival material, and contemporary letters (or fragments) on Descartes’ life, as well as reports on historical events that explain references within the letters or justify their chronology. The biographical lexicon offers insights into the lives of Descartes’ contemporaries that are essential for understanding his network. The first of eight, approximately 650-page volumes, to be published by Oxford University Press, is expected soon, with the next three volumes anticipated during their fellowship tenure. It is expected that the edition will be made available online and Ariew and Bos also anticipate releasing some materials in a different format for wider audiences. Award period: July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2018

    Roger Ariew
    Roger Ariew

    Professor, Philosophy, University of South Florida

    Erik-Jan Bos
    Erik-Jan Bos

    Independent Scholar

  • Codes, Communities, and Church: The Cultural Contexts of Medieval Law  |  Abstract

    Codes, Communities, and Church examines changes and continuities in the expression, study, and implementation of law in western Europe between ca. 600 and 1300. The collaboration brings together historians Abigail Firey, a specialist in early medieval law, and Melodie Eichbauer, a specialist in later medieval law, to show how over time medieval communities—such as monasteries, university faculties, networks of bishops, and royal courts—adapted existing law to suit their interests and needs, and how the influence of the church shifted some of the conceptual frameworks of secular law. In addition to investigating the production and application of law in various communities, the project also explores the changing environments and techniques for teaching law. By analyzing both production and teaching, this project develops a richer contextualization of legal texts that enjoyed extended use, and traces earlier legal traditions in subsequent social configurations, debates, and political maneuvers. The analysis of the historical evolution of legal knowledge and practice is anchored in close study of texts such as early ninth-century treatises on procedure, twelfth-century commentaries on canon law, and thirteenth-century interpretations of Roman law. The project will result in a coauthored monograph and an open-access website displaying annotated images of medieval legal manuscripts discussed in the book. The website is designed for those interested in legal history, but who perhaps lack the paleographic and codicological background needed to work with such material: the site’s annotations introduce manuscript representations, scribal abbreviations, and textual range of medieval law for different periods. Although the project presents texts such as the Visigothic Code and the laws of Frederick Barbarossa, Codes, Communities, and Church argues that law is not simply issued by governmental authorities, but is generated and given meaning by the communities that dynamically find, select, circulate, adapt, and create law suited to their more particular needs and practices. The project thus shows how legal texts can be used as witnesses to varied political and social perspectives, and to the promotion of those perspectives through the rhetoric of legislation and jurisprudence. Award period: August 1, 2016 through July 31, 2018

    Abigail A. Firey
    Abigail A. Firey

    Professor, History, University of Kentucky

    Melodie H. Eichbauer
    Melodie H. Eichbauer

    Assistant Professor, Social Sciences, Florida Gulf Coast University

  • Machine-Made Law: Mapping the Modern Patent Episteme, 1790-2000  |  Abstract

    The institutions and discourses of modern patent law have had a relatively short history, which stretches forward from about the 1790s to the present. In this project, Mario Biagioli, a historian of science and technology, and Alain Pottage, a legal scholar, explore the formation and operation of the “episteme” of patent law—the practices, techniques, and devices that facilitated the stabilization of the patent doctrine that is practiced by lawyers and discussed by commentators. Because these epistemic elements functioned behind the scenes, or because they were simply too obvious to be noticed, their role in the constitution of patent law has not been explored fully. Such elements include practices of textual and graphical representation, the use of models and other material media, and the evolution of pedagogical and forensic tools. Biagioli and Pottage hypothesize that these epistemic elements were decisive in the emergence and consolidation of the thing that distinguishes the modern patent regime, namely, the notion of invention as intangible property. The project draws on Biagioli’s work on the new modalities of representation that characterized the late eighteenth century, which can be seen as much in the introduction of representative government as in the formation of the US patent regime, and on Pottage’s work on the juridical media that worked as felicitous conditions for the articulation of patent discourse. One of the project’s central aims is to reconstruct the classical distinction between “invention” and “discovery,” and to explore how the epistemic instability of that distinction was overcome by a set of concepts and techniques that “fixed” the intangible. They also seek to elucidate how this basic instability is now being exposed once again by the inventions of the “Information Age.” The research will result in a coauthored monograph written for a broad audience in the humanities and social sciences. Award period: July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2019

    Mario Biagioli
    Mario Biagioli

    Professor, Science and Technology Studies, Law, and History, University of California, Davis

    Alain Pottage
    Alain Pottage

    Professor, Law, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK

  • Survival, Civilization, and Salvation: The Origins of Bread Culture in Early England  |  Abstract

    Bread, the “staff of life”—a staple in a wide range of cultures since the advent of agriculture—has long occupied a vital position in Western food and as a result in cultural and imaginative life. In England, as in English-derived culture in the United States, the significance of bread is reflected in multiple realms: in the history and success of English population growth and expansion, in the culture of bread and its expression in religion, and in literary and textual reflections of the importance of bread to status and community. Bread was vital to survival, in its nutritive sense; to civilization, in the flexibility and abundance of bread; and to salvation, in its role as moral agent. In this project, historians Debby Banham and Martha Bayless analyze bread as a cultural force in Anglo-Saxon England using a wide range of sources, including historical, legal, and theological texts, literature, vocabulary, contemporary images, and archeological and paleobotanical findings. The collaboration between Banham, a social and economic historian with interest in medicine, diet, and food production, and Bayless, a cultural historian of the early medieval period with experience in anthropology and food studies, aims to produce a 360-degree view of Anglo-Saxon culture. The result of this research will be a coauthored book illuminating both the day-to-day as well as the larger themes of early English bread culture from a multi-disciplinary perspective and demonstrating the ways in which a staple foodstuff formed a nexus of social practice and moral meaning that was imbued with symbolic and cultural significance. These changing dietary fashions at the beginning of English history brought about transformations that shape lives across the globe today. Award period: August 1, 2016 through August 31, 2017

    Martha Bayless
    Martha Bayless

    Professor, English, University of Oregon

    Debby Banham
    Debby Banham

    Lecturer, Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, University of Cambridge, UK

  • T: The Unauthorized Biography  |  Abstract

    “The trouble with testosterone,” to borrow Robert Sapolsky’s 1997 phrase, is that “T” is at once a specific molecule and a mercurial cultural figure—a familiar villain and attractive bad boy that supplies a ready explanation for innumerable social phenomena. The difficulties with pinning down T go deeper than scientific versus social versions: there is not a single science of T, and the multiple sciences involve not merely partial knowledges about this molecule, but conflicting claims, applied in sometimes highly contentious contexts. In their coauthored book, T: The Unauthorized Biography, sociomedical scientist Rebecca Jordan-Young and anthropologist Katrina Karkazis examine these divergences and ask which versions gain authority, and for what purposes. Employing methods from anthropology and philosophical and gender studies of science, they analyze scientific research and “T talk” related to five high-stakes domains: sports, science achievement, violence, sexuality, and aging. This book builds on the authors’ deep and complementary expertise regarding testosterone in science, medicine, and culture. Jordan-Young specializes in study design and measurement in the human sciences, especially studies that link biological features to aspects of gender, sexuality, and race. Karkazis brings her expertise in conducting multi-sited qualitative research, particularly focused on scientific and medical approaches to bodies seen as ambiguously sexed. They have been collaborating on this topic since 2011, when they analyzed policies banning women with high natural testosterone from elite sport according to the rationale that high T conveys an unfair “masculine advantage.” Ultimately, their book will present a dense picture that characterizes various sciences of T in relation to the social worlds in which these sciences are produced and used. Award period: September 1, 2016 through September 30, 2017

    Katrina Karkazis
    Katrina Karkazis

    Senior Research Scholar, Center for Biomedical Ethics, Stanford University

    Rebecca Jordan-Young
    Rebecca Jordan-Young

    Associate Professor, Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Barnard College

  • The Last Revolution: Shining Path and the War of the End of the World  |  Abstract

    In the final two decades of the twentieth century, Shining Path launched a brutal war that claimed the lives of nearly 70,000 people and nearly toppled the Peruvian government. Peru's Shining Path insurgency led a whole generation of scholars, military experts, and policymakers to puzzle over this apparent contradiction and just what drove a small band of Maoist guerrillas to such violent extremes. Yet, the full story of the Peruvian insurrection has never been told. Focusing on the experiences of a handful of diverse characters who were thrust into the conflict and whose lives intersected in unanticipated ways, The Last Revolution sheds new light on the Marxist revolutionary politics that so shook the world across the twentieth century, and on the very old yet stubbornly persistent matter of mass violence and its role in human life. This collaborative project brings together the extensive archival experience of Miguel La Serna, a historian of twentieth-century Peru, and the fieldwork and ethnographic experience of Orin Starn, an anthropologist whose work has focused on social movements and Andean life. Working together, the authors have uncovered rich new material through conducting interviews with former Shining Path leaders and police officials and gathering thousands of documents to which previous researchers have not had access, such as the classified DINCOTE police archives and the so-called Megajuicio trial records. This study will result in a coauthored book that offers a comprehensive history of Shining Path and also takes their war as a means to track how belief in an ostensibly righteous cause can power frightening violence to its furthest extremes. Award period: July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017

    Miguel La Serna
    Miguel La Serna

    Associate Professor, History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    Orin Starn
    Orin Starn

    Professor, Cultural Anthropology and History, Duke University

  • The Sun King at Sea: Maritime Art and Slavery During the Reign of Louis XIV  |  Abstract

    Mediterranean maritime art, and the forced labor on which it depended, was fundamental to the politics and propaganda of France’s King Louis XIV, who ruled from 1643 to 1715. Yet most studies of French art in this period continue to focus on Paris and Versailles, a fact that is all the more surprising given the recent scholarly emphasis on mobility, cross-cultural exchange, and transoceanic perspectives. By examining a wide range of artistic productions—ship design, artillery sculpture, medals, paintings, and prints—this project, which joins art historian Meredith Martin and historian Gillian Weiss, aims to draw attention to the neglected genre of Mediterranean maritime art and to the varieties of forced labor integral to its creation. The project emphasizes the roles of forçats (convicts) and esclaves turcs (enslaved Turks) in building and decorating naval vessels and other artistic forms that circulated between coast and capital to proclaim the power of the Sun King. Thus it challenges the conventional notion that human bondage vanished from continental France before the modern period. Instead, this project invites a reassessment of servitude as condition, mode of representation, and means to power in seventeenth-century France. More generally, it calls for a reconsideration of how servility has been celebrated or concealed in different times and places. To show that purchased slaves from the Ottoman Empire and North Africa toiled alongside convicts and artisans in shipyards on the coast and in palaces of the capital is to reconceive the parameters of artistic production. To underscore the value of the ephemeral artworks they helped create is to question hierarchies that privilege certain types of art over others. Finally, to counter anachronistic views of the development of national styles is to highlight artistic creations profoundly shaped by cross-cultural encounters. This project, which will result in a coauthored book, expands the limited territorial purview of early modern French art history by demanding a reorientation toward the sea. Martin and Weiss have published one previous article, “‘Turks’ on Display During the Reign of Louis XIV,” L’Esprit Créateur (2013). Award period: July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2018

    Meredith S. Martin
    Meredith S. Martin

    Associate Professor, Art History and Institute of Fine Arts, New York University

    Gillian L. Weiss
    Gillian L. Weiss

    Associate Professor, History, Case Western Reserve University

  • Wagner and the Subject of Redemption: Politics, Erotics, and Religion in the Music Dramas  |  Abstract

    Richard Wagner fashioned his music dramas not as operas meant to entertain the audience, but as works of philosophy meant to transform it, aiming at nothing less than a wholesale change in conceptions of human subjectivity. This collaboration between philosopher Andrew Mitchell and musicologist Kevin Karnes investigates Wagner’s deep and tangled legacy to philosophical discourse, and argues that performance itself is a means of philosophical engagement. Where musicologists largely have neglected recent inquiries by philosophers into Wagner’s work, and philosophers typically have shied away from engaging Wagner’s musical scores, this project seeks to bridge disciplines and methods. Regarding Wagner’s musical texts as integral components of his philosophical contributions, this study brings philosophical argument—ranging from nineteenth-century writers such as Ludwig Feuerbach, Mikhail Bakunin, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Friedrich Nietzsche to more recent thinkers like Theodor Adorno, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Slavoj Žižek, Jean-Luc Nancy, Peter Szendy, and Alain Badiou—to bear upon Wagner’s scores. At the same time, it tests and elaborates these philosophers’ arguments against Wagner’s performative art. The study is oriented around a perennial concern in philosophical engagements with Wagner, reading and hearing his statements as reflections on subjectivity, what it means to be an individual and what constitutes a self. It argues that Wagner’s concern for subjectivity is bound to his longing for “redemption,” a break with those aspects of tradition or society that stifle creativity, isolate the self, or deny the ecstatic character of existence. Drawing on Wagner’s scores and writings alongside the work of his philosophical interlocutors and previously unexamined archival materials, the project reveals and critiques Wagner’s changing positions on subjectivity and redemption with respect to political, sexual, and religious concerns. The research, which will culminate in a coauthored monograph and new co-taught undergraduate and graduate courses, understands Wagner’s visions as integral to his virulent anti-Semitism, and, in that light, inquires into the notion of redeemed subjectivity itself and asks whether such a notion can exist without being grounded in exclusionary politics. Award period: August 1, 2016 through July 31, 2017

    Andrew J. Mitchell
    Andrew J. Mitchell

    Associate Professor, Philosophy, Emory University

    Kevin C. Karnes
    Kevin C. Karnes

    Professor, Music, Emory University