Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellows

ACLS created the Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars to support scholars in the humanities and social sciences in the crucial years immediately following the granting of tenure, and to provide emerging leaders in their fields with the resources to pursue long-term, unusually ambitious projects. The 2020 cohort is the twenty-first and final for the program, which over the past two decades has supported nearly 275 scholars as they took up year-long residencies at independent research centers and universities.
The Burkhardt Fellowships are generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. They are named for the late Frederick Burkhardt, President Emeritus of ACLS, whose decades of work on The Correspondence of Charles Darwin constitute a signal example of dedication to a demanding and ambitious scholarly enterprise.

Read more about this fellowship program.

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Watch "Emerging Themes and Methods of Research: A Discussion with ACLS Fellows," an annual meeting session featuring recent ACLS fellows. 

Lauren Ashwell
Lauren Ashwell  |  Abstract
Philosophical work on introspective self-knowledge has proceeded without attention to feminist scholarship, even as other areas of philosophy are revolutionized by engagement with feminist work. This project brings the self-knowledge literature into conversation with feminism, challenging fundamental assumptions about self-knowledge from a feminist perspective, and applying work on desire introspection to explain the projection of desires onto another, with a focus on mistakes in overestimating the sexual interest of another. Research in psychology concerning sexual intent judgments seeks to explain observed gender differences in tendencies to make this mistake through appeal to evolutionary advantage, but this difference is better explained through attention to how social power contributes to this tendency in complex ways.

Associate Professor, Philosophy, Bates College  -  Projection and Desire
For residence at the Philosophy Department at Harvard University during academic year 2016-2017

Neeti Nair
Neeti Nair  |  Abstract
This project traces the trajectory of a set of criminal and penal codes that were instituted over the course of a century in South Asia. A consequence of the British tendency to view each major religious community as imbued with characteristics that were presumed to be mutually antagonistic, these laws seeking to regulate relations between religious communities have had contradictory afterlives in the postcolonial successor states of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. This history unravels the specific, contingent circumstances that produced these laws, draws out their relationship to religiously informed politics, and accounts for whether, as many others claim, the laws themselves are responsible for the increasing targeting of religious minorities across South Asia.

Associate Professor, History, University of Virginia  -  The Blasphemy Laws: A South Asian History
For residence at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress during academic year 2016-2017

Shawn Bender
Shawn Bender  |  Abstract
“Engineering the Aging Society” examines, on the one hand, how Japanese roboticists construct Japan’s aging population as a future problem only their technologies can solve and, on the other, how users at home and abroad respond to the robots they create. Through ethnographic fieldwork among roboticists, caregivers, and individual users in Japan, Denmark, and Germany, the project interrogates the problematization of population aging, and offers a way to conceptualize the social impact of so-called care robots for the aged. In doing so, “Engineering the Aging Society” traces the logics by which imaginations of the future influence the lives of people and pathways of technological innovation in the present.

Associate Professor, East Asian Studies, Dickinson College  -  Engineering the Aging Society: Robotics, Vital Futures, and Imaginations of Life in Japan and Europe
For residence at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University during academic year 2017-2018

Ian W. Olivo Read
Ian W. Olivo Read  |  Abstract
Brazil was transformed by an unusual and terrifying wave of epidemic diseases during the second half of the nineteenth century. Why did these scourges arrive, how were they understood, and what were their consequences? This project argues that Brazil’s “era of epidemics” was the result of its changing relationship with the Atlantic World. Without putting nature or culture first, historians can interpret deep interconnections among (1) a shifting epidemiological environment; (2) new modes of thinking about governance, religion, and race; and (3) the unraveling of a slave system. Not until more powerful state governments were created by the new Republic in 1889 could Brazil’s wealthiest states adopt more effective (and surveillant) public health intuitions. Epidemic disease had a more profound influence than historians have realized and helped shape the more populated, urban, and regionally unequal country Brazil became.

Associate Professor, International Studies, Soka University of America  -  Brazil's Era of Epidemics: How Disease Transformed a Nation
For residence at the Department of History at the University of California, Berkeley during academic year 2016-2017

Amahl Bishara
Amahl Bishara  |  Abstract
Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians of the West Bank share aspects of their political identities, expressive cultures, and cultural norms. Each group lives under Israeli sovereignty, albeit with different legal statuses. Despite these similarities, organized political interaction between them is scant. I examine this puzzle by studying the different conditions for political expression and action for each group. I argue that everyday life is a foundation for political expression; thus I ethnographically examine mobility and the built environment alongside laws and military actions. This project analyzes how states shape publics. It also interrogates how assumptions about state sovereignty can further limit possibilities for expression.

Associate Professor, Anthropology, Tufts University  -  Expressive Environments and the State: Laws, Violence, and Other Roadblocks to Palestinian Exchange
For residence at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study during calendar year 2017

Joseph M. Ortiz
Joseph M. Ortiz  |  Abstract
This project explores a history of skepticism about translation in the Renaissance, by tracing the representation of translation in Renaissance epic. Focusing on works from Virgil to Milton, it analyzes passages that figure translation in material terms, and argues that these passages evince a counter-strain of Renaissance humanist thought. Traditional humanist theory sees linguistic and philological study as tools that enable communication between the past and present, yet many epic writers recorded a bleaker view in which true translation is an illusion or simply impossible. The project traces this unexamined strain of intellectual thought about translation through individual chapters on Virgil, Ariosto, Spenser, Marlowe, Harington, Villagrá, Milton, and Behn.

Associate Professor, English, University of Texas at El Paso  -  Against Translation: The Form of Renaissance Epic
For residence at the Folger Shakespeare Library during academic year 2016-2017

Margot Canaday
Margot Canaday  |  Abstract
While historians of sexuality have written extensively about working class cultures, an assumption that workplaces were “straight spaces” in which LGBT people passed has limited inquiry into the workplace itself. Yet the workplace (and fear of job loss) shaped gay life as much as the bar or the street. Moreover, because of a modern equivalence between work and personal identity—the job makes the person, said Marx—occupations have been central to establishing sexual identity. Workplaces, finally, are considered both arenas where norms are enforced and compulsion reigns, as well as a site of tolerance where diversity is nurtured. Pink Precariat draws on court cases, business and labor records, and over 100 oral histories conducted with LGBTs born in the 1930s to explore these themes as the corporation emerged, women entered the labor force en masse, and the economy shifted from Fordist to post-Fordist modes of production.

Associate Professor, History, Princeton University  -  Pink Precariat: LGBT Workers in the Shadow of Civil Rights, 1945-2000
For residence at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress during academic year 2018-2019

Pauline Ayumi Ota
Pauline Ayumi Ota  |  Abstract
How did technology change the way the Japanese perceived and conceptualized their surroundings in the mid-eighteenth century? And, how did this technology facilitate an awareness of the perceptual process? Through a systematic investigation of key paintings and texts, this project addresses these questions, exploring the role visual technologies and nascent consciousness of the act of seeing played in the refashioning of Kyoto cityscapes. “Seeing is Knowing” argues that not only was this engagement with visual perception symptomatic of mid-eighteenth century Japan's emergent "modernity," but also, more significantly, it suggests the leading role of Kyoto in the push towards that "modernity."

Associate Professor, Art and Art History, DePauw University  -  Seeing is Knowing: Visual Perception, Painting, and Cityscapes in Mid-Eighteenth Century Japan
For residence at the Asian Studies Program at the University of Hawai'i, Manoa during academic year 2016-2017

Ernesto Capello
Ernesto Capello  |  Abstract
While Geodesy is an unusual branch of geographic science dedicated to measuring the shape of the Earth, in Ecuador every child knows the story of the Franco-Hispanic Geodesic Mission (1736-42), when an international group of scientists led by the Frenchman Charles Marie de La Condamine traveled to the Spanish colony to measure the arc of the equatorial meridian. This study considers the subsequent commemoration of this voyage through the elevation (and destruction) of pyramidal markers, Andean landscape paintings, a second French scientific mission redoing the 18th-century measurements, the development of modern tourist sites, and a counter-memorial tradition celebrating indigenous geodesic and astronomical knowledge.

Associate Professor, History, Macalester College  -  Equator Imagined: Commemorating Geodesic Science in the Andes
For residence at the Institute of Latin American Studies at Columbia University during academic year 2017-2018

Yansi Y. Pérez
Yansi Y. Pérez  |  Abstract
This project investigates Central American culture during the postwar period in the isthmus as well as in the transnational Central American communities in the diaspora, namely in Los Angeles. It reconceptualizes the problems of memory, mourning and trauma through the study of varied cultural artifacts. There are two distinct parts to the project: the first addresses the problem of memory within the geographical borders of the Central American nations through the study of literature and film, and the second studies the problem in the diaspora through the material dimension of memory. The investigation demonstrates the dialogue between the study of space, as envisioned by Walter Benjamin and Michel Foucault, and the debates about memory, mourning and trauma which gained prominence in Latin American studies after the end of the dictatorships and wars in Latin America.

Associate Professor, Spanish, Carleton College  -  Los Angeles: A Cartography of Material Memory of the Central America Diaspora
For residence at the Department of Central American Studies at California State University, Northridge during academic year 2016-2017

Eve Dunbar
Eve Dunbar  |  Abstract
What if one selects to identify with monsters instead of running away from them? Monstrous Works analyzes written and visual texts produced by black women writers during the mid-twentieth century and considers how these writers redeployed conceptions of “monsters” and “the monstrous” to imaginatively reorganize the world. As such, their works converge at the point of creating a genealogy of black female possibility beyond rights and respectability while also exploring how black women as cultural workers offer alternative and expansive modes for considering the enduring question of what it means to be human.

Associate Professor, English, Vassar College  -  Monstrous Works: African American Women Writing Labor and Life Beyond Sovereignty
For residence at the Department of English at the University of Delaware during academic year 2016-2017

Smitha Radhakrishnan
Smitha Radhakrishnan  |  Abstract
Who benefits from the multibillion dollar global financial sector devoted to serving small, high-interest loans to women in the global South? Drawing on interviews and ethnography in India and the United States, Spare Change traces microfinancial value chains that connect poor and working class women to global capital, including clients, loan officers, elites within microfinance institutions, venture capitalists, and even micro-lenders on the popular charitable website, At each “link” in the chain, the project examines individual motivations in relation to the value chain as a whole. This analysis shows that the global microfinance industry serves loans to poor women that may or may not benefit them, while producing careers, profit, and a sense of satisfaction for those at the top. Spare Change thus questions our presumptions about women’s lives in the global South while also critiquing the attractive idea of “doing good,” while making a profit.

Associate Professor, Sociology, Wellesley College  -  Spare Change: Gender and Power in the Global Microfinance Industry
For residence at the Sociology Department at Boston College during academic year 2016-2017

Stacie E. Goddard
Stacie E. Goddard  |  Abstract
“Precision” has become a mainstay of global military doctrine: the need to adopt technologically-precise weaponry, technology capable of hitting targets with extraordinary accuracy, is extolled as both a military and humanitarian necessity of contemporary war. This project has three aims. First, to ask how it is weapons come to be defined as “precise.” This may seem obvious on the face of it. But in reality that weapons with massive collateral damage, including strategic bombers and nuclear weapons, have been touted as “precise.” Second, the project asks why some technology is constructed as “precision” technology. Finally, this project explores how precise warfare has become equated with legitimate warfare, arguing that a serious debate about the justness of strategy and outcomes requires a clearer understanding of what is meant by precision, and the limits of precision in wartime.

Associate Professor, Political Science, Wellesley College  -  The Social Construction of Precision
For residence at the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during academic year 2016-2017

Xuefei Ren
Xuefei Ren  |  Abstract
This project comparatively examines how cities in China and India have become strategic terrains for the remaking of citizen rights. The first part of the book draws upon historical analyses to examine the emergence and consolidation of territorial forms of governance in China and associational forms of governance in India from the late nineteenth century to the present. In the second part, the project demonstrates how the inherited forms of governance continue to shape the trajectories of citizens’ struggles today, based on ethnographic fieldwork on slum clearance and redevelopment in Guangzhou and Mumbai, land acquisition and protests in Guangdong and West Bengal, and anti-air pollution campaigns in Beijing and Delhi.

Associate Professor, Sociology and Global Urban Studies, Michigan State University  -  Urban Governance and Citizen Rights in China and India: Housing, Land, and Air
For residence at the Newberry Library during academic year 2016-2017

Michael Gibbs Hill
Michael Gibbs Hill  |  Abstract
At the end of the nineteenth century, intellectuals in Beijing, Cairo, Shanghai, and Beirut grappled with problems that were strikingly similar: whether the written language could transmit modern knowledge; the pressure to reconcile classical learning with “modern” (understood as Western) thought; the role of traditionally educated people in new institutions; and the extent of the authority granted to those who could import, or translate, modern knowledge. Pursuing a new line of inquiry in comparative literary and cultural studies, this project connects the intellectual “enlightenment” in China in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century with the “enlightenment” or “awakening” (Nahḍah) in Arabic-language cultural and intellectual history of the mid-nineteenth through the early twentieth century. Through a historically and linguistically rigorous account of these developments in the Chinese and Arabic-language worlds, this research contributes to the fields of world history, comparative literature, translation studies, Asian studies, and Middle Eastern studies.

Associate Professor, Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, University of South Carolina  -  Sino-Arabic Enlightenments: At the Limits of Comparison
For residence at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress during academic year 2016-2017

Tatiana Seijas
Tatiana Seijas  |  Abstract
First Routes recovers the history of native merchants who forged routes of commercial exchange between the Rio Grande Valley and Central Mexico from circa 1000 to 1848, with a focus on the Spanish colonial period. The north-south rendering of this indigenous network connects the American Southwest to Mesoamerica to counteract national narratives that remain bounded by modern political borders. Zunis, Moquis, Otomis, Nahuas, and other indigenous peoples traded luxury goods and other commodities over long distances, as well as bulk products closer to home, and in this way maintained an enduring indigenous economy. While addressing ecological transformations and changes in political regimes, the study underscores market continuities from the “pre-Columbian” period in order to foreground indigenous permanence.

Associate Professor, History, Pennsylvania State University  -  First Routes: Indigenous Trade and Travel between the American Southwest and Mexico
For residence at the National Humanities Center during academic year 2016-2017

Shih-shan Susan Huang
Shih-shan Susan Huang  |  Abstract
This project studies the imagery of Buddhist and Daoist woodcuts produced in the first “Golden Age” of Chinese printmaking, from 850 to 1450. It will be the first English-language treatment of religious woodcuts by an art historian. The study takes a cross-cultural perspective, drawing on religious woodcuts from the Song, Yuan, and Ming China, and from the northern kingdoms ruled by non-Chinese people—the Liao, the Tangut Xi Xia, and the Jin—and compares them to pertinent Korean, Japanese, and Islamic images. It sets a new interdisciplinary model of inquiry in humanities studies by responding critically to the current discourses on material and visual culture, the history of the book and print culture, and global history.

Associate Professor, Art History, Rice University  -  First Impressions: Chinese Religious Woodcuts and Cultural Transformation
For residence at the Huntington Library during academic year 2017-2018

Quito J. Swan
Quito J. Swan  |  Abstract
Melanesia’s Way explores Black internationalism in the South Pacific. In the era of decolonization, ideas of Black Power, African American freedom struggles, Pan-Africanism, Negritude, and African/Caribbean nationalism streamed across the region through travelers and media. Melanesian women and men engaged these experiences in their movements for self-determination across Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, New Caledonia, West Papua, and Australia. Scholars and artists produced a fabulous corpus of political culture and liberation theology, transforming “Melanesia” into an identifier of Black transnationalism. Amidst inevitable tensions of distance, time, and experience, activists participated in meetings such as Atlanta’s Congress of African Peoples (1970), Nigeria’s Festival of Black Arts (1977), Tanzania’s Sixth Pan-African Congress (1974), and Fiji’s Pacific Women’s and Nuclear Free Conferences (1975). Using newspapers, archives, literature, and oral histories, this project details how Melanesia became part of a radical Black Diaspora that spanned the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Ocean worlds.

Associate Professor, History, Howard University  -  Melanesia’s Way: Black Internationalism and Diaspora in the South Pacific
For residence at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study during academic year 2017-2018

Nicole Marafioti
Nicole Marafioti  |  Abstract
This book investigates how crime and sin were understood in tenth- and eleventh-century England. In the late Anglo-Saxon period, royal law-codes prescribed punishments for both secular and religious offenses. This all-encompassing approach to governance has led scholars to conclude that authorities did not differentiate crime from sin before the 1066 Norman Conquest, when more sophisticated legal ideas replaced a nebulous category of “wrongdoing.” Crime and Sin in Late Anglo-Saxon England challenges this view by showing that Anglo-Saxon law was underpinned by a political ideology which charged kings with keeping both social and moral order. This project examines the diverse theories behind Anglo-Saxon legislation, considers legal responses to crime and sin, and offers new perspectives on early English judicial procedure.

Associate Professor, History, Trinity University  -  Crime and Sin in Late Anglo-Saxon England
For residence at the National Humanities Center during academic year 2016-2017

Kyla Wazana Tompkins
Kyla Wazana Tompkins  |  Abstract
So Moved: Texture, Sensation, Biopolitics follows a set of lively material and affective forms - gelatinousness, fermentation, rawness, and intoxication - in order to link the biopolitical ordering of objects and populations to proprioceptic, that is, sensationally felt, aesthetic categories. Centering on the entry of these biochemical properties into U.S. law, with the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and the Narcotics Bill of 1914, this project theorizes the connection between the legal and scientific taxonomizing of these categories and the concomitant re-organization of human life into populations variously deemed deserving of life or premature death. So Moved argues that movement – that is, the spatial unfolding of each of these materials in time - provides an analytic frame from which to inquire into their affiliation with different aesthetic-affective forms that are in turn deployed to guard the boundaries of deserving citizenship.

Associate Professor, Gender and Women's Studies, and English, Pomona College  -  So Moved: Texture, Sensation, Biopolitics
For residence at the Department of English and the Program in American Studies at Princeton University during academic year 2017-2018

James Mulholland
James Mulholland  |  Abstract
By the 1790s British India had developed a vibrant arts culture with newspapers, libraries, literary clubs, and amateur theaters that made the printer William Duane exclaim that Calcutta rivaled London with its own “Anglo-Asiatic taste.” This project is the first history of this literary culture. It combines techniques from literary sociology, book history, and oceanic studies to concentrate on the archives of authors who were writing in eighteenth-century India, rather than those more canonical orientalists who commented on Asia from their vantage in Britain. Recovering these little-known figures, and examining the intricacies of the artistic and literary publics they ordained, shows how eighteenth-century Anglophone literature became a distinct entity detached from its British progenitors.

Associate Professor, English, North Carolina State University  -  Anglophone Literature and the Emergence of the Colonial Public Sphere in Asia, 1774-1819
For residence at the National Humanities Center during academic year 2016-2017