Institute Fellowships offer faculty course reductions so that they can develop research projects within an interdisciplinary community. Kaplan Institute Fellows, who are selected by an external team of reviewers, present work at weekly lunchtime colloquia, participate in Institute events, and develop a course to offer in the Institute in the year after their fellowship. Read more about our Fellowship Program.
Meet the 2019-2020 cohort of Fellows for the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities:
Professor of History and Milton H. Wilson Professor in the Humanities; Director, Science in Human Culture Program
Project: Lives of the Machines: Ten Memoirs from the Reign Of Technology
"My project approaches the history of technology from the perspective of the material objects themselves. It consists of ten memoirs by machines, artificial beings, and other artifacts, casting light on the human beings who designed, made, and used them. The life-stories they tell are true, based on research in archives, libraries, and museums. That said, these autobiographies by guns, bicycles, books, and typewriters also revive the fictional 'it narratives' of the first industrial revolution."
James E. Johnson Professor of Sociology
Project: Culture U: Arts Training in the Modern Research University
"I investigate the inclusion of artists in the modern American university. Building on my study of MFA artists, Talking Art, I address how a range of aesthetic activities have found a home in colleges over the past century, including visual art, theater, music, and even culinary work and couture."
Associate Professor of Filmmaking, and Acting Director, MFA in Documentary Media, Department of Radio, TV, Film
"A derived from actuality dramatic fiction feature film, Eldercare centers on the sometimes-fraught relationships between eldercare workers and the families for which they care. The film follows a Chicago African American homecare worker who is challenged by systemic class and race barriers as she cares for an elderly white woman with dementia who lives in a North Shore community.”
Collection and Organizational Data Analysis Librarian, Assessment and Planning, Northwestern University Libraries
Library Fellow 2019-2020
Project: Being First Two Times Over
Since the Episcopal Church of the United States began officially ordaining women in 1977, there have been numerous studies and reflections about the first women in the priesthood. However, less attention has been paid to the stories of the first black women ordained. Being First Two Times Over seeks to study the paths of the first five black women ordained in the Episcopal Church as well as to seat these women’s stories within the larger conversation occurring at the time around women’s ordination.
Assistant Professor of South Asian Literature and Culture, Department of Asian Languages and Cultures
Project: Travel Writing and the Journey in Modern South Asia
"My book project, Travel Writing and the Journey in Modern South Asia, explores the history of vernacular travel writing in the Indian subcontinent from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. The first monograph to take up this vast tradition, it draws on thousands of new sources in a range of languages to argue that vernacular travel writing created a space for Indian readers and writers to formulate new ideas about the world and its possibilities. The project shows how the success of this prolific and popular genre in allowing readers to constitute the local through the global derived from the way that it combined the emotive power of India’s literary forms with an engaging didacticism and sense of urgency to know and engage with the world abroad. The result was a new literature that was at once informative, fascinating, and familiar. But for all its didactic underpinnings, this was no elite project; it was, rather, one taken up by writers from across the social and economic spectrum. Ultimately, Travel Writing and the Journey in Modern South Asia reveals the frenetic world of Indian travel writing, a space where the entire globe was held up for observation and interaction, and where South Asian readers could expect to find not just information and entertainment about the world, but even, potentially, their own place within it."
Professor of Ethnomusicology, Bienen School of Music
Project: Operas and Politics of Catherine the Great Empress/ario
"Catherine II’s venture into opera was akin to her military and political campaigns. During five years, the Russian empress created five operas which, embodying the empress’ political ambitions, were published and staged in imperial, public, and private theaters. I am preparing the first annotated English translation of these operas. Tropes forged in these operas underlined nineteenth-century Russian nationalistic lore and, as I argue, pervade Russia’s state performances today."
Assistant Professor, Department of History
Project: Delusions of Labor: Labor Recruitment and Family Reunification in the Federal Republic of Germany
"My book project investigates the history of family reunification for guest workers in West Germany and unified Germany. 'Family migration,' often called 'chain migration,' is in fact the primary legal pathway for migration into Europe and the United States today. What has it meant to be classified as a 'family migrant' in the immigration office, in the courtroom, in the workplace, and in the family itself? Delusions of Labor shows that arguments about family migrants are fundamentally arguments about the role of reproductive labor in the economy."
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Environmental Policy and Culture Program, and Center for Native American and Indigenous Research
Project: The Justice Gap in Global Forest Governance
"This book project examines possible explanations for continued injustice in global forest governance by asking: why, despite nearly four decades of efforts to mitigate injustice, does justice for forest communities remain elusive? For 30 years, policy makers have sought to redress the concerns of the world’s 1.6 billion forest peoples, including nearly 550 million Indigenous Peoples, by introducing rights-based and participatory approaches to conservation. Despite these efforts, however, claims of injustice persist. Using data collected through interviews, participant observation, surveys in Laos, plus four collaborative event ethnographies (at the 10th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the 2014 World Parks Congress, the 21st Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the 2016 World Conservation Congress), the research examines how the meaning-making processes in global forest governance impact the justice experiences of forest peoples and Indigenous Peoples. The findings reveal that particular conceptualizations of justice have become a central part of the fabric of global environmental governance, limiting justice possibilities for communities."
Charles Deering McCormick Distinguished Lecturer; Associate Professor of Instruction, Global Health Studies
Project: Consuming the Hospital: International Voluntourism in Tanzanian Health Facilities
Volunteer tourism—or “voluntourism”—is a popular international travel trend. Hospital placements in the so-called Global South are particularly attractive. This study explores rhetorics and practices making up voluntourism in health facilities, from companies’ advertisements, to foreign volunteers and Tanzanians’ interactions in practice. Global constructions of black “Africa” shape voluntourism endeavors. Hospitals as commodities for foreign consumption enables Tanzanians and foreign volunteers to envision new possibilities, all while their engagements erode fragile health systems.
Board of Trustees Professor of English
Project: Item: Poems
The poems in Item emerge from a consideration of the convergence of the history of executions conducted in Mississippi’s traveling electric chair, the sites of lynchings, and the locations of Confederate memorials around the state. Beginning in 1940 and tracing the roughly fifteen-year operation and route of the chair, I intend to map the crosscurrents of those implements of white supremacy and black subordination graven onto the landscape and into the American psyche. There, against the backdrop of Confederate monuments and memorialization, is a story of America’s hidden wound and the struggle for justice.
Associate Professor of Instruction, Department of English, Creative Writing
Project: Before and Behind Us in Time: Ancestry, Denial, and Evolving the American Story
"At the heart of this project is a story about my ancestor, Molly Walsh, who arrived in Maryland in 1680 as a 17 year-old indentured servant. She survived her indenture and became a lone female farmer, before purchasing two male slaves, freeing them and marrying one—the Walof Chief Bana’Ka. They became the grandparents of Benjamin Banneker, the colonies’ first African American author of almanacs who corresponded with Thomas Jefferson, insisting that we could not establish our new country on the crime of slavery. I will use this story to grapple with denials at the heart of the country’s—and my family’s—conceptions of race, gender and identity, and will consider the ways that rising interest in DNA testing and ancestry asks us to reframe the American story."
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Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Middle East & North African Studies
Project: The Traffic with Iranian Pilgrims: Religion, Economy and Territory Across Borders
The Traffic with Iranian Pilgrims follows the pathways of a ziyarat (saint visitation; minor pilgrimage) route, also known as Hajj-e Fuqara’ (pilgrimage of the poor), from bus stations in Iran through Turkish bazaars to the Sayyida Zainab shrine near Damascus, Syria. In contrast to those scholars who see in Islamic ritual the pre-determined stage for ethical cultivation and self-making pedagogy, the project reconceptualizes religious mobility as a generative force of social action and spatial production on a regional scale.