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. 

Olivia Bloechl
Olivia Bloechl  |  Abstract
Early French opera brought classical and renaissance myths, stories, and characters to life in a vivid form of musical dramatic spectacle. Like the spoken tragedies of Corneille and Racine, French operas staged characters and plots deemed archaic or even “barbaric,” yet their gods, heroes, and shepherds gave voice to strikingly early modern French sentiments and themes, all set to music. This project proposes that French opera’s strategy of bringing archaic or “uncivilized” culture into an uneasy proximity with French early modernity—what I am terming its work of “memory”—allowed opera to mediate political problems arising in part from internal class relations and French colonial activity abroad.

Assistant Professor, Musicology, University of California, Los Angeles  -  The Politics of Memory in French Baroque Opera

Leor E. Halevi
Leor E. Halevi  |  Abstract
This project examines historically Muslim legal perceptions of non-Muslim commodities, from the rise of Islam to the present day. Many experts on Islamic law earned their livelihood as merchants and thus appreciated the benefits of cross-cultural trade. Yet they worried that through such trade they would expose their bodies and communities to impurity, and so proposed ideological restrictions to regulate this commerce. This resulted in a productive tension in Islamic legal thought between an economic interest in porous communal boundaries and a religious interest in social exclusivity. As Muslim jurists reflected on non-Muslims and their worldly goods, they also sought, in different ways and in different historical circumstances, to define an Islamic social identity.

Assistant Professor, History, Texas A&M University  -  Forbidden Goods: Cross-Cultural Trade in Islamic Law

Christina G. Cogdell
Christina G. Cogdell  |  Abstract
This interdisciplinary research investigates the ways in which contemporary architectural theory and practice derive from recent scientific theories of emergence, self-organization, complexity, evolution and genetics. Leading architects now design using software that integrates genetic algorithms into the core of their process. Their aim is to incorporate into architecture the sustainable features of self-organizing natural systems, using processes that ultimately may be compatible with genetic engineering. This project situates this movement within architectural history through comparison and contrast with theories of eugenic design within modernism. It thereby raises new questions about the social, cultural, and ethical implications of today’s emergent genetic architecture.

Assistant Professor, Art, Santa Fe University of Art and Design  -  Emergent Genetic Architecture: How Recent Scientific Theories Are Shaping Contemporary Architecture

Erez Manela
Erez Manela  |  Abstract
This project is the first critical history of the World Health Organization’s Global Smallpox Eradication Program (GSEP), 1966-77, examining it within its broader historical, political, intellectual, cultural, and institutional contexts. Smallpox, an ancient disease, still caused an estimated 300 million deaths in the twentieth century, and its eradication was therefore a major historical event. The project uses the GSEP to shed new light on the history of the Cold War, postcolonial international relations, the role of international organizations, and globalization. It is based on a wide range of sources, including archives, official publications, professional literature, personal accounts (memoirs and autobiographies), media reports, and oral history.

Associate Professor, History, Harvard University  -  The Eradication of Smallpox: An International History

Stephen F. Finlay
Stephen F. Finlay  |  Abstract
Our moral and evaluative capacities have been viewed as the elements in humanity that elevate us above mere Nature and toward Reason or God, but they are also implicated in our conflicts and discord. This project advances an original theory of what evaluative language means, what value itself is, and why it matters to us. It challenges the present consensus in moral philosophy that analyzing moral language is either impossible or fruitless by exploring the complex dynamics of how we use this language in conversation. By attending to this subject a distinction can be drawn between two different kinds of evaluative dispute, calling for two different kinds of resolution, and thereby offering more rational strategies for managing our conflicts.

Assistant Professor, Philosophy, University of Southern California  -  Confusion of Tongues: An Analysis of Evaluative Discourse

Jane E. Mangan
Jane E. Mangan  |  Abstract
This is a history of families, as well as ideas about families, in the first century of the Spanish American empire. The particulars of conquest, including travel, disease, and separation, disrupted traditional family structure for Spaniards and indigenous peoples. The specific area of inquiry is family ties between Peru and southern Spain from the 1530s through 1600. Herein consideration of race, gender, and religious identity figures heavily in the analysis of legal codes, cases of inheritance and dowry, and Crown regulations. Bridging three topics (law, family, and race mixture), this is the first systematic study to address how the legal and cultural constructions of family changed as a result of conquest. The conclusion reveals the unique obligations of spouses and children in a transatlantic world.

Assistant Professor, History, Davidson College  -  Transatlantic Obligations: Legal and Cultural Constructions of Family in the Conquest-Era Iberian World

Marion C. Fourcade
Marion C. Fourcade  |  Abstract
This study provides an integrated understanding of the social and cultural bases of the measurement of value. It does so through an analysis of the relative social authority and efficacy of three types of valuation technologies in two social contexts (France and the United States): technologies for ranking; for indexing; and for establishing economic value. Three comparative case studies (conducted symmetrically in both countries) serve to organize my discussion of each technology: the ranking of wines; the indexing of digital material; the monetary valuation of nature. Taken together, these studies highlight the contrast between status-based and state-centered logics with democratic and market-based ones, and the relevance of social structural factors in the formation of judgments about value.

Assistant Professor, Sociology, University of California, Berkeley  -  Measure for Measure: Forms of Valuation in France and the United States

Seth E. Rockman
Seth E. Rockman  |  Abstract
This project focuses on the shoes, shovels, machetes, shirts, livestock, and whips manufactured in the North for use on plantations in the American South, Caribbean, and Latin America. Using insights from material culture studies, this study considers the multiple meanings of "plantation goods" as they moved great distances and fell into different hands. A Connecticut-produced hoe opens up a range of narrative possibilities for situating entrepreneurs, immigrant laborers, planters, and slaves in the same story of American economic development. Likewise, these material artifacts illuminate issues of slave resistance, abolitionism, Southern nationalism, technological innovation, and commercial cultures. Plantation goods ultimately argue for the centrality of slavery in American economic history.

Assistant Professor, History, Brown University  -  Plantation Goods and the International Economy of Slavery, 1700-1888

Tina Gianquitto
Tina Gianquitto  |  Abstract
"Dear Mr. Darwin" examines Charles Darwin's correspondence with American and British women writers and demonstrates the unique and largely unrecognized role that women nature observers, both amateur and professional, played in providing Darwin with empirical data that bolstered the arguments for co-adaptation and interspecies relationships that he articulated in Descent of Man (1871) and Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). This study argues that while Darwin may have followed self-serving ends in his quest for knowledge, the women he corresponded with saw in his letters an equal opportunity to advance their scientific and political ideas and to recuperate the terms of evolution to bolster their arguments for suffrage, professional recognition, and animal rights.

Assistant Professor, Liberal Arts and International Studies, Colorado School of Mines  -  Dear Mr. Darwin: Women and the Epistolary Tradition in the Nineteenth-Century Sciences

Alexa Kristen Sand
Alexa Kristen Sand  |  Abstract
At the center of this project is a group of illuminated manuscripts that offers an unusually lucid view of the religious, moral, and visual education of the children of the upper classes in late-medieval Europe. An interdisciplinary approach, drawing on the histories of science and pedagogy, literary criticism, visual analysis, and the anthropology of religion facilitates my scrutiny of the words and images in these books. For the audiences of these books, the ability to think critically through images was of equal importance to the mastery of such skills as rhetoric and warfare. This, in turn, helps account for the burgeoning of aristocratic patronage of the visual arts at the dawn of the modern era.

Assistant Professor, Art, Utah State University  -  Virtue and Vision in the Illustrated "Somme le Roi"

Sarah Margaret Gualtieri
Sarah Margaret Gualtieri  |  Abstract
This project traces the history of Lebanese migration and settlement in Los Angeles from the late nineteenth century to the end of World War II. Through an analysis of oral histories, Arabic- and English-language newspapers and magazines, naturalization records, business directories, and other sources, this study investigates the emergence of a Lebanese economic niche in grocery and dry goods stores; explores the community's relationships with other ethnic groups; and examines the role of immigrant institutions in maintaining links to the homeland. This project demonstrates how the Lebanese in Los Angeles provide a major window through which to study a trade diaspora, and it enhances understandings of the interplay of local and transnational dynamics that shaped the Lebanese-American experience. The primary research sites are Los Angeles, California and Beirut, Lebanon.

Assistant Professor, History and American Studies, University of Southern California  -  The Lebanese in Los Angeles: Migration and Transnationalism in a Multi-racial Landscape

Jonathan R. Zatlin
Jonathan R. Zatlin  |  Abstract
Where scholars have previously offered political or social explanations of anti-Jewish resentment in Germany history, "Jews and Money" argues that German anti-Semitism was based on a confusion of money with the market, and Jews with money. This double confusion was brought about by Germany's rapid industrialization, which triggered a widespread anxiety that market-oriented practices were reducing spiritual values to financial ones. Through demographic studies of Jewish occupational distribution, biographies of Jewish economists and entrepreneurs, analysis of trials and political scandals, and the history of an SS economic institute, “Jews and Money” tells the story of the fortunes and misfortunes of Jews as well as their detractors in modern Germany.

Assistant Professor, History, Boston University  -  Jews and Money: Economic Change and Cultural Anxiety in Germany, 1870-1990