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. 

David C. Albertson
David C. Albertson  |  Abstract
This project explains why several prominent humanist reformers between 1400 and 1600 incorporated curiously elaborate geometrical figures into their religious writings. The spare lines of their intricate circles and triangles suggest an iconoclastic predilection in learned circles parallel to the actual destruction of images by contemporary Protestants. Such "geometrical icons" betray a desire for indubitable, mathematical certainty amidst the confusion and doubt of ecclesiastical reform. In order to interpret these figures within the religious culture of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, it is helpful to compare them to Byzantine icons and to medieval mystical visions. In all three instances religious images render the invisible as visible in ways that circumvent mediating authorities and texts and thus implicitly challenge institutional power. In this way the project rethinks the connections between reform, visuality and science in early modern Christianity.

Assistant Professor, Religion, University of Southern California  -  Figures of the Invisible: Geometrical Icons in Early Modern Christianity

Catherine A. Molineux
Catherine A. Molineux  |  Abstract
This project uses the methodologies of history, literary criticism, and visual studies to illuminate an understudied, yet critical aspect of the British slave trade--that it involved ongoing negotiations with West African rulers who held considerable power over the trade. Little has been written about these royal Africans, yet African authority posed immediate and ideological challenges for Britons, British Americans, and African Americans over the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The project, which takes the form of a series of encounters and explores the material and visual practices of storytelling as part of those encounters, reveals the intensely complex position of African structures of power within early modern British and African American colonization projects.

Associate Professor, History, Vanderbilt University  -  African Sovereignty in the British Atlantic World, 1580-1807

Penelope Anderson
Penelope Anderson  |  Abstract
This project shows that gender plays a vital, under-studied, role in the articulations of human rights via the prisoner of war. In the seventeenth century these issues receive their recognizably modern formulations; reintroducing the perspective of gender illuminates the surprising malleability of what it means to be a citizen. The research focuses on three intersecting figures: the prisoner of war, the slave, and the female subject. While the slave loses his political personhood absolutely, the prisoner of war exists in suspension, with a free internal will despite outward constraints. This parallels the wife's legal personhood under coverture: her conscience can authorize resistance to her husband's authority, just as the prisoner of war is bound externally but internally free.

Associate Professor, English, Indiana University Bloomington  -  Humanity in Suspension: Gender and International Law in Seventeenth-Century Literature

Andrew Monson
Andrew Monson  |  Abstract
A new fiscal history of the Hellenistic world (ca. 323-30 BCE) can only proceed on the basis of primary sources, especially tablets, papyri, ostraka, inscriptions, and historical writings. Areas previously ruled by the Achaemenid empire are a major focus in this project but comparisons with Greek cities further west as well as the Roman republic and empire are vital for answering the key questions. The latter stem from an ongoing debate in history and historical sociology about the emergence and crisis of the tax state in modern Europe and arguably in ancient China. Besides making the evidence accessible to other scholars, the project develops an explanatory model of fiscal intensification and abatement linked to patterns of warfare, instability, economic behavior, administration, and political participation.

Assistant Professor, Classics, New York University  -  The Ancient Tax State: A New Fiscal History of the Hellenistic World

Irus Braverman
Irus Braverman  |  Abstract
Although understudied in academia and mostly unheard of by the general public, the in situ/ex situ dichotomy has shaped, and still very much shapes, the development of the nature conservation movement and its institutional alliances and divides over the last few decades. Latin for "in" and "out" of place, these paired terms often stand in for the seemingly less scientific dichotomy between nature and captivity. Drawing on ethnographic engagements with conservation scientists, this project explores the genealogy of the in situ/ex situ dyad in the conservation movement and its effect on animal population management models, practices, and regulation. In particular, it follows the attempts by a handful of conservation scientists to bridge the schism of nativity and alterity through explorations of viability, relationality, and biodiversity and by employing metapopulation models for managing wild animals. This grounded study of scientific practices elicits the possibility of conservation management without nature.

Associate Professor, Law, University at Buffalo, State University of New York  -  Managing (Wild)Life: Integrating the Management of Nature and Captivity

Sarah Moss
Sarah Moss  |  Abstract
Traditional epistemology assumes that anything you know must be something that you fully believe. Against this long-standing tradition, this project argues that degreed beliefs can constitute knowledge, as can other probabilistic mental states. The project begins with a semantics according to which speakers directly communicate degreed beliefs in conversation. This semantics paves the way for novel theories of communication and knowledge in which truth plays a notably insignificant role. The resulting theory of knowledge builds a bridge between the estranged subfields of traditional and formal epistemology. And in broader applications, this theory allows us to recognize that hedged assertions can have just the same strong epistemic standing as assertions that convey full beliefs.

Assistant Professor, Philosophy, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor  -  Epistemology Formalized: A Theory of Degreed Knowledge

Keith L. Camacho
Keith L. Camacho  |  Abstract
This project explores the carceral, indigenous, and juridical confluence of power in the mid-twentieth century Pacific. Drawing from postcolonial studies and its related fields, this project examines a series of court cases wherein the indigenous Chamorros of the Mariana Islands, as former subjects of Japan's wartime empire, came under the scrutiny and judgment of the US Navy's War Crimes Tribunals Program from 1945-1949. These trials focused on collaboration, homosexuality, patriotism, and treason, among other categories of wartime recognition, including cases which involved familial, clan, and village disputes.

Assistant Professor, Asian American Studies, University of California, Los Angeles  -  Indigeneity on Trial: Colonialism, Law, and Punishment in America's Pacific Empire

Ellen Muehlberger
Ellen Muehlberger  |  Abstract
This project describes a trope that emerged in Christian culture after the start of the fourth century CE. It is well known that in the cultural environment established by the legalization of Christianity, late ancient Christians produced elaborate historical narratives that emphasized their identity with martyrs of the previous two centuries. At that same time, however, Christians were also focusing their intellectual and literary attention on the moments immediately before and after death, investing the subjective experience of death with emotional and moral weight. This new Christian conception of death as a moment of reckoning supported yet another novel development in late ancient Christian culture: the adoption of force to dominate others, particularly religious opponents.

Assistant Professor, Near Eastern Studies and History, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor  -  The Moment of Reckoning: Death and Violence in Late Ancient Christian Culture

Nergis Erturk
Nergis Erturk  |  Abstract
This study traces the translation of communist thought and practice in the Muslim Caucasus between the 1905 Russian constitutional revolution and the 1930s marked by Stalin's ascendance to power. Focusing on a wide range of work by Azerbaijani authors, including the revolutionary and playwright Nariman Narimanov (1870-1925), the novelist and revolutionary Mammad Said Ordubadi (1872-1950), the poet and playwright Huseyn Cavid (1882-1941), and the nationalist politician and literary critic Mammad Amin Rasulzade (1884-1954), this interdisciplinary study argues that the literary production of Caucasian Muslims in Azeri and Ottoman Turkish is essential to a nuanced understanding of the genealogies and legacies of Soviet communism.

Assistant Professor, Comparative Literature, Pennsylvania State University  -  Communism, Translation, and the Literatures of Revolution

Ramnarayan S. Rawat
Ramnarayan S. Rawat  |  Abstract
Instead of viewing Dalits as ‘latecomers’ to politics and the democratic public sphere as others have claimed, the archival materials collected for this project suggest that Dalits played a constitutive role in experimenting with and establishing new institutional structures and cultural practices fundamental to the way democracy developed in India. Dalit-owned printing presses published Hindi language books from 1923 onwards, accompanied by the creation of a new practice of counter demonstrations, challenges to Hindu religious hierarchy, and demands for affirmative action policies capable of rectifying discrimination within state institutions. In tracing the development of these phenomena, this project offers a new explanation for the origin and success of democracy in India.

Assistant Professor, History, University of Delaware  -  A New History of Democracy: Dalit Spaces, Printing, and Practices in Twentieth Century North India

Stefanos Nikolaou Geroulanos
Stefanos Nikolaou Geroulanos  |  Abstract
This project examines the calls for the regeneration of human nature by European intellectuals in the period 1880-1935. Elements of the idea of a ’New Man’ date to the Enlightenment, but by 1935, major political projects (notably Nazism and Stalinism) explicitly sought to engineer new men. The research focuses on (a) the redeployment of existing philosophical and literary figures of utopia, perfectibility and human regeneration; (b) the development, in anthropology, psychology, and medicine, of conceptions of human nature that saw it as plastic and gave form to the hopes of social and human transformation; and (c) the aesthetic, urban, and political ‘New Man’ projects of the 1920s that used the above aesthetic and scientific techniques for perfecting and even overcoming man.

Assistant Professor, History, New York University  -  The ‘New Man’: Conceptual and Cultural History of a European Fantasy, 1880-1940

Ellen R. Welch
Ellen R. Welch  |  Abstract
This project examines how court spectacles such as ballets, masquerades, and allegorical fêtes functioned as a tool for international diplomacy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Using France as a case study, it looks at how early modern artists, thinkers, and statesmen understood the power of performance art to ‘speak’ to audiences across linguistic, cultural, and political divides. Through in-depth analyses of entertainments produced for a diplomatic audience in France from Catherine de’ Medici’s regency through the end of Louis XIV’s reign, the research explores the political efficacy of the performing arts in an international context.

Assistant Professor, Romance Languages, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill  -  Spectacles of State: Diplomacy and the Performing Arts in Early Modern France

Jeffrey Edward Green
Jeffrey Edward Green  |  Abstract
This project develops the idea of plebeianism as a way to better comprehend the nature of contemporary liberal democracies. Plebeianism is at once a description of how ordinary citizenship today falls short of traditional ideals surrounding democracy and a progressive account of how democratic citizens might understand civic responsibility under such circumstances. The research aims to revive the notions of the ‘Few’ and ‘Many’ as important categories for both understanding and improving contemporary political life. Although not primarily a work on ancient Rome, the argument is inspired by the plebeians of late Republican Rome, whose pursuit of democratic ends was always conditioned by the reality of the difference between ordinary and elite modes of citizenship.

Assistant Professor, Political Science, University of Pennsylvania  -  The Plebeian Addendum to Liberal Democracy