Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellows

The Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowships, which ACLS offered from 2001 through 2015, provided advanced assistant professors and untenured associate professors in the humanities and related social sciences with time and resources to pursue their research under optimal conditions. The Ryskamp Fellowships particularly recognized those whose scholarly contributions have advanced their fields and who had well designed and carefully developed plans for new research.
Generously funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, these fellowships were named for Charles A. Ryskamp, literary scholar, distinguished library and museum director, and long-serving trustee of the 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. 

Amy B. Borovoy
Amy B. Borovoy  |  Abstract
Until Japan became a major economic power after World War II, it was easy to imagine that modern nations should all look like the United States and Europe. The rise of Japan challenged all that, but often in surprising ways. Postwar Japan anthropology rose up as a key site in the anthropology of the self, prompting a rethinking of Western notions of self among American anthropologists who wished to denaturalize enlightenment notions of the individual as inherently at odds with the social collectivity. This project focuses on the intellectual exchange between Japanese and American intellectuals in establishing the anthropology of Japan, exploring how this traffic in ideas shaped the postwar project of denaturalizing enlightenment views.

Assistant Professor, East Asian Studies, Princeton University  -  Japan Studies and the American Anthropology of the Self

Nadeem J. Z. Hussain
Nadeem J. Z. Hussain  |  Abstract
The maturing of metaethics has been accompanied by relatively unarticulated, essentially neo-Kantian discontent; metaethics supposedly makes a mistake in approaching our ethical practices from a theoretical or scientific point of view. This project articulates and assesses this discontent, by considering two hypotheses: (i) explicit versions of this discontent misunderstand metaethics; however, (ii) behind this discontent, and in the historical views that often inform it, lie insights into the nature of agency that can radically reshape metaethics, philosophy of action, and their relation to each other. This approach combines philosophy of action and an examination of the oft-ignored origins of these debates in nineteenth-century neo-Kantianism.

Assistant Professor, Philosophy, Stanford University  -  Norms in Action: Metaethics and the Neo-Kantian Critique

Morten H. Christiansen
Morten H. Christiansen  |  Abstract
Language is a hallmark of the human species, and is fundamental to human social behavior. The applicant has been studying the acquisition, processing, and evolution of language for more than a decade. This work has pointed to a need for an integrated understanding of these three domains in order to exploit the strong constraints between each area and move towards a more complete framework for understanding language in the context of recent research in the humanities and social sciences.

Assistant Professor, Psychology, Cornell University  -  Creating Language: Towards a Unified Framework for Language Acquisition, Processing, and Evolution

Maki Isaka
Maki Isaka  |  Abstract
Onnagata is a theatrical term that refers to male actors who perform the roles of women in a Japanese theatrical form called kabuki. This type of female impersonation has been an important aspect of the kabuki dramaturgy since its beginning (the seventeenth century) to date. Moreover, during the history of onnagata, this theatrical gender practice affected how women manifested femininity in society. This project examines how this theatrical gender impersonation has shaped both the concept of femininity and the economy of gender construction in Japan. It is a case study of how gender has been constructed, understood, and theorized in a localized context, which makes an interdisciplinary and intercultural contribution to theater studies, gender studies, and Asian studies.

Assistant Professor, Asian Languages and Literatures, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities  -  Gender and Onnagata: A History, Mechanism, and Labyrinth of Femininity Construction

Lianna Farber
Lianna Farber  |  Abstract
This project traces the legal history of witness: the idea that seeing something is proof that it occurred and that saying you have seen it is legal evidence that it happened. While scholars have told the story of witness up to the thirteenth century, ending with the triumph of a system we now know over the irrational procedures of the past (such as the ordeal), they have left unasked the questions of how this system came to replace other kinds of evidence, how widely that replacement was accepted, and whether it was challenged. This work addresses those unasked questions, examining the way that witness came to be used to establish epistemological certainty.

Assistant Professor, English, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities  -  Witness as Proof in Medieval Law

Howard Schweber
Howard Schweber  |  Abstract
This project offers an analysis that builds on the most prominent critiques of American liberalism and argues that those critiques accurately identify weaknesses in the model of privacy rights. Through historical, philosophical, and jurisprudential arguments, an alternative model of an affirmatively defined public/private divide is developed. This model provides a coherent basis for responding to the strongest criticisms of liberalism without abandoning its core commitments. Areas of research include comparative and American jurisprudence, philosophy, American political thought and American political development.

Assistant Professor, Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison  -  Reclaiming Liberalism: Law, Politics, and the Public/Private Divide

Lynn M. Festa
Lynn M. Festa  |  Abstract
Modern accounts of lyric, the novel, and theatrical character draw on notions of the person as a psychological self, a self-possessed individual, a rights-bearing subject. Yet things—worn objects, land, props, personal possessions—make human personality visible in the literature and culture of eighteenth-century Britain. This project addresses what happens to our understanding of the Enlightenment subject when we keep the object in mind. Drawing on novels, travel narratives, dressing-room poetry, advertisements, theater inventories, and legal treatises, this study examines the ways personal and collective identities are constituted in and through the things people possess.

Associate Professor, English and American Literature and Language, Harvard University  -  The Personality of Things in Eighteenth-Century Britain

Todd D. Shepard
Todd D. Shepard  |  Abstract
Between 1956 and 1962 the French Republic put in place a pioneering range of programs meant to redress the effects of over twelve decades of racial discrimination on its "Muslim Algerian" minority. This project details the untold history of the rise and mercurial fall of these French reforms, which centered around "affirmative action" quotas for "Algerian Muslims" (a group legally defined by origin, rather than religion)--quite similar to those the United States later adopted. By focusing on connections between official US responses to the Civil Rights Movement and French attempts to avoid decolonization, this study resituates current concerns with late-twentieth-century histories of both race in France and colonialism in the US in a trans-national, rather than comparative, context.

Assistant Professor, History, Temple University  -  The Affirmative Action Republic: "Exceptional Promotion" in France (1956-1962) and the Race Question in the Cold War World

Zsuzsanna Gulacsi
Zsuzsanna Gulacsi  |  Abstract
This project explores the formative period of mediaeval manuscript illumination in West and Central Asia with special attention to specific codicological characteristics that set this book art apart from the better known "Western" European traditions. Through the codicological approach it explores the emergence of the illuminated codex against the background of the pictorial roll, and analyzes how scribes and painters worked out the marriage of text and image in the developmental stage of this artistic medium. By focusing on shared design features of Eastern Christian, Manichaean, and Islamic illuminated manuscripts, this study highlights a regional artistic phenomenon that, at one time, transcended the boundaries of otherwise distinct religious communities.

Assistant Professor, Humanities, Arts, and Religion, Northern Arizona University  -  Formation of Mediaeval Book Art in West and Central Asia: a Codicological Study of Eastern Christian, Manichaean, and Islamic Illuminated Manuscripts from the Eighth--Twelfth Centuries

Andrew M. Stauffer
Andrew M. Stauffer  |  Abstract
This project investigates the influence of archival anxieties on British literature of the nineteenth century, with reference to the rise of archaeology and industrial papermaking. These two phenomena changed the real and imagined terrains of commemoration and record-keeping, with far-reaching effects on the literary imagination of legibility and loss. Further, the physical materials and documents of the century's archive incarnate its haunting troubles. Through a study of the works of Romantic and Victorian writers, and an investigation of the archival institutions that defined their culture, this project offers new ways to understand the century's mournful struggle with its printed legacy. The project also illuminates our current struggle to preserve that legacy, on paper and in digital forms.

Assistant Professor, English, Boston University  -  The Troubled Archive of British Literature, 1798-1900

Hunter A. Heyck
Hunter A. Heyck  |  Abstract
Many leaders of twentieth-century biological and social science embraced a new perspective on both science and nature, seeing the world as a complex, hierarchical system. Their science was behavioralist and functionalist, and it was characterized by a fascination with organization and process, especially the organization and processing of energy (before WWII) and information (after WWII). This project explore the development of this new view, focusing on a set of influential thinkers on biology, science, and society who saw strong parallels between the physiology of living systems and the structures and functions of "social organisms."

Assistant Professor, History of Science, University of Oklahoma  -  The Branching Tree: Organization, Process, and Hierarchy in Twentieth-Century Biological and Social Science