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. 

  • Beyond Recovery: Reframing the Dialogues of Early African Diaspora Art and Visual Culture, 1700-1900  |  Abstract

    Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century African diasporic artists inhabited complex aesthetic and social worlds. They were involved in multiple spheres, negotiated various collective affiliations, and, most importantly, drew on a range of aesthetic genealogies. More than an exercise in recovery that merely establishes the fact and details of these artists’ existence, this project focuses on the understudied interactions among artists of African descent and their historical milieus. These artists were not simply caught between two worlds; their subjectivity was formed in, and through, the dialogues shaped by their multiple affiliations. This study illuminates the complex historical conditions of being a Black diasporic artist during this period and brings attention to how such conditions informed the work these artists’ produced. Drawing on Mia Bagneris’s interdisciplinary work on the wider contexts of racial representation in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century art and visual culture and Anna Arabindan-Kesson’s transnational research into the intersections of Black diasporic cultural production and the visual culture of British colonial cultures, these two art historians focus on the multifaceted lives of a range of African diasporic artists that were not, solely, bound up with their racial identities. The project balances close readings of works with archival research and interdisciplinary modes of analysis to focus on specific themes—things, people, places, circuits—that contextualize the significance of these artists and their production within the networks of attachment and influence in which they were embedded. This approach allows for a deeper analysis of these artists’ aesthetic innovations alongside their participation in debates about national identity, shifting discourses about the natural world and theories of representation, as well as circuits of patronage that crisscrossed the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Atlantic world. The product of Arabindan-Kesson’s and Bagneris’s collaboration will be a coauthored book that will redefine early African diaspora art history by revealing and reconsidering the varying entanglements of artists of African descent—and the art histories they have often been written out of—and offer a model for breaking new ground in the field. Award period: September 1, 2017 through August 31, 2019

    Anna Arabindan-Kesson
    Anna Arabindan-Kesson

    Assistant Professor, African American Studies and Art and Archaeology, Princeton University

    Mia L. Bagneris
    Mia L. Bagneris

    Assistant Professor, Art, Tulane University

  • Comparing Law, Slavery, Race, and Freedom in the Americas: Cuba, Louisiana, and Virginia, 1500-1868  |  Abstract

    Enslaved people across the Americas made claims on legal institutions in order to gain their freedom or improve their lives. Many shared legal knowledge across broad networks that crossed boundaries of nation and empire. Yet those borders made a difference; the varying trajectories of legal regimes helped set the terms within which free and enslaved people of color operated. In their project, historian Alejandro de la Fuente and legal scholar Ariela Gross examine Cuba, Louisiana, and Virginia over several centuries as case studies to explore the way people of color challenged the boundaries of slavery and freedom, black and white. Unlike some other comparative studies, their work uses the techniques of cultural-legal history, studying the interactions of ordinary people with law in their everyday lives. Their sources—trial court records, statutes, and ordinances passed by local assemblies; petitions for freedom to local officials; and other local archives—reveal the stories behind the cases. By comparing three jurisdictions across three centuries, de la Fuente and Gross identify and highlight the ways that law interacted with demography, economy, politics, and culture to create very different slave societies, and very different possibilities for freed people to become citizens. In particular, they emphasize the crucial role of law in creating communities of free people of color, and in turn, influencing the roles free people of color played in challenging racial hierarchies, carving out new legal rights, and shaping the meaning of race and freedom. The coauthored book that results from this research will be the first comparative study that scholars and students in a range of fields can turn to for a broad perspective on law, race, and slavery. By exploring the interactions of slaves and free people of color with courts and other legal institutions, their project illuminates the ways that law shaped slave societies, from below as well as from above. Gross and de la Fuente have published several articles together on comparative law, race, and slavery before embarking on this book project. Award period: July 1, 2017 through August 31, 2018

    Ariela J. Gross
    Ariela J. Gross

    Professor, Law and History, University of Southern California

    Alejandro de la Fuente
    Alejandro de la Fuente

    Professor, African and African American Studies and History, Harvard University

  • Corruption Plots, Imagined Publics: The Ethics of Space in the Millennial City  |  Abstract

    In today’s cities, corruption narratives are at the heart of a widely accepted yet highly malleable discourse about the exercise of power. Brought to life through street-corner rumors, public protests, and backroom deals, corruption talk does not simply call out the bribe-taking bureaucrat. Rather, corruption stories have become a way to perceive rapid and unequal urban spatial change. In this collaborative book project and digital platform, geographers Malini Ranganathan and Sapana Doshi and literary and film studies scholar David Pike study the work of corruption stories in the imagination of global cities. The project begins with ethnographic forays in two Indian cities—Mumbai and Bangalore—and brings them into conversation with a cross-section of real and imagined urban worlds. In everyday life and in literature, culture, and film, the experience of urban transformation—from the sale of a plot of land to the construction of a luxury high-rise to the fate of a slum—unfolds through corruption plots. At stake in these plots are contested notions of the public, which construe who is harmed, who is to blame, and ultimately, what is the meaning of ethics and citizenship in struggles over space. These narratives and the intensities of feeling they conjure matter because they shape how people negotiate conditions of injustice and inequality and act on city spaces. Existing scholarship across the social sciences and humanities only tells part of how ordinary urban dwellers experience and narrate corruption. Rather than adopting a narrow definition of corruption often given by international development agendas, this project shows how corruption discourse enables a contradictory sense of ethics and diverse notions of the public—what is referred to here as “imagined publics.” It does so by exploring how stories of corruption are situated historically, and how they invoke shifting ethical registers for grasping both spectacular and everyday places. Award period: August 1, 2017 through July 31, 2019

    Malini Ranganathan
    Malini Ranganathan

    Assistant Professor, School of International Service, American University

    Sapana Doshi
    Sapana Doshi

    Assistant Professor, Geography and Development, University of Arizona

    David L. Pike
    David L. Pike

    Professor, Literature, American University

  • One Hundred Years of LGBT History in Nicaragua: Stories from the Global South  |  Abstract

    In Nicaragua over the past century, at times of rapid social change and heightened anxiety, elites have often cracked down on “sodomites,” or lesbians, or both. At other times, dictatorial politicians have tried to co-opt LGBT people in an effort to consolidate their own power, and to make their governments appear liberal and modern. Despite these challenges, there is a vibrant LGBT rights movement today. Political scientist Karen Kampwirth and historian Victoria González-Rivera present a new history of Nicaragua, using sexuality as a lens with which to see what others have missed. Nicaraguan LGBT people have not received the attention they warrant in histories of the period, and sexuality studies scholars often assume that LGBT politics requires a model of capitalist development and transformation of the nuclear family that is largely found in the Global North and the richer countries of the Global South. By examining intersections among sexuality, state formation, and capitalist development in Nicaragua, this study shows that Nicaraguan history was not made solely by heterosexuals, that LGBT Nicaraguans were not socially marginal, and that the country’s past is understandable only by attending to sexuality. At the same time, the project demonstrates that LGBT history is not only the history of predominantly middle-class countries, and that LGBT people can organize for their own rights even absent particular economic and social conditions. This story has important lessons for a world in which most people live in the poorer countries of the Global South. This project builds on a two-decade-long collaboration between Kampwirth and González-Rivera, who together have completed multiple projects on gender, sexuality, and politics in Nicaragua. Award period: July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018

    Karen Kampwirth
    Karen Kampwirth

    Professor, Political Science, Knox College

    Victoria González-Rivera
    Victoria González-Rivera

    Associate Professor, Chicana and Chicano Studies, San Diego State University

  • Postmortem Cesarean Operations and the Spread of Fetal Baptism in the Spanish and Portuguese Empires  |  Abstract

    In 1751, a friar named Francisco Emmanuele Cangiamila published “Embryologia sacra” (Sacred Embryology), a medical-theological treatise on the duty of priests and laypeople to receive instruction in the cesarean operation and perform it on women who died while pregnant. The procedure, he argued, was a crucial and necessary means to save the life of the fetus and cleanse it of original sin through baptism. Forty-eight years later an unidentified indigenous barber-surgeon in a Guatemalan mission performed a cesarean operation––one of many at this time––on a deceased Maya woman to remove a fetus, which the supervising priest then baptized. In 1862, cesarean operation manuals became available in the Cebuano and Tagalog languages, in addition to Spanish, in the colonial Philippines. In this project, historians Martha Few, Zeb Tortorici, and Adam Warren trace the global networks of Spain’s and Portugal’s empires during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that allowed for the rise and spread of the postmortem cesarean operation as a medico-religious practice from Europe to the Americas and Asia. Furthermore, it interrogates how different kinds of historical actors perceived and gave meaning to the operation and to baptism as they received and implemented instruction in distinct colonial settings. The project analyzes the way that manuals, legal mandates, and accounts of the performance of postmortem cesareans illuminate new ideas and assumptions about women and unborn fetuses as colonial subjects at the local level and across different imperial spaces. Drawing on Few’s expertise in ethnohistory and the history of medicine, Tortorici’s specializations in gender and sexuality and archival theory, and Warren’s background as a historian of colonial political culture and early modern medicine, their monograph argues that the postmortem cesarean operation constituted a contested tool of empire through which colonialism was enacted on the female body and the unborn fetus in its womb. Award period: January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2019

    Martha Few
    Martha Few

    Professor, History, Pennsylvania State University

    Zeb J. Tortorici
    Zeb J. Tortorici

    Assistant Professor, Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literatures, New York University

    Adam Warren
    Adam Warren

    Associate Professor, History, University of Washington

  • Prospecting the Ruins: The History, Memory, and Visual Culture of the Japan Air Raids  |  Abstract

    “Prospecting the Ruins” examines the visual culture of the firebombing of urban Japan as revealed through five principal sets of images generated by the air war in the Pacific: maps, photographs, cartoons, films, and art. Blending research methods from history, geography, and visual studies, historian David Fedman and geographer Cary Karacas trace the production, circulation, and consumption of each set of images as they were transformed from products of total war into objects of memorialization. Their analysis not only will elucidate how visual materials facilitated the targeting and destruction of 66 different Japanese cities during World War II, but also will reveal the distinctive ways in which this imagery has shaped the postwar politics of war memory on both sides of the Pacific. By integrating the full range of imagery into their study—and by assessing the explanatory promise and pitfalls of each medium—Fedman and Caracas seek above all else to challenge readers to more carefully consider how visual media shape our ability to comprehend mass violence, bodily trauma, and the civilian experience of modern war. Such an approach builds on five years of collaborative research between Fedman and Karacas, who have coauthored numerous publications on the topic and together maintain JapanAirRaids.org, a bilingual digital archive dedicated to the international dissemination of information about the aerial bombing of Japan. Their research will result in the publication of a coauthored book on the topic. Award period: January 1, 2019 through July 31, 2020

    David Fedman
    David Fedman

    Assistant Professor, History, University of California, Irvine

    Cary Karacas
    Cary Karacas

    Associate Professor, Political Science and Global Affairs, City University of New York, College of Staten Island

  • Songs of the Spirit: The Collaborative Hymnody of the Mohican Moravian Missions  |  Abstract

    On the shelves of the Moravian Church Archives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania sit several small booklets of hymns dating to the 1740s. Their titles announce that they are written in Mohican, and leafing through them reveals that most verses have a line in German above the Native-language stanza. At first glance, these appear to be simply popular German-Moravian hymns of the time, translated for use in Moravian missions to the Mohicans. But a more careful look reveals these documents to be far more complex. A number of the Mohican stanzas are attributed to Native residents of the community and an analysis of their content demonstrates that the stanzas are not translations, but new creations. This project, which is a collaboration between religious studies scholar Rachel Wheeler and musicologist Sarah Eyerly, aims to bring this music back to life. Despite the unusually rich depth and breadth of Moravian mission records, Native-language hymns such as these have received scant scholarly recognition and attention. Songs of the Spirit explores the adaptation of the German-Moravian hymn tradition in North American mission contexts by focusing on the collaborative process that brought the hymns into existence and the Native and European musical and religious traditions that informed their creation, performance, and use. This project provides new insights into the ways music functioned as a site of cultural encounter between European missionaries and Native peoples in early America. Wheeler and Eyerly combine their respective expertise in Native American religious history and musicology to investigate the musical, cultural, and linguistic significance of these hymns. Wheeler and Eyerly have presented their research together at several conferences and have coauthored an article on the Mohican hymns. Their research will result in three coauthored articles, supported by digital and spatial humanities modes of research and publication, as well as historically-informed recordings and modern arrangements of these hymns, done in collaboration with members of the Mohican community. Award period: August 1, 2017 through May 31, 2018

    Rachel M. Wheeler
    Rachel M. Wheeler

    Associate Professor, Religious Studies, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

    Sarah J. Eyerly
    Sarah J. Eyerly

    Assistant Professor, Musicology, Florida State University

  • The Problem of Bodies from Newton to Kant  |  Abstract

    This project inquires into the notion of body at the heart of classical physics and philosophical engagements with that notion. The key thesis advanced by philosophers Marius Stan and Katherine Brading is that by 1700 neither metaphysics nor mathematical physics had a coherent and robust notion of body, understood either as physical bodies or those of moral and political agents. They identify this lacuna in the metaphysics of science as the “problem of bodies.” The project explores the resources and solutions available in the Enlightenment for solving this problem. Drawing on Brading’s expertise in early modern thought and philosophy of physics, and on Stan’s background in history of physics, the project focuses on scientific theorists (including Jean le Rond d’Alembert, Leonhard Euler, Joseph-Louis Lagrange, Pierre-Simon Laplace, and Siméon Denis Poisson) and philosophers attuned to that science (such as Christian Wolff, Emilie du Châtelet, and Immanuel Kant). Using the “problem of bodies” as an investigative tool, the research uncovers and then assesses the entanglement between philosophies of matter and mechanical theory as both sought to recover a robust notion of body in the eighteenth century. Thereby, it offers a novel, revisionary account of the relationship between philosophy and mechanics in the Enlightenment, and of the split that arose between physics and philosophy. The project’s outcome will be a jointly authored monograph; in addition, the scholars expect to outline and defend a new problematic and research agenda for historians and philosophers of classical science. Award period: July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2019

    Marius Stan
    Marius Stan

    Assistant Professor, Philosophy, Boston College

    Katherine Brading
    Katherine Brading

    Professor, Philosophy, University of Notre Dame

  • Wild Adolescence: The Pickens Family, the Ku Klux Klan, and Racial Terrorism in the Alabama Black Belt  |  Abstract

    Social, political, and economic upheaval after the Civil War gave rise to the United States’ most significant domestic terrorist movement: the Ku Klux Klan. Yet few contemporary inside sources on this secret, criminal conspiracy have survived. In this project, historians Michael W. Fitzgerald and Sarah L. Silkey analyze the interpersonal dynamics of racial extremism through a newly-accessible trove of rare Reconstruction-era documents: the letters and diaries of a network of Ku Klux Klan supporters. The Pickens family of Hale County, Alabama maintained an extensive correspondence, providing a unique look at a family of Klan sympathizers as they grappled with terrorist participation by teenaged family members. The Pickens siblings mediated their terrorist connections within the context of family life, rooted in a world of upper-class white privilege eroded by the loss of 90 percent of their wealth after the war. These young men and their friends, including an employee of an emphatically pro-Klan newspaper, discussed, witnessed, and possibly engaged in acts of political and racial terrorism. Their dangerous adolescent male behavior became problematic for their older brothers and female relatives, revealing generational conflicts between Victorian gender expectations and notions of southern manhood during Reconstruction and its aftermath. The collaboration between Fitzgerald, an expert on Reconstruction-era Alabama, and Silkey, a cultural historian of race, gender, and violence, will result in a coauthored book examining Klan participation through a domestic lens, illuminating the intimate dynamics of radicalization and racist violence as a hearthside concern. Award period: July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2020

    Michael W. Fitzgerald
    Michael W. Fitzgerald

    Professor, History, Saint Olaf College

    Sarah L. Silkey
    Sarah L. Silkey

    Associate Professor, History, Lycoming College